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Location Information
Name Midmar
Owner private
NGR NJ 70452 05247
Lon. & Lat. 57.137151,-2.489863
Council Aberdeenshire
Parish Midmar
Nearby Castles Tillycairn, Durris House, Cluny, Aboyne, Fetternear
Year built 16th c.
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The earliest mention of Midmar is in the late 13th century when Adam Broun, of the Brouns of Fordell, who was killed at Falkirk in 1298, held Midmar of the Bishop of Aberdeen. His grandson, Sir John Broun, was sheriff of the county of Aberdeen in 1328; clearly the family stood well in the world. It was either the sheriff's son or grandson - both of whom were named John - who was involved in a brawl in the Parliament at Scone in 1368. He and Robert D'Umfraville were ordered to find bail to the tune of £500 to keep the peace. The difference is described as a dissensio per verba, but bail of the size mentioned and the standing of the two sureties, the Earl of Mar and Lord Keith, suggest something more serious than an exchange of unparliamentary epithets.

Midmar stayed in the hands of the Brouns until John Broun, the grandson of the sheriff sold it in 1422 to Patrick Ogilvy, but it did not remain in the hands of that family for long. By 1468 Midmar had come into the possession of Alexander Gordon, first Earl of Huntly, as on 8 July of that year Huntly granted a charter in favour of his son-in-law, William, Lord Forbes, of lands in the barony of Midmar.

Sometime before 25 May 1484 Midmar had been granted to Alexander Gordon, second son of the first Earl, as on that date Alexander Gordon of Megmar had been one of the witnesses to a deed concerning the barony of Kennerdy. Presumably the grant of Midmar to Alexander had been made before the death of his father in 1470. Alexander was to receive the lands of Abergeldie by deed of gift in 1482 from James III, and from that date Abergeldie became the principal designation of this branch of the family and the possession of the Midmar property is at times overlooked. Certainly it took second place to that rather bleak area on Deeside from which the family now took its territorial designation.

Although Alexander resigned the barony of Midmar to his brother George, second Earl of Huntly, he received it back from him in a fit of brotherly love. This done, Alexander embarked on a rather curious piece of legal business, selling the lands of Old Midmar to James, Lord Ogilvie of Airlie. This suggests the existence of an older house, possibly that of the Brouns, which was distinguished from the new place of Midmar. However, the curiosity does not lie in this but in the terms of the sale. These were that Lord Ogilvy was to 'tak no profit of the said landis' till either Alexander or James Gordon - Abergeldie's grandsons - were of an age to marry Janet or Marion Ogilvy - Lord Ogilvie's daughters. If the marriage failed to take place the Ogilvies were to retain the lands until the sum of 600 marks was paid. This arrangement seems to have benefited nobody but the Gordons who appear to have retained the rents and only been obliged to refund the purchase price if nothing came of the plan.

Alexander was succeeded in 1503 as second laird of Abergeldie and Midmar by his eldest son George who was successful in opposing the Crown's claim to the lands of Abergeldie. As these had once formed part of the earldom of Mar there was always a danger that the Crown might establish a right to them, but in 1507 the Privy Council decided in favour of George Gordon's claim on the grounds that the Abergeldie lands had always been distinct and separate from those lands properly pertaining to the earldom.

George Gordon was dead by 1523, and was succeeded by his second son, James, as third laird of Abergeldie and Midmar. George, the eldest son, had died before his father, and in the end neither of Lord Ogilvie's daughters was to be mistress of Midmar. James Gordon was somewhat embarrassed in having to act as surety for his uncle, William Gordon of Netherdale. William had raided the lands of Agnes Grant in Corryhoul at considerable profit to himself eight years earlier, and he obviously had no intention of paying anything back so long as his nephew could be bled. And bled his nephew was: in 1530 James Gordon was ordered to pay to Agnes:

six score of ewes price of the piece 5 shillings, 60 of wethers and yield [barren] sheep price of the piece 4 shillings, and four score of lambs price of the piece 2 shillings. And for the profits of the said six score ewes in wool, milk and lambs 27 pounds. The profits of the said 60 wethers and yield sheep since the time of the said raid three pounds. The profits of the said 80 lambs since the said raid as said 4 pounds.

This was not all: in 1536 he had to part with the lands of Craibstone in the barony of Granholm to James Cheyne of Aberdeen. If at the end of 15 years James or his heirs could find the sum of:

seventeen score of marks in gold of angel, nobel, crowns (of weight) unicorns and Leith crowns ... together with the rent of ten marks in the money of Scotland

the lands could be redeemed. James was killed in 1547, at the battle of Pinkie, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander as fourth laird.

The fourth laird was to hold Abergeldie for 49 years and presumably had an interest in Midmar, although his son was granted sasine of the barony of Midmar in 1602 as heir to his grandfather and not to his father. It must be assumed that it was during Alexander's life that the house at Midmar associated with George Bell was built.

The first notice of this laird is in 1560, when on 27 April he signed a bond against the Regent which had the thoroughly patriotic intention 'to expel the French maintained by the Queen Dowager and take plain part with the Queen of England's army sent by her for that purpose'.

He was no better disposed towards the Crown in 1562 when he joined Lord Huntly in the rebellion which at the Battle of Corrichie broke the power of the Gordons for a time, led to the capture and death of Lord Huntly, and probably, because of its nearness to the battlefield, brought about the plundering and possibly the destruction of Midmar. For his part in this Gordon was compelled to ward in St Andrews under a penalty of 5000 marks, and it was not until two years later in 1564 when he had made his peace, that his lands were restored to him, and it was probably from this period that the first building of Midmar dates. Most of his kinsmen had to wait until 1587 for their remissions.

His life after this seems to have been no more eventful than that of most Aberdeenshire lairds. Various public duties came his way; he signed bonds of adherence to Mary Stuart, and of allegiance to King James; his promise of defence of the 'trew religion' must be viewed objectively, as his son William was denounced as one of the treasonable 'practizars against the state of the trew religion'. The Gordons were not so very presbyterian.

In 1592 he was said to be acting as Lord Huntly's baillie in Badenoch, when he was ordered to raid the lands of the Mackintoshes in Petty. This was in revenge for the murders of Harry Gordon of Knock and of the Laird of Brackley. However this may not be correct as Gordon must have been an old man by now and possibly Sir Robert Gordon has confused him with his eldest son who was also called Alexander. It must certainly have been the son who fought with Lord Huntly in 1594 at the battle of Glenlivet. This would also explain why it was that in October 1594, following the victory of the King's forces, it was Ballogie, as Midmar was now called, and not Abergeldie that was burned and destroyed on the presumption that it was the home of Alexander Gordon, younger of Abergeldie.

On the death of his father in 1596 Alexander succeeded as fifth laird of Abergeldie, and was even less estimable politically than his father. He was a staunch Roman Catholic, and had been denounced as a rebel in 1592 for failing to answer 'touching the hearing of mass and resetting of priestis and papistis'. This may have been a matter of conscience, but both conscience and honour should have prevented him entering into a bond of 2000 marks as assurance against joining the Catholic Earls. This did not reassure his nervous sovereign, and later the same year he was in ward in Edinburgh, only being released on his promising to remain besouth the Dee. He was dead by 1601 and so his name does not appear alongside that of his brother, William, in the remission granted to Lord Huntly in 1603 for the activities of 1593-94.

It would have fallen to William Gordon, fifth laird of Midmar and sixth of Abergeldie, to make good the damage that had been done to Midmar in 1594. By 1609 he had lived down the earlier reputation he had acquired through his involvement with the conspiracy of the 'Spanish Blanks', the rebellion of the Cathoh'c Earls and papistry in general. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace, a role he filled with restless activity, and he added considerably to his property. After this latterly respectable period he died in 1630 and was succeeded by his son, Alexander, sixth laird, and presumably the last Gordon laird of Midmar although Abergeldie remained in the possession of the family.

That Alexander Gordon was the last laird is a presumption. Inevitably at a crucial point in the history of Midmar documents are missing, and it is necessary to look for circumstantial evidence to support this theory. As early as 1635, along with other Gordons, Alexander was summoned before the Privy Council to find surety for his good behaviour. This did not prevent him from joining Lord Aboyne at Turriff in 1639 and Lord Huntly at Aberdeen in 1644. Either to protect his family and property, or to raise money, he had made over his estates and his life rent in them to Thomas Nicholson, Procurator of the Estates of the Kingdom. Nicholson's sister Katherine was Alexander's wife and in July 1644 he was petitioning Parliament for her support.

His official position had been no defence against the rapacity of Argyll's troops who had settled on the lands of Abergeldie and other malignant lairds, and stripped them bare. According to Spalding they left 'not one four fotted beist in the landis of Drum, Cromar, Auchterfoull, Oboyne, Aberzeldie and countries about'. Nicholson's account is equally harrowing:

... there are thrie hundreth men and above of these, which wer leveyed for pacifieing ye saides trouble, who have entered wpoun ye saides landes of Aberzeldie ... and satt doune wpoun ye poore tennentes ... they have not only impoverished and depeopled ye tennents by destroyeing and takeing away all their cattell, sheepe, and horse, but also have eatine and distroyed ye haill growand corn.

He was unable to receive his rents in cash or kind and was likely to be put to great expense for his sister and her children, who had fled to Angus and who 'will be destitute of interteinment and mentinance this yere to come in respect of ye distroying of ye grounds, goodes and comes'.

It is unlikely that Mistress Gordon returned to Abergeldie as it was ordered 'be the sond of the trumpet' at Aberdeen cross to be destroyed. Although this sentence was not carried out there would have been little to have returned to, as in 1644 the rents were sequestered to compensate Forbes of Echt for his losses, and in 1645 they were disposed to Lord Fraser to compensate him for his. All this while Alexander Gordon was with Montrose.

In the course of all this devastation no mention is made of Ballogie as Midmar was generally called at this time. Had it escaped there would have been no good reason for Mistress Gordon sheltering in Angus, but the fact that she did, and that it seems to have escaped Argyll's attentions, suggests that it may have already passed out of Gordon hands, possibly sold to raise money.

Alexander Forbes was the first of a sequence of sales by which it passed to Captain Alexander Grant c1728, to William Davidson c1760, to James Mansfield in 1765 and to Colonel John Gordon of Cluny in 1842. During the time of the the Grants, Midmar was extensively renovated, and the North West and North East wings were added to form a courtyard. The Grants also changed the named to Grantfield but it was later changed back to the original name Midmar. John Gordon of Cluny, as he by then had an enormous mansion of his own at Cluny, never occupied Midmar as the main house of his estates. Midmar was used either as a shooting lodge or let to tenants there was no reason to do anything to it except to make it just habitable. Because of this many of the 18th-century interiors and fittings escaped destruction. Midmar remained part of the Cluny estates until the division of the property in this century when it fell to the share of Mrs Beatrice Claeson Gordon, the great-great niece of Colonel Gordon. She sold it to the present owner Mr Ric Wharton in 1977, under whom a thorough and careful restoration of the castle has been carried out. Since 1978 Midmar has been a family home again.


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