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Issue 62 - Castle Fraser's Tragic Phantoms

Scotland Magazine Issue 62
April 2012


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Castle Fraser's Tragic Phantoms

Annie Harrower-Gray looks at the family who supported the Jacobites and the castle where their ghosts still linger

Originally named Muchall-in- Mar, Castle Fraser in Kemnay near Inverurie enjoys magnificent views over the Aberdeenshire countryside, the Mither Tap of Bennachie Hill and the River Don.

The location and structure of the Z shaped tower house ensured it was easily defended against attackers and unwelcome visitors. All visitors to the castle these days are made more than welcome. It is those reluctant to leave who are proving difficult.

Perhaps it is no surprise that the seat of the Frasers completed in 1636 is reputed to be Scotland’s most haunted castle for the family’s long history is seeped in tragedy.

Andrew, second Lord Fraser, was involved in several attacks against the Royalist right wing, Towie Barclay Castle and Turniff.

By 1690, family sympathies seem to have swung towards Catholicism. The 4th Lord Fraser was a Jacobite also.

After the collapse of the Jacobite cause in 1690 Fraser surrendered to MacKay at Ayr and MacKay allowed him to return home. Two years later he was again proclaiming for James VII at the cross in Fraserburgh. This time he was fined two hundred pounds. The fine did not seem to deter him for he came out for the old Pretender in 1715. When again the uprising failed, he became a fugitive and fell to his death on the cliffs at Pennan.

The castle passed to William Fraser of Inverallochy (1672-1717) and then to his son Charles, known as ‘Auld Inverallochy’ for he lived to a ripe old age.

Simon, 11th Lord Lovat was another Jacobite who involved himself in much political intrigue though mainly to further his own cause. Captured after Culloden and charged with treason, Simon was the last person to be beheaded in Britain. He was executed at Tower Hill on 9th April 1746.

Many of Castle Fraser’s inhabitants have lost children in infancy or died without issue. Elyza Fraser inherited the estate jointly with her sister Martha and was unmarried when she died in 1814.

On Elyza’s death, the estate passed to Charles MacKenzie Fraser. A career officer in the Army, Charles was forced to retire after being twice wounded during the storming of Castle Burges in Spain. The cockade that saved his life is on display in the castle dining room and his wooden leg stored in one of the library cupboards.

In each room at Castle Fraser there is evidence of a past resident whether it be a valued possession or a spirit unable to give up possession of their former home. The lady dressed all in black seen roaming the grounds and wandering the internal staircases is believed to be the apparition of Lady Marie Augusta Gabrielle Berenere Blanche Drummond. Blanche married Frederick MacKenzie Fraser in 1871. The marriage was not blessed with children and just over two years later she became ill from consumption or tuberculosis and died. Five years after her death Frederick married Theodora Lovett Darby and again the marriage was without issue.

After Frederick died in 1897, his widow lived at the castle alone and impoverished. In 1921, she was unable to carry on and put the estate up for public auction. His father bought the property for The Honourable Clive Pearson.

The castle in the latter part of the Fraser ownership was not however without the presence of children. Frederick took in his nieces Eleanor and Mary on the death of their parents. Both girls were said to have been very fond of their aunt Blanche. Many members of staff have reported hearing children singing and laughing in the kitchen when there was none present.

Part of the Round Tower, the Green Room is situated at the top of a steep flight of stairs.

According to legend, it was here a princess was murdered. Her blood could not be washed away and regularly materialised on the staircase.

Eventually the stairs were covered by wooden panels and afterwards, there were many reported sightings of her apparition.

A rare feature to be found at Castle Fraser is the hidey-hole known as the Laird’s Lug or ear.

Servants could listen to private conversations in the great hall below.

One portrait in the Great Hall is of Francis Humberston Mackenzie the Lord Seaforth and Baron Kintail. Kenneth Mackenzie, known as The Brahan Seer, predicted Francis would be the last of the Seaforth line, would become deaf and dumb and see his sons die before him. He became deaf as a child and later mute when his fourth son, William died aged 23 years. The last of the Seaforth line died six months later.

Apart from the portraits, the great hall contains a magnificent fireplace dating back to the 16th century and an unusual trap door under the west window which would have originally have led down to the servants quarters. Now and again the tinkle of ghostly piano keys, and whispering can been heard in the hall, voices from the past come to taunt those who enjoy lying in the Laird’s Lug with their ear to the floor.