Monday, 29 June 2015

After Malcolm, King Donald Ban

King Malcom II, as we know, died at Glamis in Angus [see post on 14 February], but details of his death are vague.  It involved 'shame' and possibly being 'trampled under foot'.  The degree of apparent violence and lack of definite information engendered rumours and legends.  At that time, the succession rules had not settled on primogeniture and the kings could arise from the previous king's kindred, as long as the candidate was related to the ruler within a certain degree.  After Malcolm's allegedly bloody demise, his brother Donald Ban claimed the throne by the Celtic laws of succession.  He was driven from power by Malcolm's son, Donald II, but after the latter was butchered in the Mearns (and I will tell that story another time), Donald the Fair took up the reigns of power again.  But his second tasted of power was all too brief.  King Donald was captured by Donald's surviving sons, Edgar, David and Alexander.  Some sources state that Edgar put out his uncle's eyes (a very effective, symbolic Gaelic method of permanently blinding a rival, the blatant physical imperfection making kingship ineligible).  It was said that the ex-king was placed in perpetual imprisonment at Rescobie Loch, east of Forfar (the loch of the latter place also figured in the legend of his brother, Malcolm.)
   One legend maintains that, even blinded and captive, Donald still held sinister power of a sort, for he arranged the death of Prince David's son - described as a 'walking child' - in England.  His agent was a Norwegian monk who had also been deprived of his eyes, along with his hands and feet for the sin of sacrificing a priest on the altar.  This evil cleric, along with his daughter, was taken into the household of David.  One day the monk asked the nurse to hold David's child.  He grasped the two year old boy with his mechanical fingers, then ripped out his entrails.  As a punishment, the monk was torn apart by wild horses.  Back in Angus, Donald Ban was slowly starved to death, dying in the year 1099.

   Leaving that fantastical story reluctantly aside, there are several other points of interest.  The first thing is the close connection of this royal kin-group with Angus and the Mearns.  Insufficient academic study has been done to research the striking presence of royalty in this area in the twelfth century.  Perhaps there are insufficient traces in the written records, and there are certainly few archaeological traces of royal dwellings in the region.  The traces are folkloric are fragmentary.  The simplistic version of history which states that Donald Ban represented the old Celtic ways and that the sons of Malcolm were modernising pro-Normans is likely to be false.
   One interesting aspect of the blinding story, and something which casts doubt on it, is the story that the Irish St Triduana also blinded herself in the very same place, Rescobie.  This young woman is said to have disfigured herself to be rid of the amorous attentions of a Pictish king, some four hundred years before the time of Donald Ban.  The suspicion that one tale gave rise to the other is overwhelming. 

   After Donald's death, the local connection was maintained by his nephew and successor, Edgar, who died at Dundee in 1107.  The last of the royal brothers to rule was King David.  While he was absent in England, in 1130, his realm was overrun by an army from Moray.  Five thousand men under Angus Earl of Moray  (a bastard of King Alexander) were checked at Strathcathro in northern Angus by the king's lieutenant, Edward Siward.  Four thousand rebels died and only a hundred loyalists.  Local rhyme remembered the heavy death toll:

                                            Tween the Blawart Lap and Killievair Stanes,
                                            There lie mony bluidy banes.

   An earlier battle in the very same spot may be responsible for the name Stracathro, or its alternative, Strickathrow.  Legend explains that when Agricola's legion tried to cross the North Esk here, they were assailed by Picts on the further side.  To urge on his soldiers, Agricola yelled, 'Strike and ca' [i.e. drive] through,' which was reassuringly Scottish of him.


Sunday, 28 June 2015

More Bad Lairds - The Edzell Connection

Following the tale of the Bad Laird of Ballumbie (posted on 15th June), we move north to Edzell Castle, now a ruin, but still possibly the most beautiful castle in the county of Angus.  The Lindsay lairds who owned this house were generally more peaceable than their kinsmen, the Earls of Crawford who inhabited Finavon Castle. But there were exceptions.  One Edzell laird argued with his tenant, a man named Black who lived at Mill of Lethnot.  After an acrimonious meeting at the castle, where the men had rowed over the matter of rent, Black was attacked on his way home by an agent of Lindsay's named Cobb.  But Black got the better of him and managed to throw him off a cliff and the attacker was drowned in a pool.  The cliff was afterwards called Cobb's Heugh and the pool became known as the Black Pot.
  
   Major John Wood of Inverskandy was factor to the penultimate Laird of Edzell and had an evil reputation in the district.  Although he was tall and strong, he was also mean hearted and sour minded.  Many of the locals were so scared of him that they would only venture to use the ford adjacent to his house when they were definitely sure that the Major was either sleeping or away from home.  One poor girl who used the ford was unaware of the danger and came that way as she journeyed to tell her friends about her forthcoming wedding.  The major spotted her and pursued her across the bleak moorland,  She fled towards the river, but slipped into a deep pool and was drowned.
   On his deathbed, major Wood continued to rave such wild blasphemies that a ball of dough was stuffed into his mouth to stifle these obscenities.  Satan, in the form of a crow, came to personally collect his tarnished soul:

                                      An when the Major was a deein,
                                      the Deil cam like a corbie fleein,
                                      an o'er his deathbed he did lour,
                                      speerin spews, ye may be sure.

   On the way to internment in the kirkyard, the coffin bearers suddenly found that Wood's body became too heavy to carry.  The minister exclaimed in a loud voice:  'Lord, whoever was at the beginning of this, let him be at the end of it!'  The coffin resumed its normal weight and Wood was laid in a corner of the Lindsay vault at Edzell.
   A sexton once encountered what he thought was a ghost in this vault.  A Countess of Crawford had lately died and was laid to rest here with all her jewels.  The unscrupulous sexton broke into the vault at night to steal the valuables.  Attempting to prise a ring off her finger with a knife, he pierced her skin.  This wound woke up the comatose lady, who sat up, much to the thief's alarm.  The countess showered so much gratitude on the sexton that his conscience finally began to nag at him and he fled away from Edzell forever. Versions of this ironic vignette are told in other parts of the United Kingdom.

   Two ghosts used to haunt a tree in the ground of Edzell Castle.  They were the sons of a gypsy woman and shared her strange supernatural powers.  They became the favourites of Lord Edzell after slaying a pack of wolves in the glen of the Paphrie Burn.  They were rewarded with a cottage in the forest a mile east of the castle and were employed as purveyors of game and venison for the estate.  But the other tenants suspected them of poaching and finally caught them in the act.  Edzell had them hanged on the oak tree just west of the castle.
   Following the execution, the boys' mother cursed the Laird of Edzell and his pregnant wife.  He was told that he would die in a fearful manner, while his lady would be dead before sunset and buried in the same grave as her unborn child.  The trauma of the curse made her give birth prematurely, but the child was stillborn and she herself expired before nightfall.  A year and a half later, Lindsay wooed and won a lady in the west.  preparations for the marriage went on for a week at Edzell Castle, including hunting trips every day.  One day the hunting party followed a stag from Balnamoon to the Paphrie Burn, where it was brought to bay.  While the laird watched the carcass being dismembered, two wolves appeared and pounced on him.  By the time they finished tearing at his body, his remains were unrecognisable.
   The two brothers were afterwards seen on stormy nights beneath the Hanging Oak, until the time in the 16th century when lightning blasted the tree and it was cut down.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Dundee's Oldest Suburb (and its fleeting ghost)

Some years ago I read a debate in a local paper about what was Dundee's earliest suburb.  I seem to remember the journalist said it was the Magdalen Green, which would have been to the west of the medieval town, adjacent to the River Tay.  But there was no doubt in my mind that the earliest satellite settlement was probably Logie, on the north-west road out of the burgh.  Did pre-industrial up and comers migrate here to escape the sewage filled vennels of Dundee?  No, it was likely an independent, adjacent settlement that in time became incorporated into the town, never quite blossoming into full identity on its own.  Despite the fact that the place-name Logie seems to derive from the Gaelic word for hollow, the most prominent feature in the area is the mound which overlooks Lochee Road, and around which the latter curves around.  Once the site of an old kirk, the green hill is now a forlorn graveyard stranded in an urban settling.  But the landscape, a holy site on a hill once crowned by a church, gives the clue that we have here a candidate for an ancient Celtic church.  Artificial mounds and small hillocks (think of St Vigeans near Arbroath) were once favoured by early ecclesiastical builders in our area.  The church and lands of Logie-Dundee were gifted to the Abbey of Scone by Alexander I in the early 12th century. But little more is heard of it until it is mentioned in the Pontifical Offices of St Andrews under the year 1243.  On the 11th September, 1243, Bishop David of Birnam travelled here from Benvie to the west and dedicated the kirk anew.  It was part of a grand tour, a rolling programme of the bishop re-dedicating existing, ancient places of worship in the east of Scotland.  (Many other Angus churches had been visited and re-dedicated in the previous year).
    Logie eventually housed one of Dundee's earliest housing estates, but its identity was eclipsed by its eastern neighbour Dundee and its western upstart Lochee.  The kirk building long ago vanished, but well into the 19th century it was still a lonely an isolated place.    A report in the Courier on the 22nd June, 1869, reported a ghostly incident which happened here about ten days previously.  A police constable on the beat, shortly before midnight, passed the kirkyard and saw a lofty white figure gliding majestically among the tombs.  He then heard a stone, apparently thrown towards him by this vision, whistling past his ear.  The doughty, non-superstitious P.C. raised his lantern and bellowed at the spectre that it faced sixty days in jail if it did not quit the graveyard immediately.  But the ghost appeared not to heed the officer's warning and remained where it was. Just as he was about to leap over the wall and apprehend the ghost,  a woman and a man appeared beside him on the road.  They soon spotted the apparition and the lady screamed 'in utmost terror', nearly fainting.  When she calmed down, her companion suggested going with the policeman to investigate the ghost, but she would not be left alone on the road.  Eventually she gave in, but as the two men entered the kirkyard, the tall white 'whatever' receded and vanished towards the rear of the kirkyard.  The newspaper report leave its readers to conjecture whether the thing vanished into the earth, or took a more human exit, divested itself of disguise and vanished into the neighbouring buildings.  The constable and his helper searched the whole of the ground, but found nothing.  It was reported that the same figure was seen (but by whom?) about an hour later.  But apparently this short-lived ghost was never sighted again, which seems a shame, for if anywhere deserves a decent and honourable haunting in Dundee, it is surely this ancient place.  Never mind.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

The Forfar Witches


The most famous Angus trials were those women put to trial in Forfar in the early 1660s.  The trials may have been prompted by an argument between a woman named Isobell Shyrie  and an official named George Wood, prompting rumours that she had cursed him.  Suspected witches were rounded up and imprisoned.  They were questioned and tortured, and the burgh even invited an ‘expert’ to discover witches.  John Kincaid of Tranent found a witch by spotting ‘Devil’s Marks’ on her body.  His services earned him a large fee and the freedom of Forfar.   On the 25th September 1661 a young woman named Helen Guthrie gave a remarkable confession, which effectively dragged in many other women into the witch hunt. She may have come to the attention of the authorities because she was conspicuously ill behaved.  The first item in her confession is an admission that she was a very ‘drunkensome’ woman, giving to cursing and wickedness in her actions and conversation. She said that she was taught witchcraft by a woman named Joanet Galloway, residing near Kirriemuir.  Helen had the skills to curse anyone effectively, she said, and she boasted she could tell if anyone was a witch by magical means.  Then she related the evil acts done by other local witches, both men and women, though she denied being privy to their actions.  While she was in prison, on the 15th of September, the Devil came to her and attempted to spirit her away.  He only succeeded in levitating her three or four feet in the air.  Three watchmen found her in this position, making her fall to the ground with swipes of their swords. 
    Another confession was made in the same month by Joanet Huit.  She stated that Isobell Shyrie had carried her to the island in Forfar Loch and presented her to the Devil, who was less than impressed, and asked what should he do with such a little bairn as this?  Isabell answered, ‘shoe is my maiden take hir to you’.  There were around thirteen witched there with the Devil and Joanet’s revels with them earned her the nickname the Pretty Dancer.  She named the four witches she recognised. Four weeks later she was taken by Isobell to a meeting with around twenty witches at Muryknowes, where they danced and consumed beef, bread and ale.  here the Devil kissed her and pinched her hard on the shoulder, so she was in pain for some time thereafter.  Six weeks after this there was another meeting, at a place named Lapiedub, where the Devil called her his ‘bony bird’ and kissed her again, stroken the shoulder where he had previously pinched her, and the pain disappeared.  Another time she was at Newmanhill at saw the Devil having sex with her own mother.  Afterwards he galloped away on a black horse and Joanet followed him, until Satan ordered her to return to her mother.  Her mother forbade her to tell her father what she had seen that night.
    John Tailzour also made his confession in Forfar that month.  His short confession detailed encountering the Devil at Halcarton.  He was on a brown horse, and the plough beats in the fields were terrified by his appearance.  Satan said he knew John was going to market and offered to lend him money, but he refused to ‘medle with his money’.  The figure also appeared to him another time at Petterden, but John refused to have anything to do with him.
    Isobell Shyrie appeared before the authorities on the same day that Satan visited Helen Guthrie, confessing that she was a witch and that she had been at several meetings when the Devil was present, among them one ‘at the green hill’ near the Loch of Forfar, within the last month, and she named six others she knew were also there.  She stated she copulated with the Devil there.  Another confession was that she poisoned Baillie Wood by using a concoction made from toads, part of a human skull and ‘ane peece dead man’s flesh which the divill perfumed’.  The price for this Satanic co-operation was that she should herself die within twenty days.
   Two days later, Elspet Alexander confessed.  She said she had met the Devil three and a half years ago at a gathering at Petterden, where they danced and  received nicknames from Him.  She was marked on the shoulder by Satan.  One month later was another meeting, at the Muryknowes, and at a third meeting near Kirriemuir, Satan gave her a cold kiss.  Joanet Stout, in her confession on the same day, also detailed the coven’s gathering at the three places (she had sex with Him at Petterden), and said the Devil used to appear to her at Drumgley well, ‘and told hir that shoe sould not want’.  Next in the records is Ketheren Portour, who first met Satan in a quarry, along with two other women, though she was scared and ran away, even though she was a blind woman.  At another time, in the same company , the Devil appeared at a bleaching green, though she was displeased.  The Devil restored her sight temporarily on another occasion, at Ferytounfields, so she could describe Him wrapped in a black plaid.
    Agnes Spark confessed on the 26th September.  She told how Isobel Shirie took her to a midnight meeting at Littlemiln last summer, where there were a dozen people dancing to sweet music.  Those present called Isobel Shirrie the Devil’s hose, since he always rode upon her, and she was shod like a steed.  The Devil had sex there with Isobel.   Afterwards, Isobel carried her home on her back.  Next day, Isobel was in bed all day, moaning of her painful hands because she had been sorely tossed up and down the previous evening.  Agnes said that Isobel tried to entice her into the Devil’s service, but she refused to listen to her.
    On the 28th October, Helen Guthrie - evidently a star witness, damning others as well as herself - gave a second confession.  She admitted to the murder of her half-sister, Marget Hutchen, aged six or seven, who died a few days after Helen stroked her.  One spring night, she said, her coven had convened in Forfar kirkyard.  When they danced, ‘the ground under them was all fireflaughts’.  A man named Andrew Watsone entertained the gathered witches by singing old ballads, and Isobell Shirrie sang ‘Tinkletum Tankletum’.  Satan was of course present - in the shape of a ‘black, iron-heived man’ - and he led the revels and kissed all the women. Further meetings were held at the ‘pavilione-holl’ and again in the kirkyard.  After dancing they went to Mary Rynd’s house, then went to the brewer Jon Benny and purchased ale from him.  At the first meeting Andrew Watsone dug from beside the church door and the witches ate its hands, feet, head, and buttocks in a pie.  This act of cannibalism, it was supposed, would magically protect them from the having to confess.  The coven collectively tried to destroy Cortachy Bridge during a storm, but only hurt their shoulders as they tried to push it down.  They did, however, sink a ship which was lying off Barry.  Last summer, she said, John Tailzeor went through the corn fields of the miller, William Milne, at Hetherstakes, in the shape of a toad and a pig, destroying the crop.  Helen stated she had been a witch for a long time, even when she had been abroad with the gypsies.
   Helen was brought out again, in July 1662, confronting Elspet Bruice and accusing her of witchcraft.  She said that Elspet was one of the principals who attacked Cortachy Bridge, and she had also caused the death of Lady Isobell Ogilvy, daughter of the Earl of Ogilvy.  Elspet denied the accusations and associated charges, though she had also been accused by Isobell Smith of Oathlaw.  The latter confessed in January 1662, breaking down in  tears and frequently begging for mercy and prayers.  She sold her soul to Satan some years before for the paltry annual fee of three half-pennies.  Many times she met the Devil:  on one occasion it was on top of Finavon Hill, when she was brooding for revenge upon James Gray, a servant of Lord Spynie.  He afterwards died, as did John Dargy, after being touched by her.  Other crimes included magically stealing milk from her neighbour’s cows.
   In early 1662, Isobell Smith, Helen Cothill and Elspet Alexander were ordered to be executed.  The process rolled on into summer, when Marjorie Ritchie gave her testimony.  She confessed the Devil appeared to her three times, in the form of a woman.  She caused a cow to follow her home from Alyth market, and caused sickness and death among her neighbours. 

  Mysteries remain about the fate of some of the accused, but there are also questions about some of their origins, and of course their motivations. The first to die was Girsel Simpsone, who may have been lynched by the inhabitants of the town.  Helen Guthrie was the last one of the half dozen or so witches who were judicially executed, in December1662, put to death in the Playfield, Forfar (on the site of present day Victoria Street).  The women (the first being Isobell Shyrie) were strangled, then burned in barrels of tar.  Others, like Janet Bertie and Helen Alexander, were banished from the burgh.  Margaret Guthrie and Elizabeth Guthrie, unlike the others, were from Montrose, and they were also lucky in that they managed to escape with their lives.  Their freedom was engineered by their brother, James Guthrie, who happened to be a lawyer based in Dundee.  In 1666 James also attempted to liberate the thirteen year old Janet Howatt, who happened to be the daughter of the executed Helen Guthrie. The Privy Council ordered a new trial, but there is no record that it ever took place. One of the most pertinent questions about the matter is whether Helen was related to Margaret and Elizabeth; there is no proof, though perhaps the actions of James Guthrie in trying to help Helen’s daughter would point towards some kinship.  There is also no evidence, sadly, to show whether young Janet was freed from prison.

 

Monday, 15 June 2015

The Bad Laird Ballumbie

Tradition loves a bad landowner more than those thousands of humdrum, half decent property owners who held sway over the land for centuries, or even those one or two lairds who were active benefactors for those whose lives they controlled.  But some 'bad lairds' have - regrettably and unjustly - fallen off the edge of public consciousness even at a local level, in places where they were rightly reviled and despised, which seems a bit of a shame.
    In an effort to redress this shocking historical injustice, I will endeavour to shine a light from time to time on odd characters whose downright nastiness merits a lasting memorial.  Heaven forfend that I or anyone else should attempt to rehabilitate these nasties.  I will let the facts speak for themselves, as far as they are known.  First up is the 16th century landed hooligan who bullied and terrorised the area east of Dundee for twenty solid years.  Step up, if you will, Henry Lovell of Ballumbie Castle.  The family had migrated from Hawick to Angus at an early date and traditionally provided Dundee with baillies and councillors, but this Lovell was a notorious bad seed.  Despite his notoriety, or possibly before his wickedness got into full swing, he  was knighted and incorporated into the Guildry of Dundee on 20th June 1559.   He was so feared locally that Claypotts Castle was built as a defence against his violence.  One of his first recorded victims was James Durham of nearby Pitkerro House, a douce man who professed to be 'ane sober and poor gentleman'.  Durham complained to the authorities that Lovell and his men frequently came to his house with the purpose of murdering him.  On the 23rd April, 1566, Ballumbie and eighteen henchmen came to Pitkerro House.  James Durham, luckily for him, was absent, but Lovell 'boisit' (threatened) his wife, then went into the barn and wounded a servant in the head with his sword.  Another servant had a staff broken over him.  Durham reported that he was scared to return to his house and said that Lovell had been swaggering about Dundee, boasting about persecuting him.  Lovell was apparently already well feared and notorious: what he had 'done to sindry utheris of the countre [was] notorslie knawin'.
    Another complainant was Lovell's own son John, who had often suffered from 'unnatural wrangs and injuries' committed by his father. In fact his grandfather Andrew Lovell had dispossessed Henry in favour of John.  Henry had frequently burnt John's growing corn, and in 1567 he injured his son's tenants and drove them off the land.  Lovell senior was summoned before the Privy Council, but he absconded from Edinburgh before his appearance.
    Ballumbie's most sustained raids were against the kirk lands of Monifieth, between 1565 and 1569.  The minister, Gilbert Gordin (or Gardin), said that on one occasion Lovell arrived with thirty men and expelled the tenants from the manse and the glebe.  He also knocked down houses, cut down trees and stole monies due to the kirk.  The Regent Moray heard complaints against the man when he came to Dundee in July 1569, and appointed the Laird of Dun to deal with Lovell.  But Dun reported that Lovell refused to leave Monifieth manse and let the minister return.  Two Dundonians also claimed protection from Lovell, and John Lovell was bound under the penalty of 2000 merks to keep his father within the law.  The wicked Lovell, however, carried on regardless.  In 1572 he stole four oxen belonging to one Thomas Schippert.  He was ordered again not to molest his son John and at the same time John, who had evidently lost all patience with him, was ordered not to attack his father.  The laird was 'was denunceit rebell and thairfor put in ward'. 
    The last record of the wayward laird was in 1575, when Lovell - now designated as Auld Ballumbie - harried the village of West Ferry.  Four houses were demolished, a woman named Helen Buchan was forcibly evicted, and harry knight was threatened with a sword.  The Lords Council adjourned the case to gather more evidence, but there is no further mention of wicked Henry Lovell in historical records.  The crumbling remains of the castle remain, though it quickly passed from the Lovell kindred to the Lyons of Aldbar, and later the Maule-Ramsays of Panmure.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Place Rivalries (Part Three)

Following earlier posts about places in Angus which had an (un?)healthy dislike of each other [see post on 22nd December, 2014], it seems there is more water in the well of inter-community mutual suspicion.  Perhaps it was a citizen of Forfar who said the following about neighbouring Kirriemuir:

                                                Faare are ye gaen?  To Killiemuir!
                                                Faare never ane weel fure [fared]
                                                But for his ain penny-fee [wages].

    Forfar folk in the past had many names tagged onto them, from the harmless - the Loons - to the baffling - Deevil Burn Me.  Forfarians were also called the Spooters, from the 'spoot' of Forfar Loch.
    One slander nicknamed the county town Brosie Forfar, from the excessive eating and drinking of its inhabitants.  The large number of lawyers once found in the burgh were collectively called the Drunken Writers of Forfar.  When the townsfolk, in the early 19th century, decided to drain their loch, a meeting was called to decide how to proceed.  When it was argued that normal means of drainage would be too expensive, the landowner, Lord Strathmore, suggested that they throw a couple of hogsheads into the loch and let the Drunken Writers sup up the water along with the whisky.  Thankfully, neither this ingenious scheme nor any other was attempted and Forfar Loch is still there.
   An old, forgotten proverb runs:  'Do as the cow of Forfar did, tak a standing drink.'  The standing drink, more commonly called the deoch an dorus, was drunk by guests just before leaving.  The saying's origin goes back to a dispute involving a cow and a tub of ale.
   A Forfar woman had just brewed a large quantity of ale, which she put into her back garden to cool off.  When she went out to check it, she found the tub empty and her neighbour's cow staggering and staring strangely.  Outraged, she started beating it with a stick.  When the cow's owner heard it bellowing, he rushed out and demanded that she stop assaulting the animal, but the woman refused and said she wanted compensation for her beer.  The man refused, so the ale wife sued him in court.  The baillie who heard the evidence asked whether the cow had been standing up or sitting down when it drank the ale.  The woman said that she hadn't seen, but assumed that the cow had been standing up.  Hearing this, the baillie said that there was no case to answer:  the cow had merely partaken of the standing drink, the ancient custom of hospitality in Scotland.  With legal cases like that, it is no wonder that Forfar took to drink.

   Rivalry between Forfar and Montrose came to a head when the minister of the latter town defected and went to Forfar.  The Rev. Skinner was just settling into his new kirk when he heard that the Montrose folk were saying that he had been seduced by a better wage and a supply of pork fat.  He wrote an angry letter to Montrose kirk and showed it to his grandfather (another minister), who composed a more pithy riposte:

                                               Had Skinner been of carnal mind,
                                               as strangely you suppose,
                                               or had he even been fond of swine,
                                               he'd ne'er have left Montrose.

   Perhaps the kindest rhyme concerning Forfar is an observation about the local speech patterns, now perhaps extinct:

                                              By fu, and fat, and far and fan,
                                              ye can tell a Forfar man.

   In the middle of the 17th century two Forfar men exiled in Stockholm sent back to Forfar a magnificent bell for the kirk.  Sadly, when it was unloaded at Dundee docks, the bell was seized by town officials.  A fight ensued, during which the bell's clapper was torn out and tossed into the River Tay.  Eventually the bell was allowed to go to Forfar, but only after Forfar agreed to a bizarre deal:  the Forfarians were forced to buy all the land they travelled over between Dundee and Forfar.  And that was how a road in Dundee became known as the Forfar Loan.  The bells of Forfar are said to be the oldest in the county.  Three of them were donated by the Stockholm merchants, William and Robert Strang, sons of a former Provost of Forfar, in 1657.

   Dundee's authorities frequently clashed with competitors upriver and along the coast, like Perth, Montrose and Arbroath. Perth and Dundee had been at each other's throats from early times, fighting over which had the right to cargoes entering the Tay and which was the second most important burgh in the realm.  The dispute raged for centuries, sometimes with civic dignitaries brawling in the streets. In 1601, a messenger from Perth was met with insults and snowballs in Dundee, prompting Perth to complain to parliament.
   Montrose traders were in trouble as early as 1289, when Aberdeen and the Moray burghs moaned that Montrose had interfered with Aberdeen's fair every year and severely dented their profits.  Montrose later tried to muscle in on Dundee's trade, but in 1584 an arbiter to parliament fixed the southern limit of the town's trading precinct at the Dichty Burn.

   One of the best known stories of inter-town rivalry tells how Arbroath folk became known as Red Lichties.  When  red stained glass was introduced for coastal safety lights, Dundee was the first to put a red light on its pier. This safety measure won the admiration of sailors and made Dundonians boast about its cost.  News of this innovation infuriated Arbroath Council.  The Provost himself was sent to spy of the light belonging to the Tay Water Willies of Dundee, as they were known.  The red glass baffled him, but he was determined to give Arbroath its own red light.  Back in Arbroath, the whole council assembled at the breakwater.  The town painter was instructed to give the existing white light a coat of paint and Sandie Swankie, the boatman, was obliged to go out to sea and report how the new red light appeared.  After one coat of red paint was applied the Provost called to the boatman, 'Fat div ye see?'  And Sandie shouted back, 'I see a reed lichtie, sir.'
   The Provost was so carried away that he turned to the painter and said, 'Od, man, gie't anither coat an we'll lick the Dundee folk yet.'
   But Tam the painter applied so much paint this time that the light was totally obliterated.  Sandie nearly drowned in the darkness, trying to get back to shore, and the councillors grazed their shins and bumped their noses along the dark breakwater.  The name Red Lichties has been used ever since.  Some in Arbroath maintain that the name actually comes from a red light hung up in Arbroath Abbey as a warning to shipping, but this is merely a whitewash of true events.