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History of Drum Castle Continued

The next two lairds seem to have led comparatively quiet lives, but in the 9th laird the Irvines produced yet another notable character. This Alexander, known as 'Little Breeches' because he followed the Continental fashion of short trousers, was responsible for the building of the Jacobean mansion of Drum in 1619. He was Sheriff of Aberdeen and he and his wife, Marion Douglas, were noted local philanthropists.


The laird was rich enough to lend money to King James VI. He asked for a special dispensation to eat meat on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as other days, gave L10,000 for a scholarship at Aberdeen University - which survives today as the Drum Bursary - and a large number of other benefactions including '32 bolls of meal' for the poor people of nearby Drumoak. His wife also founded a hospital for spinsters in Aberdeen.
Alexander, the 10th laird, was an ardent Royalist supporter of Charles I when most around him were Covenaners, the Scottish equivalent of Roundheads. He, too, was Sheriff of Aberdeen and with him the family's prosperity and prestige reached its peak. As the Civil War spread, Alexander was away from Drum fighting when the castle was besieged. In the face of General Monroe's heavy siege equipment, Lady Irvine decided to surrender quite rapidly and included a promise that her husband would give himself up. So Drum Castle received a hostile garrison, the first of four it was to endure during the Civil War.


The laird's two soldier sons were also active Royalists: young Alexander was later to become one of Drum's most colourful lairds. He fought for the Marquess of Huntly and was excommunicated by the Church of Scotland for 'popery', with a reward of 18,000 merks put on his head for his capture, dead or alive. He and his brother tried to escape by sea from Fraserburgh, but high winds drove them back to the Scottish coast and capture.


Robert, the younger brother, died a miserable death in the depths of Edinburgh Castle, but Alexander survived there under sentence of death until he was set free after the Marquess of Montrose's victory at Kilsyth. His mother and wife were besieged and captured in Drum, this time by the Marquess of Argyll who turned both women out of the castle with nothing but 'two grey plaids and a couple of work nags'.


This time Drum Castle was completely ransacked. Twice captured, four times garrisoned, Drum and its lands had been severely ravaged during the war. Animals had been killed, crops ruined, silver, jewellery and furniture stolen and its prosperity destroyed.


When young Alexander, the 11th laird,who had won a small cavalry encounter towards the end of the war, at last succeeded to his impoverished estates he was soon offered a peerage by the newly restored King Charles II. But he turned down the honour when the king refused to provide financial compensation for damage done to the Drum estate while supporting his cause.


So, twice the Irvines had missed becoming great magnates of the crown. The eleventh laird's first wife had apparently been somewhat aristocratically aloof but, after she died, he spotted a young shepherdess on his estates, some forty-seven years his junior. Sixteen-year -old Mary Coutts was not one to sell her virtue short so, despite general disapproval, the two were married and the old laird enjoyed six years of bliss before dying not long before his seventieth birthday in 1687. This story is recorded in the traditional ballad 'The Laird of Drum'.


Alexander, his son by his first wife, was to be the 12th and last member of this line of Irvines. He died suddenly, leaving a pregnant wife, and an entail which gave Drum to his ruthless cousin, Irvine of Murtle. The 13th laird, Alexander Irvine, moved into Drum before his predecessor was even buried and confined the unfortunate widow to a small room.


His son, Alexander, the 14th laird, was a Jacobite and fought for the Old Pretender at Sheriffmuir. He was severely wounded in the head and died insane some years after the battle, leaving no heir. Now Drum passed to the late laird's uncle, John Irvine, the 15th laird, who had lived and worked for many years in Jamaica and South Carolina. He had returned to Scotland in about 1723.


In 1736 William, Earl of Aberdeen and Patrick Duff of Premnay bought the encumbered estate, which included lands from Cromar to just north of Dundee. They gave back to the family the ancestral seat and a small amount of land that surrounded it. The rest they parceled out between them. The Drum estate never again grew to its former size or importance.


Alexander, 15th laird's successor was Alexander Irvine of Crimond, the 16th laird. Alexander, his son, was the 17th laird, a Jacobite who fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie. He escaped after the Battle of Culloden, sheltered in a secret room at Drum and was saved from capture by the Redcoats only by the presence of mind of his sister, Miss Mary Irvine, who misdirected them. The soldiers did, however, make off with more Irvine family wealth, having spotted where it was buried by the newly dug earth. After some years of exile in Paris, Alexander was allowed to return home and 'died after a tedious illness, universally loved.'. The head gardener of Drum had fought with him at Culloden and is reputed to have made a fortune out of selling 'horse nails' and other booty after the battle.


Of Alexander, the next and eighteenth laird, little is remembered except that he lived for a very long time and was Master of Drum for eighty-three years. His son was Hugh Irvine, the painter, whose Archangel Gabriel (allegedly a self-portrait) hangs in the library. The family name became Forbes Irvine in deference to his wife Jane Forbes, heiress of Forbes of Schivas, who died when Alexander was only 32. He never married again and lived a retired life at Drum, dying in his ninety-first year.


Most of the nineteenth-century lairds were distinguished lawyers, serving at the Bar or as sheriffs in various parts of Scotland. At least one younger son was a Major-General and may others held senior posts in the army or Indian Civil Service.


The 19th laird, Alexander, inherited Schivas in right of his mother and assumed the name of Forbes before Irvine. On succeeding to Drum he effected an excambion (exchange) of land whereby Schivas passed to Lord Aberdeen, and Kennerty, a former Drum property, was restored to the estate. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander, the 20th laird.


Alexander trained as a lawyer, and played a prominent part in the administration of the County of Aberdeenshire. He married Anna Forbes Leslie, an amateur artist of some distinction. He was succeeded by his third son, Francis Hugh, the 21st laird, who married Mary, only child of John Ramsay of Barra and Straloch. These two estates were to pass to the junior line of the Irvines of Drum.


He was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander, the 22nd laird, who fought with the Grenadier Guards in the First World War. The 23rd laird, a bachelor, died in 1940 whilst serving with the Gordon Highlanders and his brother, Henry Quentin Irvine, fought with the King's African Rifles. Some ten years before Quentin's death this popular 24th laird entered into an agreement with The National Trust for Scotland so that Drum and its 411 acres could be bequeathed to the trust and held for the benefit of the nation.


He was succeeded in 1975 as laird of Drum and chief of the name Irvine of Drum by his younger brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Francis Irvine, 25th laird, who lived in Cheshire. In 1992, the latter's son David Charles Irvine succeeded as 26th laird. After a business life in the north-west of England, the present laird returned to Deeside to live near Drum.

The article was copied in part from "Drum Castle and Garden", "The National Trust for Scotland Guide Book" and partially reproduced, changing font and style to fit our site.