promontory stronghold on the North Sea, Dunottar dates back to Pictish era

promontory stronghold on the North Sea, Dunottar dates back to Pictish era

It is a little-known fact that the area surrounding the Buck of the Cabrach was celebrated in early-historical times and up to the late Medieval as a source for gold.

Kings of Picts used the resource centred on what is now called Rhynie in Aberdeenshire and much gold used for the crown jewels, prior to Robert Bruce’s takeover, was Aberdeenshire gold.

Scots regalia held in Edinburgh Castle

Scots regalia held in Edinburgh Castle

Pearls were also sourced in Aberdeenshire from the River Ythan and the pearl in the Crown of Scotland (now in disuse) is from the Ythan (Buchan, outlet into North Sea north of Dee and Don). Kings prior to the Scots takeover AD843 had landholdings in Cé (present Aberdeenshire) and it remained one of the richest areas for royal hunting (Royal Forests of Derley, Deer, Gight, Garioch, Insch, Forgue, Cabrach, Letter (Ladder), Mar, Stocket and Udny & Dudwick); farming and artisan crafts.

The most influential ‘Celtic’ earl before Robert I Bruce’s reshuffle was John Comyn Earl of Buchan, descended through marriage from Marjorie, last of the Pictish princesses of Derlei (Derley, Fyvie); and coincidentally nephew of John Balliol who was himself descended from the Pictish royal line through his mother Devorguila. When Bruce murdered John Comyn in Dunfermline in 1306 in order to secure Comyn lands and thereby claim Scots throne through wealth, Comyns rose as a tribe to fight back.

Ruinous Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire whose heraldic doorway was personally hacked by monarch James VI

Ruinous Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire whose heraldic doorway was personally hacked by monarch James VI

In so doing the battles of Huntly (1307) and Barra (1308, sometimes called Inverurie) preceded the devastation of Buchan – the ‘Herschip o’ Buchan’ of John Barbour’s heroic poem ‘The Brus’. Royal forests from the Ythan to the Morayshire coast were laid waste and the wasteland caused by fire has never been replanted to any degree. The Scots pines in these forests were used by the self-proclaimed King as firebrands to pursue the Comyns back to coastal Buchan and annihilation.

Comyns’ storehouse of gold (from Rhynie) was plundered and used to buy Bruce the kingdom of Scots. Bannockburn was merely a ‘follow-up’ battle in what is now colloquially called the ‘Central Belt’ to ensure Scotland’s independence from England. It was the nail in the coffin of the Buchan Pictish line.

Aberdeenshire’s grand houses from that time were no longer in use by the monarch, except in nominal annual visits or ‘progresses’ by the Royal House.

Fyvie and other castle strongholds of importance for previous royal patronage became private houses of the nobility which supported Bruce and his descendants. Rhynie gold and Ythan pearls descended into oblivion.

copyright 2009 Devorguila

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Devorguila was a Pictish princess whose lineage went back to the ancient Derilei line of  King Nechtan.  The Devorguila of history (13th century Scotland) was better known as the mother of John Balliol.  Her fame in her own time, however, was for the strength she brought to his claim to the kingdom.  By 1292 when Balliol granted lands as sovereign to his nephew John Comyn, Earl of Buchan [‘terra theinagii de Fermartyn et de Dereleye’ – the thanages of Formartine and Dereley’] – lands of Formartine and Derley – he was granting part of his own mother’s dowry to a powerful ally and perpetuating his own family inheritance.

Her fortress stronghold and his formative home was at Dunnydeer near Insch in Aberdeenshire.  There the Pictish values of family, gracious hospitality to strangers, a man’s word is his bond, are still strong.

 

It is from this clifftop crag that these Pictish stories are told: it is from her Pictish princess’s point of view that she speaks in Devorguilablog.