The Reverend H.S.Winchester's Book >
The Reverend H.S.Winchester's Book
The Reverend lived in The Manse (now The Village Inn) in Tighness, Arrochar at the turn of the last century. Hugh Winchester wrote a book in the early 1900's the text of which is reproduced below..
TRADITIONS OF ARROCHAR AND TARBET AND THE MACFARLANES
Collected by Rev H S WINCHESTER BD, Minister of Arrochar
Stories of Arrochar and the MacFarlanes
The tourist guide books and railway time-tables advertise Arrochar as a peaceful summer resort. They tell of its lochs and its fishing streams, of its golf and its pleasant excursions, its comfortable hotels with their moderate prices.
Dorothy Wordsworth, looking back upon her sojourn here, along with her brother William, and the poet Coleridge, remembers Arrochar as a place where it always rains, where the mountains are grand and the people are simple, and where every woman carries a green umbrella. Burns, who must have been in a specially bad mood when he passed this way, writes of Arrochar as a “land of savage hills, swept by savage rains, peopled by savage sheep, tended by savage people.”
And the ordinary summer visitor remembers how he fished on Loch Long, or sweated to the top of the Cobbler, or tramped the old road up Glen Loin to lonely Loch Sloy, or crossed Loch Lomond to visit Loch Katrine and the Trossachs, or sailed to Rowardennan to climb Ben Lomond.
Now, however much truth there may be in all these descriptions, none of them tell anything of the really interesting Arrochar, the wild, romantic Arrochar of long ago. And if one were to seek to advertise this romantic Arrochar, he would tell of the grey days when the clouds hang their veils of mystery along the mountain tops, and the mists throw their fringes deep into the valleys; he would speak of the moonlight nights when Loch Lomond lies black and eerie among the shadows, when the Cobbler sees himself reflected from the fairy world which sleeps in the silvery depths of Loch Long, when the owl hoots and the heron screams, and when the ghosts of the wild Macfarlanes look out from the shadow of the rocks, or move noiseless among the black firs on the hill side. He would mention Tighvechtan and Ballyhennan, and Tomnacroich and Tomnahianish, and all the other barbarous-like places which say so little to the stranger but which mean so much. For this is the true Arrochar, the romantic Arrochar, which any one may see and hear and feel if he will listen to the old folks, and if he will take the trouble to learn the story of the uncouth names.
Now, if a stranger seeks to interest himself in these matters, the first thing that strikes him is this – wherever he turns he meets the Macfarlanes. If it be the name of the parish – its meaning is found in a Macfarlane charter; the odd looking place names – they had their origin in some deed of a Macfarlane; the tales of the old folks – the motif of every one is some doing of the Macfarlane; the church records, the church bell, the very chalices for Holy Communion, the mark of the Macfarlane is over them all. One then begins to realise the full meaning of the words in the “old statistical account” of Arrochar written about 1790, “The greater part of the people of this parish are Macfarlanes, who have always had, till lately, a strong attachment to their chief”.
The Name “Arrochar”
The name of the parish has been a matter of some dispute. It has sometimes been derived from the Gaelic “Ard tir”, the high land; or from a Gaelic word indicating “the land on the east” – a name which would have been given by the Gaelic-speaking folks of Argyll on the west side of Loch Long. One local authority derives the name from a Gaelic word which signifies a turn or bend, and says that the place took its name from the bend of the road round the head of the loch in the village of Arrochar. But probably a clue to the true meaning of the word Arrochar is found in a Latin deed of AD 1225, by which the then Earl of Lennox bequeaths “the upper Arrochar of Luss” to his son Gilbert; and the word would seem to be an ancient name for a portion of land, and one ingenious Macfarlane has connected it with the Latin word for a plough, making the term Arrochar mean “plough land”. The reader may choose whichever derivation he sees fit and feel pretty safe, for the origin of the name, like the origin of the inhabitants is lost in the mists of the ages.
The people of Arrochar seem all through the ages to have had the reputation of being wild and lawless and turbulent; and the reputation seems indeed to be well deserved.
Let us just take one century. In 1539 Lord Ogilvy, then warden of the west, is authorised “if he deem it expedient” to remove the sentence of outlawry from Duncan Macfarlane of Arrochar, and his brother Walter of Ardleish, if they will pay fines of £1000 and £3000 respectively.
In 1547, the laird of Macfarlane and 58 of his people are summoned to the justiciary court at Dumbarton to answer a charge of theft on a large scale from Sir Patrick Maxwell, Newark. Needless to say they never seem to have appeared.
In 1587, by a declaration of the Scottish Court, the Macfarlanes of Arrochar are one of the clans for whose good behaviour the chief is held personally responsible. In 1592 the Laird of Arrochar and some of his people arouse the sleeping lion of Scottish justice by murdering their neighbour, Sir Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss. Probably as a result of these wild deeds, the Macfarlanes of Arrochar and their neighbours the Macgregors across Loch Lomond, head the list of clans indicted in the “statute for the punishment of reiff, theft, oppression, and sorning” issued by the Scottish Government in 1594, while in 1624 numbers of the Arrochar people were transported wholesale and planted down in parts of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.
And even their own parish minister, writing in the “old statistical account” of 1790, mentions “misanthropy and ferocity of manners” as “prominent features” in the character of his people.
Now, a very probable explanation of this is to be found in the geographical situation and in the historical antecedents of the parish. Arrochar parish lies at the northern end of the wedge shaped tract of land lying between Loch Lomond and Loch Long, and known of old as the “Lennox”. It is a wild and rugged country, and one writer, gifted with imagination, suggest that it was the last refuge of the Att-acots, an aboriginal pre-Celtic people whom the Romans mention for their extreme bravery and ferocity.
At any rate Arrochar was the extreme boundary and very outpost of the ancient British kingdom of Strathclyde of which Dumbarton (ie, Dun-briton – the hill fort of the Britons) was one of the principal fortresses. On the east were the Picts, on the west the Scots, and strife and bloodshed were part of the daily life of the people. Half way up Glen Falloch, about four miles from Ardlui Station, there is a prominent stone which stands out from the hill side like the muzzle of a huge gun. This stone is known to the shepherds as “clach-na-bhrechton” – the stone of the Britons, and though now the grouse nests undisturbed in the grass, and the deer browses peacefully on the hillside, here tradition tells was once fought a great battle between the Britons and the Western Scots, somewhere about the year 717.
Then again up till comparatively recent times Tarbet Glen and Glen Loin formed the back door, indeed the only door from the Lowlands to the Western and North Western Highlands. There was no West Highland Railway in those days, no daily and weekly steamers sailed the western lochs and sounds, there was not even a road up Loch Lomond side further than Tarbet, and so by the very force of geography, all the roads from the south going to north and west converged to the head of Loch Long.
Now, from time immemorial the men of Arrochar seem to have assumed the guardianship of this natural doorway, and levied toll on all the traffic that passed. It is on record indeed that the Earl of Lennox authorised his kinsman, Macfarlane of Arrochar, to levy blackmail on all the traffic that passed north or south. But in those wild old days that traffic was sometimes of a peculiar character. It was not always lawfully come by, for cattle lifting was a favourite occupation among the Highland clans, and very often a herd which in the early morning had been peacefully browsing on the rich meadows of Clydeside, was being hurried as evening fell towards the head of Loch Long by men who were not its lawful owners, and who seemed accoutred for other purposes than the peaceful work of agriculture. Imagine then a rather barren country with a large population where from time immemorial the hand had been accustomed to keep the head, and where no law was known but the law of the chief. Imagine further a stream of traffic, very often ill-gotten, passing under the very noses of such a people, and around them deep glens and trackless wastes where no pursuer could follow, remember that robbing the Sassenach was not only a fair but even a worthy and commendable act, and you have all the elements for the reiff, theft, and blackmail of which the Scottish Government so often complains.
Legends of the Macfarlanes
These wild old days are still vividly reflected in the traditions of the parish, and we shall set down some of these as they were told by an old parishioner as he used to hear them told at the “ceileidh” in the winter evenings when he was young.
During the time that the Macfarlanes resided at Inveruglas, the country was in a wild and lawless state. The various clans lived by the good old rule, the simple plan – that he should take who has the power and he should keep who can. Cattle lifting was a favourite occupation of the northern clans, and as their route passed through the Macfarlane country the latter had many opportunities of intercepting such raids. One evening as the old chief was taking his accustomed walk he saw one of the cows coming home in an excited state, and at once perceiving that the rest of the herd had been lifted he sent his sons off in pursuit while he himself followed as fast as his stiffened limbs would allow.
On the sons coming within sight of Loch Sloy they saw the cattle being driven along the north side of the loch, and hurrying up the opposite side they reached the rough pass at the head of the loch and concealed themselves behind the boulders. They allowed the cattle to pass, and then they fell upon the drivers, who being thus unexpectedly attacked were easily overpowered, and fled by the way they had come. In their flight they met the aged chief and killed him, and the sons returning with the cattle found the dead body of their father. Deep was their grief, and bitter their vows of vengeance as they erected a cairn to mark the spot and to testify to their resolve that henceforth they should be more careful than ever before that no lifted cattle should pass through their land.
At another time, being informed that a small party were driving cattle up Glenloin, one of the Macfarlane sons, known as “donach-dubh” (black Duncan), waited their arrival between the ford of Coire-ghroggain and Loch Sloy, at a place where the foot path passes between two stones which meet at a few feet from the ground, so that in passing through you have to bend forward in order to prevent your head from striking the top of this natural archway. Duncan and one of his men took up their positions on each side of this narrow passage, but quite concealed from those coming, and as the head of each man appeared beyond the stones Duncan brought down his claymore with such force and skill as to server the head from the body, while his companion pulled the body from the passage to keep it clear. Several were thus dispatched before those behind perceived the stratagem, and then they were attacked by Duncan and his men who lay in ambush, and put to flight.
This same Duncan was the instigator of a cruel deed which earned for him the name – given by his own father – “Donach dubh na dunach” (ie, Black Duncan of the mischief). A message arrived one evening from the watcher at Tighvechtan (the watch house) that a number of Lochaber men laden with booty, were approaching Glenloin. Duncan, who got the message, kept the news to himself, and going to the meal mill at Portachuple, where the young men used to gather in the evenings, he selected twenty stout fellows and made for the ford at Coire-ghroggain. Arriving there before the Lochaber men, he dressed up the stump of a tree to represent a man in armour, while he himself stood concealed on a knoll near at hand with his men close behind him. By the time the Lochaber men came up it was getting dark, and mistaking the dressed-up stump for the leader of a party which was about to contest the ford, they began shooting arrows at it. Duncan waited until he thought that their stock of arrows must be pretty well exhausted, and then he and his men rushed towards the ford, picked up the arrows and shot them back with telling effect. Deeming it vain to attempt to force the passage, the Lochaber men made a pretence of retiring, but really pursued their journey up the stream by a very rugged and difficult route on the south side. When they had rounded the head of Loch Sloy, and entered the valley beyond, seeing no trace of the foe, and being exhausted with their trying journey, they halted and partook of some food. The night was cold, and as no signs of pursuit could be heard or seen, they crept into a small wooden hut which then stood on the border of the forest of Scots firs which covered the country, and which was used for storing the winter’s fuel. Duncan, however, had followed them, he had watched their movements from a safe distance, and after waiting until he was sure that the tired Lochaber men must be fast asleep, he and his men crept stealthily to the hut, secured the door, and heaping dry brushwood around the wooden structure, set fire to the whole. The hut was soon ablaze, and when daylight came all that could be discovered of the Lochaber men was the heads of their axes, and the blades of their dirks. But the fire burnt more than the hut; it caught the heather and the forest, and it swept everything before it leaving scarcely a tree standing, or a tuft of heather between Loch Sloy and Garabal march.
But the most memorable of the Macfarlanes’ exploits took place about a mile from the head of Loch Sloy. Two hundred Athole men were returning from the south with a large herd of lifted cattle. The Macfarlanes had got word of their coming, but they allowed them to proceed unopposed till they reached the meadow beyond the loch, where as the Macfarlanes had anticipated, the cattle were allowed to feed while their drivers lay down to rest, congratulating themselves that they had escaped the attentions of the Arrochar men. But the old chief of Macfarlane and sixty of his men were close in pursuit. Arrived at the head of the loch Macfarlane placed forty of his men in the hollow between the loch and the meadow where the Athole men were resting, while he himself mounted on his white pony took the other twenty and proceeded to a knoll which overlooked the meadow beyond. Standing on this knoll he then directed his twenty men to pass in single file from behind the knoll on which he stood to another some distance away. Then as soon as he was hidden by the second knoll from the sight of the Athole men, each Macfarlane returned in the shelter of the hollow by the loch side and emerged once more from behind the knoll on which the old chief stood, thus giving the appearance of a constant stream of men. The Athole men seeing such a large number of enemies apparently trying to work round and cut off their escape, were seized with panic, and fled in confusion, leaving their booty in the hands of the wily old Macfarlane.
Clan One Family
In that portion of the “Old Statistical Account of Scotland”, which deals with the Parish of Arrochar, the following sentence occurs – “The people of this parish are mostly Macfarlane, and until lately they have always had a strong attachment to the Laird as chief; and while this subsisted misanthropy and ferocity were marked features in their character”.
The name Macfarlane has almost disappeared from the parish, but evidences of the devotion to the chief still exists. The people were all one large family, Cloin-Pharlain – children of Parlane. They shared the danger and they divided the spoil.
In one of the many indictments which the Scottish Government issued against the Macfarlanes it is alleged that one hundred armed men were always kept between Tarbet and Arrochar ready to muster for blackmail at the call of their chief. And in Tarbet Glen, about halfway between Loch Lomond and Loch Long, there still stands a small hamlet called Tighvechtan. Now Tighvechtan is just a slight corruption of the Gaelic words signifying “the house of the watch”, and tradition tells that here in the old days there stood the house of the watch man who night and day stood on the shoulder of Stronafyne Hill watching the roads by Loch Lomond and Loch Long, and when any likely spoil appeared the news was signalled from hill to hill till it reached the house of the chief at Inveruglas or Ardlui.
As for the law, that of the chief was the only law known. About half a mile above Tarbet on Loch Lomond side stands a rocky knoll now known by the name Tom-na-hinisho or “Tom-na-hiniside”, which seems to be a variant of “Tom-na-hianish”, the “hill of witness”. Here the chief held court and dispensed justice, while a little further south stands the “Tom-na-croich” – the “gallows hill”, whither the condemned culprit passed to his doom.
But a more beautiful and kindly side of the clan life is told in the name “Bally hennan”. Just to the east of the railway station lies some of the most fertile land in all the parish. It is called the “Bally hennan” – the “town of the old people” – and here it would seem the Macfarlanes provided for the aged and the helpless by setting aside for their use the best and most easily worked land in all the parish, in order that those who were beyond the age of hard work or harder fighting might be saved from poverty and want.
It is rather remarkable that tales of the supernatural, of witches and ghosts and fairies do not bulk largely in the traditions of this parish. And yet it is a country eminently suited for the growth of such lore. The nooks and creek and winding bays which fringe the dark mysterious depths of Loch Lomond ought to be an ideal home for a whole race of kelpies and water sprites; thousands of fairies and elf folks might find quarters just to their mind among the primroses and foxgloves and myriads of hyacinths which cover its banks. Goblins and warlocks and all the fearsome beings one might certainly expect to find in shady Glenloin, or at anyrate in the gloomy shadows of wind-swept Glencroe. But may be the times were too strenuous; perhaps a life of strife and turmoil did not encourage the presence of the fairies – the “silent folks”. True enough there is the cairn-na-shith, the fairies cairn by Loch Long, and the ghost of an ancient manse housekeeper still haunts the dark beech avenue by the parish church, but of genuine full-blooded goblin tales, the traditions of Arrochar have only three: - The fairy loch on Lomond side, the “Tobar ruadh” or “red well” of Glenloin and the “Uruisg” or goblin man of the “Rudha ban” at Ardlui.
The Fairy Loch
On Loch Lomond side just a mile or two south of Tarbet there is a small mountain tarn. Today there is nothing remarkable about it, but long ago it was the home of a very wonderful and kind fairy. Now in those days the women did their own spinning and weaving and making. And when the yarn was ready the woman brought it to the fairy loch, and placing it in the water she told the colour of dye she wanted, left a small gift for the fairy and went away. And next morning, as soon as the sun peeped over the shoulder of Ben Lomond there was the web perfectly dyed in the colour which was asked.
How many generations of men and women had their clothes dyed in the magic dye shop of the fairy loch we cannot say, but one day an evil-minded shepherd resolved to play the fairy a trick. He came at evening carrying a black fleece, and throwing it into the water he asked that the black fleece might be dyed white. Now, whether the fairy took offence at the unbelieving spirit of the man or whether she had no colours in her store which could dye a black fleece white, or whatever was the reason, she split all her colours on the water face, and departed from the loch for ever, and ever since that time although the colours may still be seen glittering on the surface of the quiet water on a summer evening, the fairy is gone and the charm is gone, and the waters of the fairy loch have no more virtue to dye a web than any other waters in the neighbourhood.
“Tobar-na-Uruisg”, the Goblin’s Well in Glenloin
In his tale “Doom Castle”, Neil Munro tells of a doughty blacksmith of Arrochar whom he calls “Black Andy”, and to whom he ascribes great deeds in blackmailing the Campbells. Now, there was once a famous blacksmith in Arrochar, and tradition knows him as the “Gowan fiadhaich” – the “wild blacksmith”. But far more worthy of note than his deeds of daring are his powers as a worker in the “black art”. His smithy was the ancient house which still stands on the east side of the road at the north end of Arrochar village, and he was in league with a goblin which lived in the Red Well in Glenloin, some way above Stronafyne farm. Now, the Red Well was a charmed well. It had been known to cure many an illness, but the surest way to get the cure was to enlist the help of the wild blacksmith. And the method was this: The invalid went to the smithy and placed a silver coin in the hands of the smith, who gave him a nail. Now, this nail had some special virtue about it, such as no ordinary nail possessed, and if the invalid carried it in his hand up Glenloin and drove it with a stone into the trunk of an old tree which stood on the brink of the Red Well, and then took a drink from the water, he was certain to get the cure. Sick people from far and near came to the Red Well in Glenloin, and they never failed to get some relief from their sickness, but one day some vandal, some unbelieving philistine, cast a mass of human filth into the well. This was treatment which even a goblin could not stand, and that very night it rained and thundered in Glenloin and a land slip carried the well away and placed it about twenty yards lower down the hill, where it can still be seen, and where its waters are still tinged with a red colour, but its charm and its cure had departed. But there still lives in Arrochar an old man whose grandfather had seen the old tree stump, covered with countless nails, standing near the spot where “Tobar-na-uruisg” had been.
But this “wild blacksmith” had another public virtue; he was the dentist of the district. His method was crude perhaps, but it was simple and effective. He tied one end of a wire to the tooth and secured the other end to his anvil. He then placed the patient with his back to the smithy fire, into which he had placed a bar of iron. The patient was kept interested until the iron bar was red hot, and then by a quick movement the smith plucked the glowing bar from the smithy fire and carried it quickly towards the patient’s nose; a sudden jerk of the head backwards to avoid the red hot iron and the tooth was out. Naturally, of course, there is no one alive who saw or experienced this peculiar form of tooth pulling, but tradition has it that the wild blacksmith practised it for years in his smithy in Tighnaclach.
“The Goblin Man of the Rudha Ban”
But the most gruesome story in the annals of Arrochar is that of the Uruisg or wild man who was hanged on a thorn tree on the “Rudha ban” (ie the white point just opposite the MacFarlane’s castle on “Eilean a bhuth”).
It was during the time that the chief of the Macfarlanes lived in their stronghold, the ruins of which can still be seen on “Eilean a bhuth” – the island of the store. The wife of the chief was a delicate woman, and she was not in a fit state to nurse their infant son. Now there lived in the wild region between Glenloin and Garestuck an uruisg and his wife, and Macfarlane, thinking that the uruisg’s wife would make a good nurse for his son, waylaid her, and carried her away to his castle. The uruisg resented this forcible abduction of his wife and brooded revenge. So he watched among the stones and bushes on the hill side till he saw the chief’s dairymaid come to the mainland to milk the cows, when out he sprang from his hiding place, seized the bewildered maid, tore off her breasts with his teeth, and allowed her to return thus mutilated to the island. Macfarlane was furious; he immediately set out in pursuit of the uruisg, caught him and hanged him on a thorn tree which grew on the “Rudha ban” in full view of his wife, who, he imagined, would thus be frightened into submission, and be reconciled to her lot. But the uruisg’s wife proved as intractable as her husband. She was not reconciled, and very soon afterwards she was found attempting to poison the chief’s infant son by applying a hemlock poultice to his feet. Tradition does not relate her end, but it can be imagined.
This legend, which is perhaps the most widespread and persistent of all the local lore, connects itself in a curious way with the crest of the Macrfarlane family. This crest consists of a naked man holding a sheaf of arrows and pointing to a crown. It was granted to the Macfarlanes as a reward for their important help at the battle of Langside. And Clan historians tell us that the naked figures stands for the infant son of Queen Mary. But the figure is a naked man, not a naked infant; and the local explanation of its presence in the crest is more likely to be the true one, viz, that it stands for the “uruisg” – the savage man, the last of the wild men of the hills, who was hanged on the “Rudha ban” when the Macfarlane chiefs lived in “Eilean-a-bhuth”. Is it not possible, too, that the tale embodies grotesque and distorted traces, yet true traces, of some aboriginal race – spoken of elsewhere in the neighbourhood as the “wee picts” – which lingered on until comparatively recent times in the wild recesses of the hills.
Origin of the name Macfarlane
There are few Macfarlanes now left in Arrochar, yet in 1790 “the inhabitants are mostly Macfarlanes”. So says the Statistical Account. And even at the beginning of the 19th century in the year 1804, the old ledger of the Tarbet Store contains scarcely any other name. And the name originated in this fashion.
In the year 1225 the Earl of Lennox died, and in the division of his estates he left the “upper Arrochar of Luss” to his youngest son Gilchrist. In due course Gilchrist died and left his estate to his son Duncan. Now it was during the time of this Duncan that Haco sailed down into the western islands to dispute their ownership with the Scottish King. In the year 1263, during the long wait which preceded the battle of Largs, a detachment of Haco’s men, led by Allan of Kintyre, sailed up Loch Long with sixty ships in an effort to “turn the flank” of the Scots, and descend by way of Loch Lomond upon the fertile lands of Clydeside. And so the Norsemen arrived at the head of Loch Long, dragged their ships ashore and prepared to carry them across Tarbet glen to Loch Lomond. Now Duncan of Arrochar had a brave young grandson named Bartholomew, or in Gaelic Partholan. This brave youth mustered the men of the place and prepared to oppose the passage of the strangers. The battle was fought at Ballyhennan on some raised ground just to the west of the modern railway embankment, and a little below the public road. The Norsemen were beaten, chiefly owing to the inspiring heroism of the young Bartholomew, and such was the admiration of the Arrochar men for the bravery of their young leader that they ever after called themselves “MacPharlain” – the children of Bartholomew.
The men who fell on that day were buried on a mound a little to the east of the battlefield, and that is the origin of the ancient graveyard which still lies aged and some what unkempt behind the Tarbet Church.
It is somewhat doubtful, however, whether local tradition is true in its account of this fight, for some of the history books used to tell us that the Norsemen did drag their ship over to Loch Lomond, and sailed down and harried the Lennox, in spite of the brave resistance of the men of Arrochar.
The Macfarlanes in Scottish History
If wild and turbulent in normal times, the men of Arrochar, when occasion demanded, right well maintained, in the history of their country, the part so nobly begun.
Duncan, son of Gilchrist, whom we have just mentioned, put up a brave fight against Edward I of England. Maldwin, his son, along with his kinsman, the Earl of Lennox, succoured and shielded King Bruce after his memorable escape from the Macdougalls of Lorn at Tyndrum in the winter of 1306.
It was after the battle at Methven, Bruce had taken shelter in Donside, but finding himself in danger even there he crossed the mountains meaning to seek refuge in Kinthyre. He had just reached Tyndrum at the entrance to Glenfalloch, when he was waylaid by the Macdougalls and escaped with the utmost difficulty. Then by some strange means he and his followers descended Glenfalloch, but found themselves on the east side of Loch Lomond, whereas the road to Kintyre lay through Tarbet Glen on the western side. Barbour tells the tale of how the hunted king and his little company wandered down the steep and pathless banks seeking for some means of crossing, how Douglas at length found an old boat which with much patching and mending could ferry over two men at a time, how all through the long night the weary band stood and waited while the little boat went and came till all were safely ferried across to the western shore. At Firkin, about three miles south of Tarbet there stands an ancient yew, still known as Bruce’s tree, and under the shelter of this tree Bruce stood with his followers around him, entertaining them with tales of chivalry all that night, and wiling away the time while the frail boat was plying its journeys.
A little way up Glenloin is Bruce’s cave, and here, runs the legend, the king and his followers found shelter for the night before they started on their long journey through Glencroe and onwards till they reached the safety of Kintyre.
Thus onward down the years, Macfarlane and the men of Arrochar continued to play a brave part in their country’s history.
Sir John Macfarlane, the only knight in the long line of Macfarlane chiefs, was knighted on the battlefield on the eve of the battle of Flodden, and he died at the head of his men on the fatal next day.
Duncan Macfarlane of Arrochar with 300 of his men joined the Earls of Lennox and Glencairn at the Butts of Glasgow Muir in 1544, and took part with them in their ill-starred venture against the Regent Arran; while three years later this Duncan, turbulent and restless spirit that he was, and many of his Arrochar men gave their lives for Scotland on the Black Saturday of Pinkie.
The absurdly inconsistent character of a Celtic chief (as it would seem to us) is well shown in the story of this Duncan.
He was a gallant supporter of the Reformation. Indeed, the ancient chronicler, Buchanan of Auchmar, tells that Duncan Macfarlane of Arrochar was the “first man of any importance in Scotland to make an open profession of the Christian religion” – meaning, of course, the reformed faith. And yet in 1547, about five months before his gallant death at Pinkie, Duncan Macfarlane of Arrochar and fifty-eight of his people are summoned to the justiciary court at Dumbarton to answer the charge of attacking Sir Patrick Maxwell in his house at Newark and of carrying away 280 cattle, 80 sheep, 24 goats, 20 horses, 80 stones of cheese, 40 bolls of barley, and some articles of household furniture.
There is no record to show that Duncan ever appeared to answer the charge, but his son and heir, Andrew Macfarlane, would seem to have made restitution by marrying Sir Patrick Maxwell’s daughter; and thus the whole affair resolved itself into a rather rough and ready taking of the marriage portion beforehand.
Andrew Macfarlane well maintained the tradition of his race. In 1568 he joined the Regent Murray at Langside with 200 of his men, and according to Holinshed it was the “Valiance of the Macfarlanes of Arrochar” that decided the battle. They captured three of Queen Mary’s banners, which they placed in the keeping of the Cathedral of Glasgow. But the only reward that the Macfarlanes got was the right to assume a crest, and it was then that the crest of the naked man with the arrows and crown, was added to the Macfarlane arms.
John Macfarlane, the son of this Andrew, deserves some notice. He is said to have been a man of great piety and benevolence. He built an almshouse on Loch Lomondside near Ardlui – the ruins of which can still, it is said, be traced – and he rebuilt the family vault in the churchyard at Luss.
Yet in 1592, he and his neighbours, the Macgregors, are charged with the murder of Sir Humphry Colquhoun in his castle at Bannachra. So stands the charge in written history, but local tradition puts a very different colour on the deed.
Let me tell the tale as it was told to me, or rather as I have copied it from the records of one whose life, like the lives of his forefathers for many generations, was lived in the parish of Arrochar.
“In the reign of James VI Macfarlane’s dwelling-house was at Tarbet, close to where the school-house now stands. It was not much better than a shepherd’s house of the present day – 36 feet long and 14 feet broad – a room, kitchen and closet. The kitchen fire-place was in the middle of the floor, the front window had four small panes of glass, while the back window was of rungs with wooden doors. The front window of the room had six panes of glass, and its back window was similar to the kitchen back window.
Macfarlane at that time levied the blackmail for the rest of Lord Lennox lands, and protected him from robbers, and he had a band of 100 men living between Loch Lomond and Loch Long ready to arm at the shortest notice.
He was married to a lady from Kilmaronock of the name of Buchanan, who spent a great part of her time in spinning, and who made frequent visits to a weaver, who lived at Banairich, a mile below Luss. There was no road, and so she went by boat. But bad reports of her improper intimacy with Sir Humphry Colquhoun began to get about and reached her husband’s ears. He watched her, and on one occasion, when she said she wished to take her yarn to the weaver, he was unwilling to let her go, and said she had better send a servant; however, she insisted on going herself.
While she was dressing she dropped a note, which Macfarlane, unperceived by her, picked up and read: it contained an arrangement for a meeting between his wife and Sir Humphry. After his wife left, Macfarlane collected his men and set out for Luss by the most direct road through Glen Douglas. They crossed Luss Glen at Auchenganna, came through the wood above Banaridh, and coming near the house, they saw Sir Humphry and the lady walking together. Sir Humphry fled to the castle of Bannachra about five miles distant; he outran his pursuers and had all the doors and the windows secured before they came up.
The Macfarlanes were unable to force the doors, but they put branches of tree and bundles of heather against the house, on the windy side, and set fire to them. The smoke forced Sir Humphry to come to a window for air, whereupon one of the Macfarlanes shot him with an arrow, giving him a mortal wound. Macfarlane’s wife, was at once divorced, and returned to her own people.
As the Arrochar men passed Rossdhu on their way home they lifted the iron gates off the hinges and carried them to Tarbet, and although the Colquhouns came more than once to Tarbet to claim the iron gates, they had always to go home without them, and the gates lay at Tighvachtan till the estates passed from the hands of the Macfarlanes in 1784.
Considering the extent of its territory, and the number of its men, there seems to have been scarcely a clan in Scotland that gave more trouble to the civil power than the Macfarlanes. Time after time the Scottish Government issued statues and proclamations and indictments against this lawless, turbulent people.
Yet there certainly was no clan in Scotland more ready to enlist its fighting energy in the public service when occasion arose. “Misanthropy and ferocity of manners”, says the writer in the Old Statistical Account, “were marked features in their character”. But that is too harsh a judgment. It seems rather to have been an inborn love of fighting. The Macfarlanes were “bonnie fechters” their very existence depended upon their power to take and hold, and it seemed to matter very little which side they took so long as they were in the fight.
In national quarrels, however, they usually took the same side as their kinsmen, the Earls of Lennox.
In the stirring times of the Civil War, the Macfarlanes were strongly royalist. Walter of Arrochar was fined 3000 marks for joining Montrose, and his castle at Inveruglas was twice besieged, and finally burned to the ground by the soldiers of Cromwell. His son John, and his clansmen, played a leading part in the Battle of Bothwell Brig, and the story of their prowess is told by Sir Walter Scott in “Old Mortality”. The defence made by the Covenanters was so prolonged, and so obstinate, that the royalist generals began to fear that it might be successful. While Monmouth threw himself from his horse to rally the foot guards, Dalziel put himself at the head of a body of Lennox Highlanders – the men of the Clan Macfarlane, who rushed forward with their tremendous war cry “Loch Sloy”, and forced the passage of the bridge.
That was in the year 1679. But in 1688, when the times had changed, we find this same valiant John a staunch supporter of the revolution, and he was appointed captain of a local company of Volunteers entrusted with the keeping of the public peace – surely a novel position for a “wild Macfarlane”.
The Church in Arrochar
It seems to have been during the time of this John Macfarlane that Arrochar was established into an ecclesiastical parish, and arrangements were made for the erection of a parish church; prior to that time Arrochar formed part of the parish of Luss. Proceedings began with the appointing of a Commission in 1648. But the times were too stirring for the settling of minor affairs such as arranging a new parish, and it was not until ten years later – 1658 – that the parish of Arrochar was formed. In 1659 Sir John Colquhoun “denuded himself of the tithes” of Arrochar, and John Macfarlane took over the whole responsibility, binding himself to erect a church and manse, and to provide a competent glebe.
But the Macfarlanes seemed to look upon the erection of a separate parish as a new and unnecessary intrusion, and the building of a new church as a piece of needless expense. Luss was their church, the church of their fathers from time immemorial. True, it was ten miles away, and it was situated within the lands of their enemies, the Colquhouns, but it was near enough and convenient enough for all practical purposes; for to tell the truth the Macfarlanes seemed to have little use for a church except for purposes of burial. And so, while the Presbytery set the ecclesiastical machinery in order, and put in a minister, and while John Macfarlane had perforce to pay the stipend, he paid little heed to his promise to provide a church and manse. Indeed it was not until 1733, some seventy-five years afterwards, that the first church and manse were erected.
A very interesting sidelight is thrown on these times by the records of the Presbytery of Dumbarton, and of the Synod of Glasgow. In 1702 the people of Arrochar wished to get rid of their minister – the Rev John M’Lauchlan. Perhaps they had never taken kindly to a resident minister, and perhaps the Rev John, by his irregular conduct and his neglect of duty, afforded them some grounds for their discontent; at anyrate the parishioners brought before the Presbytery a libel against their minister and prayed to have him removed. But the Presbytery of Dumbarton were not willing to deal harshly with an offending brother, and so they sought to ease the situation by appointing an assistant to help him. Now, the assistant whom they chose for this purpose was one Robert Macfarlane, one of their own bursars or poor scholars. But probably Robert knew too much about Arrochar to be willing to fill the place, and he declined to come. The Presbytery insisted and Robert appealed to the Synod. After considering the whole position, the Synod determined that Robert Macfarlane must obey the call of the Presbytery and take up duty in Arrochar, unless he can prove, as he alleges, “that there is neither kirk nor manse, nor kirk session nor school in the parish”.
Robert proved to the satisfaction of the Synod that there was none of these things, and while he had to take up duty in the parish, he was declared to be “transplantable”, and in due course he was transplanted to Fintry.
We do not know, and we do not for one moment seek to insinuate that whisky formed any part of the grounds for the libel which the parishioners of Arrochar brought against their minister, but several tales go to show that some of his successors had a kindly feeling towards the “water of life”, and an amiable toleration for smugglers.
Lawless in other respects, it was not to be expected that the men of Arrochar should have much respect for the excise laws. Nor indeed had they. Shebeens abounded even within living memory. On the road between Tarbet and the Big Rest in Glencroe, the sites of eight places where whisky was sold are still pointed out. There was one in Tarbet, one in Tighvechtan, three in the village of Arrochar, one at the “Highlandman’s Height” near the present torpedo station, one at the school house in Glencroe, and one at the Big Rest.
All that now remains of the tavern at the Highlandman’s Height is the green slope which was once the garden, and faint traces of the house walls buried in the grass and the heather. Yet the house existed well into the nineteenth century; and it is believed to have sheltered Robert Burns for a night as he passed this way on his tour to the west. It is said that there exists a letter written by Burns during that journey, and dated from “Knockeribus, Arrochar”. There is no place of that name now in Arrochar or the neighbourhood but it is very possible that this was the former name of the “Highlandman’s Height”. For the latter is probably a recent name, and it ought to be “Lowlandman’s Height”, since in all likelihood is took its origin from the fact that the last tenant of the old house was the lowlander Johnnie Meek, who came to dwell there in the following romantic fashion.
It was during the Napoleonic wars, when men were sorely needed to man the ships, and when the “press gang” scoured the country to find recruits. John Meek lived quietly in a village on the South Coast of England, but one day the press gang came, and he was “lifted” and carried away to sea. Now Meek was engaged to be married, indeed the marriage day was near at hand, but the country’s need was urgent and John Meek had to go, leaving his sorrowing bride behind. The war dragged on, year after year passed, and still no word came from the kidnapped bridegroom, till at length the bride, grown hopeless and sad, set out to wander the world alone, seeking a living by selling small wares which she carried in a basket.
At length the war ended, and John Meek returned safe to England. He hastened to his old home to seek his love, but found that she had gone wandering, no one could tell him exactly where, and he determined to search the land to find her. Far and near he went seeking and asking. He traced her away to the north of England, over the border into Scotland, till one evening, just at sunset, he found his long lost bride resting with her little pack by the shore of Loch Long near Ardmay House. They proceeded to Arrochar together and took up house at the old tavern just over the loch, and the neighbours henceforth called the place “Ard-na-gall”, the “Lowlander’s Point”. But “gall” the “lowlander” sounds very similar in Gaelic to “gael” the Highlander and thus a future generation, forgetting the romance from which the name arose, translated the Gaelic word into the modern nature.
During the middle of the last century there were several excisemen stationed in the parish, but in former times the visit of the “gauger” was a regular event, and on two occasions at least the parish minister assisted to defeat the law.
In 1774 the scholarly Dr Stuart was minister of the parish, and among his many great attainments was a knowledge of the “black art”. One day then, as the learned doctor was walking home from a visit to a parishioner who lived up Loch Lomondside, he met two “gaugers” just at the foot of the brae on the old Wade Road, near where the public school now stands.
Now the reverend doctor had just left his parishioner in the act of preparing some malt for the brew, and he had a shrewd suspicion that the gaugers also knew something of what was going forward, and that they were on their way to catch the smuggler in the act. So, looking the men of the law in the face for some time, the doctor placed his staff across the road at their feet, and after making certain mysterious signs, he directed them to stand where they were until he came back. He then hurried back and warned his parishioner, who immediately cleared the coast of all questionable gear, while the poor gaugers stood powerless in the middle of the road until the minister came back and released them.
A somewhat similar tale is told of Dr John Macfarlane who was minister of the parish well into the sixties of last century, and who is still remembered by some of the old parishioners. It was in the days long before the railway, when travelling had to be done by coach. One day then an exciseman, who was new to the district, travelled from Glasgow to Tarbet by the coach. Seeing a reverent looking old clergyman come off the coach, the exciseman thought he might safely rely upon him for help and guidance. So he told the old doctor that the excise authorities in Glasgow had received information that a certain man in Morelaggan was just about to commence a brew, and that he had been sent down to catch him; but he was a stranger in the district and he asked directions to the place.
The reverend old doctor told him all about it, and as their way lay together as far as the manse, he offered the gauger his company. Now the day had been cold and wet, and when they reached the manse Dr Macfarlane suggested that the exciseman might come in and get some refreshments before he proceeded on his journey to Morelaggan, which was some miles further down Loch Long. The gauger accepted the offer and went in with the hospitable clergyman. Meantime the old doctor passed the word to his housekeeper, and immediately a swift messenger was despatched to Morelaggan to warn old Macintyre that the gauger was coming, and by the time that the refreshed exciseman reached the house there was nothing of a questionable or lawless nature to be seen.
The ruins of the first Kirk of Arrochar still stand ivy covered beside the present kirk, and their preservation is due to Dr Macfarlane. For when the new building was erected, some time about 1847, the old place was sold to a local builder for what it would bring. He used it as a quarry, and at least one of the larger houses in the neighbourhood is built from its stones. Dr Macfarlane purchased the remains for a ten pound note, and there it stands, and he is buried within the old walls just in the spot where the pulpit stood, while his tombstone stands exactly in the window (or was it a doorway?) which lit the pulpit in former days.
The Pulpit Rock
Dr Macfarlane was the last parish minister to use the pulpit rock at Ardlui for the purpose of public worship. It is a huge boulder standing a little from the roadside about a couple of miles south of Ardlui. A deep recess, in the form of a large doorway, has been cut in the face of the rock, and in front of this the pulpit was fixed. The iron bolts which supported the platform and reading desk, can still be seen in the rock face, and the recess is now used as a shelter and sleeping place by the wandering gipsies. The excavation was done under the directions of the Rev Peter Proudfoot, sometime about the beginning of last century, and many a memorable “preaching” still lingers in the local memory. The great occasions were the communions, when people gathered from far and near. The preaching continued during the greater part of the week, and bread and cheese and whisky were sold to the assembled people from a booth erected behind the pulpit rock, and my informant, a waggish old native, assured me that his father used to say that there was usually a much larger congregation behind the rock than there was in front of the pulpit.
The name “pulpit rock” is of course modern, but the rock, which is a prominent mass even in a land of great crags, is known by the ancient Gaelic name of Craig-an-tairibh – the bull’s rock, and the following legend is told to explain the origin of this name: -
At one time there lived two great bulls in these parts, one on the east side, and another on the west side of Loch Lomond. Now these two bulls were great rivals, and they used to stand each on his own hillside and bellow challenges across the water. But one day their rivalry reached such a height that the bull on the east side raced up to the head of the loch, crossed the river Falloch, and came down to challenge his rival in fight. They met on the hillside just above where the great rock now stands, and fierce was the battle that followed. The hills rang with their bellowings and their trampings, and so terrible was the struggle that the huge mass of the Bull’s Rock was loosened from the hillside and rolled down to the hollow where it now stands.
Such is the true tale which the lively Celtic imagination has devised in order to explain “Craig-an-tairibh”. But the name may have had a less heroic origin. It may be that the cattle used to shelter under the shade of the great rock, or it may be that it marks the site of some fierce clan struggle when the clan of the east crossed the loch to attack their enemies on the west, a struggle which to the Celtic imagination in after days might well appear like a fight between two fierce and terrible bulls.
The Communion Cups and Kirk Bell of Arrochar
The Kirk Session records tell an interesting tale of the communion cups and church bell of the parish, and of a curious debt of two hundred merks which the Laird owed the Kirk Session for many years.
It happened in this way. In 1742 Lady Helen Arbuthnot, the mother-in-law of the Laird of Arrochar, presented to the parish two Communion cups of silver, and two hundred merks to purchase a church bell. The Laird duly handed over the cups, and they are still in use for their sacred purpose, but he would seem to have retained the money, giving the Kirk Session a bill for the amount instead. The Laird died, and the debt was taken over and the bill renewed by his son and successor William.
But financial straits prevented William from redeeming the bill, and when the crash came in 1784, and the Macfarlanes were sold out of their ancient heritage, William Macfarlane left Arrochar leaving the debt unpaid.
But the Macfarlanes were honourable even in their time of misfortune, and the Session records tell of the debt being paid in instalments, until in 1802 the last of the 200 merks were paid from the Macfarlane estates in Jamaica.
The bell was bought, sixty years after the legacy for its purchase was left, and hung in a tree – known to this day as the bell tree – for there was no place for a bell in the plain structure of the old kirk; and when the new church was built in 1847, the bell was taken down from its place in the bell tree and placed where it now hangs in the church tower.
While the bell hung in the bell tree it was a source of great temptation to evil disposed persons to take a pull at the rope, and an old inhabitant relates the following story of such an abuse:-
One has some recollection of hearing the same tale told in connection with the bell of another parish, but as my informant alleges that it happened in Arrochar, let me set it down.
Malcolm Macfarlane, an erring parishioner, had been summoned to a Kirk Session in the manse in a case of discipline. Malcolm had been rather faithfully handled by the court, and he left the manse in an angry mood.
On his way home he passed the bell tree, and it occurred to him that he might take a pull at the bell just to relieve his feelings. But just at that moment a neighbour’s goat wandered past, and Malcolm seized him and securing the bell rope to his horns, withdrew to a safe place to watch what would happen. Of course the goat tugged and struggled to escape, and the bell rang with irregular and broken sounds, and out came minister and session to see what the cause of the strange noises might be. Seeing an uncanny looking thing with horns rushing to and fro in the faint light, and tugging furiously at the bell rope, some of the Session thought it must be the devil himself, and it was only when the minister mustered up courage enough to approach the tree that he found the fiend to be nothing more than old Mary Campbell’s goat.
Arrochar Mort Cloths
There is a rather curious entry in the Kirk Session records concerning the Mort cloths of the parish. The mort cloth was a large sheet of black stuff which was used as a pall to cover the coffins in the days before coffins were so ornate and well finished as in later times. It was kept in the sexton’s charge, and a small sum was charged for its use.
About the year 1787, the parishioners of Arrochar seemed to have raised objections to the use of the mort cloth. Perhaps it was the 4s charge for its use, perhaps it was an enlightened public opinion that was at the root of these objections, but in any case the Kirk Session resolved that “owing to the objections which exist in the parish, the Session authorise their moderator to dispose of the mort cloth”, and at a later meeting the moderator reported that he had sold the mort cloth for £8 sterling to the “mort cloth office” in Glasgow.
It would almost seem as if the high price given by the mort cloth office, had more to do with the sale than the objections to its use which had arisen in the parish, for we find another mort cloth in use in the parish early in the 19th century, and it continued to be used until somewhere about 1867, when it went for the last time with a coffin to the kirkyard at Inverary. It then continued to lie for some time in the church tower, but age and exposure had rendered it almost useless, and the kirk session again took steps to dispose of the parish mort cloth. This time they did not sell it, probably because they could not find a purchaser, but they reverently buried it in a grave in the churchyard, where the green mound which covers it may still be faintly traced.
There is a curious tale told in connection with this second mort cloth. Towards the middle of last century the making of coffins was a monopoly in the hands of a certain old joiner. Black paint was used to cover the coffin, but black paint seems to have been rather scarce in those days, and of rather defective quality as well, and in Arrochar it was the custom to mix quantities of white of eggs with the paint in order to make it dry quickly. The eggs were given gratis by the parishioners for this purpose, and they were gathered by the old joiner whenever a coffin had to be made. But it began to be suspected that the old man was collecting an unduly large number of eggs on such occasions, and the Kirk Session held a meeting to inquire into the matter. The suspicions were confirmed, and the duty of collecting the eggs was entrusted to the beadle.
The Later Macfarlanes
We left the Macfarlanes at the Revolution of 1688, when John Macfarlane was appointed captain of the local company of Volunteers entrusted with the keeping of the peace.
These stormy times passed away, and when in later days Britain’s enemies had to be fought in foreign fields, the Macfarlanes still continued to play their part. Four sons of the Laird of Arrochar served under Marlborough, and three of them were left dead on the field of Malplaquet, and even after 1785, when the Macfarlanes had passed from Arrochar for ever, the grandson of the last chief maintained the traditions of his race as colonel of the 89th Regiment, foot – Sir Robert H Macfarlane, KCB.
The end of the Macfarlanes of Arrochar was unromantic enough. They were sold out at the instance of an Edinburgh money lender, Mossman by name, and the estates passed to Ferguson of Raith for £28,000; Ferguson sold them some thirty-seven years later to Colquhoun of Luss for £78,000.
There is a striking local tradition as to how the Macfarlanes were warned of their approaching fall. There lived in Arrochar in those days a man named Robert MacPharich, who had the second sight. One summer day Robert fell asleep on Stronafyne hill and dreamed a dream, and when he awoke he spoke these words:- “Macfarlane’s time in Arrochar will not be long; he will go and a stranger will come among us, who will use Mcfarlane’s kitchen for a pig sty. But before that happens, a black goose will come and feed with the Laird’s poultry; it will not associate with them, however, and it will disappear as mysteriously as it came. Four bridges will cross Ault Phollaig – (the small burn at Arrochar House) – and when all this happens, the Macfarlanes will be homeless and their mansion will be a stable for horses.”
Singularly enough a black goose did come and feed with the laird’s poultry, but at night it withdrew and roosted alone under a tree, and after remaining for some time it disappeared. The fourth bridge was built over the Phollaig burn when the Duke of Argyll made his new road along Loch Longside to Rosneath, and the keep of the castle was actually used as a stable when the front had been rebuilt, and was being used as a hotel in the beginning of last century.
Thus passed the brave and ancient race which had ruled in Arrochar for nearly six hundred years, and in another generation the very name Macfarlane will be almost unknown in its ancient home.
The rolling years have softened down all the ugly features of these former days, and as we look back we see little but the romance and the picturesqueness; and the glamour which hangs round all things of long ago begets a regret that the old order should thus disappear.
But the parish minister of the time – the Rev John Gillespie – does not seem to have shared any such sentiments. Writing in the old Statistical Account he tells that the attachment of the Macfarlanes to their chief was the main cause of the misanthropy and ferocity of manners which marked their character. But the sale of the estates, the departure of the old chiefs, the making of the military roads, the settlements of grazers from the low country – all these causes have, in the opinion of the parish minister, “contributed to extinguish the remains of that system of barbarity which so long retarded the civilisation of Europe”. And he goes on to say:- “The people are now well-bred, honest, and industrious, and not addicted to the immoderate use of spirituous liquors”. As to the use of spirituous liquors, we are staggered to think of the former state of the parish when we remember that at the time when the reverend gentleman wrote his account that was’a shebeen in almost every corner, and at least six recognised public houses existed between Tarbet and the head of Glencroe.
The Residences of Macfarlanes
For many years the principal stronghold of the clan was a castle situated at Inveruglas but it was destroyed in Cromwell’s time because of the chief’s loyalty to Charles I. This was probably the ancient home of the family, but there were other places of residence on Loch Lomondside, and also at Arrochar House on Loch Long. The ruins of one of these may still be seen on the wooded knoll which stands at the head of Loch Lomond, and which is an island when the loch is high. Another was the very substantial and for that time even elegant castle on “Eilan-a-bhuth” – the “Island of the shop or store”, about two miles from the top of Loch Lomond. The name of this picturesque island is comparatively recent; the kitchen of the old castle was used by a certain Andrew Macfarlane as a sort of store in which he kept the goods which he sold to the inhabitants on both sides of the loch: hence the name Eilan-a-bhuth; the older name was “Eilan-ure”, the new island, given probably at the time when the chief built his new house upon it. The ruins of this house can still be seen, and a rusty claymore dug from its debris, is now in the possession of one of the few Macfarlanes still left in Arrochar.
Towards the close of the seventeenth century, when the times became more peaceful, and when it was no longer necessary to seek security behind strong wall and ramparts, or on islands separated from the mainland by the deep waters of Loch Lomond, the Macfarlanes built their last dwelling place on the shores of Loch Long, on the site now occupied by Arrochar House. Here they lived until 1785, when the family passed from Arrochar to homelessness and oblivion. Their old home was enlarged and transformed into a modern hotel and above the front door there may still be seen the key stone of the doorway of the old Arrochar Castle, dated 1697, and bearing a Gaelic inscription, telling that the stone was taken from the principal doorway of the house built by John, chief of the Macfarlanes and laird of Arrochar.
Loch Sloy – The Slogan of the Macfarlanes
The gathering cry of the Macfarlanes was “Loch Sloy”. This is the name of a small loch at the top of Glenloin, and at the northern end of the ancient clan territory. The name is probably a corruption of the Gaelic words “Loch Sluagh” – the loch of the crowd or gathering of people. The origin of the war cry is often explained on the assumption that this loch was the gathering place of the fighting men of the clan when a foray or other warlike adventure was afoot. But as such adventures were usually undertaken towards the rich land of the south, it is not easy to see why a rather inaccessible loch in the remotest part of the territory should be chosen as a gathering place on such occasions. It is more probable that the use of the name arose in connection with the established practice of the Macfarlane of exacting toll from the traffic that passed through their lands, and of intercepting, whenever they could, the cattle stolen from the south, which so often was driven through their territory.
Loch Sloy lies at the northern entrance to Glenloin, in the deep valley between Ben Vorlich and Ben Vane. Up Glenloin lay the route to the north and west, passing along the rough shore of the loch and emerging on the flatter land beyond. Macfarlanes’ stronghold was at Inveruglas, and from thence Loch Sloy could be quickly reached by the valley of the Inveruglas Burn. Thus whenever the watch on Stronafyne hill gave notice that some likely booty was approaching from the south, word was quickly passed round, and Loch Sloy was named as the gathering point, because its neighbourhood was the most suitable place for waylaying and intercepting the traffic.
Thus “Loch Sloy” became the signal for gathering, and in after years, when those lawless days had passed away, and when the men of Arrochar carried their warlike energies to the service of their country in more lawful spheres, they still retained the gathering cry of the wild blackmailing days; and in many a battlefield the “tremendous war cry ‘Loch Sloy’”, told that the men of the Lennox Highlands had lost none of the fierce bravery of old.
Arrochar is now a peaceful summer resort among the hills. Tighnaclach and Tighness sleep by the sparkling waters of Loch Long; Tarbet nestles in its trees in the sunshine, and looks out on the dark Loch Lomond, stretching in shady bays and wooded headlands far into the shadow of the Ben; the stronghold on Eilan-a-bhuth is a bracken covered ruin among the trees, and nothing is left of the ancient home of the Macfarlanes at Inveruglas except a few black firs upon the hill side, sole survivors of the once great forest which covered the land; and nothing breaks the stillness save the scream of the wild fowl or the sound of the steamers’ horn.
But to one who remembers the Arrochar of other days, there is more in each scene than meets the eye. As evening falls and the mists sweep down the hill sides, he can see the forms of stalwart men, he can catch the gleam of the broadsword, and hear the hoarse shouts of the fray, he can see the driven cattle and the black Macfarlanes out to claim their toll of the Lowlandman’s wealth. Or, as the moonlight floods loch and valley and hill top till Ben Arthur is seen as clearly in the depths of Loch Long as in the light of midday, the onlooker who remembers, holds his breath lest the wild cry “Loch Sloy” ring out from Stronafyne hill and go echoing along Glen Tarbet, to be repeated from hill to hill till it rouses Portanchuple and Inveruglas, and passes onward to Ardleish and Garabul. Each place name, so grotesque and meaningless, sets loose a phantom procession, stretching back into the midst of the years, the wild picturesque romantic Arrochar of by-gone days.
THE STIRLING ANTIQUARY
Genealogical Memoir of the Macfarlanes
(From Maidment’s County collections)
The distinguished family of Macfarlane, one of antiquity and eminence in a part of the empire where ancestry and exploit have ever been held in enthusiastic admiration, was founded by Gilchrist, fourth son of Alwyn, second Earl of Lennox, who obtained from his brother, Earl Maldwin, a grant of the land and barony of Arrochar, in the time of Alexander I. Gilchrist’s son Duncan was compelled, after a gallant defence of the national independence, to submit to Edward I of England, and died soon after, leaving a son,
Maldwin, inheritor of his broad lands and his unflinching patriotism. During the adverse fortune of Robert Bruce, the Laird of Arrochar, with his kinsman the Earl of Lennox, was the faithful attendant of the heroic prince who found safe retreat in the Lennox when deserted by almost all his other subjects. To Maldwin succeeded his son,
Bartholomew, or as that name is called in Gaelic, Pharlan. He lived in the reign of David Bruce and was father of
Malcom Macfarlane, or the son of Pharlan of Arrochar, who became, on the demise of Donald, sixth Earl of Lennox in 1373, undoubted heir male of that noble family. He died not long after, and was succeeded by his son Duncan of that ilk, who married Christian, daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Lochaw, and died in the reign of James I, having a son and successor,
John Macfarlane, of that ilk, who died temp James III, having had two sons, Walter, his heir, and John, from whom descended the Macfarlanes of Kenmore, Muckroy, and Dunnamenich. The elder son,
Walter Macfarlane, of that ilk, and Arrochar, wedded a daughter of James, second Lord Livingstone, and left two sons, the younger Dugal, ancestor of the Macfarlanes of Tullichninthall, Finart, etc, while the elder,
Andrew Macfarlane, of that ilk, marrying one of the daughters of John Stewart, Lord Darnley, left a son,
Sir John Macfarlane, of that ilk, who received the honour of knighthood from James IV, and attended that prince to the fatal field of Flodden, where he was slain with the pride and flower of the Scottish gentry. His eldest son,
Andrew Macfarlane, of that ilk, married Lady Margaret Cunningham, daughter of William, Earl of Glencairn, Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, and dying in the commencement of the reign of Mary, was succeeded by his son,
Duncan Macfarlane, of that ilk, a gallant warrior of the troubled period in which he lived, who joined with 300 of his clan the Earls of Lennox and Glencairn, and participating in the battle of Glasgow Muir in 1544, was attainted, but shortly after obtained, a reversal under the Privy Seal. He married first Isabel Stewart, daughter of Andrew, Lord Ochiltree, by whom he had no issue, and secondly, Anne, daughter of Sir John Colquhoun of Luss, by whom he had a son, Andrew, his heir. The laird of Macfarlane ultimately fell at Pinkie, and was succeeded by his son,
Andrew Macfarlane, of that ilk, a zealous promoter of the Reformation, and a warm partisan of the Regent Murray, in opposition to the ill-fated Mary Stuart. We find him at Langside enrolled under that nobleman’s banner, and to his “valiance” Holingshed ascribes the success of the Earl. He married Agnes, daughter of Sir Patrick Maxwell of Newark, and was succeeded by his son,
John Macfarlane, of that ilk, a gentleman of great piety and benevolence, who founded a noble almshouse at Brintford on the mainland opposite to his castle of Elenore for the reception of poor passengers. By the Lady Helen Stewart, his second wife, daughter of Francis, Earl of Bothwell, he left a son and successor,
Walter Macfarlane, of that ilk, a devoted Royalist, who was fined 3000 merks for joining the standard of Montrose, and was twice besieged by the Parliamentarians, who burned to the ground his castle of Inverouglass. He married Margaret, daughter of Sir James Semple of Belltrees and had issue
John, his heir, who died leaving daughters only. The eldest, Jean, married John Buchanan of Lenie; the second, Gilis, Alex. M’Millan of Dunmore; and the third Grizzle, Archibald Buchanan of Torie. The second son,
Andrew Macfarlane of Ardess, but eventually of that ilk, married twice and had several sons, of whom three were slain at Malplaquet. The eldest, John Macfarlane of that ilk, colonel of a regiment of foot, left by Helen, his second wife, daughter of Robert, second Viscount of Arbuthnot, three sons,
Walter, of that ilk, a distinguished antiquary, who married Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of the sixth Earl of Kellie, but died childless; William, of whom presently; and Alexander, who settled in Jamaica, where he was one of the assistant Judges, and a member of the Assembly. He was a distinguished mathematician. He died unmarried. The second son,
William Macfarlane Esq, who succeeded his elder brother Walter at Macfarlane, married Christian, daughter of James Dewar of Vogrie, and was grandfather of General Sir Robert Henry Macfarlane KCB, KGH, etc, Colonel of the 89th Regiment of Foot, a gallant and highly distinguished officer, who married at Palermo, 10th February 1815, Maria Gertrude, eldest daughter of G Henry Vanhemper Esq, Captain in the Dutch Navy and Consul of the Netherlands at Tripoli.
(Some of our correspondents may be able to bring this genealogy up to date).
MEMORIAL AND ABSTRACT OF PROCESS OF SALE OF MACFARLANE OF MACFARLANE’S ESTATES – 7 JULY 1784
At the instance of
Hugh Norman, eldest son and heir served and returned to the deceased Hugh Mossman, writer, in Edinburgh
William Macfarlane Esq of Macfarlane, John Macfarlane, Junior, thereof, and their creditors
Rental of the lands and barony of Arrochar and others in the Shire of Dumbarton
Down – the ½ of the lands of Down – Malcolm Macfarlane and his mother, lease 21 years from Whitsunday, 1766, money rent, £10 13s.
Down – the other ½ of Down, Peter and Donald Macintyre, 19 years, 1768.
Adrleish – Ardleish, Dougal, and Alexander Macdougals, now Malcolm Macfarlane, a stone of butter at the proven conversion of 10s is added to the money rent – 19 years.
Blairstang and Stuckmud – Malcolm Macfarlane and Margaret Campbell.
Garvual, Margaret Lauder. After Whit, 1787, the rent rises to £42.
Garrachie and Ardluie, Alexander Macfarlane, shicandroin.
Upper Inveroughlass and forest of Beinveurlic and Nether Ardvourlic.
Caenmore and Blaireunich.
Part of Tarbet called Inverchulin.
Hill of Tarbet.
Part of Tarbet called Claddochbeg
Claddoch mire with the laigh park of balhennan.
Part of Tarbet
Another part of ditto
Pendicle of Balhennan and House and Wynd at Ty Vichattan
Part of Balhennan
Upper and Nether Stuckintibbert
Mill of Cambushnaclach and mill lands.
Choilcorran and Invergroin, Gartanfaired and Greitnein, expiration of present lease, £88 4s 9½d.
Tynalarach Ardinny and Muirlagan.
Stronfyne Glenluyxs and the lands and mill of Portchirble and hill of Beinvein.
The Baron Officers sons pay for attune.
The tenant pays over and above his rent the stipend to the minister of Luss, being 3 bolls meal, 8½ stone to the boll, and 40s Scots or 3s 6d of money and 3s 1d for Communion elements, and as the payment of stipend agrees with the teind duty in the feu charter to the superior, it is not here added to their rental nor is it hereafter stated as a deduction. The school salary being 4s 3d, is also paid by the tenant over and above the rent. Stuckgown comprehending Stuckdon and Stuckvolge – George Syme, vassal; John Brock, in Garshuke; and Archibald Maclachlan, tacksman in Bunnackrae; both bred farmers and grassers, concur in deponding that they both together visited and inspected the farms of Inveresk and Balfrone and parks about the mansion house of New Tarbet, all in the natural possession of Macfarlane; and that in their opinion they were worth upon a nineteen years’ lease of yearly rent, £47 10s.