Clan Coutts Society

Clan Coutts Society

Clan Coutts histories and stories

The Braemar highlands: their tales, traditions and history

 By Elizabeth Taylor


Another legend gives the origin of a trio of names —Lumsden, Mulloch, and Coutts

 It runs thus : On one occasion the Danes were terribly incensed against Malcolm Canmore, and came against him with an army of 30,000 men, under the command of General Mullock. The Scottish king could only raise 7000 men, whom he marched through Athole, Glen Tilt, and Braemar to Culblean, where the Danes were encamped.................


..........After the battle was over, Malcolm, much fatigued, retired to his castle on Loch Kinoird, and, so the legend goes, on lying down to sleep was sadly annoyed with a continued howling which assailed his ears. Calling the captain of his guard, Allen Durward, he instructed him to go and ‘coutts’,ie. still these dogs, as.he could get no sleep for them.


The captain and some of his men proceeded forthwith to still the dogs, but found, to their great amusement, that the howling did not proceed from dogs, but from some babies which had recently made their appearance. As they knew his Majesty would fully appreciate the joke, they returned to tell him of their non-success, and to suggest that the only way they could carry his orders into effect was by naming them Coutts.


To this comical mode of couttsing Malcolm gave his sanction, and the children were afterwards taken under the royal patronage. On growing up, they were put into possession of a great part of Cromar, and kept themselves a distinct clan. This Clan Coutts, during one of its feuds with the Clan Allen of Corgarff, were cut off to one man near the Vannich Hill.


While residing for a short time near the place in Corgarff, I found that the local tradition of the battle ran thus :—


“Near a hill in Corgarff called Diedhsoider a smart battle took place between the Clan Coutts and Clan Allen of that place, about the year 1508 ; and some miles farther up Corgarff, where the Vannich Hill rises, near a hunting-shiel belonging to Sir Charles Forbes, is a large stone known as the 'Clach Couttsich', where the captain of the party was killed, the rest having all been cut off save one. surviving Coutts had three sons, from whom sprang three distinct families of Couttses, whose distinctive appellations, or tee-names, being none of the most refined, I may as well leave them unrecorded.

[Note: we have researched the location of Clach Choutsaich, Diedsoider and Vannich. Information, photos and maps are posted under the "Places" tab.]


Legends of the Braes O' Mar"




First Reference


....... ...The origin of the Couttses has been always recounted to me as

given in the Legends. Another way of it is, that some Macdonald

from Skye, with a few men, cut down so many of the Danes flying

from the battle of Monandawin, at the steps of Ordie, that Malcolm

Canmore ordered that Cuts should be his name, which became

softened into Courts. The Couttses seem to have continuedpro-

prietors of Westercoul until the beginning of last century. When

they came into possession of these lands is difficult to ascertain.

They suffered severely in the wars of the Covenant ; for on one

occasion the laird was heavily fined, and on another the house was

burnt. Their rival, the Clan Allan, were, as is very certain, Stuarts,

and were said to be of the Royal Family. We are warranted in

•■believing that both are very old families, though scarcely dating to

the days of King Malcolm. All the Allanachs of the Braes of Mar

axe Stuarts, who came thither from Strathdown.............




........... Malcolm was much fatigued when he returned to his

shooting-box in Loch Einnord ; and when he laid down his

big head to sleep, not a wink could he get from the

continued howling that assailed his ears ; so he called on

our friend Allan Durward, now captain of his guard.


" Go, Allan," said he, " and coutts these dogs, for I can't

sleep a bit with their howling."


Allan, with some of the guard, went away, and found the

howling proceeded from some dozen babies, whom it was

not easy to "coutts," or still. They were queer customers

in those times, and kept up a joke.


This one got spread through the country, and the babies were named

" Couttses," that being the only way they could " coutts "



 But Malcolm, though he rather liked a joke of his

own, could not be bothered with the Couttses* constant

nightly chorus, and in disgust set off for Braemar. The old

Roman road, over Culblean and up Deeside, was then in

good repair, and be soon arrived at his castle of Ceann

Drochaide, in Castletown of Braemar, where he afterwards

generally put up during the hunting season.


The Couttses, though they had not the honour to please

his gracious majesty, continued to thrive, strange to tell.

In a short time they came to possess the greater part of the.

west side of Cromar, and became a mighty clan.


Among the feuds, which they thought it honourable to maintain,

was one with the Clan Allan of Corgarff. After it had

continued for many years, the Couttses resolved to root out

their foes, and gathered, young and old, for that purpose.


They came good speed, and beat the Clan Allan at the Burn

of ITaigh-an-t-saighdeir (the soldier's tomb); but, too

rashly squatting, down in the places of those they had

ousted, they allowed the vanquished to reassemble in the

upper- glens.


Hearing of this, the chief of Clan Coutts

hastily assembled a few followers and hurried away, leaving

orders for the mass to follow close after. The Clan Allan

met this small party on the Vannich, and cut them to pieces.

There is a stone, called Claoh a 'Chouttsich, where they fell.


The Couttses, " like ilka dog," had their day. The loss of

their chief caused their ruin. All the clan except one very

poor man perished.


He luckily had three sons, and at his

death apportioned them his goods and chattels as follows :

— To the eldest, " an lair bhan" (the grey mare), and from

him, therefore, came " Couttsich na larach baine " (grey

mare Couttses); to the second, "bolla 'mhin eorna" (a boll

of bear-meal), thence father of " Couttsich a' bholla 'mhin

eorna " (the boll of bear-meal Couttses) ; and to the third,

all the worthless traps he could pick up about their bothy,

the progenitor of " Couttsich cac chon " (the dog-dirt

Couttses), dog-dirt being an elegant term to imply the

worthlessness of the last son's inheritance.....




.........." Dowie was the day Jock Tarn married,

For Culbleen was burnt and Cromar harried."


Jock Tarn lived at the Leys, it appears. On that occasion,

it is handed down by tradition that the pipers took their

stand on Knock Argaty, and the wild pibroch rang through

the whole country, while Gilderoy and his men drove off

the inhabitants' herds and flocks. They took their way

with these over the Kore and Drum; the largest of the

despoiled proprietors followed to offer ransom. They could

not, however, come to terms, as the laird would give but

one half-crown a-head of redemption for the cattle.

Whether about those times, or somewhat later, I cannot

say, but on an errand similar to Irving's, Coutts, one of

the Auchterfoul or Westercoul family, with a neighbour —

likely another Coutts — was despatched with all the money

the country could raise to buy back their cattle. The

rogues absconded with these monies, and it is asserted the

progenitor of the great Coutts & Co. — one of the pair —

first raised the wind in this mauner.





Lord Braco, who had supplanted Allancuaich and Dal-

more, was a favourer of the established Government. In-

vercauld himself was an old man, and what influence he

possessed he freely used for the same party as Braco : his

son had a commission in the Black Watch. But these two

proprietors' opposition was of little moment. The whole of

the district was Jacobite — rich and poor, young and old,

men and women ; ami be opinions what they may, all must

allow that the heroes of the '45 were a noble, chivalrous,

disinterested, brave, and gallant band.


Chief among the men of Mar shine conspicuous Charles

Gordon of Blellack and Pronie, commonly known as "Muckle

Pronie," the correspondent of the Laird of Stoneywood;

ohiefer, Francis Farquhurson of Monaltrie, called the Baron

Ban, or Fairhaired Baron ; chiefest, James Farquharson of

Balmoral, brother of Peter of Inverey. He was, on account

of the incapacity of his nephew Fmlay (see the Lejend of the

Inverey 8),, to all intents and purposes the head of the Inverey

branch of the family, and took the foremost place in raising

the clan.


And who followed them to the battlefield ? Who donned

the white cockade? Who drew the broad claymore? and

who drove over the necks of the foes of Prince Charlie?

Let me think now. There was Patrick Fleming of Auch-

. intoul, the fourteenth laird of the name — Patrick the Little

■ — little, I allow, but how dexterous, how active, how

hardy! Was there among the Highlanders a swordsman

so skilled— so quick of eye— so cunning in the tricks of

fence ? Few and rare indeed they must have been. A cer-

tain Coutts, vapouring with a bright new claymore, was

passing Auchintoul :


"A proper weapon," quoth the laird. "I think you

ought to give it to me."


" Bv no manner of means," returned the Coutts. " I

trust I can use it as well as any of the Fleming name."


" Say'st so, friend ; and what if I take it from you with

my mother's distaff? "


" Verily it shall be thine to have and to hold."


The little Fleming ran for his weapon, and the pass at

arms commenced, and ended also, for one cunning hit over

the fingers, and the sword fell from the Coutts' hand, and

passed out of his possession. It was handled to some purpose in the '45, you may believe. " Prospere procede

et regna," O Little Fleming of Auchintoul !




see also

© 2024   Created by Malcolm Coutts.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service