As a tour guide with the National Trust for Scotland I have learned a little
of the origins of the Leith family, however I know more of the history of the Leith family
at Leith hall and I will outline it in hopes that it will be of interest and help to
anyone trying to find out if they are linked to this Scottish family.
The Leiths we understand, originated from France. The name
then being De Leyth. During the Fourteenth Century they appeared around Midlothian and
almost certainly took their name from the port of Edinburgh.
It was James Leith (1610-1694/1701) son of John Leith of
Barnes who built Leith Hall and founded the line of Leiths of Leith Hall that would last
unbroken until 1939. His brother Alexander ‘Hard Head’ Leith was the ancestor of
the Leiths of Bucharne Blair. James Leith married Margaret Strachan of Glenkindie.
Next followed a succession of four Johns.
The first married Janet Ogilvie in 1694 who was the daughter
of George 2nd Lord Banff.
John Leith ii (1698-1736) became the first husband of Mary
Hay, Daughter of Charles Hay of Rannes in 1730.
The Hays of Rannes were to play an important role in the
fortunes of the Leith Hall Leiths, almost as important as the latter two lairds of Rannes
were to the Jacobite cause. Charles was out in the 1715 uprising and Andrew (1713-1789)
was involved with the young pretender’s march to Derby, being the first man to march
into Manchester, as well as being present at the battles of Falkirk, Prestonpans and
It is not clear where exactly the Hays of Rannes lived.
Although the estate no longer exists, it definitely seems to be somewhere near the village
of Ravthen, Buckie, but where their house was I am unsure. The first Hay of Rannes was
George Hay() of Ranas and was a superintendent of Aberdeen and Glasgow as well as being a
rector of Ravthen Kirk.
John Leith iii (1731-1763) was too young to fight in the
’45 . He married Harriot Steuart in 1756 and they were expecting their fourth son
when John was shot and killed on Christmas day 1763. Their eldest son, John iv, died at 21
having suffered from consumption all his life. By default his younger brother Sandie
became the fifth Laird of Leith Hall., and it was Sandie (Alexander) who was the last
Leith to be Laird of Leith Hall and the first Leith-Hay.
This is where the connection made, by John Leith ii’s
marriage, with the Hay family comes into play. Andrew Hay - Mary’s brother -had no
children and so left his estate to Alexander Leith who found the sale of it came in very
handy to fund the extensive refurbishment and building work that took place at Leith Hall
in 1797. The condition was, though, that the future lairds of Leith Hall must take on
Andrew’s name. General Sandie became General Alexander ‘Leith-Hay of Rannes and
Leith Hall’ a title that was used by the next four Lairds.
Alexander Leith Hay married Mary Forbes daughter of Charles
Forbes of Ballogie. His younger brother Lt General Sir James Leith (1763-1816) married
Lady Augusta Forbes daughter of George, 5th Earl of Granard and his remains are interred
in Westminster Abbey.
Alexander had five children, Harriet Christian, Mary and
Elizabeth married Sir Harry Niven Lumsden Bt, Major Mitchell of Ashgrove and Alexander
Forbes of Blackford respectively.
Lt Colonel Sir Andrew Leith-Hay of Rannes and Leith-Hall
(1785-1862) was Alexander’s eldest child and married Mary Margaret Clark daughter of
William Clark of Devon. His youngest son Rr Admiral John Leith married Margaret Forbes
daughter of Alexander Forbes of Blackford and their son was Alexander John Forbes Leith
Baron Leith of Fyvie.
Sir Andrew’s eldest son Colonel Alexander Sebastian
Leith-Hay(1818-1900) became the next Laird of Leith Hall Marrying Christina Hamilton of
Craiglaw, Wigtonshire in 1860 and had an extremely successful career in the 93rd
Sutherland Highlanders. But it was Sir Andrew’s third son James (1820-1887) who had
the sons to inherit the estate. Charles Edward Norman Leith-Hay(1858-1939) James’
eldest son became the eighth laird when Col. Sebastian died childless in 1900. Charles
Edward Norman died in May 1939 leaving his estate to his only surviving child, son,
Charles Arthur O’Neill Leith-Hay who was only 21. Four months later when travelling
to rejoin his regiment in Otterburn (northern England) the young Laid met with an accident
on wet roads killing him within a few hours.
In 1945 the hon. Mrs Hennrietta O’Neill Leith-Hay
(Mother of last laird) gave the home to the National trust for Scotland. No family live
there now although Brian and Bamber Gasgoine have a lease on the north wing flat as sons
of Hennrietta’s favourite niece.
This is a thin outline of one branch of the Leith family and
is perhaps inaccurate. I hope that it helps some Leiths who think they might be connected
to this particular line, however, I suggest that interested parties visit Leith Hall to
find out more. Apart from the above information there is a little information available at
Leith Hall on the Leiths of Harthill, The Leith-Ross line of Arnage and the Leiths of
Alexander Sebastian Leith-Hay’s generation who emigrated to Australia.
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