Grip Fast

As part of the flood prevention works in my home village, the road bridge over the Burn of Rothes was replaced. It's turned out to be a fairly utilitarian stone structure (tho the previous version was even more so). However it has two redeeming features apart from being less likely to be swept away in the next flood. It's built of a reddish stone, which is perhaps a nod to the red sandstone cliffs in the upper reaches of the burn and along the River Spey. Perhaps. I'm just thankful they didn't use the horrible fake stone that's a feature elsewhere in the flood defences.

The other is the crests carved on either side of the bridge parapets. The castle in the village belonged to the Leslie clan. You can see what's left of it here, here and here. The founder of the clan was a Hungarian nobleman , Bartholomew, who came to Scotland in 1067, and became chamberlain to the Queen. One of his duties was to carry the Queen on his own horse, with the Queen riding pillion behind him and clinging on to a belt round his waist. One day they were crossing a swollen burn when the horse stumbled. Fearing she would be thrown off, the Queen cried, understandably, "Gin the buckle bide!" (I hope the buckle's going to hold!). Bartholomew said the only thing he could have said, "Grip fast!", and they reached the other side safely. After this near miss Bartholomew added two further buckles to his belt. Three buckles on a belt became the Arms of the Leslies, with the motto "Grip Fast!". And from heroics to the mundane - the shield with the three buckles formed the crest of my primary school blazer.

I was pleased to see that the new bridge has already been decorated by a passing bird, probably a swallow. They skim up and down the burn in summer, chasing the insects that dance above the water.


  1. Very interesting. My city needs to do some flood defense work, but there's no money for it so it's not getting done. It's going to be a bad scene the next time we have big rains.

  2. Hi Linda,
    Nice to see the new bridge honors the history of the river with even a touch of humor :) I enjoyed looking back at the previous posts you linked too to see the castle. It's a bit romantic, the history of the land and something we have little of here in the Western US (granted, we do a terribly poor job of recognizing the history of the native people of our land) so I am always interested in your blog and the history you relay, I really appreciate what you write. Cheers, Jenni

  3. I love your story and the history behind your school's emblem!!! (my ex husband was of Scottish lineage and he was always rather proud that his family emblem sported a dead naked king...he knew the story behind the emblem, but I've's been awhile!!!)

  4. What an interesting story! I wish there was such a history behind my schools' crests lol

  5. What an interesting story and bit of history...and the results are still evident all these centuries later!

    I'm glad you explained what that sentence means because I could not make heads or tails of it otherwise!

  6. A great story to go with the words.

  7. What a lovely bit of history.

  8. That's a wonderful story - thanks for making something the rest of us would pass by, and not understand, so meaningful.

  9. Great story! Do you still have your blazer?

  10. Very interesting. I am glad the birdie has left its calling card too.

  11. Al, I think we were very lucky that the budget for the work was approved before the financial downturn. It would be unlikely to happen just now. Hoping your area manages to escape flooding.

    Jenni, I am shamefully ignorant of the history of the US, beyond the blindingly obvious key dates. I do intend to make up for that.

    The Chieftess, I'm intrigued by the 'dead naked king'. Off to look up clan websites!

    Karine, crests have to start somewhere. I daresay the 3 buckles weren't that interesting to people in 1076. 'Whatever, another boring belt on a crest...'

    Sara, I grew up understanding Scots, so I do have to remind myself to translate.

    Farmchick and clairz, glad you enjoyed the story and picture.

    Christine, you can imagine my blogger's compulsion to take a photo as soon as I saw the new crest!

    RedPat, I don't think I do. I have my secondary school blazer - will post something about its crest sometime.

    Babzy - thanks! I haven't seen school crests in France - are there any?

    Foddy, the carving made me want to be able to do that too. Hopeless, since I can't draw/paint/do anything artistic. Everything was so starkly new that the bird's calling card made the newness tone down a bit.

    Larry, I am glad we are still commissioning carvings for new buildings, and celebrating our history through them.

  12. Thank you for posting this picture. I stumbled across it while searching for 'Grip Fast' on the internet, due to it's being our family motto, as you say. I love that you attended a school that used the three buckles of Leslie crests as an emblem - I wish I had!
    yours aye,
    Timothy W. Leslie,
    Council Member and Historian to the Clan Leslie Society International

    1. Hello Timothy, what a surprise and pleasure to hear from you. We're very proud of our Leslie history in Rothes. Do let me know if you're ever in the area.


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