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Elphinstone Kist   Doric Prose, History, Place

A Fettercairn Loon     by: Blackhall, Sheena

Near the eyn o the 16th century at the fit o the Cairn o' Mount, a merriege took place atween a Kincardineshire fermer, John Middleton, an his secunt wife Kate. This wife wis a dother o John Mortimer o Craigievar, sae fin the faimly grew up an they aa grew bigger, ane o their loons, Patrick, flittit fae Birkenbrawl tae Coull in Aiberdeeshire aroon the year 1622 tae takk up the lease o the craft o North Gellan yonner frae a local Gordon laird. His younger brither, Robert, bedd in Kincardineshire an fairmed Caldhame. Robert hid fower laddies, John, Alexander, Andrew an Francis an fitiver decides that ane'll be fish an the tither'll be fowl, decreed that fin Alexander grew up he'd becam professor o philosophy an Principal o King's College in Aiberdeen, an that John, the auldest laddie, born in 1619 wid turn inno a fire ettin General.

Fin I wis wee, I eesed tae treetle ahin an aunt's skirt tales speirin aboot ma forebears.
'Foo div ye speir sae muckle?' she winted tae ken fin ma speirins hid bin mair nur ordnar ill tae thole.
'Because yer the auldest o the faimly. An fin yer deid, fa'll be left tae tell me?' Bit aa that she cud tell me wis hyne, hyne back, her fowk hid said that we cam fae Fettercairn wye fae fit wid hae bin the shakkins o a pyockie o Norman stock in the early 1600s. Ye'll see fae this that my faimly didna flit aboot muckle. Mither's bluid wis a kirn. On ae side, she wis descendit fae a Spanish seaman caad Juan Philippe washed ashore like a daud o Spanish driftwid affo fae the wreck o the galleon Santa Caterina fin it gaed doon aff Collieston inno St Catherine's Dub ferryin cannon fae Spain tae the Earl o Erroll in 1590. His namesakes eyndit up abeen Crathie, an aa ower the North East as Philps, Philips, Philip. Anither o her forebears wis a Flemish pirate caad Johann Crab. He wis moderately interestin. In 1319 the Count o Flanders threatened tae brakk him on the wheel gin onybody could catch him, sae he flitted tae Scotland ooto the road. The maist notable thing he did syne wis tae design a war machine, him bein a military engineer, tae blooter the English troops at the toon o Berwick. Nae lang efter he bocht grun in Cromar an likit it sae weel he bedd there. Apairt fae mither's Spaniard, (I hae aye likit flamenco) we are yer usual North East kirn o Norman an Dutch incomers, naethin byordnar, generations o fermers begettin generations o fermers. Tatties, barley, sharn, coos, kail, an the antrin sang tae makk the wirk gyang by
faister.

Fin I wis wee, fowk could spend a rare day oot veesitin their forebears, like ye micht veesit the beach on a Setterday. Except that insteid o cairryin a bucket an spadd, ye tuik oxterfus o flooers rowed roon wi the Evenin Express an prepared yersel fur a hauf oor at ilkie grave hearin the grown-ups takkin the grave-mools throwe haun. 'My, he wis a din-raisin lump fin he wis leevin', 'Div ye mine fin Aunty Lizzie flang the tattie parins at the cat?' etc etc Sae it wis like finnin the crock o gowd at the eyn o the rainbow fin I first clappt een on auld Willie's family tree.

I maun hae bin thirteen year auld fin I first learned aboot John Middleton. Ma faither's cousin Willie, deed an left the faimly tree, years o scrattin an howkin aboot in auld buiks, tae his heirs.
'An affa queer craitur that Willie,' ma mither said. 'Spennin ilkie free meenit powkin roon kirkyairds or mollochin aboot in foosty aul kirk records is nae my idea o a fine day oot. Maist men ging tae the fitba or the gowf, or bools.'
Bit Willie's years o howkin an scrattin in the past hid raikit up a richt bosker o a forebear, a Covenantin General, nae less. Professors an Principals an meenisters war gey sma beer compared wi a bona fide hunner per cent bluid-an-thunner Covenantin General, spurs, wig, armour, the wirks. I tried tae tell ma da aboot his cousin Willie's great find. My da wis tryin tae watch a fitba match on TV an yon wis nae the best wye tae brakk the news, comin atween a chiel an his greatest passion.
'Div ye ken we're related tae a Covenantin General? ' I speired, hotterin up an doon wi excitement like a pan o jam berries on the byle.
'Ay, so I've bin telt', quo faither. 'Fit aboot it? If ye howk lang eneuch we aa ging back tae Adam onywye. I canna see fit yer gettin sae vrocht up aboot. Get oot o ma licht. The Dons are aboot tae takk a penalty. We've a clear crack at the goal. Awa an dee yer homewirk, ye've aye got plenty o thon tae keep ye gaun.'

Frae Willie's bits o screivins, I learned that John Middleton's portrait hung in a gallery doon in Lunnon, an ye could buy a black an fite photy o him fur a sma fee. Bit first ye hid tae promise nae tae show him tae ither fowk. I saved up ma pocket money fur wikks fur yon photy. Fin the photy arrived frae Lunnon, ma mither tuik ae luik at the General an remairked that she cudna seen onybody queuin up tae luik at yon, faith he wis nae Clark Gable. She did, hoosaeiver, concede that he wis a Middleton.

'I'll grant ye that,' she said.' It's the neb. They were aa lang-nebbit yer da's fowk. Man, he's an ugly breet yon General. Pit him aawa, he gies me the heebie-jeebies. Imagine pyin gweed siller fur a photy o yon. Could ye nae buy a poster o the Beatles, like aabody elses' dother? Even yon Ringo’s got a better snoot on him than the chiel in the photy.'
Faither wis a thochtie mair interestit, bit nae muckle, fin I rammed the photy inno his neive eence there wis twa meenits free o fitba.
'He's the livin spit o yer uncle Arthur. Ay, if yer uncle Arthur wauked in yon door noo, he'd be the verra marra o thon General. I hae a photy o yer great Uncle Jimmy in the hoose somewye, weirin a chest-fu o medals he won at plooin matches at Abyne. Wid ye like a photy o him?'
I didna wint a photo o great Uncle Jimmy, or his chest fu o medals. Uncle Jimmy wis caal parritch hett again compared wi a bona fide General. I hid fand oot that the General's brither wis hingin in King's College somewye, an naethin wad dae, bit I maun haik across the toon tae see him.

Efter schule ae day I tuik the bus ower tae King's in search o him. A porter body stoppit me, obviously nae teen wi schule quines wannerin aroon lowse.
'Are ye lookin fur onythin speecial?' he speired. He wis giein me yon auld farrant luik, like I micht hae an unexplodit bomb in ma blazer pooch.
'I'm lookin fur Alexander Middleton,' I explained, 'a Principal o King's. '
'Oh are ye noo. Weel, I ken the Principal, an his name's nae Alexander,' quo he.
'Actually, he's deid,' I explained,' aboot three hunner year syne. Bit if ye could jist gie me a wee keek at him?'
Mebbe I should hae telt him Alexander wis a portrait. I wis ordered aff the place an telt nae tae waste a decent man's time. I gaed stampin awa in a teirin huff, an fur a twa three years efter thon, life, in the shape o the oncomin Highers an teenage hormones rampagin aboot aa ower the place cam atween me an the General.

Then ae day, as a cheenge frae French verbs, I pickit up Samuel Pepys's diary. Samuel Pepys hid actually faan in towe wi John Middleton an screived aboot him..'a shrewd man but a drinking man, as the world said, a man that had seen much of the world, and a Scot.' Sae the General tuik a dram...alang wi aabody else in the coort o Charles II... Samuel Pepys wisna exactly the sowel o vertue himsel, nae that this spyled a maist entertainin wee diary.
'My', quo ma mither, 'fit a notion oor quine his o history. I think it's amazin the interest she's takkin in Charles II an his times.'

A month or twa efter thon, oor English teacher gart us read Sir Walter Scott's 'Wanderin Willie's Tale.' I didna care fur Sir Walter Scott, I far preferred Dickens, fa got richt
doon tae the story fae the stert, like a man fa cleared his throat an spat... nane o thon plowterin aboot fur twa hunner pages, coddlin the phlegm. Fin Scott's tales wannert, they wannert wi a vengeance. Bit fa should be sittin at the Deil's richt haun, accordin tae Scott, bit General John? I hared aff doon tae the local library tae finn oot mair aboot the Deevil’s henchman…Aye, there wis a book aboot him, an no, I couldnae borrow it.
'Ye can read it here or naewye.' quo the librarian.
'Foo can I nae takk it hame tae read. It's an affa big buik tae read aa at eence,' I prigged.
'Because it's rare, an ye micht blad it.'
'Div I luik like a vandal?'
'Foo wid I ken! Vandals come in aa shapes an sizes. Bit rules is rules, an yer nae gettin't oot o here sae there's an eyn tilt.'
There wis naethin furt bit tae read aboot the General in instalments. Efter a day or twa, the librarians kent fit I wis efter. 'Ye'll be needin anither teet at the General ?' An they wad fetch the buik an I wid sattle doon fair taen up wi his daeins, as he screived letters tae Charles II or this Scots Earl or thon ane. If there'd bin a Higher exam on the secret life o John First Earl o Middleton, Covenantin General, I wad hae passed wi fleein colours.

Sae fit exactly did he dae that wis sae unca fascinatin? Weel, he sterted fae naethin, a young fermer's loon in Kincardineshire fa enrolled as a pikeman an served in France as a teenage mercenary. While he wis ower in France, a stooshie blew up in Scotland ower the heids o the King wintin a New English Prayer buik tae be used, an the Scots nae likin the prayer buik. In 1637 a meenister at St Giles kirk read frae the thing an ane o congregation, Jennie Geddes, flang the braw new prayer buik at his heid wi the cry o 'Traitor! Dost thou daur say Mass in ma lug?' stertin a riot an a melee nae cannie. Naethin like that iver happened in oor kirk in Aiberdeen, it wis aa that fowk cud dee tae bide waukent let alane get vrocht up aboot a buik, sae times war fairly different syne. John Middleton wad hae bin seeventeen year auld, a year aulder than I wis masel cockin on a steel in the library readin aboot him, fin he wis ordered hame in 1638. The Supreme Cooncil o the Covenanters in Embro Castle cried aa Scots officers servin abroad back tae Scotland, an within months he wis an officer in the airmy o James Graham, the Marquis o Montrose.

Early in 1639 Aiberdeen wis warned Montrose an his Covenanters wis comin an cried a cooncil o war. Trenches war dug an the toon's twal cannon poseetioned far they wid dae maist gweed. Young loons war trained on the links, an a royal decree read oot frae the mairket cross on 16th Merch tellin aa Aiberdonians atween the ages o saxteen an saxty tae jyne the standard o the Marquis o Huntly. Nae aabody bothered, because nae aabody dislikit the new prayer buik....efter aa, there war a rowth o Episcopalians in Aiberdeen, nae coontin the atheists fa cudna imagine foo onybody'd wint tae get sae roosed aboot religion. Spalding described fit they luiked like, the airmy o nine thoosan sodjers led bi Montrose fin they clattered inno the toon on the
30th o Merch:

'Upon the morne, being Saturday, they came in order of battell, weill armed, both on horse and foot, ilk horseman having five shot at the least, with ane carabine in his hand, two pistols by his sydes, and other two at his saddell toir; the pikemen in their ranks, with pike and sword, the musketiers in their ranks with musket, musket staffe, badelier, sword, powder, ball and match' ilk company, both on horse and foot, had their captains, lieutenants, ensignes, sejeants, and other officers and commanders. all for the most part in buff coats. and in goodly order. They had five colours or ensignes, whereof te Earl of Montrose had one, haveing this motto, 'For Religion, the Covenant and the Countrie'; the earle of Marschell had one, the earle o Kinghorne had one, and the town of Dundee had two. They had trumpets to ilk company of footmen; they had their meat, drink, and other provision, bag and baggage carryed with them, all done by advyse of his excellence Felte Marschelle Leslie {Sir Alexander Leslie} whose councell Generall Montrose followed in this business. Now in seemly order and good array this army came forward and entered the burgh of Aberdeen, about ten hours in the morning at the over Kirkgate Port, syne came down through the Broadgate, through the Castlegate, out at the Justice Port to the Queen's Links directly. Here it is to be notted, that few or none of this haill army wanted ane blew ribbin hung about his craig, down under his left arme, which they called the Covenanters' Ribbon.'

Set upon takkin the rise o the Covenanters, some o the toon wits tied blue ribbons tae ilkie stray dug they could catch. Hoosaeiver, it wisna aa stray dugs an pageantry, as local Royalist gentry trotted oot an in follaed by Covenantin nobles ettlin tae fecht them. Aiberdeen's history at thon time makks sorry readin, battered frae baith sides in turn, like an auld fitbaa.

Montrose wis oot o Aiberdeen fin Viscoont Abyne drapped anchor in the bay. King Charles hid made Abyne Lord Lieutenant o the North agin the Covenanters. The news gart him ride back wi his airmy on the 3rd June. Abyne bedd on his ship. Tae tryst him aff o it, Montrose made on he'd retreated tae Steenhive, an sure eneuch, Abyne laundit, proclaimed Charles King at the mairket cross an takkin his Gordon clansmen wi him wi a puckle Aiberdonians, chased Montrose tae Muchalls. Bit the clansman waurna eesed tae the kinna fechtin trained merceneries like John Middleton war skeelie at. Abyne fell back tae the Brig o Dee, biggit defences, an manned it wi a hunner musketeers unner the command o Lieutenant-Colonel Johntsone.

Fur the hale o the 18th June the Royalists war poundit wi musket fire direckit by Montrose tae the brig. Neist mornin, the 19th June wis misty, ane o yon jeelin haars that whiles sweels ower the Dee sae near the sea like a grey, ghaistly aidder, bit fae his battlecamp on braes luikin doon ower the brig, Montrose cam on a ploy tae win the fecht fin the mist dwinnlet awa. He sent a puckle cavalry up the sooth bank o the watter, garrin Abyne think they war fordin the river. Abyne tuik the bait. He sent aa his horsemen awa tae fecht the Covenantin horsemen, leavin the hunner musketeers their lane, in chairge o the brig. Unner Montrose's orders, John Middleton doubled back an sprung the trap. The Brig o Dee wis taen, an tae quote again fae Spalding, the Aiberdonians 'for plane feir fled the toun with thair wyfis and children in thair armes and careit on thair bakis, weiping and murning most pitifullie, straying heir and thair, not knowing quhair to go.'

A balladeer made a sang aboot the hale proceedins. Bonnie John Seton micht hae bin shot, bit it wis 'Major Middleton fa gart the cannon flee'. Ilkie time I staun on the Brig o Dee, I myne aboot this battle, an hae near bin run ower a twa three times dyterin aboot, nae takken tent o muckle great larries thunnerin ower an auncient brig made tae cairry a puckle shelts an a cairtie or twa. Cannon or larrie, baith can be fatal. The thing aboot history is, ye shouldna let it get a haud o ye, nae on the Brig o Dee, onywye, espeecially nae on the Brig o Dee, an auncient gait tae the toon chokit wi twenty first century steer, that wis biggit fur shank’s meer.

Ye wad think fowk bein killt an mutilatit like flees in a cake factory wad hae pitten young Johnny aff sodjerin, bit na faith, the year efter, he enlisted in the service o the English Parliamentary airmy, an bi the time he wis 24 he wis a Major-General. Meanwhile, his auld leader, Montrose, cheenged sides an decidit tae fecht fur the Royalists. Wi his men, he crossed inno Kincardineshire. They cried inbye the ferm o Caldhame far auld Robert Middleton, John's faither, wis dwaumin afore the fire, an seein's there wis naebody tae defend him wi his laddie in the airmy doon in England, they murdered him, a derk twist in the towe that seemed tae tie the fortunes o Montrose an Middleton thegither. In August o thon year, John wis appyntit secunt in command tae David Leslie, tae merch agin Montrose, an defeated him at Philiphaugh in September. Montrose, his fae, escaped.

Efter thon, there wis nae haudin John. In 1646 he brunt Montrose’s hoose, an he brunt the castle o Kincardine. He tuik Tilligabilly frae the Laird o Drum. He captured Fyvie Castle. In Mey, wi the rank o Major-General, he entered Aiberdeen an dauchled a whilie. Sooth o the toon, the plague wis rife. Aa o the gates inno Aiberdeen war closed tae traffic an weel-guairded. The port wis closed tae shippin. The magistrates biggit three gibbets, ane at Brig o Dee, ane at the merket cross, tither at the herbor. Ony Aiberdonian lattin a stranger in wis tae be killt...the men, hung, the weemin, drooned. Lucky eneuch fur John, he left the toon afore the plague won in, hett-fit efter Montrose. A wummin frae Brechin slippit aroon the guaird tae veesit a frien, brocht in the plague an 1,600 Aiberdonians deid because o't...a quarter o the population. Plague in Stuart times wis coorser nor ony airmy.

On July 22nd 1646, in Angus, on a wee girssy brae aside the Isla, he catched up wi his foe an met wi him tae spikk ower the terms o Montrose's surrender. Guthrie tells us 'No one was near them but one man for each to hold his horse.' The ootcam wis, Montrose agreed tae gyang inno exile. There wis a wee period o normality. Neist month, on August 9th, John wis in Auld Aiberdeen veesitin his brither Alexander, fa wis sub-Principal o King's. He hid traivelled up tae the toon fur the baptism o his brither's bairn, recordit in the register yonner. Sic wee domestic meenits war fyew an far atween, fur the country wis in a lowe since King Charles I hid surrendered tae the Scots airmy, an bin haundit ower tae the English Parliament.

Noo, there war three factions amang the Scots. Royalists like Montrose, ettled tae see the King reinstatit wi full pouer. The Presbyterians war heidit bi Argyle an his followers. The Moderates, led bi the Duke o Hamilton socht tae reconcile King an Covenant. John Middleton sided wi the Moderates, an wis made Lieutenant-General o horse in Hamilton's airmy. Nae doot because o thon, King Charles I granted a charter giein the barony o Fettercairn tae John an his heirs. Neist year, the King wis heidit, an Charles II wis proclaimed King in Embro.

In 1650 Montrose wis spotted at Caithness, far he wis catched bi MacLeod o Assynt fa selt him tae the Covenanters, a short step fae yon tae his daith in Embro. Major Weir an the toon guaird war his escort alang the Royal Mile. Efter Montrose wis hung, Embro shawed his heid on a spike, an Aiberdeen wis sent an airm. Fin it wis derk, the deid Marquis's body wis howked up fae aneth the gallows, an the hairt wis cut oot an sent in a gowd kist tae his son in Flanders. There wis naethin subtle aboot public execution, it wis sterk an bluidthirsty, like the times.

In 1650, in July, King Charles II arrived in Scotland an signed the Covenant. He wis twenty year auld, a fair birkie even then, an niver short o a quine aneth his oxter. He traivelled up tae Aiberdeen that month tae bide a while at a hoose in the Castlegate wi a quine caad 'The Maiden'. An interestit wee crowd gaithered ootbye. Feart that the Aiberdonians micht be corruptit bi the ongauns inbye the hoose, the local meenisters sent Willam Douglas, Professor o Divinity tae hae a wird wi the 'Merry Monarch', bit fitiver wis said maun hae faan on deef lugs, fur the meenister's pairtin spikk wis 'If you do it, close the windows.' Young King Charles's ae nicht sleep-ower in Aiberdeen cost mair nor a thoosan pun Scots, includin £129. 0/4d fur 'gold and silver ribands and other articles to the maiden.' I mind winnerin fin I read thon, fit the Press an Journal wad hae made o King Charles II. He made a fair dunt in the toon's coffers, him an his maiden, bit o the twa men, William Douglas or 'the Black Boy', I ken fa I’d hae raither wyled an evenin wi, an it wadnae hae bin the divine.

In 1651, Charles wis officially crooned at Scone. The fortunes o his followers, includin Middleton (by thon time a major-general o cavalry wi the Duke o Hamilton) seemed set tae dae weel, until aathin gaed tapsalteerie again at the Battle o Worcester, fin Cromwell's airmy, 30,000 strang, defeatit the 12,000 Scots Royalists in a kirn o bluid-lattin an slaughter. The Duke o Hamilton wis killt. Middleton wis wounded, catched, an sent tae the Tower o Lunnon. Charles himsel got clean awa tae France, like anither Charles wad dae efter anither battle, queer the wye Royalty aye managed tae jouk awa frae the eftermath o defeats an leave aa ither body tae thole the scrats.

Fin John wis in the Tower, his friens learned that Cromwell wis set on haein him heidit, an they organised a plan o escape. He broke oot o the Tower an sailed fur France tae jyne the lave o the exiles. Coort screivins spikk o him trekkin roon Europe daein the King's biddin till in 1654 he wis gaen orders tae sail frae Holland tae lead a Royalist campaign in Scotland. He landit at Tarbet Ness wi twa men o war. A fey thing's conneckit wi yon laundin. In a letter tae a Mr Boyle, fand in the Peypsian papers, a young laird set doon this accoont o secunt sicht in the Heilans:

'In the year 1653 (May 4th) Alexander Monroe, afterwards Lieutenant-Colonel to the Earl of Dumbarton's regiment, and I, were walking in a place in Loch Broom, in a plain at the foot of a rugged hill: there was a servant working with a spade in the walk before us, and his face was to the hill. He took no notice, though we passed by near to him, which made me look at him; and perceiving that he stared I conjectured he was a seer; whereupon I called to him, at which he started and smiled.
"What are you doing?" I said. He answered,
"I have seen a very strange thing- an army of Englishmen leading of horses, coming down that hill, and a number of them are coming down to the plain and eating the barley which is growing in the field near to the hill."
This was on the 4th day of May, for I noted the day, and it was 4 or 5 days before the barley was sown in the field he spoke of. Alexander Monroe asked him how he knew they were Englishmen. He answered because they were leading horses and had on hats and boots which he knew no Scotsman would have on there. The beginning of August thereafter, the Earl of Middleton, the lieutenant for the King in the Highlands, marching his party towards the south islands, sent his foot through a place called Inverlacwell and the forepart which was first down the hill did fall to eating the barley which was on the little plain under it, and Monroe, calling to mind what the seer told us in May preceding, wrote of it and sent on express to me...where I then was.'

This wis the war John waged in the Heilans tae try tae restore King Charles II tae the throne, an up 'n doon kinno a campaign, wi aa the Scots fechtin throweither as is the usual wye o't. Fin a puckle o his men refused tae fecht, he shot ilkie seventh man, jist tae kittle up the lave, sae he wisna a
chiel tae cross. General Monk pit a price o twa hunner poon on his heid, an routed his force at Loch Garry. General John escaped, ill-woundit, bit managed tae sail fae Scotland an jyne the King in Cologne. His reward fur his sairs, wis the Earldom o Fettercairn.

Efter the Resoration in 1660, the Earldom wis confirmed, a far cry fae a pikeman tae an Earl, bit the times themsels war a thochtie onchancy. Fin Charles II entered Lunnon the paths war carpeted wi flooers, kirk bells rang an the fountains ran wi wine. Ane o his first acts in pouer, wis tae promote John tae the poseetion o High Commissioner tae the Parliament o Scotland, commander in chief o the Scots airmy an governor o Embro Castle. Syne, on Januar 1st, 1661, 'with a splendour to which the nation had long been unaccustomed', John opened the Scottish Pairliament.

A twa three days efter, the yetts o Holyrood Hoose skreiched ajee tae let in the girselt remains o the Marquis o Montrose, raiked thegither fae aa the airts. The scraps o corp war placed in a braw kist, an lay in state at Holyrood afore bein hurled tae a magnificent funeral in St Giles Cathedral. Faith, life fair hid its swings an roondaboots in Stuart Times, like Lazarus, Montrose's fortunes raise ooto the verra mools. Nae the maist auspicious omen fur the stert o Middleton's career as statesman, sharin Holyrood Hoose wi the corp o the man fa’d sanctioned the murderin o his faither. Mairower, the General wis a sodjer, nae a coortier or politician. He merriet his quines aff tae Scottish gentry, biggin the planks o a noble hoose, bit efter thon the rot set in fell quick, there wis spikk o bribery, drunkeness, o bills bein passed fin nane o the fowk passin them war fit tae threid twa wirds o sense thegither, let alane makk deecisions affectin the lives o thoosans, faith, even Charles hid tae act fin things
war in thon sorry plyter.

In 1663 John Middleton wis stripped o aa public offices, quit Holyrood an gaed doon tae England in disgrace. Yet King Charles niver forgot foo weel the General hid focht fur him afore the Restoration, an in 1669 he appyntit him Governor o Tangiers, seen bi Samuel Pepys an the lave as a kinno 'dignifeed exile'. Ane o the hinmaist things he did afore he left Scotland fur Tangiers, far he deed fower years efter, wis tae bigg the toon cross at Fettercairn.

A puckle months back, I wis veesitin the wee schule at Fettercairn, an tuik the General wi me. Nae literally, ye unnerstaun, naethin sae gruesome as Montrose's intimmers bein howkit up fur a belatit wake. I tuik John's photy wi me back tae his auld hame. It hid niver occured tae the bairns tae winner fa'd biggit their mairket cross. They war rale teen wi the photy. Nae because o fit he wis, or fa he wis, bit fan he wis. Contrar tae fit some fowk believe, bairns like history, if ye ging aboot it the richt wye. History, efter aa, is caain open a door an takkin a keek at foo men an weemin an bairns actually lived, foo they ate, dressed thocht an focht, swept alang on a great tide o Kings, campaigns an governments.

'Foo's he weirin a wig?' ane speired.
'Foo are you weirin trainers?' I coontered.
'Foo dis he get intae his armour?' anither ane winted tae ken.
Fyles, ye hae tae admit yer nae richt sure.
'I think mebbe it's tied on,' I jeloused. 'He widna hae a zipper.'
'He's weirin a ribbon roon his middle' a wee loon said, thochtfu like, as if ribbons an generals didna jist sit weel thegither.
'Ah, weel, ye see, mannies in King Charles's days dressed up as much as the weemin,' I telt him. I could see he wis takkin this in. I could near hear his harns tickin, like a wee clock, aneth his sanny toozled thatch o hair.
'Fit wid he eat fur his brakkfaist?' a wee quine speired.
'Parritch,' I guessed, (tho bein a Stuart General it micht hae bin doo's tongues or a hantle o ither queerioles washed doon wi claret)
'Fit did he dee o?' wis ae vexatious question.
'There wis a terrible dose o fevers aboot langsyne,' I said, steerin clear o the issue. I wisna aboot tae lat on that he hytered doon a stairs in Tangiers blin foo an deed o a broken airm gaen gangrenous. Apairt fae which, they'd be sure tae speir fit gangrene wis, bairns are merciless speirers.
'Imagine him comin frae Fettercairn', said anither, wi a far awa luik in his ee.

I kent, withoot bein telt, fit he wis thinkin aboot. He wis thinkin aboot wigs an ribbons an wars, aboot fountains rinnin wi wine, aboot hymn buiks flung at the pulpit fin Scot focht Scot, an aboot a loon fae Fettercairn, fa bubblit up ooto the glaur an burst, fa rose frae naething...an gaed back tae naething, a sma pairt o their ain history, jist as they thirsels are a sma bit important pairt, o history in the makkin. Fin the antrin body says ‘History? Yon auld dirt! Fit gweed iver come o teachin bairns thon styte?’ I tell them this ae thing…gin ye can learn fae the past ye michtna repeat its mistakks!



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