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Before proceeding further with the history of the M'Comies, it is necessary to describe the main features of the lands held by them in Perthshire and Forfarshire. Finnegand, that had been so long in the possession of the M'Comies, lies wholly on the right bank of the Shee, in the parish of Kirkmichael, Perthshire. On the southeast corner, opposite Dalnaglar, the land on the side of the Shee at its lowest point is over 1000 feet above sea-level. For about two miles along the Shee, which from the mansion-house of Finnegand turns a little to the west, there is a belt of arable land, consisting of level haughs and gently sloping fields, extending from two to three hundred yards from the water- side ; then a series of rounded heights, of no great elevation, leads to the foot of the range of mountains forming the watershed between Glenshee and the glens with their tributary streams stretch- ing southwards to Strathardle. The land, with an easterly and northeasterly slope and aspect, is of moderate fertility; and from its height above sea-level is better adapted for green than white crops - grain crops being fully matured only in very favorable seasons. At about half a mile from the Shee, the mountains rise rather abruptly, culminating in Meall Odhar and Meall Uaine, the latter being 2600 feet above sea level. On the opposite side of the Shee from Finnegand lies Broughdearg, also with its belt of arable land on the left bank of the Shee, and the mountains forming the watershed between Glenshee and Glenisla rising steeply behind it. The highest point between Broughdearg and Glenisla is Meal- na-letter, 2297 f eet above sea-level, which is on the boundary-line between Perthshire and Forfar- shire, and looks down towards the east upon Crandart. Farquharson of Broughdearg, it will be seen, marched both west and east with M'Comie Mor - on the west with Finnegand, on the east with the barony of Forter, and the large tract of forest-ground in the extreme north of Glenisla. The result, with ill-defined boundary-lines, and unconquerable courage and unyielding pride in both chieftains, was disastrous to both. The property of Dalmunzie, held by the descendants of Angus Og, lies about two miles north-west of Finnegand, immediately west of the Spittal of Glenshee, and is still held by a M'Intosh. Glenbeg, in which the M'Comies had a shealing, lies north of the Spittal of Glenshee, marching with Braemar on the north. . The barony of Forter, on which the mansion- house of Crandart was to become the headquarters of the family of M'Combie, is situated in the west of Forfarshire, in the parish of Glenisla, and extends from Mount Blair, 2441 feet, on the south, to Cairn na Glasha, 3484 feet, on the north. For about four miles from the eastern base of Mount Blair northwards, the Isla is the eastern boundary; it then includes both sides of the Isla, the boundary being the watershed between Glencally and the Isla, over the summit of Finalty, 2954 feet. On the north the boundary is formed by the watershed between Canness glen - Canness burn being the north - eastern branch of the Isla - and the glen of the Doll, down which rushes the Whitewater to join the South Esk, and the watershed between Can- lochan glen, the burn of which is the north-western branch of the Isla, and Glencallater in Aberdeen- shire. Between Canness and the head of the glen of the Doll the highest summit is Tom Buidhe, 3140 feet; between Canlochan and Glencallater the highest summit is Cairn-na-Glasha. On the west, the broad-crowned Glas Maol, 3502 feet, near the summit of which the shires of Aberdeen, Perth, and Forfar meet, is the culminating point of Forfarshire. Thence the boundary-line goes along the top of Craig Leacach, 3238 feet, which descends in almost a sheer precipice to the Brighty burn, which rises far up the Glas Maol. On the western side of Craig Leacach is Glen- beg, which runs south to the Spittal of Glenshee. At Cairn Aighe, 2824 feet, the boundary line turns south-eastward to Monamenach, 2649 feet, about two miles north-north-west of Crandart, and thence in a southerly direction to the height overlooking Dalnaglar and the Balloch, whence it sweeps round south-eastwards to Mount Blair again. The length of this district, from Mount Blair to Cairn - na - Glasha, is about ten miles, the breadth varying from one to four miles. The low-lying arable ground extends from the Balloch, 1000 feet, to Auchavan and the Linns, about 1250 feet. Much of this is a friable fertile soil. Above the 1250 feet line, much fine summer pasture land stretches up the mountainsides to about 2000 feet. The scenery around Forter is picturesque; above Forter, Glenisla is narrow, the steep mountainsides closing in on the narrow bottom of the glen. Above the Tulchan, Glenisla contains some of the finest mountain and glen scenery in Scotland. To the left, going up the right bank of the Isla, Monega rises precipi- tously to the height of 2917 feet, its lower slope for about a mile below the junction of Canlochan and Canness being well wooded. In front, the towering promontory that divides Canlochan from Canness rises grandly and abruptly. The lower part is thickly wooded, then the scarred rocky face, with thin lines of trees struggling up wher- ever they can find sufficient soil, rises steep and grand to the height of nearly 3000 feet. To the right, Canness, a narrow gorge, wooded on its western side for about a mile from its junction with Canlochan, penetrates for about two miles, first in a north-easterly, then in a north-westerly direction, towards the head-waters of Glencallater. To the left is Canlochan, the glory of Glenisla. From the north - east shoulder of Monega an escarpment runs right round the head of Can- lochan, and back to ¦ the water-parting between Canlochan and Canness, a distance of over four miles, the top of the escarpment the whole way being from a little under to a little over 3000 feet above sea-level. Where the waters of Can- ness and Canlochan meet, the height above sea-level is 1500 feet; so that there is a precipitous wall of from 1000 feet to 1500 feet running round Canlochan, indented with rugged and broken rocky gorges. The glen is about two miles long, running first in a north-westerly direction, then turning almost due north to Cairn- na-Glasha. From its southeastern end, for about a mile, it is wooded for a considerable distance up the precipitous face. Beyond this the surface is bare, with here and there rocky faces rising sheer and abrupt, in the crevices of which grow some very rare alpine plants, the exact habitat of which is known only to a few enthusiastic botanists, who keep their knowledge from ordinary mortals with jealous care. After passing the Tulchan, the eye discovers fresh beauties at every step. The Isla, winding through grassy haughs, the light rich green of the grass contrasting with the deeper and darker green of the larch wood, and both with the purple of the heather ; the rocks seamed with red scaurs, jut- tina at first here and there through the wood, then rising sheer and abrupt over it, - present a picture of beauty and grandeur altogether un- rivalled in Forfarshire, and with few equals in the Highlands of Scotland. Between the Brighty - which, rising far up the Glas Maol, flows first south by the base of Craig Leacach, and then east till it joins the Isla at the Tulchan - and the Isla, below the junction of Can- ness and Canlochan burns, there lies on the west side of M onega a small ravine or gully called the Glascorrie, the burn from which falls into the Isla, after a south and then south-easterly course, nearly a mile above the junction of the Brighty and Isla. Glen Brighty is black and bare, the only feature in the landscape that attracts the eye being the precipitous face of Craig Leacach, destitute of vegetation and covered with loose shingle. Such is a brief outline of the property of the M'Comie Mor in Glenisla.
Coming now to the personal history of M'Comie Mor, we shall first take up the traditionary tales, which are still preserved, both in Glenshee and Glenisla, of his intrepid bravery and immense personal strength. The first of these refers to the time he resided at Finnegand. Those passing along the Highland road from Blairgowrie to Braemar, may observe a large stone on the west side of the road, about opposite to Dalnaglar, and about a mile south from Finnegand. This stone is known by the few Gaelic speaking people in the district as Clach-na- Coileach - the stone of the cock ; by those who speak Scott, as Cocksteen.
Proprietors in Glenshee and most, if not all, those in the Blackwater district, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, held their lands by feu-charter from the then Earls of Athole, who levied kain - that is, so many fowls annually, as a tax or rent - from every reeking house on the various properties. The term is probably derived from the Gaelic ceann, a head - as this tribute would consist of so many head of whatever kind of live stock the kain had to be paid in. This annual gathering of kain by the Athole men, while M'Comie Mor was in Finnegand, had gone on peacefully one year, from the head of the glen down to a small cot above Finnegand. Here the kain-gatherers, finding a poor widowed woman - a tenant of M'Comie Mor - heartlessly took not only their lawful kain, but all her stock of poultry, despite her most urgent entreaties to leave at least some of them, in pity for her circumstances. We can easily conceive that the retainers of the powerful Earl of Athole carried matters with a high hand, as in those times there was practically no redress of grievances except by the strong arm. The widow's only strength lay in tears and entreaties ; and finding these of no avail, she be- thought her of the strong arm of M'Comie Mor, if only he could be persuaded to aid her. There was no time to lose; for the kain - gatherers were making their way down the glen, and her treasured poultry would soon be irretrievably beyond reach. In all haste she set out for Finnegand, with many tears laid her complaint before M'Comie Mor, and to her great joy he at once consented to accompany her to ask re- dress. We can picture the widow, with heart already lightened - for who would dare to refuse what M'Comie Mor asked in Glenshee ? - trudging along by the side of her stalwart protector, and relating all the circumstances of her visitors' harsh words and still harsher deeds. It would not be difficult to find the kain-gatherers, as their progress would be accompanied by the shrill " scraichs " of the captured cocks and hens, mingled, no doubt, with equally shrill abjurations in Gaelic from irate goodwives, whose ideas of what should be taken and what should be left would doubtless differ widely from those of the Athole men. M'Comie Mor and the widow came up with them near the big stone, when the former explained the circumstances of the poor widow, and asked that at least part of her poultry might be returned to her, especially as they had taken more from her than they had a right to. To the widow's great surprise and renewed grief, this reasonable demand was met with a decided refusal, couched in terms the reverse of polite. There was nothing for it, then, but to return to her cot, and put up with her loss as she best could. But if the widow was to be content with silent submission to those with part right, and seemingly whole might, on their side, not so M'Comie Mor. It was bad enough to be refused, but to be spoken to with insolence on his own ground, when making a reasonable request for one of his own dependents, was intolerable. The civil request for the restitution of part of the widow's fowls became a peremptory command to deliver up the whole. The command meeting with no better reception than the request, was at once followed up by M'Comie Mor drawing his sword and attacking the leader of the band. The kain-gatherers at once set down their creels, and rushed to their leader's assistance. But he was hors de combat before assistance could reach him ; and the astonished Athole men soon found that might as well as right was on the side of the widow, for wherever a blow from M'Comie Mor's right arm fell, there fell an Athole man also. As by this time a good few Glenshee men were arriving, who had learned what was going on, the Athole men wisely gave way. M'Comie Mor then advanced and unceremoniously cut open the coops containing the widow's feathered treasures, whereupon one crouse young cock mounted the big stone, and sent forth a shrill, clear, and triumphant paean of victory. That was a scene not likely soon to be forgotten in Glenshee : the poor widow, doubtless but a moment before in an agony of fear for the safety of her chivalrous champion, risking his life against such heavy odds on her behalf, now gladly pouring forth her thanks, while rejoicing over her recovered treasures : the crest- fallen kain-gatherers making off with what kain was still left to them - doubtless strictly civil and honest in their further requisitions while in Glenshee; the stalwart chief sheathing his sword; and high over all the brave little chan- ticleer, sending forth his notes of defiance to all the race of Athole kain-gatherers. The scene was not likely to be forgotten, and is not for- gotten ; for the Clach-na-Coileach still remains, a mute but steadfast witness: and often is the story told in Glenshee of how M'Comie Mor supplied the much-needed might for the widow's right. But the quarrel about the kain, as might be expected, did not end here. The Earl of Athole, as superior of the district, could not brook the insult of having his retainers routed, and his kain withheld by a vassal. A well-armed band was, therefore, sent from Athole to Glenshee, to bring M'Comie Mor to Blair Athole dead or alive. In due time they reached Finnegand, and surprised the laird unarmed in the house. But M'Comie Mor had sagacity and wit, as well as strength and courage. The Athole men having explained their errand, he frankly admitted that, in the circumstances, he was powerless to gainsay them. However, it was a pretty long way to Blair Castle, and both they and himself would be better of having some refreshment before setting out. Orders were at once given for refreshments to be set down in the other end of the house ; the Athole men and the laird being at this time in the kitchen. While the servants busied themselves in preparing a substantial repast, M'Comie Mor, by his frank and genial bearing, soon put the Athole men at their ease. When it was intimated that their repast was ready, the laird courteously requested them to lay aside their arms and plaids, that they might be at more freedom while eating and drinking. As he himself was unarmed, and all distrust of their entertainer had vanished under the influence of his unexpected affability, the Athole men piled their arms in a corner of the kitchen ; and removing their plaids, followed the host to the other end of the house, where they found a profuse abundance of Highland cheer set forth. Charmed by their host's genial frankness, and softened by unlimited uisge-beatha, the Athole men were now completely at their ease, and were doubtless mentally congratulating themselves on the unexpected ease and pleasure with which they were carrying out a mission, which they had calculated would be one of no little danger and difficulty. When, therefore, their host at length asked permission to go and give some necessary instructions to his family about the management of his affairs while he would be absent, rendered necessary by his being so unexpected called away without notice, the permission was at once granted, without the slightest feeling of mistrust on the part of the Athole men. Accordingly, M'Comie Mor went out, telling them he would send word when he was ready. After waiting a short time, a servant announced that her master was ready. The Athole men at once proceeded to the kitchen to resume their plaids and arms, and found - M'Comie Mor standing fully armed, their plaids all laid out on a table, but not a single gun nor sword to be seen in the corner where they had so imprudently left them. Their lately so genial host then informed them in a haughty tone, that as they had been sent for him, they were at liberty to try and take him with them, but that he was determined to defend his liberty to the utmost of his power. The dismay of the Athole men may be imagined. Even had they been again armed, they knew full well by this time how extremely dangerous a task it would have been to have overpowered him; as it was, it would have been but throwing their lives away to have attempted his capture. There was nothing for it then but to resume their plaids, and return unarmed to Athole, and explain, as they best might, the ignominious failure of their mission.