Chapter 6 of ‘Deeside Tales’: Wolf McAndrew – Lynvaig
It was a curious yet stirring dream. It all started at the Cosh with a vintage car rally of which I was the leading participant. I was, of course, driving the old Austin of The Camlet.
The true marvel was how these beautiful old cars made it up the small glen track. But that they did! Exhilaration peaked at Lynvaig, for there, just beyond the copse; Lochnagar magically peeked above the elbow of the glen.
As one rises steeply out of the birch woods, heading southwards, the main Girnoc track leads first to the scattered remains of Newton farm-toun, a farming community that was deserted in the 1840’s, and then to Lynvaig, a farm one-and-a-half miles on from the Cosh. Lynvaig has an equally lengthy history, though unlike Newton, was farmed up until relatively recent times.
Lynvaig, as it was known, has a rather romantic Gaelic translation (lòn na bhfiodhag) ‘meadow of the bird-cherry’ though Adam Watson believes that the true Deeside etymology is ‘little enclosure.’ I would never argue with Dr Watson whose understanding of upper Deeside surpasses all, however I cannot help returning to that Gaelic translation.
These days Lynvaig has become a sanitized ‘Loinveg.’ I prefer the former and shall preserve it for this text. The woodland around Lynvaig, on the south-westerly side, is a beautiful native copse, principally of Birch (Betula pendula) but scattered with Alder (Alnus glutinosa) and Bird Cherry (Prunus padus). It is as beautiful a woodland as you will ever find – light, airy and deliciously fresh.
As I have told you I have a love of trees, but easily my favourite native is the Bird-Cherry (Gean). To look at it does not command the authority of the hardwoods, but like them it is deciduous and incredibly tough. It can survive easily on the high reaches of the small glen. That is in itself a measure of robustness! Yet it is a delicate tree, never more than ten metres tall and in May is crowned in glorious white flowers with irregularly toothed petals. The sickly almond scented flowers attract many insects, particularly bees and flies. The fruits, which are like small cherries, are rich in tannin, and despite their bitter taste, are eaten by birds, like robins and thrushes. Hence the name.
The bark of the Bird-Cherry was gathered in the Middle Ages to make an infusion used as a tonic and sedative for stomach pains. One can only imagine, given its proximity to the wood, and the natural larder there-in, that Lynvaig was the ‘medicinal centre’ of the small glen. However to me the Gean is at its best in the autumn, displaying rich russets and oranges, which seem all the more brilliant in the midst of the muzzy purple-brown of the feathery birch.
Lynvaig was the birthplace of Euphemia MacAndrew (the first wife of Camlet John.) Her tombstone in Glenmuick, sits just beside her parents; John MacAndrew and Isobel Roy. Examination of the old parish register reveals that there were several MacAndrew families in Lynvaig throughout the eighteenth century with the head of household carrying names such as Donald, James and John. Bob McAndrew a retired pathologist from Dunkeld in Perthshire, described in a letter how ‘the density of family groups in Crathie parish points to it being one of the focal points of origin of the name.’
The McAndrew name crops up in an unusual Deeside tale, which was recently rehearsed by Dr Sheila Sedgwick in her book ‘The Legion of the Lost.’ The last Wolf in Deeside was probably killed in Glen Gairn in 1744, but before then they would have been common within the district, and were noted particularly in Glen Muick and Glen Girnoc. According to Dr Sedgwick, about 1890 an ‘old man’ used to tell a story of a young child being ‘carried away by a wolf’ many years previously. The small child was nourished by the wolves in a den on Lochnagar. He grew to be of considerable size and seemed to be of a wild disposition. Once the men of the glen discovered the den of wolves they set out to capture the boy. They finally succeeded and after the boy had been in human company for some time he became ‘socialised’, even if not completely civilized. He did however retain an excessively hairy appearance and that trait was said to continue through his descendents, who were known as the Wolf McAndrews.
On the 22nd of April 2006 an Episode of the new Dr Who series was aired called ‘Tooth and Claw’ the storyline of which (about a Werewolf Disorder and Queen Victoria) prompted a furious reply by Dr Sedgwick of Girnoc Shiel who alleged the idea had been stolen from her. Given that the viewing figures that night were in excess of 10 million, the cynical might say there was motive in Dr Sedgwick’s claim! In fact the title of this episode comes from a favourite poem of Queen Victoria written by Tennyson in 1850: ‘Nature, red in tooth and claw.’ This particular poem was a special comfort to the Queen after Prince Albert’s death.
Werewolf Doctor Story was Stolen!
A Scottish author has threatened to sue the BBC after saying it nicked her storyline for an episode of Dr Who… Dr Sheila Sedgwick MBE has sent a strongly-worded letter to BBC lawyers demanding an explanation.
In 1999 Dr Sedgwick, 81, of Ballater, Aberdeenshire, wrote an historic Victorian account of a “wolf boy” in her £12.50 book The Legion of the Lost. The youngster lived in a cave on the 3,800 high peak, Lochnagar, on the Balmoral Estate. Now Dr Sedgwick is convinced the plot idea for the werewolf storyline on TV is from her book.
I come from a family of men renowned for their swarthy beard-growth and perhaps now we can explain why?! Through Euphemia McAndrew we inherited wolf blood. The best family beard was displayed by John Gordon (1816-1899), who was the grandson of Camlet John and Euphemia McAndrew.
In March 2004 I wrote a poem about a burn in Glen Muick. That burn is called Allt Darrarie but is known locally, and in folk-lore, as Aultdrachty. You may ask why include a burn from Glen Muick when this book’s remit is the Girnoc? Well the answer is simple; time and time again Aultdrachty returned us to Lynvaig. Folklore beckoned a poem, and so the tied histories, became one. The Aultdrachty Rauchle is about the unique rattling noise the burn makes as it rushes down towards the Spittalof Muick. Its torrent may have never ceased but the glen it served emptied. Aultdrachty encapsulates the story of unfortunate whisky smugglers, a fatigued packman, and most curiously of all, the umbrella makers of Lynvaig (they appear there on the 1891 census!) But it was ruthless murder that was Aultdrachty’s grim secret. That burn was as fearsome as the wolf that roamed its banks. I have decided to include the whole poem here as its narrative seems to deserve.
The Aultdrachty Rauchle.
Naebody mynds Aultdrachty noo,
though lood it rattles still.
Yet Aultdrachty’s watter wis’nae awas clear,
an it hods a muckle saicret.
Sae hearken, an hear the feech
o’ the packman, shepherd an the whisky smugglers.
An beyont the reevin win’
the toon-folk, michty-me,
brought forth their ceevil brolly –
Fit mare eesless cud there be!
Stapit foo’ wi dram he wis,
oor Packman on’t fairst erran –
oor hapless loon had’nae heed Aultdrachty’s rowt
on such a loamin’ nicht.
The snaa it came ower the Moonth, a bin-drift,
like nane afore.
Poor loon, asleep aside Aultdrachty,
his lum still a reekin’ was berit.
Lynvaig, wis the hame of McAndrew: anither mither’s loon –
lured by Aultdrachty’s cackle.
Then risen fae a halla, a sleekit naisty beast,
seelenced by Aultdrachty it pounced.
Aye Aultdrachty saa it’ fearsome.
Aultdrachty’s rauchle had a’ thirst that widnae slack.
Half a’ loam smugglers naixt tae the slauchter,
theer bellies reed-het wi’ watter distillate,
jeelous Aultdrachty cud’nae hae that!
Aye the watter wis nae awas clear.
An then Aultdrachty reeled its maist keerious,
the hapless, stupit toon-folk,
the umberella loami:
fit an’ earth tak them tae Aultdrachty, nane will ken,
nane but Aultdrachty.
Fit a spleeter o’ weet,
A shooer like nane
eesless brollies, blan in-bye-oot,
sae they huddled by Aultdrachty.
The watter it fell oot fae the heeven fur days, an nichts,
an fullt the quaich o’ Aultdrachty welt beyont the brim,
Ceevil folk, wi brollies, had nae chance.
That’s how lood wis Aultdrachty’s rattle
an sae its keerious tae think
the glen it ken’t has lang since ceased to roar.
It is strange is it not, what inspires one to write a piece. In the course of writing this book I was most surprised to discover that, completely unknown to me, one of my favourite Doric story-tellers had written her own poem on Aultdrachty called the Burn of the Stunning Noise. It is wonderful, evocative and rather special but does not carry the sinister rauchle!
Slaverin, slubberin, gibberin, gabberin,
Roon wi a wallop, a sklyter, a sweel
Yonder’s the burn – in its bairnhood, it’s blabberin –
Heich-lowpin loamin, wi virr in its heel!
Bellied an dauchlin, it’s tashed an it’s trauchlin,
Beached in a bog, like a biblical whale;
Hashin an dashin, it’s up an it’s clashin,
Skelpit an skytin, like chaff frae the flail.
Come the fey nicht, fin the loaming is glysterie,
Lang as a note on a tenuous string,
Black as a swan, o’ immaculate mystery
Doon rowes the burn, on a sang an a wing.
Dulcet as Chopin, Menuhin, Beethoven
Jinkie’s Stravinsky, as breengin as Bach
Syne, wid I bide b’ it, thirled an tied tae it,
Drink o its music a strang willie-waucht!
Lynvaig was, in the early nineteenth century, to become the home of Francis the younger brother of ‘Camlet John.’ Francis Gordon has also been given the Camlet eponym for he raised most of his family there before flitting, sometime before 1816, to Lynvaig. His first wife, Margaret Glass, died in childbirth in January 1790. The Glass family strike at the heart of The Camlet with a truly inextricable bond. Fly the crows-nest to the Forest of Birse and you come to another lost farmstead – Auchabrack, the home of the Glass family for nigh on two centuries. It is fact that several generations of Auchabrack married into the inextricable Gordons of Girnoc.
Sharon Jameson has been the best of Deeside compatriots and nobody has done more than her to pull together the historical fabric of the parish of Birse. It was Sharon who specially brought Auchabrack back to the Camlet.
The forefather of Auchabrack was Donald Glass who died in March 1797. His eldest son Charles Glass continued at Auchabrack, and in December of the following year, married Jean Gordon. This was probably how small glen blood first flowed into Auchabrack. Frustratingly however Jean Gordon has cowered in obscurity, and when she died just a year or two before the date of civil registration, the last chance of definitively proving her origin was lost.
Charles Glass of Auchabrack and Jean Gordon had a large family, but two of their first three daughters, Charlotte and Jane, married Gordons. Charlotte Glass married John Gordon, a man many years older than her; he was already 64 years old when in 1832 they married in Aberdeen. Here we have another unidentified Gordon who marries into Auchabrack. Charlotte Glass and John Gordon were buried under a distinctly impressive memorial in Nellfield Cemetery in Aberdeen. The other Auchabrack daughter, Jane Glass married Peter Gordon (1804-1859). In Peter we have at last an identifiable Gordon; Peter was the son of Camlet Francis.
If I could travel back to the nineteenth century, I would chose first to meet the three Glass sisters of Auchabrack: Ann, Charlotte, and Jane. These sisters died before the era of portraiture and had it not been for Sharon Jamieson, their story would have been forever lost. Charlotte, as we have learned, married a man old enough to be her father, if not grandfather. John Gordon her husband was 73 years of age when they had their last child in 1841. Ann Glass, the eldest of the sibship had a child each with three different fathers – a laird, an Advocate and a gentleman. It is easy to imagine her as a betwixing yet adept beauty. Like her sister Charlotte she first married a much older man, Henry Grassie, who was more than forty years her senior.
The Glass-Gordon bond was stretched taught in the spring of 1832 when a Gordon loon (son of Camlet) and a Glass loon (son of Auchabrack) were both indicted for telling lies. The whole case revolved around the purchase of a horse from a further cousin who lived in Wardhead. It seems that John Glass of Auchabrack did not give the full purchase price of twelve pounds to Wardhead. Furthermore, John Glass and his cousin, John Gordon (the youngest son of ‘Camlet Francis’ and born at Lynvaig in 1816), concocted a story together to cover themselves of any wrong-doing.
It is hard to fully disentangle the story as the Case Papers are incomplete and the precognitions do not survive. Furthermore, the legal language is dense, and there is much confusion over the many Glass and Gordon proponents! In many ways, it seemed to me, like a lot of fuss over not very much, but then I had not appreciated the real value of a horse at that time. It was, if you recall, a stallion that had previously saved the Camlet family (chapter two). The confusion of the GLASS HORSE case stands as a metaphor for the two families, for you can see from the complex annotation above that these two families had an inextricable bond.
THE INDICTMENT OF APRIL 1832, ABERDEEN.
JOHN GORDON, alias GEORGE YOUNGSON, presently prisoner in the jail of Aberdeen, and JOHN GLASS, of Forest of Birse, farmer or crofter, now or lately residing at Auchabrack, Forest of Birse, parish of Birse, and shire of Aberdeen, you are Indicted and Accused at the instance of Francis Jeffrey, Esq his Majesty’s Advocate, for his Majesty’s interest:
THAT ALBEIT, by the laws of this and of every other well governed realm, PERJURY; and also SUBORNATION of PERJURY, are crimes of an heinous nature, and severely punishable:
I have found myself re-writing this section over and over again. The temptation with Camlet Francis is to convey the detail, but given the complexity of the inextricable Gordons, that surely risks tedium. You may not be surprised to learn then that the second wife of Camlet Francis was also a Gordon! She was called Margaret and speculation has surfaced that she was the daughter of Nathaniel Gordon of Toum (in Glen Gairn).
What do we know about Camlet Francis? Well the most obvious fact pertains to Lair 1309 in Nellfield Cemetery, for it was here in September 1839 that he was buried aged 89 years. Over the next two generations twenty-two of his family were to join him in this a most crammed resting place. Lair 1309 has thrown up many mysteries, but serves particularly to remind us of the relentless clearance of the small glen, and in the case of Camlet Francis, nearly an entire family to the metropolis of Aberdeen city.
Further detail about Camlet Francis emerged in 1905 when Dr Bulloch, researching for the House of Gordon, contacted Mr David Burnett Gordon, who served with the Grenadier Guards in the Crimea. In a letter of response he told Dr Bulloch:
‘I was born at Lynvaig. My father’s name was Francis Gordon, farmer and cattle-dealer. My grandfather’s name was Francis Gordon. He was farmer of the home farm of Abergeldy, for three nineteen years, previous to 1834, the year I was born.’
This would indicate the closest of bonds to Abergeldy. The indefatiguable Dr John Malcolm Bulloch was compelled, on hearing this, to place Abergeldy’s small glen and its many Gordons.
When I first started my Deeside quest a decade ago, I was directed to the ‘Gordonology’ of Dr Bulloch, which was all published in Notes and Queries. I mused then what had fired such obsession in a man, to continue lifelong research into a family in which he did not even belong? It has taken me a further decade to uncover John Malcolm Bulloch’s story, and as a result, I have discovered we share much. If we had belonged to the same century, there can be no doubt, John Bulloch and I would have been dear friends. After all we were both graduates of Aberdeen University, and we both became bewitched with Deeside. The glowing embers of our passion were borne of that Abergeldy hearth. I find myself reflecting that Bulloch, like me, did not distinguish himself in Aberdeen academically; simply we were not the greatest alumini – yet I think we both carried a passion that enveloped our beings. Yet an interest should not sit alone, and whilst I distinguished myself in Horticulture and Architecture; Bulloch learned to tread the theatrical globe, and became the eminent Pall Mall theatre critic of the century’s turn
In every way Bulloch’s reach has out-spanned mine. I could never be his match. There can be no doubt, Bulloch used his obsessional traits, mighty as they were, to good purpose. The obituaries to him, in 1938, credit his work in the history of the Gordons. Yet I find myself congratulating him for his incredible diversity. It is creditable indeed to exceed in one field but to go far beyond marks immeasurable brilliance. In my opinion Dr John Malcolm Bulloch was one of Aberdeen’s greatest sons and we shall certainly ‘not see his like again.’
Yet behind every genius there lies weakness. A pervasive discipline underpinned Bulloch’s being and he failed to recognize the intense toll of such. He thrust himself into the hectic hey-day of Pall Mall. It is recorded that as the ‘Nation’s favourite Theatre Critic,’ Bulloch saw first the good in performance. That, I think, is the essence of an Aberdonian. Yes he was critical but not cynical. What better qualities could a Theatre columnist have? When he died, he left every first-day revue and program to the British Museum. I have found myself wondering, if in this our modern world of digital instancy, Bulloch would have been at the media helm?
Yet Bulloch, I think, had an awkwardness that transposes every photograph I have seen of him – at any age. He has that self-conscious look, that heavy upper philtrum (perhaps born of his parents’ consanguinity) that suggests awkwardness. He was small in stature and I imagine that in company he may well have covered timidity. Not surprising then that in books, manuscripts, literary out-pourings, he was at home. With them he needed no company but his own.
John Malcolm Bulloch was born exactly a century before me. He arrived to this world at Springbank Terrace, Aberdeen on the 26th May 1867. His parents were cousins sharing ‘Malcolm’ grandparents. Baby John was the third generation to carry the name, and in his University years Bulloch added ‘Malcolm’ to his name in honour of his mother’s family and to separate his literary genius from that of his father and grandfather. It should be noted that his grandfather John Bulloch (1805-1882) wrote, whilst in Aberdeen ‘Studies on Shakespere.’
Bulloch’s family was originally from Baldernock in East Stirlingshire. Mittie Bulloch the mother of Theodore Roosevelt was a relation. She was a striking beauty. The Baldernock Bullochs had probably gone there from the Isles, for they were originally MacDonalds, descendents of that Donald who was known by his nick-name ‘Balloch,’ the Gaelic for ‘freckled.’
Bulloch’s grandfather, a Brass-founder was brought to Aberdeen by chance after reading an advertisement in the summer of 1829 for two vacant positions in the silver city. He arrived by sea on July the 20th aboard the paddle-steamer ‘Velocity’:
‘My first sight of Aberdeen was a very enchanting one – the sea beach, the arched tower of King’s College, and the spires of the Aulton Cathedral. We anchored in the Bay, and were taken ashore in a small boat.’
Two decades later that paddle-steamer, by then bravely entering the harbour, was wrecked in stormy seas upon the jutting north-pier. The story of Fittie’s wrecks is extraordinary and can be read in the Leopard article ‘Fittie’s Tragic Harbour Master’ (issue 335.)
John Malcolm Bulloch’s grandfather (on the Malcolm side) was the teacher in Leochel-Cushnie and graduated at King’s College in 1821. It was thus surprising to learn that when John and William were first sent to the Aberdeen Grammar School, they were regarded as ‘unsatisfactory pupils’ and were transferred to the Old Aberdeen Grammar School, popularly known as ‘The Barn.’
William, Bulloch’s brother, was a year younger and was also to be an Aberdeen graduate. He is worthy indeed of mention, for as a student of Medicine, he took every accolade going and graduated as the class Gold Medallist. The ‘Barn’ would have been proud indeed and how wrong, we now muse, was the Grammar School to throw the Bulloch brothers out!
As a Bacteriologist, William Bulloch (1868-1941) helped Dr Joseph Lister developing anti-serum for typhoid, cholera and diphtheria. ‘Verify your references’ was his invariable and salutary slogan, a stickler for detail, he used to despair at slack student standards: ‘fatheads’ an exasperated Bulloch was often moved to call them. Dr William Bulloch could be brusque and unbending if he scented pretence, and the notice on his private door “THIS IS MY BUSY DAY’ was certainly not encouraging, but that demeanour served ‘only as a cloak of defence for at heart that was said to be straightforward, kindly and hospitable.’ Nevertheless, as an Aberdeen graduate in Medicine myself, I am glad that I did not come under his tutelage for likely I would have been one of his ‘fatheads’ and I simply have no time for bullies in whatever guise.
It is interesting to reflect on the driving force that underpinned these two brothers; in later years, in a fashion very similar to his brother, John Malcolm used to annonce at the end of a busy day in the office ‘I’m going home now to work!’” Dr Bulloch’s first contributions to journalism were made when he was a student. He graduated M.A. in 1888 and in the following year became a sub-editor on the staff of the ‘Aberdeen Free Press.’ Four years later he went to London as assistant editor of ‘The Sketch’ of which he ultimately became editor. Forty five years in London, his love for Aberdeen, never abated, in fact it gathered an even greater intensity:
‘It is my proud boast that I know nearly as much about Aberdeen and its people today as I did forty years ago when I left the north for the Metropolis. During all these years I have endeavoured to keep in intimate touch with Aberdeen and the Nor’-East, not only through the many visitors who come down south, but also be frequently returning to the city itself, for I believe that it is as necessary for a Scotsman to maintain association with Scotland as it is for a Salmon to return to the sea each year.’
‘If it were possible I would spend all the daytime in my Aberdeen over my hobbies, with a good look at the sea – which I miss intensely – and all my nights in London, where the flash of Girdleness would be replaced by the lamps of Piccadilly and the whole romance of the Metropolis after dark.’
Whilst in London Bulloch lived initially in Pall Mall and later in Doughty Street, next door to Charles Dicken’s old house, and he loved to give guests a tour of the district and could freely rehearse every theatrical and literary association of each abode. A visit with Bulloch to Bloomsbury was unforgettable. From 1893 onwards Bulloch went to every first-night theatrical production – in forty five years more than three-and-a-half thousand! He was beloved as a reviewer and regarded for his couthie warmth, and succinctness of prose. How he found time in his life one simply cannot fathom, for as well as his day job as an Editor, he read six to a dozen books each week. Each book reviewed, he would print inside the cover a book-plate and monogram, before donating to Aberdeen University Library: ‘To Aberdeen University from her grateful son, John Malcolm Bulloch.’ Latterly these books came in to Aberdeen at the rate of about 600 per year!
Bulloch also liked to pen verse, and simply loved his native Doric. At university he coined himself ‘The Jack-daw of Rhymes.’ My favourite Malcolm Bulloch work returns him to Old Aberdeen in 1928 and his University dedication:
It’s mair than forty year since we gaed doo
The Spital Brae.
An’ heard the auld bell dirlin’ oot a soun’
That seemed to say,
Come in-by here my loon!
Reading this I felt the echoes of his grandfather who saw the arched tower of the auld college. There can be no doubt he would have been proud of his grandson.
John Malcolm Bulloch brought Thomas Hardy, his friend, to Aberdeen – a friendship that remained till Hardy’s death in 1928. It was undoubtedly Bulloch who campaigned for the University to confer an honorary degree on Thomas Hardy. Bulloch described his modest friend after a visit to Aberdeen in 1907:
‘Nobody would have dreamed from his conversation that he had anything like the philosophical grasp which distinguished him. He was intensely shy. But Aberdeen soon put him at home’
‘The great novelist was up early enough this morning to join a group in a smoking-room before the train reached London. With a smile in his pensive, sad eyes, he listened to the vivacious talk of his friend Mr John Malcolm Bulloch. . .’
Thomas Hardy’s last reference to Aberdeen is in another letter to Bulloch, dated 6th October 1918: ‘I am glad to hear about old Aberdeen. To me it bears, & always will, a curiously romantic aspect. I suppose I shall never see it again’. Hardy never did return to the city which awarded him his first degree.
It is impossible not to be gobsmacked at Bulloch’s diversity. His breadth was astounding; a small, pawkish man he had an innate humanity that his brother had not. He was insatiably curious about other people’s jobs, and was perfectly happy chatting with a bricklayer about bricks, or a milkman about milk. Indeed he had friends in every walk of life.
As a child Bulloch helped his father to accumulate material for his Historic Scenes in Aberdeenshire. The turning point for young Bulloch came with the 1897 Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria, for that year, Bulloch aged thirty, was asked to write a piece on Lord Byron. Bulloch grasped the challenge and was inspired to find the north-east roots that sired such waywardness in Byron. And that is how his first ever Gordon piece was borne, and that Gordon journey, first tread:
‘ . . and before I knew where I was I found myself in the possession of a great mass of collateral information, much of which had never been coordinated into readable form.’
So it was that the Romanticism of Byron first pulled Bulloch towards the Gordons. The House of Gight, and Byron’s mother Catherine Gordon explored, next came Abergeldy and a passion was fired. Sorting that inextricable Gordon sibness, the good, the great and the not so, was to be Bulloch’s Everest. When he died in 1938 he left his 230 volumes and 47 boxes of ‘Gordoniana’ to the University Library. The House of Gordon in three volumes was to be an unparalleled piece of work; the opus of a tireless researcher. Even today, with the resource of the internet, few have surpassed Bulloch.
Both Dr Bulloch and I share that obsessional streak. Call it drive if you want. It is a trait that brings much good but also leads to premature death. We also share an understanding, that in our work, many will not appreciate our passion. I differ from Bulloch on Gordonology – for the pursuit of one name brings no reward to me. I like the stories that hang on the names; a string of ancestors is simply dull to me.
At his funeral, in the beautiful Old Chapel of King’s College, on the 9th March 1838, a wave of flowers swept over Malcolm Bulloch’s coffin stretching from almost one side of the chapel to the other. In attendance were poets, artists and literary folk, as well as his school and university friends. The many sorrowing hearts then followed the cortege of the Gordon Highlanders up the auld toon to his grave where a memorial recorded simply the death of a favourite alumni, a son and Aberdonian; ‘a critic, a poet, historian.’
Sir Alexander MacKintosh: ‘Malcolm Bulloch was full of vitality. He never seemed to get old.’ ‘I think he was the most helpful man I have ever met. He would go to endless trouble to help anyone. The telephone bell in his room was always ringing with inquiries about some abstruse and obscure piece of information, and the more obscure it was the better he liked it. He hunted down the facts with the same zest that a hunt follows a fox.’
Writing to Dr J. Tocher, a fortnight before his death; Bulloch at his desk immersed in work: ‘I shall be with you in Aberdeen at the end of March and we shall talk of our joint enterprise and of cabbages and kings.’
As a postscript to the story of the life of Dr Bulloch, I would like to acknowledge how unassuming he was. Just getting his portrait took me two years. The University Library which he loved, and to which he left his vast collection, have only the barest fragments of his life story. I was saddened looking through the library, as so many of the books there, were once Bullochs, and yet the Library knew not a jot about him. I plan to put that right with this biography and to have his portrait framed for the University. I agree with Bulloch about the Salmon returning to the sea (page 195.) It is interesting that this was the subject on which I opened ‘Deeside Tales.’
It is time now to return to Lynvaig. The farm was run throughout much of the twentieth century, not by the family of ‘Camlet Francis,’ but by the children of his brother ‘Camlet John.’ The tenancy of Lynvaig passed from Francis to John around 1834. We shall, for the sake of avoiding confusion, call the son of Camlet John, ‘Lynvaig John.’ He moved there with his wife, Mary Downie (his second cousin) and two young children John, aged 12 and James aged 8. Interestingly both boys were born at Mill of Cosh, indicating that for some years after their marriage, John and Mary lived there.
Mary Downie, wife of ‘Lynvaig John’ was born at Crathienaird in May 1789. Her mother was Mary Leys (1757-1851) and she, like many in her family, was an Innkeeper. She is remembered on a prostrate tablet stone in Old Crathie Churchyard. Her father Francis Leys (1712-1787) was Innkeeper at Inver and his (assumed) sister was Barbara Leys of Balindory.
‘Lynvaig John’ (born at the Camlet in 1787) farmed 26 acres of lower Girnoc. Both he and his wife Mary died before civil registration in 1855, but as he appears as a 64 year old widower on the 1851 census. At the point of his death, his two sons, John and James, continued the tenancy of Lynvaig farm. It appeared that both brothers were to remain confirmed bachelors, until early 1881 when John (who was then nearly sixty) married Helen Anthony, a local girl and laundress. Helen, a widow, was of a similar age to John, and beyond the age of child-rearing. Sadly she enjoyed only four years of marriage, dying at Lynvaig in December 1885 after battling pulmonary tuberculosis. In the 1891 census, the two elderly brothers, John and James, had three lodgers, several of whom were described as ‘Umbrella Makers’ – this seems amusing to me, for the weather in the Girnoc would surely be far too harsh for the ‘civilised brolly of the toon folk!’
The farm of Lynvaig is now, like all the Girnoc farms, deserted. Its windows are boarded and doors padlocked. The steading roof with dislodged tiles, now sags, and in a storm of 2005, was prised open by an autumn gale. Within a decade, there will be no more than ‘stane rickles’ to remind us of Lynvaig’s past. It is sad then to think, that it was the last farm in the glen to be tenanted, and then as recently as the late 1980’s.
Within Lynvaig’s steading (which was originally one of a number of ‘longhouses’) are the scattered remains of old farmhouse furniture; rusty iron bedsteads, chest of drawers (with mouldy lining paper), and an empty tin trunk. There is also an old horse-drawn thresher machine, which is now riddled with woodworm and rot; on its wooden drum, survives some ancient graffiti. John and James Gordon have signed their names in pencil, and in what appears the same handwriting, the following is scribbled:
“Lost last night, Emma Gordon, last seen going down the road with Fred Duncan’s clothes on. Any one giving information on her where-aboots will be rewarded.”
Though I have not the rigour of Bulloch, I do confess having tried to tackle the inextricability of the Girnoc; yet still, I have no idea who this Emma Gordon was, or why she was wearing Fred Duncan’s clothes! We may never know.
That horse-drawn thresher has intrigue all of its own, in the form of its Victorian doodles; defaced over decades, it is a reminder of life where now it has gone. My mind was unexpectedly brought back to that thresher and the Lynvaig homestead last summer when I was passing-by Robert Gordon’s School in Aberdeen, for outside the entrance stands a bronze statue, by T. Stuart Burnett of General Gordon of Khartoum (1833-1885). Over his head some drunken student (no-doubt) had lodged a large fluorescent orange traffic-cone. I found myself vaguely wondering if this was to do with a recent revision, that had outed both Baden-Powell and General Gordon as paedophiles. However, what struck me in that instant was how little I knew about General Gordon. Sure Khartoum was familiar to me, rehearsed no doubt at school, but what did I know of this Victorian hero? Not a lot. I felt ashamed; for I knew Dr Bulloch would not stand such ignorance.
Today, even in Scotland, few people could say precisely who Gordon was, what he was doing in the Sudan, why and by whom he was murdered. Still less could they say what there was in his character and acts to justify his becoming ‘the Stainless Knight of the century.’
When General Charles George Gordon was speared to death at Khartoum in 1885, Queen Victoria was said to have ‘had difficulty in speaking.’ ‘Grief inexpressible’ she wrote to Gordon’s sister. ‘Indeed, it has made me ill!’
The authors Hanson who wrote the paper from which I have gleaned the life of General Gordon made a solid reputation with biographies of the Bronte sisters, and George Eliot, and appear all too fair and balanced to want to debunk Gordon. They state at outset ‘a man without fault is dreadfully dull and also extremely improbable. What … we asked ourselves, was this man really like?’ Well, he was a small, blue-eyed Scot whose charm was so great that even his enemies forgave his furious temper and Messianic pomposity. He detested formal society and despised money: often his first act on taking new office would be to cut his salary. He led scratch armies to victory all the way from Nanking to Equatorial Africa, but he never came near to winning his private battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Gordon drew two circles on paper, one marked ‘Body,’ the other ‘Soul.’ His whole faith consisted in believing that everything in the ‘Body’ circle was foul and contemptible, and that only in the ‘Soul’ circle was there ‘the indwelling of God.’ But like most people who dote on going round in circles, Gordon was always flying off at tangents.
Gordon read the Bible ceaselessly, pressed on members of Gladstone’s Cabinet copies of Dr Samuel Clarke’s Scripture Promises, and never wearied of asking God to carry him out of this world into ‘he very bright, happy land with beautiful sights and glories.’ But he also reveled in brandy, tobacco, the thrills of war and the company of handsome youths and boys. At best, this contrast between Gordon’s beliefs and acts resulted in savage self-hatred.
Fanatical activity was Gordon’s main answer to his troubles. He was only a captain of Engineers when he hit China like a bomb and smashed the power of the Taipings, a host of rebels who were destroying both their own government and British trading rights. A brilliant sapper and artilleryman, he blew gaps in walled towns that were deemed untakable and led his skimpy armies through the breaches, puffing gaily on a cigar and waving a bamboo cane. He parleyed with his enemies, but if they resisted both God’s word and Gordon’s charm he turned scarlet with rage, called for a Chinese dictionary, and laid a trembling finger against the word ‘idiocy.’ He sent home the most extraordinary dispatches ever received by the Foreign Office. ‘Anyhow, it matters little,’ he concluded a report on the Turkish Empire. ‘A few years hence a piece of ground six feet by two will contain all that remains of Ambassadors, Ministers and your obedient, humble servant.’
None of this appealed much to Mr. Gladstone. But the old Queen, and the hero-worshiping public, knew nothing about Chinese Gordon’s ‘Body’; they saw only the ‘Soul’ personified, defeating and converting heathen hordes and making his name the terror of African slave traders. When Egypt was threatened by the Mahdi (a Sudanese who believed he was the supreme prophet), there was uproar in Britain when Gladstone refused to send Gordon out to deal with him. Not until the Mahdi had built an army 300,000 strong did the Gladstone government bow to public pressure and order General Gordon to Khartoum.
Gordon sent the garrison a typical telegram: ‘You are men, not women. Be not afraid; I am coming.’ On reaching the city, in February 1884, he told the despairing commandant: ‘Khartoum is as safe as Kensington Gardens.’ For some months he actually convinced the Sudanese that he was right; even the London Times correspondent lost his head. ‘The way he pats you on the shoulder when he says ‘Look here, dear fellow, now what do you advise?’ would make you love him . . . . He is … the greatest and best man of this century.’ But Khartoum became a besieged city.
Gordon ordered all dogs and cats and donkeys to be killed and eaten, rats to be caught and eaten. The gentle Gordon changed into a holy terror – ‘an old man, white-haired . . . kicking, shouting, punishing.’ A new and terrible burden of guilt now rested on him: he knew that by defying the Mahdi’s orders to surrender, he had made sure that every inhabitant of Khartoum would be slaughtered if no relief force arrived.
He spent hours on the palace roof, his telescope trained down the Nile in search of the smoke of gunboats. But he saw only the white puffs of the Mahdi’s cannon. ‘I am quite happy, thank God,’ he wrote his sister in his last letter, ‘. . . and have tried to do my duty.’ Before dawn on Jan. 26, 1885, the Mahdi forced his frightened troops over Gordon’s land mines and the Arab army poured into the city.
The screams of dying citizens rang in Gordon’s ears as he stood unarmed at the top of the palace steps. A party of Arabs, their ‘bloodstained white robes [swinging] brightly in the dim light,’ swept up to him and halted. ‘Where is the Mahdi?’ demanded Gordon. They made no reply.
‘Where is the Mahdi?’ he asked again. This time, the leading sheik answered with a shrill scream: ‘Oh cursed one, your time is come!’ and drove his spear through Gordon’s body.
As a postscript the British press put the blame of Gordon’s death on Gladstone, who was charged with excessive slowness in sending relief to Khartoum. An acronym applied to him, G.O.M. (Grand Old Man) was changed to M.O.G.(Murderer Of Gordon). This led to his resignation. Queen Victoria never forgave her Prime Minister.
General Gordon of Khartoum goes back to the Baronetcy of Park, a castle and estate in Banff.
So there we have it, Gordon of Khartoum’s curious Memorial in Lynvaig. Soon it will be gone. The ‘artists’ that festooned that old horse-drawn thresher certainly had a sense of humour, for tucked away in one corner was a little label “The Scottish Footballer Machine!” So this was where our players were borne – manufactured at Lynvaig and fit for a Nation?!
Returning to the estate plan drawn up by John Innes in 1806, it is clear that Lynvaig was originally one member of a triumvirate community; the others being of course, the farms of Newton and Linquoch. The latter being the only community within the Girnoc to be situated east of the burn.
Newton, which is pictured below, was deserted before 1850, and the last farmer to occupy it was John Lamond with his wife Ann and four young children. The last child born at Newton was little James Lamond born in September 1844, but in the following few years the family were gone, and seem to have left Scotland’s shores in search of promise that the small glen could not.
Through the heather, and garnered by a delightful birch wood, the remains of John and Ann Lamond’s little community of Newton, still survive. Now however they are no more than stone footprints, and one has to work hard to conjure-up an image of how this huddle of longhouses must once have appeared. Nature has made an even better attempt at reclaiming Linquoch, and only the most intrepid of souls would ever chance upon it. One such individual was Robert Smith, who was the first to alert the present writer to Linquoch’s existence:
‘Below Lynvaig, across the Girnock Burn, I was looking for another ‘lost’ settlement. The first time I heard about it was when I was searching for Loinmuie in Glenmuick.’
Although the 1869 Ordinance Survey map confirms that an old track once connected Linquoch (in the Girnoc) with Lonmuie (in Glenmuick), it only names the latter. So by this date, Linquoch had long since been abandoned. This seems surprising, given that this had probably been one of the key routes linking the two glens and thereby opening the route over the Capel Mounth to the south. Linquoch is the name given by John Innes in his estate map of 1806, but other similar names have been described, including Lynefork and Loinn a’ Chorce.
The approach to Linquoch is lovely, meandering as it does through the airy and scented Birk Wuid of Lynvaig, before coming to a halt at an old wooden bridge over the Girnock burn. From here it appears as if the path suddenly stops, but closer scrutiny reveals the familiar pattern of ruined buildings lost in the heather on the opposite side of the burn. A survey carried out at Linquoch by Ian Shepherd, the Aberdeenshire archaeologist, showed a settlement with different styles and dates of dwellings. Longhouses, a corn-drying kiln and the faint remains of several kailyards were found. The ruins lie on two levels, with a superb view up the glen. A series of superb aerial photographs were taken in November 1988 with Linquoch buried under snow, with the relief highlighted in the low winter sun, revealing an incredibly intricate (and rather beautiful for all that) arrangement of cotterhouses in an utterly organic form. With the eye-of-faith one could just make-out the path leading upwards through a gap in the hills to Lonmuie.
In 1966 John Cooper Kennedy moved down from The Camlet to Lynvaig. It must have felt like the civilized south! Yet still there was a dispute with the Laird about the School Car which he forbade traveling up the track from Woodend. As a result the Kennedy’s granddaughter Carol had to walk. She did so as the very last generation to return to the Girnoc from School on foot.
In the 1970’s Loinveg became a summer-let and was occupied by the family of Anna Oddie who went on to become the teacher of young Alistair Repper and helped him complete his Duke of Edinburgh Award on the small Girnoc Glen. Her memories focus not on the silent glen but on its vivid calls of nature. Lynvaig was awash with sounds and from her pillow Anna used to hear Mr Esson of Bovagli calling in the sheep from the hill, with the whistle and dog working overtime! More frightening to a child was the loud roars of the Red Deer who gathered in the copse behind Lynvaig. Each stag had its own distinct bark and the competition over status was spectacularly loud! Then, far more delicate, were the visiting Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), small dumpy birds with long straight bills, they would dive in zig-zags over Lynvaig making a distinctive drumming sound (a bit like a lamb bleating) which they produced by air vibrating through their spread tail feathers. The steeper the dive the louder the sound! To Anna it must have sounded like an air-raid on remote Lynvaig!
Oh and as we leave this chapter on Lynvaig can I make a plea, next time you visit the Girnoc, keep a look out for Emma Gordon, and if you do see her mind now to tip yer hat!