Glass Remembered … Edinglassie

We are indebted to Malcolm Hay for providing us the information below about Edinglassie and for allowing it to be shared on this website.


The name, Edinglassie, or Eudan-glasaich in old Scots, means “steep grazing” – a pretty good description for those of us who have to traverse its gentle slopes in wet weather. It is good grazing land, and a charming old anecdote tells us that if you left your stick lying of an evening in June in the haughs of Edinglassie, there would be no point in going back to look for it in the morning as it would be so “happit ower wi’ grass” that you would never find it.

Included in the property are the lands of Glenmarkie – in old Scots the “Valley of the Horses” – so called because of the custom of turning out the horses there for the summer after completion of the spring farm work.

The lands of Edinglassie & Glenmarkie are split between Aberdeenshire and Banffshire. Early records show they belonged variously to Comyns, Douglases and Stewarts from the 13th century, eventually being purchased from the Stewart Lords of Balvenie by the Gordons in 1597.

During the Revolution of 1688, which was brought about by the invasion of William of Orange, the Castle of Edinglassie (thought to have been built around 1515) was plundered and burnt by a detachment of highlanders on their way back home. The culprits were caught, hanged, and buried in a peat bog which, still to this day, is known as “Highlandmens’ Mossie”. The Castle was never rebuilt, and the Gordons eventually sold the lands to Alexander Duff of Braco in the mid 1690’s. Duff’s descendants became the Dukes of Fife. A line of boundary stones, marked “F” on the south facing side and “L” on the north side, runs from Braeton Hill to the Hill of Mackalea, and marks the division between the Duke of Fife’s property and that of the neighbouring Duke of Lennox & Gordon.

The first Duke of Fife sold the lands in 1888 to John Walker, from Staffordshire, whose father had been a Minister in Huntly. Mr Walker built the current house as a shooting lodge, and there is a window dedicated to his memory in Glass Parish Church.

Mr Walker transferred the lands to Mr George MacPherson from Wolverhampton, who was succeeded by his daughter, Eileen (his son having been killed in WW1), who married Commander Pinsent, R.N. The Pinsents made significant alterations to the house in the 1930’s, including the bay windows on the front and a new wing. On the Commander’s death in 1948, the property was sold to Major James Hay, the father of the current owner.

At the end of WW2, the land was farmed by a myriad of smallholders. In the current owner’s lifetime, farming units were still in existence at Edinglassie Mains (the Duncans), Dumeath (the Shands), Townhead/Greens of Glenbeg (the Jamiesons), Chapelhill (the Stephens), and Glenbeg & Bonfail (the Gibbons). The estate farmed only Lowrie (used as dairy), and Glenmarkie. The current owner attended Glass Primary School with many of the children from these farms.

However, the relentless mechanisation of farming left many in abject poverty as the holdings were no longer large enough to support the families who lived there. A lifeline was thrown to them in the form of the Farm Amalgamation Acts of the 1970’s, leading many to leave for a better life in the surrounding towns where they could escape the daily grind and allow their children to receive a proper education. The current owner’s father became a farmer by default as the holdings were left derelict and unwanted.

The legacy of these cataclysmic changes can be seen today in the many abandoned buildings. The current owner has rescued 14 from dereliction, and these are now occupied by a mix of local tenants and estate employees. However, the remoteness of the locations and lack of utilities present significant challenges for the remainder. There were, apparently, 42 “reeking lums” on the property in its heyday. We are back to 26 currently, so still some way to go!


A note on the Hays

The Hays of Edinglassie are of Norman origin, arriving here with William the Conqueror. They re-emerged in the early part of the 12th century as landowners in East Lothian, becoming Marquesses of Tweeddale, and based at Yester House. The second son of the 7th Marquess, General Lord James Hay, had a distinguished career under Wellington during the Peninsula wars, and married the only child of James Forbes of Seaton in 1813. Seaton House, which no longer exists, was on the river Don next door to St. Machar’s Cathedral in Old Aberdeen. Having been badly damaged in WW2 by a stray German bomber trying to hit the Bridge of Don barracks, the house became uninhabitable and the family moved initially to Clinterty House (which had been built by Major Hay’s father near the Tyrebagger Hill outside Aberdeen) and then to Edinglassie. Major Hay died in 1987 and his son, Malcolm, now farms the lands of Edinglassie and Glenmarkie as a single unit in partnership with his wife, Debbie, and son, James. The land has been farmed organically since 2001.

A presentation describing a peatland restoration scheme, by Malcolm Hay, can be viewed by clicking here