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Glenbuchat Heritage

123 Abergeldie Glenbuchat connection
The Glenbuchat Image Library
123 Abergeldie Glenbuchat connection

The Pictures above show
1. A map showing Balmoral Castle to the left and Abergeldie Castle to the right showing how close they are to each other
2. A picture of Abergeldie Castle through the trees.
3. A 1870 map of the castle.

Abergeldie and Glenbuchat
In previous pages mention has been made of the family feud between the Cameron and Mowat families ending with a fatal duel at Badenyon Glenbuchat. This story has raised some interesting questions. Who were these families, what is the connection between Glenbuchat and Abergeldie, when did it happen and did it really take place? To explore this connection it takes us into the history of the Mowat and Cameron Families, Abergeldie estates, the Earls of Mar and on the periphery, the Scottish Crown, Queen Victoria and even Lord Byron

The following is an excellent summary of the feud written by Dr Douglas Simpson, from
"Legends of the Braes O' Mar" and from “The History of the Earls of Mar”

The Earls of Mar did not come from one particular family. Over the years the title was awarded to various families by the monarch of the day. The title was also taken away because of objections to the actions of the Earl or the family line ceased. As a result it was held by a number of families over the years.

The Earldom of Mar is based on the old Pictish ‘Mormaerdom’. The title of Mormaer designates a regional or provincial ruler in the medieval Kingdom of the Scots.
The Mormaerdom was divided into five “Lordships”:
Strathdee (the valley of the Dee)
Strathdon (the valley of the Don)
Midmar (the plain of Mar) comprised most of the land between the rivers.
Cromar (the sheepfold or sheep pen of Mar) is a bowl shaped area around Tarland
Braemar (the hills of Mar). The forest & wild highlands of west Mar.
Each lordship was controlled by a castle. The Doune of Invernochty that protected the Strathdon including Marchmar (the borderlands of Mar to the north) is now just an earthen mound, but at one time rivalled Windsor as a great hilltop fortification.

The Earls of Mar were close to the Scottish monarch of the day.
In about 1114, in the reign of Alexander I, Ruadri (or Rothri) became the first to be recorded as Earl of Mar.
Gartney, the seventh Earl of Mar, married Christian Bruce, a sister of Robert I.
John Erskine, 17th Earl of Mar who died 28 October 1572, and was regent of Scotland, was a son of John, 5th Lord Erskine. He was guardian of King James V, and afterwards of Mary, Queen of Scots.
In 1457, the service of Robert, Lord Erskine, was reduced, and the earldom, with its numerous possessions, including Glenbucket, thereupon reverted to the Crown.

In 1483 John Mowat is recorded as having been given grant for rights to lands of Abergeldie

After the downfall of the Mowats, the lands of Abergeldie reverted to the Crown, and on 26th December, 1482, they were granted by James III to Sir Alexander Gordon of Midmar, second son of the first Earl of Huntly.

From time to time the Crown made grants from the original Mar estates to other individuals.
Thus, in 1507-8, James IV granted three separate charters to Alexander Elphinstone, son of John Elphinstone of Elphinstone (and his wife Elizabeth Berlay or Barlow, who had been a servant or maid of honour to the Queen), of various lands on Upper Donside, including "Balnabooth in Glenbouchat," " Forrest of Baddynyone and Kilvalauch," ' : Inuerbuchet, Wester Inuerbuchet, Eister Inuerbuchet, etc." (Antiq.j IV., pp. 217-218 and 278.). He received a large portion of the lands of the Earls of Mar, including the Barony of Kildrummy; He was slain at the Battle of Flodden.

This therefore shows that Glenbuchat was, from earliest times, part of the Provence of Mar and part of the lands of the Earl of Mar.

Abergeldie Estate and Castle
Abergeldie the name means the "confluence of the Geldie" burn with the Dee at the west end of Abergeldie castle. The estate lies just east of Balmoral Castle

The estate of Abergeldie, in early times, formed a part of the Earldom of Mar; and about the middle of the fourteenth century, Thomas Gartney, 7th Earl of Mar, granted the lands of Abergeldie to Duncan, son of Roger. In the latter part of the fifteenth century, when the Earldom of Mar was in the hands of the Crown, an attempt was made to reclaim Abergeldie. The case came before the Privy Council, and the Council decided that the lands of Abergeldie were distinct from the Earldom of Mar. The Strathdon estates seem to have become attached to the Abergeldie estate.

In 1436 the lands of Abergeldie were in the hands of John Mowat, for in 1438, according to the accounts of the Chamberlain of Mar, a payment is entered out of the rents of Cambusnakist by the King's grant of £10 to John Mowat for his right of the lands for the two previous years. (Cambusnakist: Camus na ciste, river bend of the box. Camus o' May)

After the downfall of the Mowats, the lands of Abergeldie reverted to the Crown; and on 26th December, 1482, they were granted by James III to Sir Alexander Gordon of Midmar, second son of the first Earl of Huntly. Abergeldie Castle is a four-floor tower house located near Crathie Aberdeenshire, was built around 1550 by Sir Alexander Gordon of Midmar.

Abergeldie Castle
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Abergeldie Castle is a four-floor tower house located near Crathie, Aberdeenshire. The castle was built around 1550 by Sir Alexander Gordon of Midmar. During the first Jacobite rising in 1689, the castle was garrisoned by Spanish troops under the command of General Hugh Mackay. The castle has been owned by the Gordon family since 1482. From 1848 to 1970, it was leased to the British royal family, being relatively close to Balmoral. Jamie Douglas Home's book 'Stately passions' says that whilst it was originally leased to the Royal family it was bought by them in 1878 for £100,000.

The castle is reportedly haunted by a ghost known as French Kate or Kitty Rankie. She is said to be a French woman who was employed in the castle at one time. After being suspected of witchcraft she was confined in the castle before being burned at the stake on a nearby hill.

In 1481 Abergeldie passed to Sir Alexander Gordon of Midmar, first son of the 1st Earl of Huntly. The castle was built by the 4th laird of this line, Alexander, better known as Black Alister. He supported his kinsman the 4th Earl of Huntly at Corrichie in 1562 and was subsequently imprisoned by Queen Mary at St. Andrews. He took a leading part in the Gordon-Forbes feud and in 1594 his son was killed fighting the Campbells and Forbes at Glenlivet. In 1592 the castle successfully resisted a raid by the Mackintoshes and other western clans known as the Great Spulzie. When the Covenanters finally took control of Deeside in the 1640s the castle was ordered to be destroyed because Alexander, 7th laird, was an ardent Royalist, but for some reason the instruction was not executed. In 1686 Abergeldie Castle was used as a mustering point by John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, when he was raising a Highland army against William III. The castle was captured and garrisoned by General Mackay but it was soon blockaded by the Farquharsons and in 1690 Mackay had to come to its relief. He reported that it would have had to surrender within three more days if the garrison had not been “timely succoured”.

When Victoria and Albert began to develop neighbouring Balmoral as a holiday home they rented Abergeldie Castle, it being used by the then Queen Mother, the Duchess of Kent. It was later inhabited by the Princess Eugenie, widow of Napoleon III, and then became the Deeside home of the Prince of Wales and his family. It was has been used to accommodate guests of the royal family when they were residing at Balmoral. The castle at present is occupied by the 21st Laird John Gordon, Baron of Abergeldie. He has been living there since 1972. It was previously on lease to the Balmoral estate (i.e. Her Majesty) and the latter have had their lease on the game lands of the estate renewed in the year 2000.

George Gordon, Lord Byron, whose family came from Gight, had an Abergeldie connection. There is a letter dated Aug 4th 1805 from Byron to Charles David Gordon of Abergeldie. He was one of Byron’s younger favourites at Harrow School. Charles David Gordon entered Harrow school in 1803. Another interesting connection is that Byron’s mother is a distant relation of John Mowat of Balquholly (one of the family of the murdered Mowat of Abergeldie) who married Lucy Gordon, the daughter of William Gordon 1st Laird of Gight, an ancestor of Byron.

In ‘Deeside Tales’ , the Glenbuchat /Abergeldie connection is noted

“Charles Gordon the twelfth Laird of Abergeldie seems to have led a quiet life devoting himself to the improvement of his property and the restoration of Abergeldy Castle.
….He wrote several letters to Lord Fife, and his factor William Rose.

The first dated 10th November 1783, to Lord Fife, reads:

“I shall at any time be ready to inquire after your wood stealers. ….the weather is surprisingly fine, work of all kind going on very briskly, particularly ploughing and planting. Peter (his son) and I will want some meal if your Lordship can spare 40 or 50 bolls and send it to Glenbucket any time in the spring or beginning of summer. We will take it at the price you sell your farm meal at, and it will save us application to others….”

This insight would seem to confirm that Abergeldie had farmland not just on the upper reaches of the Dee. In 1783 Glenbuchat was still in the day to day affairs of Abergeldy. I have recorded already, that Captain Charles, grandfather of the twelfth laird, brought, in the early years of the eighteenth century, much of his estate workers from the Buchat.”

“Suffice to say for now, the key to the Camlet lies with Captain Charles Gordon, tenth laird of Abergeldy and his shared link to Glenbuchat of Strathdon.

So that was how, in the words of Reverend Stirton, the Gordons were once the occupants of the small glen almost without exception. They considered themselves under the special protection of their Abergeldy Laird; a proprietor that held a ‘similar feeling towards them, and allowed them the sole tenancy of their estate for generations.’

What Captain Charles Gordon needed most in 1698, was money and skilled workers. He required a reliable workforce for his projects, who could help him re-establish the Abergeldy estate; labourers, artisans, stone-masons and journeymen and loyal tenants who would be rewarded eventually, with grants of land and crofts. He started by re-establishing the Abergeldy farms and building the House of Birkhall on a small estate which had formerly been called Stering in Glenmuick. It has never been recorded before, but has become clear to me, through years of detailed research, that this workforce came principally from Strathdon, and in particular, from Glenbuchat.”

The Mowat Family:
Taken partly from The Mowats of Buchollie And Freswick and "Sir Oliver Mowat, a biographical sketch"

The family of Muat or Mowat is said to have originally borne the name of Montealt, from lands so designated in Flint, North Wales; and the name occurs in the Ragman Roll and other documents as "de Monte alto". They are supposed to have settled in Scotland in the reign of David I, the principal family having been that of Buchollie, now called Hatton, near Turriff, in Aberdeenshire.

Patrick Mowat of Loscragy got a charter of Loscragy and Culpedauchis from Robert the Bruce in 1309 and is thus the first laird of Balquholly. He was forester of Fromarteine in 1308. Created forester of Killanell and Fromarteine (in Aberdeenshire) by Robert I. Most likely it was this Patrick, esquire of the king of Scotland, who was put in chains on Orkney by the bailie of the king of Norway in 1312. He had to pay his liberty for 40 merks sterling.

In 1316, during the reign of Robert Bruce, the name of William Mowat appears in the list of
Scottish chiefs and nobles who sent a missive to the Pope, formally maintaining the civil and political independence of Scotland. In 1410, William Mowat of Loscraggy, by a charter from James 1, made over to his son John a wadset (mortgage) of the lands of Freswick and Aukingill in the parish of Canisbay.

“At the beginning of the fifteenth century the lands of Abergeldie were held by the Mowats as vassals of the Earls of Mar. The last Mowat laird was a ruthless character of whom it was said that his gallows-tree was never ' teem

John Mowat was given Grant for Rights to Lands of Abergeldie in 1483. Ewan Cameron was Baillie to the Earl of Mar, and Mowat refused to pay him the dues for the Superiority.
It is assumed that this is the same as John Mowat of Loscragy
John Mowat of Loscraigie (Loscragy) (a 1438)
Alexander Mowat of Loscraigie (a 1460, 1494)
John (aka James?) Mowat of (Balquholly in) Loscraigie (d before 20.06.1516)

In 1723, the estate of Balquholly was sold by the Mowats, (to whom Robert I. granted the lands of Lescragy, Colp, &c.)

The Cameron Family
From A Guide to Donside 1855

“The origin of the Camerons of Brux is no less curious. An Earl of Mar had been sent by the Scottish King to suppress an insurrection of the Western Isles men and penetrated to the west side of Lochaber. He encamped with his army on the shores of Lochiel an arm of the sea. Dreading no danger, he set no watch. During the night the Isles men crossed Lochiel, surprised the Earl and cut his array to pieces. Mar himself escaped and wandering homewards he came to a place in Brae Lochaber called Bregauch occupied by Obeirran Cameron and his wife. He asked food and shelter for the night requests never made in vain in the Highlands, even by a deadly foe. Mar was known to be a man of rank the only cow was killed to furnish a meal for him and the hide spread before the fire for his couch. On departing next morning he announced his name and rank and told Obeirran if ever he was in danger to come to Kildrummy and there he would find relief and assistance. Crossing the hill of Corryarick the Earl met a beggar woman with a bag of bear meal which he bought with all the money he had. On this bear meal mixed with water in the heel of his brogue he subsisted until he reached Kildrummy Castle and on the Hill of Culbleen on the Cromar side is a hillock still called the Earl of Mar's board where he partook of this humble repast. A Gaelic saying of this Earl is still found in Highland tradition to this effect ‘Hunger is the best sauce. Meal and water out of the heel of my shoe was the sweetest food I ever tasted’ It was soon known that Cameron had sheltered the Earl and he had to fly for refuge to Kildrummy. He arrived there whilst the Earl was at dinner at the head of his retainers and demanded of the sentinel at the gate to be conducted into the presence, which wag refused until dinner was over. Obeirran insisted but to no purpose and the altercation became so loud that the noise reached the ear of the Earl. He thought he knew the voice and sprung to the gate. He at once recognised his Lochaber friend and saluted him in Gaelic to this effect. I was a night in your house with little clothing but plenty of food. You are welcome to Kildrummy Obierran from Breguach. On this Cameron did Mar afterwards bestow the lands of Brux and it was his descendants who were treacherously slain by the Mowats of Braemar”

As noted previously the cause of the Mowat Cameron quarrel between the parties was this : Cameron was Baillie to the Earl of Mar, and Mowat refused to pay him the dues for the Superiority.

Brux (in Kildrummy) was possessed of old by the Camerons, until in the reign of King James I (James I of Scotland 1394–1437). Kate (Katherine) Cameron was the daughter of Ewan Cameron (known as Hugh or Brux) (born 1362). Brux died leaving his one daughter named Katherine under the guardianship of the Earl of Mar, against whom Muat had rebelled. In 1409 Kate married Alexander Forbes (commonly called Alaster Cam). By marrying the heiress of Sir Hugh Cameron of Brux, he obtained not only Brux, but also Glenconrie and Glencarvie, in the Strathdon Parish.

Alister Forbes, who came to Kate’s rescue and killed Mowat, was the fourth son of Sir John Forbes, known as "Black Lips" Sir John Forbes was born about 1360 and married Margaret Kennedy, who had been born about 1365, at Dunmure. Sir John Forbes was the originator of the Forbe3s family line which gave the rise to the family line of Lord Forbes of Castle Fraser as well as The Forbes of Newe

Alastair married, in 1409, Catherine, daughter and heiress of Sir Ewen Cameron of Brux and Drumallachie. Alastair obtained both his bride and his estates by the slaughter of Mowat of Abergeldie, a rival for the hand of Catherine.

The Feud.
As noted above the, Ewan Cameron was the Baillie who collected the rents for the Earl of Mar. The Mowats, tenants of the Earl of Mar and occupants of Abergeldie Castle, were known to be a difficult family and were in dispute with the Camerons about the rents. Ewan Cameron was killed by Mowat at a battle at Drumgowdrum Hill. After the death of her father Kate Cameron appealed to anyone who would kill the Mowat who had killed her father. Kate had been the guardian of the Earl of Mar since her father’s death. Alistair Forbes took up the challenge and fought Mowat at Badenyon, Glenbuchat. He killed Mowat and took Kate Camerons hand in marriage and inherited her lands of Brux.

The Mowats would have controlled the lands at Badenyon as they were part of the Abergeldie estate. The Old Glenbuchat Castle stood at Badenyon before the present Castle was built further down the glen. Glenbuchat is almost half way between Brux at Mossat and Abergeldie castle at Crathes and thus a suitable place for a contest between the two feuding families.

Since Kate Cameron married Alistair Forbes in 1409 the duel must have taken place shortly before that, this therefore dates the event and places it in context of the rich history of Glenbuchat

Picture added on 06 May 2014 at 15:03
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