Friday, 2 March 2018

Lady of Three Castles: Marion Ogilvy

   Marion Ogilvy, a daughter of the noble house of that name in Angus, lived a long life and was associated with the three houses mentioned in the title of this post (and is said to haunt several of them).  She is otherwise principally known as being the common law wife of Cardinal David Beaton and the mother of his children, but she is otherwise little known in her own right.  There does not even seem to be a surviving portrait of Marion, though images survive of Beaton.

   Marion's father was Sir James Ogilvy of Lintrathen who was made Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in 1491, just before being sent as an ambassador to Denmark by King James IV.  Around this time he married his fourth wife, Janet, likely the daughter of Robert, second Lord Lyle, a Refrewshire landholder.  Marion and her full sister Janet probably grew up at Airlie Castle and Marion at least must have had faint memories of her father, who likely died in 1504.  One of nine children, her half-brother John became second Lord Ogilvy and was nearly four decades older than her.  The later head of the family and a close contemporary was John, fourth Lord Ogilvy, her great-nephew.

View of Melgund Castle from Jervise's Memorials of Angus and the Mearns

    Marion would have been a vital and well-known personality in the area as she remained in Angus throughout most of the course of her life, unlike many other noblewomen who were obliged to marry husbands far away. She built up a considerable portfolio of properties in Angus during her lifetime and strongly defended her rights to rents and ownership of land in the courts when necessary.  In matters of property, the historian Margaret Sanderson points out, she was 'incorrigibly litigious, a habit she may have learned from her mother' (Mary Stewart's People, Edinburgh, 1987, p. 7).  Among the Ogilvy family papers there is a surviving document by Marion, signed Mary Ougylvy, dated at Airlie on 6th August 1525, where she describes herself as 'ye dochter executrix and intromittour of Jean Lyle Ladie Ogyluy my modyr'.

   David Beaton was a Fife man, but when he became appointed Abbot of Arbroath in 1524 the area may not have been entirely unfamiliar to him.  His branch of the Beatons in fact originated in Angus.  If he had not known Marion before, he must have encountered her between this date (when he recently returned from Europe) and Feb 1526 when there is a record of her being with Beaton in Edinburgh.  By this time Marion was over thirty and possibly beyond standard marriageable age.Whether the couple married or not is not known, but the church was of course more of a profession than a calling to the future cardinal and it was common for administrators like him to have families and children and defer their full acceptance of religious ordination.  He and Marion mostly lived in Angus, where there is widespread traditions about him, mainly attached to castles he is supposed to have inhabited (see below).  Marion Ogilvy's main home in the 1520s and 1530s was Ethie Castle, near Arbroath, which she seems to have held in life-rent (granted to her on 22nd May 1528).  Among her land holdings nearby was the Kirktoun of St Vigeans.  

   Beaton acquired the lands of Melgund in 1542 and a castle was built there.  Marion, styled Lady Melgund, received a tack of the thirds of Melgund in 1575.  When she died in that year one of her sons, David Betoun of Melgund, became one of her executors. (He married Margaret, daughter of Lord Lindsay of the Byres.)

   In revenge for the death of the Protestant preacher George Wishart, the Cardinal of Scotland was killed by insurgents at St Andrews Castle in May 1546.  Marion was apparently at St Andrews when the Cardinal was assassinated; John Knox states that she just escaped the castle by the privy postern before the attackers entered the building.  She returned to Melgund after his death but did not long remain unattached.  She appears in records in June 1549 as 'Marion Ogilvy, the Lady of Melgund, the relict of the umquhill William Douglas'. It is probably that he died at the Battle of Pinkie on 10th September 1547. Also in 1549 there is an odd hint of trouble when, on 26th November 1549, she was charged with 'interlymning the Queen's Grace letters' and was obliged to give surety.  But this trouble seems to have passed and she lived peacefully thereafter. The Lady of Melgund died in mid 1575.  An Ogilvy to the end, she was buried according to the wishes of her will 'in the Ile of the Paroch Kirk of Kennell quhair my predecessouris lyis'.  There is no sure record of the cause of Marion's death, though there is an untrustworthy tradition that it was not natural.  The writer Elliot O'Donnell wrote (in Rooms of Mystery, London, 1931, p. 22):

Her vested in mystery, there being no very sure foundation for the rumour, though it persisted, that she had met with foul play, after being kept in an underground chamber, the approach to which was through a secret subterranean passage.

David Beaton

   Marion and David had  eight children.  One son, Alexander, gained the Angus estate of Baikie from the disinherited Lyons, but lost it when the Glamis family were restored to their rights in 1543.  The eldest daughter of the couple was Margaret, who married David Lindsay, the future 10th Earl of Crawford, in some magnificence at Finavon Castle, bringing with her a huge tocher of 4000 merks.  Despite the glorious celebration the marriage was not a success and the estranged Margaret later went to live with her mother at Melgund Castle.  Another daughter, Agnes, married locally.  Her husband, John Ochterlony, owned the estate of Kelly, near Arbroath.  Her second husband was the Aberdeenshire laird George Gordon of Gight  (through their issue she is an ancestress of the poet Byron).  Elizabeth Beaton meanwhile married Alexander Lindsay of Vayne in Angus.  Other children of Ogilvy and Beaton included the brothers George (who possibly died in childhood), James, and John.

The Many Castles of Marion and the Cardinal?

The castles detailed below have various levels of connection with Marion Ogilvy and Cardinal Beaton, though they are interesting for their own histories.  Marion herself likely only inhabited the castles of Airlie, Ethie and Farnell, but the other houses here have some connection with either her or Beaton, albeit some are spurious. Dr Jamieson ('An Account of Some Remains of Antiquity in Forfarshire,' Archaeoligia Scotica 2 (1822) p. 26) gives a little known tradition about the cardinal in one place, which is almost certainly unhistorical:

The house of Dunbarrow, at a little distance from the hill [of Barry], is now built on. the place where a pleasure-house belonging to Cardinal Beaton stood. Here he kept a female friend. Part of the Cardinal's house is still standing.
   What went on inside the 'pleasure house' is unknown, and who the 'female friend' was is also a mystery.

Balfour Castle

      Balfour Castle in the parish of Kingoldrum was the home of a branch of the Ogilvys.  All that survives of it is a single circular tower, 6 storeys high, attached to which is a mid 19th century farmhouse.  Some surviving walls were torn down to make way for this modern building. The roof of the tower has been severed at a slant with a sloping roof and may have been several stories higher, though whether this was done at a remote date or in more recent times is disputed.   The Dorward family gave the lands here to the Abbey of Arbroath in the 13th century, and following the Ogilvys the Fotheringhams later owned the property.  Jervise (Memorials of Angus and Mearns, I, p. 21) states that it was in the hands of the Ogilvys from at least 1478 and that a likely builder of the stronghold was Walter Ogilvy, third son of Lord Ogilvy, brother of Marion Ogilvy.

Balfour Castle


   Claypotts is a wonderfully complete Z-plan castle now encompassed within the eastern suburbs of Dundee.  Dating from the mid 16th century it was built by the Strachan family, then passed through the hands of different branches of the Grahams.  Following the forfeiture of the Claverhouse Grahams the building passed to the Marquis of Douglas and was given to the state in the 1920s.  Despite its relatively well-preserved condition, Claypotts' charm has not endeared itself to every observer.  The venerable historian Alexander Warden sniffily comments, 'We are at quite a loss to understand how such a building of contracted extent could have supplied the wants of a landed family' (Angus or Forfarshire, volume 4, 139).   More pertinent to the subject of this piece, it is said that the castle is particularly haunted at Halloween, was once the home of a Brownie, and more particularly is the home of a White Lady who appears once a year, waving a handkerchief from an upper window every 29th May.  Was this Marion Ogilvy, as local tradition insisted?  According to A. H. Millar:

The story was that Cardinal Beaton built Claypotts for his beloved, and that from the upper window she could signal across the Tay to St Andrews Bay, to warn her priestly lover that she was longing for his return.  And on the 29th of May, 1546, she had waved her spotted kerchief in vain from the window of Claypotts, for her lover was then lying stark, cold, and still in the courtyard of St Andrews Castle, ruthlessly slain by some of those who had been his dearest friends... And thus every year...the White Lady of Claypotts endures her weary vigil...It is useless to assert that David Beaton never had anything to do with Claypotts... (Haunted Dundee, 1923, 117).

   Churlish to add, I suppose, that Claypotts Castle was not even built at that date.

Claypotts Castle


   Colliston Castle survives entire and is in private hands.  Like Farnell, it is in the hinterland of Arbroath Abbey and was under the ownership of that institution. Built on a similar Z-plan like Claypotts, the building features a 'priest hole', suggesting Catholic ownership in the 17th century. The castle dates from the 16th century there is a tradition that it was built by Cardinal Beaton, but the facts are uncertain.  The estate was bestowed upon the Guthries by Beaton (probably following his daughter's marriage into the family) and the castle and lands passed through several families before coming into the hands of the Stuarts during the early 20th century.  A notable later owner was Gordon Stuart, who died in 2017 aged 91, a remarkable linguist who spoke 28 languages.

Colliston Castle


   Another fine house which has survived as a living castle is Ethie, which had been extensively remodelled from the 16th to the 19th centuries and has been sold in its recent history. Possibly originating in the 14th century, the castle was the property of the monks of Arbroath  and therefore came into the hands of Beaton.  At the Reformation there was a rumour that the monks hid their church vessels, plates and vestments in the walls of the building.  After a period of ownership by the Maxwells it was in the ownership of the Carnegie Earls of Northesk from 1565 to 1928.  It has latterly operated as a hotel.

   The ghosts in the castle include an anonymous Grey lady and Cardinal and Chancellor Beaton himself.  He is experienced as a noisy resonance near what used to be his own chamber, draging his gouty leg along the passageways apparently. A third ghost (now laid) was that of a young child which child could be heard crying at night. Some people thought they heard  a wheeled toy being pulled across the floor in one particular room in the castle. Eventually, a small skeleton was uncovered and, beside it, the remains of a toy wooden cart. The pathetic remains were buried and this ghost of was no longer heard at Ethie.

Ethie Castle


   Farnell Castle near Brechin was said to have been in a ruinous condition in 1570 (in a report made to Lord Ogilvy).  It also later came into the hands of a branch of the Carnegie family (in 1623) and in the mid 19th century was restored to some extent and used as a home or hospital for former workers on the family estate, or 'allotted as a free dwelling to some infirm or indigent people', as the New Statistical Account reported. The building may be the successor of a very early structure and the site became the home of the bishops of Brechin. Its ecclesiastical associations perhaps explain why it does not feature much in any tumultuous episodes in the history of Angus.  More recent use has seen the castle used as a school and tea-room on occasions and it was recently offered for residential rent.  Some sources state that Beaton owned the castle, but details are hard to come by.

Farnell Castle


   Judging my her self-styled title of Lady of Melgund, this was Marion's favourite, or at least most frequented habitation in the latter part of her life.  The estate of North Melgund (Aberlemno parish) had been in the inheritance of the Annand family, and Janet Annand married the Cardinal's older brother James in the 1520s.  Following the death of his brother, David Beaton purchased the lands. Melgund remained in the Beaton family until the 1630s, when it was acquired by the Marquis of Huntly.  Later the last Gordon owners of the castle all mysteriously vanished one evening, leaving an uneaten meal on the tale and Melgund itself like a land-bound Mary Celeste.  The castle's beginnings are also said to be uncanny.  During the latter part of the 20th century the castle was fully restored and is now again inhabited.

Melgund Castle


   The ruins of Vayne Castle stand on the north bank of the Noran Water and have several things in common with some of the buildings above:  it was a stronghold of the Carnegies (Southesk branch) and had little actual connection with either David Beaton or his common law wife. The Lindsay family may have had an interest in the estate before them.  Now a ruin, the castle was plundered over the course of time for building materials by local farmers, one of whom used gunpowder to gain his stone work.  Buried treasure is allegedly another feature of its story.  Jervise in Land of the Lindsays (p. 202) says:

a deep dungeon is said to be below, into which the family, before taking their final departure, threw all their treasure of money and plate! This chamber has been often sought for, and only one person is believed ever to have found it.  When about to descend in search of the valuables, however, he was forcibly thrust from the mouth of the yawning gulf by an uncouth monster in the shape of a horned ox, who departed in a blaze of fire through a big hold in the wall (still pointed out!) and, before the terrified treasure-seeker could recover himself, the chasm which he had sought so hard to discover, was again shut from his view!
   Concerning the supposed connection with the cardinal, Alexander Warden writes (in Angus or Forfarshire, III, p. 274):

Tradition points to Cardinal Beaton as the builder of Vayne Castle, but
this is not the case, and he does not appear ever to have had any connection
with it. It also points to a deep pool in a dark cavern in the river, near the
Castle, called Tammy's Hole or Cradle, as the spot where one of his sons fell
over the precipice and was drowned. A boy of the name may have been
drowned in the pool, and the name originated from the event, but he was no
son of the Cardinal and his fair friend.
   The story may possibly have its origins in the circumstance of Beaton and Marion Ogilvy's daughter marrying Alexander Lindsay of Vayne.  Whether the tale relates to one of their children is unknown.

Vayne Castle

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