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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XV.—Balmain and Fasque


THE Barony of Balmain, as already noticed, was so designated in a charter dated 1475, and granted to George Earl of Rothes. How long he held possession does not appear. About 1471 Sir Walter of Beaufort held Fasque and Balfour. The times were unsettled. James III. was a weak monarch, and the Lindsays of Edzell were All-powerful in the district. The old rule held good:

"The good old rule, the simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can."

Earl Beardie's son was created Duke of Montrose, with a grant of additional lands. He fought on the king's side— the losing one—at Sauchie, and his estates were forfeited. It fell to James IV. to grant these estates to his courtiers -and favourites. Of these, as already stated, Balbegno was granted to Andrew Wood in 1488, and Balmain to John Ramsay in 1510. Of Ramsay's origin nothing is known, save that a Janet Napier was his mother. At the age of sixteen he acted as page to James III., when in 1481 the king with his favourites and the discontented nobles marched at the head of 50,000 men to invade England. And when, upon reaching Lauder the favourites were hanged over the bridge, Ramsay was spared on account of his youth. Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, in his History of Scotland, thus describes the scene:

'"he nobles for despight took a hair tether and hanged Cochrane over the bridge above the rest of his complices." ..." The king was taken captive himself, and was had to the Castle of Edinburgh by the convoy of his Lords; and none escaped that was of his company, I mean his secret servants or cubiculars, but were hanged, except a young man called John Ramsay, who was saved by the king's request, who, for refuge, lap on the horse behind the king to save his life. This Sir John Ramsay was Treasurer of Scotland and laird of Balmain. This act was done in the year of Ood 1481, in August."

In 1484 he acquired the tenure of Crichton Castle, with the appointment of officer in the king's household, an auditor of Exchequer, and a commissioner for the letting of the crown lands. He had a grant of lands in the counties of Perth and Fife, the title of Lord Bothwell, and in 1486 the custody of Dumbarton Castle. He was on three separate occasions an Embassy to England. After the battle of Sauchie, in June, 1488, the overthrow and death of James III., John Ramsay, the Earl of Buchan, and others, fled to England, and entered into a conspiracy to deliver up the young king of Scotland to Henry VII., he supplying them with money. Ramsay returned to Scotland and secretly acted as a spy and agent of Henry. In 1496, the year of Perkin Warbcck's adventure in Scotland, he wrote letters to Henry, promising that " he would not fail to do good service and report the councils of James," whose good-will and favour he had at the same time so far secured as to be appointed a member of the Parliament, with a tenement and orchard in the Cowgate, and subsequently a grant of the lands and barony of Balmain. The marriage of James IV. with the Princess Margaret of England, in 1502, led to the union of the crowns in 1603, and John Ramsay, the founder of the House of Balmain, notwithstanding all his faults, was instrumental in bringing about this happy consummation. He was twice married. His first wife was Isabel Cant, daughter of Thomas of Dumbarton; and his second, Margaret Strachan of Thornton, who, after his death in 1535, married Alexander Ogston of Fettercairn. Sir John Kamsay was succeeded by his son William, who married Marjory, daughter of William Wood of Bonniton. A James Ramsay, who was probably related to Sir John, occupied Meiklestrath in 1509, and paid "victuals, muttons, oxen and poultry" in name of rent.

The third laird of Balmain was David, son of William Ramsay. He married Catherine, daughter and eleventh child of Sir Robert Carnegie of Kinnaird, grandfather of David, first Earl of Southesk. One of their sons, the Rev. Andrew Ramsay, A.M., to be afterwards noticed, rose ta eminence in the Church. Their eldest son, Gilbert, was-served heir to his father in 1625. He was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia, and served for several years in Parliament as member for the county of Kincardine. As. already noticed in the account given of John Earl Middleton, his first wife was Grizel Durham, and his-second, a daughter of Auchinleck of Ballandro. Sir Gilbert was succeeded by his son David, and he also sat for the county in Parliament. The "rascal Irish Regiment" of 800 men that came over the Cairn o' Month in 1639, robbed and spoiled his property. By way of compensation he had a grant of 4000 merks from Government, and, in 1647, an additional grant of 500 for the ravages-and excesses committed by the soldiers of Montrose. About 1650 he acquired the lands of Benholm, which were afterwards sold to Robert Scott. About 1674 Sir David was followed by his son Sir Charles, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir David Falconer of Glenfarquhar. [Her mother was Margaret, daughter of Captain Kobert Irvine of Monboddo. The Irvines and Kamsays were again connected in the-person of Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine.] They had two sons David and Alexander, and a daughter Helen. She married Hercules Scott of Benholm, and the marriage contract was signed at Fasque by seventeen witnesses. In order to show the extent of the Barony of Balmain at this period, and give the names of some holdings in it now unknown, the retour to Sir Charles may be partly translated and quoted as follows :—

" March 16th, 1674. Dominus Carolus Ramsay Miles, baronettus de Balmaine, haeres Domini Davidis Ramsay de Balmaine, in villa et terris de Balmaine, with the pendicles of Blaires and Bognothie (Blairbog and Bogmuir ?) of Eslie, Burnsyde, Wester Strath, with mill and pendicles of Lonsched(?), Burnett's land(?), and Drum-hendrie, Mill of Fethercairn, 20 shillings yearly from lands in Fethercairn, lands of Faskie, commonty of Luther, Kincardine, Oallowmyres and Cammock, commonty of hill above Faskie,—old valuation entry 7 6s. 8d.—new entry 29 6s. 8d. Also the west third-part of Pitgarvie, Newbigging, Todholes and one-half the Waird of Arnbarrow, lands of Creichiteburn, Wallneuk(?), Jack-strath (?)," and part Eister Strath. Old entry 20s.—new 4. Likewise the Mill-lands of Mill of Blacklatch (Bogindollo), Thenston and Loneley, Coathill, Dillathie (Dillally), three plough-gangs of Fodra (Brae of Fasque), Greengaits (?), Hairstonmure (or Nethermill), Braelandmure(?), Sandiehillock with pasturages: val. entry 12 13s. 4d."

And in a previous charter:

"The third part of the land of Heland-agoyne (now the manse glebe and field below), one-third of long and short Haltoun(?): old entry 40s.; new 8. Also the lands of Over Craignieston, including Goskiehill and Barehill, the Templar lands, Paroche Croft and Diraland of Fethercairn : old entry 10s.; new 40s."

The lands and croft last mentioned were held for the service of the Church. The Dira was the Kirk Officer, and his croft, as at Laurencekirk, was also called the Bellakers; he being in charge of the church and funeral bells. Sir Charles died in 1697, and was succeeded by his son David, who, like his father and grandfather, was M.P. for the county. In 1706 he protested against the Act for the Treaty of Union with England. He improved the estate and planted the grand old beech and ash trees at Fasque.

His brother Sir Alexander succeeded hira in 1710; and he introduced land drainage, the application of lime carried in creels on horseback over Garvock hill, the sowing of grass seeds, the building of stone dykes to enclose his fields, and about the year 1730 planted the double row of stately beeches alongside the avenue leading up to Fasque. He died in 1754; and a mortcloth entry, in the Kirk Session records, shows that he was buried, as probably his forbears were, in Fettercairn churchyard. He was succeeded in the estate and titles by his nephew, Alexander Ramsay Irvine,. who had begun life as a Civil Service clerk in London. He married Mary, the daughter and sole heiress of Alexander Irvine of Savock, New Deer, and assumed the surname of Irvine, when in 1748 he became joint owner of Savock. He carried on in a remarkable manner the improvements begun by his uncle. Few men of his day did so much for the science of agriculture. He introduced the cultivation of turnips, and with the making of roads, the use of wheel carriages and other appliances hitherto unknown. He planted the larches, spruces, and silver firs in the den of Fasque; which, before his death in February, 1806, at the age of 91, grew to an immense size, both in girth and height. He took a lively interest in the affairs of the parish and the welfare of the community. He left 450 to the kirk session for the poor of the parish. His kinsman and heir-at-law, Captain Thomas Eamsay, in the service of the East India Company, became the seventh baronet, and dying in 1830 without issue the title became extinct. Sir Alexander bequeathed the estates to his nephew, Alexander Burnett, Sheriff of Kincardine, the second son of Sir Thomas Burnett of Leys, Bart., by his wife Catherine Ramsay. Sheriff Burnett assumed the name and arms of Ramsay, and was created a Baronet of the United Kingdom in May, 1806. His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Alexander Bannerman of Elsick, Bart.; and for many years previous they and their family resided at Fasque. They had seven sons and seven daughters. Alexander, the-eldest, born in 1785, became second baronet at the death of his father in Ma}7,1810. Thomas, the second son, became-a captain in the 47th Regiment of Foot, served in the Peninsula and at Waterloo. He afterwards occupied Balbegno Castle, and, with the leading young men and farmers in the parish, instituted a target-shooting club,. which, in 1826, developed into the Fettercairn Farmers' Club. His first wife was Jane, daughter of Patrick Cruickshank of Stracathro; and his second, Margaret Burnett of Crathes. He died at Banchory Lodge in 1857. The third son was Robert, a captain in the 14th Regiment. Another was Edward Bannerman, who became the well-known and highly distinguished Dean of Edinburgh. Also William, the admiral who commanded the Baltic fleet at the siege of Cronstadt in 1854. And Marmaduke, an Oxford student, who died young, at Duneaves, Fortingal, in 1834. Lady Ramsay was with her son during his last illness; and a subsequent act of kindness to the medical attendant led indirectly to a series of events in the writer's career which resulted in his lot being cast in Fettercairn. Her ladyship attended with motherly care to the education of her children. It is said that she taught her boys, as well as her girls, to sew and knit and even to mend their clothes. Dean Ramsay relates that, when they were boys at Fasque, Lord Monboddo was an occasional visitor, and that, from hearing their seniors discussions about his belief that men were originally monkeys, they stole behind as he passed along the lobby for a peep of his tail! The new house of Fasque was almost ready for occupation when Sir Alexander died, as above stated, in May, 1810. The cost of building that stately mansion, said to be 30,000, led to embarrassment; and Alexander, the second baronet,. who lived the life of a sportsman, added considerably to the burden. He was open-handed and a very generous and popular landlord, as evinced by the handsome portrait, in the Ramsay Arms Hotel, painted by Sir David Wilkie, subscribed for and presented by the Fasque and Balmain tenantry at a public dinner in Fettercairn. He sold the Fasque section of the estate, in 1829, to the late Sir John Gladstone, Bart. He married, first, Jane, daughter of Francis Russell, Esq. of Blackhall, who died in 1819; and second, Elizabeth Maule, second daughter of the first Lord Panmure, with issue four sons and three daughters. At his death on 26th April, 1852, Alexander, his son by the first marriage, succeeded as third baronet. By his marriage, in 1835, with Ellen-Matilda, eldest daughter of John Entwistle, Esq. of Foxholes, Lancashire, he had four sons and one daughter; and resided with his family at Cheltenham. In 1855 he was appointed a Deputy-Lieutenant of Kincardineshire; in 1860, captain of the Gloucester Volunteers; and from April, 1857, to May, 1859, he represented the burgh of Rochdale in Parliament. He died on 3rd March, 1875. His •eldest son, Alexander Entwistle, J.P. and Deputy-Lieutenant of the county, born 14th January, 1837, succeeded as fourth baronet, and married, first, in 1863, Octavia, youngest -daughter of Thomas Haigh, Esq. of Elmhall, Liverpool— issue, two sons and three daughters; and second, in 1880, Caroline-Charlotte, daughter of the late James Ireland, Esq., M.P., of Ousden Hall, Suffolk, with issue one son.

It remains to be recorded that the estate of Balmain has passed into other hands; and the connection of the Ramsays with Fettercairn, which so happily existed for nearly four hundred years, is now a thing of the past. The subject of the Ramsay Bursaries at Aberdeen and St. Andrews remains to be noticed in the chapter on Bequests.


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