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
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
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
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.