History of Atholl

The Earldom of Atholl

The old Comitatus or Earldom of Atholl which had descended from Celtic times and of which there is no charter, became extinct in 1323 when the last of the old line of Earls was attainted and the Earldom reverted to the Crown.  The Earldom was erected by David II in the person of Sir John Campbell of Moulin and reverted to the Crown on his death in 1333.

It was then erected in the person of William Douglas, Lord of Liddisdale who conveyed it to Robert Stewart, afterwards King of Scotland, by a charter of 1341 and it again merged with the Crown on his accession as Robert II in 1371.  The Earldom was erected by Robert II in favour of Walter Stewart who, with his son and heir were executed in 1437 for the murder of James I and the Earldom was attainted.  None of these charters exists.

In 1480 [or 14]81 the Earldom was granted by James III in favour of his brother, Sir John Stewart, and this charter was limited to male heirs and in the absence of a male heir it reverted to the Crown.  In 1595 the Earldom was granted to John Stewart but in the absence of a male heir, it reverted again to the Crown until finally it was granted to John, Earl of Tullibardine, heir by line, in 1629 [through his mother, Dorothea, eldest daughter of John Stewart who had married William Murray, later Lord Tullibardine] and thus the start of the Murray line.

Source: Comitatus de Atholia, The Earldom of Atholl, Col. James A Robertson of Lude, 1860 in The Atholl Experience, Vol 2, Chapter 7, p17

Comyn’s Tower

Tradition states that when Henry Stewart of Atholl was away fighting in the crusades, John, the Red Comyn of Ruthven in Badenoch, invaded Atholl and built Comyn’s Tower, four storeys high, which is now incorporated into the north-west part of the main building of Blair Castle.  It is easy to see the Red Comyn’s strategy as he already owned Ruthven Castle in Badenoch, thereby controlling the northern end of the passes over the Grampians, and by building the first recorded stronghold at Blair, he also effectively controlled the southern end of the passes, thus maintaining a stranglehold on the whole area.  By siting his tower near the confluence of the rivers Tilt and Garry, he also commanded the route to Deeside through Glen Tilt and to the south through Glen Garry.

Source: John Kerr, Part Lecture, 1990, The Atholl Experience, Volume 2, p5

Illustration: The Atholl Experience, Vol 2(2), p67


Included in the History of Atholl section of the Atholl Experience are published articles on hut circles, field systems and rural settlement patterns; lists of roads built by the Seventh Duke of Atholl and lists of Atholl testaments held in the National Archives of Scotland.  In addition, there are extracts of general correspondence relating to bridge building, schoolmasters, the Forty-Five, and … bears!

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