Clan Warfare & Local Clans

The Drummonds

The Drummonds were not so much a clan but more a collection of people with the same name. Originally of Hungarian descent they claim their lineage from a man named Maurice. As such they may have been the first Bohemians in Scotland! Maurice was accompanied by a Saxon princess who had been exiled there after the Norman Conquest. This lady, Margaret, became the wife of Malcolm Canmore and, because of her saintly qualities, is known in history as St. Margaret.

This collection of immigrants may have adopted the name Drummond from the village of Drymen in Stirlingshire. Through their royal connections, the Drummonds were awarded vast tracts of lands in Lennox and Stirlingshire, eventually receiving even more land in Strathearn. They occupied and “owned” land which stretched from their pile of stones, Drummond Castle. Drummond Castle which was built in 1491 stands upon an outcrop of rock called Concraig, near present-day Muthill. It is ideally placed for both defensive and offensive activities and, from a strategic point of view, was superbly placed. Its possessions included the lower flat lands of eastern Strathearn to Stobhall, near Perth, all the lands on the south and west sides of the Ruchill river flowing through Glen Artney, and over the hills to Callander in Strathyre, as well as further lands on the north side of Loch Earn up to Glen Ogle. Now festooned with additions and beautiful gardens the castle was originally a strongly-built square tower with several floors entered from a small forecourt.

The Original Drummond Castle is the Building on the Left

Amongst other local land owners they did not see eye to eye with their neighbours, the Murrays of Ochtertyre and Abercairney. Incidents of conflicts both armed and otherwise, abound throughout our tale. One infamous deed was perpetrated at the castle which is of general interest and perhaps encapsulates some of the intrigue of the nobility which was an on-going business.

It was said that James IV (1488-1513) was a likeable and handsome lad, fond of adventure, and in his early days, had an eye for a pretty girl. Perthshire abounds with pretty girls. On a hunting trip there his eye fell upon Margaret, eldest daughter of John Drummond, the first Lord Drummond. She was remarkable in her beauty, a fine seamstress and artist, and an accomplished musician. They met whilst out riding one day and it appeared that it was love at first sight. The affair bloomed, and in time, it was rumoured that they had been secretly married. The nobles, whilst they did not really mind the King’s whims as long as it didn’t affect them, thought that their lot could be enhanced if the King was married to a more up-market candidate like the thirteen year-old Princess Margaret Tudor of England. She, although less endowed with beauty, and still only a child, was the daughter of the King of England. As a result they plotted and intrigued to the extent that they felt their choices were limited to doing away with the beautiful Lady Margaret. No doubt they considered the best means of disposing of Margaret but rejected the thought of assassination by gun, sword, dirk or club. This would have been too crass! A more subtle means was required. Enquiries were discreetly made concerning the use of poison and how it could be administered and who would introduce it.

One day a fish seller showed up at Drummond Castle selling freshly-caught herring – a real treat! Margaret and her sisters, Euphemia and Sybilla, ordered that the fish be bought and served to them for breakfast. There in the dining room where they gathered each morning the smell of the fish was most appealing. They were all served at the same time, possibly remarking that the fish tasted good, ate it, and then all promptly died.

Their bodies were brought to Dunblane Cathedral and buried under a large slab in the choir of the Cathedral. The inscription reads, “Sit Deo Laus et Gloria Defunctis Misericordia. To the glory of God. In Memory of Margaret, eldest daughter of John, 1st Lord Drummond, by tradition privately married to King James IV, and poisoned at Drummond Castle, with her sisters Euphemia and Sybilla, by some of the nobles who desired the King’s marriage with Princess Margaret of England. The three sisters were buried underneath these slabs in the choir of the Cathedral, of which their uncle, Walter Drummond, was Dean. AD 1501.”

Pulpit in Dunblane Cathedral

Dunblane Cathedral

Poor James was distraught and heart-broken. He became a changed man, and following the orders of the nobles, went on to marry Margaret. He was thirty at the time and was wont to give up his pleasures and his mistresses. The marriage turned out to be an unhappy union. She bore him six children of whom only one, the future James V survived.

In 1511 most of “civilized” Europe supported the Pope in the war of the Holy League and took up arms against France. James decided to side with France against advice offered by his counsellors. This placed him at odds with his brother-in-law, Henry VIII, and he invaded England. There on the sad field of Flodden he, along with the Flower of Scotland, were decimated - a King, thirteen earls, two bishops, two abbots, the Dean of Glasgow, the Provost of Edinburgh, and thousands of ordinary mortals lay strewn upon the ground - the floors o’ the forest were aw’ we’ed awa!

One wonders at these great moments of decision-making in history whether much of the future could have been avoided, or how different it might have been. If James had settled down with Margaret, would Flodden have occurred? If this had occurred would Mary, Queen of Scots, have succeeded to her tragic throne? Would the union of the crowns have occurred sooner, later, or not at all? It is upon decisions and circumstances like this that change is often foisted, and new directions occur. Even today in our modern world similar things are happening!

Strathearn was reasonably well known to Mary, Queen of Scots. She and Darnley, after all, had spent their honeymoon at Huntingtower, near Perth. Throughout her reign she made several progresses into Perthshire visiting Strathearn in particular during her more than troubled reign. She was a guest and visitor at Ruthven Castle (Huntingtower), Blair Atholl Castle, Kincardine Castle, Innerpeffrey Abbey, and Drummond Castle at different times. She was at Drummond Castle accompanied by Bothwell in December 1566, and early January, 1567. They went hunting in Glen Artney.

Mary, Queen of Scots

The following was penned by an anonymous writer almost 350 years later.

Dinner with the Queen at Drummond Castle – December:

The place is Drummond Castle visited by Mary, Queen of Scots and Bothwell: Darnley was lying ill with the pox in Glasgow at the time. Tradition says they engaged in deer-stalking in the Forest of Glenartney. The ancient feudal system was then at its zenith. According to its laws and usages when war required to be engaged in, every superior of the land was compelled to command the vassals under him to do service on behalf of his king. Mary and her large company arrived at the castle and many of the nobility of Strathearn joined her there and to accompany her first to hear Mass at the Kirk of Tullichettle, and then to visit the keeper of the Forest, John Drummond. In attendance were the Drummonds of Drummond Castle, of Milnab, Murrays of Ochtertyre, Morays or Murrays of Abercairney, Stirlings of Ardoch, Stewarts of Ardvorlich, Campbells of Lawers, Campbells of Aberuchill, Haldanes of Gleneagles, Oliphants of Gask, Campbells of Monzie, Stirlings of Strowan, Rollos of Dunning, and Comries of Comrie.

The party first attends a service in the rude, thatched church at Strowan. Thence to “Drummondernoch,” a Drummond farm possession. On to Dalginross where the only house built on its surface is the old thatched house near the “little square” - a house, it is said, three centuries old. Here the ill-fated Mary Stuart partook of a simple mid-day repast, as the highway passed then before the door of this (once upon a time) house of entertainment”. S.C (this was probably written by Samuel Carmichael writing 350 years later).

It seems incredible that a mixture of murderous and ambitious people as described in this snippet would be able to sit at the same table! I would wager that they all were carrying concealed weapons just to be on the safe side! Can one imagine passing a metal detector over this august body!

Bear in mind that Maxtone of nearby Cultoquhey who was brave and forthright as well as a bit of an eccentric once invited his erstwhile Graham, Campbell, Murray, and Drummond neighbours round for dinner one evening and insisted on saying grace:

‘‘Oh, Lord, we ask thee to bless to us this repast and furthermore:

From the pride of the Grahams

From the greed of the Campbells

From the wind of the Murrays

From the ire of the Drummonds

O’ Lord, deliver us


Although the dinner was not a great social success, it is apparent that Maxtone knew his guests very well and his poem probably describes these clans and families appropriately!

Later Murray, the Duke of Atholl, invited Cultoquhey over for dinner. There in the great hall he asked him to repeat the grace which Cultoquhey did with great relish. His Grace was not amused and in an attempt between humour and anger said, “Take care, Cultie, for the future to omit my name in your morning devotions, else I shall certainly crop your ears for your boldness.” With great coolness Cultoquhey replied, “That’s wind, my Lord Duke!” On another occasion a retainer of the Duke’s came round to Cultoquhey’s house and told him in no uncertain terms that the Duke did not like the way Cultoquhey was characterising his family. Cultoquhey called for a servant to open the front door and telling the footman to “let out the wind of the Murrays!”

In the seventeenth century the Drummonds converted to Catholicism and from then on were Catholic to the core and staunch adherents to the cause of the Stuart dynasty - a situation which was to prove disastrous for them.

Most of the people who lived in Glen Artney were tenant farmers to the Drummonds of Drummond Castle. Although the Drummonds were Catholic and Jacobite, this did not apply to their tenants who, in the main, were Protestants. The local Laird, who had the power of life and death over his tenants, could recruit their services for any internecine warfare which he may be involved with, at any time. Their religious affiliations were not taken into account only their muscle and killing power!

A letter dated the fifteenth day of August, 1713, still exists calling out a company of men from Glen Artney to follow their local leaders, the McGrouthers and McNivens in the "Fifteen" under James, the “Old Pretender”, the father of “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, states: “William McGruther, in Dalclaythick, you are hereby ordered to acquaint William McNiven, in the same town, and Alexander McGruther in Dalchrown, to go along with you as officers to command the company of our men that is to come out of your glen, and all men are hereby ordered to obey your command on their highest peril, which you are to intimate to them, as you will be answerable to us, and this shall be your warrant.

Given at Drummond Castle, the fifteenth day of August, one thousand seven hundred and thirteen years.

See that none of the men from Auchinnear of whatever rank be absent, as they will be answerable, and all the men in good order. Signed “Drummond”

Subsequently under Bonnie Prince Charlie, the “Young Pretender”, who was born in Italy and latterly fonder of the bottle than his cause, the people of Glenartney on the Duke of Perth’s estate, were again called out in the ’45. They followed Charles down to Derby and were in the various battles of the rebellion eventually being in position at Drumossie Moor, Culloden (1746). Throughout this debacle many were killed and only a few returned.

Lord George Murray, the Prince’s most able soldier, was completely neglected and ignored by Prince Charles. He spent the aftermath of the ‘45 hiding out in Glen Artney. In the fiasco fomented by the Bonnie Prince’s father, James, the Old Pretender, Murray had also had to hide out in the Highlands in 1719, after the battle of Glenshiel, before escaping to Holland. After the ’45 he eventually found an escape route to Italy where he received a small pension from the “Old Pretender.” However, on a trip to Paris he tried to meet the Bonnie Prince, however, “Darling” Charlie refused to meet him. Murray lived in several places on the continent eventually dying in Medemblik in Holland on the 11th October, 1760, in straightened circumstances. The Murrays only received pain and punishment for their support of the Stuarts!

Lord George Murray

The Bonnie Price spoke fluent French, Italian and accented English – he did not speak one word of Gaelic! All of Highland Strathearn and Scotland suffered because of this Stuart fool!

All are familiar with the saying, “united we stand, divided we fall,” as well as “all’s well that ends well.” Often these adages apply to the ancient rivalries between many of the local feuding families. Intermarriage between land owners, since the ’45, has occurred several times, and all is at peace now! Their names nowadays are often double-barrelled, possibly like their shotguns, and are now well-known in Perthshire! They form the “green welly” brigade but I am not sure, however, if today, as in days of yore, under which side of the bed the stiletto lies!