Balglassie & Balbinny - Land of the Junkins in Scotland (1667-ca. 1700)

By Alan & Nancy Junkins; published in JFA newsletter no. 14, November 2003

Saturday, March 8, 2003. We had been in Scotland for a week now and were beginning to find our way around quite well. We had found the little town of Careston and the Careston Castle. Across the River South Esk and southwest of our cottage was the parish of Aberlemno. We could see the parish lands across the valley and about 4 miles west of Brechin from our cottage. It consisted of about 150 houses and farms scattered throughout the parish with a current estimated population of 426. This had been marked on a 1794 map that Davy Adams had sent me several years ago. Davy Adams was a genealogist who lived in Brechin, Scotland. I had been put in contact with him by the Rev. MacKenzie of the Brechin Cathedral 15 years ago when I first discovered that Robert Junkins was baptized at the Cathedral in 1621. I had written to Davy in the fall of 2000 and he had returned with a map on which he had plotted out several areas where the Junkins family had lived in the 1600s. In January of 2003, I wrote Davy again to tell him that we were coming to Scotland in March and April of this year. I did not get an answer from him before I left for Scotland. I was soon to learn that Davy had died just three months before I arrived in Brechin.

We took the road to Netherside and turned right at the sign for Balgassie. It was a small dirt road about one and a half lanes wide. There were some buildings, about three or four, at that corner. The road went down hill a short distance and then leveled out for about a mile. We approached a large farm house on the right, set quite far back from the road. At the entrance of the drive were two signs, one like a street sign between two posts and one on a wood log with a flattened surface hanging from a chain on a fence post, with Balglassie painted on it. The drive was twice as wide as the road. We turned into the drive and pulled back to the house.

Nancy and I both got out of the car and walked through the iron gate toward what we though was the front door. There was a wide gravel walk and area to the door with a picnic table and bench near the door. The door was bright read with a brass door knob and a large brass door bell-ringing button. The house itself was a large "T"-shaped building, two stories high, built all of stone and painted with white stucco. I did not notice it at first but it was pointed out to us later that over the window to the left of the door of the house was a lintel stone that had been over the original front door of the house when it was built in 1636. It had the letters A.I. * I.S. and the date 1636 carved into it. The letters A.I. stand for Alexander Innes and the I.S. for Isabella Spalding.

Nancy rang the doorbell. No one answered. She rang again and knocked. No answer. As we turned away to go back to our car, a pickup truck came down the drive from around the barns and outbuildings and stopped next to our car. The driver asked if she could help. I asked her if she lived here. "Yes" she replied. I asked, "Do you know how old the house is?" "Yes, it was built in 1636."

We talked for a moment and I explained what my interest in the house was. She immediately took an interest and wanted to show us the house and to talk about it. In a few minutes' time we were in her living room and being shown around the house. Her name is Christine Spence and her husband is Alexander.

We spent ten of fifteen minutes in the living room when Christine excused herself and went upstairs for a couple of minutes. When she came back, she brought with her a shopping bag which she dumped out on the couch between Nancy and herself. To our amazement, the contents of the bag were many deeds to the property which went back to the late 1600s. Many of the early ones were written in Latin, which meant that we couldn't tell much about them. About this time, Alexander came in and asked me if I wanted to see more of the house and the gardens within the protective walls of the estate.

We left Nancy and Christine to look over the deeds and walked through the kitchen where he showed me the four foot thick stone walls of the original portions of the house. We went outside and saw the "Crofter's" houses along the walls all connected together and built with stone. A crofter's house is a rectangular one story building about 25 to 30 feet X 18 or 20 feet depending on how many families are to live in it. It has a low sloping roof, originally thatched but now re-done with slate. The doors are only five feet high and the ceilings are very low. This was to make them easier to heat with only a small open fireplace in each room. He showed me how they added rows of stone to them in later years to raise the roof and make the ceilings higher. There are other crofter's cottages on the estate, originally for tenant farmers, now used as self-catering cottages. One overlooking the River South Esk, recently re-modeled with apartments for three families sleeping three, five and seven people.

We went out to gardens all surrounded with the ten foot high wall and all connected to the houses to form a football field sized protected area. It was early spring but you could see that they were planted with flowering shrubs, grassy lawns, ornamental trees and fruit trees, and vegetables, and all the things needed to provide for the people who lived within the walls.

Alexander pointed out the Bee-Boles in the wall. In Scots a "bole" is an alcove, and bee-boles are wall recesses about 18" square. They were made to shelter beehives of the old straw type. They are an integral part of the wall, recessed on the sides and open in the front. Beehives provided honey and wax for the many candles used by those who lived on the estate.

Balglassie, 1323 - 2003

This was certainly not the first house on the land. In 1323, King Robert I (Robert the Bruce) gave William Dishington a charter of the lands of Balglassie. The lands of Balglassie continued in the possession of the Dishingtons until the reign of King Robert III (1390 - 1406). This William Dishington was probably the grandson of Sir William, King David's cousin (1329 - 1371). In the sixteenth century the Carnegies acquired Balbinny and Balglassie. Sometime after 1632, the lands of Balbinny and Balglassie were sold to a family named Jenkyne (Junkins). On May 15th, 1667, John Jenkyne of Balglassie inherited the lands from his father, Alexander Jenkyne, when he died. Shortly after that date, Balbinny was sold to the Panmure family. The estate of Balglassie may have passed from the Jenkynes to a branch of the Arbuthnotts family towards the end of the seventeenth or the beginning of the eighteenth century.

We left Balglassie and the Spences, filled with wonder and amazement as to what we had learned about the Junkins family. The home they lived in and the life of Robert Junkins had been forced to leave behind. He was captured and sent off to an unknown land, never to see his family again.

We are going back to Scotland again in 2006 with a thousand more questions.

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