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MacFarlane's Genealogical Collections
In two volumes


The Collection of Manuscripts formed by Walter Macfarlane was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates in 1785 from his niece Miss Janet Macfarlane, for the sum of twenty-one pounds. Among those manuscripts, in addition to the two volumes of Genealogical Collections—now by the permission of the Faculty published for the first time—were The Geographical Collections, 3 vol 8., the publication of which is shortly to be undertaken by the Society; Collections relative to several Scottish Famillies 2 vols; Index to the Register of the Great Seal to 1762, 5 vols; Diplomatum regiorum quae in publicis archivis extant abbreviations, 10 vols.; several volumes of transcripts of charters, including the charters of Melrose, Balmerinoch, and other religious houses; and various other transcripts.

The following biographical notice of Walter Macfarlane is taken from The Chiefs of Colquhoun and their Country, by the late Sir William Fraser, vol. ii. pp. 99,100:

'Walter Macfarlane, one of the most laborious and accurate antiquaries of his age, was the son and successor of this John by his wife, Helen, daughter of Robert, second Viscount of Arbuthnot. He transcribed with his own hand many old cartularies and muniments deposited in private charter-chests. He was very liberal in allowing access to his valuable collections and transcripts, which are still consulted and often quoted by authors, being regarded as of high authority. To his industry we owe the existence of a copy of the Levenax Cartulary, the original of which is now lost. He married Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of Alexander, sixth Earl of Kellie. Little is known of his history, which appears to have been chiefly that of a student, without any remarkable incidents to record. In Anderson's Diplomata Scotice, published at Edinburgh in the year 1739, the learned editors, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Thomas Ruddiman, in an acknowledgment of their obligations to those who contributed the original charters engraved in that great work, notice in favourable terms the assistance given them by the Laird of Macfarlane: “ In this list of most noble and most eminent men deserves in particular to be inscribed by us a most accomplished young man, Walter Macfarlane of that Ilk, Esq., Chief of the Macfarlanes, one of the most ancient of the clans, who, as he is conspicuous for the utmost urbanity, and for his acquaintance with all the more elegant, and, especially, the antiquarian departments of literature, most readily devoted much labour and industry in explaining to us the names of men and places/* The eulogium pronounced upon him by Smollett is afterwards 1 quoted. He died, without issue, at his town-house in the Canongate of Edinburgh, on 5th June 1767. After his death his valuable collections were purchased by the Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh. His portrait, an excellent original painting, which exhibits a remarkably intelligent, manly, and open countenance, occupies a place on the walls of the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, to whom it was gifted in 1786 by his nephew, Walter Macfarlane. This portrait was engraved for the late Mr. W. B. D. D. Turnbull, for the purpose of being introduced into his “Monasticon of Scotland,” a work which was never completed/

The Casti Book of the late William Macfarlane of Portsburgh, W.S., who died on 13th July 1831, contains, under date 1785, the following notice:

Walter Macfarlane of Macfarlane (20th), of Arrochar, was the second but eldest surviving son of John Macfarlane (19th) of Arrochar and Lady Helen, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Arbuthnot. He succeeded his father 13th May 1705. He married, 21st April 1760, Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Kelly, by whom he had no issue. He died in his house in the Canongate, Edinburgh, on the 5th, and was buried in the Grayfriars, Edinburgh, betwixt the two west pillars of the New Kirk, on the 8th of June 1767. He was succeeded by his brother, Dr. William Macfarlane, as 21st of Arrochar, who sold the estate in March 1784, after having been five hundred and fifty-nine years in the family.’

The original sources from which Macfarlane’s transcripts have been derived are occasionally indicated by him, and some account of these may be here given.

Martine of Clermont, from whose manuscripts the history of the Balfours, Leslies, Maules, and others has been taken, was George Martine, the elder, born 1635, died 1712. He was secretary to Archbishop Sharp, and author of the Reliquke divi Andrew, or The State of the Venerable See of St. Andrews, written in 1683, but not published till 1797. Nothing is now known regarding these manuscripts. The history of the Martines will be found in vol. ii., pp. 183-197, of this work.

The ‘Person of Quality who wrote the genealogy of the Mackenzies (vol. i. p. 54) is said by Sir William Fraser in his Earls of Cromartie, vol. i. p. xii, to have been Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat, afterwards first Earl of Cromartie, and he states that the original history in manuscript is at Tarbat House. Other authorities—among them the British Museum Catalogue (the Genealogy was published in Dingwall in 1843)—give as the ‘ Person of Quality ’ John Mackenzie, second of Applecross, known as ‘ Ian Mollach,’ or hairy John, son of Patrick Mackenzie, and grandnephew of Kenneth, first Lord Mackenzie, of Kintail. Several copies of the manuscript are known to exist in Mackenzie collections. Sir Alexander Muir Mackenzie of Delvine has one in his possession, and in all probability it is the one from which Macfarlane made his transcript. Stony hurst College possesses another copy, and the editor is indebted to the courtesy of the Rev. Father Coupe, S.J., the present librarian at Stonyhurst, for a description of that manuscript. The archives, he says, give no information as to where the manuscript came from, but he suggests that Kenneth Francis Xavier Mackenzie, who entered the Society in 1739, may have gifted it to the library.

Mr. James Chapman, who is said to have written The Genealogy of the Grants (vol. i. p. 103), was the son of an Inverness merchant. He graduated M.A. at Aberdeen University in 1695, was ordained to the parish of Cawdor in 1699, translated to Cromdale in 1702, and died there in 1787, aged sixty-three.

Matthew Lumsden of Tillycaim, who composed The Genea-logie of the Name of Forbes (vol. ii. p. 207), was the second son of Robert Lumsden of Balnakelly and Medlar. He married Anapel, a natural daughter of Lord Forbes. From accounts given of him by the family historian, he does not seem to have possessed a very good character. He died 27th June 1580. The genealogy was published in Inverness in 1819. Mr. William Forbes, by whom Lumsden’s narrative was 6 improved ’ (vol. ii. p. 471), belonged to the Corsindae branch of the Forbeses, and was a member of the Faculty of Advocates, having been admitted to that body on 8th February 1696. He received the appointment of Professor of Law in the University of Glasgow in 1714, and held the office till his death on 23rd October 1745. His father, Dr. Thomas Forbes, who, according to the Lyon Register, was descended from the second son of the second Lord Forbes, graduated M.D. at Padua, and was at one time a professor in the University of Pisa.

The account of the House of Ranfurlie (vol. ii. p. 284) was written by David Crawford of Drumsoy (1665-1726), Historiographer Royal for Scotland, author of Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, and other works.

Dr. Miln’s 'Lives of the Bishops of Dunkeld’ (vol. ii. pp. 302 and 304, note), referred to as then in manuscript, has since been published in Transaction of the Literary and Antiquarian Society of Perth, 1827.

The Life of Sir Simon Fraser, who, in 1307, three times defeated the English in one day, was written by Dr. Abercromby (vol. ii. p. 316, and note), and will be found in Abercromby’s Martial Achievements of the Scots Nation^ pp. 552-7.

In editing these volumes, the editor has endeavoured to reproduce as faithfully as possible the manuscript as it stands. No attempt has been made to fill up the numerous blanks in the narratives, to correct errors, or to rectify the spelling. The only departure from this rule has been the insertion, under the sanction of the Council of the Society, of a translation, by the Rev. Walter Macleod, of the genealogy of the Mackintosh family. The few notes of the editor relate merely to the external condition of the text, as, for example, marking interlineations or additions by others than the transcriber. The notes to which an ‘M’ is appended have been added to the transcript by Macfarlane, and those between extended lines are in the handwriting of Macfarlane’s transcriber, and were, in all probability, in the original manuscripts.

The importance of these collections as sources of genealogical information is evidenced by the fact that they are being constantly used by those making inquiries into family history, and it must be a satisfaction to the Society that, through the appropriate and acceptable action on the part of Sir William Fraser's trustees, and the courtesy of the Faculty of Advocates, they have been enabled to make the collections, hitherto confined to a single manuscript, so much more widely accessible.

Advocates’ Library,

June 1900.

You can download the two volumes here...

Volume 1  |  Volume 2


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