My reminiscences of Spey and Speyside are drawing to an end, and I now with natural diffidence approach a great theme. Every Speyside man will recognise from this exordium that I am about to treat of "Geordie."
It commanded on one side the only road by which troops could march from the low country of Perth into the Highlands, and on the other the passes leading to the Spey and the Dee. Whoever held Blair practically held the key of the Highlands. Mackay therefore urged Murray, who was then in Edinburgh, to get rid of this unjust steward and make sure of so valuable a stronghold for the Government.
The Duke of Gordon had, however, erected a suspension bridge at that town, and the inconvenience was in a great measure removed. Its utility was so generally felt, that the demand arose for a second bridge across the river; for there was not another by which it could be crossed for a distance of nearly fifty miles up Strath Spey.
The last-named bridge is a remarkably elegant structure, thrown over the Spey at a point where the river, rushing obliquely against the lofty rock of Craig-Ellachie,* has formed for itself a deep channel not exceeding fifty yards in breadth. Only a few years before, there had not been any provision for crossing this river at its lower parts except the very dangerous ferry at Fochabers.
Courage was another characteristic that early manifested itself. Her groom, who had served her forty years, delighted to recall instances of her fearlessness. On one occasion, when her party were crossing the Spey in a pony-chaise in a boat, the bridge having been carried down by the floods, her companion asked, "Isn't this dangerous, duchess?" "I never see danger," was the quiet reply.
He soon returned to the Lowlands, and stayed there till he learned that a considerable body of troops had been sent to apprehend him, He then betook himself to the hill country as his last refuge, pushed northward through Strathdon and Strathbogie, crossed the Spey, and, on the morning of the first of May, arrived with a small band of horsemen at the camp of Keppoch before Inverness.
Bass had the Tulchan shootings and fishings his head keeper used to breed and sell Spey cocks. Probably the most extensive collection of salmon fly-hooks ever made was that which belonged to the late Mr. Henry Grant of Elchies, a property on which is some of the best water in all the run of Spey.
Lord Elgin, now in his Indian satrapy, far away from what Sir Noel Paton in his fine elegy on the late Sir Alexander Gordon Cumming of Altyre called The rushing thunder of the Spey, one day hooked a big fish in the "run" below "Polmet". The fish headed swiftly down stream, his lordship in eager pursuit, but afraid of putting any strain on the line lest the salmon should "break" him.
The unequal number of the shelves in valleys communicating with each other, and in which the boundary rocks are similar in composition, and the general absence of any shelves at corresponding altitudes in glens on the opposite watershed, like that of the Spey, and in valleys where the waters flow eastward, are difficulties attending the marine theory which have never yet been got over. Mr.
Douglas, after a sermon from 2 Kings xi, 12, 17, which he, in a most solemn manner renewed, before the three estates of parliament, the commissioners of the General Assembly, and a numerous congregation, in the words of his former oath at Spey; with the coronation oath, as contained in the 8th Act, Parl. 1st, James VI, to all which he engaged before his coronation; and on these terms, and no other, were the oaths of fidelity to him, as the lawful supreme magistrate, taken, at his receipt of the royal authority.