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History of the Parish of Banchory-Devenick

Murtle, like many of the neighbouring lands, was originally Church property. Malcolm IV., by charter dated at Banff, 15th November, 1163, conveyed to Bishop Matthew Kinninmonth, his “ haill Barony of Murchill, [Murtle] with the pertinents and common pasturage in the Forest of Aberdeen.” William the Lion confirmed this charter to Bishop Matthew, granting him in addition the lands of Brass, now called Birse, with the forest thereof.

In 1382 the Bishop’s tenant was John Crab, from whom the lands were attempted to be reclaimed.* A lawsuit followed—the proceedings under which were peculiar. First, the Bishop held a court for exhibition of charters, from which Crab appealed to the Sheriff, on the ground that it was incompetent for the Bishop to be both judge and party. The civil and common law, together with the laws and constitutions of the kingdom, were referred to. The whole proceedings and pleas, written in Latin, are in the chartulary of Aberdeen.

In 1388 Bishop Adam, in consideration of a yearly payment of ten merks, granted the barony for life in favour of William de Camera [Chalmers], burgess of Aberdeen, and proprietor of Findon, who was elected alderman of Aberdeen in 1398. This is the earliest minute on record of a municipal election connected with the Scotch burghs.

In 1402 the assedation was renewed for life, on the same terms to Thomas Chalmers, his son. Thomas became Provost of Aberdeen, and married Elizabeth Blinshell, by whom he had issue. He founded the altar of St. Katherine, in the Church of St. Nicholas, for the repose of his own soul and that of his wife’s, endowing it with an annual rent of “ four merks.” Before the year 1427, Bishop Henry, in consideration of a sum of money paid to the fabric of the Cathedral by Chalmers, and at the request of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, and Alexander of Seton, Lord of Gordon, prolonged the lease for the lifetime of his two successive heirs.t

Alexander Chalmers, son of the foregoing, succeeded, and also became Provost of Aberdeen on two occasions, viz.:—in 1443 and 1446, He died in 1463, and was interred in Saint Nicholas Churchyard, Aberdeen.

In 1488 Alexander Chalmers, then designed of “Ouiltis,” or Cults, in the parish of Tarland, having renounced his claim to the gift of the barony of Murtle, made in his favour by Bishop Thomas, and his predecessors in the See of Aberdeen, obtained from William, bishop of Aberdeen, a lease for life of the barony, with its fishings, at the yearly rent of twelve merks. In the event of his decease before his son Alexander Chalmers, the latter was to have a lease of half of the barony, at the rent of five pounds yearly.

The pedigree of the Chalmers family, 1669 (father and son), is as follows :—“ Alexander Chalmers of Cults, son of the House of Balnacraig, married Agnes Hay, daughter of the Earl of Erroll ; Alexander Chalmers married Janet, daughter of John Leslie; Alexander Chalmers married Elizabeth Douglass of Glenbervie; Thomas Chalmers married Mary Menzies, daughter of the laird of Pitfodels ; Alexander Chalmers married Helen Rait, daughter of the laird of Halgreen; Alexander Chalmers married Janet Lumsden, daughter of the laird of Cushnie ; Gilbert Chalmers married Elizabeth Fraser, daughter of the laird of Durris ; Alexander Chalmers married Janet, daughter of James Irving, brother of the laird of Drum; Marjory Chalmers, their only child, was mother of Sir John Urrie.

In 1550 William, bishop of Aberdeen, with consent of the dean and chapter, and in virtue of certain Acts of Parliament, granted a feu charter to Andrew Buk, one of the baillies of Aberdeen, and Matilda Menzies, his spouse, of All and Whole the lands of the Milltoun of Murthill, with the pertinents, for the yearly payment of $ iis. scots, eight bolls of barley and meal in equal proportions with a peck to each boll of barley, four sheep, and twenty-four well-fed capons. Every heir was to pay double feu-duty, being also taken bound to serve in the army of the kingdom sufficiently armed, under the baillie of the bishop, and to take the oath of fealty to the bishop and his successors. From the general grant was reserved the office of bailliary, which was given to George, Earl of Huntly. This arrangement, however, does not appear to have been carried out, as three years later, 18th July, 1553, a tack was executed between the same parties, for a period of nineteen years, of the Milltoun of Murtle, which is said to extend to eight oxengang. The tack-duty was declared, however, to be the same as that specified in the feu charter. The superiority of the lands and fishings is all that appears to have been left to the bishopric, as Thomas Buk, son of the foregoing Andrew, with consent of Elizabeth Strachan, his spouse, disponed the lands, and fishings subsequently acquired, to William Strachan of Tibbertie, in 1597. The lands were afterwards in the hands of Patrick Cheyne of Ferryhill, in 1599 ; Thomas Murray, in 1607 > and James, his son, in 1620, who, by charter dated 24th March, 1648, disponed them to Dr. William Guild and Katherine Rolland, his spouse.

Guild was the second son of Matthew Guild, armourer, Aberdeen, and was born there in 1586. He was educated at Marischal College, and subsequently received license as a minister. In 1608 he was appointed to the charge of King-Edward, in the Presbytery of Turriff, and two years later he married Katherine Rolland, daughter of John Rolland of Disblair. In 1631 he was appointed, by the magistrates of Aberdeen, to one of the city charges. In 1638, he subscribed the Covenant, under three separate limitations, and in the same year he was appointed one of the commissioners to the General Assembly, which met at Glasgow and abolished Episcopacy in Scotland. In the following year, on the approach of an army to compel an unconditional subscription of the Covenant, he fled to Holland. Returning shortly afterwards, however, he accepted the principalship of King’s College, which had become vacant through the deprivation of Dr. William Leslie, and he then signed the Covenant without reservation. He held the appointment till 1651, when he was deposed by Cromwell’s military commissioners. He thereafter lived in retirement in Aberdeen, and died in July, 1657, in the 71st year of his age. He was the author of many excellent works, and his charitable bequests to the trades of Aberdeen and otherwise, perpetuate his name as one of Aberdeen’s greatest benefactors. His wife, Katherine Rolland, about a fortnight before her death, which occurred in December, 1659, executed a deed of gift, conveying to the magistrates of Aberdeen the lands of Milltoun of Murtle, and the lands of Ardfork and Kilblain, held in wadset from Patrick Urquhart, for the following purposes:— “For the maintenance of four bursars at Marischal College, and four at the Grammar School, being burgess' sons, the presentees to be of honest parentage, and if possible, well inclyned in theire owne natures and given to learning.” For the clothing of six poor scholars receiving free education at any school, ,48 scots was directed to be expended yearly, and 24 bolls of meal to be given among six widows of decayed burgesses, while 20 bolls were to be given among the common poor. In satisfaction of a legacy of 1000 merks left to the poor of King-Edward by her husband, she provided that they should receive 18 bolls of meal annually for distribution.

Shortly after this the lands of Murtle passed into the hands of the Irvine family. The progenitor of this branch, and that of Cults, was Gilbert Irvine of Colairlie, fourth son of Alexander Irvine of Drum, who was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547. Alexander Irvine, eldest son of Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum, who was sheriff-principal of Aberdeen in 1634, married, for his first wife, Lady Mary Gordon, fourth daughter of the Marquis of Huntly, by whom he had issue three sons—Alexander, Robert, and Charles—and four daughters, of whom Margaret, married Gilbert Menzies of Pitfodels; and Jean, Alexander Irvine of Murtle. On his succeeding to Drum, the king renewed to him the offer which had been made to his father, of the Earldom of Aberdeen, but he declined accepting it. About twenty years later the king, in granting a charter containing a novodamus of “ Drum’s whole estates, holding of the crown, took occasion to express in it the deep sense which he had of the family’s loyalty, and their services and sufferings in the royal cause.” Irvine in 1687, while upon his deathbed, tailzied his estate, failing heirs male of his own body, to the Irvines of Murtle, Artamford, and Cults, and their heirs male in order.t His eldest son Alexander, who succeeded, died in 1695 without issue, and to him, therefore, in terms of the Deed of Tailzie, Alexander of Murtle became successor. The latter thereupon sold Murtle, and the estate of Strachan, which were not included in the entail.

Mains of Murtle, Oldfold, Stonegavel, Binghill, and Newtown of Murtle were purchased by the master of mortifications of Aberdeen from Irvine in 1695, for the benefit of Sir Thomas Crombie’s mortification, at the purchase price of 9,463 6s. 8d. scots. The Town let out the lands to tacksmen till 1758-9, when the estate was divided into the following lots, for feuing at the feu-duties undernoted:—

I. Binghill, - 7 15 o stg. and 12 bolls of meal
II. Auldfold,- 11 10 o do. 16 do.
III. Mains, - 18 o o do. 16 do.
IV. Newton, - 16 o o do. 11 do.

As illustrating the great rise in the value of land, it may be mentioned that part of these lands, burdened with the feu-duty as above specified, was sold in 1773 for ,1,500, in 1808 it changed hands at ,4000, and the large sum of ,12,000 was paid for the property in 1880.

In the beginning of the present century the lands of Murtle were in the possession of Mr. John Gordon, who, by his last will and testament dated 1 ith August, 1815, left large sums for charitable and religious objects. His trustees pay annually ten pounds to each of the Kirk-Sessions of Banchory-Devenick and Peterculter, as remuneration to Sunday school teachers; as also fifty pounds sterling yearly for the purpose of establishing “ Lectures on Practical Religion and the Evidences of Religion,” in the University of Aberdeen. These lectures are delivered by the three Theological Professors in turn yearly.

In 1821 the lands were purchased from Mr. Gordon’s executors, by Mr. John Thurburn who had amassed a fortune abroad. He was a native of Keith, and married the only daughter of the Reverend Mr. Findlater of Cairnie, by whom he had issue. One daughter, Barbara Anderson, died on 5th October, 1858, aged 32. Mr. Thurburn had a fine new mansion-house, in the Grecian style of architecture, erected on a site which overlooks the river Dee. The old house of Murtle was thereupon converted into stables, coach-houses, &c. He expended large sums in beautifying and improving the property, which became one of the most choice residences on

Deeside. He died on 31st January, 1861, aged 80, and his remains were laid beside those of his daughter in the churchyard of Peterculter. His wife, who survived him, was the founder of the Thurburn Cooking Dep6t in Aberdeen for the benefit of working men. She died at Murtle on the 24th December, 1872.

Mr. Thurburn’s only surviving daughter, Anna—who in September, 1848, had the honour of presenting Her Majesty Queen Victoria with a floral bouquet on the occasion of Her Majesty’s first passing up to Balmoral— succeeded. She married Mr. William Osborne Maclaine, who is an extensive proprietor in Gloucestershire, and they, had issue two sons and one daughter. The eldest son, Hector, joined the Royal Horse Artillery, in which he held the rank of lieutenant. With his regiment he served under General Sir Frederick Roberts in the late Afghan War. At the battle of Mai wand, fought on 27th July, 1880, he distinguished himself by his firmness and bravery. During the retreat which followed, he was taken prisoner, and on 1st September following, his lifeless and mangled body was found in the camp of Ayoub Khan, outside Candahar. Mrs. Maclaine died on 10th October, 1882.

Mr. Thurburn Maclaine the surviving son succeeded. He was born on 2nd July, 1853, and married Miss Rachel Hay, daughter of the Reverend Patrick Leslie Miller, grandson of Mr. Miller of Dalswinton, Dumfriesshire, the inventor of steamboats.

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