Clan Warfare & Local Clans

The Murrays

The origins of the Murrays lay originally in the Germanic states where they were known as Moravii. They migrated to the north of Scotland and styled themselves “de Moravia.” This anachronism possibly came from intermarriage between their lineages, which is originally claimed to be Flemish, to the Mormaers of Moray.

They had been awarded vast land-holdings as a reward for services to several Scottish Kings and appeared often to be on the winning side. They allied themselves, after no doubt some considerable political forethought, with the swirling, changing pattern of circumstances eventually showing some leadership in matters of State. They made a substantial contribution to the internecine and international warfare extant in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries with one, Sir Andrew Murray, being killed at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. He was a staunch friend of William Wallace. After his death his son, Andrew took up the cause and was with Bruce at Bannockburn. He married Bruce’s sister and through this connection became the Regent of Scotland. The Murrays owned vast tracks of lands and laid claim to most of the land on the north side of the river Earn from Crieff and to Perth and beyond as well as west to Lochearnhead. The land mass included Glen Lednock to the summit of Ben Chonzie.

Like the Drummonds they always had “an eye to the main chance” and both factions brought strange notions about possession with them...what they saw they wanted, and what they wanted they would draw steel for! Or should it be “steal” for? The Murrays and the Drummonds for hundreds of years were “at daggers drawn!” An early dispute perhaps encapsulates one of the situations which caused some anxiety to each tribe!

Castle Cluggy, lies on the north side of the river Earn. As a “rickle of stones” it may have been built as early as the 12th Century sometime after the Battle of Monzievaird in 1005. This battle was fought between Malcolm II and the usurper to the throne Kenneth IV (the Grim) who was slain there. The castle is situated on a little peninsula (which once was an island) called the “Dry Isle.” It juts out into Ochtertyre Loch opposite an artificial island (possibly a crannog) in the loch called “The Cairn.”

Castle Cluggy and Ochtertye House

Originally thought to have been one of the possessions of Bruce’s great rival, the “Red Comyn”, it was classified in 1467 under a charter of confirmation as being “Antiquum Fortalicium”, a very old place. It was an early centre of dispute between the two families. It had been the home of Earl Malise, Earl of Strathearn, and the first recorded Murray to occupy it was Patrick Moray, third son of Sir David Moray of Gask and Tullibardine. The name changed to Murray through William, the third baronet.

Castle Cluggy, at that time was in the possession of the Drummonds. It was a square-shaped structure, seventeen by twenty feet within its walls with at least two or more floors. Its walls were five feet thick! To start the ball rolling it was recorded on October 22, 1488, that an action of law was laid before the Lords of Council over the issue which states, “Anent the complaint made by John Murray of the Balloch, upon David Drummond, son of Lord Drummond, for the taking of the Isle of Monzievaird, and spoilation of the goods being therein, because it was alleged by the said David Drummond that the said Isle pertained to him by reason of tack and that he was entered thereto, at the command of our Sovereign Lord’s letters by an Officer and Mair of the Steward of Strathearn; and claimed to pertain to the said John of Murray in feu form: the Lord’s assign to the said David Drummond and John of Murray, come 8 days the last day of October that is to say - the said David to prove that the said officer entered him by the said house and lands (Cluggy Castle) by virtue of our Sovereign Lord’s letter; and the said John of Murray to bring with him such rights and evidents as he will use in the said matter for his right; and ordains that in the meantime the goods taken from the said John be restored and delivered again to him, gif it please him.”

Moving swiftly, which is unusual for lawyers, the following was recorded on November 3, 1488, “the Lords decreets and delivers that David Drummond has done no wrang in the taking of the place of the Dry Isle in Strathearn, set to him by our Sovereign Lord’s Commissioners, and entered thereto by John of Cumry, mair of Strathearn, by virtue of the King’s letters direct thereupon; and ordains the said David to remain with the said place and Isle, and to brink and join (enjoy) the same, after the said tack: a day being set to John of Murray of the Trewyn, for the shewing of his rights, and oft times called and not compeared and ordains our Sovereign Lord’s letters be direct thereupon. And as anent the ordinance made by the Lords for the deliverance of the said John of Murray’s goods, it was proved before the Lords, by an instrument and by the said witness, that the said goods were delivered to John of Murray’s wife, all and hale as they were the time of the said David’s entry to the said place.” This concluded the dispute leaving the Dry Isle in the hands of the Drummonds. However this sore festered and in 1490 matters took a turn for the worse.

The land in dispute whilst “apparently” owned by the Drummonds was contested by the Murrays who claimed they had an “apparent” arrangement made by George Murray, the Abbott of Inchaffray. He therefore claimed the teinds (rents) as his. In placing the collection of the rent into effect by force he raised the ire of the Drummonds. Under the command of the William, Master of Drummond, they attacked the Murrays who were supported by their allies, the Haldanes, the Keuses and the Rollocks. The two forces met on October 21, 1490, at Knockmary on the south side of the river Earn, near Crieff. This battle is sometimes referred to as the battle of Rottenreoch and is located to the south of Crieff to Comrie Road, near Alichmore.

The result of the melee was that the Drummonds were soundly thrashed and had to beat a hasty retreat. During their withdrawal towards Drummond Castle they fell in with a combined party consisting of McRobbies and Campbells from Argyllshire under the command of Duncan Campbell, Captain of Dunstaffnage.

This group was out on a raid of their own against the Murrays in Strathearn. They were seeking revenge for the killing of Duncan’s father-in-law, Drummond of Mewie, and his two sons by the Murrays. The two parties decided to join forces and followed the victorious Murrays to their estates at Monzievaird. The Murrays with their wives and children meanwhile were attending church giving thanks for their victory over their enemies. The now more powerful combined Drummond, McRobbie and Campbell faction surrounded the church which had a thatched roof. Being seen, someone in the Murray faction fired an arrow which killed a Campbell. As a result the Drummonds promptly set alight the thatch and burned the church to the ground. About 160 people perished and the McRobbies, who had done well in the affair, were rewarded by Lord Drummond by being given the right to be buried in the south-west aisle of the church in Muthill. This was apparently a big deal! There, eighteen of them lie buried, with another six outside of the aisle.

Only one of the Murrays survived being saved from the flames by a Drummond. As a result of rendering help to the Murray he was forced to flee to Ireland. When it was safe for him to return he was rewarded by the Murrays and given “Drummondernoch,” a farm lying to the east of the Village of Comrie on the south side of the Earn. The name means, “The ridge of the Earn which flows parallel, or Drummond of Ireland.”

Even in those days sacrilege of this nature was viewed in poor taste. It prompted James IV to call personally on Drummond Castle and having the principal Drummonds tried, and when found guilty, hanged on the Gallows Hill in Stirling. When the foundations of the mausoleum on the Ochtertyre estate were being cleared the bones of the victims, Murrays, Haldanes, Robertsons, Keuses, Rollochs, Daws and Lutefutes were found in great abundance.

Castle Cluggy mouldered on and more suits were filed. It was again subject to the scrutiny of law on the 23 May, 1525, the Tullibardine family (descendants of Sir David Murray who had been knighted by James II in 1424) laid successful claim at the Tolbooth in Perth on behalf of William Murray before the Provost, Patrick Charteris, that “William Murray, heir of the deceased Wm. Murray of Tullibardin, knight, his grandfather, in the lands of Tullibardin, in the sheriffdom of Perth; and lands of Gask, Wester Downy, Pitlands and Trewyne with the ‘loch and isle’ of Dry Isle, in the Earldom of Strathearn.”

Later, a sasine was issued at Trewin dated 8th December, 1542, this states, “proceeding on a Precept of Sasine (dated 7th Nov) by King James V, to his faithful and familiar servitor, Wm. Murray of Tulybardin, of the lands underwritten, namely the lands of Trewin, extending to the £8 land of old extent, with the lake and Isle of Dryile, and with the fishings, tanner and fortalice thereof, going and returning, the one merk land of Ochtertyre, which David Murray on the last day of May, 1508, occupied, lying at length along the n. side of the foresaid lake, beginning at the burn of Downy, and extending to the fourth part of Easter Ochtertyre, in the lordship of Stratherne, and sheriffdom of Perth, the lands of Wester Thomnok, with the meadow and grove thereof, the lands of the forest of Conmuchlan, and the lands of Glenschering; the lands of Gask, Wester Dowry, and Pitlandie, the lands of Drumfyne, 6 merks land of old extent of Castletown, ward and grove, with the acres of land near Castletown pertaining to the same; the lands of Drumquharagane, except one merk thereof, called Monrusk; also the lands of Kershied with the mill and meadows thereof, the lands of Lehkok and the lands of Dawleik, all lying within the Lordship and sheriffdom aforesaid which foresaid lands are let in feu farm by the King and his father to the said William and his predecessors for payment of certain yearly farms (feu duties); and further are erected into one whole and fine barony, to be called the barony of Trewin; ordaining the manor place of Trewin, now built or to be built, to be the chief measure thereof, or a sasine of the said lands to be given to the said William, to hold good for the foresaid lands for ever.”

Castle Cluggy therefore became a possession of the Murray family and was still intact complete with its fosse and drawbridge when Cromwell’s troopers came to visit it two hundred years later. By this time the Murray land ownership and “everything” on it was considerable. Included in this landmass was Ochtertyre, Abercairney, Tullibardine, Atholl, Pitcairlie in Fife, as well as Touchadam and Polmaise, in Stirlingshire. All this was Murray land divided amongst several splinter or cadet families, but all close. They fielded participants often within opposing factions so that inheritance for future generations would not be greatly affected. The old policy of having a foot in both camps always prevailed.

Plagues were a fairly common event in daily life in the old days, and they took a tragic toll. No-one was exempt. In Ochtertyre the victims were cloistered in huts at the west end of Ochteryre Loch where they lived amongst themselves and were waited upon by attendants called “cleansers.” In 1645 an Act of Parliament directed that public contributions be taken up for the benefit of the plague-stricken in the parishes of Crieff, Monzievaird and Comrie. The Keeper of the Public Magazine in Perth was instructed to provide four-score bolls of meal for the use in these Parishes. Many, however, died and their remains were placed in burial mounds which can still be traced. In many places upright stones were placed to mark these burial sites or pits. At Fortingall in Loch Tayside there is a fine example.

Fortingall Plague Stone - Clach a' Phlàigb

At the time of the plague there were still a few wolves left in the area and one of the cleansers witnessed probably the last wolf hunt in Scotland. A number of armed men on horses spotted a male and female wolf in a wood in Trowan and set off after them. They pursued the wolves through Ochtertyre and, after a difficult chase; the wolves were cornered and killed. They were probably just about the last wolves to be found in Scotland.

The Upper Strathearn Murrays constantly moved between opposing more powerful factions. Their sympathies, and therefore support or non-support, lay in weighing the facts and considering the odds. As the prevailing wind changed so did their sympathies. They could be Catholic or Covenanter, Jacobite or Presbyterian, for King or Parliament. One had to tread warily when dealing with them and expediency was their maxim and they lived by the motto of “following the wind”, and they had plenty of that!

The Murray faction of Atholl became Dukes, complete with private armies. The first Duke supported William of Orange but didn’t like his successor Anne. His second son, the Marquess of Tullibardine, who was meant to have succeeded to the Dukedom after his brother’s death at Malplaquet in 1709, was an ardent Jacobite. He followed the Earl of Mars’s campaign on behalf of James VIII, the “Old Pretender” and spent years in exile as a result after Sheriffmuir in 1715. He returned to Scotland in 1719 and was at the debacle in Glen Shiel and forced to flee again. Undaunted our hero, now aged 56, was given the privilege of unfurling the “Bonnie” Prince’s flag at Glenfinnan, and entertained him at Blair Castle. His reward for this was capture, imprisonment, and early death in 1746.

His younger brother, Lord George Murray, became the Prince’s most able soldier. The Prince, however, had greater faith in others.

Lord George Murray

After the campaign and the debacle at Drumossie Moor (Culloden) in 1746, Charles’s bid for the throne was over. Lord George, for all his loyalty, had to spend months skulking in Glen Artney after Culloden, before making for Italy and later, Holland. Eventually he was forgiven and his lands returned to his family. However, one cannot bring back the poor dead folk who were ordered, most against their will, to fight for the “White Cockade.” In its wake it can be said that Charles Edward Stuart was responsible for bringing the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to Scotland. They, with an axe to grind, whether real or imagined, brought it down on the heads of the innocent and guilty alike.

The rape of the Highlands was undertaken by British soldiers - there were more Scots in the Army of the Duke of Cumberland than in the Army of Charles at the Battle of Culloden! William, Duke of Cumberland ever after was vilified for his actions and acclaimed as “Billy the Butcher.” Even flowers were named after him - they were called in England “Sweet William” and in Scotland “Stinking Billy!”

In the aftermath, there occurred a Diaspora, or forced eviction of at least half a million tenanted Scots from their homes, to be replaced by sheep to faraway Canada, America, Australia and other lands. Others, like most, being equally loth to leave ended up in the stench and misery of Lowland towns like Glasgow. Others equally deprived, emigrated to England to work in squalid conditions in sweat shops in towns such as Liverpool, Manchester and London. Most of those shipped overseas have done well and regard a visit to the UK and Scotland as fun, quaint and expensive! There is nostalgia but that is where it stops! Any intelligent backwards glance will only show poverty, misery, disease and famine!

On his tour of the Highlands in 1787, Robert Burns stayed with the Murrays at Ochteryre House and was well pleased with his reception. There he penned two poems which are included in the author’s book “Comrie in the Distance Fair.” One, describes his feelings about the beautiful, eighteeen year old, Miss Euphemia Murray of Lintrose. She was visiting her uncle at Ochtertyre from Methven when she met Burns. She was known as "The Flower of Strathearn."

Composed at Aughtertyre on Miss Euphemia Murray of Lintrose

(Tune "Andrew an' his cutty gun")

By Auchtertyre grows the aik (oak)

On Yarrow's banks the birken shaw;

But Phemie was a bonnier lass

Than braes o' Yarrow ever saw.


Blythe, Blythe, and merry was she, Blythe was she butt and ben: Blythe by the banks of Ern, And blythe in Glen Turit glen

Her looks were like a flower in May,

Her smile was like a simmer morn;

She tripped by the bamks of Ern

As light's a bird upon a thorn.


Her bonny face it was as meek

As ony lamb upon the lee;

The evening sun was ne'er sae sweet

As was the blink in Phemie's e'e


The Highland hills I've wander'd wide,

And o'er the Lowlands I hae been

But Phemie was the blythest lass

That ever trode the dewy green.


Miss Euphemia Murray of Lintrose - The Flower of Strathmore

Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and not everyone agrees on universal beauty. A local tenant farmer calling to pay his rent was overheard remarking after seeing her that "she's naething tae oor Kirsty." This suggests that there has always been a great variety of beautiful women in Strathearn, but that it often is a question of preference!

Burns's other poem is entitled 'On scaring some water-fowl in Loch Turit.'

Stylized engraving of Loch Turit (Turret)

He was not so well received at Aberuchill where he noted that he received a cold reception..

Later generations of Murrays would force farmers and millers off their land during the pogroms of the early eighteen hundreds. In Perthshire they did not elect to use “fire and sword” policies as was used in Sutherland, but rather told their tenants that with “improvements” there was no further need for their services and they must depart. Many, from the Comrie area, in May of 1818, walked with their families, young and old, carrying as much as they could on their shoulders and backs, to Greenock where they boarded three vessels the “Curlew, the Jane and the Sophie” bound for Quebec, and thence onwards to Upper Canada to a place now called Carleton Place, Ontario. This story is told in a later chapter.

During World War II, Ochtertyre House became a girl’s school called Seymour Lodge. Many of the pupils were evacuees from cities in Scotland and elsewhere.

The last of the Ochtertyre Murrays sadly committed suicide and the estate was sold. This was a short term venture. Again it was put on the market and the house and its considerable estate, including its gardens and its beautiful setting, and its auld rickle of stones, Castle Cluggy, became the property of a Dutch magnate. At a later period it became the property of a Scottish businessman.

The access to Castle Cluggy lies at the foot of Macara’s Brae. It appears to be a gentle slope with an odd cant to it, and should be driven cautiously. Going in the direction of Crieff it harbours black ice in the winter time. As the Drummond man said to his horse, “Gang warily!” On a recent visit to Castle Cluggy an appropriate sign had been put on display. It reads “Dangerous Building - Keep Out.” You betcha!

Ochtertyre House and Loch

The lowest barometric pressure ever recorded in the United Kingdom (925.6mb) occurred here on January 26th, 1884.