Clan of the Cat     |     home
McCombie 2   |   McCombie 3   |   McCombie 4   |   McCombie 5   |   McCombie 6   |   McCombie 7   |   McCombie 8   |   McCombie 9   |   McCombie 10

McCombie 5
    Accordingly, we find that the next incident in the feud was that Robert Farquharson narrowly escaped with his life in July or August 1670, from the pursuit of James and Alexander, sons of John M'Comie, and Donald Gerters, John Burns, and David Guthrie, servants to John M'Comie, within the forest of Glascorrie ; and these not appearing to answer for the crime at the trial in 1673, were " denounced our Sovereign Lord's rebels, and ordained them to be putt to the horn, and all there movable goods and gear to be escheat and imbrought to his Majestie's use, as fugitives frae the lawes for the crymes above mentioned - which wes pronunced for doome." It was on the occasion of Robert Farquharson's meeting some of John M'Comie's servants in Glengarmie, which lies to the north- west of Broughdearg, and south of Glen Brighty, that on their telling their master "they had let the defunct gae without any prejudice," John M'Comie "did either curse, upbraid, or reprove them for not taking from him ane legg, ane arme, or his lyff, declairing that if they had done it he should have bein their warrand." This fact, brought out at the trial, shows that M'Comie Mor was now thoroughly roused ; and it is significant, too, of the effect this had on the Farquharsons, that we hear no more of the Farquharsons making personal attacks on the M'Comies. They had evidently thought that, being now old, and having no one to depend on for help but his own family and dependents, he could be attacked with impunity. Finding now their mistake, they would doubtless have been glad to have let the quarrel drop; and had the M 'Comies given up their claim to free forestry in Canlochan, there might have been no further trouble. But the fact of Robert Farquharson's being driven out of the forest showed that his tenure of it was still very precarious. Fearing, however, any longer to attack the M' Comies personally, the Farquharsons seized some of the M'Comies' cattle in 1672, whereupon John M'Comie " persewed aspulzie" against Robert Farquharson before the Sheriff of Forfar, and got letters of caption against him. It is worthy of remark here that John M'Comie sought redress in a legal way. But a new difficulty arose, as Robert Farquharson swore " no man should take him alive," an oath he made good. Accordingly, when Alexander Strachan, the messenger of the burgh of Forfar, went to take Broughdearg, he had to return baffled. So matters stood when, on the 28th January 1673, Robert Farquharson went to Forfar " for his own defense of the said pursuit." John M'Comie was aware of Robert Farquharson's going to Forfar on this day, and is said in the indictment to have spoken to his sons "their words, or to the like purpose : Go to Forfar ; arm yourselves with your pistols and swords ; take my servant with you, and bring him dead or alive. That several times before that he said he should have his life for the many affronts and injuries he had done him, tho' he should ware two of his best sones in the querrell ; and who. would or durst speir after it?" According to the account given by the Farquharsons, when they reached Forfar, Robert Farquharson. was informed that " the Court was done ; whereupon, having no other business at Forfar, he returned, and was in his journey homewards," when he was attacked by the M'Comies. John, Alexander, James, and Robert, sons of John M'Comie, and J. Burn, T. Fleming, D. Guthrie, and D. M'Intosh, their servants, had gone to Forfar to watch the result of the action before the Sheriff. It is probable, therefore, that the Farquharsons had returned homewards before reaching Forfar, when they heard of the M'Comies being present in some strength. Be this as it may, when the M'Comies heard that the Farquharsons were on their way home again without having put in an appearance before the Sheriff, they got Alexander Strachan, the burgh messenger, so that they might act legally, and went in pursuit of the Farquharsons. By the time they had got the messenger, they were in some uncertainty as to where the Farquharsons were. It is said in the Farquharsons' indictment, that at the house of Torbeg, " they with there dirks and swords stabbed the beds and other places where they imagined him (Robert Farquharson) to have been lurking. . . . Also did swear every person they did meet, if they had seen Robert Farquharson." At length they met a poor man, whom they threatened to kill if he would not tell: said man, "in fear of his life," told them the Farquharsons were on their way to Loggie. Being informed of which, "the said Alexander and James M'Comies, and the other remnant persons above named, threw away there plaids and betook themselves to ther arms, and in a hostile and military posture, pursued and followed after the said Robert and John Farquharsons, and the said Alexander there brother, to the lands of Drumgley, where having over- taken the said Robert, they most cruelly and inhumanely invadit and assaulted the said Robert and John Farquharsons, and the said Alexander ther brother, and gave them severall shotts and wounds in ther bodies, heads, and hands, off the which the said Robert Farquharson dyed immediatlie upon the place, and the said John Farquharson wes woundit, and therefter died of these wounds within days."

This is the account of the Farquharsons, which, be it observed, gives no details of the fight, the reason for which we can understand in the light of the details given by the evidence brought forward by the M'Comies. The evidence of the messenger, that should have been impartial and trustworthy, is unfortunately contradictory and unreliable. There was first produced "an execution of caption," which he wrote at "the desire of the M'Comies - but received neither good deed nor promise of good deed at that time for giving thereof." The execution of caption was to the effect that Robert Farquharson, " being charged in his Majesty's name to render him prisoner to me - most contemptuously disobeyed, and made resistance by drawing of a sword against me and my assistants, whereupon I brake my wand of peace." This is in accordance with the M'Comies' defence., that the messenger called on them as assistants, and that they were acting legally in trying to capture Robert Farquharson.

The letter next produced was written to James Farquharson of Laidnathie, because David Fenton, in Loggie, a friend of the Farquharsons, told him the Farquharsons were all at Kilimuir, and were to take messenger's life unless he would write some such letter. The letter states, that " I was not within sex pair of butts when he (Robert Farquharson) was killed, and likewise I do declare I never spoke with him that day." Lastly, we what professes to be the messenger's impartial account of the matter as follows : " As to the matter of fact, declares that he did not speak with Brughderg that day, nor wes near him be the space of sex or seven pair of butts when he was killed, but cried to him about that distance to render himself prisoner, and the M'Comies also cried, who were running after Brughderg ; does not know whether he heard either of them, but cried he would be taken be none of them, and ran through a moss and the M'Comies after him." In the indictment by the M'Comies against the Farquharsons, the account is so circumstantial and graphic, as to carry conviction of its truth along with it. It is certain that the messenger, armed with a legal warrant, cried to Robert Farquharson to surrender; it is also certain that Robert Farquharson heard this, as he replied that " he would be taken by none of them." After this, John M'Comie, believing that he was acting legally, overtook Robert Farquharson, and, be it observed, did not attempt to slay or even injure him, but merely "so secured him as that he was not able to do any present hurt." And here he gives proof of the mildness of disposition which led his father to doubt his courage. He wanted to make sure that Robert Farquharson should no longer escape answering for the seizure of his father's cattle ; but he also wanted this to be effected, if possible, without undue violence, and without bloodshed. While holding Robert Farquharson, he was of course incapable of defending himself from any other one who chose to attack him, and it was while in this position that John and Alexander, brothers to Robert Farquharson, "presented their guns, and came so near them that the mouths of their guns touched the said John his flank, and fired upon him, and so disinabled him that he fell to the ground, and by the same shots killed Robert M'Intosh, the complainers other son, dead to the ground ; and there being nothing to satiate their inveterate hatred and malice but the said John M'Intosh's life and his sons, the said John Farquharson in Cantsmilne, Farquharson his son, Thomas Creighton in Milntown of Glenisla, came in cold blood near where the said John M'Intosh was yet alive lying in his wounds, and there with their dirks and swords stabbed and wounded the said John M'Intosh until he died." More cowardly and dastardly butchery - for it was not fighting - was never perpetrated. From first to last there is no account of any Farquharson attacking a M'Comie in an honorable and straightforward manner ; and now, after shooting John and Robert M'Comie almost in cold blood, they made no further stand, as it was offered to be proved, on their behalf, that the wounds of which Robert Farquharson died on the spot, and John Farquharson his brother died a few days after, were received in the back. The bodies of the slain men were, it is said, brought home by different routes, by the advice of prudent counselors, lest there might be a fresh outbreak between the two families and their servants and adherents, if they should meet together in the then excited' state of their feelings. The M'Comies were buried in the churchyard of Glenisla

We can form some idea of the feelings of grief and exasperation that filled the heart of John M'Comie, from the following expressions, cited during the trial as being used by him after the intelligence of what he termed the murder of his sons, reached Crandart. It is stated that "severall tymes, when friends wer endeavouring a mediation betuixt them, the panel's expressions severall tymes wer that all was to no purpose, the sword behoved to decyde it; that since the murder he wished he wer but twenty yeeres of age again, which, if he wer, he should make the Farquharsons besouth the Cairn of Month thinner, and should have a lyff for ilk finger and toe of his two dead sones." As to Mr Angus, " he houndit out " the others to the pursuit, and said to his sister, when lamenting the loss of her brothers, " She had no reason to lament for them, since they hade gott the lyff they were seeking." The trial of both parties took place on various days from the 2d to the ninth of June 1673. On the one side, John M'Comie of Forter, pursuer, " for himself, and in name and behalf of the remnant kin and friends of the said John and Robert M'Intoshes." The others named on the side of the M'Comies were, James, Alexander, and Mr Angus, sons; Thomas Fleyming, in Dalinamer, John Burn, David Guthrie, Donald M'Intosh, and Donald Gerters, tenants and servants - in all ten persons, besides John M'Comie, senior.

On the other side, Helen Ogilvie, relict of the deceased Robert Farquharson of Broughdearg; Alexander Farquharson, his brother; James, Alexander, and John Farquharsons, his uncles, "for themselves, and in name were pursuers. The others named on the side of the Farquharsons were: "John Barnot, in Dunmae; Donald M'Vadenach, in Burghderg; George Patton, ser- vitor to Burghderg; Thomas M'Nicol, also servant; Duncan M'Coul of Kero; Thomas Creighton, in Milnetoun of Glenila ; Alexander Farquharson, in Belnaboth ; John Farquharson, in Belnaboth ; John Farquharson of Dunnieday ; James Farquharson, in Milne of Ingzeon ; William Farquharson, his son ; John Farquharson, in Cantsmilne; Farquharson, his son." In all, in eluding, as in the case of the M'Comies, the two slain, eighteen persons. The result of the trial as regards the main charges - viz., the deaths near the Moss of Forfar - was that each of the pursuers abandoned their case, both parties seeing that to follow the double action to the end would only be to bring several of the survivors on both sides under the severest penalty of the law.

We have already seen that of those on the M'Comies' side, James M'Comie and Alexander M'Comie, his sons, and Donald Gerters, John Burn, and David Guthrie, his servants, were outlawed as fugitives. On the 9th June, Duncan M'Coul of Kero ; Thomas Creighton, in Milnetoun of Glenila; John Farquharson, in Cantsmilne ; Farquharson, his son, " being oft times called," for their share of the raids of Crandart and Kilulock, and the three last mentioned for killing the wounded John M'Comie, and having been duly summoned, and "not enterand and compeirand," the Lords Commissioners of Justiciary "decreed and ad- judged the hail forenamed persons to be.denounced our Sovereign Lord's rebels, and ordained them to be put to the home, and all their movable goods and gear to be escheat and in brought to his Majesties use, as fugitives frae the laws, for the crimes above specified - which was pronounced for doom." x That the Farquharsons had now enough of the feud which they themselves had originated, and been the aggressors in, and were now in dread of the old chief whom they had thought to have subdued, is evident from the fact that, on the same day on which the several actions were abandoned by both parties, " Helen Ogilvie, relict of the deceased Robert Farquharson of Brughderg, craved law - burrowes of the said Johne M'Intosh of Forther, and made faith that she dreaded him bodily harm and oppression ;" where- upon the Lords Commissioners ordered him to find caution. " In obedience whereof the said John M'Intosh, as principal, and Thomas Oliver, of Westmiln, in Glenila, and Thomas M'Intosh, merchant in Montrose, as cautioner and for him, gave caution, in form according to Act of Parliament." Item, 16th June: "Thomas Fleyming, in Dalinamer in Glenila, was set at liberate, upon caution to appear on 15 days' notice." He had stood prisoner with John M'Comie and his son, Mr Angus. And now, after a long and most eventful life, John M'Comie, the M'Comie Mor, died in peace, in his own house at Crandart, before 12th January 1676. His sagacity and unconquerable spirit, his chivalrous courage and extraordinary personal strength, marked him out as a true leader of men in revolutionary times such as those in which he lived. That he was the most remarkable man of his time in the district, in which he lived, is indisputably proved by his traditional fame even at the present time.In few districts in Scotland has the memory of a man who died over two hundred years ago been kept living so vividly by tradition, as has that of M'Comie Mor, in Glenshee and Glenisla. He was buried in Glenisla churchyard, beside his two sons who were killed at Drumgley.

Not many years ago, the late Rev. Mr Simpson, Free Church minister of Glenisla, told the late Mr J. B. M'Combie, advocate, Aberdeen, and great-great-great-grandson of M'Comie Mor, that he was present in Glenisla churchyard, when, in digging a grave in the spot pointed out by tradition as the burying  place of the M'Comies, some immense bones were exhumed, which Mr Simpson and others who saw them had no doubt were those of M'Comie Mor, or one of his sons.

Of John M'Comie's seven sons, John and Robert were killed, as already narrated. James, who was outlawed in 1673, for not appearing to stand his trial, on finding the main action departed from by both parties, returned, and had doubtless had little trouble in getting the sentence of outlawry reversed. Accordingly we find that, on the 12th January 1676, "Jacobus M'lntosh de Forther " was served nearest lawful heir to Robert M'Intosh, his younger brother, who had been portioner of Gambok, in four acres of arable land of the town and lands of Easter Denhead, near Coupar- Angus (which he had doubtless inherited from his mother's family), in the field called Cottarbank ; in the piece of unlaboured ground at Corshill ; and with common pasturage in the Soidmyre. From the same source we learn that Thomas M 'Comie, son of John M'Intosh, alias M 'Comie, of Forther, was served nearest heir to the foregoing James, his elder brother, on January 2, 1677. Of Mr Angus, the late Mr William Shaw, of Milton of Blacklunans, in the letter already quoted from, says that James M'Intosh, there referred to, "told me that it was an Angus M 'Comie, alias M'Intosh, that restored Forter to the Airlie family ; that this is seen in the process between Sir David Wedderburn of Ballindean and the Airlies." . From the ' Registrum Magni Sigilli,' lib. lxix. No. 51, it appears that there was a charter under the Great Seal, of date 15th December 1682, granting to Alexander M'Intosh the lands of Wester Innerharitie, in the parish of Glenisla, and sheriffdom of Forfar. Alexander, it will be remembered, had been outlawed with James in 1673.