Chapter Seven:
The Misty Origins of the Barclays


Early Mists

Some Mists Dispersed (on next page)

A Barclay Legacy (on next page)


Some of the sponsors whose advertisements sustained the commercial viability of the "Peerage" publishers were well known to them socially. Many of the early bankers, for example, could find cousins listed in the directories. Some even had their own entries. Among those of continuing interest to historians were the Barclays, a powerful family of great fame in mediaeval Scotland but one whose origins have remained always a source of academic controversy.

We publish first, as Early Mists, the family's beginnings as they were generally accepted a century ago. In this case, unlike so many others in the inventory of Burke's myths, the mistakes were made in good faith, and a substantial part of the history was reliable. We then publish, as Some Mists Dispersed, a report on the research of Beryl Platts that sheds new light on the difficult period during which surnames were coming into use but could be changed arbitrarily and easily.

The history of the Barclays memorably illustrates how quickly social behaviour can develop from one extreme to another. Just five generations separate the boiling of John Melville of Glenbervie from the burning of the beautiful Janet Douglas and yet only five more take us forward to the great Quaker, grandfather of the first of the Barclay bankers. Today, ten generations on from the great Quaker, the line thrives still.

Early Mists

According to family tradition, Roger, mentioned in Domesday Book as Provost of the Manor of Berkeley under Earl William fitz Osborn, had a son, John, who went to Scotland in the train of Queen Margaret, ca 1069, and became Laird of Towie (in the Parish of Turriff, Aberdeenshire). He had two sons, Walter, who m the heiress of Gartley, and Alexander, ancestor of the line of Towie (and the Barclays of Crawfordjohn, Kilburnie, Brechin and Collairnie). The descent can be proved from Sir Walter, said to have been 3rd of Gartley, grandson of Walter and the heiress of Gartley. He was Chamberlain of Scotland, 1165-1189, and was succeeded by his brother Theobald's sons, Humphrey (dspm 1225) and John as 4th and 5th of Gartley. The son of John, 5th of Gartley was

Sir Robert, 6th of Gartley, who was father of

Sir John, 7th Laird, who signed the Ragman Roll, 1296, and whose son

Sir Walter de Berkeley, 8th of Gartley, who also signed the Ragman Roll, did homage at Berwick 28 Aug 1296, was appointed Sheriff of Banff by King Edward I of England, Sep 1305, and had issue, a son

Andrew, 9th of Gartley, who supported King Robert I, and was executed by the English after a raid into Yorkshire in Oct 1322. He left issue two sons:

1... Sir John, 10th of Gartley, ancestor of the later Gartley line and of the Barclays of Kynnaroquhy and Cairness, m Margaret, widow of Hugh, Earl of Ross (who by her had a dtr Euphemia, wife of King Robert II), and dtr of Sir John Graham of Old Montrose. In 1321 he witnessed, as John de Berkeley of Grantoly, the grant by Sir William Keith, Marischal of Scotland, of the lands of Mathers to his brother.

2...Alexander de Berkeley, 1st of Mathers 1351, m Katherine, dtr of Sir Edward Keith of Sinton, ancestor of the Earls Marischal, and had issue:

David de Berclay, 2nd of Mathers and of Durn (d ca 1411), whose son

Alexander Berclay, 3rd of Mathers, m Helen, dtr of Gilbert Graham, 1st of Morphie, and d ca 1416, leaving issue:

David Berclay, 4th of Mathers, m Elizabeth, dtr of Strachan of Thornton, and d ca 1448, having had issue:

George Berclay, 5th of Mathers, who, with his uncles Patrick and John, was concerned in the murder and boiling of John Melville of Glenbervie, the arrogant and unpopular Sheriff of the Mearns 1421. The 5th Laird had Letters of Remission for his share in the affair, 1 Sep 1421, and d ca 1458, leaving issue:

Alexander Barclay, 6th of Mathers, a scholar and poet, (perhaps the first to have the name of Barclay spelt in the modern style) m Catherine, dtr of Wishart of Pitarrow, in Fife, and d ca 1497. One of his poems is shown on the second page of this chapter. His son

David Barclay, m 1478, Janet, dtr of Alexander Irvine, 6th of Drum, and dvp leaving issue one son

Alexander Barclay, succeeded his grandfather as 7th of Mathers. He mMarjory, dtr of James Auchinleck of Glenbervie, and d ante 1520, having had issue

George Barclay, 8th of Mathers, m Marjory, dtr of Sir James Auchterlony of that Ilk. He had Letters of Respite for various slaughters 1526, and d ante 1535, having had issue

David Barclay, 9th of Mathers, m 1st Mary, dtr of Rait of Halgreen, and had issue. He was one of the jury which found Janet Douglas, widow of the 10th Lord Glamis and daughter-in-law of the 2nd Earl of Argyll, guilty of treason and witchcraft, whereupon she was burnt alive, 17 July 1537. He d 1560, having had issue of his 1st wife:

George Barclay, 10th of Mathers, m 1st Mary, dtr of Sir Thomas Erskine, Lord Brechin, Tutor of Dun, and d 1607 having had issue

Thomas Barclay, m Janet, dtr of Straiton of Lauriston and dvp leaving issue

David Barclay, 11th of Mathers, b 1580, d ca 1660. By Elizabeth, his 1st wife, dtr of Sir John Livingstone, 4th of Dunipace, and sister of Jean who was beheaded 5 July 1600 for having consented to the murder of her husband, John Kincaid of Warristoun, he left issue

Colonel David Barclay, who served with distinction under Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and, on his return home, attained the rank of Colonel during the great civil war. In 1647 he purchased the lands and barony of Urie from William, 7th Earl Marischal. He was b 1610, m Katherine, dtr of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, 1st Bt, and was succeeded by his eldest son

Robert Barclay, 2nd of Urie, the celebrated Apologist of the Quakers, b 28 Dec 1648, m 1670, Christian, dtr of Gilbert Mollison, and had issue, a second son

David Barclay, settled in London, and m 2nd, 1723, Priscilla, dtr of John Freame, and by her had issue. His youngest son

John Barclay, Banker in London, m Susanna Willet, and d 1787, aged 59, leaving issue:

Robert Barclay, Banker in London, b 1758, m Ann, dtr of Isaac Ford, a lineal descendant of the ancient family of Ford of Ford Green, in Staffordshire.

The dynasty of bankers begun by John Barclay was reinforced by several alliances with other banking families, John's grandson Robert marrying Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Gurney, another Quaker banker. The line continued through their second son, Joseph Gurney Barclay, of Knott's Green, who married Mary, daughter of William Leatham, another banker, and then through Robert Barclay, of High Leigh, who merged twenty banks into Barclay & Company Limited, and who married Elizabeth Ellen Buxton, whose mother was a Gurney. Their eldest son, Robert Leatham Barclay, married Dorothy, daughter of Sir Robert Williams, 1st Bt, another banker. After the death of Robert Leatham Barclay in 1939, the representation of this branch of the family passed to his nephew, Theodore David Barclay, of Higham, Bury St Edmunds, and thence to his son, David William Barclay.

The castle builders

Chapter VII ~ The Misty Origins of the Barclays ~ 2 ~

Chapter VIII ~ Parodies

Mists of Antiquity: Introduction

The Baronage Contents page

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