Monday, 23 September 2013

Toshach Castle - Strathearn Stronghold of the Clan Macintosh

The Toshachs of Strathearn and Possibly the USA !

A Strathearn Castle That Has " Vanished " !

The name  “Toshach “ is  not one readily associated  with Strathearn – indeed  those  older  citizens  amongst us  will  recall  one John Toshack  who was a renowned football /soccer player  for  Wales  many moons ago ! Indeed the name crops up again as “ Taoiseach” – the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic . It is derived from the Gaelic 'toiseach', meaning chief, leader or front man. An ancient title ranking next to the mormaer. The Toshach's of  Monzievaird ( pronounced mony – vaird ! ) had as their coat of arms a silver shield surmounted by a fess or horizontal bar .It has been speculated that the Toshach's of Monzievaird held the rank of barons. The Toshes (or Toshach's) of Monzievaird were derived from the Thanes of Strowan ("The Highland Clans, Sir Ian Moncreiffe ) .

“ Pit and Gallows" was a charter given by the King to the chiefs to enable them to keep law and order within their own estates. The Laird Toshach's of Monzievaird were accustomed to hang or behead a man on the first day of every month at Torn-an-Tosach, an act apparently designed to prevent loss of this feudal right

"Laird (lord) Toshach was, however, one of the first to give up this right

when the 'Act of Heritable Jurisdiction' came into force. The act

virtually freed the clansmen from the authority of their chief and had

in many ways a similar effect to the abolition of slavery, with the

chief being left with little but his title and estates."

Just which Laird Toshach this quote refers to is unknown. The act in question was passed in 1747 well after the last Laird Toshach who it is thought   by many to have died in 1689.  By this time the system of Heritable Jurisdiction had become obsolete across much of Scotland and it was just one of a series of acts dating back to at least the reign of James I of Scotland limiting the powers of chiefs and lairds.

I stumbled across  a submission to the genealogical web site Rootsweb away back in 2000 which makes interesting  reading  . The Toshach’s seemed  to have  disappeared completely from Strathearn and this perhaps  is a relevant but unsubstantiated answer!

On March 16, 1684, David Toshack, known in America as "The Laird of Minivaird", acquired a one fourth share of the Earl of Perth's one twenty-fourth share of East New Jersey, in America. Toshack , and a man named Patrick Mac Gregorie, who was married to David’s sister Margaret Toshack, gathered together a group of about twenty five families, and their servants and came to America as a group, landing first in Maryland in 1684, and then going to New Perth, or Perth Amboy, in New Jersey. From there they made their way to East New Jersey, and to nearby unclaimed land in what was to later become Orange County, New York state . They were the earliest white settlers in that area.
 Barvic Spout

I recount  below a tale  written in 1860 in a little book entitled “ Beauties of Upper Strathearn”  and makes interesting  reading in a time  before the motor  car controlled the highways and there  was  an air of bucolic bliss about this  part of our Strath ! The castle is  shown on the early ordnance survey  maps to the west of  Greenend near the old  saw mill . The OS Reference is NN 846 243. Like so many of our places  of local heritage Castle Toshach has  fallen victim to the Philistines that control our Ordnance Survey – quite shameful !

The hamlet of Monzie rests sweetly near the copse – clad banks of the Shaggy and Kelty streams ,north of the turn pike . There are three cascades on the Shaggy, north of the village ; and on the eminence of Knock  Durrock , immediately above it , are the remains of an oval encampment , evidently of Caledonian origin . Besides the village are the handsome new parish church and the beautifully situate manse of the incumbent . The most interesting portion  of the vale of Monzie having been surveyed  we may now retrace our course westwards to Glenturret . Proceeding up this romantic glen , here richly overspread with plantation, in half a mile  we reach a bridge across the Barvic , a mountain stream which has already in our progress united the waters  with the Turret . At this bridge a gate opens on a footpath, which winds itself up the margin of a ravine , in which the Barvic comes thundering down a series of cascades and caldrons , the river falling 600 feet within the eighth part of a mile . A little distance onward from the bridge across the Barvic, we attain another bridge , which crosses the stream of the Turret ; and about a hundred yards  beyond, we reach a few plain cottages , near which , on a spot indicated  by a box - wood tree stood the old keep of Toshach , the Chief of the Clan Macintosh, and one of the last chiefs, according to the story, who, prior to the statutory abolition of feudal jurisdictions , exercised the power of “pit and gallows “ .

A legend reports the chief to have held nocturnal interviews , with a fairy whom he had brought with him on his return from a protracted absence abroad ; but the mode of his reaching the place of colloquy , and the precise nature of his companion were long regarded as a mystery . His lady at length became jealous of the frequent departures of her lord from his chamber during the night , and being unable to discover whither he proceeded , resorted to the scheme of attaching a piece  of worsted  to his button ; thus guided she followed him down a concealed subterranean passage conducting from the castle to the bottom of a ravine of the Turret , when ,after various  circuitous paths, she discovered him in close conversation  with the fairy , who had the aspect of a beautiful lady . The discovery exited Toshach’s wife with feelings of desperate jealousy; she upbraided her lord with infidelity to her , and insisted on the immediate destruction of the stranger , who thereupon suddenly fled , and the “ sun of Toshach set to rise no more ” . The extent of the chief’s cruelties and barbarities excited the violence of the neighbourhood; the inhabitants rose against him , and he fled from his place , and died abroad in obscurity . The remains of the castle were removed , upwards of half a century ago by the late Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre .








Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Murder of the “ Red Fox “ - a mystery unsolved for over 250 years

                                                    Murder suspect Ailean Breac Stewart
                                                               Recreated likeness

Murder Site Memorial Cairn

To the memory of a man  hanged in a travesty of justice

This tale is  perhaps geographically out with the normal range of this “ Blog “ but the recent  press  coverage and general interest deem that I include it  for  the wider  audience .

As a schoolboy in those  so far off days I was nurtured on the works Stevenson and Scott as well as  the  more modern John Buchan . Buchan  just happened  to have been a pupil at the same establishment I attended albeit  some  years prior ! Stevenson’s“ Kidnapped  “ was  undoubtedly amongst the  most popular  of the “ home  readers”  we had  to digest in the quest for the basics of our  Scottish heritage . “ Kidnapped “ introduced  me to the tale of the Appin Murder which is indelibly marked in the story of the great conflict that was the ’45 Uprising .

James Stewart of the Glen ( Seumas a’ Ghlinne ) was convicted and hanged  for the murder of Colin Campbell of Glenure – the” Red Fox “  - who was the Hanoverian Government’s Factor ( manager and rent collector ) . He was on his  way to evict the ex tenants  of exiled Stewart chieftains . James Stewart was a Jacobite who had  fought at Culloden . His arrest and subsequent trial and execution are still regarded  as total fix  and  set up that cannot be justified in terms of Scottish law , Eleven out of the fifteen jurymen were Campbells – clansmen of the murdered man . The trial was held in Inverary home of the Duke of Argyll – Chief of the Clan Campbell and  incredibly the  senior  of the three judges on duty at the trial ! The Campbells  were strong  supporters of the Hanoverian establishment and strongly opposed  to any one or anything  connected  with the Jacobite Stewarts ! After  a non stop 53  hour session James Stewart was found  guilty . He was executed  near the southern  end  of where the present Ballachullish Bridge now stands some distance  to the east of where the  murder was committed .

For 18 months the body of James Stewart - James of the Glen - was left to hang on the gibbet at an elevated and highly visible spot on the south end of the Ballachulish Ferry.

It was a sinister aftermath to one of the most shameful episodes in Scottish history - the Appin Murder. It claimed the lives of two men - one killed by sniper fire, the second "judicially" murdered after a rigged trial which paid no heed to justice, only the needs of vengeance and political expediency. The gruesome public display of the hanged man's remains was one of the final flourishes of the bloody maelstrom that was clan warfare in Scotland.

Stewart unquestionably went to the gallows an innocent man. His own clan family knew that from the beginning but refused to turn in the guilty man. Instead, in one of the best kept secrets in history, the identity of the killer was passed down to selected Stewarts through the  generations before being revealed by one , Anda Penman , an 89 year old resident of an Inverness Nursing Home . She was a direct descendant of the Stewarts of Appin and claimed that the real murderer was Donald Stewart , son of Stewart of Ballachulish .

Amongst the suspects and  one identified  by Stevenson in his novel “Kidnapped “ was Ailean Breac Stewart ( Allan Breck of the novel ) whose likeness has  just been replicated by Professor Caroline Wilkinson of Dundee University . She has an international reputation in the art of head reconstruction   or “ craniofacial identification “ .

The Appin Murder happened in May 1752, six years after the Battle of Culloden. The dead man was Colin Campbell of Glenure, Argyllshire. Known as "The Red Fox", he was the factor of several estates which had been forfeited from pro-Jacobite clans and his challenging task was to collect taxes from clan leaders.It has been claimed that on the day he was shot Campbell was about to indulge in a spot of "ethnic cleansing" by evicting Stewart families from their houses on the Ardsheal estate and replacing them with Campbells. That claim has never been proved but post-Culloden, anti-Campbell sentiment was rife in the west Highlands. The Campbells, living in the heart of clan country, were however loyal to the Hanoverian monarchy and deeply unpopular among those who had fought with Charles Edward Stewart, the Bonnie Prince himself. They had also been seen to "do the bidding of their English masters" at the Massacre of Glencoe 60 years earlier.

Colin Roy Campbell was 44 and ambitious. His work was distasteful but the more fair-minded regarded him as a decent man who made the best of a difficult job. At Ardsheal, James of the Glen helped him collect Stewart rents and the two men often consulted.

On 14 May, Campbell and four others had just crossed Loch Leven on the ferry and were passing the road at Lettermore Wood when a musket shot rang out. Campbell lay dead and the killer disappeared into the rugged countryside. Within two days James of the Glen had been arrested and taken for trial .

One of those who fell under suspicion was Stewart's half-brother, Alan Breck Stewart, described as a vengeful young hothead who had stirred up anti-Campbell hatred among his clansmen. Robert Louis Stevenson became so fascinated with the story that he based the novels Kidnapped and Catriona on the episode - with Alan Breck as one of the leading characters.

Back in 1754 the sight of the remains of James Stewart was too much for one of the locals . "Daft Macphee" is said to have uprooted the gallows and thrown  it into Loch Linnhe and that it then floated into Loch Etive before coming to rest further south near Bonawe. The wooden gibbet was used as a bridge across stream and the bones of James of the Glen were carefully gathered and buried - by none other than young Donald Stewart of Ballachulish.

This week ( the first one in September 2013 ) the Royal Society of Edinburgh have organised a two day event to re examine  the murder of Colin Campbell – the “ Red Fox “. A number of eminent  forensic science , legal  and academic  figures will gather together and applying  modern techniques attempt to threw some light on this macabre mystery !

Further Reading : I would recommend a superb book written by Dr James Hunter called Culloden and the Last Clansman published  by Mainstream ( ISBN 1840184833) Jim Hunter  grew up in Appin and as a child played in the ruins of the house of James of the Glen . He helped  found the Scottish Crofters Union and  for a number of years chaired the Board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise . He has written extensively on the Clearances and other matters  concerning the Highlands .

 BBC NEWS SUMMARY 05 September 2013

The Appin murder inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Kidnapped.

Modern forensic techniques have been used in an effort to reveal evidence in the case.

As well as a reconstruction of Ailean Breac's face there has been a detailed examination of how the murder weapon would have fired.

The experts include forensic scientist Prof David Barclay, retired judge Lord Kenneth Cameron of Lochbroom and historian Prof James Hunter.

Prof Hunter, who as a boy played in the ruins of Seumas a' Ghlinne's house in Duror, wrote a book about the case.

In setting out the murder's historical context for the review, Prof Hunter said Ailean Breac and Donald were suspected of the shooting.

The historian said: "To be part of this review has been one of the most enjoyable things that I have done in a long time.

"To see work of the forensic experts and scientists, and the seriousness and amount of effort they have put in, has been fascinating."

The team has been presenting its findings during a two-day event in Fort William. It concludes later on Thursday.