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The Scottish Nation
Forbes Leith


FORBES LEITH, of Whitehaugh, the name of an Aberdeenshire family, descended from Sir John Forbes, 3d son of Sir John Forbes of that ilk, appointed in the fifth year of Robert III., justiciary of Aberdeen, and coroner of the county. Sir John, the son, was ancestor of the houses of Tolquhon, Foveran, Watterton, Culloden, &c. From an elder brother, Sir William Forbes, came the house of Pitsligo, and from a younger, Alexander, descended the house of Brux. The branches of the house of Forbes, thus founded, became very extensive, and acquired numerous possessions. The house of Brux is now extinct, and the estates passed to the family of Lord Forbes. The other branches still continue.

The descendants of the 3d son, Sir John Forbes, held a great part of the lands now the property of the earl of Aberdeen. Their chief seat was at Tolquhon. Sir John married Marjorie, daughter of Henry Preston, thane of Formartin, and thereby became thane of Formartin and laird of Tolquhon. The instrument by which she made over the property, failing heirs of her body, to her husband, is dated July 6, 1420. They had 3 sons, 1. Sir John Forbes of Tolquhon, 2. Duncan Forbes of Ardgeighton, 3. David Forbes, called David Foddan.

Sir John Forbes of Tolquhon, the eldest son, had 3 sons, 1. Alexander, 2. David Forbes of Essie, 3. Henry Forbes of Logie.

Alexander Forbes of Tolquhon, the eldest son, in August 1444, granted a charter to Patrick, son and heir of Patrick Leith of Harthill. He married Jane, daughter of Hay of Dalgetty, and had an only son, Malcolm Forbes of Tolquhon, who succeeded before 1487. The latter married Margaret, daughter of Lord Forbes, and granddaughter of the first earl marischal, and a descendant, by the mother’s side, of Robert II. They had 3 sons, 1. William Forbes of Tolquhon, erroneously styled Sir William by Douglas, 2. Thomas Forbes, 3. James Forbes; also a daughter, who married Alexander Chien of Arnage.

William Forbes of Tolquhon was twice married, 1st, to a daughter of Leith of Barnes, by whom he had 2 sons and several daughters, and, 2dly, to Isabel, daughter of the 5th earl of Errol. By the latter he had a son and a daughter.

The eldest son, John Forbes, predeceased his father, without succession, and, in 1536, the estate was made over to the 2d son, Alexander, who had married Elison Anderson, daughter of the lord provost of Edinburgh. They had two sons, William Forbes of Tolquhon, and John Forbes of Boindley, ancestor of the Forbeses of Culloden, and two daughters. Alexander fell at Pinkie, Sept. 10, 1547.

William Forbes of Tolquhon, the elder son, married a daughter of George Gordon of Lesmoir, and had 4 sons and a daughter. William was made a burgess of Aberdeen, Oct. 27, 1578. In 1581, he received permission, under the privy seal, on account of a disease of the eyes under which he was labouring, to eat flesh in Lent, and to remain at home from all king’s raids, &c., sending a friend with his men. The greater part of the castle of Tolquhon, now in ruins, was built by this laird.

William Forbes of Tolquhon, his eldest son, married Janet, daughter of Sir George Ogilvie of Dunlugas, grandfather of George, first Lord Banff, and had 5 sons and 4 daughters. Mary, or Janet, the youngest, married Sir John Gordon of Haddo, and was mother of George, first earl of Aberdeen. He died before 1641, and also his eldest son, Alexander, for Walter, the 2d son, is, in Whitsunday of that year, designated of Tolquhoun.

Walter Forbes of Tolquhon, married, before 1626, Jean Forbes, sister of Alexander, first Lord Pitsligo, and had four sons and a daughter. In a letter, dated June 14, 1651, said to be in the handwriting of Charles II., the king forbids Huntly to make any levy on Tolquhon, or to make the laird turn out, because he is past sixty, and his son, Alexander, is already out, and commanding a regiment of foot as colonel. He died in 1661.

His eldest son, Sir Alexander Forbes of Tolquhon, married in 1649 Dame Bathia Murray, daughter of the laird of Blackbarony, and relict of Sir William Forbes of Craigievar. They had no children. He was one of the three colonels for Aberdeenshire in the Scottish army of Charles II. The latter part of his life he passed at Tolquhon, and, notwithstanding the fatigues of his youth, reached a great age. He died in 1701-2.

As Sir Alexander had no lawful issue, the estate passed to his nephew, William Forbes, son of Thomas Forbes of Achry, advocate in Edinburgh, by his wife, Lady Henrietta Erskine, daughter of James, Lord Auchterhouse, 2d earl of Buchan, of the Erskine family. Thomas died in 1701.

His son, William Forbes of Tolquhon, was served heir in 1704. The same year, his mother, Lady Henrietta, married Alexander Abercromby, and they applied to the court of session for an aliment for her from the estate of Tolquhon. In 1706, he married Anne, daughter and heiress of John Leith of Whitehaugh, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of William, 11th Lord Forbes, issue, 2 sons, 1. William Forbes, vicar of Thornbury, 2. John Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh, and a daughter, Henrietta. He did not enjoy Tolquhon estate long. In the last years of Sir Alexander’s life, it had been overburdened, it is said, by designing persons, the laird being in his dotage. The same individuals now procured its sale, by order of the court of session. In Nov. 1716, it was purchased by Lieutenant-colonel Francis Farquhar, from whom it passed to William, earl of Aberdeen. Tolquhon, thinking himself aggrieved by the manner in which the decision was obtained, refused to quit the house, and on Sept. 5, 1718, it was attacked by a body of military, and himself wounded and taken prisoner. He afterwards left the country, but returned in January 1728, and lived with his family in London. He died April 5, the same year, and was buried in Westminster abbey.

William Forbes, his elder son, studied at Oxford, for the Church of England. In June 1736, he was presented by his college to the curacy of Binsay, in the suburbs of Oxford. In 1748, he was translated to the vicarage of Thornbury, Gloucestershire, where he died in Sept. 1761, without issue.

John Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh became, by his brother’s death, the representative of the family of Tolquhon.

By the marriage contract betwixt William Forbes of Tolquhon and Anne Leith, it was provided that the 2d son of that marriage, or, failing him, the next younger, and so on, should be heir (to his mother) of the estate of Whitehaugh, in the parish of Tullynessle, on condition that he should assume the surname of Leith, and the arms of Whitehaugh. In 1719, John Leith of Whitehaugh made a disposition in favour of his only daughter, Anne Leith, Mrs. Forbes of Tolquhon, who was afterwards designated Lady Tolquhon and Whitehaugh. He died before June 1722, when John Forbes Leith appears to have been a minor. Anne Leith, his mother, died Nov. 11, 1738, and was buried in Westminster abbey. In 1739, John Forbes Leith received a charter of his lands under the great seal. “He had received,” says the New Statistical Account of Scotland (vol. xii. P. 447), “a university education at Oxford, and resided chiefly in England, until about the year 1735, when he came to reside upon his property. A mansion house nearly in ruins, and a tenantry, not only ignorant of the improved modes of agriculture, but wedded to old practices, must have been considerable discouragements to an Oxonian, and a gentleman accustomed to the comforts of a more advanced state of civilization; but in place of flying from, he determined to remove them, and lived to enjoy the fruits of his resolution in a comfortable mansion, with suitable garden, a well-improved personal farm, several hundred acres of thriving wood, and an increased and increasing rent-roll. His son and successor more than followed up the example which had been set him. He took under his own management a large portion of the estate, which had been before a number of unproductive possessions, and converted it into one beautiful farm of regular fields, tastefully laid out, and fenced with hedgerows, and the whole surrounded with thriving wood. His attention was particularly directed to the improvement of the breeds of cattle, which, in his time, were in that quarter of a very inferior description; and at a very considerable expense he brought from a distance, and was the means of introducing amongst his tenantry, and throughout the district, animals of a much better kind. It may be mentioned that a considerable portion of the estate of Whitehaugh at one time belonged to the Knights Templars. One field of the farm is called Temple Close, and another St. John’s Close. Although the Templars, we believe, had but one settlement in Scotland, viz., the hospital of St. Germains in Lothian, they enjoyed the funds of several churches and houses in various parts of the country.” He died at Edinburgh, Sept. 26, 1781. He had married Jean, eldest daughter of Theodore Morrison of Bogny, and had 3 sons, 1. William Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh, burn in 1749. 2. Theodore Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh, born in 1751. 3. John Leith, who died, of fever, at an early age.

William Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh, the eldest son, was educated at King’s college, Aberdeen, and afterwards studied civil law. He died in the spring of 1806, unmarried.

He was succeeded by his brother, Dr. Theodore Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh. After receiving a university education, with his brother, he was put under the care of Dr. Gregory of Aberdeen, to study medicine, and in 1765 he became the pupil of Dr. Cullen of Edinburgh. He studied at the university there, and obtained the degree of M.D. in 1768. After having visited France, he settled in Greenwich as a medical practitioner. He was a man of great personal strength and courage, and several stories are told, highly honourable of him, of his exploits when attacked by highwaymen, in his journeys between Greenwich and London. After succeeding to the estate, he settled at Whitehaugh, and died, in August 1819, of lockjaw, following upon a fracture of the collar-bone, occasioned by an accidental upsetting of his carriage. He had married Marie d’Arboine, a French lady of ancient family, and by her had 3 sons and 3 daughters.

The eldest son, Theodore Forbes Leith, born in 1777, died young.

The 2d son, James John Forbes Leith, succeeded his father in Whitehaugh. In 1798 he went out to India, and joined the Company’s service in the rank of lieutenant. With the exception of a short visit to Britain in 1814-15, he continued in active service till 1826, when he retired, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, having been present at the taking of Digh, and all the other actions in which his regiment was engaged. On Nov. 28, 1827, he married Williamina Helen, only child of Lieutenant-colonel James Stewart, 42d Highlanders, and Williamina Kerr, his wife. Col. Stewart was the younger son of Charles Stewart, Esq. of Shambelly, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, and a descendant of one of the branches of the royal house of Stewart. The genealogical tree of the family, in possession of William Stewart, Esq. of Shambelly, exhibits its connexion with Robert the Bruce, in a direct line. In addition to family honours of such a rank, Colonel Stewart acquired others of no common extent, personal to himself. During about thirty years of active military service in America, Holland, Spain, and Egypt, under Sir Ralph Abercrombie, Lord Moira, and General Sir John Moore, he was present at the battles of Brandywine and Monmouth, the taking of Philadelphia, the siege of Charlestown, the reduction of St. Lucia, the storming of St. Vincent’s, the attempt on Cadiz, the reduction of Minorca, the action at Aboukir, March 8, 1800, the surrender of Cairo, the siege of Alexandria, and numerous smaller actions; and was repeatedly severely wounded. Colonel and Mrs. Forbes Leith had 5 sons and 3 daughters, viz., 1. James, born at Edinburgh, Dec. 10, 1828, married, without issue. 2. Williamina Stewart, born at Whitehaugh, Oct. 11, 1830. 3. Helen Maria, born at Whitehaugh, Dec. 1, 1831, married in Nov. 1851, R. Hepburn, Esq. of Riccarton, issue, a daughter. 4. Rev. William, M.A., born April 9, 1833, educated at Worcester college, Oxford, a clergyman of the Church of England. 5. Thomas Augustus, born Aug. 25, 1834. 6. Henry Stewart, born March 2, 1836. 7. Adelaide Isabella, born Nov. 7, 1837. 8. Charles Edward, born Oct. 18, 1839, ensign 45th regiment.


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