GRIERSON or McGregor, Callum -- aka Callum Grierson CATHOLIC GLENGAIRN: The Rise and Fall of a Community, by Alasdair Roberts.
Glengairn is a fairly extensive area stretching north and west from Deeside between Ballater and Balmoral, but for introductory purposes its post-Reformation Catholic history can be expressed in terms of a single place - Dalfad:
“CALAM GRIERSONE, alias M’Grigor, of Daladar (Ballater), papist, frequently receives popish priests... The said CALAM [GRIERSONE] was leatly building a chapel for them, erected a very high crucifix on a little hill near to his house, to be adored by all the neighbourhood. He keeps always publick mass and popish conventickles in his house; and is such trafector that few or no protestants that become his tenants, or servants, escape being perverted by him... The said CALAM GRIERSONE is a common mocker of God and religion, v.g.: In September, 1701, at Alanchoich, at a publick marriage feast before a great many people, after he had first rediculed the protestant religion he next went to his knees and with aloud voice uttered a deal of horrid blasphemie, pretending to personate protestant ministers in their prayers, and then fell a preaching, to the great astonishment of the beholders” (Spalding Club, 1844, p.xxxi). So wrote the Rev. James Robertson, the newly appointed Presbyterian minister of Glenmuick, Tullich and Glengairn in a 1704 submission to the Presbytery of Kincardine O’Neil. [End page 1]....
THE DEESIDE McGREGORS
It is possible that some members of the Clan Gregor arrived on Deeside early in the 16th century, being credited as agricultural improvers at Braemar with the title McGregors [end page 2] [begin page 3] ”of the lime”. Francis Diack (1908) rejected such an early settlement as unlikely, however, suspecting a search for respectable Deeside origins. After the clan was proscribed by James VI the McGregors were vulnerable in their native Breadalbane and a group of them came up over Glen Tilt, recruited as mercenaries by the Earl of Moray. In 1634 the Marquis of Huntly used them in the feud between certain Gordon lairds and the Crichtons of Frendraught; and these McGregors naturally took the Royalist side in the Civil war, one group in particular emerging from it as landholders at Dalfad, Inverenzie and Ballater.
The first of the family was DUNCAN McGREGOR, who came from Glenlyon and married the Bron of Breackly’s daughter in Glenmuick. His son, CALUM’S father, died about 1677 and was known as Gregor “of the swivels” because he devised a way of yoking oxen to the plough with birch wands. CALUM himself seems to have possessed great physical strengh: “This man was a great champion and was proprietor of the lands of Ballater as well as those of Inneregny. He greatly repined towards the close of his life that he was acquainted with no MacGregor who could bear his heavy “armachd-chatha” (battle arms). “Let rust eat them up,” he said, “Rather than they should pass, after my demise, into the hands of another clan, if a McGregor cannot be found worthy of them” (McGregor, 1818). He died just before the outbreak of the Fifteen.
The first legal record of the incomers concerns Thomas Erskine “alias McGregor” of rinabrough, who took the Earl of Mar’s family name when leasing this Gairnside property in 1633 (Michie, 1891). Richarkrie and Torran were leased from Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. The other lairdships which came [end page 3] [begin page 4] into McGregor hands about this time were Auchalater in the parish of Braemar and Wester Micras in Crathie.
The “Troubles”, in short, were good for the Deeside McGregors: “Sheltered among the mountains of Glengairn and fortified by a tenantry mostly of the same name and blood, these McGregor lairds were the leaders of a little sept or clan that presented a bold front to all and sundry. In character and habits they were Highlanders to the core - proud, spirited and clannish, devoted to the old faith and the old dynasty...” (Diack, 1908, p. 297).
When not engaged in the profession of arms the McGregors were cattle drovers. The story of Rob Roy (who visited the area in 1715) illustrates the extension of this into cattle lifting by “caterans” who were at least spirited enough for raids on lowland farms. A band led by Patrick Gilderoy McGregor operated from a cave to the east of Glengairn, at Burn o’ Vat on Culblean, and “spulzied” the parish of Cromar. Gilderoy was caught and hanged but brigands of his kind continued into the 18th century.
Even those McGregors who managed to obtain land lived recklessly. In 1676 CALUM McGREGOR of Ardoch (his father still laird at Dalfad) was fined ‘50 Scots after a fracas at Stranlea. CALUM had drawn his sword and cut his neighbour “twice in the head, in the left eye and in the left arm” (Fraser, 1977, p. 11). And in 1704 the Laird of Dalfad’s economic activities were described in a way which suggests no clear distinction between landholders and caterans: “He is worth about 500 merks of visible fortown, but that much of it is now adjudged upon decreits obtained against him before the justiciary courts for robbing the Laird of Glenkindie’s house [end page 4] [being page 5] and other such like barbarities. Only he makes a considerable deal of money yearly by black mail, extorted by him from several low country parishes such as Fordon, Strachane, Fettercairn under pretence of protecting them” (Spalding Club, 1844, p.xxxi).
[Begin page 10]....CALUM McGREGOR’s original “very high crucifix” was raised on “a little hill near to his house”, but the ruined chapel in Dalfad woods which was probably built by the Wurtzburg priest, Gregor McGregor, is said to have been left “unfinished” after Culloden (Fraser, 1977, p. 33) so it is probable that Ardoch (Gaelic: “small hill”) was the site originally chosen: “Mr. Hugh Strachan, a Jesuit, resides in Ardoch which belongs to CALLUM GRIERSON, alias McGregor, of Dalfad who has built a house for him and a garden, and furnishes him with other necessaries. They keep publick mass and all other parts of their idolatrous worship in and about the same place almost every Lordsday” (Wilby, 1966). Ardoch was certainly the home of a succession of priests from 1810 until the focus of Catholic life moved down to Candacraig in 1866, but during most of the period under discussion Glengairn’s Catholics gathered for their Sunday worship at [end page 10] [begin page 11] Clashenruich (clais and fhraoich, “hollow of the heather”). The name was appropriate, since it was thatched with heather until it finally became (symbolically enough) a sheepcote in the latter part of last century.
Note: Thanks are due to Captain A.A.C. Farquharson of Invercauld for giving access to his estate papers; and to Mr. Richard McGregor Luton for sharing the fruits of his own research into the Deeside McGregors. All clargy letters quoted except the SPCK return (SRO GD95/11/5) and the Rev. Robert McGregor’s account of the Dalfad McGregors are held in COLUMBA HOUSE, Edinburgh, which is the Scottish Catholic Archive.
Source: (1) Blackie, J.S. (1885) The Scottish Highlanders and the Land Laws. London, (2) Cooper, D. and Godwin, F. (1981) The Whisky Roads of Scotland. London: J. Norman, (3) Davidson, C. (1970) The Glengairn Christmas tragedy, Deeside Field Book, 2nd Series, (4) Diack, F.C. (1908) Notes for 3rd edition of Deeside Tales by J.G. Michie, (5) Farser, A.S. (1977) In Memory Long. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, (6) Grant, J. (1861) Legends of the Braes o’ Mar. Aberdeen, (7) Huntly, Marquis of (n.d., 1927?) Auld Aquaintance. London: Hutchinson, (8) Huntly Trust: Estate Papers held in Aberdeen, (9) Insh, G.P. (1952) The Scottish Jacobite Movement. Edinburgh, (10) Lenman, B. (1980) The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746. London: Eyre Methuen, (11) McGregor, R. (1818) Letter to Sir John MacGregor Murray, Baronet, (12) MacWilliam, A.S. (1972) The Jesuit Mission on Upper Deeside. 1671-1737, Innes Review, 23, (13) Michie, J.G. (1876) Deeside Tales. Aberdeen, (14) Michie, J.G. (1891) Records of Invercauld, 1547-1828. Aberdeen, (15) Neil, C.G. (1943) Glengairn Calling! Aberdeen, (16) Spalding Club (1844) Appendix to Preface of A Breiffe Narration of the Services Done to Three Noble Ladyes by Gilbert Blakhal. Aberdeen, (17) Stirton, J. (1925) Crathie and Braemar. Aberdeen, (18) Taylor, E. (1869) The Braemar Highlands. Edinburgh, (19) The Scottish Genealogist, 32, 3 (1985), (20) Wilby, N.M. (1966) The “Encreasce of Popery” in the Highlands, Innes Review, 17, (21) Wyness, F. (1968) Royal Valley. Aberdeen: Alex P. Reid and Son, (22) Grierson's Great Ancestral Register, Vol. 9, page book, compiled by David A. M. Grierson.