Where is Cultoquhey ?

The old Cultoquhey demolished in the 19th Century

Many of our  Scottish place  names pose problems  not only for visitors   but indeed  for native Scots ! When I was married  a long time ago I settled  down in the  small town of Milngavie  north of Glasgow . Milngavie  is pronounced Mil- guy as Kirkcaldy is pronounced Kirk- caw – di and our delightful Strathearn village of Muthill is pronounced Mewth- ill !

The present Cultoquhey  which is now an hotel

Now that brings me to the subject of this  “ blog “ - Cultoquhey . This ancient place name  is pronounced Cul- to – whey ! Its roots in the mists of time have  resulted in at  least  source two interpretations of its Gaelic source . Coillte a' Che meaning ‘the woods of Ce’.  Ce was one of the seven sons from whom the Pictish race was said to descend and this seems eminently possible .

During the 1930s, Margaret Ethel Blair Oliphant wrote: "The estate lies about three miles to the east of the town of Crieff at the gate of the Highlands, between the Ochil and Grampian Hills. The name signifies in Gaelic, "At the back of the snowdrift". I am afraid we will have to accept that we  do not  know  for certainty  the  definition  of the  name .

What is  interesting  about Cultoquhey is that it  was in the same family  , the Maxtones , for over five hundred  years  having passed through the male line , generation  after generation . Surrounded  by larger land  owners  , the Maxtones  somehow  managed  to cling onto their small estate  through  fifteen generations . There have been at least three houses at Cultoquhey. A "fortalice and tower" is mentioned in a charter of 1545. Then the house pictured above was built (perhaps in the 17th century - a drawing of an old model cut out of paper makes it look older than McOmie's drawing) and was occupied until 1830, when it was pulled down on the foolish advice of Robert Graham of Redgorton, "to get rid of all taxes". The present big house of Cultoquhey (now an hotel) was built between 1822 and about 1830 on a nearby site. The Maxtone ( Maxtone Graham ) connection  ended  in 1955 when Cultoquhey was  sold  by the 16th Laird .

In the 1790s , the Parish of Fowlis Wester declared  the following annual rental values for the  Estates located  therein :

1.      Moray of Abercairney : Abercairney Estate :  £ 3,026
2.      Moncrief of Moncrieff : Gorthie Estate : £ 1,598
3.      Murrray of Ochtertyre : Fowlis Wester : £1, 500
4.      Smith , Lord Methven : Keillar : £1,270
5.      Drummond of Logie Almond : Logie : £549
6.      Maxton of Cultoquhey : Cultoquhey : £ 362
7.      Robertson of Lawers : -- : £118
8.      Graeme of Inchbrakie : Pitnaclerach: £82

One can see from these  figures that Abercairney was , by far the largest of these estates  whilst Cultoquhey was  comparatively small .

 Gilmerton Village

Where  exactly is Cultoquhey ? It lies immediately to the south of the main A 85 trunk road in the village of Gilmerton , three miles  to the east of Crieff . It is currently an hotel specialising in hunting, shooting and fishing and owned by an Italian consortium. Immediately to the south of the estate lies  the small clachan / hamlet of Milton of Cultoquhey where in days  gone by  there  existed a corn mill which can be looked at digitally on the National Library of Scotland web site http://maps.nls.uk/view/75655733.

The present house  was  built about 1820 for the  then Laird , one Anthony Maxtone . It was designed by the architect Robert Smirke and has  been described in critical circles as a “ competent but unexciting Tudor  manor house “ ! The house it  succeeded had obviously out grown its original needs and was described in the book “ The Maxtones  of Cultoquhey “  by E Maxtone Graham as follows :

"According to the only picture that has been found, this was a small compact house with wings, to modern ideas, far too small for the families that were reared within its walls; but until recently the standards of comfort in Scotland were primitive ... The household staff would be crowded into a couple of attics and the children packed like sardines in small bedrooms at night ..."

In “ Historic Scenes of Perthshire “ by William Marshall DD published in 1880 , we  find an interesting account  of the family : “ The present proprietor is James Maxtone Graham of Cultoquhey and Redgorton . . His usual residence is Battleby House, Redgorton .He assumed the name and arms of Graham on succeeding to his uncle Robert Graham of Redgorton, cousin and heir of Lord Lynedoch. The Maxtones are of Saxon extraction. Robert Maxtone fell at Flodden. Anthony Maxtone was Prebendary of Durham in the reign of Charles 1. “

A quaint tradition is still quoted regarding Mungo Maxtone, the 10th Laird. Every day he climbed the hill which rises at the back of the house at Cultoquhey, from whence he could see the surrounding estates. There, he offered up a litany for protection from his neighbours, the lairds of Monzie, Drummond Castle, Balgowan and Abercairney.

“Frae the greed o' the Campbells,
Frae the ire o' the Drummonds,
Frae the pride o' the Grahams,
And frae the wind o' the Murrays,
Good Lord deliver us.”

The story is told that the Duke of Athole, the chief of the Clan Murray, invited Cultoquhey to dinner and in the course of the evening requested him to repeat his addition to the litany , thinking he would not have the courage  to do so in his presence . His Grace was mistaken as he heard the words spout from the lips of the author. “Cultoquhey – I will crop your arse if you ever again take such liberty with my name! “ The cool reply came – “There my Lord, there’s the wind of the Murrays! “ On a further occasion Cultoquhey was visited by a gentleman by the name of Murray and remonstrated with him for so scandalising his Clan. The Laird said not a word to the remonstrant but calling his servant quietly ordered him “to open that door and let out the wind of the Murrays!

Let me move on to the present and conclude this Blog . Those of you who peruse the ever bourgeoning Sunday supplements will, no doubt have stumbled across a very literate journalist who goes by the somewhat unusual forename or Christian name of Ysenda.

Ysenda Maxtone Graham was born in 1962 and educated at The King’s School, Canterbury and Girton College, Cambridge. She has written widely for many newspapers and magazines, as features writer, book reviewer and columnist. She is the author of The Church Hesitant: A Portrait of the Church of England (published by Hodder & Stoughton); The Real Mrs Miniver (published by John Murray) which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Biography of the Year Award, 2002, and Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School, published by Slightly Foxed Editions in 2011, described by Rupert Christiansen as ‘a small but perfectly formed masterpiece’. This book sold out so quickly in its limited-edition hardback that it came out six week later as the first-ever Slightly Foxed paperback. She was a judge of the Whitbread Awards in 2003.She lives in London with her husband Michael and their three sons Toby, Charles and Francis.

The Maxtone Graham surname perhaps gives a you a clue that Ysenda is from that well known and ancient line of Maxtone Grahams whose presence at Cultoquhey spanned many centuries in Strathearn. The forename of this eminent member of the Clan can be found lurking again in the Charters of that so neglected abbey :

Ysenda, spouse of Earl Gilbert of Strathearn, by consent of the earl her lord, has given, granted, and established by her charter, to Inchaffray Abbey, five acres of land in her villa of Abercairney (PER), namely, that land which she perambulated in the presence of Sir Richard the knight and Geoffrey of Gask, her brothers, Henry and Tristram, sons of Tristram, William the earl’s clerk, and many others, in perpetual alms, free and quit from all service and secular exaction, with common pasture for 12 cows and two horses, and with all other easements pertaining to the same territory. Because she does not have her own seal, the seal of Bishop Abraham of Dunblane has been attached.


Popular posts from this blog

Glen Artney and Auchnashelloch : A Royal Forest and Comrie’s Highland Heritage .

The Story of Ferntower House

The March from Callum’s Hill in Crieff to Tibbermore