Nicholas Thorne's Family History Pages.

Three days in Scotland, August 2006

That 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.

Leaving 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 sign.

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.

A dressing 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 night!

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.

Lachie thought that he and I are first cousins, nine times removed!

The Bishop, 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.

Jeanette, 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 far enough!

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.

Craighall Castle, well worth a visit:
Clan Rattray Society:


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Click to Enlarge:  The gate to Craighall Castle.

The gate to Craighall Castle

Click to Enlarge: About a mile to the house.

About a mile to the house

Click to Enlarge: Craighall Castle.

Craighall Castle

Click to Enlarge: Craighall Castle.

Craighall Castle

Click to Enlarge:  River from the drawingroom.

The River from the drawing room

Click to Enlarge:  The River Ericht from the house.

River Ericht

Click to Enlarge:  The Drawing room at Craighall Castle.

Drawing Room

Click to Enlarge:  The French Bedroom.

French Bedroom

Click to Enlarge:  The French Bedroom at Craighall Castle.

French Bedroom

Click to Enlarge: Stairs from the bedrooms.

Stairs down from the Guest Bedrooms

Three days in Scotland-Introduction. Cuttlehill, Fife. Craighall Castle, Perthshire. Hay family tree in the form of a cartwheel. Auchindinny House Neidpath Castle, Tweeddale. Yester, Gifford and Garvald.
Three days in Scotland-Introduction Cuttlehill, Fife. Craighall Castle, Perthshire. Hay family tree in the form of a cartwheel. Auchindinny House Neidpath Castle, Tweeddale. Yester, Gifford and Garvald.