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Amelia Volume 2 chapter 7

John Dow Gar, 1637-39

[page 78]
In 1636 on June 13, George Marquis of Huntly died at Dundee. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, the first-born Viscount Aboyne having met his death at the Burning of Frendraught. In 1638 the "Solemn League and Covenant" was instituted or renewed in Scotland to resist King Charles I.'s attempt to introduce episcopacy, and a Civil War began. The Earl of Montrose at the outset sided with the Covenanters, and commanding an Army in Aberdeenshire, arrested the new Marquis of Huntly to whom Montrose made sundry proposals, and as Huntly could not assent to some of these he was thereafter taken to Edinburgh with his two sons and imprisoned in the Castle there.

Events in Aberdeenshire continued to be very disturbed, and Spalding gives a faithful account thereof here quoted as relating to Macgregors.

Spalding's "History":-

"1637. Vpone the 8th day of Aprile, the Laird of Grant wardit in Edinbrugh for not following the Clangrigour, thairefter put to libertie, and vpone the foirsaid day depairtit this lyf in Edinbrogh, in his awin lodging.

"Vpone the 8 day of August John dvgar [1]   of whome sum mentioon is befoir, cam with his companyeouns to the Laird of Corss, professour, his boundis, and spolzeit the ground, and spolzeit Mr Thomas Forbes, Minister at Leoquhell his houss, and oppressit the Kingis Lieges grevouslie quhairever he cam, in Strylay and other places'. He wald tak thair horss, ky and oxin, and caus the awneris compone and pay for thair awin geir. He gaue himself out to be the Kingis man, and sua micht tak and oppress the Covenanteris and thair goudis at his plesour. He troublet the merchandis at Bartholemew fair and causit thame to pay soundlie. He took out of the Laird of Corss boundis also ane brave gentilman tennant and duelling thair, and careit him with thame, and sent word to the laird desyring him to send ane thousand pundis, quhill the lordis of Counsall gave to his name for taking of Gilleroy, or that he wold send his manis heid to him. The Laird of Corss raid schortlie to Strabogie and told the [page 79] Marquess, who quicklie wreit to McGrigour for to send bak Mr George Forbes agane, or then he wold cum himself for him. Bot he wes obeyit, and cam to Strathbogie haill and sound vpone the 15th of August, quhair the laird of Corss stayit whill his returne, but without payment of any ransoum. He thankit his lordschip, syne returnit home, bot this Dvgar wes slayne thairefter as ye have seen.

"1639-40. About this tyme, John Dvgar and his compleices took Alexander Forbes alias Plagne out of his owne houss in Bogsyde, spolzeit his goodis, band his handis, and took him sudine to pay ane certan soume of money, syne set him at libertie. He meinit himself to the Marquess of Huntlie who maid him frie of other, bot he wes evill acquytit thairfoir as ye may see.

This Johnne Dvgar wes the Father of Patrik Ger, whom James Grant slew as said befoir. He did gryt skaith to the name of Forbes, sic as the lairdis of Corss, Leslie, Cragivar, and sum vtheris; abusit thair boundis, plunderit thair horss, nolt, scheip, gudis, and geir, hecaus thay war the instrumentis of Gilleroy thair friendis death; and the Forbissis concludit to watch his cuming and going, and to get him if they micht. This maid him oppress the Forbis boundis by all the countrie."

From Spalding, regarding Montrose's injunctions to Huntly:-

1639. April. 'He desyrit him to tak James Grant, John Dvgar and their complices &c. The Marquess ansuered he bore no publick office, nor had commissioun to that effect, quhilk albeit he had, James Grant had gottin the King's remissioun, and so could not take him; and as for John Dvgar he wold concur with the rest of the countrie to tak him, as he wes imployit, i.e. if the rest of the country requested his assistance.'

"The same year in June Lord Ahoyne with a large party landed in Aberdeen and issued a proclamation in favour of the King; Lord Lewis Gordon, Huntly's 3rd son having collected his Father's friends and tenants to the number of about 1000 horse and foot marched into Aberdeen on the 7th June to join his brother.

"'John Dvgar with his lawless folloueris, wes in this cumpany, and lodgeit in Old Abirdeen in George Kingis houss; bot he wes schortlie dischargeit as ane renegat lymmar, bloodschedder and murtherer, and in quhat soever company he wes, the same could not well prosper as wes most evident, Yit it is trew Lues knew nothing of his being in his company.

"31st August. When a Parliament was held in Edinburgh to arrange a pacification, Spalding relates:-'Then cumis thairin ane other more malitious complaint aganes him, Huntly, at the instans of the Lairdis of Fendracht, Lesly, Cragiwar, Glenkyndie, Alexander Forbes, alias Plagne, and diuerss vtheris of the Forbes Factioun, his auld enemies, [page 80] for alledgit recepting within his grounds of John Dvgar and remanent of his folloueris of the name of Gregouris, notorious thieffis, mortheraris and robberis of the Kingis Lieges, and thameseiffis in speciall…….

"Efter lang disputatioun the Marquess is absoluit.

1639. Vpone the ….. day of November, John Dvgar, that bluidie mortherar and oppressour, cam to Williame Stewartis hous at Spey syde accom¬paneit with 24 lymmaris, set out his watches, and took wp houss thair; and in the meintyme send down to the Garmoche for expenssis and spending siluer, vtheruaies he wold cum and plunder thair houssis and goodis. The people is astoneshit with this charge, bot gave the beraris fair wordis quhill the countrie wee aduertesit, who schortlie convenit. And John Dvgar, informit of thair gathering be his out watches, schortlie takis both the ferry boites, and careis over his men to the Stanneris, quhilk is in the midst of the water of Spey, and keipit the ferry boites fast besyde himself, so that thair wes no other boit nor hand to follow thame. The countrie people seeing thay wantit boites, and culd not ryd the water being great, beginns to persew thame with Schottis, and they schot agane whill at last Alexander Andersone in Garmoche, standing be the water syde, schot this Johone Dvgar vpone the saidis stanneris deid. His men seeing this, takis the flight throw the strynd to the south schoir, bot ony more skaith and hyme go thay; and the countrie people returnis to there owne houssis.

"1640. July. In this mein tyme, a nottabill lymmar, seeing the world go so, brak louss, callit John Dvgar, [2]   ane hieland roague, and fell to in his sort of plunder¬ing; likuaies stoll, reft, and spolzeit out of the Schirefdome of Murray, a gryte number of countrie peoples horss, nolt, ky and Scheip, and brocht thame, but (without) reskew to the feildis of Auchindoun, quhair he wes feiding thir goodis peciablie. Monro heiring of this sendis out ritmaister Forbes [3]   with good horse-men, and 24 moskiteiris to bring bak thir goodis out of Auchindoun from this robber theif, bot Johne Dvgar stoutlie baid thame and defendit thair pray manfullie. Monro commandit to charge thame on horse bak quhilk also thay baid quhill thay schot all thair gvnis, syne fled all away, and Forbes follouit no more, bot returnit; Monro wes angrie at him, that he wold not follow and tak those lymmaris. He ansuerit, it wes not ryding ground. The Laird of Auchindoon being within the place with 40 of his freindis, who fled to the samen as ane stronghold for thair refuge, seeing this pel mell betuixt Johne Dwgar and thir soldiouris, issuis out of the place about 16 horses, and set vpone ritmaister Forbes, betuixt whome wes sum bikkering without gryt skaith. Monro, with more number of men, cums -forduard to this guyss, bot Auchindoun wes forceit to flie bak to the place forsaid of Auchindoun with no skaith. Monro perseuit not the houss, finding it [page 81] difficult to conquess; bot schortlie fell to plundering, and out of thir boundis took Dugaris goodis and vtheris, above 2500 heid of horss, meiris, nolt, and ky, with a gryte number of scheip, and transportit with him to Strathbogie and as it is said, wes sold be the soldiouris to the awneris bak agane for 13s. 4d. the scheip and ane dolloar the nolt, bot still keipit the horts onsauld. Schortlie thairefter, the place of Auchindoun wes wilinglie randerit, the men within left the same desolat, and the Keyis deliuerit to Monro. Forbes took for his pairt of this spoyll about 60 heid of nolt, and sent to be fed vpone the boundis of Dyss, his goodbrother's landis. Monro, heiring of this, compellit him to bring bak the same nolt fra Dyss to Strathhogie, and to sell thame to the awnerit at 13s 4d the pece and thairefter worthellie casseirit him for his febill seruice in not following Dugar more stoutly then he did."

“1641. Jan. The Committee of the Estaites at Edinbrugh, heiring how the forbidden name of McGregour and thair complices brak about this tyme looss and wes sorning and trubling the Kingis leiges day and nicht, condiscendit with Robert Farquharsone of Innergald (Invercauld) for ane certane soume of money, to defend the Schirefdomes of Angous, Mernis, Ahirdene and Banff quhilk wes the countrie quhairin they did most iniurie and oppressioun, for ane yeir to cum from all riaf and spoilzie and what wes takin be thir robberis fra them he obligit to pay bak the samen to the complenar within the space foirsaid. For executing of the quhilk service, this foirsaid Robert Farquharsone wes capiten himself, and gatherit togidder, out of his awin friendis and otheris, about tua hundreth and fyftie men, and keipit the saidis four schires, both day and nicht so cairfullie, that none suffered skaith, thift, nor oppressioun, bot the countreyit levit in peace and quiyetness, Quhilkis the Estaitis perceaving, ditchargeit him of his service and gave him not good payment, quhilk wet apointit out of the tenthis and tuenteiths at the making of thair bargane, thinking the countrie wold be frie of ony more vexatioun. Bot thir lymmares heiring of this discharge, Johnne Dvgar agane brak out to truble and molest the countrie as ye may sie heirefter - to thair gryt greif and skaith."

"1642, August. About this tyme ane committee holdin at Elgyne vpone the tent, elevint and tuelf dayis of August; the justice deput, the Kingit aduocat and justice clerk wes there. The Marquess of Huntlie, the Erll off Morray. the Erll of Findlater, the Schirref of Morray, the Laird of Grant and dieuerss otheris wes at this committee, and sindrie vtheris absent that sould have bene there. Thair bussiness wes to tak ordour with the Clangregour and Johnne Dvgar and otheris hieland lymmaris, and with thair receptaris. Thay sat doun, and fensit thair courtis daylie, albeit thair wes not ane full quorum convenit.

“The poor Cuntrie people are citat and accusit for receipt of thir lawless lymmaris and giveing of them meit, drink and harberie. Thay ansuerit, it wes trew, becaus thay durst not deny thame intertynnement for feir of thair lives and spolyeing [page 82] of there goodis. Bot no respect had to the good ressone of thir poor bodeis, bot wes seveirlie fynit and pvnishit for thair recept and thir rascalt robberis them selvis left onpunishit or onsocht for."

"1643. Vpone Sunday 21 Marche, at night Johne Dugar his men cam to the Gareoche, and took out of Johnne Forbes of Leslie's boundis ane of his tennentis callit James Andersone, ane honest yeoman. The cry gois, young Leslie, with ane seruand callit James Dunbar, follouis vpone horss, killis one of the lymmaris, takis ane other and sends him to the Counsall, whair he wes hangit; and James Andersone wes reskewit and wan saifflie home.

"Johnne Dvgar, heiring thir newis, or more trewile Duncan Dvgar heiring of the sam, cam opone the 27th of Marche, to the toun of Birkinbreull with tua seruandis, quhair he met with Mr William Forbes of the folkis of Brux; and be hauing tua men with him also, one callit ….. Smith and the other …. holdin both pretty men; bot this Mr William wes ane brave gentilman. Thay enterit in drinking, his tua men fell a sleiping, thinking vpone none evill. Aluaies thair fell out sum speiches betuixt him and this Dvgar, and suddantlie bendis ane pistoll and haldis to his breist, bot Dvgar choppis wp the pistoll, quhairby scho schootis him throw the schoolder; but he, behind the hand with ane durk strikis this Forbes throw the bodie deid, syne killis with his awin handis his tua seruandis sleeping and saifflie gois to the dur, and but ony more ado wynis his way with his hurt onlie in his schulder, bot ony more revenge. Lamentable to behold! Thir Dvgares boor the Forbessis, by (beyond) any other surname, at gryte indignation."

From the "Chartulary":-

1639. June 7th.

"Lord Lewis Gordon third son of the Marquis of Huntly, marched into Aberdeen with his father's 'ground-friends,' attended by John Dow Gar at the head of a party of his own. Lord Lewis, according to Spalding, knew nothing of his being in his company; and he was shortly after dismised as a runnagate lymmer, bloodshedder and murderer, and in whatsomever company he was, the same could not prosper well, as was most evident."

"The Marquis of Huntly who had raised forces in support of the declining fortunes of Charles I., and had, on that account, been, 20th April, committed to Edinburgh Castle, was on his release prosecuted, before the Scottish Parliament, by the Earl of Errol, by the Forbeses, and by Crichton of Frendraught, for harbouring outlaws and rebels, and chiefly John Dow Gar, one of the ClanGregor. Frendraught was of course the keener set against Huntly, as the late Marquis of Huntly father of the latter had made him pay 50,000 marks for the slaughter of Gordon of Rothiemay'.
[page 83]
"1639. September 9th

"Anent the Supplication presented by the ErIe of Erroll and sundry other noblemen and gentlemen, craving redress of the disorders committed by the high-landmen; which was subscribed, and after the subscriptions had subjoined a complaint against the Marquis of Huntly, which was not subscribed. The Lord Commissioners Grace and Lords of the Articles refuse to acknowledge that part of the supplication which is subjoined to the subscriptions, or to give answer thereto in respect it is not subscribed: And for the petition which is subscribed in respect the same is general, ordains the supplicants to condescend and be special upon the facts complained upon and upon the persons, committers and sufferers of the wrongs therein specified, and thereafter will give answer to the supplication.

"September 11th.

"Anent the supplication presented against the Marquis of Huntlie and the Highlandmen. Appoint the supplicants to condescend. Upon the time of the facts therein mentioned, that the same may be done since the pacification: other¬wise the Lords Commissioners Grace refuse to acknowledge the said supplication or give answer thereto."

"September 16th.

"Two Bills from the gentlemen of the North against the Marquis of Huntly delivered to him to be seen until the morn.

"September 17th, P.M.

"Anent the Supplications presented by the Noblemen and Gentlemen for the redress of the disorders of the North and restitution of the goods taken. The Lord Commissioners Grace and Articles nominate the Earl of Lauderdale, &c., &c, &c~ to consider the Supplications and hear the parties and report after meeting. And the Marquis of Huntlie to have the supplications this night that he may be ready to answer at meeting: according thereunto. Supplications were delivered to the Marqms personally present.

"September 20th.

"Anent the supplication given in by the Noblemen and gentlemen of the north craving that the Marquis of Huntly should be declared answerable for Jhone dow gar and his complices. The Supplicants and the Marquis being present with their procurators The Marquis asked instruments, that the supplicants produced certain artides for clearing the supplication, which he desired may ad longum be inserted in the instruments And protested for remeid of Law: And Sir Lues Stewart for him, asked instruments that the names of the particular persons complainers are not condescended upon but that it is acknowledged in the Supplication that the persons grieved are not present.

"Same day.

"The Marquis of Huntly alledged the king's Advocate cannot sit in this cause [page 84] betwix him and the Noblemen and gentlemen of the North because he has consulted with the parties in this business. 2. he has consulted with the Laird of Frendraught in this business or upon a supplication of the like nature.

"The Marquis of Huntlie alledged the Laird of Auldbar cannot sit in the Articles to vote in this cause, because he is tutor to the Erle of Erroll, who has subscribed the complaint and is a party and is brother, to the Erle of Kinghorne who is also tutor to the Erle of Erroll, and has subscribed the supplication and is a party interested "The Advocate denied the alledgeance proponed against him.

"Remove the Laird of Auldbar.

"The Ld. Commissioners Grace and Articles find, That where it is libelled that Jhone dugar and his two brother's sons have these three years bygone committed great herships &c. and that during the time of the said oppressions they had, and as yet have their actual residence upon the Marquis of Huntlie's lands, where they were entertained, supplied and assisted by his Bailies, Chamberlains and tenants Find that part of the supplication Relevant, to be proven by witnesses to be presented as an article to the parliament for inferring that desire of the supplication, for exhibition of the said Jhone du gar and his brother sons before the Justice and declare they will have particular consideration of the witnesses: And ordain the Supplicants to condescend upon the lands, where the said Jhone du gar and his brother sons had their residence.

"Mr James Baird condescended that the lands where the said Jhone du gar and his brother sons had their residence the times libelled, was Cabrach, Glen¬rinnes, Auchindowne, Strabogie, Blakwater, Culbaine."

“1639. September 21st.

"Supplication presented by the Laird of Frendraught craving reparation of the wrong and restitution of the goods taken from him and his tenants by the Marquis of Huntlie his men tenants and servants.

Appoint the Marquis of Huntlie . . . To meet with the Erle of Mar . . . To treat upon overtures concerning the settling of the present disorders in the North and securing the peace in time to come, to meet upon Monday next at six hours in the over Exchequer house and to report on Tuesday. And the Marquis of Huntlie to be convener."

"September 30th.

“Supplication by Alexr Forbes Complaining upon Jhone Dow gar &c, for shearing his corns in the time of Parliament, Remitted to the Committee for the North and delivered to the Erle of Southesk."

"October 5th.

"The act produced by the Nobleman of the Committee for the peace of [page 85] the North, together with the three acts produced by the Barons for that effect, and an act against the McGregors delivered to the Marquis of Huntlie, to be shown to the Noblemen.

"1639. October 14th.

"Supplication by the Laird of Frendraught craving that the Marquis of Huntlie should find caution for his sons, kin, friends, men tenants and servants that Frendraught his tenants and servants should be harmless at their bands, as his father was acted before the Council.

"October 17th.

"The Noblemen and gentlemen appointed to give in overtures, for settling the peace of the country and taking order with broken men. The Laird of Craigievar for the gentlemen produced a roll of broken men, which was given to the ErIe of Perth to advise with the Noblemen And it was urged by the gentlemen, that the former acts of parliament might be put to execution and that the Chieftains of Clans and Landlords, might be obliged to bring in all broken men, and give bands and that the country might be stented or taxed for entertainment of men to be maintained, for taking these broken men Which the Lords Commissioners' General opposed for the reasons condescended upon by him, and offered in his Majesty's name and upon his Majesty's expenses without any burden to the country to take course for bringing in all lawless rebels and broken men who shall be thought necessary and not be bound upon other men: The articles appointed the laws formerly made, to be revised And that the Noblemen and gentlemen divide the roll of broken men produced, that such of the said men as may be bound upon any nobleman or gentleman, or such as may be brought in to find caution, may be travelled with, for becoming obedient to the laws in time coming, or exhibit before the Council. And for the remanent of the said persons that the Noblemen and gentlemen be called in presence of the Commissioners Grace and Articles and declare upon their honour, as they shall answer to God and the King that they shall heartily join and truly contribute their best endeavours, for execu-tion of the laws against these masterless broken men, within their own bounds. The Noblemen and gentlemen are appointed to attend his Grace the morne at seven hours in the parliament house.

"November 8th.

"Commission of fire and sword issued by the Privy Council against John Dow Gar McGregour.


"John Dow gar, having, with a party of four and twenty settled at Speyside, and made a demand of subsistence on Garmouth, was pursued by its inhabitants and having with his party taken shelter in an island of the river Spey was shot by Alexander Anderson. Whether his eldest surviving son, also called John [page 86] Dow Gar, and who, about July 1640, had made a stout defence against Major Monro and the Laird of Auchindown, headed, in 1641, a party of his Clan, in defence of King Charles 1., is Uncertain. Farquharson of Invercauld had been appointed by the Committee of Estates to defend Angus, Mearns, Aberdeen, and Banff Shires, against this body of the loyalists. That John Dow Gar commanded a body of his Clan in a second loyal effort that year is testified by tradition."

[1] Eoin dubh gearr

[2] The son of John dhu Gearr slain in 1639, and brother of Patrick Gearr.

[3] Rittmeisters and “100 horss to ilk Regiment" were ordered to be furnished, June 1640.