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Clan Chisholm Society
Artifacts Register
Mantlepiece from Erchless Castle

Mantlepiece from Erchless Castle, Scotland

There are carvings on the uprights of the mantlepiece that are undoubtably symbolic representations of the roots of the Chisholm family. The carving on the right side seems to be an artistic representation of our Scandinavian/Norse roots. The carving on the left side represents our later Scottish Highland roots, since it is a generalised artistic representation of a kilted highland chief (with the "chiefly" three feathers in his bonnet).

Inscription on Mantlepiece
There is a fascinating but crude inscription that is hand carved on the base of the mantlepiece under the highland chief upright on the left side. The inscription points to another important dimension of our Chisholm heritage. The inscription states:
"What tho a wretched cairn, ye slew think ye no. Roderick Dhu - Tomich"
This hand inscription was undoubtably carved after it had left Erchless Castle. The ""wretched cairn" probably refers to the stone cairn that was commenced in the 1950's and is located close to the Mullardoch hydro electric scheme. Each stone has been brought by a Chisholm from his or her place of residence beyond the historic clan lands in Strathglass. Thus the "wretched cairn" that was slain probably refers to the end of the historic highland clan as a result of 19th century clearances. However it is not clear who is "Roderick Dhu" or "Black Roderick". He could well have been a Chief or clan office holder within the Chisholms of Knockfin. Whoever he was, he is probably associated with the clearances of the Chisholms from Strathglass and Knockfin. Tomich is the name now given to the tiny village on the River Glass that is upstream from Erchless Castle and is right across the river from where the settlement of Knockfin used to be. The Chisholms of Knockfin were a branch of the Chisholms of Strathglass.
After the mantelpiece was repaired and refinished it was professionally appraised. The appraiser thought that it had probably been crafted during the nineteenth century. There is a portion of Erchless Castle that has a lintel piece over a large window with the date 1895 inscribed, so the fireplace mantlepiece probably originates from this portion of the castle.

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