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Old Castle of Kincardine


Old Castle of Kincardine


According to several accounts, Alexander and Margaret’s son, John Strachan , succeeded as Laird of Thornton (c.1460-1487).  He married Margaret, daughter of [indistinct] Straiton of Lauriston, an ancient family in the County of Kincardine, and had by her David his heir and John the second son who would eventually carry on the line of succession of the House of Thornton.  (Genealogical Collectsion, Vol. II, pp 268) .

John was Receiver on behalf of the Crown of the thanage rents of Kincardine, Fettercairn, and Aberluthnot from 1460-1466.  John obtained the lands of two Kincardine Castle parks and other lands from King James II (Bonnet Lairds, pp 34). 

The Strachans of Thornton had sold Kincardine Castle before 1646.  We know this for certain, as Col. Alexander Strachan of Thornton made a strong case to the government to reimburse the estate for prior fortifications made to Thornton Castle to defend it against Montrose’s Royalist forces garrisoned in nearby Kincardine Castle.   In 1646, he petitioned the Estates of Parliament:

Colonel Alexander Strachan’s Petition
To Parliament
Acta Parl 1646 VI p. 596

          REFERENCE for Alexander Strachan of Thornton.  THE ESTATES of parlt HAVING taken to their consideration the supplication of Alexander Stachan of Thornton desiring that order migh be for thirty men for keeping of his house against the rebels for the good of the service and benefit of the country nearest adjacent thereto which is supplicant obliges himself shall be kep for the use and service of the country. 

          And also desiring that he may have some consideration for his bygone care and expense in fortifying the keeping of his house against the rebels to the benefit of the country roundabout.

          Parliament received this petition favourably and recommended the supplication of the Committee of the Esates.

          REFERENCE for Lieut. Colonel Strachan.  THE ESTATES of parliament, HAVING heard and considered the Report of the Comittie appointed for Lord Balcarres’ business concerning the sufferings and deservings of Alexander Strachan of Thornton Lieutenant Colenel the said Liut. Colonel’s … sufferings and deservings to be taken into consideration by the Committee for Estates for their satisfaction as the Committee should think fit.

The petition was granted, and Thornton received reimbursement, arms, ammunition, and sustenance for 30 soldiers for defense of the Thornton Castle from the forces on Montrose garrisoned in nearby Kincardine Castle. 

The old castle of Kincardine is located in Kincardineshire and near between Fettercairn and Lawrencekirk, and only a few miles from Thornton Castle.  It is only a pile of masonry now atop a lonely farmland hillock but at one time Kincardine Castle was so mighty that it gave its name to a whole county, as it was a very important and royal castle. 

Mercat Cross from the original Castleton Kincardine.
Transferred to
Fettercairn in 1730

The castle was built near the village of Fettercairn in the Grampian foothills, close to forests teeming with deer and wild game and next to rivers with plentiful harvests of salmon, while overhead the skies were often thick with migrating geese. The surrounding landscape, rich with the red earth of the Howe of the Mearns, was splendid agricultural land.

The spot had strategic importance since it guarded the twisting Cairn o' Mount pass leading over to Banchory and Deeside. A Pictish fort, known picturesquely as the Green Castle, had been the predecessor of the much formidable stronghold that replaced it with towering battlements, spacious courtyards and a splendid banqueting hall. 

It was to this powerful castle that King Kenneth II traveled as a guest of the Thane of Angus in 995. Kenneth, the ruler of Alba (once the Gaelic name for Scotland or 'the land beyond the Roman wall') which had been created by his forefather Kenneth McAlpine through moulding together a federation of the Picts and the Scots, had been on his throne for 24 years. 

Kenneth III had gone on a pilgrimage to the grave of Palladius, whose bones by this time had acquired a wonderful repute for sanctity, and whose tomb had become a famous resort of pilgrimage. After performing his devotions at the shrine of the saint, the king turned aside to visit the castle of Fettercairn, of which Finella, a sort of Scottish Heroedias, was mistress. 

Lady Finella owed the king a grudge for hanging her son Crathilinth for the crime of making to free with the king’s laws and the lives of his subjects.  Thus, she took care that the king should not leave her castle alive.

Although there is no doubt Finella is responsible for the murder of Kenneth II, there is some controversy as to the deed itself.

One story has it, that the king was sent away with every token of good will, but that he was slain by horsemen who lay in ambush for him on the road.

Another, and more interesting tale, is that she had prepared an "infernal machine" which consisted of a brass statue, which threw out arrows when a golden apple was taken from its hand. It stood in a handsome apartment, surrounded by rich drapery and curious sculptures. Under pretext of amusing the king with this curiosity, she conducted him to the apartment, and courteously invited him to take the apple. The king, amused with the idea, picked up the apple, when instantly he was pierced with arrows and mortally wounded. The attendants, on coming for their royal master, could not gain admittance to the castle, from whence the assassin had already fled (Finela fled to St. Cyrus where, in what has since become known as the Den of Finella, she was done to death).  However, they forced open the doors, and found to their horror and consternation the king weltering in his blood. So much for a woman's vengeance.

His death occurred in A.D. 995, and the twenty-fifth of his reign.

It was also here that King Balliol surrendered his Crown and Kingdom.

It seems that a small township grew up round the castle (which was used by Queen Mary in 1560), but in 1600 Stonehaven became the county town and both Kincardine town and castle fell into decline.  The mercat cross was transferred to Fettercairn in 1730, and nothing now remains of old Kincardine town and little more of the castle. 






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