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From love of art, and taste withal,
Some sweetly hallow every scene,
Must execrate the name of Skene.
RELUCTANTLY bidding adieu to the mystical and bewitching Ferne, we shall now pay a visit to the ancient and interesting Castle of Careston, a short distance to the eastward, on what may be still termed the braes of Angus.
The origin of the name of Careston, or Caraldstone is involved in much obscurity. Some authorities trace the derivation to the Ossianic hero, Carril ; and others, to the now disused Celtic word, Carald, denoting the quality, red. Others, again, assume from an expression that occurs in a decreet of valuation of the teinds in 1758, viz., “the lands and barony of Caraldstone, formerly called Fuirdstone, with the tower, fortalice, manor places ” &c, that Careston was known at one time by the name of Fuirdstone.
The more probable source, however, appears to be that which is indicated in the preface to the Registrum de Aberbrothic “A person of the name of Bricius occurs in very early charters as judex' of Angus, probably holding his office under the great Earls. In 1219, Adam was judex of the Earl's Court. Some six years later he became judex of the King's Court, and his brother Keraldus succeeded to his office in the Court of the Earl; for in the year 1227, we find the brothers acting together, and styled respectively ‘judex' of Angus, and judex' of our Lord the King. The dwelling of Keraldus received the name of
Keraldiston,' now Caraldstoun; and the office of judex becoming heritable, and taking its Scotch title of Dempster,' gave name to the family who for many generations held the lands of Caraldstoun and performed the office of Dempster to the Parliaments of Scotland.”
The Noran and the South Esk flow and unite together in this parish. The water of the Noran is celebrated for its purity, caused, doubtless, by its flowing over a bed of rock and gravel. There is a tradition, that one of our Queens, in olden time, washed her curtch or cap in its stream, near the place where the farm-house of Nether Careston is now situated, and pronounced the Noran to be the clearest stream in Scotland.
The parish is rich in botanical treasures. In the meadows and moors, in the fields and woods, and on the banks of the Noran and Esk, many fine specimens of the Orchis Moris, Chrysanthemum Segetum, Geranium Sylvaticum, Anemone Nemo rosa, Narcissus Pseudo-Narcissus, Spirara Ulmaria, and Rosa Eglanteria, are to be found in great abundance. That very rare plant, Stratictes Aliodes, or the fresh water soldier, discovered by the Rev. Mr. Haldane of Kingoldrum, is to be found in a pool at Bracklawburn.
Careston is said to be the least parish in Angus-shire, both as regards extent and population, and the fifth least in the Kingdom. Although the churchyard is correspondingly small, the tombstones-until George Skene, the late proprietor, sacrilegiously had them all thrown from the graveyard to be afterwards either broken to pieces, or used for drain coverswere at one time very numerous and interesting in an antiquarian point of view. A few of these stones were, however, rescued from oblivion, and placed again in the churchyard after this Vandalic laird's death. The inscription on one of these is as follows:
- This stone doth hold these corps of mine,
While I lie buried here;
My flesh and bones lyes in Earth's womb,
As we have seen, the family of Dempster were the first recorded proprietors of Careston, and this surname assumed by the lairds of Careston before 1360. The Lindsays became connected with Careston in the person of Sir Henry Lindsay of Kinfauns, afterwards thirteenth Earl of Crawford, about the close of the sixteenth century. The Carnegies of Southesk held the barony thereafter, and till 1707, at which time, Sir John Stewart of Grandtully and Murthly, succeeded the Carnegies by purchase. Thirteen years afterwards, Careston again changed hands, having been purchased in 1720, by Major Skene, a cadet of the old family of that ilk.
There is a tradition, that the first who bore the surname of Skene, was a younger son of Donald of the Isles, “ who saved Malcolm II. from being torn to pieces by an enraged wolf that chased him from the forest of Kilblein in Marr to the burn of Broadtach, now within the boundary of the town of Aberdeen. At this point, the wolf came up with the King, and was just about to spring upon him, when the gallant youth, wrapping his plaid about his left arm, and rushing in betwixt the King and the wolf, thrust his left arm into the wolf's mouth, and drawing his skene—which in the Gaelic language signifies a dirk or knife-struck it to the wolf's heart, and then cut off its head and presented it to King Malcolm.”
The most popular of the Skene family in Angus-shire, was the eldest son of Mrs Skene, who succeeded to Careston through her marriage to her cousin-german, the laird of Skene. Though a person of considerable learning and ability, Skene is said to have been a man of greater Bacchanalianism, fairly out-doing, in his deep carousals, his friend and neighbour, of similar propensities, the “rebel laird,” Carnegie of Balnamoon, with whom he usually associated in his midnight orgies. He had spent a good deal of his time on the Continent, where, like the “Black Earl of Southesk," already alluded to, it was believed
“He learned the art that none could name,
In dua, beyond the sea."
He was an amateur musician of considerable skill, and the peasantry believed him to have the power of making his favourite instrument, the bagpipe, play in the castle while he peregrinated the neighbourhood, or walked among the fields! The eldest daughter of Mrs Skene, married Alexander, third Earl of Fife, in whose family the lands of Careston remained until 1871, when they were acquired by John Adamson, Esq., of Falcon House, Blairgowrie.
The Castle of Careston has undergone important alterations, and received considerable additions, during the many changes in its proprietorship. The centre is the oldest portion of the castle, and is thus described by Ochterlony "A great and most delicat house, well-built, brave lights, and of a most excellent contrivance, without debait the best gentleman's house in the shyre ; extraordinare much planting, delicate yards and gardens, with stone walls, ane excellent avenue with
range of ash trees on every side, ane excellent arbour, for length and breadth, nane in the country like it. The house built by Sir Harry Lindsay of Kinfaines, afterwards Earl of Crawford.”
Two centuries have elapsed since Guynd gave this graphic description of the castle, during which time the avenue has been completely rooted out, the arbour allowed to fall into disrepair, and much of the fine sculpture either destroyed or carried off to decorate some more favoured mansion. The house has been long tenantless and uncared for, and the consequence is that some of the finest ornaments in the garden and elsewhere are fast crumbling to pieces.
The internal decorations of the castle, you observe, are better preserved, and some fine sculpture still adorns the old staircase,
the dining and drawing rooms, in which heraldic bearings and armorial groups predominate. A fine sculpture of the Royal Arms of Scotland, surrounded by military trophies, adorns the mantel-piece of the old drawing-room, under which a tablet bears the following inscription, in allusion, no doubt, to the first Earl of Crawford, and his marriage with the daughter of King Robert II. :
" THIS. HONORIS . SINGE
AND. FIGVRIT. THROPHE . BOR-
Although not in any degree ornamental in its construction, the Castle of Careston has all the ancient grandeur of a baronial residence; and the present proprietor has it now in his power to render it one of the finest and most interesting mansions in the county of Angus.
The tradition of Jock Barefoot, connected with this parish, has already been noticed. There is another of a White Lady who was wont to perambulate the district when the vast forests covered to such a great extent these Northern parishes.
This Lady must have belonged to the mild type of her genus, for she has left no trace of her deeds either of good or evil.
The greatest historical event connected with the district was the encampment of the Marquis of Montrose and his followers in front of the castle, on the 5th of April 1645, after the storming of the town of Dundee.