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Glenbuchat Heritage

164 'Watson's Inn' Strathdon
The Glenbuchat Image Library
164 'Watson's Inn' Strathdon

Watsons Inn Strathdon

A review of a Newspaper article of 1851 (shown above) about Lonach Games showed a paragraph which mentioned about Watsons Inn Strathdon.

“After the competition on the Haugh, the gentlemen assembled at Mr Watsons Inn and partook of a well-provided banquet.”

This raised the question as to the identity of Mr Watson’s Inn.

Another clue was an 1839 time table (Noted above) for stage coaches between Aberdeen and Strathdon,

“The Lord Forbes Coach, to Strathdon and Muir of Rhynie
Leaves Aberdeen every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11 o’clock am.
Leaves Watsons Inn, Strathdon, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6, 0’clock am. And Muir of Rhynie at 7, arriving at Cruickshank’s Inn, 8 Schoolhill, 12 o’ clock noon. – Route by Skene, Cluny, Alford and Kildrummy”

Presumably the coach, horses and coachmen stayed the night at Mr Watsons Inn and set off for Aberdeen the next morning.

The picture above is of the Royal Highlander, the coach which ran on Deeside, from Aberdeen to Braemar. Presumably it is similar to the Lord Forbes coach which ran from Aberdeen to Strathdon. The picture is of the restored coach at the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford and I am grateful for their permission to reproduce the picture.

The coach was run by a firm Knox and Machray, Royal Mail Coach Office, 61 Union Street Aberdeen. The following list of daily coaches indicates what a busy place it must have been:

5.00 am. Passengers for Defiance services arrive
6.00 Defiances for north and south depart
6.22 Royal Mail from London arrives
6.45 Royal Mail for Inverness leaves
6.45 Royal Mail for Ballater leaves
6.50 Earl of Fife coach leaves for Banff and Elgin
6.50 New Times leaves for Perth
6.55 Royal Mail leaves for Fraserburgh and Peterhead
9.00 Highlander leaves for Braemar
9.00am to noon 6 night coaches arrive from the south and various local coaches leave for Ellon, Old Meldrum and Inverurie
2.45pm Earl of Errol leaves for Dundee
2.50 Royal Mail to Edinburgh
3.00 Tally Ho leaves for Huntly
3.00 Lord Forbes leaves for Strathdon
3.00 Banks of Ythan leaves for Old Deer
3.00 Defiance leaves for Fraserburgh
3.00 Lewes leaves for Fyvie
4.00 Banks of Dee leaves for Banchory
4.00 Banks of Don leaves for Inverurie
4.00 Highland Lass leaves for Inverurie
4.00 Swift leaves for Montrose
4.00 Earl of Aberdeen leaves for Pitsligo and Strichen
6.00 Glen Ury leaves for Stonehaven
7.10 Defiance arrives from Edinburgh
7.15 2 Defiances arrive from Inverness and Fraserburgh
9.00 Royal Union leaves for Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh

Further research revealed the excellent article by John Duff in the Braemar Local History web site about the Watson family who owned hotels in Braemar, Glenshee and Strathdon.

It reveals that Watson’s Hotel Strathdon was to become the New Inn then the Colquhonnie Hotel. It was run by George Watson, one of the Watson family, noted in the article below.

George Watson was the son of John Watson and Catherine Craig Braemar who between 1770 and 1789 went on to have 9 other recorded children – 5 boys and 4 girls.

The census returns record the following children:
All have the same baptism Place: Crathie and Braemar

Thomas Watson Baptism Date: 15 Mar 1772
James Watson Baptism Date: 17 Mar 1774
Jean Watson Baptism Date: 14 Mar 1776 (see below for more details)
Mary Watson Baptism Date: 10 Jan 1780
Charles Watson Baptism Date: 15 Feb 1782
George Watson Baptism Date: 10 May 1786
Catharine Watson Baptism Date: 2 Apr 1789
Eliza G F Watson Age: 26 in 1851 census Estimated Birth Year: about 1825

George married Jean McHardy from the parish of Glenmuick in 1819
1819 Dec 21 Extract from the Register of Marriage Proclamations of the Parish of Glenmuick 1819 Decr 19th The banns of Marriage between George Watson Parish of Strathdon and Jean McHardy of this Parish were published thrice times here this day and no objections offered.
Extracted from the Register of Marriage proclamation of the parish of Glenmuick by James Smith ? “These certify that the above designed George Watson and Jane McHardy were married by me at Pananich Lodge, after the usual proclamation of banns and before many witnesses; although, at this distance of time, I cannot positively say on what particular day this marriage took place; but to the best of my recollection it was on the 21st day of Decr 1819. Given at Glenmuick 27th June 1840.
(Signed) by Hugh Burgess Ministr

As George is registered as coming from Strathdon at the time of his marriage when he was aged 33, he may well have managed the Watsons Inn at that time.

The following are census entries for George and his family at Colquhonnie (misspelt on census)

1841 Scotland Census about George Watson
Name: George Watson
Age: 50 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1791
Gender: Male
Where born: Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colquhamm
Occupation: Farmer Sp Deal
Household Members: Name Age
George Watson 50
Jean Watson 40
Katherin Watson 18
Eliza Watson 15
John Watson 13
Margarat Michie 20
Margarat Gordon 21
Iebella Bessat 14
Elizabath Mchardy 5
Alexr Wilson 30
John Chapman 20
Jas Clark 20
Lewis Forbes 15

1841 Scotland Census about Katherin Watson
Name: Katherin Watson
Age: 18 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1823
Where born: Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colquhamm

1841 Scotland Census about Eliza Watson (daughter)
Name: Eliza Watson
Age: 15 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1826
Where born: Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire Address: Colquhamm

1841 Scotland Census about John Watson (son)
Name: John Watson
Age: 13 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1828
Where born: Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colquhamm

1851 Scotland Census about George Watson
Name: George Watson
Age: 64 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1787
Relationship: Head
Spouse's Name: Jane Watson
Where born: Braemar, Aberdeenshire
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colguhannie
Occupation: Innkeeper Farmer Of 130 Acres Emply 3 Labourer ED: 5
Household Members: Name Age
George Watson 64
Jane Watson 50
Elira G F Watson 26
George R Grant 2
Penelopie Michie 32
Marye Suman 20
John Henderson 30
Charlis Thain 22
Arthur Farbes 24 Archibald Stewart 14

1851 Scotland Census about Jane Watson (Georges wife)
Name: Jane Watson
Age: 50 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1801
Relationship: Wife
Spouse's Name: George Watson
Where born: Crathie, Aberdeenshire
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colguhannie

1851 Scotland Census about Eliza G F Watson (daughter)
Name: Eliza G F Watson
Age: 26 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1825
Relationship: Daughter
Father's Name: George Watson
Mother's Name: Jane Watson
Where born: Strathdon, Aberdeenshire
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colguhannie

1851 Scotland Census about George R Grant (Georges grandson, son of Eliza)
Name: George R Grant
Age: 2 Estimated Birth Year: abt 1849
Relationship: Grandson
Mother's Name: Eliza G F Watson
Where born: Strathdon, Aberdeenshire
Civil Parish: Strathdon County: Aberdeenshire
Address: Colguhannie

Children born to George and Jean and recorded are:

1822 Mar 12 George Watson in Culquhonny and Jean McHardy his spouse had a child baptized named Cathrine Stuart Forbes
1824 Aug 6 Mr George Watson in Culquhonny and Jean Mchardy his spouse had a child baptized named Elizabeth Grant Forbes
1827 Jun 20 George Watson in Culquhonny and his spouse Jean McHardy had a child baptized named John Forbes.
John, George's son, became a noted physician and writer as noted below.( From Wikisource

Watson, John Forbes(1827–1892), physician and writer on India, born in Scotland in 1827, was the son of an Aberdeenshire farmer. He was educated at the University of Aberdeen, where he graduated M.A. in March 1847, and M.D. on 5 Aug. 1847. After completing his medical studies at Guy's Hospital, London, and at Paris, he was appointed assistant surgeon in the Bombay army medical service in August 1850. He served with the artillery at Ahmednuggur and with the Scinde horse at Khangur, now Jacobadad, and was afterwards appointed assistant surgeon to the Jamsetjee Hospital and lecturer on physiology at the Grant Medical College, where for a time he also acted as professor of medicine and lecturer on clinical medicine. Returning to England on sick leave in 1853, he spent some time at the School of Mines in Jermyn Street, and in investigating the sanitary application of charcoal, on which he published a pamphlet in 1855. He was then appointed by the court of directors to conduct an investigation into the nutritive value of the food grains of India, the result of which formed the basis of public dietaries in India. In 1858 he was nominated by the secretary of state reporter on the products of India and director of the India Museum, appointments which he held till the transference to South Kensington of the India Museum at the end of 1879

In connection with his department he established a photographic branch, in which numerous illustrations were executed depicting Indian life and scenery, and large maps of the country in relief. They were used to illustrate not only his own works, but also those of other eminent writers. In 1874 Watson submitted to government a proposal for the establishment of an Indian museum and library, together with an Indian institute in a central position, where candidates for the civil service might pursue oriental studies. His plea for an Imperial museum for India and the colonies was supported by the Royal Colonial Institute, and it assisted materially in the establishment of the Imperial Institute at South Kensington. He represented India at the international exhibitions held at London in 1862, at Paris in 1867, and at Vienna in 1873, and at the South Kensington annual exhibitions from 1870 to 1874. He retired from the India Office in 1880, and died at Upper Norwood on 29 July 1892. He was elected a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1889.

Another of George’s sisters also had a connection with Strathdon. Jean Watson married James Stuart the Earl of Fife’s land-factor. The record of her death is as follows:

Jane Stuart (widow of James Stuart land-factor)
1866 May twenty-second 6h 0m AM Glenconry, F: 90 years
Parents: John Watson farmer & Inn-keeper (deceased) & Katharine Watson ms Craig (deceased)
Cause: Bronchitis 6 months. As certified by Alexander Profeit Surgeon Towie.
Informant: Geo Clark nephews Allanaquach(?) (son of Margaret, George Watsons sister)
1866 May 25th at Strathdon. James Wattie, Registrar

James Stuart is recorded as having dealings with Glenbuchat during his career as The Earl of Fifes factor. The Earl of Fife was the owner of the Glenbuchat estates at the time.
In the Duff House papers it states:
James Stuart reports to the Earl of Fife in 1788 that 'Belnaglack being eight oxgates land and possessed by Germ Ritchie and his two sons in law Alexr Farquharson & William Brodie, William Brodie possesses three oxgates and Germ Ritchie the fourth. William Brodie was [designed] at the setting of the tack in [Whit] 1782 to get Germ's oxgate at his death and then they would both possess alike. I believe their abilities are much the same, they are both due rent 1787, if any difference Alexander Farquharson is the most substantial.' In the margin the Earl responds that what was designed should be implemented - once rents for 1787 have been paid.

The following is the full article on the Watson Family of Braemar reproduced with his kind permission of John Duff.

“This talk was given by Braemar resident, Mr John Duff, in the Braemar village hall, on 9th January 2011. John is extremely knowledgeable and interested in the history of the local area, and on this occasion chose the topic of a local family with 18th century connections to Braemar village.”

Watsons? What Watsons?

John Duff

This Article is based on a talk given by the author to the Braemar Local History Group in 2011.

If you were to take a random selection of present day Braemar residents and ask them if they could name the 19th Century Braemar family who, jointly or individually, ran hotels in Braemar, Glen Shee and Strathdon; who were responsible for the formation of the bends forming the old Devil’s Elbow, thus forming the first real coaching and tourist link between Braemar and Glen Shee; who carried out the first known excavation of Kindrochit castle; who contributed a Local Factor to Earl Fife; who left a large sum of money in a Trust Fund for the University education of promising scholars in Braemar; who supplied the first Treasurer of the Wright (later the Highland) Society; who contributed Banchory’s second feuar, a man who created what was effectively the first Banchory Town Council (The Guild), who also donated more than one piece of land to the town, and whose name is commemorated there in a street name, you would probably be rewarded with a blank stare. The family was the Watson family of the Invercauld Arms Hotel, or as it was formerly known in the 18th Century, The Castleton Inn, in Braemar. The name Watson is now virtually forgotten in the village, but there are certainly relatives still living here.
On 15th March 1770, a child was born in Braemar to John Watson (born about 1734). His wife, Catherine Craig (born about 1746), is not mentioned, there is no indication of whether the child was male or female, and no name is given. This is the first mention in the Braemar Parish Records of the name Watson, so it seems reasonable to assume that the Watsons were incomers: but from where? There are numerous John Watsons to be found in the 18th century in the East Lothian/Dunbar area, and there was a Catherine Craig born at Stonehaven, in the Parish of Dunnottar on 23rd July, 1745, but I can find no record of their marriage. There is strong evidence that the family was wealthy, so what on earth brought them to Braemar, at that time a remote little highland village, with no claim to fame other than having hosted the start of an abortive Jacobite uprising fifty five years before, along with a mediaeval connection with Scottish Royalty?

Between 1770 and 1789, John and Catherine went on to have 9 other recorded children – 5 boys and 4 girls.

In 1775, a Hierom Watson, a blacksmith, who, from Braemar Memorial Inscriptions, was of the same family and probably arrived along with them, married Elspet Robertson, a daughter of John Robertson, the Invercauld Estate joiner. The Robertson girls were adventurous in their choice of husband; twelve years earlier, Elspet’s sister Mary had married Patrick Kayne, a Private soldier in Captain John Curran’s Company of the King’s Own Regiment, at that time garrisoned in Braemar Castle. This earlier marriage must surely have caused tears in the Robertson household, as 18th century army wives very often followed their husband’s regiment as best they could. Lumped without distinction along with all of the prostitutes, sweethearts, fellow travellers, hangers-on and regimental riff-raff, their life was notoriously hard and unpredictable. If the regiment went abroad, many would follow: if it went to battle, bereaved wives and girlfriends would later be seen, along with the ghouls intent on robbery, searching among the dead and wounded on the battlefield for their missing loved ones.
Hierom was just possibly a very early son of John Watson, but perhaps more probably a younger brother or even a cousin. I can find no record of his birth. His son Duncan (whose second wife was a Jane Grant) was a carpenter and also the first Treasurer of Braemar Wright (later Highland) Society, from 1815 till 1830, when he died. (His maternal Grandfather, John Robertson the joiner, had been the first joint Ordinary Vice-President and later, “Master” of the Society) In January 1832, despite Duncan’s impeccable connections with the Society, the Committee refused to pay his widow £6 sick allowance for her late husband, on the grounds that the claim was not made in regular form as required! They lived in Inverey, and their daughter Mary married Alexander Lamont, a crofter from Auchendryne.

In April, 1811, old John Watson died, aged 77. His widow continued to run the Invercauld Arms Hotel till she too died, aged 79, in 1825.

In August, 1824, the Committee of the Wright Society were discussing the arrangements for a ball they intended to hold that month, and decided to accept a tender from Mrs Watson, Castleton, to supply a substantial plain dinner in Braemar Castle at a charge of 1/6 for everyone who chose to dine, “it being understood that the Society is under no obligation to take any of their drink from her after dinner”. Then they had another think: “Resolved also unanimously that the drink shall be furnished by the Society purchasing the spirits and other ingredients as well as the necessary utensils at the cheapest rate they can”. (and her nephew, or possibly grandson), was their Treasurer!

There is no space meantime to go into details about all of the Watson children, so I’ll confine myself to touching on some of them, in order of their birth.

Thomas was the second child, born in 1772. In 1800, he married, in Glenmuick parish, a young lady from Aberdeen, with the unusual Christian name of Douglas (Douglas Mary Mitchell). By this time Thomas was apparently the proprietor of the Invercauld Arms Hotel at the Spittal of Glen Shee, Perthshire and like his father, went on to have 10 children, all born in the Parish of Kirkmichael, between 1802 and 1822. The family was still in Glen Shee in 1829, as we shall see later, but in October 1834, the Inn and Farm (a one pair place; i.e. employing two farm horses), were advertised for let: “the present tenant positively leaves the Farm”. By the time of the Census of 1841, there was not one Watson recorded in Kirkmichael, and I have so far been unable to positively trace any member of the family, or even the marriage of any of the children. Did they move to some other Scottish hotel? Unlikely, or there would be some trace. Did they move to England? Did they emigrate? The two latter possibilities could account for no marriages being recorded in Scotland.

Jean came next, born in 1776. Another indication that the family were of some note locally is the fact that she married James Stuart, Earl Fife’s local factor. They seem to have had no family. She died, aged 90, in Glenbuchat, Strathdon, one of Earl Fife’s many land holdings.

John was perhaps the greatest character, and was born in 1778. In 1812 in the Parish of Banchory Ternan, described as a Feuar in Orbiddy (Arbeadie) he married an Anne Gordon. They had no family. John was a merchant of some sort, and became very wealthy, as well as having a touch of eccentricity. He was the second feuar of Banchory, which was then a very modest village, and he had quite extensive land holdings there. He was very community minded, and in course set up the first Town Council or Guild, later known as the John Watson Guild. It was under his guidance that projects such as a coal fund, the building of the town hall, the building of the gas works and supplying street lighting by gas, came to be instituted. He nevertheless declined nomination as Provost in favour of the village baker. Watson Street commemorates him in Banchory. All this is dealt with in Buchan Watt’s Book of Banchory. John Watson’s Will is intriguing, and as well as leaving various legacies, money for the poor, three parcels of land in trust for the town of Banchory, and instructions for the building of a folly in his garden, he included instructions about the folly, as well as his philosophy as to how the Earth was formed:
“ The way I dispose of the residue is thus: - I am to build a tower on the rock in the north east corner of my property and which is the march separates it from the other lands of Arbeadie. As the publick is to have free access and egress to the top of this tower for their benefit and amusement they may perhaps contribute to the building of it. This Tower is to be built with a strong arched room at the bottom. This room is to receive a large Iron safe for the purpose of holding the choice of my Books and all my papers both written and printed for preservation and Dr. John Forbes Watson my Nephew (his brother George’s youngest child) is to have the Key of this safe during his life. At his death the Key will fall to be kept by the Reverend George Hutchison Minister of Banchory or the Minister of the Established Church in Banchory for the time being and to his Successors in Office in all time coming. I should fain hope my papers will give a true account of the stages our earth has gone through in its Creation. The Earth is the child of the sun. The Sun took the earth (as it were) by the hand and learnt it at the first to revolve once on its axis in each revolution of its orbit. After a long period the sun made it to revolve daily on its axis.”
At another stage of the Will he included a homily to the Minister:
“Banchory Decr. 1, 1857. To Reverend K Hutchison of Banchory Ternan. My Dear Sir, I here enclose one Pound to your Church Scheme. I also state that at my death you may charge my estate with Five Pounds to the same object. Still I have no faith in deathbed legacies to the Church it smells too much of the Church of Rome and of our free Kirk. A sinner on his deathbed with horrible dreams, is assured of a Passage into Heaven if he will but leave his Estate to the Church. Strange Doctrine:- To leave an Estate just at the time he has got nothing to leave he is induced to deprive his legal heirs of their estate to save his soul. Is this Hypocricy (sic) or is it not. Your obedient servant (signed) John Watson. PS Prayers may be spoken or they may be acted. I approve of the former and I approve more still of the latter. To Practice the Virtues is better than to speak them. We are all born to be servants although none of us aspire to be masters. We are all born to earn our bread with the sweat of our brow. The man who earns his bread honestly Practices Charity and worships fervently is the man whose Prayers are most acceptable to Deity. Although with reluctance I object to the Poors rates. They do more harm to the mind of the Poor than they do good to their bodys. Our Divines should instill into the minds of the People the duty of self support. Subscribed with my very best regards to you and yours.”

Then, nine years later, sadly, the tower was not to be built:
“To my Executors. Sirs, It is with extreme sorrow I have to state that from fallen and falling fortune I have not the means to execute the schemes I had in view, which you will see in my papers. You will give up all thought of building an outlook on the rock in the north east corner of my ground. You will reduce the number of legacies, and grant those which remain only to persons of necessity. You will give the residue to Mrs George Watson (his sister in law) and her son in law Reverend James Grant. I write this letter to make it fast a Codicil to my letter of Will on this third day of April in this year Eighteen hundred and sixty five in my own house in Banchory. (Signed) John Watson. To my Executors Aberdeen 19th March 1866. Referred to in my deposition of this date (signed) John Webster John Morrison JP”. (There was a serious bank crash in 1866, and it appears probable that he lost his money in the run-up to this).

John died in 1866.

Charles was born in 1782, and was 43 when his mother died. He died himself at the age of 46, so he only ran the Invercauld Arms Hotel at Braemar for three years or so, although he must have been heavily involved long before that. The Watsons are credited with carrying out the first excavations at Kindrochit castle, and it is likely that Charles was the driving force behind this venture. They apparently found nothing of any serious interest, but removed over 70 loads of spoil before Invercauld stopped them.
Charles, during the last year or so of his life, was also involved with his brother Thomas at Glen Shee in trying to create a road fit for coaches to pass more easily between Glen Shee and Braemar, in what must have been the very first local attempt to cultivate a tourist industry . The crux, of course, was the steep slope at the head of Glen Beg, and this necessitated the formation of what became known as the Devil’s Elbow bends. After Charles died in 1828, his sister Margaret (Mrs Clark), who took over the Braemar hotel, continued to co-operate with Thomas in Glen Shee, and the Devil’s Elbow was first opened to coach traffic in 1829. Mrs Clark wasted no time. On 10th August, 1831, she was advertising in the Aberdeen Journal, that on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the Braes of Mar coach would leave Farquharson’s Arms Inn, Braemar, for Glen Shee, Blairgowrie, Perth, &c. &c., returning on the intervening days. In addition, the Earl of Aboyne coach would leave the Mail Coach Office at Aberdeen’s New Inn on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 8a.m., returning on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The fare from Aberdeen to Edinburgh for passengers inside the coach was £2:10s, and for those hardy or hard-up souls who wished an outside seat, £1:10s.

It would be hard to over-estimate the courageous boldness and far-sightedness of the Watsons’ venture, as not only was it the first attempt to cultivate tourism in Glen Shee and Braemar, but also at a stroke it liberated Braemar from its former imprisonment as an isolated and remote little village, and opened up Deeside as a viable alternative route from Aberdeen to Edinburgh. Only the arrival of Queen Victoria at Balmoral some nineteen years later had a greater long-term impact on the Deeside economy, and without the vital link to Perthshire and the South, it is entirely possible that Balmoral would never have been recommended to the Queen as being suitable for a Royal residence.

The notorious Devil’s Elbow bends survived for one hundred and forty three years, until extensive road realignments were carried out by Perthshire Council in 1972. The bends are still there, and may be seen at a lower level on the East side of the present road.

Charles never married, but he did have a natural daughter, Mary, whose mother (unnamed) he obviously came to dislike intensely. He had a touch of the same eccentricity as John, and it shows in some of the terms of his Will.

“To see my natural daughter Mary Watson paid annually, during all the years of her life, the sum of twenty pounds sterling as an annuity for her maintenance and support to be paid half yearly at the terms of Whitsunday and Martinmas.

Second to see paid to Ann Thom who has been a faithful and industrious servant to me, an annuity during all the years of her life, the sum of eight pounds Strlg.

Codicil 2nd It is also my desire and request that my said daughter Mary Watson shall immediately after my decease be removed from her mother’s house (if not before) and placed under the care and management of my brother Thomas’s wife, who is to have the sole charge of her & of the annuity formerly specified until she come of age. And in the event of her not going under the management of my said Sister in Law Douglas Mary Mitchell alias Watson: the said Mary Watson my daughter shall be wholly deprived of the benefit of the foresaid annuity to which she would otherwise be entitled after my death. I further Desire, nominate and appoint my sister Mary Watson to be joint Executor along with my brother John Watson, with equal power and authority to act and determine, in the management of my affairs as specified in the preceding Will and in the Codicils thereto annexed. And lastly as Ann Thom, the annuitant already mentioned has since my will was wrote changed her mode of behaviour to me & my affairs & property, I hereby appoint that in place (of) eight pounds she shall receive only four pounds annually so long as she lives”.

After detailing various bequests, he stipulates:
“The principal sum remaining always untouched as a fund which cannot be interfered with for ever after the decease of these different parties my desire and will is that my said Trustees shall lay out annually the free income or interest which may arise from said property in forwarding the education of deserving young men who may have talents to receive education. The exact mode in which this end is to be attained I leave to the future Regulation of my said Trustees. But I desire whatever regulation they may adopt, it may embrace the affording at least three years education, at one or other of the Universities in Scotland. That such as can prove their relationship to me, may in the first place be preferred. Next the name of Watson to have a preferable claim and thereafter the best scholars who may be found at the school of Braemar; at a Public competition held before a deputation of the Presbytery of Kincardine O.Neil, as I am convinced the education of youth in the principles of the Christian Religion and receiving instruction in the necessary branches of learning is the greatest benefit which can be bestowed on them. Providing always that such principal sum shall at no period whatever be reduced below the sum of Three Thousand five Hundred pounds Sterling.”

Although the amount of the principal sum is not, and could not, at that time, be specified, it is safe to assume that Charles Watson calculated that it would be well in excess of the stipulated minimum of £3,500.

This Will was made out in 1828. A historical currency converter table shows that £3,500 in 1828 had the purchasing power of about £245,000 in 2013. It should be noted, of course, that the educational fund was only to be created and applied for that purpose after the death of Charles’s various annuitants, so we have no means of knowing when, or if ever, it came to fruition.

Archives somewhere might give some clue as to what finally happened to Charles’s legacy to the village, but I have contacted the archivists of both the Bank of Scotland and the Royal Bank of Scotland without success. There was no bank branch in Braemar at that time. It is certainly a possibility that the educational fund may have been lost in the bank crash of 1866. The chance of there being some dormant fund with a lot of money in it for Braemar seems very slight!

Margaret, who was two years younger than Charles, in 1807 married Andrew Clark, the farmer at Invergelder farm, Balmoral, and went on to have seven of a family. After Charles’s death in 1828, Margaret (as described above) took over the running of the Braemar hotel, and in the 1841 Census she is recorded in Castleton, described as an Inn Keeper. She died in 1854. By 1851 her second child George had taken over the hotel, and was also described as a farmer of 100 acres. He married, in 1852, Isabella Davidson of Arbeadie, Banchory, and eventually became local factor to Earl Fife, thus succeeding his uncle, James Stuart.

The Clark (also sometimes spelled Clerk) family of Invergelder has disappeared from Braemar, but there has been interesting speculation on its possible connection with a murder trial which made Scottish legal history. In 1750, Duncan Terrig or Clerk, along with his co-accused Alexander McDonald, was cleared of the murder of the Redcoat Sgt. Arthur Davies on a bleak hillside away above the source of the Allt Cristie in Glen Ey, after their Defence Counsel brilliantly ridiculed a witness’s account of how the ghost of Sgt. Davies, a non-Gaelic speaking Englishman, described to him in fluent Gaelic where his body was to be found. The following year, Clerk, a native of Glen Ey, who had been described as a cattle dealer of dubious repute, and whose father was allegedly wealthy, went on to marry his sweetheart, Elizabeth Downie, whose relatives were millers in Glen Ey, and whose father was described as miller at D...(unreadable, but possibly Dalmore). At that time Clerk lived at Craggan, near Mar Lodge, and the couple are known to have had at least one child. In 1798, the Second Earl Fife bought Balmoral Estate, including Invergelder farm, from Invercauld. Was one of Duncan and Elizabeth’s descendants successful in leasing Invergelder farm? It is possible, but I have seen no evidence to support the conjecture.

Margaret’s sixth child Jane, born in 1815, married Dr. John Hugh McLaren, who lived at Crathie Cottage (Crystals). They later moved to Blairgowrie, and Dr. McLaren died there in 1881.

George was born in 1786, and married Jean McHardy from Pannanich Lodge, Ballater. He took over the Colquhonnie Hotel in Strathdon, and in 1851 was running the hotel and farming 130 acres, employing three labourers. He seems to have died before Death Registration became compulsory in 1855, and Jean died in 1870 at the Manse of Fordyce in Banffshire, at the home of her son in law, the Rev. James Grant, husband of their daughter Catherine.

Of the other children of old John and Catherine Watson, the nameless first-born in 1770 was probably an infant death; James, the third child, died in 1795 at the age of 21; Mary, the sixth, never married, and in 1841 was living with Dr McLaren and his wife at Crathie. (Mrs. Jane McLaren was of course her niece). Catherine, the youngest of the family, married James McKenzie, a blacksmith in Braemar, and had two children, James and Henrietta. She died in 1868, aged 80, the last of the original family.

For close on a century Braemar’s Watson family, wealthy, entreprenurial and industrious, exercised a decisive and beneficial influence on the development of Deeside. Today, they are forgotten: their only memorials a street in Banchory, a derelict double hairpin bend on a Perthshire hillside and a crumbling gravestone in Braemar’s old Kirk yard. Sic transit gloria mundi!

John Duff
9th January 2011

Picture added on 30 January 2014 at 18:51
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