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May 20th 1695

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Master of Rollo gets it

It is impossible to read any Scottish history up to the 18th Century without becoming aware that for all classes of society, the preservation of life was not accorded a very high priority. Clans slaughtered one another on the basis of real or imagined insults. People happily killed one another in the name of religion, and when Scotland was not fighting the English they were all too often engaged in fighting one another. On a more personal basis, quarrels, even minor quarrels, frequently ended in the shedding of blood.

The Master of Rollo was the eldest son of Lord Rollo of Duntrub, “a young man of fine parts and great hopes.”  He suffered, as many of his neighbours did, from the periodic forays of Highland cattle raiders. In 1691 he complained to the Scottish Privy Council of the raiders and received some protection from the military, but early in 1695 he suffered severely from another creach made in Strathearn. After the raid, while trying to trace the members involved and the way in which they had disposed of the cattle, he discovered one of his beasts in possession of a tenant of Edmonstone of Newton.

There was no suggestion that Edmonstone had been involved in any way, and he and Edmonstone were said, at that time, to be on excellent terms. However, for some reason, the Laird of Newton, who was possessed of a choleric and revengeful disposition, took great offence at Rollo’s action in reclaiming the beast. Patrick Graeme, of Inchbrakie also voiced his hostility to Rollo. He is alleged to have said. “It has been noised over the countryside that I have courted the Master of Rollo, and fawned upon him for his favour. But when fitting occasion comes I shall show the world the very reverse.” 

On Saturday May 18th, Newton called on Inchbrakie and it is believed, played on his dislike of Rollo. He stayed there all the week-end and on the Monday morning, hearing that Rollo was going to Invermay House (near Forteviot) in the afternoon, they made their way on horseback to Duntrub to accompany Rollo. At Duntrub they were well received and met also the Laird of Clevage and a Mr McNaughton. It was agreed that all five should ride together to Invermay in the afternoon.

All went well to begin with. The Laird of Invermay, Alexander Belsches, seemed delighted with the visit and invited all five men to dine with him. After the meal as the wine circulated it was noticed that Inchbrakie, and more particularly Newton, made a number of taunting references to Rollo, but that he for his part appeared reluctant to show offence.

Around ten o’clock the visitors prepared to make their departure. It was a fine night and there was no great hurry to reach their destination. After a short while the Laird of Newton drew Inchbrakie aside. They both dismounted and allowed the rest of the party to go on ahead. While standing, Newton unbuckled his sword and belt which he gave to young Inchbrakie. This done the two men rode on to make contact with the other three, and all five continued on their way. Newton then persuaded Clevage and McNaughton to gallop on ahead leaving Inchbrakie and Rollo some way behind.

A little later, hearing sounds of clashing swords followed by a cry for help, Clevage and McNaughton wheeled round and galloped back to find both Rollo and Inchbrakie dismounted. Rollo was on his knees, apparently wounded with his sword lying beside him on the road. Inchbrakie had Newton’s sword, covered in blood, in his hand, “He has got it,”  he cried. Clevage ran to help Rollo but he was already dying and collapsed in his arms without saying anything. “Heavens, such a horrid murder was never seen,”  exclaimed Clevage. Under the circumstances Newton’s comment seems strange. “A murder?”  he said, “I think not so. It has been a fair fight.” 

For his part Inchbrakie seemed stunned, almost unaware of what he had done. Newton forced him to mount his horse and sent him away into the gathering darkness. He rode through the night, until almost exhausted he reached the house of a friend, John Buchanan. To him he confessed the murder, adding “I never wanted to fight the Master; but Newton forced his sword upon me, and egged me on.”  Next morning the two swords were found on the road; Rollo’s was unstained with blood but the sword that had originally belonged to Newton was covered with blood from hilt to point.

Inchbrakie fled the country, but James Edmonstone of Newton, thinking he was safe from prosecution, remained in Scotland. He was however brought before the court in Edinburgh on August 5th on a charge of accession to the murder. He was found guilty and banished from Scotland.

In a forgiving or forgetful age Edmonstone returned to Scotland some years later and resumed his property without challenge. He fought at Sheriffmuir as also did Robert, the Master of Rollo’s younger brother, who had by this time, on the death of his father, become Lord Rollo. Patrick Graeme of Inchbrakie in 1720 was pardoned and returned to Scotland as Laird of Inchbrakie.

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