Thursday, 28 February 2013




Seo Màirin mhór Uilleim a’ rithistich.

Amongst the Badenoch papers in the family chest was this story. (There’s a photograph of it in the accompanying photographs). Our family do not know who Ian Dubh was but the story was obviously of some significance to have been preserved. We already know that two Leslie ancestors aided Cluny Macpherson, a staunch supporter of the Jacobite cause, and were amongst a handful who knew of his hiding place, apparently building his shelter and bringing him supplies in secret after the ’45 uprising. Perhaps this is another of the few on the Macpherson side.

“ Ian Dubh had the honour in all probability of saving the Chief’s life on another occasion also. One day in the same year 1746 he saw a band of soldiers approaching from the North. It instantly rushed into his mind that this ought to be known at Cluny Castle [seat of Cluny MacPherson, a Jacobite sympathiser, near Laggan in Badenoch].

He put off his rough home-made brogues to facilitate his progress and started off to run to the castle taking the way by which his movements were least open to observation. He reached the castle in safety and warned the chief and his family of the coming of the soldiers. Cluny’s wife took refuge in a lime-kiln which was near the castle and Cluny himself betook himself to his cave in Craig Dhu [near Newtonmore, Badenoch]. One hour after Ian Dhu had given warning the soldiers came and set fire to the castle. Ian is said to have hurt his foot in his race for life. Ian knew of the chief’s hiding place but nothing would tempt him to reveal it.

He is also said as the Gaelic has it to have ‘nourished’ his chief. He probably supplied him with food. Such is one of the many acts of fidelity performed by the poor mountaineers of Scotland at that period. One thousand pounds was offered for Cluny’s capture, dead or alive.

Ian Dubh’s conduct must be remembered with more admiration when we reflect what such a sum would represent to him. He could have bought the whole of Badenoch. “You are a foolish man Ian” people are said to have said to him, knowing that he could have given up the chief had he pleased. But Ian had a “Highland heart as true as steel” and did not betray his chief.

He was hale and hearty when nearly eighty years of age and those who knew him said that he looked a fine figure in his Macpherson tartan kilt and plaid. He was an elder of St. Columba’s Church Kingussie and although he could not read he is said to have had a capital memory. When he heard others reading what the minister had read in church he knew when they made a mistake and said “That is not what the minister said”. He is buried with many more of his ancestors, relations and descendents in the old burying ground of Biallid [churchyard beneath Creag Dhubh, Newtonmore].”

A BADENOCH POEM From Thomas Sinton’s ‘The Poetry of Badenoch’

De ni mi gun léine ghlain,
Gun léine ghlain, gun léine ghlain ;
De ni mi gun léine ghlain,
'S mi dol as a' bhaile màireach.

Tha tigh agam, tha bean agam,
'S an bùrn aig ceann an tigh agam,
Tha punnd do shiabunn geal agam,
Is léine shalach ghnàd' orm.

'Nuair thug mi dhi gu nigheadh i,
'S ann thòisich i ri bruidhinn rium ;
'S an uair a fhuair mi rithist i,
Bu mhios' i na mar bha i.

Bidh 'h-uile fear a' farraid rium,
'Farraid am beil bean agam,
'Farraid am beil bean agam,
Is leine shalach ghnàd' orm.

What shall I do without a clean shirt.
Without a clean shirt, without a clean shirt
What shall I do without a clean shirt,
And I going from home to-morrow?

A house I have, a wife I have,
And a burn at the end of the house, I have;
A pound of white soap I have,
And a dirty ugly shirt on me!

When I gave it to her to wash for me,
She just began to speak to me ;
And when I got it afterwards,
'Twas worse than as it was.

Every man will be asking me
Asking if a wife I have ;
Asking if a wife I have,
And a dirty ugly shirt on me !


The farm of Laggan near Kingussie, was in olden days the residence of a famous witch called “ Bean-a-Laggan” or the Wife of Laggan. Adjoining the farm was the crofting township of “Tigh-na-Camahe”. These crofters and the Wife of Laggan were continually at cariance in consequence of the stock of one encroaching on the rights of the other. The crofters’shepherd whose holding was nearest to the farm, suffered the most from loss and annoyance.
Finding the Laggan sheep one day eating his corn, the shepherd put them in the poindfold and demanded payment for the damage done. The Wife paid the money grudgingly and and vowed that she would make the crofters rue it.
After this the shepherd’s cows fell sick and died, his barn was burnt down and his house became haunted by a large black cat of a ferocious aspect. These calamities frightened his wife and family so much that he was obliged to leave the district. But his departure did not put an end to the misfortunes of the crofters. These occured at one or other of the holdings almost daily.
Another shepherd had to be obtained, and finally the duties were taken up by Donald Bane, who had much skill and experience and under whose management a change for the better took place. He advised that all cows should have a sprig of bog fir attached to the horn or tail, that byres be protected from evil by rowan branches, and house doors by horse shoes.
Still the black cat prowled about, and chickens and eggs were frequently missed. Donald suspected that the culprit was something more than a cat, so he put a silver button in his gun, and when a favourable moment came he fired at the brute, hitting it on one of the hind legs. \the cat gave a great scream and disappeared. The next time the Wife of Laggan was seen, it was noticed that she walked with a halt.
Shortly after this, during the month of July, Donald was with the sheep on the hills, staying in the bothy at Corrour. After a wet day he was sitting at the fireside drying his clothes when presently a black hen walked in at the open doorway and took up a position near him beside the fire. The dogs growled and Donald blessed himself. He perceived that the hen grew bigger and bigger and at last assumed the form of the Wife of Laggan.
She opened the conversation by requesting the shepherd to tie up the dogs, evidently fearing attack from them.
“ I have nothing to tie them with” answered Donald.
Taking a few hairs from her head, she said “Here, tie them with these”.
Donald put the hairs on the sleeve of his wet coat. She then sprang upon him like a tigress, whiloe the dogs barked and snapped at her. This was evidently more than the woman bargained for, and she cried out “Tighten hairs; cut and strangle!” But after a severe struggle Donald prevailed, and the witch took to her heels, being chased by the dogs. Donald followed at dawn next morning.
A short distance from the bothy he found one of his dogs dead, with a piece of human flesh in his mouth.
On his arrival home, Donald was told that the Wife of Laggan was dying. He then related what had happened in the bothy. Thereafter a number of the men preceded to Laggan farm-house, but they were too late, for the witch had just died.
They carried the remains to the top of a round hillock near at hand (where Kingussie’s War Memorial has been erected [since re-located to Kingussie gardens]) and there burnt them. It is a remarkable fact that, when the hill was planted, no trees took root near that spot.

From ‘Legends of Badenoch’ pub. 1965 Jas. Johnstone and Sons at the Badenoch Printing Works.

Thank you for reading,

Slàn leibh uile,

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