MERCER, a surname
of great antiquity, and of French origin. There were two families of the
name in Scotland, viz., the Mercers of Innerpeffry, or the Roys (reds),
and those of Aldie, the Dhus (blacks), Perthshire. Of these the former
are said to be the elder. They seem to have acquired the lands of
Innerpeffry in Strathern, extending along both banks of the Pow, from
Abercairney to the Earn, including the present properties of Dollerie,
Inchbreakie, Innerpeffry, &c., by intermarriage with the family of
Malcolm de Innerpeffry, sheriff of Clackmannan in 1318.
Robert Mercer seems to
have sold his lands to Thomas Oliphant of Dron before 15th June 1468,
but this sale was evidently invalid, as there were complaints before the
Lords auditors, and disputes for these lands down to the year 1595.
Alexander, eldest son of
Robert, died a monk in the year 1469, and David, the 2d son, succeeded
to the patrimony. He commenced suits for the recovery of his lands from
the Oliphants, and in the Gask charter chest is a document dated 1484,
by which David Mercer and his five sons, William, Vincent, George,
Andrew, and James, declare that they will retain possession of Lord
Oliphants lands of Clathy until he pays them for the lands of
Innerpeffry. The disputes seem to have been partially compromised about
1503, when John, Lord Drummond, gets a charter for Innerpeffry. As
William Mercer, in 1500, and Andrew Mercer, in 1507, get lands as
faithful servitors of the king, it is likely that Lord Drummond obtained
them situations in the royal household, through the influence of his
sister, Annabella, wife of King Robert.
William Mercer was
probably the poet whom Dunbar commends in his Lament, and seems also
to have been court jester. Innerpeffry is now in the possession of
Arthur Hay Drummond of Cromlix. Dollerie got into the possession of the
Murrays about 1550, and is still in that family.
Peter Mercer, probably a
brother of Alexander and David, obtained Inchbreakie, which had been
mortgaged to his uncle Andrew, and sold it in 1503 to Lord Grahame, who
gave this property to his 2d son, and his descendants still hold it.
From this date it is
difficult to trace the family, but they are said to be represented by
Mercer Henderson of Fordel, and General Alexander Cavalie Mercer of the
The Mercers (Dhu) of
Aldie, or, as commonly pronounced, Awdie, have been connected with Perth
from time immemorial. An inscription is said to be in their vault in the
church of St. John in that city, which asserts that John Mercer died in
1280. This vault, according to tradition, was a royal grant to the
family, in consideration of their having given one of the kings of
Scotland the Mills of Perth, hence the two rhymes.
So sicker tis as
anything on earth
are older than Old Perth.
Fold say the Mercers
tried the town to cheat
When for two inches they did win six feet.
Bernard Mercer, the son
of John, who died in 1280, was a burgess of Perth, and signed the Ragman
Roll in 1296.
The first founder of this
baronial family was John Mercer, a wealthy merchant burgess of Perth,
about 1340, at that time the metropolis of Scotland, which it ceased to
be in 1482. He several times represented Perth in parliament, and was
provost of that city in 1357, 1369, and 1374. He is mentioned in 1357 as
procurator for Perth, to treat of the ransom for King David. He was
frequently sent as ambassador to England, France, and Holland, and was
held in high estimation by Charles V., (surnamed the Wise) King of
France. He was a man of immense wealth, as may be supposed from the fact
of his son having been able to raise a fleet of his own, in the year
1377, to avenge the captivity of his father.
It was to this
circumstance, in all probability, that the rise of the family was due,
as we find Andrew, who, in 1366, obtained a safe conduct as a Scottish
merchant, was in 1377 admiral of Spain, in command of the allied fleets
of Spain, France, and Scotland, in an attack on Scarborough. It appears
that, when returning to Scotland that year, his father, John Mercer, was
driven by stress of weather upon the coast of England, and seized and
confined in the castle of Scarborough, till an order from the English
court effected his discharge. The earl of Douglas, from whom he held
lands, calls him his vassal, or man, (home), in a letter sent to King
Richard, remonstrating upon the injustice of his seizure. His son, to
revenge the injury, cruised before Scarborough with a fleet composed of
French, Scots, and Spaniards, and captured several vessels. John
Philpot, an opulent citizen of London, thereupon, we are told, took upon
himself the protection of the trade of the kingdom, neglected by the
Duke of Lancaster, who governed the kingdom in the minority of his
nephew, and having hired 1,000 armed men, sent them to sea in search of
Mercer, when they took, with his prizes and 15 Spanish vessels, his
consorts all richly laden. On January 1, 1378, Andrew Mercer got a safe
conduct as Armiger of the King of Scotland. This might have been an
office, -- but if it was a title, it is probably the first recorded
instance of an esquire, a title only first known in England in the
reign of Richard II.
In 1384, Andrew appears
in the chartulary of Lennox as Sir Andrew. On April 28, the same year,
he got forth merks furth of the customs of the burgh of Perth. Sir
Andrew died in 1390-1.
His son, Sir Michael, was
the ward of Walter Stewart, lord of Brechin, the kings brother, from
1391 to 1402. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir David Stewart of
Durrisdeer, before 1396, in his minority. He died about 1440. He had two
sons, Sir Andrew, and Robert, of Balief, ancestor of the Balief branch,
which consisted of four Roberts in succession, the second of whom was
ambassador to the king of the Romans, October 13, 1471, and the race
became extinct in Robert, who died in 1583, without issue.
Sir Andrew, the elder
son, besides other charters, got one for the barony of Meikleour,
Perthshire, March 21, 1440-44, one for Kilgraston, Pitkeathly, and
one-fourth of Lednoch, in the same county, Oct. 26, 1451, and one for
Dumbarney, Nov. 19, 1455. He died in 1473. He had a son, Sir Laurence,
and a daughter, Christian, who married Gilbert Skene of Skene.
Sir Laurence, the son,
had a safe conduct to England from Edward IV., June 12, 1473. He married
in 1475, Isobel, a daughter of Henry Wardlaw of Torry, and died in 1501.
His widow married 2dly in 1504, Patrick Mercer of Inchbreakie. Sir
Laurence had 2 sons and a daughter, Isobel, married to Robert Maule of
Sir Henry, the elder son,
married Margaret Douglas of Lochleven, and was killed at Flodden. His
son, Laurence, carried on the main line, from which branched off the
Mercers of Melgins and Saline, in 1588. Sir James, last of the Adlie
line, died in 1671. He was one of his majestys ordinary gentleman
Sir Laurence Mercer of
Melgins, married, 1st, Margaret, heiress of Aldie, from whom is
descended Countess de Flahault, baroness Keith and Nairne, female
representative of Aldie; 2dly, Christian Kinloch. The Melgins line
became extinct on the death of his son, Robert, in 1792. Robert Mercer,
of the Saline branch, is now male representative of Aldie.
Robert, the 2d son of Sir
Laurence Mercer and Isobel Wardlaw, was styled of Newton of Forgandenny.
He married Helen, styled of Newton and Dalgetty in the Book of
Drummond, widow of James Oliphant, and youngest daughter of Edmund
Chisholm of Cromlix, by his 2d wife, Isobel Drummond of Coldoch. Robert
had three sons and a daughter, Elizabeth, married to William Hay of
The eldest son, James, of
Newton of Forgandenny, and Newton and Dalgetty, married Elizabeth Wemyss,
and was ancestor of the Clevage line, which became extinct in Robert,
who died at Perth in 1810.
The second son was named
Andrew, the third son,
married in February 1562, Mariot, daughter of Adam Blackwood, merchant
burgess of Perth. He had a charter from his uncle, William Chisholm,
bishop of Dunblane, for lands near Perth, December 20, 1563; pending
reference to the Pope, charter not confirmed till January 22, 1566. He
was admitted a merchant burgess of Perth, Jan. 18, 1567, and appointed
by John, earl of Montrose, sheriff-depute of Perthshire, together with
John Grahame of Balgowan, October 5, 1585. He had 3 sons, William,
James, and Laurence.
William, the eldest son,
married Helen Drummond, and was ancestor of the Potterhill line, extinct
in William, who died about 1740, leaving four daughters.
Laurence, the third son,
born in 1578, matriculated at St. Andrews in 1596, and graduated in
1601. He was admitted to the ministry in 1607, and became parson of
Fossaway, in which parish Aldie is, in 1609. He died about 1653. He
married February 8, 1619, Margaret, daughter of Mr. Edmond Mylis, parson
of Cleish, and had 2 sons and 2 daughters, the latter twins.
Laurence, the elder son,
born in 1622, was admitted minister of Fossaway in 1654, and died about
Edmond, the second son,
born in 1625, sat on an assize at Crook of Devon in 1662, as Edmond
Mercer, at Balridrie, in the parish of Muckart.
Laurence had a son, also
named Laurence, born about 1657. He was admitted minister of Gask,
December 10, 1680, but was removed, by order of the privy council, in
1690, when he became factor of Aldie. He died January 30, 1720. He
married in 1706, Jean, only daughter of William Lindsay, bishop of
Dunkeld, and relict of James Lindsay of Dow Hill her cousin. She was
styled Lady Pitteuchar, from an estate which her second husband
possessed. Laurence had three sons.
James Francis of
Pitteuchar, the eldest son, a lieutenant-colonel in the army, was killed
by a cannon-ball, August 13, 1756, when defending Fort Oswego, of which
he was in command, against a French force under Montcalm (See Smolletts
History of England, p. 577.) He left no issue.
Laurence, the second son,
predeceased his elder brother, at Kingston, Jamaica, in August 1742,
William, the third son,
born October 1, 1717, succeeded to Pitteuchar, on the death of Colonel
James, in 1756. He had a charter of Potterhill from the earl of Kinnoul,
April 16, 1768. He died at Potterhill, January 16, 1785. He married
Elizabeth, daughter of George Swan, a son of Charles II. When asked why
he had not ennobled him, as he had his other children, the king replied,
I did not dare to make a deuck (Scotch for duck), or him, but I made a
nobler bird, namely, a Swan. William had ten sons and three daughters.
Laurence James, the
eldest son, and 3d child, born January 10, 1752, succeeded to Potterhill
on the death of his father in 1785. He entered the Bengal civil service,
and was chief judge at Burdwan. He died there, August 20, 1791, and was
described as the upright judge.
James, the 2d son and 4th
child, died young.
William, the 3d son and
5th child, born January 8, 1755, joined the 19th regiment at Gibraltar
in 1763, and sold out at Dublin. Having got a cadetship to India, he
sailed under a letter of exchequer, on board of the Mount Stewart.
Captured on the voyage, he was carried to Spain, and exchanged. He was
afterwards a captain in the 5th Bengal cavalry, and as major he
commanded the body guard of Warren Hastings, governor-in-chief of India.
He died at Ghazepore, August 3, 1801. He married in 1788, Barbara,
daughter of Robert Forbes of Corse, Banffshire, and had 2 sons and 4
James Francis, the 4th
son and 6th child, born August 28, 1756, joined the 64th regiment in
America, and July 29, 1796, became lieutenant-colonel of the 22d
regiment. He died at Perth, April 26, 1809. He married Clarinda OGrady,
George and Graeme, the
next two sons, died in infancy.
Graeme Mercer of
Mavisbank, the 7th son and 10th child, born July 4, 1764, entered the
Bengal service as assistant-surgeon, and was the East India Companys
resident at Scindiahs court. He accompanied Lord Lake as diplomatic
agent. He died unmarried at Mavisbank, October 6, 1841, and was buried
John, the 8th son and
11th child, born September 13, 1766, was a lieutenant of marines. He
died unmarried, April 1794, from the effects of a wound received at
Thomas, the 9th son and
12th child, born June 16, 1769, was engaged in mercantile pursuits in
Bengal, and died unmarried, August 15, 1833. George, the 10th son and
13th child, was the first of the Gorthy branch. Of him afterwards.
The children of Captain
William Mercer and Barbara Forbes were, 1. Anne Abernethy, born at
Calcutta, January 15, 1794, and married in 1813, at Broughty Ferry,
Charles MGrigor, brother of Sir James MGrigor, Bart., chief of the
army medical department. Her husband died March 15, 1841, being a
retired lieutenant-colonel in her majestys service. 2. Eliza Forbes,
born October 17, 1795, married at Perth November 15, 1802, Richard
Charles Blunt, second son of Sir Charles William Blunt, Bart., of Blunt
Hall, Sussex. He died at Bretlands House, Surrey, January 16, 1846. His
son, Sir Charles, succeeded as 6th baronet. 3. William Drummond, born at
Benares, Bengal, October 16, 1796, joined the 70th regiment in Canada in
1814, and became major of the 16th Lancers in India. He married Anne
Elliot, eldest daughter of George Mercer of Gorthy, issue, a son,
William Lindsay, born in Edinburgh April 23, 1858, and a daughter, Anna
Graeme, born in Edinburgh September 25, 1854. 4. Louisa, born at
Cawnpore, May 30, 1798, married February 23, 1819. Alexander Brodie,
manager of the Bank of Scotland, Stirling. 5. Charlotte Simpson, born at
Cawnpore, June 29, 1799, married June 30, 1817, Robert Lockhart, of
Castlehill and Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire. He died November 2, 1850. 6.
James, born August 18, 1800, died in infancy.
George Mercer of Gorthy,
above mentioned, and of Dryden and Mavisbank, born July 21, 1772,
entered, when young, into the East India Companys service as
midshipman, and was sometime engaged in mercantile pursuits in India. He
was one of the 14 gentlemen, principally of Hobart Town, who, on June
13, 1835, entered into an indenture of association for the colonization
of Port Phillip, now Victoria, New South Wales, which had been acquired
by treaty with the native chiefs on the 6th of that month. In the
capacity of shareholder and as agent for the Geelong and Dutigalla
association, on his return to Scotland, he conducted the official
correspondence with the colonial secretary, at that time Lord Glenelg,
his first letter being dated Dryden House, by Edinburgh, January 26,
1836, accompanying which were various documents, including the originals
of two treaties, executed in triplicate, entered into with the
aboriginal chiefs, possessors of the territory in the neighbourhood of
Port Phillip, and a map of the territories ceded by the head men of the
Dutigalla tribe. On the part of the association, he solicited a
recognition and confirmation by the crown of the treaties executed by
the native chiefs, occupants of the soil, or a royal grant of the
territories, as feudatories of the British crown. The colonial
secretary, on the ground that the territory acquired by the association
was part of the colony of New south Wales, declined to confirm, on the
part of the crown, the arrangement entered into with the native chiefs,
or to accede to their other request, and it was not till July 1, 1851,
that Port Phillip became an independent colony, under the name of
Victoria. Mr. Mercer married at Allyghur, East Indies, September 12,
1810, Frances Charlotte, born March 21, 1793, daughter of John Reid,
Esq., Bengal medical service, and died December 7, 1853. His widow died
April 24, 1862, at Woodcot Rectory, Oxfordshire, and is there interred.
They had 14 children, viz., 1. Graeme Reid Mercer of Gorthy, born August
29, 1812, and was sometime in the Ceylon Civil Service. He married July
5, 1854, Catherine, daughter of James Hay, Esq. of Colliepriest, and the
Lady Mary Hay. 2. A daughter, died 1813. 3. George Duncan, a lieutenant
in the 45th regiment of Bengal Infantry. 4. Anne Elliot, already
mentioned as wife of her cousin, William Drummond Mercer. 5. Frances
Georgina, married June 14, 1842, George Falconer, Esq. of Carlowrie,
captain 33d regiment. 6. Harriet Jane. 7. William Thomas, educated at
the university of Oxford, of which is M.A. In July 1862, he was
appointed governor of Hong King, China. He married April 23, 1862, Mary
Phillips Nind, 3d daughter of Rev. P. Nind, vicar of Woodcot,
Oxfordshire. 8. John Henry, married December 11, 1861, Annie Catherine,
2d daughter of James Anstruther, Esq. 9. Charles, died on the 25th of
July, 1826. 10. Charles MWhirter, captain Bengal Horse Artillery. 11.
Emily Eliza. 12. Louisa Rachel, 13. Laurence James, civil engineer,
Madras. 14. Charlotte Catherine.
William Mercer, born about 1605, who is supposed to have been of a
branch of the Mercers settled in Aberdeenshire, was the author of
Angliae Speculum, or Englands Looking Glasse, London, 1646, News
from Parnassus, 1682, and other small publications in doggerel verse.
From an account of him in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries
of Scotland, 1860, written by David Laing, Esq., vice-president of that
city, we learn some particulars of him. At the age of 15 he fled from
school to the continent and embraced the military profession. Referring
to this period of his life in his News from Parnassus, he says:
Before my sight four
times six years had seen.
Throughout six kingdoms had my body been,
Bore arms in each.
He returned to Scotland
before 1630, as on June 28 of that year, a letter of presentation was
granted by Charles I., in his favour, to the parsonage and vicarage of
the teyndis, &c., of the kirk and parochine of Glenholme, &c., one of
the prebends attached to the chapel royal of Stirling. Whether, says
Mr. Laing, this presentation was confirmed is uncertain. Probably not,
it was at least not requisite for the presentee to hold any orders in
the church, the only qualification, if any such were required, was a
knowledge of music. Various instances might be quoted of similar
benefices having been conferred for a period of seven years, for the
purpose of enabling a youth to pursue his academical course.
About 1638 he was engaged
in the military service in Ireland. During the civil wars he took the
part of the parliament, and obtained from Robert, earl of Essex, general
of the parliamentary forces, a commission as captain of horse. In 1646,
it appears from a poem in his Angliae Speculum, in the form of a
petition to the lords and commons, and the lord mayor and common council
of London, that he was reduced to great distress, by the arrears of pay
due to him, amounting to £900; one-half or a third part of which he
earnestly solicits for the relief of his necessities. On March 20, 1643,
he had presented a petition to the House of Commons, for payment of his
arrears, but was referred from one committee to another, and from
parliament to the mayor and aldermen of London, and all the time was
left in great destitution. He was afterwards again employed, under
Cromwell, in Ireland, and raised to the rank of lieutenant by Cromwell.
In the spring of 1650, he returned to Scotland, still in reduced
circumstances, and the commission of the General Assembly recommended a
collection for him by the Presbytery of Edinburgh. After the
restoration, like a great many others, he visited Charles II. at
Whitehall. On the appointment of Lord Roberts, Baron of Truro, as
governor of Ireland, September 18, 1669, Colonel Mercer printed a
Welcom in a poem to his Excellency, &c., Dublin, 1669. Another unique
production, preserved in the Grenville collection in the British Museum,
attributed to him, is entitled The Moderate Cavalier; or the soldiers
Description of Ireland and of the Country Disease, with Receipts for the
same. A book fit for all Protestant houses in Ireland, 1675, 36 pages,
In 1672 he revisited
Scotland, in consequence of a proposal for a marriage betwixt his eldest
son and Grizzel Mercer, heiress of the barony of Aldie, but owing to the
change of mind of the ladys mother, no marriage took place. Colonel
Mercer, therefore, raised an action of damages before the court of
session, for breach of a verbal treaty of marriage, and expenses. While
the case was in dependence, he prepared, as a new years gift to the
judges, a series of encomiums, entitled A Compendious Comparison of the
Lives and Lawes of the Senators of Rome, with the Lives and Lawes of the
Senators of the Colledge of Justice, Edinburgh, in familiar lines and
poems. Edinburgh, 1673, MS., 4to, pp. 34, Advocates Library. On
December 14, 1675, the judges decided that, as there was no marriage
contract or written agreement, a mothers verbal assurance was not
binding, but as he had been invited to Scotland for the proposed
alliance, he was entitled to expenses. He returned to Ireland, but the
date of his death is uncertain. He was four times married, his first and
last wives being widows.
The slogan or war cry,
and now the motto, of the Mercers of Aldie, is, Ye gret pule, that is,
the great pool, or the sea, said to have had its origin in the attack at
Scarborough, by Sir Andrew Mercer in 1377. Their crest is a crane
crushing a snake or water serpent.