By Leah Parker, MAEd, Barclay Genealogy Researcher
With so many castles to visit in Scotland, why visit Delgatie Castle? I would suggest there are a few reasons. If you have the good fortune of visiting Towie Barclay Castle, Delgatie is conveniently located just 7.5 miles away. It is a lovely place with rich history, and it has ties to Clan Barclay. Plus, it’s haunted, so need I say more?
Delgatie Castle is the home of the late Captain John Hay of Delgatie, Feudal Baron. Built around 1049 the Castle has largely been in the Hay family for a little more than 650 years. It was taken from the Earl of Buchan after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and given to Clan Hay, when Robert the Bruce routed the invading English army. Clan Hay descends from Scoto-Norman knight Guillaume de la Haye, who first appears on the records circa 1160. William Hay (1423-1462) was the First Earl of Erroll and is in the Barclay Family Tree.
William Hay was born in Erroll (now spelled Errol) in Perthshire, the son of Gilbert Hay and Alicia Hay, daughter of William Hay of Yester. His paternal grandmother, Princess Elizabeth Stewart, was the youngest child of Robert II of Scotland and his first wife, Elizabeth Mure. His paternal grandfather Thomas de la Hay was the third Lord High Constable of Scotland. William Hay inherited the title in 1437 after the death of his father Sir William. William Hay, First Earl of Erroll, was the 5X great-grandfather of Colonel David Barclay (1610-1686), first Laird of Urie, through his paternal grandmother.
A further connection ties Clan Barclay to Clan Hay. Anne Drummond Countess of Errol was the widow of John Hay, 12th Earl of Errol, and she counted Robert Barclay Urie II, The Quaker Apologist (1648-1690), as an admired friend. Upon his untimely death, the Countess wrote a letter from another Clan Hay Castle, Slains, to Christian Mollison Barclay, Robert’s widow, to express her condolences. The Countess addressed Christian Barclay as “Much Honoured” and went on to say, “As there was none had a greater esteem of the merit of your worthy husband, when alive than I, so there’s none can value his memory more than I shall always do.” She expressed gratitude for Robert Barclay’s friendship to her family during a difficult time and closed by saying that “…it shall be a very acceptable satisfaction to me, to see any of your family at this place [Slains Castle], for I am affectionately at your service.”
Back to Delgatie Castle… Mary Queen of Scots stayed at Delgatie for three days after the Battle of Corrachie in 1562. Her bedchamber is on view to visitors. Like many castles, it is said that Delgatie is haunted. Soldiers posted at Delgatie Castle during World War II reported seeing a ghostly figure with vivid red hair. Some have supposed that this may be Alexander Hay, but the more popular theory is that the ghost is actually a lady named Rohaise. Taps, knocks, footsteps, and even a female voice humming have been been observed in the Rohaise Room, specially when young men are in the room. The castle's recent history accounts, mostly written by Captain Hay who restored the house in the 1950s, report that the ghost was first seen when a body was found bricked up in a priest hole.
You can tour Delgatie Castle and see Queen Mary's Bower and the Rohaise Room, as well as other treasures, for yourself. During your visit, be sure enjoy lunch or afternoon tea and visit the shop. The property is beautiful and expansive with horses to pet and trails to walk, and you can even fish at Delgatie Lake. You can also stay at Delgatie Castle. My brother and his family stayed in one of the castle apartments on our visit in June 2019, and it was lovely. We highly recommend it! Joan manages the castle and takes reservations for the apartments, and she is a delightful lady.
By Bill Barclay, Drum Major of Towie Pipe Band
The village of Towie is in the Strathdon area of Aberdeenshire, approximately 37 miles from Towie Barclay Castle at the other side of the county. This is the band’s 40th anniversary year. We wear the Graham of Menteith muted tartan. The band has in the past been European Champion Drum Corps and overall 4th Piping and Drumming. We take part in games and contests all over the North as well as the RSPBA championships. We are of varying ages from youngest of 11 to oldest of 64. But all enjoy the hobby we have in the pipe band. In years gone by, we have taken part in festivals and concerts in Germany, Norway, Orkney and France. We are always willing to travel and play the highland music we love.
By Leah Parker, MAEd, Barclay Genealogy Researcher
The History of the Barclay Family, Part I, records that the son of Rogerius de Berchelai and his wife Rissa, John de Berkeley, accompanied Princess Margaret as she fled from William the Conqueror from England to Scotland in 1069. The story goes that John helped to deliver Margaret safely to Scotland’s King Malcolm III to be his wife. Margaret was the sister of Edgar Atheling and daughter of Edward the Exile, representing a royal house that was a rival to William the Conqueror. By all accounts, King Malcolm adored and admired his bride, Margaret. Both the political climate in England and the seas on which Margaret sailed from England to Scotland were rough and dangerous, and so King Malcolm was grateful to John de Berkeley for delivering Margaret to Scotland safely. It is said that in his gratitude, the king granted John de Berkeley the lands of Towie in Scotland. This story, like many in our Barclay history, is shrouded in the mists of history and legend. Accounts based on more recent research suggest that the true story is much less romantic and does not involve Margaret and King Malcolm. Whatever the story of how Clan Barclay secured the lands of Towie, we do believe that the current structure of the Towie Barclay castle was built in 1593. Another legend tells of Clan Barclay's pillage of a nunnery in the 12th century (#BarclaysBehavingBadly). Thomas the Rhymer, a renowned poet of the day (kind of like a rock star), is said to have proclaimed: "Towie Barclay of the Glen/Happy to the maids/But never to the men," which was interpreted as a curse on the male line. Belief in the curse by Clan Barclay was strong enough that it was given as a reason by Mr. Barclay Maitland for the sale of Towie Barclay Castle in 1753 to the Earl of Findlater, who after "dreeing the weird," (the ''weird'', meaning the curse) and after his son also died, sold it to Gordon's Hospital in Aberdeen in 1792. The castle was bought in the 1970s by musician Marc Ellington and his wife Karen, who restored the castle. The cozy Garden Cottage at Towie Barclay Castle is available to book for holiday and boasts three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, and a well-appointed kitchen. When my family stayed at the Garden Cottage in June 2019, Marc Ellington was gracious enough to host us on a tour of the castle and regaled us with stories not only of the castle but also of the many treasures displayed in their home. I highly recommend the Garden Cottage at Towie Barclay Castle—beautiful cottage, beautiful castle, beautiful hosts, beautiful country!
My name is Leah, and I am the daughter of a Barclay. As an historian and genealogy researcher, I am proud of my Barclay roots and want to preserve and share our stories.
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