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THE COLQUHOUN COUNTRY
The traveller leaving Balloch for Luss to-day, on one of the handsome little steamers which ply to the head of the loch, has his interest attracted by a succession of picturesque mansions — surely, for situation, among their beautiful wooded parks, with the hill-sides rising behind, and the lovely islanded waters of the loch below, among the most delectable dwelling-places in the kingdom, Each of these has some literary, historic, or other interest.
Tullichewan or Tully-Colquhoun has already been mentioned. Originally, from its name, a Colquhoun possession, it belonged in 1543 to a member of the great Dennistoun family, Patrick Dennistoun of Dalvait. A century later it was acquired by Alexander, third son of Sir John Colquhoun of Luss, by Lady Lilias Graham, sister of the famous Marquess of Montrose. When Sir Humphrey Colquhoun of Luss died in 1718 without male issue, the Tullichewan family came to represent the male line of the Colquhouns, with curious results to be detailed later.
Cameron, on the loch-side a mile farther north, was also an ancient possession of the Dennistouns. In 1612 it was acquired from Walter Dennistoun of Colgrain by Sir Alexander Colquhoun of Luss, who disposed of it as a feu. In 1696 the feu was purchased by Donald Govan, the "Old Admiral" of Humphry Clinker, and in 1763 Commissary James Smollett of Bonhill became its possessor. There he entertained his cousin, Tobias Smollett, in 1766, and Dr. Samuel Johnson in 1773. On his death it was inherited, with the Bonhill estate, by Tobias Smollett's sister Jane, wife of Alexander Telfer of Scotston, and from that time its owners have been her descendants, Telfer-Smolletts.
Auchendennan, the next mansion and estate, is the only one retaining the name of the three ancient Auchendennans —
Auchendennan Lindsay and Auchendennan Righ
And Auchendennan Dennistoun, the best of the three.
Once, as its name implies, a part of the royal hunting demesne formed by Robert the Bruce when he lived at Cardross, and afterwards a church possession of Dunbarton, Auchendennan-Righ was feued about the time of Flodden to one of the Dennistouns, Andrew of Cardross, whose descendants held it for a hundred years. For another hundred years it was owned by the Napiers of Kilmahew, a branch of the famous family which inherited a fourth of the Lennox. Early in the nineteenth century a Glasgow merchant, William Rouet, built on the rising ground an Italian villa which he named Belretiro, and which was replaced later by George Martin, another Glasgow merchant, with the present mansion of Auchendennan.
Inverbeg: on Loch Lomond, opposite Rowardennan
Next along the shore, Auchenheglish, the "Field of the Kirk", takes its name from an ancient chapel which the clergy of Dunbarton built on their property here. There is a tradition that the kirk stood on ground now covered by the waters of the loch, A perch off the shore marks the spot. During periods of drought a heap of stones appears above the surface, and wrought wood is said to have been taken off the roof as recently as the year 1760 by Thomas Nairn of Balloch, The existing mansion was built by Mr. Brock, first manager of the Clydesdale Bank.
Still farther north, the lands of Auchendennan-Dennistoun, with the Colquhoun property of Bannachra behind, were purchased in 1770 by a Glasgow merchant, George Buchanan, who changed the name of the estate to Arden, About 186o this was acquired by Sir James Lumsden, Lord Provost of Glasgow, who built the present stately residence on the spot.
The old castle of Bannachra, the ruin of which stands on the rising ground in the mouth of Glenfruin behind, was in 1592 the scene of a tragic incident. In one of the feuds of the time, Sir Humphrey, chief of the Colquhouns, was beset by his enemies here. His servant was induced to betray him, and in lighting him up a stair so shone a candle on him as to make him a mark for those outside, who shot him with an arrow through a loophole. The deed has been blamed upon the Macgregors and Macfarlanes, but in Birrell's Diary it is stated that on "Nov. 30 John Cachoune was beheidit at the Crosse of Edinburghe for murthering of his auen brother, the Laird of Lusse", and as it was not John Colquhoun but the next brother Alexander who succeeded Sir Humphrey, Birrell's statement seems to point to the truth.
This Sir Alexander, who succeeded, was the chief who took part, eleven years later, in the conflict with the Macgregors, known as the battle of Glenfruin, The ruin of Bannachra overlooks the scene. According to the Macgregors the feud was caused by the Colquhoun Chief hanging two Macgregors who had stolen and suppered off a sheep, though they afterwards offered to pay for it. There is evidence, however, that Clan Gregor was really set on by the Earl of Argyll, who was Colquhoun's bitter enemy. Some three hundred were engaged on each side, but Alastair Macgregor, more practised in war than his opponent, divided his forces, attacked the Colquhouns in front and rear, and soon threw them into confusion. He pursued them to the gates of Rossdhu, and slew a hundred and forty of them, while he himself lost only two followers, including his brother John. Sir Walter Scott, in his novel of Rob Roy, makes the Macgregor boatmen, as they row Bailie Nicol Jarvie down Loch Lomond, entertain him with a song of triumph on the subject:
Proudly our pibroch has thrilled in Glen Fruin,
And Baunochar's groans to our slogan replied;
Glen Luss and Rossdhu, they are smoking in ruin,
And the best of Loch Lomond lie dead on her side,
Widow and Saxon maid
Long shall lament our raid,
Think of Clan Alpin with fear and with woe;
Lennox and Leven-glen
Shake when they hear again
Roderich Vich-Alpin Dhu, ho! ieroe!
But the Macgregors themselves had, after all, the most fearful cause to lament the exploit, They followed up their victory by burning and ravishing the whole lands of Luss, and one of them, Dugald Ciar Mhor of Glengyle, set to watch a party of schoolboys who had come from Dunbarton to see the fight, cut short his charge by slaying them all, When Alastair his chief met him rushing to the plunder, and asked what he had done with the students, Dugald held up his bloody dirk and said: "Ask that!"
Such deeds were bound to bring retribution. A band of sixty Colquhoun widows paraded before James VI at Stirling with their husbands' bloody shirts on poles, and the horrified King gave instant orders for the punishment of Clan Gregor. Their houses were burned, their name was proscribed, and they were hunted like wild beasts in the hills. A year later Alastair Macgregor himself was betrayed by Argyll. The Earl undertook to convey him safely out of Scotland, fulfilled the letter of his promise by carrying him to Berwick, then arrested him, and brought him back to Edinburgh where he was tried, condemned, and executed. Assuredly Clan Gregor had ample reason to curse the hour in which "the black wedder with the white tail was ever lambed". Scott has put their resentment with vigour into another of his songs, "Macgregor's Gathering":
Through the depths of Loch Katrine the steed shall career,
O'er the peak of Ben Lomond the galley shall steer,
And the rocks of Craig-Royston like icicles melt,
Ere our wrongs be forgot or our vengeance unfelt!
The ruin of the old castle of Rossdhu still stands beside the modern mansion of the name on the loch-side. Among those who have been entertained within its walls was Mary Queen of Scots, who paid a special visit here and stayed over night on 15th July, 1563.
The owners of the old tower date their origin from Humphrey of Kilpatrick, who acquired the barony of Colquhoun on Clydeside in the reign of Alexander II and built the stronghold of Dunglass Castle there. His great-grandson, Sir Robert, married the heiress of Luss, and his great-grandson again, Sir John Colquhoun, was Chamberlain of Scotland, Sheriff of Dunbartonshire, and Governor of Dunbarton Castle for James III. One chief married a daughter of the first Darnley Earl of Lennox, and another a sister of the Great Marquess of Montrose. The last-named was made a baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles I, absconded with his wife's sister, Lady Catherine Graham, and by his wild living brought the fortunes of his family to the verge of ruin.
Ben Venue and Loch Achray, Trossachs
The senior male line of the Colquhouns ended with the fourteenth chief; Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, M.P., who died in 1718. He entailed the Luss estates on his daughter Anne and her husband James, son of the Laird of Grant, and since that day the Colquhouns of Luss have been really Grants by the male descent. In 1786 trouble arose over the baronetcy, which could not have its destiny altered like the estates, and had actually passed to Colquhoun of Tullichewan, and a new patent was granted to Sir James Colquhoun, It was he who built the present mansion of Rossdhu, and who founded Helensburgh on the Gareloch and named it after his wife, a daughter of Lord Strathnaver, son of the Earl of Sutherland. More recently the family has distinguished itself in the literary world. John Colquhoun, grandfather of the present baronet, was the noted sportsman who wrote The Moor and the Loch, and one of his daughters is Mrs. Walford, author of many charming novels.
One of the most memorable tragedies of Loch Lomond occurred on a December day in 1873, Sir James Colquhoun, the fourth baronet, was returning from Inch Lonaig, the Colquhoun deer island, with his keepers and a load of venison for distribution to the people on the estate. From Luss the boat was seen to pass behind Inch Connachan on its way to Rossdhu, and neither it nor Sir James himself was ever seen again.
The ruined chapel near Rossdhu, in which the Colquhouns are buried, dates from the beginning of the twelfth century, a hundred years before Alwyn, second Earl of Lennox, granted the estate of Luss to his kinsman Maldowen, Dean of Lennox, ancestor of the original Luss family. Older yet are the memories of the rude stone figure preserved at Rossdhu, which represents St. Kessog, the patron saint of the parish, A stone coffin, believed to be that of the holy man, was dug up many years ago in the village kirkyard at Luss itself. Another stone coffin, unearthed at the same time, was believed to be that of a certain Baroness M'Auslan, wife of a noted leader at the siege of Tournay. On her death in France her body was brought home and buried in Luss kirkyard, and from the fleurs-de-luce strewn on her coffin plants grew up. These proved efficacious in staying a pestilence then raging, and from them the parish is said to have taken its name.
Luss village by the loch-side, at the foot of its mountain glen, is one of the prettiest in Scotland. It was mostly rebuilt in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and with its rustic cottages covered with roses and tropæolum all summer long, is an altogether ideal spot.