The Rise and Fall of Inchbrakie – The Story of the Graemes and Why A Great House Was Demolished and A Family Heritage Threatened

Inchbrakie House

The Inchbrakie story is one of the sad tales of the Strath. This ancient family once were one of the dominant influences in Strathearn and their names appeared with frequent regularity as the centuries unfold. The Graeme family of Inchbrakie are however still around. There is a most excellent web site
which provides a superb source of research and information into not only the family but also their domicile up until the late 19th century at Inchbrakie . Anthony Graeme , a present day descendant and a most charming person , lives in far off Devon but is a frequent visitor here in Strathearn .Interestingly , there are here in Crieff,  a couple of roads bearing that illustrious name .One wonders just how many of the inhabitants of houses in those specific airts know much about the original name !

We are, however ,  most fortunate that the family history of the Graemes was painstakingly recorded in a book Orr and Sable – a book of the Graemes and Grahams written by Louisa G Graeme and published in Edinburgh by William Brown in 1903 . Incredibly Andrew Graeme has managed to transcribe and put on the web site that original gem in collaboration with another of the clan and descendent of the author, Lucy Read. I acknowledge with thanks much of the information provided through these sources . As my own pedigree has a Graham great grandmother of Menteith extraction, I have obviously more than a passing interest in the fortunes of my distant cousins !

According to the Graeme web site the origins of the name come from Gryme , a Scottish leader whose daughter married Fergus ll , King of Scots . Gryme is reputed to have levelled part of Antonine’ s Wall as a response to the Roman’s attempts to pen the natives into that area of their kingdom to the north and that part of the wall became known as Gryme’s Dyke or Graeme’ s Dike . There also is a line of thought that the Grahams were of Norman extraction . This seems to stem from the usage by William Graham of the prefix “ de “ – he was known as William de Graham but it transpired that the name is not known in that part of France and most probably was added purely to add a degree of sophistication at a time when things French were regarded as being of the best .

The first Graeme of Inchbrakie was Patrick Graeme , 1st Baron of Inchbrakie  who was the second son of the First Earl of Montrose who had been killed at Flodden . He was granted lands prior to his father’s death by a Charter dated June 1513 some three months before the battle .He was granted the lands of Inchbrakie or Inchbraco, Pettquelerant and those by Cullard of Foules (sic) as well as the lands of Pyreny in the Stewartship of Strathearn. Patrick also owned the land of Strathbowie forming part of the Barony of Aberuthven. Patrick is attributed with building or restoring and enlarging the Castle of Inchbrakie in 1519. It was a substantial edifice fortified with a moat and with a drawbridge. The Castle was certainly an indication of the power of the Graemes in Strathearn in a somewhat traditional manner for that time. The turbulent times of the seventeenth century, however were to take their toll. The Castle was stormed by none other than Oliver Cromwell 1651 and set alight. It transpired he was after none other than the Marquis of Montrose, a kinsman of Inchbrakie. A large contingent of troops besieged the Castle but Montrose had escaped and , if legend is to be  believed took shelter in the old yew tree in the grounds . The Castle was later rebuilt but the changing pattern of life in Scotland saw change. The mansion house of Inchbrakie was built between 1733 and 1739 and later extended between 1839 and 1842.

If one drives out the back road from Crieff to Perth for about three miles , you pass the entrance to Dollerie House the home of the Murray family of Dollerie. Immediately to the left (due north) across the rolling fields you will spot (if the trees are bare) a small stone building ( a mausoleum ) .This is all that remains of the mansion of Inchbrakie once the home of the Graeme family. 

The tale of the burning of the so called witch Kate McNiven at the crags bearing her name above Gilmerton is appropriate to the story of the demise of the Graeme family . The fortunes of this old Strathearn family gradually fell apart after the warning given by Kate was forgotten. The mansion was bought by the neighbouring Drummond Murray’s of Abercairney and the mansion demolished circa 1880. This exert from the 1860 “Beauties of Strathearn “gives an idea what Inchbrakie was like:

"The mansion of Inchbrakie, enclosed by its fine grounds and plantations is seen at some distance on the right of the turnpike, about three miles distant from Crieff. The estate of Inchbrakie has long been the property of the Graemes, who in the history of the ancient and distinguished House of Graham claim an honourable place. 

The remains of the ancient castle of Inchbrakie, which had been surrounded by a moat, are in the vicinity of the mansion. This structure was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell in order to punish the proprietor Patrick Graeme, who was Colonel of the posse connitatus of Perthshire, and an active officer in the army of his cousin, the great Marquis of Montrose. A grandson of Colonel Graeme who was an officer in the army of James ll, having killed a friend in a duel, was induced as a voluntary penance, to become a monk. He joined the mendicant order of Capuchins, and complied with the severe austerities of the monastic rules. At his death, he was superior of the convent at Boulogne. A portrait of Father Graeme in his Capuchin dress is amongst the paintings at Abercairney. There is preserved at Inchbrakie a curious relic; a blueish stone said to ban uncut sapphire which has been set in a gold ring. Kate McNiven, the supposed witch, who was executed at Monzie Crag, is said at he stake to have cast it from her mouth to the Laird of Inchbrakie, a near relative was then proprietor of the estate of Monzie – at the same time uttering that prediction that so long as it was preserved by his family, his race would continue to prosper. A yew tree in the park is said to be the second largest in Scotland. During a season of peril, it afforded concealment by its thick foliage to the great Marquis of Montrose. A musical air, by Niel Gow, is known as the “Miss Graeme of Inchbrakie “.  

When Abercairney took possession of Inchbrakie he is said to have driven over the demolished remains in his carriage and horses to signify his new ownership of these adjoining lands .

Sales Particulars 1878

Inchbrakie House

Perthshire – Estate of Inchbrakie – This beautiful RESIDENTIAL ESTATE , about two miles from Crieff will be exposed to SALE by Public Roup within Dowell’s Sale Rooms , No 18 George Street Edinburgh on Thursday , the Eleventh Day of July 1878 at 2 o’clock afternoon . The Estate is situate in the district of Strathearn and contains about 361 acres of which 275 are arable and 76 woodlands, the remainder consisting of houses , roads , gardens &c . The mansion house contains ample accommodation for a family and is situate in the midst of  admirably laid out grounds . There is a court of  offices adjoining the house , with laundry , stable of five stalls and two loose- boxes , coach houses &c . The house is about two miles from Crieff by road and is distant two miles from each of the following stations Innerpeffray on the Perth and Crieff Railway and Highlandman , on the Crieff Junction Railway, thus placing the property between easy reach of all parts of the country. A post messenger passes the lodge daily . There is beautiful flower garden near the mansion house and also a kitchen garden not too far distant , of about two acres in extent , with ample accommodation for gardeners, &c . The productive farm of Pittencleroch , and several pendicles , and also  the delightful residence of Arnbank Cottage  and grounds are on the property .There is a complete system of irrigation in excellent order on the water meadow . About 250 yards from the mansion – house there is a commodious farm steading , suitable for the cultivation of the whole or part of the property  by the proprietor . The shootings are very good, and yield excellent sport , embracing pheasants , partridges , wood cock , wild duck , and rabbits . The grounds are well stocked , and the woods afford excellent cover . The timber on the property is valuable and has been judiciously and tastefully planted. The salubrity of the climate of the district is well known . It is seldom so desirable a residential property comes into the market.. Full particulars with rental , acreage , plans of the estate , and all information as to the terms of the sale , will be supplied by Messrs Haldanes and Brookman , WS , 17 Charlotte –square , Edinburgh ; of Henry Gordon , Esq., Bank of Scotland , Pitlochry . Messrs Haldanes and Brookman are in possession of the title deeds . –Edinburgh , 17 Charlotte – square , 8th February , 1878 .


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