Rothiemay: Bridge over Deveron

The Ballads

Public suspicion was particularly strong agains Lady Frendraught, probably unjustly. In one ballad called "Fremmet Hall" the following reference is made:-

"When Fremmet Castle's ivied walls
Through yellow leaves were seen,
When birds forsook the sapless boughs
And bees the faded green.
Then Lady Fremmet, vengeful dame,
Did wander frae the ha’
To the wild forest's dowie glen
Amang the leaves that fa'."

In another rhyme, young Rothiemay is represented as saying:-

When he stood at the wire window,
Most doleful to be seen,
He did espy Lady Frendraught,
Who stood upon the green.

"And mercy, mercy, Lady Frendraught,
Will ye not sink with sin?
For first you hurt and did kill my father,
And now you burn his son."

The Burning of Frendraught

About 1630 James Crichton, Baron Frendraught, purchased some land from his neighbour William Gordon of Rothiemay, and a dispute arose about the salmon-fishing rights on the "Doveran" passing with the purchase. In order to settle the matter Frendraught applied to the Privy Council who decided in his favour, and a disappointed Rothiemay began harrying the lands of  his neighbour "with fire and sword." Frendraught again applied to the Privy Council, who issued him with a commission for the arrest of Rothiemay, and on 1st January 1630 Frendraught proceeded with an armed force to put the commission into execution. But Rothiemay put up armed resistance, and a conflict took place in which several were hurt on both sides. Rothiemay was wounded, and died three days later.

The following May Sir Robert Gordon and the other commissioners sent to sort out the situation found that the young laird of Rothiemay had engaged the help of the outlaw James Grant and 200 highlanders, and was ready to extract revenge. With some difficulty the young laird was restrained and a reconciliation with Frendraught was effected through the Marquis of Huntly. Although Frendraught had law on his side he agreed to pay Rothiemay's widow fifty thousand merks (£2915) in compensation; so the parties shook hands in the orchard of Strathbogie, and the money was paid.

But then another quarrel arose. John Meldrum, of Redhill, not satisfied with his reward for supporting Frendraught, stole two of the latter's horses, and was outlawed, and took refuge with his kinsman, Leslie of Pitcaple. On 27th September 1630, Frendraught, and his relative, Crichton of Conland, met by accident, the son of Leslie of Pitcaple, and came to blows. Crichton of Conland drew a pistol and wounded young Leslie, who was taken home. Leslie of Pitcaple, with thirty horsemen, and "jack and spear", set out to have his revenge, and, hearing that Frendraught was with the Marquis at Huntly at the Bog of Gight, now Gordon Castle, arrived there on 7th October. Bog of Gight

The Marquis of Huntly did not allow the parties to meet in the house, but tried to persuade Pitcaple that Frendraught had not done wrong.

Pitcaple, however, left the Bog vowing vengeance. The Marquis of Huntly persuaded Frendraught to stay at the Bog for the night, and next day directed his son John, Lord of Aboyne, otherwise Viscount Melgum, to accompany Crichton to Frendraught in case Pitcaple should be lying in wait. The young Laird of Rothiemay also happened to be at the Bog and joined the company.  When they reached Frendraught the whole company was persuaded to stay for the night, and, after having been well entertained, they were put to bed in the old tower which was of four storeys, with thick walls, and few narrow window. On the ground floor was a vaulted room, from which access was got to the upper rooms by a hole, as the owners, at that time, did not wish too convenient an access. Each floor above had one chamber,  with a timber floor.

On the first floor slept Aboyne; his servant, Robert Gordon, and his page, "English WiII." On the next floor was the young Laird of Rothiemay with some of his servants; and, on the top storey were George Chalmers of Noth; George Gordon, another of the Viscount's servants; and Captain Rollok, of Frendraught's company.

About midnight, when all were in bed, a fire started in the vaulted chamber and set the whole tower ablaze "in ane clap". Robert Gordon, Aboyne's servant, escaped; also the occupants of the top floor; but Aboyne, who had tried to warn those above, Rothiemay, and four others were trapped by a collapse and perished in the fire. The bodies were, by Huntly's orders, put into wooden boxes, and interred in the kirkyard of Garntully, now Gartly.

After the fire a servant girl named Wood was seized and tortured to ascertain the circumstances, but as she did not  provide any useful information she was "scourged and banished from the Kingdom."  Suspicion also fell on John Tosh, the master-household of Frendraught, who was also tortured, but, as there was no confession, the charge was not brought before an assize. While the commissioners appointed by the Privy Council found that the fire could not have been raised from the outside, Meldrum of Redhill was later executed, even though it was proved that he was at Pitcaple at the time of the fire and there was no suggestion of him having an accomplice inside. So the cause of the fire remained a mystery.

The news of the burning of Frendraugh created much excitement throughout the whole kingdom. Some blamed Frendraught, while he again blamed Pitcaple. The Marquis of Huntly, probably remembering the fine he had recently imposed on Frendraught for the death of Rothiemay, strongly suspected Frendraught and Lady Frendraught, even though they had lost many valuable papers and gold and silver articles with an alleged value of some 100,000 marks in the fire.

On the morning after the fire, Lady Frendraught was said to have arrived in a pitiful state, riding on a small horse led by a boy, at the Bog but was turned away by the Marquis, who was her cousin.Afterwards she went to reside with her two daughters at nearby Kinnairdy Castle.

So began a long running feud between the Crightons and the Gordons.