Mowat, Mouat, Muat and Monat are the same family… as are de Monte Alto and Monhaut

A story of a long, slow decline from wealth to poverty


My 5th great-grandfather, Sir George Mouat Keith’s lineage can be traced back to Patrick Mowat of Loscragy, who got a charter of Loscragy and Culpedauchis from Robert the Bruce in 1309, and was thus the first laird of Balquholly.

(In all the family was granted lands in what are now Ross, Caithness, Aberdeenshire and the Shetland Isle of Papa Stour.)

Indeed, some claim to trace the lineage to 1066 - "Prince Patrick de Monte Alto came over to England with William the Conqueror in the year 1066, so that, all of the name of Mowat in Great Britain and Ireland are descended of him”.  So said no less an authority than Dr. Conrad Swan of the College of Arms.

The Mowats certainly believed the de Monte Also lineage as, at various points over the centuries, they reverted to that name, probably as a matter of political expediency.

They arrived in Scotand after a period in England, patroling the Welsh Marches at the behest of King William l - they built Mold Castle (which carries a version of their name) around which the modern-day town of Mold developed.

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The two castles, Buchollie and Balquholly, the Shetland island and the town of Tain where the murder took place.

Castle #1


The family of Muat or Mowat is said to have originally borne the name of Montealt, from lands so designated in Flint, North Wales; and the name occurs in the Ragman Roll and other documents as "de Monte alto".

They are supposed to have settled in Scotland in the reign of David I, the principal family having been that of Buchollie, now called Hatton, near Turriff, in Aberdeenshire.

The date of the Mowats' first connection with Caithness is uncertain. The earliest writ extant concerning the lands of Freswick is a charter granted by King Robert Bruce to one of this family; and between 1406 and 1413 the Duke of Albany, as Regent of Scotland, confirmed a wadset of Freswick and Aukingill, granted by William Mowat of Loscraggy to his son John-the same person who, in 1419, was killed at the chapel of St. Duthus, at Tain, by Thomas McKay of Strathmore. Loscraggy was in the barony of Buchollie, in Aberdeen. There is an indenture, dated in 1495, between Alexander Mowat of Loscraggy, as nearest and lawful heir of William of Clyne, his cousin, and William of Clyne, son of the said William, whereby Alexander Mowat confirms to William, the son, a right granted to him by his father of Knock-clyne, Clyne-Ieish, etc., in Sutherland; and William confirms to Alexander the lands of Cultalord, Drynie, and others in Ross, now the estate of Cadboll.

Buchollie Castle, a short distance from the house of Freswick, of which there still exist considerable and picturesque ruins, was the ancient residence of the Caithness Mowats, and it is supposed to occupy the same site as Lambaburgh, which was a fort and stronghold in 1142. The name of the castle and the family title were, no doubt, derived from the Aberdeenshire property of the Mowats, but it does not appear that their lands in Caithness, which form the modern estate of Freswick, went by the name of Buchollie.

The castle was formerly the property of one Swayne Aliefso’, a Viking and pirate of the seas around Scotland and across to Norway.

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A satellie view of Buchollie, showing the extensive size of the original structure. 
The only remaining wall is the white rectangle just inside the left side of the oval.


Linked to the mainland by a narrow ridge of rock pproximatelt five feet wide.


Lovely stonework!


Castle #2


In the early 14th century Robert the Bruce granted the lands, then known as Loscraigie, to Patrick de Monte Alto.

Mowat is the anglicisation of de Monte Alto.[2] The Balquholly name was adopted some time before the 16th century.

Records indicate there was a castle (spelt Balquholy) on the lands in the early 1500s, but it is likely it may have an earlier date.

Purchased by Alexander Duff of Hatton in 1709 – although the contracts were not finalised until 1729 – ownership has remained with members of the family into the 21st century

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An ancient print of Balquholly, given to me by Jayne James Duff


Hatton Castle, as it is now called.

Murder most horrid

In 1427, Thomas Mackay got himself into serious trouble when he killed John Mowat of Freswick in Tain, Ross-shire...
A. J. Lawrence, author of The Clan Bain, explains it well, saying that Thomas, “held vast possessions, including the lands of Creich, etc., which he obtained from his cousin, Angus Du—probably to get and ensure his support; about 1427, he fell upon Mowat of Freswick for having betyrayed him, and pursued him into the Chapel of St Duthus, to which he set fire, killing Mowat. Killing was one thing, in those days, but burning a consecrated Chapel could not be ignored. Thomas was outlawed and his lands promised to whomever [sic] should capture him. It so happened that his brothers, Morgan and Neil, had married daughters of Angus Moray of Cubin, a retainer of the hated Suthlerlands; and Angus [Moray], instigated by the Sutherlands, induced them to help him betray their brother, who was captured and beheaded.”

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Old St. Duthus Chapel,Tain

Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair

The Nototious Gordons of Gight

On my way to visiting Keithfield, a valley which is named after my 7th great-grandparents (who are the Keiths in Mowat Keith)  I called into the Tarves Local History centre.
Quite by chance, I met a lovely lady called Moira Minty, who volunteered there.  I explained what I was doing and she said I ought to meet her boss.
He turned out to be Alexander George Gordon, 7th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, DL.  Haddo is his ancestral home, now gifted to the National Trust, but he maintains a home and office there, and that’s where we met the next day.

He was very chrming, and interested in the Mowat Keith / Gordon links, and I learned we were related twice, two generations apart by marriage. We spent some time with his estate manager, going through the records and maps of the estate.

During our meeting he said it wqs strange that there was documentary evidence of the Gordons selling the valley now called Keithfield to the Keiths, but none relating to them regaining the valley.  I replied that I would have my lawyers look into the matter.  I then remembered I had no lawyers and told him so… and that even if I had, his would probably be better!  We left it at that...


Alexander George Gordon,
7th Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair, DL

William Chalmers of Westburn 1695 - 1770

Twice Provost of Aberdeen (1738–1739 & 1746–1747)

My 7th great-grandfather (the resemblance is uncanny)

The portrait was painted by John Alexander, to whom Chalmers was related. Alexander was a Jacobite and as a result spent some time in Rome in the 1750s. This provostal portrait dates from a little earlier and is contemporary with Alexander's portrait of his maiden aunts, the Misses Alexander.

William Chalmers, was born in 1695 and died in 1770. He married Helen Molieson or Mollison and they had a daughter, Helen Chalmers, who died in 1800.

Chalmers was Provost of Aberdeen twice, from 1738 to 1739 and again from 1746-1747.

He laid the foundation stone for the Infirmary in 1740 and was responsible for starting the Poor Hospital.

He was also the first Provost elected legitimately after the Duke of Cumberland quashed the Jacobite council that ruled Aberdeen in 1745-6 and established in its place - albeit briefly - a military dictatorship under Cumberland's appointed Governors. 

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Artist: John Alexander, Aberdeen 1686-c.1766
Sitter: Provost William Chalmers, oil on canvas
Curatorial Care:  City of Aberdeen Collection.
Overall: Height: 76.5 cm, Width: 63.9 cm

A Lairdship Lost:
The Mowats of Balquholly, 1309-1736

An invaluable source of family history, by Diane Baptie

According to Amazon - This is an account of how a family in the North East of Scotland, dogged by misfortune, lost their land at the beginning of the 18th-century. The book is a family history, with details about travel, family interactions and money matters in relation to land and buildings, and to debt. The text also examines the family's prominence of the legal profession, the incidence of "good" Mowat marriages in attempts to repair family fortunes, and the frequency of their business ventures at home and abroad.

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