Elgin and the rich agricultural plains of Moray afforded abundant spoil to Highland caterans and rievers in the days when
“Sweeping faulds and tooming of the glen
Had still been held the deeds of honest men.”
On the 3rd of July, 1402, Alexander Macdonald, third son of the Lord of the Isles, with a band of his many followers, plundered the Cathedral, as well as many of the private houses, and returned home rich with the spoils of the burgh. Nearly three hundred years later, in 1691, the Clan Grant organised a cattle-lifting expedition, and made a descent into the valley of Dallas and the neighbouring districts of Pluscarden and Duffus. Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, on hearing of the raid, gathered a few of his retainers and overtook the Strathspey men as they were driving the criach on the heights above Knockando. Sir Robert demanded by what authority they acted in plundering and robbing the tenantry under cloud of night. “By order of the Laird of Grant,” replied the leader. "I cannot believe that,” said Sir Robert, "unless you show me his writing.” “Here it is, then,” again answered the leader of the expedition, handing a letter to the Baronet, who immediately turned his horse, rode off to Edinburgh, produced the letter, and obtained decree against the Laird of Grant for the whole amount of his losses.
It was one thing, however, to obtain a decree, and quite another matter to enforce it; and a Sherifl-offioer entering Strathspey in those days on such business embarked on a very dangerous enterprise, as Gordonstoun’s unfortunate messenger very soon found out. In Dunbar’s “Social Life in Former Days,” there is a copy of the complaint made by the messenger in question regarding the hard usage he met with at the hands of the Strathspey men :—
“I, Hugh Thaine, messenger, hireby declaire that I am not at this tyme able to goe the length of Edinburgh, by reasone of sickness and unabilitie of body, liaveing beine now sex or seven weeks werry finabell, by reasone of the hard usage I mett with in Strathspey, in the wood of Abernethie ; and therefor I doe heirby dyser and give full power, to Sir Robert Gordone of Goidonstoun (who did imploy me about executing of Councell letters in that place) to suplicat the Lords of ther Majesties Privie Concill, or any other of thir Majesties Judges to whom it may belonge, that the saide Lords or Judges may, in ther prudence, apoyant some way for reddressing and punishing the abuses comitted against the law and government upon my persone, and those in my company, which wer as followith, viz., I (having upon the fyftinth of October last citted some witnesses, and upon the sixteenth thereof citted the Laird of Grant; and upon the seventinth thereof, be eight houres in the morning, as I went about three myles from Ballichastell, towards Culnakyle, both the Lairds houses, at a place called Craigmuir, at the wood of Abernethie), and three men, called Peter Morrison, in Fochabrs; John M‘Edwart, in Glen-rinnes, and Alex. Bogtoun in Khieclehik, that were with me were seized upon by a pearty of armed men who most maisterfullie and violently struck me with their gunnes; gave me a stobbe with a durke in my shoulder, and a stroak with my owen sword; robbed me of my money, my linnens, some cloathes, my sword and provision ; and of the principal Councell letters many coppies thereof and uther papers ; then bound me and my company and always threatened me with pressnt death; for executing the foresaid letters, and examined me on oath whither any of those men did belonge to Gordonstoun that they might instantly kill him and offred his liffe to anyone of our companie that wold hange the rest of us ; thereafter laid us down and secured us with horse-roapes on the ground within the wood, wher we leay in cold, hunger, and great miseries for four days and three nights, threatened hourly with present death. My conditione of healthe is welle knowen to the minister and neighbours in the parocli wher I live and may be atested by them if neid require. In testimony of the verity heirof, I have written and subscribed ther presents with my hand at Fochabers the fourt day of December jajvcj nynty one yeires (1691).”
Although the messenger was thus badly treated, it was not with the object of avoiding payment, but rather to show their resentment at the means employed. The Laird of Grant at this time was Sir Ludovic, who with his son, the Brigadier, ruled at Castle Grant. The Brigadier was one of the foremost men in Scotland in his day, distinguished in the camp, and the Court, and a bosom friend of John—the great Duke of Argyll. The Knight of Gordonstoun was therefore summoned to come in person to Castle Grant and receive the full amount of his claim. Sir Robert, on entering the Castle, was received with every mark of respect. On receiving the money he immediately handed it to the Brigadier, saying, “This is a present from Robert of Gordonstoun, and I will see my tenants righted myself.” The Brigadier stood up, and after warmly thanking Sir Robert for his chivalrous generosity, said, “If ever I become Laird of Grant, I will gar the rash bush keep the cow and the pin in the cot door the sheep in a’ time coming”—a promise which, from that day to this, has been faithfully kept by all the chiefs and clansmen of Strathspey.
But the Strathspey raid of 1820 must not be placed in the same category as an ordinary cattle-lifting expedition. It is of interest historically, being the last rising of a clan in Scotland; and although the event happened 76 years ago, almost in the middle of this 19th century—called by its critics the utilitarian age—the expedition presents features of loyalty and devotion to chief and clan as romantic in their character as anything that happeaed in the golden age of chivalry and romance.
The country lying between the two Craigellachies has now been in the peaceful possession of the Grants for over 500 years; and though more exposed than most Highland districts to the peaceful and more commercial invasion of the Lowlander, yet 76 years ago the Highlanders of Strathspey were primitive and unsophisticated to a degree of which those who have known them only during the last 30 years or so can form but a very faint conception. The late minister of Abernethy, Rev. Mr Stewart, used to tell a quaint story of an old poacher and smuggler who died in my own day. James had built himself a bothy under the shadow of Cairngorm, and with his musket bade defiance to all intruders. When over 80 years of age he had to wrestle with the grim king of terrors; and the minister, hearing of his illness, visited the old man and reminded him of his spiritual duties, saying, “You know there are just two places beyond the grave, to either, of which all the human race must go.” “Well,” replied James, “I’ll tell you the plain truth about myself. In my young days I had a lot of companions, and we were always together. I was wi’ them at Baiteal nam Bat (Battle of the Sticks) in Elgin, and I was in the middle of the big fight at Tomintoul market. Och, och! many a spree and fight and ploy we had; but now they are all gone before me, I feel gey lonely and forsaken now, and when I die I would just like to join my old companions wherever they are.” Surely this will parallel the exclamation of Bardolph on hearing of Falstaffs death, “Would I were with him wheresoever he is.”
In the country of the Grants, chieftainship, though legally deprived of its ancient and arbitrary authority, was neither forgotten nor disowned. Its spirit and all its finer features survived, and to a great extent regulated the relations between landlord and tenant. The chief was still the father of his clan ; and his tenantry showed anything but a disposition on their part to sever their allegiance. For generations—and it is the same still—it was a point of honour with the Lairds of Grant never to remove an old tenant, and a list of the tacksmen’s names in Strathspey reminds us of one of the early chapters in 1st Chronicles, where son succeeded father in endless succession. In the days of the clan feuds the Grants, owing to the position of their country, their strength, and unity, managed to hold their own without having to fight their neighbours. Yet in the hour of our country’s danger, there war no lack of courage and military spirit among the men of Strathspey. In the years 1793-1794, when the “ good Sir James ”
“Kept his castle in the North
Hard by the thundering Spey,
And a thousand vassals dwelt around,
All of his lineage they,”
General Stewart of Garth tells us that Sir James raised the Strathspey Fencibles all from his own estates, and within two months of the declaration of war with France the regiment was assembled at Forres, being so complete in numbers that 70 men were discharged as supernumerary. As soon as Sir James Grant’s Fencibles were embodied he made further proposals to raise a regiment for present service, and accordingly the 97th Regiment of the line, consisting of 1000 men, all from the Grant estates, with the exception of two or three companies, was formed. From the parish of Abernethy, in particular, a large number joined the army, and during the Bonaparte wars the military spirit m this parish was kept brightly burning by the pulpit ministrations of Rev. John Grant, popularly known as the “minister of the Gazette.” Mr Grant, before settling down as minister of Abernethy, was for some years in the army as chaplain to a Highland regiment, and he took a passionate interest in the loyalty and military spirit of his flock. When many of them were away fighting the battles of their country, he used to allay the anxiety of their relatives at home by reading the “Gazette” newspaper to his congregation before dismissing them on Sabbath. After the downfall of Napoleon, a great many pensioners returned to Strathspey to tell a younger generation of the battles and sieges in which they had been engaged. In 1820, for example, there were 22 half-pay officers living in Strathspey, besides a large number of discharged non-commissioned officers and privates. It was at this time, then, when the French war just over had fostered a fighting spirit among all classes of the people, that the death of George the Third caused a General Election, and the Goddess of Discord, in the form of Politics, seized the opportunity of throwing her apple among the Electors of Elgin, and setting them all by the ears.
Prior to the Reform Bill, the group of burghs consisting of Elgin, Cullen, Banff, Inverury, and Kintore, sent a member to Parliament, the Town Council of each burgh choosing a delegate to represent the community, and each burgh, in its turn, being the returning burgh where the other delegates met, and where the election was made.
The family of Grant, for nearly 100 years, possessed a paramount influence in Elgin politics; and Cullen, since the accession of the family to the Seafield estates and title, was also theirs. Banff, though now and then a little erratic, was generally true to the Duff interest; while Inverury and Kintore were entirely under Lord Kintore’s influence. It was one thing, however, to command a burgh and another thing to retain the command. The Magistrates, Councillors, and Deacons had to be constantly feasted, petted, and favoured. The good Sir James Grant of Grant was, according to General Stewart, the best patron Elgin tradesmen were ever blessed with, for most of them were mainly supported by his liberality and bounty. When resident at Grant Lodge, in the immediate vicinity of Elgin, the parish ministers, elders, Magistrates, and Towrn Council were generally invited to their Sunday dinner with him. When Sir James died he left a family of two sons and three daughters—Lewis Alexander and Francis William, aud the daughters, Ann, Margaret, and Penuel. Owing to the delicate state of his brother’s health, Colonel Francis was really the laird from the time of his father’s death, and during the long period of 40 years he was unwearied in his efforts to promote the best interests of every one on his estates. He was also animated by the same desire as his father before him to cultivate the friendship of the citizens of Elgin, but as it was in Ossianic times—
“In Alpin, in the days of the heroes, Fingal neglected to call some of the Fingalians to the feast he gave at Druim Dialg. The proud rage of the heroes was aroused.”
On the occasion of Prince Leopold’s visit to Elgin, Colonel Francis Grant, with the Provost, Magistrates, and Town Council, were in waiting at the town’s marches to confer on him the freedom of the city, after which Colonel Grant invited the Provost and Town Council to dine with the Prince at Grant Lodge, while the inhabitants of the burgh were feasted at a free banquet on the lawn. Owing to a mistake of the Town-Clerk, Patrick Duff, who issued the invitations, the Deacons of the Trades, who were often joined to the Council, and possessed great influence among the Freemen of the Burgh, were overlooked, and, thinking themselves insulted, would neither take bite nor sup.
When Colonel Grant heard of this he went himself personally to the Deacons and made an ample apology. He assured them it was entirely a mistake of the Town-Clerk, and he trusted they would pass it over. He asked them to partake of the entertainment provided, and, if not satisfied with that, to go to any house or inn in the city, and regale themselves with the best of meat and drink, and he would pay all expenses. “No, no,” they answered, “he had looked over them before the Prince, and the King might come in the cadger’s way yet.” They could feast at their own expense. Accordingly they adjourned with their friends to the Trades’ Hall, sent for a cask of whisky, got uproariously drunk, and then proceeded to perambulate the streets, conducting themselves in a lawless and disorderly manner. This was the beginning of the rift which culminated in the raid of the Highlanders later on. A slight somewhat similar in character a short time before resulted in the loss of the burgh of Inverury to the Kintore interest ; so that in 1820 the Earl of Fife had the command of Banff and inverury, and the Kintore and Seafield interest had Kintore and Cullen, while Elgin was supposed to be doubtful. To secure the Cathedral City then was the grand aim of both parties.
In the previous Parliament the sitting member was a Seafield nominee—Mr Robert Grant, afterwards Sir Rooert Grant, Governor of Bombay, and brother of Lord Glenelg. When he heard that he was to be opposed by General Duff, brother of IiOrd Fife, he got frightened, and declined to stand, and accepted an English burgh provided for him by the Government. The Kintore party then brought forward Mr Archibald Farquharson of Finzean, a gentleman of very moderate ability, and quite unknown in the constituency. The traditions of both the Grants and the Kintores lay too much in the direction of Pope’s axiom, that “whatever is, is right,” to satisfy the aspirations of the more advanced electors; while General Duff was supposed to be favourable to reform. It may be taken for granted that, in these circumstances Lord Fife was not unwilling to take advantage of his opportunity to make himself popular to the citizens of Elgin. His lordship then was in the prime of life, gay, affable, and generous; and these qualities soon made him very popular in Elgin. He frequently took up his abode in the town, and made himself acquainted with the Burgesses, their wives and daughters, loading them with gowns, bonnets, ribbons, shawls, and rings; while he scattered money freely among the humbler classes—until, when he walked the streets, he was followed by a train of idlers singing his praises, and every door and window was filled with maidens and matrons whose devotion was rewarded by a ring or a silk gown, while the poor husbands and fathers had no rest or peace unless they supported the gay and gallant Earl. The Town Council of those days consisted of 17 members ; the Council electing the new when their year of office was expired. A political agent who could contrive to keep nine good men and true in the Council’ was sure of electing a delegate favourable to the interest of his party when a general election should come.
There was a good deal of canvassing on both sides ere it was known which party had the majority, some declaring openly for the Grant party, others for Lord Fife, while some would not declare themselves. This, with the absence of the Provost, Sir Archibald Dunbar, in Edinburgh, and one of the Councillors, Bailie Innes, professing to stand neutral, kept the inhabitants in a state of anxious suspense. The Grants feared that the Burgh, and with it the election, should be lost, for the Duffs canvassed with such success that they prevailed on seven to declare for General Duff; so that the state of the parties was understood to stand eight for the Grant interest and seven for the Fife party. The great object then of the Fife party was to bring over one of the majority to the other side. Every form of bribery was tried, but as yet unsuccessfully. As soon as the Provost returned he was petitioned by 200 burgesses to support General Duff, but he refused to have the petition presented to him, and remained firm in his allegiance to the Grants.
Party feeling reached a white heat when it was rumoured that the Grants, fearing the fate of their cause, had endeavoured in the dead of night to kidnap Lewis Anderson and James Culbard, two Lord Fife’s supporters. To steal a Councillor and send him out of the way, to lock up a poor Bailie in defiance to all law and justice, was a rough-and-ready method of defeating an opponent often resorted to in the electioneering contests of a past generation ; and, curiously enough, however innocent the Grant party may have been of man-stealing designs on this occasion, it is quite certain that they employed a somewhat similar stratagem to ensure the election of their Chief seventy years before. At that time the proprietor of Kinsteary opposed Sir Ludovic Grant of Grant as a candidate for the representation of Elgin. The Highlanders of Strathspey, indignant that any Lowlander should presume to compete with their Chief, the Laird of Grant, came in detached parties to the neighbourhood of Elgin, where they were seen loitering about for days. When any of them was questioned as to their business they always pretended to be looking for a “beastie cattle that they lost.” After watching every movement of their destined prey for a week, they at last seized a favourable opportunity, threw a plaid over Kinsteary’s head, and hoodwinked his companions in the san e manner. The candidate for the burghs was detained among the hills of Strathspey until the laird of Grant was returned for the county. It is only justice to Sir Ludovic to mention that he was no party to this transaction, and it was many years after the event before he understood that the bold effort to ensure his election was made by his own clansmen.
The attempt at kidnapping in 1820, if ever made, was not so successful, but it had the effect of rousing the ire of the Duff, who, baffled in their efforts to obtain a majority in the County, determined to retaliate on their opponents by kidnapping some of the Council favourable to the Grant interest. So, on the morning of Saturday, the 11th March, while a worthy Councillor, Mr Robert Dick, was removing his shutters from his shop windows, some three or four men came behind him and put a handkerchief over his eyes, and carried him up Craig’s Close, round by Batchen Lane, to Mackenzie’s Inn, where a carriage was waiting. The Councillor’s daughter, who was a party to the plot, and who received a present of two diamond rings from Lord Fife, came up with a change of linen for her father. He was then put into the carriage, and, guarded by a couple of men, was driven rapidly to Burghead, where a well-manned boat was in readiness to receive him. He was soon transported to the other side of the Firth, and landed at Dunrobin, where he was hospitably entertained by some Morayshire gentlemen who were in Sutherlandshire at this time. After a few days’ enjoyment, the worthy Councillor and his escort started leisurely by land for Elgin, where they arrived too late for the election of a delegate.
In like manner another Councillor, but of higher grade, being no less than a Bailie, and at the time acting as Chief Magistrate, while taking a turn behind his garden, as was his usual custom in the morning, was seized by a party of Duffs, carried to Bishopmill, hurried into a chaise, conveyed in like manner to the seaside, where an open boat transported him and his captors to the same destination. But Bailie Tavlor and his captors were not so fortunate as Councillor Dick ; a strong head wind had sprung up, they were all night on the sea in an open boat, and after having nearly lost their lives they managed, with the utmost difficulty, to get into the harbour of Brora, after being 17 hours on the passage. His family did not know what had become of him, and his wife was in such a state of grief and anxiety that some of the Fife party who were in the secret had to tell her that her husband was safe. Bailie Taylor, like his companion in adversity, made his way home by land, and arrived in Elgin too late for the election of a delegate, Having in this summary fashion secured a majority in the Council favourable to the Fife interest, they immediately called a Council meeting, which the Grant party did not attend, and as the Town Clerk refused to appear or deliver up the keys of the Council Chamber, another Clerk was chosen for the time, and the following Wednesday was appointed for the election of a delegate.
In consequence of the manoeuvres related above, Elgin was in a most excited state. Colonel Grant was in Italy, and the Earl of Seafield was living in retirement at Grant Lodge with his sisters, Lady Ann and Lady Penuel. The beautiful Lady Ann was a woman of commanding presence, great wit, and force of character, and for some days previous to this she dared not appear on the streets without being jeered and insulted by the riff-raff of Elgin; while in the evenings and at night, howling mobs surrounded the house and policies, singing rubbishy rhymes and uttering insulting cries, “Lord Fife for ever,” and “May the diel pick out the Grant’s liver.” At last, so completely was Grant Lodge invested by the townspeople in the Fife interest, that no one was allowed to enter or leave the house.
The high-spirited Lady Ann resented this disgraceful treatment, and between Saturday, 11th, and Sabbath morning, the 12th March, 1820, she contrived the escape of one of her grooms, who sprang on a horse, and galloped to Castle Grant, a distance of over 30 miles, in three hours, the noble steed, it is reported, like Dick Turpin’s celebrated mare “Black Bess” at York, falling under him dead upon reaching the Castle door. The message that Lady Ann sent to her clansmen was that her family were held prisoners in their own house by the burghers of Elgin. This intelligence produced an extraordinary effect in Strathspey, where-Lady Ann was universally beloved. No fiery cross ever sped on swifter wing proclaiming the magic gathering word, “Stand fast, Craigellachie,” than the news that Lady Ann was in danger travelled through the Strath. The men of the village of Gran-town were collected by tuck of drum just as they were preparing for Church. In Cromdale, the Rev. Gregor Grant received the message in the pulpit, stopped the sermon, announced the call to the rescue, and offered up a short prayer in Gaelic for success.
Forthwith might be seen gathering from every hill and glen, as in the palmy days of old, every man who could grasp a stick, so that within two hours of receiving the summons about 300 men, with the minister at their head, marched for Elgin. Captain Grant, Congash, the factor on the Strathspey estates, sent messengers in all directions to rouse the tenantry. Mr Forsyth, Dell, father of the present minister of Abernethy, Dr Forsyth, assisted by Mr Grant, Rothiemoon, assembled the Abernethy men. Patrick Grant of Auchterblair, who afterwards became Field-Marshal General Sir Patrick Grant, performed a like service in Gleann Cheamach—the glen of heroes--as the parish of Duthil was anciently called ; so that in the course of a few hours some 700 men had assembled at the different points of rendezvous, or were across the mountains, seeking the shortest route to the place where their chieftainess was imprisoned. In fact, the Highlanders, to a man, turned out, and, travelling all night, hundreds were in Elgin on Monday morning ere many of the burghers were out of bed.
As we can imagine, the excitement in Strathspey among the women and the old men who stayed at home was very intense, and the wildest rumours prevailed; one woman circulating the report that they had taken with them the “Armoury” at Castle Grant; another that a battle had already been fought, that many had been killed, and that Lady Ann herself was amongst the wounded. But, leaving the Strathspey women to imagine all sorts of horrors, let us see how they are preparing in Elgin for the onslaught. The civic rulers had a vague suspicion that something of the kind was contemplated, and when the first body of the Highlanders, consisting of the Cromdale and Ad vie men, arrived at Aberlour, about 11 o’clock on Sabbath night, one of Lord Fife’s tenants, a Mr Inkson, suspecting the cause of so many men passing down Speyside, hurried on horseback to Elgin, arrived there about three o’clock on Monday morning, proceeded to Mackenzie’s Inn, where such of the Council as were favourable to Lord Fife were kept under a strong guard, and informed the quaking burghers that the Grants had risen as in ancient times, and that a band between two and three hundred were already on the march, and within a short distance of the town. The tidings caused the greatest consternation and terror amongst the burghers. The bugle blew, the drum beat, and those of the guard that could be spared ran in all directions to awaken the inhabitants. Soon the streets were crowded with panic-stricken and bewildered citizens who imagined that the Highlanders had come to sack the town, as the Macdonalds of the Isles did centuries before. For greater security the Council were escorted under a strong guard, from the inn to the Tolbooth : and when, a little before five, the alarm was given that the Highlanders were at hand, the citizens, who hi-d armed themselves with staves, swords, and other weapons, flew to the Tolbooth, which happened to be the place farthest from danger, with a determination to stand by it to the last. Others of the citizens, more aggressive in spirit, stationed themselves at the gate of Grant Lodge, provided with baskets filled with broken bottles, to hurl at any one who might attempt a rescue. Meanwhile the Highlanders were marching on, silently at first, until the Sabbath was over, and then the word was given to Peter Bane, the celebrated piper and fiddler, who, with the Abernethy men, followed in the wake of Cromdale and Advie, to tune up his drones, “O Pharig ’nis seid suas gu brais i,” and the rest of the journey was enlivened by his stirring strains. There were not many people astir as they passed along, but such as were up could not conceive what was ado, and no further information could be obtained from the Highlanders than that they were going to the market. “Where was the market?" “Och, just at Elgin the morn.” The Duthil men followed some hours later, and took the most dircct route, as they had much further to go. About two miles from Elgin a general rendezvous was held, and the army was easily arranged in military-order. As it was only five years after the peace, many of the men were old soldiers, and among them were several half-pay officers who had seen service in almost every quarter of the globe, while the factor and leader of the expedition, Captain Grant, Congash, was an old militia officer.
About 5 a.m. on the morning of March the 13th, a memorable day in the annals of Elgin, the first detachment of the Highlanders made their appearance. Marching up Moss Street, with pipers playing, they proceeded to Grant Lodge. Their numbers, and the resolute way they grasped their sticks, was enough for the broken bottle brigade; the siege was immediately raised, the burghers fled, and the Strathspey men quietly entered the policies of Grant Lodge, where they were joyfully welcomed, Lady Ann, genial, kind-hearted, and affable, going about amongst her clansmen, and showering her smiles and grateful greetings on every one. It was a serious business to feed seven hundred men at a moment’s notice after such a long journey, but a number of bullocks were slaughtered at Linkwood, a cask of whisky was broached, and provisions were prepared for the entire party on the lawn. As the blood of. the Highlanders was up, the difficulty was in preventing a collision between them and the townspeople. The Provost was so afraid of a conflict that he crept into Grant Lodge by a back door, and implored Lady Ann on his knees to get the Highlanders to save the town and return to their homes. This appeal was backed up by the Sheriff, who, accompanied by the clergy of ihe town, waited on Lady Ann, and urged on her the absolute necessity of ordering the Highlanders to return home before anything more serious would happen. Her ladyship replied that the men had made a very long journey, and would require refreshment and a good rest before they were in a condition to march home again; and, further, that she must have an assurance from the Sheriff and Town Council that special constables would be sworn in to preserve the peace, and the inmates of Grant Lodge would no longer be molested. This the Sheriff and Town Council promptly agreed to do. The Highlanders, after being satisfied that the freedom and safety of the Earl and his sisters was assured for the future, agreed to return home that same afternoon.
It was insinuated by the Fife party that the object of the expedition was to settle the election as they did 70 years before, but that this idea was wholly unfounded will be apparent when we consider how easily they were persuaded to return home as soon as they were satisfied that their Chief and his sisters were safe. They left their homes almost at a moment’s notice, some of the men from the western part of the parish of Duthil marching a distance of 47 miles in ten hours. They expected to have to fight their way through a mob of thousands of infuriated Lowlanders. But they never shrank from the ordeal. They relied upon courage, firmness, and a natural talent for fighting to overcome the formidable hosts which rumour told them were arrayed against their Chief. When they arrived in Elgin they found that numerically they were much stronger than their opponents, and it reflects great credit on their forbearance and respect for law and order that they agreed to return home again without cracking a few Lowland heads. They left at three o’clock on Monday afternoon, with drums beating and pipes playing.
The Highlanders having arranged to go home by a different route, Lady Ann, with thoughtful consideration, sent orders to Forres and every inn on the road to give them anything they wanted. At Forres they made a night of it, eating, drinking, and dancing till the morning, and then on to Strathspey without a halt, many of the men from Duthil and the more remote parts of Abernethy having walked fully 80 miles without going to bed. Even after the departure of the Highlanders, Elgin continued in an indescribable state of excitement. All the able-bodied citizens were sworn in as special constables, drilled, and placed under the command of one of the many retired military gentlemen residing in the town. Patrols were established, sentries placed, and rounds made, and the town put as nearly as possible under military law. In the course of the forenoon the inhabitants were strengthened by Lord Fife’s tenantry pouring in from the surrounding districts, armed with sticks and other weapons; while rumour, with her hundred tongues, every now and then brought reports that the Highlanders had not returned to Strathspey, but were lurking in the adjoining woods, ready to enter the town after nightfall and carry off Lord Fife’s supporters.
About 10 o’clock at night, a false alarm that the Highlanders were going to attack the town put all on the alert. The horn of alarm was again sounded, the drums beat, and the inhabitants armed themselves as best they could, and, with the constables, paraded the streets for hours, while instructions were given to the occupiers of all houses fronting the streets to have their windows lighted up with candles, so that if a Highlander was lurking about he could be immediately detected. Accordingly, an extensive illumination took place. Many of the Grant party were obliged to light up their houses as well, to prevent their windows being broken. But no enemy appeared, the report originating by two or three poor fellows having got too much drink, who were seen loitering about the woods, and whose numbers were magnified into as many hundreds.
On Tuesday the town was a good deal excited, the special constables still continuing at their posts, and the guards at theirs, and old women of both sexes seeing a Highlander ready to pounce on them at the corner of every street if they crossed the door after nightfall. Wednesday was the day appointed for electing a delegate, and an immense crowd gathered on the streets, while the constables, with the Sheriff at their head, walked through the town to see that no riot took place. As none of Colonel Grant’s friends appeared, the Fife party met alone and nominated a delegate to represent them .at Cullen. This was hardly a legal proceeding, there being only a minority of the Council and no Town-Clerk present. After a number of party meetings, Councillor Dick, who had returned from Sutherlandshire, was brought over to the Fife interest, and with Bailie Innes standing neutral, the Council was equally divided. The Provost, who was a supporter of the Grant interest, had both a deliberative and a casting vote, so after a number of protests, Mr Farquharson was declared duly elected by the Chairman's casting vote. Parliament met on the 21st of April, and Mr Farquharson’s title was sustained.
The disgraceful disturbances associated with this memorable election could easily have been prevented if those responsible for the peace and good government of the town had exercised a little more firmness, and promptly apprehended the ringleaders, instead of making theatrical displays at Grant Lodge, and military masquerading in the street. In connection with the kidnapping of the Bailie and Councillor, the matter was reported to the Lord Advocate, and the transaction was looked upon as highly unconstitutional by the Government. Four of Lord Fife’s supporters from Elgin were tried at the Circuit Court of Justiciary, held at Inverness in September, 1820, on a charge of stellment, or man-stealing. They were defended by Mr John Peter Grant of Rothieinurchus; but as the parties stolen did not take the matter very seriously, a convenient flaw in the indictment was discovered, and the trial broke down. A great procession went out to meet the accused on their return to Elgin, where they were feasted by Lord Fife’s supporters. At the annual meeting to elect a new Council, the Fife party were triumphant, and the General was, on the first opportunity, duly elected member for the Elgin burghs.
So ended this, the last struggle under the old system of self-government which gave rise to one of the most remarkable traits of the feudal system which the present century has seen. It would be difficult to approve and justify the policy which instigated this remarkable demonstration on the part of the Strathspey men, but one cannot help cherishing a feeling of admiration at the courage, loyalty, and chivalrous love which animated the breasts of those true and warm-hearted Highlanders. To the outward eye, however, the picturesque appearance that we associate with the rising of a clan was almost entirely absent, as very few of the men wore the Highland dress, which Duncha’ Ban nan Oran so eloquently describes as “the clothes that display the strife of colours in which the carmine prevails.” There was, consequently, a want of that characteristic distinction which should have separated the Saxon from the Gael. The Strathspey men were, as a rule, dressed in coarse home-made tweed or hodden grey cloth, a capital, warm, and serviceable dress, but in no way characteristic of the Highlander and the Highland Clan. Yet the raid of Elgin furnished a splendid exhibition of the loyalty of the Strathspey men to the House of Grant, and it was so understood by Royalty itself. On the occasion of George the Fourth’s visit to Scotland in 1822, when the King attended the ball given in his honour by the Peers of Scotland in Holyrood Palace, he asked one of the lords in waiting to point out the lady on whose account so many of the Strathspey Highlanders went to Elgin two years before. Lady Ann being pointed out, the Monarch emphatically remarked—“Well, truly, she is an object fit to raise the chivalry of any clan,” and he took the first opportunity of raising her to the peerage. As might be expected, the incidents of the “ Raid,” the kidnapping, and the political battle, are referred to in the songs and poetry of the period. The Lowland muse is not particularly successful in “waking to ecstacy the living lyre,” as the following samples will show :—
“Success to all Fife’s voters now,
And to them we will humbly bow,
And give that reverence due to them
Which they deserve as honest men;
But let the Grants for ever stand
A haughty but a shameless band.
They brought themselves into disgrace,
I trust we’ll never see their face.”
“Now let us all to Elgin hie
Where each his can is drinking,
And fill the bowl to noble Fife
While Seafield’s cause is sinking.
Success to Alexander now,
Each honest heart is cheering,
The dubious kind of votes to bind,
We’ll go electioneering.
“See Banff in all her native grace
Shakes hands with Inverury;
While rotten Cullen turns her back
And hides her face of fury.
But Elgin sure will never give
Each raving prayer a hearing,
But votes to find for noble Fife,
They’ll go electioneering.,,
Most of the verses, however, are mere doggerel—
“Oh, the Grants they are a filthy race,
Have brought themselves into disgrace;
For they made the drums and pipes to play
At Grantown on the Sabbath day.”
The following is rather a better specimen, and styled “A Patriotic Wish for the Prosperity of Elgin” :—
“Oh Elgin, I would gladly sing
The beauties that around thee spring;
Thy woods and groves with music ring,
And rich adorn;
While smiling seasons plenty bring of grass and com.
“But why, oh why, do’st thou complain,
In such a loud and plaintive strain,
And groan beneath a load of pain,
As heaven would fa’
Why nearly fifty years they ta’en
My rights awa’.
“Ah, waes me for’t, my ain good toun,
That’s reared so mony a canty loon ;
Who oft has trod the world roun’
With honoured name;
And never was ashamed to own
From thee he came.
“But what a fright to mony a mother,
To bee so mony from the heather,
Seven hundred of them a’ together,
Come frae the hill;
What errand brought so mony hither
Is known fu’ well.
“I venerate the hardy sons
Bred ’mang the heather and the whins,
Who gallantly have used their guns
In our late war ;
And from the head even to the shins
Bear mony a scar.
“They fought and bled at Waterloo,
And twined fair laurels round their broo,
The brightest plumes that ever grew
Their heads adorn;
Memorials of that overthrow
Shall long be worn.
“But gladly these returned hame
From our good town the way they came;
Their leaders gained but little fame
For a’ their toil.
Ne’er need they play another game
On Callany soil.
“Amid the darkness of the night
We hailed the flambeau’s shining light;
In self-defence we stood for right
Along the streets,
Prepared with all their boasted might
Our foes to meet.
“We mustered out a numerous throng
Of rich and poor, old maids and young;
The streets with blended voices rung
And youthful glee;
Each avenue was guarded strong
With jealous eye.
“With weapons of the rustic kind,
Supported with an ardent mind,
Which no compulsive power can bind,
We stood our ground,
And thankful are we now to find
All safe ana sound.”
In pleasing contrast to the common place sentiments of the Lowland bards on the raid, take the following Strathspey song, full of Celtic fire and fervour, and for many years popular round the ceilidh fire in that district. And yet there are indications in its quaint transitions and Saxon innovations that the old modes of thought and speech were beginning to crumble away :—