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This dusky, half-ruined stronghold presents its broad front on the right-hand side of the road leading from Perth by Crieff towards the Highlands. Many perceptible efforts to adapt its huge proportions to the accommodation of occupants of a humble class, serve, with other indications, at once to show the traveller that the place where monarchs were entertained or imprisoned now affords shelter to the obscure artisan. The building, consisting of two old square towers, united by a partially embattled screen, has nothing to distinguish it from other Scottish fortalices of the fifteenth or sixteenth century; but the traveller along a road diversified by few other objects of interest, may beguile his impatience to reach the neighbouring mountain barrier, by gazing on the broad dark mass, and reflecting on the remarkable passages of history that have been performed within its walls, and the contrast which its present destiny suggests to its conspicuous connexion with the most turbulent period of our national annals.
It was within the walls of this old fortress, then known by the name of Ruthven Castle, that, in August 1582, James VI., a youth of sixteen years old, was residing with Lord Ruthven, who had induced the King to visit him in his hunting-seat, and join him in his rural sports. One morning, when the young monarch arose, he found the castle surrounded by a thousand men; while the Earls of Mar and Gowrie broke into his presence with the rude discourtesy offered in those wild times by the strong to the weak, whether they were princes or peasants. When he attempted to escape, the Master of Glammis fiercely interposed; and when the helpless youth, never very firm of nerve, burst into tears, the Master used the memorable expression, “ Better bairns greet than bearded men.” Such was the abrupt revolution, known as the “Raid of Ruthven.” What other dark plots have been developed within these walls, history has in vain toiled to discover. It was the abode of those Ruthvens who fell in the Gowrie conspiracy; and now that the old house in Perth, the scene of actual violence, has been destroyed, the Huntingtower and Fastcastle possess an interest, as the only remaining edifices which sheltered the organisers of this mysterious plot.
It was beneath the walls of this castle that in 1644 Montrose gained one of his most remarkable victories. His Irish army had ravaged Argyleshire, and, joined by his Highland followers, passed northwards to meet their general, whom they found disguised as a Highland gilly, with one attendant. Lord Elcho, who with his Presbyterian troops occupied Perth, marched forward with six thousand men; but being raw, untried levies, they were dispersed immediately by that impetuous rush, on which it was the practice of the mountaineers to peril the fortunes of the day.
Pennant has preserved a tradition of a totally different character from these incidents of conspiracy and warfare, connected with the gap between the inner corner of the broad square tower, and the bastion lower down springing from the building between the two towers, called “the maiden's leap.” A daughter of the house of Ruthven had received the advances of a youth whose pretensions were not encouraged by her parents ; one night she had visited his chamber, and her mother, informed of the fact, was taking up a position on the stair to cut off her retreat. “The young lady's ears were quick ; she heard the footsteps of the old countess
—ran to the top of the leads—and took the desperate leap of nine feet four inches, over a chasm of sixty feet; and, luckily lighting on the battlements of the other tower, crept into her own bed, where her astonished mother found her, and, of course, apologised for her unjust suspicion.
The fair daughter did not choose to repeat the leap, but, the next night, eloped and was mar
Another anecdote in relation to this castle, not so well known, introducing us to a spectre of very eccentric habits, is preserved in that great repertory of providences and supernatural events, the Analecta of the Rev. Robert Wodrow. In the year 1698, the Rev. William Leslie, chaplain of the Earl of Tullybardine, was residing alone in the castle. “ Being all alone in his chamber, which was on the top of the tower, while he was close at his book, reading with the candle-light, and the fire in the chimney giving a good light likewise, about twelve o'clock of night, when all the servants were in their bed, and far from him, without reach of cry, there came something and chopped at his door. Mr Leslie says, 'Come in ;' upon which it lifted the sneck and opened the door and came in; and when he saw it, it was ane apparition of ane little old man, about the height of the table, with a fearful ugly face, as if he had been all brunt, which spake to him thus,—Mr William, you bade me come in, and I am come in,' which, to be sure, did not a little affright him; but yet he had the liberty and boldness to say, 'In the name of the Lord—whence?' It said, 'From hell.' "Why art thou come here to disturb and affright me?' It said, 'I am come to warn the nation to repent.' He replies, 'God never uses to send such messengers upon such an errand.' It says, • This will render them the more inexcusable!” Presently, there being a good number of Irish bibles standing all in a row upon a high shelf in the room, which my lord was designing to distribute among his highland servants and tenants, it scrambled up the wall with unaccountable nimbleness, and threw them all down upon the floor, and scattering them through the room. Then, there being a block standing in the chamber, on which one of the gentlemen used to dress my lord's wigs, it lifted it up, and came towards Mr Leslie with it, holding it above his head, saying, — If, Mr William, I had a commission or permission, I wad brain you with this.' And so it evanished.”+
This was a sufficiently startling occurrence, and those who believe in it will not be at all astonished to hear that, “as the poor clergyman recovered out of one swoon, he fell presently into another; and in this condition he lay till to-morrow morning, at which time he was found almost dead." I
* Tour in Scotland, iii. 110.
+ Analecta, i. 113.
It is now upwards of fifty years since the old mansion or Palace of Seton, one of the glories of the Lothians, has been swept away, and we know it only in the rude engraving preserved by Grose, where it appears in the form of a vast cluster of round and square towers, curtains, and turrets, indicating the work of many different ages of architecture. Its place is now occupied by a modern mansion, intended to be an imitation of the old English baronial style. Having been for some time deserted, it is making rapid progress towards a state of premature decay, and in its broken windows and damp neglected walls has all the sadness without the dignity of antiquity. Round about it, in the shape of old walls and abutments, venerable trees and an ancient orchard, are scattered remnants of the departed Palace, but there remains but one object truly worthy of representing the ancient magnificence of the spot, in the ruins of the Collegiate Church endowed by the house of Seton, which they proudly placed, in the fulness of their patronising and protecting power, within the cincture of their palace walls. The building appears never to have been completed according to its original cruciform plan, of which only the chancel and transepts are to be seen, surmounted by the tower of an intended spire. The architecture is a mixture of the early English and the later styles, corresponding with the different periods at which the works were constructed. There is a fine oriel or apse of three pointed arches at the end of the chancel. On the north side, within a niche in the perpendicular style, are the monumental effigies of one of the Lords of Seton and his wife, somewhat mutilated, but in a less unseemly condition than such monuments are generally to be found in Scotland. The male figure is in plate armour, with a wreath round the helmet. On the head of the female the reticulated work is still distinct. The hands are closed in the usual attitude of prayer. Opposite to this monument is a richly decorated piscina in good preservation. The gloom of this old chancel, but feebly lighted through fragments of the boarded up windows, is enhanced by the multitude of tombs of various ages of which it is the repository. The services of religion have long ceased to be performed within its walls, and it is a burial vault rather than a church. Every slab on the pavement has some monumental purpose, and the visitor is the more forcibly reminded of the dust added unto dust that lies beneath his feet, by the earth being in some places disturbed, and shewing the shape and dimensions of the graves by laying bare portions of the flagstones by which their sides are cased. Some of the flat monumental stones have an appearance of greater antiquity than any portion of the church. On one of them may be traced the earliest symbol that is to be found on any stones in Scotland ascertained to be monumental—the great cross-handled sword, which served at once to indicate the warlike career of the dead, and his trust in the religion of peace. The roof is of pointed gothic and ribbed, and by one of the caprices so often found in gothic architecture, the base of the groined arch under the tower is not on a line with the apex of the chancel arch. A round-topped Normanlooking arch gives access to a cell behind the monumental niche already referred to, in which there lie some remnants of sculptural ornaments which time or violence has detached from their proper position. Here, imbedded in the wall, a large black marble slab, contains a Latin epitaph, which might more properly be called a biography, relating the services of George, the seventh Lord Seton, who having negotiated, as Ambassador for Scotland, the marriage of the Dauphin to
Seton Church, 1—2.