The History of the Howe - Garvock Hill

Travelling from Arbuthnott to Laurencekirk via Redmyre means that for most of the journey you are moving along paralell to the Garvock Hill on the Easterly edge of the Howe o' the Mearns. In ancient times it was on its forested heights that Kings and their ilk hunted, and it was there that the aforementioned John Melville of Glenbervie, Sherrif of Kincardine, met his rather unsavoury end! For some reason he had displeased the Lords of the area, who decided to put paid to him once and for all.

Arbuthnott of that ilk, Barclay of Mathers, Middleton of that ilk, Falconer of Haulkerton and Graham of Morphie were the schemers who lured Melville to Garvock on the pretence of a hunting party. Little did Melville realise that he was the prey! Once the deed was done, it is said they boiled him in a cauldron and supped the resulting broth - although there are doubts as to the truth of this tale. The spot at Browniesleys where this is alleged to have taken place is known as the Sherrif's Kettle.

Altough there is no actual village in the Parish of Garvock, there is a church and an ancient kirkyard, which are situated just over the brow of the hill on its far side. Set at the top of the hill is St. Jame's Loch, where an annual Fair and Feeing Market was held for many years, until it was moved down to Laurencekirk in the 1800s.

At different times in the past Garvock has been named Garviach and Garvott, and it is thought that the literal meaning is "the rough place" - a rough expanse of pasture and moor.

One of the most prominent features of the hill is Johnston Tower, which stands high above the lands of Johnston Estate and the Burgh of Laurencekirk. The tower, an architectural folly, was built on the foundations of what could have been an old Druid tower by James Farquhar, with materials left over from the building of his mansion house, Johnston Lodge. The total cost of erecting the tower in 1812 was 42.

Johnston Tower's distinctive outline was often used in the linen designs woven on the Laurencekirk looms, and it ecventually became incorporated in the badge emblem of Laurencekirk scholars. It is also marked on Ordnance Survey and navigation maps.

So we have come full circle back to Laurencekirk, the "Capital of the Mearns".


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