home about us history membership news events videos AGM & commitee contact guestbook links constitution gathering 2018 merchandise



A short History of Francis Farquharson

During the 2005 Gathering members of the Farquharson Clan enjoyed an historic tour of the Ballater area focusing on the life and times of Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie.
This is part one of an excerpt from The Lion’s Face which will serialise his story as written by Geoffrey Farquharson.


Francis Farquharson led a colourful life being heavily involved in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, but he is perhaps remembered locally more because of his profound influence on the development of the infrastructure of the Ballater/Balmoral area.

The Mains of Monaltrie is the starting place of his life. For those not familiar with the term Mains it simply means farm. The farmhouse was built in the 1720s only a decade or so after Francis’ birth. At the time, Francis and his family were living in a large house situated on a mound amongst the trees. It was burnt to the ground by government forces after Culloden in 1746 because of Francis Farquharson’s activities in the 1745 rebellion. Today the Mains of Monaltrie is owned by Mrs Drummond who is Capt Farquharson of Invercauld’s step daughter by his first wife.

Francis Farquharson’s father was Alexander Farquharson (1676-1745), John Farquharson of Invercauld’s younger brother. John’s younger brother, Alexander, bought the estate of Monaltrie in 1702. Previously it had been in the hands of a different branch of the Farquharsons, the Farquharsons of Castleton and Tillygarmond. It had been held in the mid 17th C by the famous Donald Farquharson or Donald Og who fought notably in the Civil War. But when his son, Charles, took over the estate it was in a poor financial state probably due to the expense of the family being involved in the war. By 1702 they were forced to sell.

So when Francis Farquharson was born in 1710 the family had only been at Monaltrie for 8 years. His father was Alexander and his uncle was the Clan Chief, John Farquharson of Invercauld. His mother was Anne Farquharson, a daughter of Francis Farquharson of the Finzean family, who lived south of Banchory.

Francis Farquharson was the middle of three sons. John was his elder brother and Robert was his younger brother. In addition he had three sisters, Elizabeth, Rachel and one whose name we don’t know. Monaltrie, being a small estate, with insufficient work or income to provide for several sons it is likely that the young Francis Farquharson was trained in some profession, possibly law. Certainly for the years 1738 - 1740 he was described as commissioner for his uncle, John Farquharson of Invercauld, and was later his factor on the Invercauld estate.

John, the eldest brother, died in early adulthood and when his father, Alexander died in July 1745 the estate passed to the second son, Francis Farquharson. Significantly when the 1745 Jacobite rebellion got underway it was Francis who was laird of Monaltrie.
One other thing to mention about Francis is his nickname. As Laird of Monaltrie Francis was often referred to as ‘Baron Ban’ on account of his fair hair, ban being Gaelic for fair-haired.

There is an interesting description of the ‘Estate of Monaltry’ from about this time which gives an insight into the land and the people on it, with suggestions as to what needed to be done to improve their lot:

‘The Barony of Monaltry is in the County of Aberdeen and Parish of Crathie. It is of small extent being only about two miles in circumference, except three or four pieces of ground among the hills. It is upwards of 36 miles from Aberdeen, the nearest residence of a sheriff depute or substitute, and where there is the nearest prison. It lies near the parish church and parochial school. There are neither parochial nor charity Schools on any part of the Estate. The soil is gravelly and light, and produces good small oats, barley and rye, no pease, and few potatoes. There is little progress made in raising flax, no grass seeds sown and little hay made, and scarcely any enclosures. There is plenty of lime stone but seldom used. The Estate has an extensive hill pasture, and produces black cattle, sheep and goats. The black cattle sell at about forty shillings and the sheep at four shillings. They make very little butter and cheese.'

The Monaltrie estate did not consist of Monaltrie alone but also included substantial land around Ballater below to the north and the south of the Dee. Of course the Monaltrie Farquharsons weren’t the only Farquharsons around here at this time. The Invercauld Farquharsons held land all about on the north side of the Dee. It was Farquharson land all the way to Braemar and far beyond. And then on the south side of the River, opposite Monaltrie were the Balmoral Farquharsons.

Long before Queen Victoria moved there the Balmoral estate rising up to grand Lochnagar, was owned by Farquharsons descended from the Inverey branch of the Clan. When Francis Farquharson was living at Monaltrie, his neighbour, a short ferry crossing away was James Farquharson of Balmoral. James was also very active in both the 1715 and 1745 Rebellion and became known for his actions as Balmoral the Brave.


Francis Farquharson died at the age of 80 on June 22 1790 and is buried here in the Farquharson enclosure of Crathie Old Kirkyard. The memorial to him was erected by his nephew William.

Francis Farquharson’s survived the fighting and its aftermath but the rebellion did have a very profound effect on his latter life.

Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie appears to have had very strong Jacobite sympathies and when his uncle refused to raise the clan in support of Prince Charles Edward in 1745, it was he who adopted the task, although in so doing he was immediately dismissed from his post as Invercauld’s factor. As with most if not all clans, the rebellion split families apart. His uncle did not want any part in the 45 having been through and only narrowly survived the 1715 rebellion. Invercauld’s son James, and therefore Francis’s cousin joined up with the government forces. His other cousin Anne in contrast was an ardent Jacobite and raised the Macintoshes whilst her husband was away fighting for the Hanovarian government forces. She became dubbed Colonel Anne. We don’t know exactly why Francis had such Jacobite tendencies but he did.

The ultimate responsibility for raising a Jacobite force from the men of Deeside fell to Lord Lewis Gordon. He was eventually successful in persuading a number of people to the Jacobite cause; foremost amongst these were Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie and James Moir of Stoneywood. These two gentlemen were appointed as Colonels of the Deeside battalion. Under them in lesser positions of command were Harry Farquharson of Whitehouse and James Farquharson of Balmoral. Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie set to work trying to recruit men. After a slow start the ranks began to fill with men coming settlements between Braemar and Banchory.

It was on December 17 that a detachment of some 700 men left Inverness and marched south to liberate Aberdeen and to put a stop to the raising of the clans in Aberdeenshire. The force consisted of two columns, one under the command of Macleod of Macleod from Skye and the other under Captain George Munro. Their plan was to march to Inverurie along separate routes and there unite before marching on to Aberdeen.

Lord Lewis Gordon responded by gathering his forces at Aberdeen. By this time his army had grown to 1200 men with Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie at the head of 300 Farquharsons. Lord Lewis Gordon had the advantage of being kept well informed of Macleod’s movements and lay in wait for opportunity to attack. This was provided at Inverurie. Macleod, under the belief that the Jacobite force was marching south to join the main army, divided his men into several small groups. The Jacobite forces marched out from Aberdeen at 9 o’clock on the 23rd December. They had to make risky river crossing in full view of the town. This they did in moonlight as they fell upon the 300 Macleods in Inverurie. The Macleods put up a gallant fight but were defeated by the superior force. The first military engagement of the Deeside Farquharsons had been a success. The whole force returned to Aberdeen, but soon left to join the Prince’s main army which had recently returned to Scotland after its excursion into England.

The Farquharsons joined up with the main army shortly before the Battle of Falkirk. On the January 17 the armies finally drew up into battle order. At this time the Farquharsons were divided into two groups. About 150 were with Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie and formed an escort for the Jacobite artillery. Meanwhile the Jacobite and Government forces were marching at speed to try and gain the best ground for the battle that was about to follow. Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie was still with the cannon when the battle began, but on hearing the first shots he left a small party with the artillery and moved with the rest to join the main body.

Up on the hill, as the final battle lines formed up, the remainder of the Farquharsons, under the command of James Farquharson of Balmoral, found themselves centrally placed in the front line opposite the right flank of three regiments of dragoons. Having fired their muskets, the Highlanders discarded them and advanced with drawn swords, uttering their war cries. The Jacobites won the day, but the victory was not followed up, the Jacobite army returning to the siege of Stirling Castle. On February 1 the Jacobites continued their march north. During the march north, many of the Deeside men took the opportunity of visiting their homes and many were somewhat reluctant to fall back in with the army. Some Farquharsons had reached Braemar over the Cairnwell route and were naturally pleased to be back in their home glens. Some of those Farquharsons who did head north to Moray were becoming unruly and Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie appears to have had trouble keeping them in check. They played at least some part in the notorious plundering of the House of Cullen.

The marching to and fro lasted into March and April and ensured that the Highland forces were in a poor state by the time they came to take their final battle positions on Drummoisie Moor on the 16th April 1746. Some of the Farquharsons did not arrive in time; many of the Inverey men stayed at home having reached Deeside after the Battle of Falkirk. When called out they were too late, meeting up with survivors fleeing from the battlefield some five or six miles from Culloden. Those Farquharsons who were present numbered about 300 and were stationed in the right centre of the front line. They were the first of the Jacobite forces to attack the government army, but they were outnumbered, exhausted and under-fed. Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie was captured.

He was imprisoned in Inverness for a month before he was transferred to a ship in the harbour, bound for Woolwich. He was on board the ship up until the June 21 after which he was committed initially to Newgate prison and then in the New Gaol, Southwark. Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie would have anticipated very little hope of a pardon and stay of execution. He perhaps contemplated trying to escape from his captors, something a good number of rebels achieved. But Francis Farquharson was a high ranking rebel and would be watched over carefully. It would seem that his fate was sealed.

In August a bill of indictment for high treason was lodged in court against Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie. Along with him is listed a Captain in his regiment, John Farquharson; this is Francis’ distant cousin, the Laird of Allargue. They were both brought to the bar on Tuesday 2nd September and pleaded ‘not guilty’. The court was adjourned. When they next appeared in court, on the 8th November 1746, this is what Francis and John pleaded guilty throwing themselves on the King’s mercy, but the hoped for mercy was not forthcoming from either jury or judge and sentences of death were passed on them both.

Execution was set for the 28th November on Kensington Common.

For a fuller account of Francis’ life and lots more information on the Farquharson Clan refer to A Clan Farquharson History by Geoffrey Farquharson available priced £25 by writing to Geoffrey Farquharson at Nether Anguston Croft House, Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, AB14 OPN.

Click here to read more about the book


In the morning of the 28th news arrived of a reprieve for both Francis and John. Three of the five Jacobites to have been hanged that day were reprieved.

For Francis Farquharson reprieve did not mean pardon and he returned to prison. Why was he reprieved? Whilst imprisoned in London, his friends and acquaintances in Scotland had been busy getting up petitions for his pardon and release. He was obviously held in high esteem by many people including ministers of the Church of Scotland.

In the various petitions, he is particularly lauded for his good nature and his work with the church and charitable schools. One of the petitions is somewhat unusual in that it was submitted by a group of Government soldiers taken prisoner by the rebel army. In it they stress how well he treated the prisoners under his control and how he protected them against insults and aggression from the ordinary rebel soldiers. There is even a hint that he may have helped some of the prisoners escape. Francis Farquharson tried to help himself out of his predicament asking it to be known by the Government that he would help, even partially fund, the building of new roads in the Highlands.

It was presumably the combined weight of these various petitions that persuaded the authorities to reprieve Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie. However, the existence and might of the petitions did not prevent a more romantic reason for his reprieve developing on Deeside. The tale, as told in a footnote in the ‘Records of Invercauld’ explains that:
‘Condemned to be executed on the 15th November, the sentence was to be carried out on the 28th. Monaltrie had made every preparation for his impending fate without the least hope of any possibility of escape. He was being led through the hall with 21 others to the when a messenger arrived and handed to the officer in charge a document containing his reprieve. Monaltrie eagerly inquired to whom he was indebted for his life; but no inquiry elicited any other information than that he owed it to a lady whose name was carefully concealed from him. But it is generally understood that having seen him in the Rebel army, she was so impressed with his handsome person and noble bearing, that she resolved, when he became a prisoner, to leave no effort untried to obtain his pardon and release, in which she ultimately succeeded.’

Francis Farquharson was initially placed under the control of a messenger, Mr Money, who was to ensure that his charge did not leave London. In 1748 Francis asked that he be allowed to leave London and the authorities said that he could live somewhere in Hertfordshire but would be restricted to a radius of 10 miles around that place.

Thus, Francis Farquharson began a life in the home counties of England. His stay in Hertfordshire lasted a total of 18 years. It appears that he spent his time profitably; learning about the agricultural methods employed in southern England in the hope that one day he would return to Deeside and be able to improve the methods employed there.

In 1764, towards the end of his time in Hertfordshire, Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie married Miss Elizabeth Eyre, in Derbyshire. The Eyre family was a staunchly Catholic family with Jacobite sympathies. Francis Farquharson finally returned to Deeside in 1766. In a note written by Francis, he tallies up his days in confinement to 20 years, four months and one day.

Due to his active participation in the rebellion of 1745 his lands had been forfeited and laid waste. His house at Monaltrie had been burnt to the ground by troops but he built a replacement home at the foot of Craigendarroch. Initially the house was called Ballater House, although today it is known as Monaltrie House.

In 1775, he petitioned the Barons of the Exchequer, who to all intents were the holders of the properties forfeited from Jacobite leaders, for a lease of certain parts of what had been his property. His request was granted and he obtained a 41-year lease of his former estate. Nine years later, he resumed full ownership of the estate when an Act was passed allowing the forfeited estates to be returned to their former owners or heirs upon payment of a sum of money. Francis Farquharson paid £1,613 and once again became truly Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie.

When Francis Farquharson built his new home, the town of Ballater did not exist. In fact, its existence is largely due to this returning exile, who having settled back in his native valley devoted the rest of his life to improving the infrastructure and agriculture of the area.

A few years after his death an appreciation of his work in the local area was written by the Rev Brown, minister of the parish, in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland (1796):
‘A beautiful bridge of three arches and a small one at each end, called the Bridge of Ballater, was lately built by subscription, and other contributions, under the patronage of the late Francis Farquharson, Esq. of Monaltrie, a gentleman who has left many lasting monuments of his public spirit in this country.’


Mineral waters were discovered at Pannanich sometime before the 1745 rising. For many years they remained just natural wells amongst the heather and birch. It is said that an elderly woman by the name of Elspet Michie who had the ‘King’s Evil’ (scrofula - tuberculosis of the lymph nodes) took to bathing in the water around the wells being convinced that this would help her in her illness. She continued her bathing despite her neighbours believing her to be deranged and was rewarded in her persistence by her health being restored.

News of her cure spread and when Francis Farquharson returned from exile in 1766 he took a particular interest in the restorative properties of the Pannanich waters, which happened to lie on his land. He had the waters analysed and after positive results began to develop the springs into a spa.

One school of thought has it that Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie primarily set up Pannanich Wells to provide a congenial meeting place for Jacobites following the immediate aftermath of the rebellion. Certainly, a group of Jacobites had been frequenting the spa at Peterhead and a number of them visited Pannanich once the facilities had been built.

Those coming to Pannanich to take the waters who could not be accommodated at the wells themselves had to seek sustenance across the River at Tullich. The village thrived on its new found business but it was not long before the ferry across the River linking Tullich with the wells, became overstretched and in 1783 the first of the Ballater bridges was built. At this time, Ballater was simply a flat area of heather moorland where cattle could be rested on their way south to market. The only buildings were a small number of hovels.

It was Francis Farquharson’s idea that a new town should be built here to accommodate visitors to the wells. With the construction of the bridge, the first step in Ballater’s creation had been taken but the building of the town itself did not get underway until after Francis Farquharson’s death. Francis’s nephew and heir, William shared his uncle’s vision for the development of the area and took the concept of the new town through to completion. William was the eldest son of Francis Farquharson’s younger brother, Robert.

Through the early years of the 19th century, Pannanich Wells increased steadily in popularity. The original buildings laid out by Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie rapidly became unsuitable and when the public road was re-routed from the banks of the River Dee up the hillside to the site of the wells themselves, a new lodge with greater capacity was erected close to the wells. By the middle of the 19th century, the glories of Pannanich were beginning to fade. When William died in 1828, Monaltrie and all its associated lands passed to the Invercauld Estate.

For a fuller account of Francis’ life and lots more information on the Farquharson Clan refer to A clan Farquharson History by Geoffrey Farquharson available priced £25 by writing to Geoffrey Farquharson at Nether Anguston Croft House, Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, AB14 OPN.

Click here to read more about the book

History of the Clan Farquharson