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The Scottish Nation

RATTRAY, a surname derived from the barony of that name in Perthshire. So far back as the reign of Malcolm Canmore (1057-1093) the family of Rattray of Rattray and Craighall are said to have existed in that county (Nisbet, vol. i. p. 130). In the reigns of William the Lion and Alexander II., lived Alanus de Rattrieff, as the name was then spelled, whose son, Sir Thomas de Rattrieff, was knighted by Alexander III. By Christian, his wife, the latter acquired part of the lands of Glencaveryn and Kingoldrum, in Forfarshire. In the Register of the Abbacy of Arbroath, there is a perambulation, of date 1250, between that convent and Thomas de Rattrieff, about the latter lands. He left two sons, Eustatius and John. The former was father of Adam de Rattrieff, who, in 1292, with other Scots barons, was compelled to submit to Edward I. He is mentioned both in Prynne’s Collections and Rymer’s Faedera. In 1296, he was again forced to swear allegiance to the English king. He died before 1315. His son, Alexander de Rattrie, was one of the barons of the parliament held at Ayr that year to settle the succession to the crown. Dying issueless, he was succeeded by his brother, another Eustatius de Rattrie, who, in the parliament of Perth, August 1320, was falsely accused of being concerned in the conspiracy of Sir William Soulis and Sir David Brechin against Robert the Bruce, but fairly acquitted.

His son, John de Rattray, living in the reign of David II., was father of the next proprietor after him, -- John de Rattray, who died at the close of the reign of James I. The son of the latter, Patrick de Rattray, living in 1456, was father of Sir Sylvester Rattray of that ilk, who was appointed one of the ambassadors extraordinary to treat with the king of England, for which he obtained a safe-conduct, dated 12th June 1463. He sat in the parliament of 1481, and is represented as having had great influence at court. His wife’s name was Alison Hepburn. His son, Sir John Rattray of Rattray, was knighted by James IV. By his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of James, second Lord Kennedy, he had three sons and one daughter. His eldest son, John, an officer in the Dutch service, married Margaret Abercrombie, but died in Holland before his father, without issue. Patrick, the second son, succeeded to the estate, as did also, after him, the youngest son, Sylvester. The daughter, Grizel, married John Stewart, third earl of Athol, of that name. On Sir John’s death, the earl laid claim to a portion of the Rattray estate, as husband of his only daughter, and, at the head of a large body of his retainers, forcibly took possession of the castle of Rattray, and carried off the family writs. Patrick, the then proprietor, retired to the castle of Craighall, which he gallantly and successfully defended. The old castle of Rattray, near Blairgowrie, the ancient stronghold of the family, is now in ruins. At Craighall, the more modern seat of the family, there is some beautiful cliff scenery. “The house,” (New Statistical Account – Perthshire. Article Rattray) “is situated on the top of a rock, about 214 feet, almost perpendicular above the Ericht. Craighall is accessible only in front, which is from the south, and on each side of the entrance a little in advance of the house are two round buildings, evidently intended for protection, with some openings for missile weapons, as if for the use of archers – a mode of defence very common in former ages.”

In the summer of 1793 Craighall was visited by Sir Walter Scott, accompanied by his friend William Clerk, the brother of John Clerk, Lord Eldin, a relative of the Rattray family. Lockhart says: “From the position of this striking place, as Mr. Clerk at once perceived, and as the author afterwards confessed to him, that of the Tully-Veolan (in Waverley) was very faithfully copied, though in the description of the house itself, and its gardens, many features were adopted from Bruntsfield and Ravelstone. Mr. Clerk has told me that he went through the first chapters of Waverley without more than a vague suspicion of the new novelist, but that when he read the arrival at Tully-Veolan, his suspicion was at once converted into certainty, and he handed the book to a common friend of his and the author’s, saying, ‘This is Scott’s – and I’ll lay a bet you’ll find such and such things in the next chapter.’ In the course of a ride from Craighall, they had both become considerably fagged and heated, and Clerk, seeing the smoke of a clachan a little way before them, ejaculated – ‘How agreeable if we should here fall in with one of those signposts where a red lion predominates over a punch-bowl!’ The phrase happened to tickle Scott’s fancy – he often introduced it on similar occasions afterwards – and at the distance of twenty years (when the authorship of the Waverley novels was still a mystery) Mr. Clerk was at no loss to recognize an old acquaintance in the ‘huge bear’ which ‘predominates’ over the stone basin in the courtyard of Baron Bradwardine.” The Ath0l family continued to possess the greater part of the lands of Rattray until about the beginning of the 17th century, when they were evicted from them by an appraising at the instance of Sir Robert Crichton of Clunie.

Sylvester Rattray, on succeeding his brother, Patrick, endeavoured to get himself served heir to his father and brothers at Perth, the county town of the shire in which his lands were situated, but found it impossible, because, as the writ bears, the earl of Athol and his friends are “magnae potestatis et fortitudinis” in that town. He applied, in consequence, to King James V., and obtained from his majesty a commission under the great seal to have service done at Dundee, dated at Edinburgh, 17th October 1533. He was accordingly served heir to his father and two brothers in the barony of Craighall and Kyneballoch, and infeft therein in Dundee in 1534.

His son and successor, David Rattray of Craighall and Kyneballoch, served heir to his father in 1554, had two sons, George and Sylvester, the latter minister at Auchtergaven and ancestor of Rattray of Dalnoon. The elder son, George Rattray of Craighall, succeeded his father, in the commencement of the reign of James VI. He was succeeded by his son, Sylvester, who was infeft in all his father’s lands by a charter under the great seal, dated 26th October 1604. Sylvester had two sons, David and Sylvester. The latter, who was bred to the church, was progenitor of the Rattrays of Persie.

The elder son, David Rattray of Craighall, was served heir to his father, 22d June 1613, and died soon after, leaving a son, Patrick. This gentleman, upon his own resignation, got a charter under the great seal from Charles I., dated 28th February 1648, of the lands of Craighall, Kyneballoch, and others, containing a Novodamus, and erecting them into a free barony, to be called Craighall and Rattray, in all time coming. By his wife, Anne Drummond, daughter of John, second Lord Maderty, he had, with a daughter, married to Ogilvy of Balfour, a son, James Rattray of Craighall. The latter was father of Dr. Thomas Rattray of Craighall, a man of singular piety and learning, who was served heir to his father, before the sheriff of Perth, 13th July 1692. He died in 1743. He had two sons and three daughters. The eldest daughter, Margaret, married, in 1720, the celebrated Dr. John Clerk, president of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and for more than thirty years the first medical practitioner in Scotland (see CLERK of Pennycuik).

The third son, David Clerk, M.D. of Edinburgh, physician to the Royal Infirmary of that city, died in 1768, leaving two sons, James and Robert. The elder son, James Clerk, born 3d December 1763, succeeded to Craighall Rattray, in right of his grandmother, and assumed the additional surname of Rattray. He was an eminent advocate at the Scottish bar, and in his latter years one of the barons of the court of Exchequer in Scotland. He died 29th August 1831. He had married, 3d January 1791, Jane, only daughter of Admiral Duff of Fetteresso, and with one daughter, Jane, wife of William M. Hay, second son of Hay of Newton, he had a son and successor, Robert Clerk Rattray, Esq. of Craighall Rattray. This gentleman died 27th October 1851, leaving, with four daughters, two sons, James, who succeeded him, and Adam, an officer in the 92d regiment.


Sylvester Rattray, M.D., a physician in Glasgow, was the author of the following medical works: ‘Auditus Novus ad occultas Sympathiae Causas Inveniendas per Principia Philosophiae naturalis ex Fermentarum artificiosa Anatomia hausta, Patefactus.’ Glasgow, 1658, 8vo. Inserted in the Theatrum Sympatheticum, Nuremberg, 1662. ‘Prognosis Medica ad usum Praxeos facili methodo digesta.’ Glasgow, 1666, 8vo.

James Rattray, lieutenant 2d grenadiers Bengal army, published a work entitled ‘The Costumes of the Various Tribes, Portraits of Ladies of Rank, celebrated Princes and Chiefs, Views of the Principal Fortresses and Cities, and Interior of the Cities and Temples of Afghanistan, from original drawings.’ London, 1848, folio.


The family of Rattray of Barford house, Warwickshire, is a branch of the ancient Scottish house of the name, being descended from James Rattray, Esq. of Runnygullion, Drimmie, and Corb, Perthshire. This gentleman, the son and heir of Sir Rullion Rattray of Runnygullion, was an adherent of the Stuarts, and in 1745 took up arms in support of the cause of the Pretender. He was among the last to leave the field of Culloden, and with his brother-in-law, Sir James Kinloch of Kinloch, he hastened to Drimmie, in the parish of Longforgan. There he was captured by the government soldiery, and conveyed a prisoner to London. At his trial, he was advised to plead, in his defence, as many of the prisoners did without effect, that he was forced, against his will, to join the rebel army. This plea made no impression on the judges, and the jury were about to retire, when a stranger rushed into the court, and earnestly exclaimed, “My lords, I beg to be heard on behalf of James Rattray, the prisoner at the bar.” The judges, after some hesitation, consented to receive his evidence, when he declared upon oath that, on one occasion, while travelling through Perthshire in the exercise of his vocation, collecting a coarse king of flax, called heards, he was benighted on the road, and, arriving at Drimmie, he was there received by the prisoner, and hospitably entertained with the servants of the family; and that he subsequently saw the prisoner handcuffed in the custody of the rebel army, from his refusal to join them. In consequence of this man’s evidence, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The witness immediately disappeared without speaking to any one, and was never afterwards seen by any of the family.

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