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The Marquis of Montrose's yew

The Marquis of Montrose's yew - a false legend
by Colin McLeod

The 1st Marquis of Montrose, while being taken to his execution in Edinburgh in 1650, was lodged overnight at Grange House in Monifieth, Angus. During his stay, with the assistance of the lady of the house, he managed to briefly escape, dressed in women's clothes. One of two large old yew trees in the shrubbery south of the house (rebuilt in Victorian times) acquired the story locally that the fugitive hid in its branches before being recaptured. In fact, James Malcolm's book The parish of Monifieth in ancient and modern times (1910), which describes the incident, quoting an early source, makes no mention of the Marquis hiding in a yew or any other tree - having got past his immediate guards, he was simply spotted by a sentry, perhaps somewhere close to these trees. A more romantic legend later grew up, probably inspired by the famous (true) story of King Charles II hiding in an oak tree the following year.

It is not possible to trace the origins of this story. My father (b. 1912) and aunt (b. 1910) were both raised in Monifieth, and it was from them that I heard the story, so it must have been in circulation amongst young people in Monifieth around the 1900s-1920s. In the 1970s Grange House became a country club, but its grounds have been swamped by recent housing developments. Before that time it lay outside the town, and was somewhere that people would pass on their Sunday walks - it's easy to envisage how the story of the Marquis's escape attempt might have become mixed up with the old yew trees.

A visit in January 2006 confirmed that two large yews still stand either side of the old gate south of Grange House. They can be seen in the strip of trees along the north side of Airlie Drive, directly opposite the junction with Grangehill Drive. The size of these yews suggests that they were planted long after the events of 1650, or at most, were saplings at that time.

Monfieth Copyright© 2006 Colin McLeod
Copyright© 2006 Colin McLeod

Angus Council have confirmed that all the trees in this strip (which includes some other fine specimen trees) are protected by a TPO, although the yews are not specifically mentioned.

Learn more about Monifieth through the Monifieth History Society

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