The River Findhorn – Part IV: River Battles

The River Findhorn – Part IV

We’ve got one more story to tell about the history around the river Findhorn; River Battles. One of those battles requires us to go back to the 14th century. Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, lives on the far side of the Findhorn, at Darnaway. Sir Alexander Cumming and his six sons live on our side, the ACE side, of the river. Right, the setting has been set. Time to tell you what happened…

River Battles

The Cummings were allowed to hunt in the forest of Darnaway for as long as they could remember. However, they were out of favor with Randolph and his uncle, King Robert the Bruce, because they had supported the English Edward I in the War of Independence. They were soon told to keep off Darnaway, their original hunting grounds. This infuriated them!

Alastair, the eldest of the six sons, gathered a thousand men. He set forth, at midnight, to attack Randolph at Darnaway. Randolph foresaw that would happen and ambushed them in a deep ravine at Whitemire. Alastair’s party did not see this coming, suffered heavy losses and was forced to retreat. Alastair and the remains of his army retreated back to the river, where they were trapped.

Randolph's Leap

With the river on one side, and Randolph’s army on the other side, Alastair had no where to go. He then threw his standard across the river, shouting: “Let the bravest keep it!”. He leapt the chasm with four of his followers and managed to get to the other side.

Randolph eventually tracked Alastair and his allies to a cave where they had taken refuge. He lit a fire at the mouth to the cave and, refusing Alastair’s pleas to be let out to die by the sword, smoked them to death.

The legend continues to tell that he cut off their heads and threw them to Alastair’s father in the besieged Dunphail Castle with the cruel taunt: “Here is beef for your bannocks”. The old chief, recognizing the head of his son, is reputed to have replied: “It is a bitter morsel, indeed, but I will gnaw the last bone of it ‘ere I surrender”. They did not survive for long.

Their heads were also cut off and placed on long staves and sent to the local towns to tell of Randolph’s victory.

The place where Alastair leapt the river is now known as Randolph’s Leap, is the narrowest section of the gorge, and part of the Full Day White Water Rafting trip. It is still a big question why the leap is not named after Alastair.

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