In former ramble we endeavoured to describe some of the more interesting scenes at or around Duff town; and though there are many more delightful spots to which we might with equal justice allude, we shall in the meantime direct our steps to Auchindown.


As we leave the eastern end of the town, however, we come to a small cluster of houses that have sprung up around the carding-mill of Mr Stewart; and over against them, on a rising ground, the handsome houses of Miss Gordon, which, thanks to her taste and energy, have sprung up to adorn the eastern entrance to the city. The site on which these two fine cottages stand was but a year or two ago a rough and uncouth mound, and a positive eyesore to the traveller; and now, when the grounds around the second house are laid out, they will be among the most attractive residences in the parish. Not far from Miss Gordon’s houses are the Tinninver lime works, which are under the management of the same spirited and energetic lady. The manufac­ture of lime at this place has long been carried on, as well as at the Richmond lime works, on the other side of the Dullan (belonging principally to Mr Cantlie); and such have been the facilities for manufacturing it, and so superior its quality, that the numberless kilns that were scattered over this and the neighbouring parishes, have one after another been abandoned, and the entire wants of the district, from the lower parts of Glass and the heights of the Cabrach, to the top of Glenlivat and the highest parts of Knockando, are supplied at the Tinninver or Richmond lime works. Nor but for the want of cheaper conveyance, would even this wide range bound the districts where it would be used; and were railway communication once established between Duff­town and Keith, and Dufftown and Elgin, the superior quality of the lime, and the cheaper rate at which it can there be manufactured, cannot fail to make it largely used in both these places. Already the contractor of the Rothes line has found the advantage of its fine colour and quality, and had all, or nearly all he has re­quired, from the Tinninver kilns. The manufacturers are indeed very sanguine that additions to their works will soon be required; and as the supply of the raw material is unlimited, there will be no difficulty in increas­ing the production.


From the carding-mill we proceed across a substantial stone bridge that spans the Dullan about twenty or thirty yards above its confluence with the Fiddich; and, without noticing for the present the fine strath which opens up before us to the left, we hold on our way to the well-known valley of Auchindown. The district known by this name consists of a fertile piece of table land, separated from the hills which surround it by the deeply-furrowed course of the Fiddich on the one side, and a ravine made by a brawling brook—Corrie burn— on the other. The acclivities, too, on either side are included under the same name, so that Auchindown may be said to be a basin-shaped district, with a water ring running round its bottom. The centre table land in­cludes the fine farms of Keithmore, Tullochallum, Tomnon, and Laggan, while on the acclivities are scattered a number of equally good and well-known farms, as Clunymore, Pitglassie, &c.; and without seeking to lavish indiscriminate praise, we may safely affirm that in no district—not to speak of Highland districts—will farming be found carried to more perfection, or more enterprise and intelligence exhibited than by the farmers here. The largest, and perhaps the best, of the farms is Keithmore. Tullochallum, probably, shows most en­terprise, and has literally carried” cultivation to the mountain top,” and, in spite of wind and weather, rears splendid crops upon the very summit; while, for a clean, compact, and tasteful steading, Pitglassie carries off the palm, and holds up its snow-white, lime-washed walls as a pattern of taste and cleanliness to all around it. Nothing, in short, is awanting here that the agricultural eye could desire, save a few trees to break the monotony of the fields and take off the bareness from the resi­dences and steadings; and we are greatly surprised that farmers otherwise so enterprising and tasteful should have so long neglected this. A few shrubs, even, scattered along the sides of the avenues leading to Pitglassie, Tullochallum, and Keithmore, would entirely change the aspect of the country, and render it as beautiful as it is already fertile; and we would take the liberty of sug­gesting that the gentlemen might take the hint, and beautify as they have already benefitted the district. As an instance of the improvements and progress made on Auchindown, we may mention that Mr Gordon, sen., of Tullochallum, was the first man in the district who waged war with the old time-honoured but ineffectual methods of farming. He was the first to dispense with the oxen at the plough, the first to have leather harness and iron treses to his horses, and when his audacity led him to make two horses work in a plough, which none in the district had seen drawn with less than four or six oxen, and sometimes double that number, he was, as an old man expresses it, “made a warl’s wonner o’;” his father threatened to put him about his business for his innovations, the people in their pity for the horses were not very laudatory of him, and Mr Cantlie’s father, who had made, to him, a long journey to see young Tullochallum at the plough, with a keen perception of the suc­cess of the experiment, exclaimed—“Weel, weel, it’s time for me to gang hame and dee noo!”—meaning that, when young men were doing the work so easily and with so few animals compared with his old-fashioned method, there was no further use for him.


Diverging from the banks of the Fiddich, and taking the course of the Corrie burn, after a pleasant walk of two or three miles, we are at the Castle of Auchindown. The ruins of this ancient castle stand upon a lofty rocky conical-shaped mound that rises abruptly from the west side of the Fiddich, a short distance from the en­trance to Glenfiddich forest. It had been a place of considerable strength, and so situated as to command a large part of the country around it. It is approachable only from one side, and had been surrounded by a deep ditch or moat, and encircled with a strong and massive rampart, which, like that of its neighbour of Balvenie, was gained by a ponderous draw-bridge. “The princi­pal part of this remarkable fortress is a very strong vaulted tower of three stories high—the central apartment which must have been spacious and well finished in an admirable Gothic style; several pairs of fluted pilasters raised in freestone, and spread out in branches above their capitals, had formed a well-imagined em­bellishment to the arched roof. The windows, as usual in such buildings, are high and narrow, but open in a sloping manner as they pass through the wall, which is of an extraordinary thickness, and having well formed seats of hewn stone projecting from the sides, they form a kind of small apartments adjoining to the great hall.”

The Castle is said to have been built in the eleventh century, about the time the Danes or Norsemen were struggling for the possession of the province of Moray, but was again rebuilt by Cochrane, the favourite archi­tect of James III., after he had been invested with the dignity and lands of the Furl of Mar; and after the murder of that insolent favourite, it seems to have fallen into the hands of the Ogilvies, and with the lands of Auchindown formed part of the lordship of Deskford.”


In 1520, according to Cordiner, “Alexander Lord Ogilvie held this barony, and at that time married Eliza­beth, a lady of the family of Gordon, forming a connection that awed the northern counties; but an alarming dissention sprung up from it, that well-nigh, counterbalanced all its salutary effects. By settlements, in consequence of this alliance, the estate and barony of Auchindown were consigned to a collateral heir of the family of Gordon—Sir James Ogilvie of Cardel, son and heir of Lord Alexander by a former marriage. Being abroad in France with Queen Mary as master of her horse guards at the time, on his return with her Majesty into Scotland, he reclaimed his heritable possessions, and threatened to defend his lawful title to Auchindown by force of arms. The contest between these noble families was on the eve of embroiling the north in all the horrors of a civil war, when by the mediation of some judicious men of rank, solicitous to preserve the public quiet, and equally friends of the contending par­ties, it was agreed to submit the cause to the arbitration of Queen Mary, and her too artful councillor, the Earl of Moray, lent his aid in the decision. The Queen,” he continues, ” being come north, received in person the keys of Findlater Castle and of Auchindown—in testi­mony of the implicit submission to be paid to her de­crees—and peace and future unanimity was solemnly sworn to by the families at variance, and ratified with all the grandeur of religious ceremony before the high altar of St Ann’s Church, Cullen. By the royal deter­mination, the barony and estate of Auchindown devolved upon Sir Adam Gordon—who afterwards acted a dis­tinguished part in the civil wars that embittered the latter part of Queen Mary’s reign.”


Where Cordiner fell in with documents that would warrant him in making such statements as the above, we cannot tell, but the narrative seems different from that of most other historians. Shaw, indeed, says that the Barony of Auchindown was purchased from the Ogilvies by the Gor­dons; but whether it came by purchase or by marriage, it is possible that it might have been the cause of disagree­ment between the two families, and may have been the “dispute” referred to by historians as the cause given for Sir John Gordon (one of Huntly’s younger sons) attacking and desperately wounding Lord Ogilvy in the streets of Edinburgh, and from which event the story of the surrendering’ of the keys has probably sprung ; for though Gordon was immediately arrested by order of the magistrates, he soon made his escape, and going to the north, he induced his but too eager father, the Earl of Huntly, to join him in rebel­lion; but before their schemes were matured, or at least before they had openly shown themselves, the Queen had commenced her northward journey, and was passing the castle of Huntly, where she was pressed by the deceitful Earl to enter; but though urged by a ma­jority of her counsel, she steadily refused to visit the house “ of the father of a rebel,” and she accordingly journeyed onward to Balvenie—passing Auchindown unvisited for the same reason as Bog of Gight. From Balvenie she went by Kinloss to Darnaway, and having there given the Earldom of Moray to Mar, the inveterate enemy and rival of Huntly, the rebellion broke out, and the castles of Auchindown, Strathbogie, and Findlater, were fortified by Huntly, and his vassals assembled to give open war to his sovereign. The keys of the latter castle were demanded by the Queen on her return to Aberdeen, but were refused, though afterwards those of the three castles were delivered up by the hands of a Mr Thomas Ker, a servant to Huntly. This rebellion, which ended in the death of Huntly, the execution of his son, and the confiscation of the entire estates of the family, left Auchindown in the hands of the Crown. A few years later, however, when the tables were turning against the unfortunate Queen, and when she saw the necessity of strengthening herself against the faction of which Moray was the head, she liberated the elder son from the imprisonment he had suffered ever since his father’s death at Aberdeen, and shortly after restored him to his estates and honours; and his younger brother, Adam Gordon, became proprietor of Auchindown. This last-named person, better known by the unenviable noto­riety he has obtained in the once popular ballad of” Edom of Gordon,” was a man of considerable military skill, and as deputy-lieutenant for the Queen, reduced the whole of the north to the authority of her faction; and in his zeal for their cause often inflicted cruel wrongs upon those who belonged to the opposite side. No family suffered more from his unrelenting zeal and military skill than the house of Forbes. Arthur, brother of Lord Forbes, the wisest and most amiable of the family of that name, seeking to unite his too often divided clan, had appointed a place of meeting with the leaders of his kinsmen, for the purpose of burying all differences be-tween them; but before they were all assembled they were attacked by Auchindown and routed, with the ir­reparable loss of Arthur Forbes. But the most unjusti­fiable and despicable of his actions to the house of Forbes, was the sending of a party under Captain Car or Ker, to reduce the house of Towie. The laird was ab­sent with a considerable portion of his retainers; but unfortunately his lady and three of her family were in the castle, and the relentless Gordons fired the house and burned it to the ground, with all its inhabitants. This circumstance was the foundation of the ballad al­ready referred to. This occurred in 1571, and about twenty years later Auchindown in its turn became the scene of a conflagration, being burned by the McIntoshes.


The story of its burning is as follows: – The McIntoshes being vassals to Huntly, had by some means offended the Earl, and vengeance being vowed, the chief of the McIntoshes was urged by his clansmen to go to Auchindown and sue for pardon, which he reluctantly did. On his arrival there, he found Gordon from home; but opening his purpose to his lady, he begged her to intercede in his behalf. But the lady was as haughty and unrelenting as the most stern of the Gordons, and firmly told the chieftain that her lord would not be ap­pealed till the head of the chief was fixed to the castle gate. The chief, undaunted by her threat, scornfully replied, and was taking his departure, when the enraged Baroness, observing the castle butcher with cleaver in hand in the prosecution of his calling, caused Mclntosh to be arrested and his head severed from his body on the butcher’s “hackstock.” This cold butchery was of course resented with equal barbarity, and the McIntoshes gathering in force before the return of the lord of Auchindown, plundered the castle, and then set it on fire. Like the burning of the house of Towie, this also was embodied in song, though unfortunately only a frag­ment of it has been preserved. The following are two of the stanzas: –

“ ‘ Turn, Willie McIntosh,
Turn, turn, I bid you;
If you burn Auchindown
Huntly will behead you.’

“ ‘ Head me or hang me,
That winna fley me;
I’ll burn Auchindown
Ere the life leave me.’ “


We have, however, another and very different account of the burning of the castle, which also comes to us in the form of song, and extends over the goodly number of one hundred and fifteen versos and is by far the most romance-looking one. It begins—

“ The night was dark- no lovely moon,
No mystic star or ray,
Shone o’er the towers of Auchindown,
That lift their tops on high.”

And after indulging in a further description of the dark­ness of the night and the strength and situation of the castle, the poet asks—

“But why from yon far lattice gleams,
At this late hour of night,
When all around are hashed in sleep,
A lamp’s pale sickly light?”

The light is explained by our being introduced to the “fair Hellen of Auchindown,” in dishabile, weeping, sighing, and crying—

“I cannot sleep, I needs must weep,
For he I dearly love,
Lies bound and in the castle keep,

My father’s rage to prove.”

And as we proceed, we find that the “he” she dearly loves is Malcolm, son of Lord Balvenie, who had been surprised walking with his fair mistress on the banks of the Fiddich, by “Dark Sir Roderick of Drumin” to whom the fair Hellen had been betrothed by her father, against her will. An unfortunate feud subsisting between the lords of Auchindown and Balvenie, afforded an excuse for committing the young lord to prison, and “Dark Sir Roderick” after treacherously seizing him from behind, had him bound and carried to the dungeons of Auchindown. On being shown into the dungeon, we find young Malcolm in an equal state of perturbation. “Regret, revenge, hatred, and love,” alternately animate his bosom, until on a sudden thought he exclaims—

” Could they persuade her for to wed

Sir Roderick, her betrothed,
By threatening vengeance on my head,
Or tales with falsehood clothed?
Her pitying heart, to save my life,
Might yield—oh! dreadful thought!
Should she become Sir Roderick’s bride.
My life’s too dearly bought!”

While the imprisoned lover is thus fretting himself with maddening thoughts, anon calling for weapons and a fair field with his burly rival, and then with mortification

remembering that

“A hundred men, in battle tried,
Stand at my father’s call;
A hundred shields of tough bull hide,
Hang ready on the wall ;”

the scene is changed, and we are again introduced to the lady’s chamber, the door of which is angrily flung open, and her father enters, with an awful frown, from which she shrinks in hopeless terror. The haughty Baron, of course, heaps torrents of abuse upon his wretched daughter, and threatens the instant destruction of her lover if she does not swear to abandon him and wed Sir Roderick. The poor ” child” falls at his feet, and clasping his knees, gasps out—

“Cast me not from thee in my need,
But bend to mercy’s call;
Sir Roderick I can never wed—
My heart is Malcolm’s all.”

The altercation continues between them, and the father has just wrathfully said—

“ By heaven! I swear his life shall pay,
If you despise my will.
Before bright Phoebus’ morning rays
Shall tip the Conval hill.”

when a sound of battle arises, and the whole garrison are soon engaged in deadly strife. A page had informed Balvenie of his son’s captivity, and the onset is made by him and his retainers. After gaining access to the court­ yard, the prison door of the young laird is broken open, and his chains being unloosed, he is armed, and rushes out to the fight, singling out with the eye of hatred, his rival. The fight between them is desperate, and en­gages the attention of the combatants on both sides; and long and doubtful was the conflict, till Roderick, with one dreadful blow, breaks the shield of young Mal­colm, but at the same time receives a thrust which severs his head from his body—

“One moment Roderick’s headless trunk
In frightful mockery stood,
Then, like a falling tower, it sunk,
And bathed the ground with blood.”

Shortly after the fall of the Knight of Drumin, the garrison of the castle sue for peace, and Balvenie mag­ nanimously grants it; but scarcely has the clang of arms subsided when the castle is observed to be on fire. Balvenie is equally incensed with Auchindown at this outrage after peace had been proclaimed, and it is then discovered that some of the McIntoshes, who were wait­ing for an opportunity of avenging the death of their chief, had entered during the fight and fired the castle. All hands of the now reconciled barons join in extinguish­ing the fire, and Malcolm hasting to the tower where his lady-love was confined, seizes her in his arms, and bear­ing her through smoke and fire o’er crackling beams and falling stairs, lands safely with his fair burden at “Lord Auchindown’s side,” when the affair terminates, as it should, in the union of the intrepid lovers.

“They knelt beside Lord Auchindown,
He raised them from the ground,
‘My daughter and my heart arc thine’—
Let love henceforth abound!!!”

As already said, this account of the burning of Auchindown is the most romantic-like, and being considerably more modern than the other, is likely to be farther re­moved from the truth. A tradition, however, does pre­vail that a feud subsisted between some of the lords of Balvenie and Auchindown, and a story is told of the former cutting off the water from Auchindown Castle —which was supplied from the adjacent hill on the oppo­site side of the river—the method of finding out the place where the pipes were, being the often told one by means of a horse that had been denied water for a length of time, and whose fine ear thus stimulated by thirst, detected the least sound of water, and pawed over the place where the water pipes lay!