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An Dubh-bhruach

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An Dubh-bhruachAn Dubh-bhruach - 29th March 2012

An Dubh-bhruach is the (ruined) farm in lower Gleann Dhé, on the right-bank of the , 2-miles upstream from Eas Dé.  With its main buildings certainly above 1,300 ft., An Dubh-bhruach was, by reputation, the highest farm in Scotland.

As a place name An Dubh-bhruach - means the black (or dark) bank

In 1703 An Dubh-bhruach already exists as a place name - appearing on Farquaharson (1703) as 'DUBRECH' - the uppercase letters suggesting the possibility it was a farm (rather than merely a shieling) during the time of the Earls of Mar.

By 1749 the farm was tenanted by Michael Farquharson when in June of that year Sergeant Arthur Davies was stationed there with a Corporal and 12 men during the period of relative lawlessness after the Jacobite rising of 1745.  The living arrangements in the farmhouse must have been interesting because apparently Michael and his son Donald shared it with the sergeant and his wife Jean.

In 1763 the 49 year old Peter Grant, while living at 'Dubrach', and Marion Cumming were 'matrimonially contracted'. 

Sometime before the end of the 18th century the farms in Gleann Dhé were combined, but still divided by the river - 3-into-one on the north-bank, and 3-into-one on the south-bank.  In Dixon & Green (1995) the authors put the date after 1792 - writing :

Dubrach and Dalvorar, which were both depicted on Farquharson's map 1703, continued as two separate farms until after 1792 (AUL MS3175/1508 and 804A), when they were converted to a single lease.  This lease, which was held successively by members of the McHardy family, was run as a sheep-farm with the grazings of Geldie and, for a period, Bynack and Corryvron ...

- Dixon & Green (1995) (p13)

I've not investigated their sources yet, so they may well be correct, but I suspect the farms were combined before 1792.  As yet I have no real evidence, but an off-hand statement by James, 2nd Earl Fife of the 17th of August 1779 written at Mar Lodge, an quoted in Tayler & Tayler (1925) suggest an earlier date to me.  In the letter, James, 2nd Earl Fife writes :

... I left this [place] at three o'clock yesterday morning. Breakfast in my new sheal about two miles above Macurdy's on Dee side ...

- James, 2nd Earl Fife

It's almost certain that 'my new sheal' is Ruighe na Cùlath, 2-miles upstream from Dail a’ Mhorair, which we are almost certain was 'held successively' by the McHardy family.  I'm convinced by the lack of reference to any other tenant in Gleann Dhé, and by his 'two miles' pin-pointing Dail a’ Mhorair exactly.

By 1810 we know much more - in Keith (1811) the author refers to Charles McHardy renting the farm at 'Delavorar' several times, and gives us quite a clear picture of how the farm was run - writing :

In the highest part of the county, Mr. Charles MacHardy, who rents the extensive farm on Glen Geaullie, charges only twenty shillings for a horse, and six shillings for each head of black cattle, for the season, i.e. about five months

- Keith (1811) (p329)

Although the 'farm' as such was in Gleann Dhé, not Gleann Gheallaidh - this quote is interesting because it clearly shows that the grazing of Gleann Gheallaidh was included in the lease of 'Delavorar', and that Charles McHardy was grazing people's animals in Gleann Gheallaidh, and charging by the head.

By 1832 all leases in Gleann Dhé ended (or were ended) and not renewed, ending all farming of the glen above Eas Dé.  In MS 3175/1748 is the final farming rental of An Dubh-bhruach ending at Whitsunday 1832, and it shows Charles McHardy was renting 'Dalvorar', and 'Dubrach' for £70 a year ; a lot of money at a time when a keeper's house could be built for £10.

By 1866 when the area was surveyed by the Ordnance Survey, the farm was already in ruins, but the name survived, being recorded as 'Dubh-bhruach' on the old 6-inch map (1869).