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Drum Castle

Drum Castle

Drum Castle Aberdeenshire Scotland

Drum Castle, dating from between the 13th and 17th centuries, with a 13th century keep, near Peterculter, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Photographic Print of Drum Castle from Robert Harding.

William de Irwyn acted as Bruce's armour-bearer and personal guard through some of the darkest days of the war, and rode by Bruce's side at Bannockburn. Irwyn's reward was the Royal Forest of Oaks and the Tower at Drum that lay to the west of Aberdeen, granted by royal charter at Berwick in February 1323.

Drum was originally built in the 1280s to serve as a hunting lodge for Alexander III. The site lacked natural advantages and so the castle had to be exceptionally sound. Alexander invited Richard Cementarius, the first Provost of Aberdeen, to mastermind its construction. Cementarius raised a crenellated tower that was over seventy feet high and twelve feet thick. As an added precaution, the door was on the first floor and reached by a retractable wooden ramp. The castle well was hidden in a secret recess in the wall and later generations added a solid iron yett to strengthen the entrance. The continual feud between the Irvines and the powerful Keiths ensured that the watch at Drum remained vigilant.

Time and again, the Irvines demonstrated their loyalty to the Scottish Crown, fighting and dying at Harlaw in 1411, Flodden in 1513 and Pinkie in 1547. The Irvines even lent their Great Falcon, a giant bombard, to the Crown to help repel the English invasion under Protector Somerset. The 6th laird worked closely with lames V in the 1520s helping him to extend the reach of royal justice and extirpate 'rebels, thieves, reivers, sorcerers and murderers' from the kingdom. Only the fifth master of Drum blotted the family copybook by killing and dismembering his chaplain Sir Edward Macdowall in the secret well chamber in a fit of rage. Arguing that he had caught the chaplain in 'flagrant delicto' with his wife, Irvine was pardoned but fined 100 merks.

The Irvine family's loyalty to the Scottish Crown brought trouble to Drum Castle in the turbulent religious struggles of the seventeenth century. Drum was besieged by Covenanters under General Munroe and realising that the castle's walls were no match for Munroe's artillery, his wife surrendered. Thereafter, Drum suffered the indignity of intermittent billeting by government troops, while the Marquis of Argyll besieged and ransacked the castle in 1644 and plundered it in 1645 laying waste the estates with thorough enthusiasm.

Loyal to the Stewarts, the Irvines came out in the 1715 and 1745 Risings. After Culloden, the 17th laird hid in a secret room in the castle but his Hanoverian pursuers spotted the freshly dug ground where the family silver had been buried. The Irvines of Drum survived and kept the castle, but their lands and wealth were largely gone.


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