Arbuthnott Castle by Becky McGregor

Since 1170 an Arbuthnott has lived in the town of Arbuthnott, in the Arbuthnott Castle, in Scotland. As a young child I dreamed of this castle. I saw tall towers, grand staircases with high ceilings and elaborate carvings. In 1972 my grandparents, on my father’s side, visited our castle and brought back pictures.

As I looked at the pictures, my shoulders slumped and I shook my head. My grandfather laughed and said “Not what you were picturing? It is kind of ugly”.

“Ugly is an understatement,” I replied.

Front of Castle. Georgian front added in 1754; Front door, main staircase and flamboyant bridge added in 1820.

The castle was a large square block of concrete. The front door was thick wood, but it was short and had no carvings on it. There were several windows, but they were placed high and also seemed small. There were no towers, or grand staircase. My childhood dreams were shattered.


Years later as an adult my husband Bruce, my sister Debbie, my son Randy and I took a trip to Scotland. We drove to Arbuthnott the town, ate lunch in the Arbuthnott Café, and toured the Church of Arbuthnott with its graveyard. Then we drove over a bridge to my castle. While I still thought it was ugly, it held a subtle pull for me. We walked the grounds and saw the stream which fed water to the local farms.


We were allowed to enter the castle and the words Home and Family filled my mind. My soul knew this place.


As I walked down stone steps to the kitchen I could feel all my ancestors stepping on those steps, causing the stone to be worn down in the center. All the design features led me to understand this castle was designed for defense. A defense which lasted through the centuries, giving our clan the ability to hold on to the castle to this day.

Bridge to Castle

I now see the castle’s beauty in its strength. My pride swelled for all my ancestors who lived and fought for this town, church, farms and castle. My childhood dreams have grown into an adult reality.

Formal sitting room

As an adult I have done the research into my ancestors to find the Legend of Hugh Le Blond, the castles fourth generation lord, who became the subject of a ballad first printed by Sir Walter Scott in The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. A tale of chivalry, about a knight saving a Queen by combat. I now have dreams of a striking blonde knight fighting to save the Queen and being award additional land for his troubles. At the end of this dream, Hugh Le Blond rides back to his ugly, defendable castle in triumph.

Sister Debbie on the right, Becky in the middle and the current Lord Arbuthnott on the left


Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border – Volume 2, poems by Sir Walter Scott

The tradition, upon which the ballad is founded, is universally current in the Mearns; and the editor is informed, that, till very lately, the sword, with which Sir Hugh le Blond was believed to have defended the life and honour of the queen, was carefully preserved by his descendants, the viscounts of Arbuthnot. That Sir Hugh of Arbuthnot lived in the thirteenth century, is proved by his having, in 1282, bestowed the patronage of the church of Garvoch upon the monks of Aberbrothwick, for the safety of his soul.

I was favoured with the following copy of _Sir Hugh le Blond_, by K. Williamson Burnet, Esq. of Monboddo, who wrote it down from the recitation of an old woman, long in the service of the Arbuthnot family. Of course the diction is very much humbled, and it has, in all probability, undergone many corruptions; but its antiquity is indubitable, and the story, though indifferently told, is in itself interesting. It is believed, that there have been many more verses.


The birds sang sweet as ony bell,
The world had not their make,
The queen she’s gone to her chamber,
With Rodingham to talk.

“I love you well, my queen, my dame,
“‘Bove land and rents so clear
“And for the love of you, my queen,
“Would thole pain most severe.”

“If well you love me, Rodingham,
“I’m sure so do I thee:
“I love you well as any man,
“Save the king’s fair bodye.”

“I love you well, my queen, my dame;
“‘Tis truth that I do tell:
“And for to lye a night with you,
“The salt seas I would sail.”

“Away, away, O Rodingham!
“You are both stark and stoor;
“Would you defile the king’s own bed,
“And make his queen a whore?

“To-morrow you’d be taken sure,
“And like a traitor slain;
“And I’d be burned at a stake,
“Altho’ I be the queen.”

He then stepp’d out at her room-door,
All in an angry mood;
Until he met a leper-man,
Just by the hard way-side.

He intoxicate the leper-man
With liquors very sweet;
And gave him more and more to drink,
Until he fell asleep.

He took him in his arms two,
And carried him along,
Till he came to the queen’s own bed,
And there he laid him down.

He then stepp’d out of the queen’s bower,
As switt as any roe,
Till he came to the very place
Where the king himself did go.

The king said unto Rodingham,
“What news have you to me?”
He said, “Your queen’s a false woman,
“As I did plainly see.”

He hasten’d to the queen’s chamber,
So costly and so fine,
Untill he came to the queen’s own bed,
Where the leper-man was lain.

He looked on the leper-man,
Who lay on his queen’s bed;
He lifted up the snaw-white sheets,
And thus he to him said:

“Plooky, plooky,[A] are your cheeks,
“And plooky is your chin,
“And plooky are your arms two
“My bonny queen’s layne in.

“Since she has lain into your arms,
“She shall not lye in mine;
“Since she has kiss’d your ugsome mouth,
“She never shall kiss mine.”

In anger he went to the queen,
Who fell upon her knee;
He said, “You false, unchaste woman,
“What’s this you’ve done to me?”

The queen then turn’d herself about,
The tear blinded her e’e–
There’s not a knight in all your court
“Dare give that name to me.”

He said, “‘Tis true that I do say;
“For I a proof did make:
“You shall be taken from my bower,
“And burned at a stake.

“Perhaps I’ll take my word again,
“And may repent the same,
“If that you’ll get a Christian man
“To fight that Rodingham.”

“Alas! alas!” then cried our queen,
“Alas, and woe to me!
“There’s not a man in all Scotland
“Will fight with him for me.”

She breathed unto her messengers,
Sent them south, east, and west;
They could find none to fight with him,
Nor enter the contest.

She breathed on her messengers,
She sent them to the north;
And there they found Sir Hugh le Blond,
To fight him he came forth.

When unto him they did unfold
The circumstance all right,
He bade them go and tell the queen,
That for her he would fight.

The day came on that was to do
That dreadful tragedy;
Sir Hugh le Blond was not come up
To fight for our lady.

“Put on the fire,” the monster said;
“It is twelve on the bell!”
“Tis scarcely ten, now,” said the king;
“I heard the clock mysell.”

Before the hour the queen is brought,
The burning to proceed;
In a black velvet chair she’s set,
A token for the dead.

She saw the flames ascending high,
The tears blinded her e’e:
“Where is the worthy knight,” she said,
“Who is to fight for me?”

Then up and spake the king himsel,
“My dearest, have no doubt,
“For yonder comes the man himsel,
“As bold as ere set out.”

They then advanced to fight the duel
With swords of temper’d steel,
Till down the blood of Rodingham
Came running to his heel.

Sir Hugh took out a lusty sword,
‘Twas of the metal clear;
And he has pierced Rodingham
Till’s heart-blood did appear.

“Confess your treachery, now,” he said,
“This day before you die!”
“I do confess my treachery,
“I shall no longer lye:

“I like to wicked Haman am,
“This day I shall be slain.”
The queen was brought to her chamber
A good woman again.

The queen then said unto the king,
“Arbattle’s near the sea;
“Give it unto the northern knight,
“That this day fought for me.”

Then said the king, “Come here, sir knight,
“And drink a glass of wine;
“And, if Arbattle’s not enough,
“To it we’ll Fordoun join.”

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