The lonely grave on Ben Rinnes
The sad story of Barbara McIntosh
By Walter Jack
Published in the Northern Scot. Friday 23rd Nov 1988
The Moss of Babbie on the slopes of Ben Rinnes is said to be the scene of a tragic suicide late in the 18th century.
Halfway across the Ben there's a hollow that at one time was recognised as the march between two estates. For years the mossy soil along the deep impression was a source of peat supplies for the surrounding inhabitants.
Tracing the origin of the name "Babbie" revealed the sad and sorrowful tale of the beautiful Barbara McIntosh who, in the 1750's lived at Rhinachat Farm, close by the mountain and a couple of miles from Aberlour. Barbara had married a local lad and at first life was sweet but it wasn't long before things turned sour. Shortly after the birth of her second child her husband deserted her and for the first time she knew the real meaning of poverty and despair.
The poor lass could not cope with the misery, hunger and degredation of it all and committed suicide. She hanged herself on a wayside tree on the Ben Rinnes to Carron Highway. As was the custom then, suicides had to be buried in uncalimed ground. The summit of Ben Rinnes was chosen as Barbara's last resting place and the grave was dug at a spot known then as the Three Lairds Boundaries. Halfway up the strenuous climb the weather broke and a storm lashed down on the struggling burial party.
The zigzag track leading up the steep side of the Ben to the Moss is an arduous climb as anyone who has attempted it will tell. Halfway up the hill was as far as they could climb for the storm raged around them and they decided to bury the lass where they stood.
A cairn was said to have been erected on the spot of the shallow grave and Barbara lay peacefully in that lonely spot until the middle of the following century.
Tradition tells us that a number of Aberlour loons had doubts about the weird story surrounding the Moss of Babie and decided to see for themselves the so-called grave of Barbara McIntosh. It was September 1855 when the lads clambered up the hill with their picks and spades and high hopes of putting an end to all the granny tales of yesteryear. They delved into the mossy soil till they came upon a coffin. That first ring of steel on wood sent a shudder up their spines; was Granny right after all? There was only one way to find out.
Wielding their spades in a frenzy they cleared the battered coffin & prised it open to find the corpse of a woman, still remarkably fresh, with most of the features & hair intact. Had it not been for a spade piercing the coffin the face of Barbara would have been remarkably distinct. Her pettycoats & shawl were in pefect condition & the colours of the tartan plaid they had wrapped her body in all those years ago was as bright as they day it fell off the loom.
The body was re-buried in its lonely grave until another generation with the same doubts disturbed the soil twenty years later. Nothing had changed but the ghoulish deed didn't go unnoticed by the local constabulary this time & the 19th century vandals were severly reprimanded.
After consultations between the "Captain" of the Banffshire Police & local Authorities a Christian burial was arranged for Barbara in the old graveyard at Aberlour.
Peace at last had come to the lass who became a legend through no fault of her own, but the hardships & poverty of another place and time.
Reproduced with the kind permission of The Northern Scot
Have you heard this tale before?......Have you heard a different version?
Do you know anything about this unfortunate lass?
We would love to hear from you
All correspondence to Bob Fuller please
Post: Tales, FOBR, c/o Bob Fuller. Braeside, Beatshach, Aberlour, AB38 9NJ.
Check out the Gallery Pages for more images of the Ben and it's environs