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Location Information
Owner private
NGR NJ 54644 20230
Lon. & Lat. 57.270458,-2.753682
Council Aberdeenshire
Parish Tullynessle and Forbes
Nearby Castles Knockespock, Craig of Auchindoir
Year built 1561
Overview map
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A ruin until 20 years ago when it was beautifully restored . Terpersie, originally known as Dalpersie, is in Aberdeenshire, about three miles north-west of Alford in a glen that penetrates the Correen Hills from the east, behind the buildings of the farm that replaced it.. It is a small modest place, although there was at one time a 17th century wing, built onto where the door is. As it stands now, it is a Z-plan castle, consisting of an oblong main block with round towers at diagonally opposite corners. The walls rise to two storeys and a garret and are well defended with shot-holes. The basement of the main block is not vaulted and a stair rises within the walling of the south gable to the Hall on the first floor. The upper floor is reached via a spiral-stair in a turret corbelled out in the eastern re-entrant between the main block and the south-west tower.

For all its seclusion, Terpersie is not unconnected with incident. William Gordon, the first laird, was a cadet (younger son) of the Lesmoir Gordons and acquired the lands in 1556 from the Bishop of Aberdeen. He appears to have borne his part in the troubles of his day, fighting at the battle of Corrichie in 1562, those of Tillyangus and the Craibstone (Aberdeen) in 1571, and the battle of Brechin in 1572. In 1561 he built the castle, as recorded on its walls.

In 1645, Terpersie Castle was burnt by the Covenanting army under General Baillie - not during the campaign of Alford, as is usually stated, but while he lay encamped "betuixt the kirkis of Coull and Tarlan" in May of that year. I am not sure if it is still the case, but prior to restoration the marks of the conflagration could still be traced, particularly on the south-west tower, and many of the freestone dressings were badly splintered from the heat.

George Gordon, the fifth laird, was concerned in the murder "under barbarous circumstances" of Alexander Clerihew, tenant of Dubston, a property belonging to Lord Forbes, half a mile away across the Esset Water from Terpersie. This "shocking affair" took place in November 1707 and although an indictment of Gordon and his two sons is preserved among the papers at Castle Forbes, no action seems to have been taken against the perpetrators

Charles Gordon, the elder of the two sons involved in the Clerihew murder, was the last Gordon laird of Terpersie. By the time of the 1745 rebellion, he was a man of over 60 and probably planned to live the rest of his days quietly at Terpersie. History had other plans for him! When Bonnie Prince Charlie landed, the support he had expected was slow to materialize. In the west it was the tradition of clan duty and loyalty that eventually resulted in entire clans joining the cause (and other entire clans staying at home), but in eastern Scotland the clan system was less prevelant. Support for the Stuarts was drummed up by a fairly small group of prominent men - some of these men were nationalists, most were Catholics, and some were just men who had not been favored by the Hanovarians, and who hoped they would benefit and prosper under a new regime they helped put in place. The most infamous of all these men was Major General John Gordon of Glenbucket, who was notoriously harsh in rounding up wavering Jacobites and pressing them into Jacobite service. Charles Gordon of Terpersie was one of those pressed reluctantly into service by Glenbucket.

The Jacobite rebellion of 1745 came to an end as we know, at the battle of Culloden in April 1746, but for many of the participants, their troubles were only just beginning. The government were quick to put together a list of 'rebels' that had participated and immediately started rounding them up in order to "bring them to justice". Charles Gordon of Terpersie had been at Culloden, and having escaped the battlefield, like many another, had to walk the one hundred or so miles home by quiet and unfrequented ways in order to avoid the searching troops. When he got to Terpersie, he found if was too dangerous to return and live in the castle, although a hiding place in the roof is still to be seen where he could hide if surprised while visiting. The rest of his time was spent 'lurking' in the Correen Hills above the castle.

The story of Charles Gordon of Terpersie's capture is one of the most poignant to come out of the '45 rebellion. There are slightly differing versions of it but it would appear that he managed quite well up in the hills for a while, being a fairly minor player in the rebellion, and living in a fairly remote part of Aberdeenshire. But in the town of Kintore some miles away to the east, lived a Hanoverian spy by the name of Hardy, who was active in guiding the redcoats to the houses of Jacobites, and he it was that eventually led them to Terpersie. The 'sudgers' searched the castle and found nothing and then broadened their search to the country around. They found nothing - other than a disreputable looking old tramp up in the hills, who they brought down for further questioning. As the old man was led up to the castle, Charles Gordon's youngest children rushed towards him with cries of "Daddy Daddy!" - thus establishing his identity and sealing the fate of their sire!

Charles Gordon of Terpersie admitted his guilt, but as I always suspected as a child, honesty isn't always the best course, whatever the grown-ups may tell you, and he was sentenced to death. The grisly details of his death were recorded in the Scots Magazine of the period: "The prisoners were drawn to the place of execution at Carlisle on three sledges. When they arrived they walked to the gallows without the least fear. When they had hung about ten minutes, the executioner cut them down, laid their bodies on a stage, stripped them naked, embowelled them, and threw their bowels into the fire one by one. The executioner held up each heart before throwing it into the fire and cried "Gentlemen, behold the heart of a traitor." After he called "God save King George" upon which the crowd gave a loud huzza. Then the executioner scored the arms and legs of each, but did not cut them off, crying "Good people, behold the four quarters of a traitor!" and next chipped off their heads." He was buried in the churchyard of St. Cuthbert's church, Carlisle.

Charles Gordon of Terpersie's eldest son James fared only marginally better than his father. He was barely 16 in 1745, and was out fishing one day when he was discovered by Gordon of Glenbucket's son, David Gordon of Kirkhill and taken to Jacobite headquarters, where he was appointed a lieutenant in the artillery company. One rather wonders why, when it would seem unlikely he had ever seen anything bigger than a musket before! When the Jacobite army retired north from Derby, James Gordon was part of the garrison left to defend Carlisle, and was captured when the town fell back into government hands. He was sentenced to death for treason, but after much petitioning on his behalf, the sentence was commuted to transportation. In 1748 he was released from gaol, and went to Jamaica, where he worked as a mahogany cutter.

Additional ImagesEdit


By Richard Paxman


By Richard Paxman


By Richard Paxman


By Richard Paxman


By Richard Paxman


By Richard Paxman


Castles Index

Gordons of Interest

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