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Banffshire
Chapter 22. Roll of Honour


Of distinguished Banffshire families whose names are connected with national as well as local history, we may mention the Duffs, the Seafield family, the Sinclairs of Findlater, the Gordons, the Abercrombys, the Grants of Ballindalloch. The noble family of Duff has an ancient and influential connection with Banffshire and the adjoining counties. The ducal line is descended from Adam Duff of Clunybeg, in Mortlach, who died in 1674, and in course of a few generations they became owners of extensive territories in the north of Scotland. In 1879 when the late Duke of Fife succeeded as Earl, the estates exceeded a quarter of a million of acres. Ten years later he married H.R.H. Princess Louise of Wales, now Princess Royal. The Duke died in 1912. Next year his elder daughter, Princess Alexandra, Duchess of Fife, married Prince Arthur of Connaught and has one son, Prince Alistair Arthur of Connaught, Earl of Macduff.

The Seafield family represents the Grants of Strathspey as well as the Findlater branch of the Ogilvys. It was 'a Seafield who in 1707, as Chancellor of Scotland, affixed his signature to the Act of Union with England and is said to have exclaimed, "Now, there's ane end of ane auld sang."

The fifth Earl was known as the largest planter of trees in Great Britain in the last century. By 1847 nearly 32 million young trees, Scots fir, larch and hard wood, had been planted under his direction over an area of 8223 acres. That work was continued by his successors. In 1877, in the time of the seventh Earl, in the Duthil district alone 14 million fir trees had been planted since 1866. The last Earl died of wounds in France, 1915. His only daughter became Countess of Seafield in her own right.

Banffshire was one of the districts where Roman Catholicism remained powerful after the Reformation. The north-west corner, the Enzie, has been extraordinarily fruitful in vocations to the priesthood and, small though its area be, most remarkable for the number of bishops it has supplied to Catholic Scotland. Lewis Innes, born at Walkerdale, Enzie, in 1651, became, in 1682, Principal of the Scots College at Paris. That post he resigned in 1713 to act as confidential secretary to James III, the Old Pretender. James Gordon (1664-1746) of Glasterim, Enzie, Vicar-Apostolic of Scotland from 1718, was in 1731 appointed to the Vicariate of Lowland Scotland. James Grant was born at Wester Bogs, Enzie, about 17og. While serving in the Island of Barra he was taken prisoner in 1746 as a Jacobite; but no accusation having been lodged against him and the Protestant minister of Barra and others having borne testimony to his peaceful behaviour during the insurrection, he was liberated in May 1747. In 1755 he was consecrated Bishop of Sinita and in 1766 he became Vicar-Apostolic of the Lowland District of Scotland. He died at Aberdeen in 1778. Another son of the Enzie, recognised at home and abroad as a brilliant and versatile genius, was Dr Alexander Geddes, born in 1737. Educated for the priesthood at Scalan in Glenlivet, and at the Scots College in Paris, he became priest at Auchenhalrig in Western Banffshire, where he showed such a breadth of sympathy with the Protestants that he was deposed. Aberdeen University, however, made him LL.D., the first Roman Catholic since the Reformation to receive such an honour. Between 1792 and i 800 he published a translation of the Bible into English for the use of Roman Catholics, together with Critical Remarks thereon, which exposed him to the charge of infidelity. He died in London in 1802. His poetical writings include "Oh, send, my Lewie Gordon hame"—"It needs not a Jacobite prejudice," said Burns, "to be affected with this song"—and those most amusing lines "The wee Wifukie." He translated Horace's Satires, calling the volume The Roman Soul transfused into a British Body. John Geddes, his cousin, horn in 1735, was President of the Scots College in Madrid, and in 1780 became Bishop of Morocco. One of his works is A Life of St Margaret Queen of Scotland.

Abbe Paul Macpherson was born at Scalan. He was educated at the seminary there, at Rome, and at the Scots College at Valladolid. After service in the Cabrach, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, he was appointed in 1793 Agent of the Scottish Mission in Rome.

When Pope Pius VI was carried off a prisoner by order of the French Directory, Abbe Macpherson was employed by the British Government to secure his release, but the plan being disclosed, the Abbe was arrested, plundered and cast into prison, and the Pope died the next year at Valence, in the interior of France. About the same time, 1798, he was mainly instrumental in securing the most valuable of the Stuart Papers for the Prince of Wales, afterwards George IV. After his liberation he again served at missions in Scotland. He died in 1846, in the 91st year of his age, and the 68th of his priesthood. Rev. John Ogilvie (15801615) is probably the only martyr belonging to the county. He was son of Walter Ogilvie of Drum, Keith. He became a member of the Society of Jesus, and about 1614 returned to Scotland from abroad as a Roman Catholic propagandist. He was arrested in 1615 and tried and executed in Glasgow. The last of the Roman ecclesiastics we shall mention is Bishop Kyle, born at Banff in 1788. He was appointed a professor in the seminary at Aquhorthies at the age of twenty and for eighteen years he was Director of Studies. When for the first time after the Reformation Scotland was divided into bishoprics, Dr Kyle was selected to be Bishop of the Northern District and for long had his headquarters at Preshome, in the Enzie. He died in i 869, with the reputation of having been the builder up of his church in his diocese.

Belonging to a different communion and associated with national, not local, affairs was Archbishop Sharp, son of the sheriff-clerk of the county. He was born in Banff Castle in 1618 and murdered on Magus Muir, near St Andrews, May 3rd, 1679.

The county has naturally a goodly array of names connected with education. John Chalmers, born in 1712, son of the minister of Marnoch, was Principal of King's College, Old Aberdeen, for over half a century. Probably the most exciting event of his life occurred in i 745, when he was taken prisoner by the Jacobite army. He succeeded in making his escape after a month's captivity. Thomas Ruddiman, born at Raggal, Boyndie, in 1674, set off to compete for a bursary at King's College when he was sixteen. On the way he was stripped and robbed by gypsies, his loss including a guinea given him by his sister Agnes from her small earnings; and he arrived in Aberdeen friendless and almost naked. He won the first bursary. He became schoolmaster at Laurencekirk and later obtained a position in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh. In 1714 he published his Rudiments of the Latin Tongue, which at once superseded all other grammars in Scottish schools. He started business as a printer along with his brother Walter, founded the Caledonian Mercury newspaper, and in 1730 was appointed chief librarian in the Advocates' Library. He died in i75. Two of the notable works he edited were the splendid edition of George Buchanan and the valuable edition of Gavin Douglas's Eneid. Another schoolmaster who turned printer was Dr George Chapman, born in Alvah in 1723. After acting as schoolmaster in various places, he was rector of Banff Academy from 1786 to 1792. Then, till his death in i 8o6, he carried on business as a printer in Edinburgh. Five brothers, all born on the farm of Ternemny, Rothiemay, exercised immense influence on Scottish education in the last half of the nineteenth century. They were Dr George Ogilvie, head of George Watson's College, Edinburgh; Dr Alexander Ogilvie, head of Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen; Dr Robert Ogilvie, H.M. Chief Inspector of Schools in Scotland; William Ogilvie, rector of Morrison's Academy, Crieff (who died young); and Dr Joseph Ogilvie, head of the Church of Scotland Training College, Aberdeen. In the severities and early eighties of last century, one of the best-known names to boys preparing for Aberdeen University was that of Dr William Dey, a native of Kirkmichael, rector of the Old Aberdeen Grammar School. His singleness of purpose and his upright character impressed themselves on many hundreds of pupils.

Three noted medical men were born within a year of one another. Sir John Forbes (1787-1861) was born at Cuttlebrae, Enzie. He served for a time in the Navy. In 1840 he was appointed physician to the Prince Consort and in 1841 physician to the Queen's Household. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and D.C. L. of Oxford, and in 1853 received the honour of Knighthood, honours due in part to the books he published on medical subjects. Dr Robert Wilson (I 787—I 871) belonged to Banff. He was surgeon on an East Indiaman and in the course of many travels was imprisoned by Arabs. He bequeathed to the University of Aberdeen the bulk of his fortune with his library and collection of antiquities and paintings. He was founder of the Wilson Exploration Scholarship and dopor of Wilson Museum at Marischal College. Sir James Clark, M.D., K.C.B., F.R.S., Bart., was born in 1788 at Kilnhillock, near Cullen, and died in 1870. After some years in the Navy and at Rome—where he published Medical Notes on Climate—he settled in London. In 1834 he became Physician to the Duchess of Kent, an office involving the medical care of Princess Victoria, who, when she ascended the throne, appointed him her Physician.

Of distinguished soldiers and sailors we may mention the following. General Gordon of Auchintoul, one of the Scots of distinction whose military reputation was won with Continental armies, was eldest son of Alexander Gordon, a Senator of the College of Justice. His first campaign was with the French. In 1693 he went to Russia, where Patrick Gordon of Auchleuchries was head of the army, and in course of years he rose to the rank of Major General. He was in campaigns against the Turks, the Swedes, and the House of Austria; and on his return to Scotland in 1711, he brought standards and military trophies he had taken at different times. In 1715 he acted as Lieutenant-General under the Earl of Mar and commanded the Highland Clans at Sheriffmuir. He was attainted for treason, but an error in the Act of Attainder ("Thomas" instead of "Alexander") saved his life and fortune. He escaped to France and, declining the offer of a commission in the Spanish service, he returned to Scotland in 1727 and died in July 1752, aged 8i. No monument marks his last resting place at the Kirk of Marnoch. In the forties of the nineteenth century a member of the Russian Embassy in London went to Marnoch making enquiries for the purpose of having a monument erected in memory of one who had served Russia so well, but nothing resulted.

Another warlike Gordon was Sir William Gordon of Park, Convener of Banffshire, who joined Prince Charles at Glenfinnan, took part in the march to Derby and the retreat, and was present at Culloden. He escaped to France, obtained a Commission in Lord Ogilvy's Scots regiment in the French service, and died at Douai in 1751. Major-General Alexander Dirom (1757-1839) belonged to Banff. He did excellent work in Jamaica, and in India he fought against Tippoo Sultan, a campaign of which he wrote an account. Major-General Andrew Hay was born at Mountblairy, Alvah, in 1762. He was commemorated by a monument in St Paul's, London. The inscription tells that he "fell on the i 4th of April, 1814 before the fortress of Bayonne in France in the 52nd year of his age and the 34th of his services, closing a military career marked by zeal, prompt decision and signal intrepidity." His wife was a daughter of William Robinson, Banff, and in 1912 her portrait by Raeburn was sold in London for 22,200. In reporting the sale, the Times said, "There can be no doubt that this is one of the most beautiful and attractive portraits ever sold at auction."

Rear-Admiral James Oughton of Farskane, Cullen, who died in 1832 at the age of 71, had fought against the Americans in the War of Independence, and against the Dutch. It was during the same period that George Duff of Banff began his naval career. Between 1777 and 1780 he was in thirteen engagements and became a lieutenant at the age of sixteen. He was killed at Trafalgar, where he commanded the Mars (74 guns). His son Norwich had joined him as midshipman a month before. At the date of Trafalgar Norwich was aged thirteen years two and a half months, being as far as is known, the youngest officer, and probably the youngest person, present. He had a distinguished career at sea, rose to the rank of Admiral, and died at Bath in 1862. A monument to Captain George Duff was put up in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, adjoining the tomb of Nelson.

Science and learning, literature and art have all their representatives among Banffshire men. James Gordon was the son of Robert Gordon of Straloch, antiquary and geographer, and became minister of Rothiemay in 164.1, where he remained till his death in 1686. In 1647 he constructed a map of Edinburgh, and in 166 i, a large plan of Aberdeen, Old and New. To illustrate this map he wrote a description of the two towns. Gordon also wrote a History of Scots Affairs. James Ferguson (1710-1776), the famous astronomer, was born at Rothiemay. When he was a herd laddie, about the age often, his genius found expression in the cleaning of clocks, and, at night, in mapping the stars

with a stretched thread and beads strung upon it. First in Edinburgh, and then in London, he won fame as a student of astronomy. In 1761 he received from George III a Royal pension, and was elected F.R.S. two years later. As the inventor and improver of astronomical and other scientific apparatus, and as a striking instance of self-education, he claims a place amongst the most remarkable men of science of his country. At Milltown of Rothiemay a graceful monument to Ferguson's memory was erected in 1907. The year before Waterloo a boy was born at Gosport, the son of a Fife militiaman. The boy was Thomas Edward, who settled in Banff as a shoemaker and died there in 1886. His irrepressible and inborn passion for the pursuit of natural history led him to collect many specimens and he discovered new species. He was a Fellow of the Linnean Society and of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh. His biography by Smiles in 1876 awakened much sympathy in his favour and a pension of o a year was conferred on him. The Rev. Walter Gregor, LL. D., was born in 1827 at Forgie, Keith. He was minister of Macduff, 1859-63, and of Pitsligo, 1863-95. His book on folk-lore showed much research and his Banffshire Dialect, published in 1866 for the Philological Society, is a valuable contribution to the study of language. The most learned son of Banffshire was Professor John Strachan, LL. D., born at Brae, near Keith, in 1862. After a brilliant university career, first at Aberdeen, then at Cambridge, with additional study in several German universities, he became, at the age of twenty-three, professor of Greek in Owens College, Manchester. Later he undertook also work on comparative philology, and the lectureship in Celtic. He died in 1907. His lectures and his publications, in Greek, Irish, Welsh, and comparative philology, showed how deep and wide was his accurate scholarship.

Journalism is worthily represented by James Gordon Bennett, son of an Enzie farmer and born in 1795. He went to America in 1819, and after hard experiences he founded the New York Herald, which, when he died in 1872, was (with the possible exception of Mr Greeley's New York Tribune) the most influential newspaper in the United States. Here may be added the name of Alexander Elder, born in Banff in the end of the eighteenth century. Going to London, he and a lad Smith from Elgin founded the publishing house of Smith, Elder and Co. Elder died in 1876.

Alexander Craig of Rosecraig was born at Banff in i 567. He went to England on the accession of James to the English throne and when he published his Poetical Essays he dedicated them to the King. His qualities of courtier got him a pension—"he wrote encomiastic poems in a high strain of flattery on the King and Queen "—when he retired and settled at Rosecraig, Banff.

William Gordon Stables, author and novelist, was born at Aberchirder in 1838. He studied medicine at Marischal College, Aberdeen, made several trips to the Arctic Seas, for nine years he was a surgeon in the Navy, and he was the author of more than 150 books, most of them tales of adventure. Several sculptors have hailed from Banff. John Rhind (1828-1892) belonged to an old family long connected with the town. The tasteful Biggar Memorial Fountain in Low Street, Banff, is from his plans. He was the successful competitor for the design for the memorial statue of Dr Robert Chambers, Edinburgh, and strange to say his sons William Birnie Rhind and John Massey Rhind were awarded the second and third premiums. Other works by him are statuettes on the fountain of Holyrood Palace, statue of the Earl of Kellie at Alloa, memorials of the Duke of Atholl at Dunkeld, the Duchess of Sutherland at Golspie and the Earl of Dalhousie at Brechin. Another sculptor was Alexander Brodie, born in 1830. The statue of Queen Victoria in Aberdeen is by him, and among his works are Highland Mary, the Mitherless Lassie, and Cupid and Mask. His brother William Brodie, born at Banff in 1812, became A. R.S. A., in 1851, and Academician in 18S9. Among his public statues are those of the Prince Consort at Perth, Sir David Brewster and Sir J. Y. Simpson at Edinburgh, and Dr Graham of the Mint at Glasgow.

Alexander Cassie of Banff, George Smith of Fordyce, and William Hay of Ordiquill, were generous benefactors to their places of nativity. Cassie was born in 1753 and died in 1822. He had a successful career in the West Indies and later carried on a sugar refinery in London. He left upwards of 420,000 for the poor of his native town. Smith, after realising a considerable fortune in India in the eighteenth century, died on his way home. He bequeathed most of his fortune for educational purposes in Fordyce. With his name has to be linked that of Walter Ogilvie, who in 1678 bequeathed Redhyth and other lands in Fordyce to establish bursaries at Fordyce and King's College, Aberdeen. Hay had a very successful business career in Australia, was a large landowner there, and gifted to his native parish the beautiful Hay Hall.

In Elspeth Buchan, Banffshire has its one native who has founded a religious sect--the fanatical Buchanites of the West of Scotland in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. Born at Rothmackenzie in Fordyce parish, she was the daughter of John Simpson, a wayside innkeeper; arid, after a wayward girlhood, she married Robert Buchan,

a Glasgow potter. Her views and practices in the spheres of religion and life soon caused separation from her husband. She induced the Relief minister of Irvine to adopt her opinions, for which he was deposed by his presbytery, and in 1784 the magistrates of that town expelled Elspeth and her followers. They found a resting place near Thornhill in Dumfriesshire.. Mrs Buchan gave herself out to be the woman of Revelation xii, and gained much notoriety by the bogus "miracles" she wrought. She died in 1791, and the last of her sect survived till 1848.

The name we conclude with—that of Archibald Forbes (1838-1900) the war correspondent—is in many ways one of the most remarkable. His father was minister of Boharm, and his mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Archibald Young Leslie of Kiiiinvie. Forbes's career is well-known. In the battle-fields of France, in the Balkans—he was decorated by the Tsar for personal bravery before Plevna—in Burmah, South Africa and elsewhere, he won a distinguished position in his arduous profession. To his early experiences as a soldier and his practice of journalism, were added indomitable resolution and energy as well as a fine physique capable of a large amount of endurance, qualities which stood him in good stead in many an emergency. Witness his famous ride of 110 miles in 15 hours to report at once the victory of Ulundi in 1879. In 1884 Aberdeen University made him an honorary LL.D.


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