North-east author launches new book

The book is the story of Cullykhan, a windswept headland on the scenic coast of the Moray Firth, its ruined medieval castle, and Fort Fiddes, the last fortification built there.
The book is the story of Cullykhan, a windswept headland on the scenic coast of the Moray Firth, its ruined medieval castle, and Fort Fiddes, the last fortification built there.

Alex McKay will be launching his book about ‘Cullykhan, Troup Castle and Fort Fiddes’ in the Fife Lodge Hotel on Sunday, June 11.

The book is the story of Cullykhan, a windswept headland on the scenic coast of the Moray Firth, its ruined medieval castle, and Fort Fiddes, the last fortification built there.

The headland lies in the lands of Troup to the east of Troup Head, near the boundary between the historic counties of Banffshire and Aberdeenshire. To the east of the headland is a beautiful sheltered bay, also called Cullykhan.

The well illustrated book examines the history of the people who lived in the castle. It describes the landscape and recounts what is known from early maps and journals. New work on the place names in the immediate area is included.

The history starts with the earliest known written references to the lands of Troup, dating from the 12th century. The main focus of the book is on the castle from about 1300 to 1600, and two families who lived there: the de Trops and the Keiths.

At the beginning of this story, Buchan was a Comyn stronghold. It was not a peaceful time and the folk of Troup did not escape the upheavals in north-east Scotland.

The Keith family acquired Troup in the late 14th century by the common expedient of marrying one of its sons to the last de Trop heiress of Troup. The succession of the Troup Keiths is described. As is typical for this time, information available in the historical record is scant, however, violence and raids feature. Possible reasons for the abandonment of the castle in the early 17th century are explored.

The Garden family acquired Troup in 1654 and, sometime after this date, Fort Fiddes was built. For the first time, the full history of Fort Fiddes, and Captain Fiddes who built it, is set out in a book.

Previously unpublished documents from local and national archives bring to light Francis Garden of Troup’s role in the construction of the fort and confirm the date of completion.

Appendices provide further information on changes within the lands of Troup, more detail on place names, a timeline and a bibliography.

Alex McKay is a native of Banffshire. He was brought up in Sandend where he attended the village school before going to Fordyce Academy. When Fordyce Academy closed, he transferred to Banff Academy for the remainder of his secondary education.

He graduated from Aberdeen University before training as a teacher at Aberdeen College of Education.

While at Banff Academy he took part in excavations at Cullykhan and Lundin Links and, so, began a lifelong interest in archaeology and history.

He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and a member of numerous local and national historical and cultural societies.

Gordon Noble of Aberdeen University will be the guest speaker at Sunday's launch. The book is being published by the Banffshire Field Club.