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The expectations formed with regard to the great discoveries resulting from his explorations, were, however, not doomed to be realised. On reappearing again amongst his fellows, the only information that could be extracted from him was that“ he had gone a great way under ground, and had seen such sights, as, he blessed God, he could never expect to see on earth again !"
Another legend in regard to this mysterious passage, is of a more tragic character. The last laird of Melgund having spent all his fortune in one night at cards, left the room in which he had been playing, and deliberately went with his whole family into this awful pit, and was never more heard of !
Turin hill, the highest eminence in the parish, is 800 feet above the level of the sea. On the summit of this hill, are the remains of an ancient fort, still called Camp Castle. The space occupied by it is considerable, and has been fortified with a double rampart. The view from this fort is very extensive, and must have been admirably fitted for a watchtower, overlooking the vale of Guthrie to Redhead on the one hand, and the pass from Forfar to Brechin on the other. This camp having been constructed with dry stones, and these not having been fused and cemented by the action of fire, would point to the conclusion that it was only a summer, and not a permanent camp of the Romans.
In the parish churchyard is an antique obelisk covered with hieroglyphics. On one side of this stone is a curious cross in bold relievo, and entirely covered with flowered ornaments. On the reverse, towards the upper part of the stone, is another very much defaced, and having no obvious meaning. Beneath it there are some rudely sculptured figures on horseback, armed cap-a-pee with helmets. Below these there are other three equestrian figures, one of which holds a baton in his right hand, while the others appear in the attitude of encountering him. Also, a little to the north of the parish church, are three ancient obelisks. One of these monumental stones is about eight feet in height, ornamented on one side with a
cross, richly carved, and with two female figures in the garb and attitude of mourning. The other side is sculptured in relievo, with men, some on horseback, and others, on foot, intermingled with dogs. The other two stones are of smaller dimensions. They have also been ornamented; but the hand of time has greatly defaced them.
According to the Annals of Ulster, a battle was fought at Aberlemno in the year 697, in which “Conquar Mac Echa M‘Maldwin, and Aod, the tall King of Daleriaid,” were slain; and that, subsequently, Malcolm II. defeated the Danes in the same neighbourhood. On the latter occasion, one portion of the Northmen is said to have landed in the South Esk, at Montrose, another at Lunan Bay, and a third at Barry. The slaughter was great at Aberlemno, but not more so than took place at Barry, in which Camus, the reputed leader of the Northmen, was killed. Tradition avers that the slaughter here was so great, that a neighbouring burn ran three days with human blood, as is commemorated in an old local rhyme :
“ Lochty, Lochty, is red, red, red
For it has run three days wi' bluid.” Whatever may have been the cause, it is quite certain that in no part of Angus have there been found so many traces of ancient sepulture and tumuli, as in the district of Carnoustie and Aberlemno.
However antiquarians may be divided in opinion as to the design for which they were erected, local tradition uniformly avers, that the sculptured stone monuments had their origin in the defeat of the Danes by King Malcolm. The peasantry also believe that the curious symbols engraved upon the stones, are a species of hieroglyphics, and that those at Aberlemno were once read by a Danish soldier! This tradition is of ancient origin, and the interpretation of the figures is preserved in these rude couplets :
“ Here lies the King o' Denmark's son,
“ Here lies the King o' Denmark sleepin'.
Naebody can pass by this without weepin'.” Other traditions aver that these cross-stones of Aberlemno commemorate the defeat of one section of a powerful army, which Sueno, a Danish prince, sent into Scotland about the beginning of the eleventh century, to avenge the destruction of a previous army, and the death of his two generals, Eneck and Olave. These traditions, however evidently refer to the victory obtained over the Danes by Malcolm II. already alluded to.
About a mile south-east of the church of Aberlemno, in a hillock upon the estate of Pitkennedy, was lately found a rudely constructed stone coffin, containing a clay urn. Near the urn were scattered a number of beads, composed of jet or cannel coal, of which upwards of a hundred were recovered. A little to the eastward of the church, are the ruins of the Castle of Flemington ; those of Melgund Castle being about two miles north-east from the church. Angus Hill, from which some authorities assert the county takes its name, rises to a considerable height in the north-eastern section of the parish.
Castles, forts, and classic streams,
FINHAVEN, or Oathlaw, to which we are now approaching, lies on the south bank of the South Esk, being the adjoining parish to that of Aberlemno, and distant about four miles in a northerly direction from Forfar. In the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, and in other old records, this parish is variously spelled Fynnevin, Ffinheaven, and Phinheaven. The name is supposed to be compounded of two Gaelic words, Fin, signifying white or clear, and Avon, or Aven, signifying a water or a river.
Finhaven Castle is an object of great interest to the antiquarian tourist, for it was in days of yore the magnificent abode of the powerful family of Lindsay. It surmounts the steep bank of the Lemno, near the place where that beautiful stream joins the Esk, and derives its name “Fion-ablian,” or the “white river," from the foam cast up by the rippling of the waters of that little stream at their confluence with the Esk. The site of the castle is finely chosen, in a military point of view, being situated at the entrance of the great valley of Strathmore, and so as to command the whole of the Lowlands, beneath the base of the Grampians, and guard the passes of the Highlands through the neighbouring valleys of Glenisla, Glenprosen, and Glenclova. All its ancient splendour is now gone,
observe the ruins consists of little more
than the keep, a solitary weather-beaten tower of the fourteenth century, split asunder as by lightning and over-grown with ivy. But the associations remain, and the situation of the fine old tower in a rich and fertile vale, with the river Esk running almost under its walls, is picturesquely interesting in the extreme.
You see these iron spikes jutting out from the mouldering walls? It was on these spikes, tradition relates, that “ Earl Beardie,” proprietor then of the castle, was wont to hang his prisoners. This was the same Earl Beardie or “ Tiger Earl,” whose acquaintance we have already formed as the chief actor at Glamis in the terrible legend of “The Secret Chamber.” The following episode in his history fully bears out the ferocious features of his character.
Earl Beardie joined in the celebrated league with the Earls of Douglas and Ross, and fought, May 18, 1452, at the battle of Brechin, alluded to under the history of “ Kinnaird Castle in which he was defeated in disgrace. His great object in this intrigue, was to oppose Huntly, the Commander of the royal army, in his passage across the Mouth ; and the cause of his defeat was the desertion of the laird of Balnamoon to the enemy. He was pursued to the castle of Finhaven, and there gave vent to his rage in the most passionate language, , exclaiming, that "he would willingly live seven years in hell, to acquire the glory which had that day fallen to Huntly !”
In the court of the castle, in the time of Earl Beardie, there grew a magnificent Spanish chestnut nearly forty-three feet in circumference, and probably served as the “covin-tree,” under which the stirrup-cup was drunk, when guests departed on their journey. There is a tradition connected with this tree, —that a gillie who had been sent on an errand from the castle of Careston to that of Fin ven, had the hardihood to cut a stick from it, which so enraged the Earl that he hanged him on a branch of it, and that immediately afterwards the tree began to decay. It was not, however, till 1740, that the bitter frost of that year killed it outright, and for twenty years later it