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Tyrees in Scotland


From A Tyree Genealogy
by Forest Hill Tyree, 1983

Chapter 1
"The Tyrees in Scotland"

Even though there has been no direct proof that the various Tyree families in the United States descended from the Tyrees (Tyries) of Scotland, Carl Tyree Felker made a number of trips to Scotland in search of Tyree genealogy. His mother was a Tyree.

The following report "Drumkilbo and Dunnideer - Old Homes of the Tyrees in Scotland" was sent to me by Carl and I feel it is of interest to all Tyree descendants. Other Scotland reports that Carl sent, describing additional trips that he and his wife Cora made to Scotland have been incorporated into other published books listed in the Bibliography included herein.

Old Homes of the Tyrees in Scotland
Carl Tyree Felker

In August and September, 1964, my wife Cora and I made our third visit to Scotland in four years, partly on holiday and partly to continue our inquiries into the origin of the Tyree (Tyrie) family in that country. Before reporting the results of our 1964 visit, I will summarize briefly the findings of our previous trips, which were covered extensively in the 1960 and 1963 reports to family members.

In 1960, we visited the Isle of Tiree (formerly Tyree) in the Inner Hebrides of the West Coast of Scotland. There we could find no records of a Tyree Family ever having lived on the isle.

However, a search of records at the Registrar General's Office in Edinburgh disclosed numerous references to the name Tiree, with its variants of Tyrie, Tyre, Tyry and Tiri, in the counties of Aberdeenshire and Perthshire in northeast Scotland. Therefore, in 1963 we visited the cities of Aberdeen and Perth, where we confirmed from various records that three related branches of the Tyrie family had lived in the contiguous counties of Perthshire, Forfarshire and Aberdeenshire. The records start with Maurice (or Morice) de Tyry of Perthshire in 1296 and extend to the eighteenth century. Most of the Tyries were staunch adherants of the Scotish crown, including the Stuarts, and the family fortunes suffered because of this loyalty.

One of the sources discovered on our 1963 visit was the book, "The Tyries of Drumkilbo, Perthshire, Dunnideer, Aberdeenshire, and Lunan, Forfarshire," compiled by Andrew Tyrie, which is now in the library of King's College, Aberdeen. The book was printed in 1893 by John Horn, Printer, 42 Argyle Street, Glasgow.

From this and other records, we learned that the principal homes of the Tyries were Drumkilbo, near Perth, and Dunnideer, near Aberdeen. On our 1964 trip to Scotland, we located and visited Drumkilbo and Dunnideer, with interesting results.

We started our 1964 trip at Edinburgh during the International Festival in August. While there I visited the historical search room of the Scottish Record Office. There I consulted the Calendar of Documents Relating to Scotland, Vol. II, 1272-1307, which reproduces the "Ragman Roll" of 1296, described as an invaluable record of the landowners of Scotland at a time for which no other data of equal value exist." On this Roll are recorded the original instruments of submission and fealty by John de Balliol, King of Scotland, with the clergy nobles and community of Scotland to Edward I (of England) in the 26th year of his reign. I was told that the name "Ragman Roll" derived from the fact that the wax seals of the prelates and landowners were attached to the bottom of the document and that in time the weight of the many seals caused the lower edge of the document to assume a ragged appearance.

A short time after the original Roll was signed, there was a supplementary signing of the document at Berwich-on-Tweed, August 28, 1296, which contains the name of Morice de Tyry of Perthshire among those subscribing to the oath of fealty to Edward I, who had invaded Scotland with a strong army. The record states: "In the parliament of nobles and prelates of both realms, held at Berwick-on-Tweed in the octaves of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thereafter, the aforesaid nobles, prelates and knights, who had done homage ut supra, with those hereinafter named, again renounced the league with France and swore fealty, tactis sacrosantis, and kissing the Holy Evangels."

From Edinburgh, we went to Ayr where we were shown around the Burns Country by Mr. and Mrs. Duncan Maclean Ballantine. Mr. Ballantine is publisher and editor of the Cumnock Chronicle, near Ayr, immediate past president of the guild of British Newspaper Editors (Scotland), honorary president of the Scotish Newspaper Proprietors Association, and a Burns authority. I enjoyed talking shop with Duncan and comparing Scotish and American journalistic practices while Cora compared gardening notes with Sadie Ballantine.

We next went to Inverness, "Capital of the Highlands," where we stayed eight days. Aside from our desire to explore the interesting country in that area, we wanted to visit the battlefield of Culloden, near Inverness. In this battle, where the Jacobite forces of Prince Charles Stuart finally were defeated by the Hanovarian army, Father John Tyrie served as chaplain of a Highland Regiment and was badly wounded.

At Inverness we engaged the services of Mrs. Netta Dallas as a driver. She is a Scotswoman, about 60 years of age, who is a native of the area and knows the country well. She drove us to Culloden Moor and to other places of interest, including Loch Ness.

We then went to Aberdeen, familiar to us from a previous visit, a busy and attractive city built chiefly of grey granite, quarried locally.

En route to Aberdeen by train, we talked to Mrs. R. J. Cumings of Banff, whose husband formerly was county clerk there. She suggested that we see James Craig, county clerk at Aberdeen, to ascertain the location of Dunnideer.

After arrival at the Caledonia Hotel, Aberdeen, we walked a few doors up the street (Union Terrace) to the county offices. Mr. Craig, the county clerk, was away, but we were directed to the office of the deputy clerk, J. Bell, who was helpful. We explained that we wanted to find Dunnideer, which we knew was in Aberdeenshire, but were not sure whether it existed under that name.

"I know Dunnideer," said Mr. Bell. "It's about 30 miles from Aberdeen and I'm acquainted with the present owner, James Mackie, a gentleman farmer and a member of our County Council."

Then he pulled down a large wall map of the county and pointed out the location of the Main of Dunnideer, near the town of Insch. He explained that "Main" meant farm and suggested that we phone Mr. Mackie.

That evening I called Mr. Mackie, explained our mission and asked if we could arrange to visit Dunnideer. This was Friday, September 4, and he suggested that we come to Dunnideer early Sunday afternoon.

On Saturday, we attended the Hazlehead Highland Games in Aberdeen. The next morning we arranged through Arthur Watson, the efficient head porter at the Caledonian, for the hire of a car and driver, Hector Taylor, and set out for Dunnideer. En route we stopped to explore Pitmedden Gardens, a horticultural showplace. We stopped for lunch in Insch, and inquired to Dunnideer, a short distance out of town.

Driving along the road, we noticed a sign "Dunnydeer House," and believing this was our destination, we turned into the driveway leading to a handsome granite residence. There we were greeted by Dr. George Cooper, 81, a retired surgeon who, after practicing for over 50 years in London, had returned to the family home where he was living with his brother Douglas, 78, a retired engineer.

"I was hoping you'd come by," said Dr. Cooper. "I learned from Mr. Mackie that you planned to visit him. Come inside, and I'll show you some things of interest to you."

We went into the living room, where Dr. Cooper, in anticipation of our visit, had assembled a number of exhibits. These included the "Donean Tourist," a book printed in 1828, "giving an account to the battles, castles, gentlemen's seats, families with their origin, etc.," which contained references to Dunnideer and the Tyries. Dr. Cooper also showed us a yellowed newspaper clipping describing an incident that had occured at the parish kirk in 1745. In that year (the rising of the Stuart forces under Prince Charles) the government had sent an order to be read in all churches in Scotland, warning the people against giving aid or comfort to the Stuart "rebels." When the minister, Rev. Alexander Mearns, tried to read the order David Tyrie of Dunnideer, whose property had been forfeited, rushed to the pulpit holding a loaded pistol and dirk and ordered the minister to desist. A spectator, described as the "big Whig of Headiedon" threw a plaid over Tyrie's head and disarmed him. Dr. Cooper explained the "big Whig of Headiedon" was an ancestor of his.

Dr. Cooper told us that the Rogers family, female side of the Cooper family, had settled in Aberdeenshire in 1589 and that the Coopers came to the country in 1645. He often wondered why no modern Tyries had ever visited Dunnideer, a place so long associated with the family.

We then drove a short distance to the Main of Dunnideer, where Mr. and Mrs. James Mackie were awaiting us on the steps of their house. They gave us a warm welcome and invited us inside, where the gracious Mrs. Mackie gave us tea, and we discussed our mission.

Mr. Mackie, hearty and vigorous at 70 with an outgoing personality, had been the owner of a large fleet of fishing trawlers in Aberdeen for years and was a key figure in building up the wharf and dock facilities for the immense Aberdeen fish market. Some years ago, he sold his trawler fleet and ostensibly "retired," buying the 550-acre farm of Dunnideer, which includes the spacious residence built in 1796 and which he and Mrs. Mackie have transformed into an attractive and comfortable home while making the farm a model mechanized operation.

The Mackies, like the Coopers had collected some information about the Tyries of Dunnideer, including the incident at the parish kirk involving David Tyrie in 1745. Mr. Mackie, remarking on the warlike tendencies of the early Tyries, said he understood "they had eaten the first missionaries sent to convert and pacify them."

After tea, we set out with Mr. Mackie in our car to see Dunnideer Hill, a famous landmark on the property. We drove around lower roads, circling the steep hill, then through a gate and over a boulder-strewn field to the base of the hill. We left the car and, with walking sticks provided by Mr. Mackie, climbed the hill. On the way we passed a group of Pictish stones whose history is unknown.

Around the crest of the hill are the remains of earthen battlements which surround the vitrified foundations of the ancient Pictish fort and abbey. Subsequently, on the ruins of this fortress-abbey, a castle was built by Jocelyn de Balliol, brother of John de Balliol, founder of Balliol College at Oxford. John de Balliol was an English baron who for a time was a regent for Alexander III of Scotland. His third son, also named John de Balliol, was King of Scotland, 1292-96.

The castle is now in ruins, but part of its foundation and the outer limits of the walls may still be seen. The largest remnant is a tall wall which contains the entrance door with a look-out aperture on one side for a sentry. The wall stands high on the crest of the hill and is visible from miles around. These ruins are now preserved under the National Trust of Scotland. A year or so ago Mr. Mackie noted that the wall was showing signs of disintegration. As funds of the National Trust necessarily are limited, James Mackie personally undertook the work of preservation. "I sent the fiery cross around the neighborhood," he related, "and soon raised enough funds to repair the wall."

From the top of the hill, there is a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside, including the fields of Dunnideer farm. Mr. Mackie pointed out the ruins of the probable Tyrie homestead, northwest of the castle on Chevick Burn (stream). The Burn is spanned by an ancient stone packbridge. Three ash trees stand in front of the former dwelling. Mr. Mackie explained it was the custom in early days to plant three ash trees in front to keep away witches.

Sheep now graze on the slopes of Dunnideer Hill as they have done for centuries.

After taking numerous pictures, we descended the hill and inspected the buildings, equipment and stock of Dunnideer farm, which would be an efficient modern operation in any country. The Mackies' son runs the farm with the help of eleven farmhands.

We saw grain being brought by tractor to large elevators, where it is electrically dried. We climbed to the top of these tall bins, saw the grain in storage, then inspected the nearby stone barn (also built in 1796) where the cattle are housed. In addition to grain, the Mackies raise cattle, horses, hogs and poultry. We later learned that the farm was valued at approximately $300,000.00.

After our tour of Dunnideer Hill and the farm, we returned to the house where we visited with the Mackies and were warmed by their friendly interest and libations of rare old malt Scotch. It was 7 p.m. when we departed after an enjoyable visit, with the Mackies promising to have dinner with us on the following Tuesday, when they would be in Aberdeen to attend a Rotary meeting.

While we were having a late dinner at the Caledonian Hotel in Aberdeen, I was paged for a phone call. A man's voice on the phone said, "My name is Young Tyree and I'm from Richmond, Va. You'll never believe how I learned you were here in Aberdeen, but if you're free tonight, I'll come to the hotel and explain."

I assured Mr. Tyree that we would welcome his visit and in a short time he arrived. With my wife, we went to the hotel lounge, where in front of a log fire, he related the amazing coincidence that brought us together.

Mr. Tyree, a former banker, later was with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and subsequently with the Small Business Administration, from which he is now retired. For 30 years he had researched the records of the Tyree family in the United States, especially in Virginia. He is now 70, my own age.

His son, Young Tyree, Jr., is a professor at the University of North Carolina. When Tyree Jr. was invited to give a lecture in Vienna in the fall of 1964, he decided to stop on his way to visit some of his former students in Britain. Tyree, Sr., knowing from his research that the family had originated in Scotland, decided to make an advance visit to Scotland in search of family records, then to meet his son in Edinburgh and accompany him to the Continent. He told us this story:

"On arriving in Edinburgh a few days ago, I rented a car and started driving toward Aberdeen. This afternoon I stopped at the town of Stonehaven for a Coke. I asked a policeman my usual question, "Do you know of any Tyrees around here?" "No," replied the officer, "but oddly enough, I was notified only today by my superior that if I knew of any Tyrees in this area to get in touch with Mr. James Mackie of Dunnideer, a county councilman. I suggest you call Mr. Mackie."

"I immediately phoned Mr. Mackie, told him my name was Tyree and explained my mission. I could hear him telling his wife, "Somebody must be pulling my leg. We've just had a visit from a member of the Tyree family this afternoon, and here's another chap claiming to be a Tyree when none of them have been around here for hundreds of years as far as I know."

"However, I was able to convince Mr. Mackie that I was a genuine Tyree, and he then told me to get in touch with Carl Tyree Felker at the Caledonian in Aberdeen. On reaching Aberdeen and a lodging, I called you - and here I am."

We talked until nearly midnight, comparing notes, and found that Young Tyree had much the same information as we had about the Scottish Tyrees, including numerous books and other records he had collected.

The next day we met for lunch and further discussion. He drove us to King's College in Aberdeen, a leading institution of higher learning in Scotland, founded in 1492 and a repository of many documents relating to Scottish history. Young Tyree then drove to Dunnideer for a visit with the Mackies, from where he planned to proceed to the Village of Tyrie in the parish of that name, near Fraserburgh. We, too, had planned to visit the Village of Tyrie, but decided to forgo this trip as Young Tyree was going there.

At King's College, Aberdeen, we had a visit with Dr. W. Douglas Simpson, O. B. E., the college librarian, author and leading authority on Scottish medieval history. Dr. Simpson gave us a list of books, including several of his own, bearing on the history of Dunnideer. We then went to the large Aberdeen Public Library, where we looked up some of the books and copied extracts.

The next day, we met the Mackies at our hotel, following their Rotary meeting. Young Tyree also joined us and we had tea in the lounge with the Mackies and Marcus Milne, head of the Aberdeen Public Library. Young Tyree departed to meet his son who was due to arrive in Edinburgh the next day. He told us he had found little of significant interest in the Village of Tyrie.

Mr. Mackie then took us on a drive around Aberdeen, pointing out his former town house and stopping for a visit at the huge granite quarry which supplies Aberdeen with its building material. We also drove out along the north sea road where Mr. Mackie related his wartime experiences in the espionage section of the British resistance organization formed as a safeguard against possible invasion of Britain by the Nazis after the evacuation of Dunkirk.

We returned to the hotel, where Cora and Mrs. Mackie went to our room to change for dinner. At the room, Cora found a bouquet of carnations with a card signed "James Mackie, Chieftain of Chevick Burn and Dunnideer." After dinner at the hotel, we took leave of our newfound friends, the Mackies, whose interest and hospitality had helped to make our visit so enjoyable. We have since maintained correspondence with them.

The next day, we took a train south to Perth, about 80 miles from Aberdeen. There we stayed at the Salutation Hotel, locally renowned because it was used for a time by Prince Charles Stuart as his headquarters during the 1745 Rising. The room in which he made his headquarters is designated as the "Prince Charles Room" and contains period furniture and souvenirs of the Pretender.

We visited historic St. John's Kirk, burghal church of Perth, which was started in the early 13th century and consecrated in 1242. On May 11, 1559, John Knox preached withing the walls of St. John's the famous incendiary sermon which led to the destruction of the monastic houses in and around Perth and to the spoliation of the alters, images and furnishings of St. John's, though the structure itself was spared. We were shown around the church by the elderly bellringer, representing the third generation of his family who had held that post, and whose son is scheduled to succeed him.

That evening we had dinner with Mr. and Mrs. James Guthrie of Methven, near Perth. We had met Jim Guthrie, assistant county librarian, on our 1963 visit to Perth, when he was helpful to us in our search for Tyrie records. In March, 1964, he was married to Mairi Taylor of Methven, a beautiful fair complexioned Scots lass, who is a registered nurse. We dubbed her the "Fair Maid of Perth" after Sir Walter Scott's novel of that name.

The next day, September 10, Cora and Mr. and Mrs. George Massengale, friends from home, went by special bus to the Royal Braemar Gathering, an annual event which is the premier Highland gathering of Scotland. This is a gathering of the clans for Highland games, with piping, dancing, field and track events including the tossing of the caber, which resembles a telephone pole. The games were attended by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret and her husband Lord Snowden, and the Queen Mother, who were escorted to the royal pavilion by the massed pipe bands.

I spent most of the day at the County Library in Perth, where with the help of Jim Guthrie I consulted various books and records relating to the history of Perth with mentions of the Tyrie family.

The next day Jim Guthrie called for us in the morning and we set out to find Drumkilbo, which our map indicated was about eight miles from Perth, near the ancient village of Meigle, reputedly the oldest village in Scotland with a history going back to 78 A.D.

We stopped at Meigle to visit the museum housed in an old schoolhouse. The museum contains the famous collection of the "Meigle Stones," prehistoric Pictish monuments depicting battles, also biblical scenes showing the influence of early Christianity. The museum attendant is an 82 year old Scot, a pensioned postal employee who supplements his income with the "Wee job" at the museum.

Then we drove to the ruined church of Kirkinch in the "Land of Nevay," where old records relate that several Tyries were buried in the old churchyard under a mutilated tombstone inscribed "Here ly the Tyries of Nevay, honest men and brave fellows." We searched among the tombstones, many of which were undecipherable because of age, but could find none relating to the Tyries.

We returned to Meigle, where we lunched at the Kinloch Arms, a small country hotel. Then we set out to find Drumkilbo. It was shown on our map, but we had difficulty in finding the place because the fields and woods hid the sight of the house. Finally, driving down a side road, we saw a man's head above a hedge. We hailed him and he proved to be Gavin Kerrie, head gardener at Drumkilbo for 28 years. "Have you been here before?" he asked. "Not recently," I replied. We explained our mission, and he said, "You're in luck. The Laird is away today and because you've come so far to see Drumkilbo, I'll show you around the grounds, although I can't take you into the house."

Under Kerrie's guidance we toured the estate for more than an hour. It consists of about 1200 acres, 20 of which are the "policies" or gardens. The gardens include well-kept perennial beds, huge beeches, clipped hedges of cupras, yews and beech and a beautiful lawn, setting off the imposing manor house. Cora had an interesting gardening discussion with the knowledgeable Kerrie, whose ability is reflected in the handsome grounds.

The first known owner of Drumkilbo was Robert the Bruce, who reigned from 1306 to 1329. Robert the Bruce gave the estate to Maurice de Tiry, who swore fealty to Edward I on August 28, 1296. This family is the first known to have lived in Drumkilbo. Sir Thomas Tyrie, a descendant of Maurice, sold the property in the late 1600's, and thereafter Drumkilbo had a succession of owners.

The present owner of Drumkilbo is Lord Elphinstone, a bachelor and a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II of England. His mother, now dead, was a sister of Queen Mother Mary. It was Lady Elphinstone who developed the present gardens. The estate is open to the public once or twice a year as a part of the National Trust Garden tours.

The original Tyrie home, whose rubblestone and clay walls are three feet thick, is now the two-story central part of the manor house. This part can be identified by the uneven window ledges and the hand hewn stone lintels. The original house, which has had a bay window added to the first floor, is flanked on each side by later additions and the whole house now is painted white, giving a unified appearance. The newest addition, fairly recent, was built to accomodate the Queen and her family on their yearly visits to Drumkilbo. Gavin Kerrie, the gardener, told us that during alterations to the original house in 1920, a claymore (2 handed broadsword) was found concealed in the walls, doubtless hidden there during one of the risings.

After taking pictures of the house and gardens, we left our names and address for Lord Elphinstone and departed by the main gate.

Returning to Perth, we drove through the picturesque village of Meiklour, near which is the famous Meiklour Beech Hedge, planted in 1746 and which now is 100 feet high, clipped part of the way up and extending for a third of a mile along the road.

That evening we had dinner at the Guthries' home in the village of Methven, six miles from Perth. Their attractive three-bedroom home, named "Sognefjell," is on Logiealmond Road and was built partly by Jim Guthrie.

We spent the following Saturday and Sunday in Perth. On Sunday we attended services at St. John's Kirk. In the afternoon Jim drove us to Glamis Castle, home of the Bowes-Lyons, the Queen Mother's family.

Leaving Perth on September 14, we spent two days at the lovely nearby resort of Pitlochry, then went to Glasgow, from where we flew to Belfast, North Ireland. Our subsequent tour included Dublin, Cork, Killarney and thence to England where we stayed in the Cotswolds several days, visiting English friends, Paul and Kit Modford of Overbury, Gloucestershire. We wound up our trip with a week in London before returning home in mid-October.

We felt rewarded by our trip not only because of the interesting places visited but especially because of the hospitality of friends, old and new. We also were fortunate in discovering and visiting Dunnideer and Drumkilbo, the old homes of the Tyries, and making further discoveries about the history of the family in Scotland.

This concludes the account of our 1964 visit to Scotland except for the attached annexes giving historical material about each of the places identified with the Tyries - Drumkilbo, Dunnideer and Culloden.



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