by Gordon Duffus
In 1130, the Scots King David the Saint marched north into the Province of Moray to put down what would be the final rebellion staged by the followers of the House of Alpin, the last truly Celtic royal line. David and his troops turned the sky in the province black with smoke and the wails of the widows and the fatherless children filled the air. The defeated survivors were rounded up and to preclude a repeat performance, they were shipped into the Sutherlandshire hills. One participant in David's triumph was a young adventurer known variously as Freskin Ollec, Freskin son of Ollec, Freskin de Moravia, and/or Freskin of Strabrock. Not only is Freskin's name a mystery but his place of origin is also in some question ; Lothian, Moray, and even Flanders have been put forward as possibilities. Although his early history cannot be stated with any certainty, it is known that when the revolt had been crushed and the rebelling tribes had been destroyed or transported, Freskin became the lord of a vast and farflung estate as his reward from the victorious king. Freskin apparently married into the Duffus Branch of the Royal House of Moray and thereby furthered his territorial gains. He built defensive works at Duffus, just north of Elgin, and at Glen Fiddich in Banffshire. The castle at Duffus was initially a wooden structure which was placed on a man-made hill [motte] on a low ridge in the then substantial Loch of Spynie. Later additions in mortar and stone make up the present day ruin which occupies the original site. The Castle of Gauldwell, in Banffshire, currently appears as a jumble of "massive fangs and fragments of masonry" and is perched above the steep ravine where Glen Fiddich meets the Altderne.
Freskin continued his role as a warrior for the king and was called on to turn back a Viking incursion into Sutherlandshire. From this expedition we have been given "The Legend of the Last Viking". Freskin and his force succeeded in locating the raiders near Embo and the shield walls formed on both sides of the field. Within minutes, the air was filled with flying spears and arrows. The otherwise silent hills began to echo with the cries of the dead and dying and the clash of metal on metal. Charge and counter charge flowed across the field. Each success and failure being marked by the bodies of the fallen. A final Viking charge succeeded in breaking into the Scottish formation and a wild melee ensued. Viking axes and swords bit deeply into shields and helmets as the combat became individualized and personal. At the height of the madness, Freskin was knocked to the blood soaked ground where he lost hold of his weapons. As he attempted to regain his feet, he observed certain death approaching in the form of a huge Viking Chieftain with upraised axe! In desperation, Freskin grabbed onto the only object within his reach, a discarded horseshoe. With all of his might, Freskin hurled the shoe at the Norseman. The missile found its' mark squarely between the Raiders' eyes and before his blood had had a chance to flow freely, he fell to the trampled heather, dead! As word of their leader's demise spread through the scattered groups of Vikings still fighting on the field, they began to retrace their steps back toward the beach and their waiting longships. The orderly withdrawal soon became a rout as the Scots perceived their advantage and increased their pressure. The Vikings, giving up all pretense of defense, broke ranks and raced toward the beach and the safety of the sea, never to return again! Freskin recovered from his wounds and returned to his lands along the Moray Firth.
Life was good for the Hero of Embo and Freskin had the satisfaction of seeing three grandsons born to his children. Two of these grandsons, Hugh and William, founded the great houses of Sutherland and Murray, respectively. Freskin was still alive between 1166 and 1171 as he is named in a charter to his son William between those dates. It is fair to assume that Freskin's remains rest somewhere near Duffus Castle but the site is unknown.
|scottish church records|tartans
© 1998 David Duffus. All rights reserved.
Design by David Duffus