Glen Livet


A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Glenlivet (Gael. gleann-liobh-aite, ' valley of the smooth place '), the southern portion of Inveraven parish, S Banffshire, consisting of the basin of Livet Water, a stream that is formed by the confluence of Suie and Kymah Burns, both rising at an altitude of 2300 feet above sea-level, and winding-the former 33/8 miles southward, and the latter 51/8 miles north-by-westward. From the point of their union (1100 feet), the Livet itself flows 8¾ miles west-north-westward and north-north-westward, till it falls into the Aven at Drumin (700 feet), 5 miles S of Ballindalloch station. Its principal affluents are Crombie Water on the left, and the Burn of Tervie on the right; its waters contain abundance of trout, with occasional salmon and grilse; and its basin is rimmed by lines of mountain watershed, whose principal summits are Ben Rinnes (2755 feet), Corryhabbie (2563), Carn Mor (2636), Carn Dulack (2156), and Carn Daimh (1795). Glenlivet post office, with money order, savings' bank, and telegraph departments, stands 5¾ miles S by E of Ballindalloch; and there are also a branch of the North of Scotland Bank, Glenlivet quoad sacra church, and the famous Glenlivet distillery of Messrs G. & J. G. Smith. At the close of last and the beginning of the present century, whisky of exquisite flavour was made in fully 200 illicit stills, or on almost every burn among the hills. The Distillery Act of 1824 changed all this; and Glenlivet's smuggling bothies gave place to five legal distilleries-a number now reduced to only one. Fairs fall on the day before the third Thursday of May, and before the fourth Thursday of October, April, and the six intervening months. An ancient barony, Glenlivet belongs now to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, and gives the title of Baron in the peerage of Scotland to the Marquis of Huntly. The quoad sacra parish is in the presbytery of Aberlour and synod of Moray; the minister's stipend is £120. Glenlivet still is largely Catholic, there being two churches at Chapeltown and Tombae; whilst five schools-Glenlivet public, Achnarrow and Crossness female, and Chapeltown and Tombae Catholic-with respective accommodation for 104, 41, 69, 195, and 144 children, had (1881) an average attendance of 32, 19, 40, 38, and 22, and grants of £24, 18s-, £31, 5s. 6d-, £48, 15s., £28, 2s., and £13, 8s. Pop- (1871) 1718, (1881) 1616.

A spot near the right bank of Alltacoileachan Burn, 4 miles E by N of the post office, was the battle-field where, on 4 Oct 1594, the loyal Protestant army under the Earl of Aryll was defeated by the insurgent Roman Catholic army under the Earl of Huntly. Argyll disposed his army on the declivity of a hill, in two parallel divisions. The right wing, consisting of Macleans and Mackintoshes, was commanded by Sir Lachlan Maclean and The Mackintosh; the left, of Grants, Macneills, and Macgregors, by Grant of Gartenbeg; and the centre, of Campbells, etc., by Campbell of Auchinbreck. This vanguard consisted of 4000 men, one-half of whom carried muskets. The rear of the army, 6000 strong, Argyll commanded in person. The Earl of Huntly's vanguard was composed of 300 gentlemen, led by the Earl of Errol, Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun, the lairds of Gight and Bonnitoun, and Captain, afterwards Sir, Thomas Carr. The Earl himself brought up the rest of his forces, having the laird of Clunie upon his right hand and the laird of Abergeldie upon his left. Six pieces of fieldordnance under the direction of Captain Andrew Gray, afterwards colonel of the English and Scots who served in Bohemia, were placed in front of the vanguard. Argyll's position on the slope of the hill gave him an advantage over his assailants, who, from the nature of their force, were greatly hampered by the mossiness of the ground at the foot of the hill, which was interspersed by pits from which turf had been dug. But, notwithstanding these obstacles, Huntly advanced up the hill with a slow and steady pace. It had been arranged between him and Campbell of Lochnell, who had promised to go over to Huntly as soon as the battle commenced, that, before charging Argyll with his cavalry, Huntly should bring his artillery to bear on the yellow standard. Campbell bore a mortal enmity to Aryll, who had murdered his brother, Campbell of Calder, in 1592; and as he was nearest heir to the Earl, he probably had directed this firing at the yellow standard in the hope of cutting him off. Campbell himself, however, was shot dead at the first fire of the cannon, and on his fall all his men fled from the field. Macneill of Barra was also slain at the same time. The Highlanders, who had never before seen field-pieces, were thrown into disorder by the cannonade, which being perceived by Huntly, he charged the enemy, and rushing in among them with his horsemen increased the confusion. The Earl of Errol was directed to attack Argyll's right wing; but as it occupied a very steep part of the hill, and as Errol was greatly annoyed by volleys of shot from above, he was forced to make a detour, leaving the enemy on his left. Gordon of Auchindoun, disdaining so prudent a course, galloped up the hill with a small party of his own followers, and charged Maclean with great impetuosity-a rashness that cost him his life. The fall of Auchindoun so exasperated his followers that they set no bounds to their fury; but Maclean received their repeated assaults with firmness, and manœuvred his troops so well as to succeed in cutting off the Earl of Errol and placing him between his own body and that of Argyll, by whose joint forces he was completely surrounded. At this important crisis, when chance of retreat there was none, and when Errol and his men were in danger of being cut to pieces, the Earl of Huntly came up to his assistance and relieved him from his perilous position. The battle was now renewed, and continued for two hours, during which both parties fought with great bravery, ' the one, ' says Sir Robert Gordon, ' for glorie, the other for necessitie. ' In the heat of the action the Earl of Huntly had a horse shot under him, and was in imminent danger of his life; but another horse was straightway got for him. After a hard contest the main body of Argyll's army began to give way, and retreated towards the Burn of Alltacoileachan; but Maclean still kept the field, and continued to support the falling fortune of the day. At length, finding the contest hopeless, and after losing many of his men, he retired in good order with the small company that still remained about him. Huntly pursued the retiring foe beyond the burn, when he was hindered from following them farther by the steepness of the hills, so unfavourable to the operations of cavalry. His success was mainly due to the treachery of Lochnell and of John Grant of Gartenbeg, one of Huntly's own vassals, who, in terms of a concerted plan, retreated with his men as soon as the action began, whereby the centre and left wing of Argyll's army were completely broken. On Argyll's side 500 men were killed, including Macneill of Barra and the Earl's two cousins, Lochnell and Auchinbreck. The Earl of Huntly's loss was trifling-fourteen gentlemen were slain, among them Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun and the laird of Gight; whilst the Earl of Errol and a considerable number of persons were wounded. At the conclusion of the battle the conquerors returned thanks to God on the field for the victory they had achieved. This battle is commonly known as the battle of Glenlivet, but in its own neighbourhood it is called the battle of Alltacoileachan.—Ord. Sur., sh 75, 86, 1876.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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