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Aldie Castle

Aldie Castle
Aldie CastleIn the year 1326, John Mercer, a wealthy Perth merchant and ship owner, married Ada (Aldia) Murray, daughter of Sir Andrew de Moravia of Tullibardine. In 1352 John bought the ward of the lands of Tullibardine and that is how the Aldie lands came into the hands of the Mercers.(i)

Popular mythology has it that Aldie was named after Aldia but it seems more likely, though less romantic, that it is actually from the Gaelic, allt dubh, meaning dark stream. In fact Aldie was mentioned as early as 1210 in an old charter, so the name predates Aldia Murray.(ii) (There are at least three other Aldies in Scotland. Aldie Mill just south of Tain in Rossshire, Aldie near Crieff, and Aldie in Aberdeenshire.)

Aldie Castle, which stands on the northern slopes of a valley in the parish of Fossaway, Kinross-shire, is really a fortified house, basically in the style typical of 16th century Scottish baronial homes. The House of Aldie (pronounced locally as Audie) was probably started sometime in the 15th century, with additions and alterations into the 17th century. The Mercer family owned Aldie for about 600 years but an old story tells of a curse put on the Mercers. Sir James Mercer of Aldie, who was a burgess of Perth in 1643, and was a Gentleman Usher to King Charles II, condemned one of his grooms to be hanged for stealing a bowl of corn. The man was hanged on an old tree and with his dying breath, uttered the curse that the Mercers would have no male heirs for 19 generations.(iv) Sir James’ son Charles, godson to the king, was born and died in 1667. His sister Jean became heir to her father in 1672 but died the same year. Her sister Grizell became heir but died unmarried in 1706. Another sister, Helen, then became heir and married a cousin, Sir Laurence Mercer of Melginche. Their son James Mercer, became heir upon his mother’s death in 1720, but died the same year. His sister Jean became heiress and married Robert Murray Nairne. He was killed at the battle of Culloden as Colonel Mercer, having adopted the name. Their son, James Mercer of Aldie, became heir in 1750 but died unmarried in 1758. His brother William became heir in 1759 but he and his wife Margaret had no sons. Their daughter Jane became heir and married George Elphinstone, Viscount Keith, and they had a daughter Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, Baroness Keith and Nairne, who married Auguste Charles Joseph, Conte de Flahaut, and they only had daughters. Their daughter Emily Jane married Henry, the 4th Marquess of Lansdowne, who took the name Mercer Nairne and they had a son, the 5th Marquess of Lansdown, so the curse was finally broken.(i)

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland, 1791-99 and 1845, both describe Aldie castle as being unoccupied and in a state of disrepair.(iii) After WWII the castle was bought by a Mr Hope Dickson who restored it and made it his home. It was later purchased by Mr David Kinloch. It is not open to the public but can be seen, by looking north across the valley, from the road that runs from Cleish, westward towards Hill End.

 

View references:

  1. The Mercer Family Tree by Major William Lindsay Mercer of Huntingtower, Perth. 1858 – 1926.
  2. The Seven Castles in Kinross-shire by N.H. Walker.
  3. The Statistical Account of Scotland, Parish of Fossaway, 1791 and 1845.
  4. The Annals of Kinross-shire. AD 490 – 1871, by Dr. Ebenezer Henderson.

 

(Text: JM)

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