Rattray Head is a special place offering a quiet break in a beautiful remote landscape surrounded by dunes.

 





Buchan Field Club
Saturday 4th August, 1888.

EXCURSION TO LOCH STRATHBEG AND VICINITY.

The third excursion of the Club took place on the 4th of August, 1888, under the guidance of the Rev. James Forrest, Lonmay.

As usual the party, about 30 in number, left the Royal Hotel by omnibus at half-past twelve o'clock afternoon. After an enjoyable drive along the banks of the Ugie, over its ancient bridge, past the old Castle of Inverugie, and through Saint Fergus, the village of Crimond was reached, when Mr Forrest took charge and conducted the party to the two stone circles at Netherton and Newark. Here Mr Forrest contented himself with pointing out that the circles were of the usual type, and that in both had been found calcined bones.

Thereafter the party enjoyed a pleasant walk through the fields to the old House of Logie. This house, Mr Forrest explained, was allowed to go to ruin when the small estate of Logie came into the hands of Sir Charles Bannerman of Crimonmogate, who bought it from the Representative of Lieut.-Col Tower. It was the scene of the well-known ballad of "Logie o' Buchan". This had been disputed by one whose authority in such matters stands very high - the late Mr Jervise. The points in favour of Logie, Crimond, were the following:-

1. The author was Mr Geo. Halkett, Schoolmaster of Rathen, a well-known Jacobite songster, on whose head a price was laid by the Duke of Cumberland. This man was a native of Lonmay, and, except for his education, never long or far away from his native place

2. There are still alive descendants of the reputed hero and heroine, who need not be mistaken as to facts, since the grandchildren and collateral descendants still live, and have heard the story almost at first hand. They say that the heroine was Isobel Keith, who was born in 1737 at a small farm in the neighbourhood of Logie, and brought up there. The hero was James Robertson, who came to Logie as gardener to Capt. Duff, then proprietor of the estate. Robertson's parentage and native place are unknown. It would appear that Jamie and Isobel had frequently met in spite of the opposition of her father and mother, and unfortunately when Jamie was removed to Edinburgh he left poor Isobel in the family way. The child she bore to him in 1758 was named Alexander Robertson. Isobel afterwards married William Keith of Lower Tyacksnook, in Lonmay, and on his death in 1816 removed to her elder son's house at Middlemuir, in Lonmay, where she lived out the rest of her days. She died in 1826. The Keith family and the descendants of Robertson have not the least shadow of doubt as to the reference of the song, but the facts show why they should not care to publish them.

3 ·The untenability of Mr Jervise's hypothesis might have struck him from the simple fact that Mr Geo. Cruden, Minister of Logie-Buchan Parish, expressly asserts that he knew the heroine of the song, and saw her in his earlier days living at Tyacksnook, in Lonmay, married to Wm. Keith there. Had there been the least ground for supposing his own parish was meant he would have mentioned it. Besides, Cruden's relations lived in the neighbourhood of Lonmay and must have been quite conversant with the recently transpired facts.

After these observations Mr Forrest's audience declared their faith in the Crimond Logie by singing in chorus a verse of the lovely ballad, and thereafter re-entered the 'bus and were conducted to the Castlehill of Rattray and the Banks of Loch Strathbeg. Here Mr Cumine of Rattray and Mr and Mrs Henderson of the farm of Old Rattray joined the excursion. After lunch on the grass-clothed slopes overlooking the Loch, a business meeting was held at the Castlehill The members proposed at the previous excursion were unanimously admitted members of the Club, and Mr Cumine was proposed and seconded as a member of the Club. Dr Gregor, Pitsligo, was also unanimously admitted an honorary member. In the absence of Mr Boyd, Mr Gray, solicitor, Peterhead, reported that enquiries had been made as to the alleged font dug up at Forvie, with the result that it appeared the stone was not a font but of the nature of a piscina.

Mr Forrest said the Castlehill was believed to have been the site of a Castle which once stood on a rock in the sea, and belonged originally to the Comyns. There was a tradition that it was blown over with sand one Sunday evening while the inmates were engaged in playing cards. Others said it was buried because of the plague. In confirmation of this it was said that when some workmen dug into it about 1740, a man who drove his spade through the panel of a door was immediately suffocated. If it belonged to the Comyns it must have been erected sometime during the 13th century, when the configuration of the sea coast there was certainly very different from what it is now. In making some drains for the farmhouse of Rattray not long since, a well-made causeway was discovered at the foot of the mound under which the Castle is said to be buried.

Up to the end of the 17th century there was no loch there but only a widening of the mouth of the river Rattray or Strathbeg water. Between 1700 and 1720 it would appear that the outlet began to be choked with sand, and somewhere about the latter year a great sand storm occurred which completely choked up the channel, enclosing in the harbour of the burgh of Rattray a small vessel laden with slates. This was the last vessel that ever sailed into the harbour of Starny Keppie, as the place where the harbour was is named. The slates that were taken out of it were used in roofing the house at Haddo, in Crimond, and some said the Manse of Lonmay.

For .some time the water of the stream oozed through the sand into the sea, and with a high wind the waves passed over the sand into the loch. An old man over 80 years of age had told Mr Forrest that his father, when quite a lad, had filled sea-weed, brought by the tide as far up as the bridge of Savoch.

The sand banks by Strathbeg water were once the favourite resort of a great number of seals. In the Session Records of Lonmay there was evidence of this; for on one occasion the fishermen of Corskelly were brought up before the Kirk Session for meddling with the seals on a Sunday morning. One man confessed he had skinned a selch on that occasion, but pleaded that he had done it before the sun rose.

The loch has remained about the same size since l800, extending to about 690 acres, or over a square mile. About the end of the last century a Mr William Sellar got a lease, rent free, of as much of the loch as he could drain. The old lady who told Mr Forrest this said that she remembered the persons who were engaged in the work under Sellar quite well, as they lodged at her father's house. She said he managed to reclaim a part by means of dykes and windmills pumping out the water, and that he sowed corn, flax, and turnips. She added, however, quite naively, that he was not bothered with carting the produce home, for the water rose over his crops and spoiled them. Sellar died before he could sow anything the next year, and no one has made the attempt to reclaim the solum of the loch since then. After the new water way was made by the proprietor of Cairness, General Gordon, the level of the loch was somewhat reduced, but owing to the accumulation of sand at the mouth of the outlet it gradually rose to its old level, until about 1882 or '83, when a great storm from the south-east cleaned away the bar and lowered the water in the loch about 3 feet.

The next spot visited was the Old Kirk of Rattray, at which Mr Forrest said that it would seem from all that could be gathered that the old church was built by the Comyns and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Whether or not it owed its origin to the drowning of a son of Comyn in the well near by, or whether it was intended as a private chapel, could not now be ascertained. The date of its erection was also problematical, that of 911, which is placed on the wall, having no authority to support it. The Comyns did not come to the place till 1310.

The burgh of Rattray was erected in 1563 by Queen Mary to put an end to the disputes about superiority over it between Earl Marischal and the Earl of Erroll Only one house now remains of all the little village, and that is occupied as a cattle shed. One of the burgh markets, called Barthol Fair, is still held in the parish of Crimond.

Mr Forrest then pointed out the spot called "The Battle Fauld,'' in the neighbourhood of the old Castle and Kirk, about half-a-mile along the loch. Tradition in the locality, said Mr Forrest, was divided as to the origin of the name. Some maintain that it was the scene of a conflict with the Danes in the time of their later invasions. That they acquired a good footing in the neighbourhood no one could deny who knows anything about the Norse family of speech and listened to the pronunciation of the fisher folks of St Combs and Inverallochy and Cairnbulg. Many of the words are good Danish or Norwegian, and the type of features is also thoroughly Norse.

Others again maintained that this was the scene of the conflict narrated by Michael Bruce in his ballad of "James the Rose." Certainly the scene is quite suitable from the nearness of the old Castle and Rattray Burn flowing alongside. "The Rose" and Matilda both perished, but it is curious to notice that another Rose and another fair lady of the house of Comyn were afterwards married and settled with part of the ancestral possessions at the old Castle of Cairnbulg.

Mr Forrest's interesting remarks over, the company adjourned to Mr Henderson's bara and had tea, after which some disported themselves with dancing, others with walking until about 8 o'clock, when the party was assembled for the home journey. Very hearty thanks were accorded to Mr Forrest and Mr and Mrs Henderson. Thereafter the party left for home, which was reached about half-past nine, every one in the best of humour with self and the Buchan Field Club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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