Planning your trip to the Leslie Clan lands? Start with a night’s stay at Leslie Castle and visit the Leslie’s Cross at the Clan Chapel and learn about the bloody battle of Harlaw. Then visit the ruins of Balquhain Castle orFetternear Palace before returning to eat at the castle.
The Leslie’s Cross honours the Leslies who died at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411. The red granite Cross is in a prominent place, in the front of the Chapel of Garioch.
The inscription reads: Sir Andrew Leslie, third Baron of Balquhain, and several of his sons rode out with Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar to meet the advance of the Highlanders at the fields of Harlaw. Six of Sir Andrew’s sons died that day as well as Leslies from nearby castles and farms.
The deadly battle typified a clash of cultures. On the one side the “wild” Highlanders who were considered savage raiders. On the other the “sophisticated” landowners farmers and trades folk of lowland Aberdeenshire. The battle raged, fuelled by a power struggle for land between the Lord of Isles and the Duke of Albany. Hundreds of men died on each side.
The Earl of Mar’s force consisted of Knights in chainmail and armour with swords, battleaxes and mace. The Highlanders had more men and charged using claymore, axes, bow and arrow. Fierce hand-to-hand fighting followed and the Highlanders ducked in cutting the hamstrings of the horses so when the poor animals collapsed the Knights were helpless.
Clan Leslie Chapel
The Chapel itself has had a long association with the Leslie family and is officially recognised as the Clan Leslie Chapel for the North East of Scotland.
Originally a private Chapel, this Church was in existence in 1151. When King Robert Bruce’s sister married one of the King’s strongest supporters, he gave her the Lordship of the Garioch. Around 1350 she founded the Chapel of our Lady of the Garioch on the heights of Drumdurno so that masses might be said for the souls of the Founder, her brother and her husband. So began the Chapel of the Garioch.
On January 22, 1420, as a result of a feud with the Forbes, Sir Andrew Leslie did battle with his opponents including the Sheriff of Angus. However, Sir Andrew was killed during the course of the battle. His wife, Isabel Mortimer had tried to stop the fighting but sadly failed. Isabel Mortimer bequeathed an annual amount for a priest to pray for his soul for all time. The Ogilvies of Granden and Forfar also granted an annuity for a Chaplain to perform divine services in the Chapel for the soul of Sir Andrew Leslie, Knight.
In 1473, King James III created an annual stipend for the support of a Chaplain at the Chapel of St. Mary of Garioch. In order to pray for the souls of Alexander Leslie, the second son of Sir Andrew and his wife Isabella. By 1500 five other priests were attached to this small Royal Chapel supported by endowments from the Mar and Leslie families. Mary Queen of Scots heard mass in the Chapel, during her stay at Balquhain Castle in September 1562. A fitting close to 200 years of aristocratic history.
The Present Church
The present Church opened for worship in 1813. The walls are elaborately stencilled in various colours and the blue painted ceiling is spangled with gold stars. It was extensively renovated by the Congregation in 1922. The back gallery was removed and a Chancel with a window of five lights built out from the north wall. In 1931 the Women’s Guild donated stained glass for the window and in 1959 a Memorial Mosaic Plaque inserted in the Chancel wall. The Chapel is an extremely beautiful example of Scotland’s country Churches.