How the Farquharson family became the custodians of Invercauld Estate
The Farquharsons originate from Farquhar son of Shaw (alias Mackintosh), who emigrated from Rothiemurchus in the 1400’s. Farquhar’s grandson, Finlay Mor Farquharson (1480-1547), was treated as father of the clan. Between 1440 -1565, the lands of the earldom of Mar (who previously owned the area) were in the hands of the Crown. In 1539, Finlay Mor Farquharson was registered as sole tenant of Invercauld.
Finlay’s father, Donald, married Isobel Stewart, heiress of Invercauld, and it is presumed this is how Invercauld (which was already an old castle) came into the Farquharsons’ possession. Finlay Mor died in the Battle of Pinkie, fighting for the Jacobites, when a cannonball hit his chest. His sons spread far and wide, and several of their descendants, including the Farquharsons of Invercauld, still own and farm land in Northeast Scotland.
In 1628, John Erskine, the 18th Earl of Mar, completed the building of Braemar Castle, primarily to keep the Farquharsons in check. In 1689, John Farquharson of Inverey and Balmoral (nicknamed ‘the Black Colonel’ on account of his dark complexion and close association with Viscount Dundee’s army), attacked and burned it down. John Farquharson (1673-1750), 9th Laird of Invercauld, bought the ruined castle and in 1748, leased it to the government to house Hanovarian troops.
In the 18th century, the Farquharsons were eventually able to purchase their possession rights to the land from the Crown following the Jacobite Uprising and the ensuing attainder of Earls of Mar as forfeiture for their involvement. During the tenancy of James Farquharson (10th Laird of Invercauld), over fourteen million trees were planted on the Estate.
During this century, much work was carried out on construction and improvement to residential buildings. The Farquharsons of Balmoral sold up and Queen Victoria bought the land, a few decades later. Invercauld Castle, in particular, was extended in the Victorian style with obvious influences from the neighbouring brand new Balmoral with perhaps a degree of flattery, too.
This was the great age of grouse shooting and deer stalking with record grouse bags being taken in the 1920’s. A major portion of the grouse moors were let on a long term basis to King George VI and, latterly, to the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
The previous, 16th, Laird Captain Alwyne Farquharson, was Scotland’s oldest and longest serving clan chief, assuming the title after his aunt, Myrtle Farquharson, was killed in a London bombing raid in 1941. After four more years of active service Alwyne returned at the end of the War to take on the role as Laird, and took his responsibility for the stewardship of Invercauld Estate very seriously. He died in 2021 at the incredible age of 102.
Nowadays, the Estate is run as a business and is owned and operated by a partnership of two trusts. The board which runs this partnership includes members of the Farquharson family- Philip Farquharson of Invercauld and his uncle, Richard Compton Maclean. Braemar Castle is on a long lease to a local community charity which manages it as a tourist attraction. Salmon fishing, grouse shooting, farming, deer stalking and forestry, alongside skiing, tourism, specific conservation projects and location management all form parts of the extensive management of Invercauld Estate.
Further information on the Farquharsons can be found on the website for those descendants of the Farquharsons: www.clanfarquharson.com
Clan artefacts can also be viewed in a dedicated room at Braemar Castle.
Also see ‘Clan Farquharson; a History’ by Geoffrey Farquharson, 2005, published by T.H.E. Hi-Story Press LTD