evening I was spending the night at the castle where Jean Rattray lived
before marrying Sir James Elphinstone. Jean was the second daughter
of the Rt.Revd Thomas Rattray. 20th Laird Craighall-Rattray, DD, Bishop of
Brechin then Dunkeld and Primus of Scotland and one of my ancestors.
Fife I took the road to Perth and hit it at rush hour. Through my car window
it looked like a very attractive city but I had no time, this visit to get
out and to explore. In the evening sun I was heading north for Blairgowrie.
My goal was the family home of Lachie (short for Lachlan) and Nicky Rattray.
It is a castle perched over the River Ericht that has been extended by the
Victorians into a house full of character. As I passed through Blairgowrie
and started climbing a hill I found a gateway with Craighall Castle on the
Pulling off the road I followed the un-metalled track (with a few potholes
in it for good measure!) for a mile through woodland and sheep pasture.
Finally the magnificent Victorian property built to incorporate the original
tower house castle, came into view.
At the open door played a cat and a little dog, obviously very much friends.
Behind me, one of the son's of the house was returning in a small car from
a game of golf with a friend. He, like all the family that I met, spoke with
no trace of a Scots accent. Calling his mother, he told her of my arrival.
I knew, from emails I had exchanged with her husband, Lachie, that Nicky was
a Hay of Seton (Aberdeen) and directly descended from the Hays of Yester through
the Tweeddale line. This, I suppose, must make her some sort of cousin of
mine, many many times removed through our respective relationships to the
Hays of Tweeddale.
The dark-wood paneled corridor, along which I was taken, lacked any windows
and most of the artificial lights were switched off. This made looking at
the countless family portraits hanging on the wall quite difficult for me,
the awe struck visitor. We walked the wooden floor boards covered in yards
of rugs that had been worn threadbare by generations of feet. At the end of
the grand passage was the door to the drawing room, to the left the Library,
where guests are welcome to sit, and to the right a stone spiral staircase.
I followed my hostess up the stairs to the beautiful French Bedroom with its
four poster bed. From the window was a gorgeous view of the tops of the trees
growing profusely on the bank of the river below.
room had been turned into an en-suite bathroom and the bed itself was superbly
comfortable. Next door to me were a party of Americans and I wondered what
they made of the house. The French Bedroom had clean modern carpets and curtains
but again elderly rugs were thrown at the window and in front of the fireplace.
I read this as a deliberate statement, a sort of badge of honour that said
to me and the world: “Look, this is a very old home and as a family
we have lived here for centuries.”
Since 1533, to be precise!
As I smiled at the thought, it then struck me that if you go back to 1711
and the birth of a second daughter, Jean, to the Rt.Rev Thomas Rattray and
his wife the Hon. Margaret Rattray, then I too was descended from the very
family who had held the land, supported the Jacobites and been lairds of this
castle for generations.
Now that is some thought when you have just checked into a B & B for the
O. K. So I am very distantly related to the present family. Very, very, very
distant indeed; but we do both share a common ancestor in Bishop Thomas Rattray
who was born in 1683 and whose line goes back at least to Alan, 1st of Rattray
in about 1214.
thought that he and I are first cousins, nine times removed!
20th Laird Craighall-Rattray, married the Honourable Margaret Galloway, daughter
of Lord Dunkeld in July 1701 and one of their daughters, Margaret is the ancestor
of the present Clan Chief, Lachlan Rattray, whose castle this is. His ancestor
married John Clerk of Listonshiels and Spittal. The Rattray male line seems
to have died out and the Clerk-Rattrays ancestors dropped the first name at
some point to be known simply as Rattrays again.
My ancestor, Jean Rattray's first marriage was to Sir James Elphinstone, 3rd
Baronet of Logie. From this union came Mary Elphinstone who married Lt. General
Robert Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstone of The Royal Scots regiment, the oldest
in the British Army. This ancestor of mine would seem to have added his wife's
surname to his own on the death of his father-in-law, Sir James, and the Baronetcy
being inherited by the Lieutenant General's wife, Mary.
On the passing of Sir James, Jean, Lady Elphinstone (née Rattray), married
a second time to a Colonel Muir. Meanwhile, the Dalrymple-Horn-Elphinstones
had several children. One of them being called Elenora and she it was that
married William Whitelaw Wemyss, whose house I had been trying to find in
Cuttlehill, Fife, earlier that day.
the daughter of Elenora and William Whitelaw Wemyss married Charles
Crosland Hay and had, amongst six other children, my great-grandfather Edward
Hay. If you are keeping up here you will remember that the present Clan Chief
of Rattray is married to Nicky, a Hay. Well here is something; the Bishop
Thomas Rattray's mother was Elizabeth Hay, daughter of Sir George Hay of Megginch.
Descended from another line of Hays tracing back to William de Haya, Cupbearer
to King Malcolm IV and his brother, King William the Lion of Scotland.
Well Sacré bleu, we are all descended from the Normans if you go back
I went to sleep in my four-poster bed with much to think about and woke in
the morning refreshed. Outside the mist vapour rose from the river bed and
marked its track out for me above the trees. From my bedroom it was not possible
to see the water, but from the regency drawing-room below I got a fantastic
view of the River Ericht.
Castle, well worth a visit: www.scotland2000.com/craighall
Clan Rattray Society: www.clanrattray.org