7. Laurence Keir (1738-1814) of Sauchie (Part III)

We continue the 7th Blog entry in this current series of articles looking at the Keir family from Aberdalgie. This is the final installment (Part III) in our endeavour to trace the children of  William Keir and Mary Clerk (therefore the grandchildren of Rodger Keir and Isabel Armour) – specifically looking at Laurence Keir eldest son and heir and his wife Marrion Paterson, (whose story is told initially in Parts I & II).

Recall in the last blog entry that we were recounting chronologically the documented activities surrounding Laurence Keir, son and heir of William Keir & Mary Clerk of Aberdalgie, Perthshire, Scotland. We had ‘reached’ 1788 and Laurence was suffering a bowel ailment and was in correspondence with Dr. William Cullen, the famous Edinburgh physician. [While Professor Cullen could not ‘cure’ Laurence, we happily report he did get better and lived for quite a few years further on]. At the same time Laurence and Marrion (now going by the interchangeable name Mary) gave birth to another son (their 11th child), which they also called John (recalling that their previous child who died in infancy was also of that name). The old Parish Registers (OPR) recorded the event thus:

March 23rd. 1788 Was Baptised John Keir lawfully procreated betwixt Laurence Keir and Mary Patterson in the Orchard of Aberdalgie.                                                                                                         – [Source: OPR records, ScotlandsPeople (fees apply)]

Child John Keir (1788-1725) “of Madeira”, grew to adulthood and married. This fascinating story will be recalled at a later date. He was to have two further siblings – Julia born in 1790 (with an almost identical OPR record to John) and Thomas b. 1792 (for whom we only have mentioned name and dates on the family grave.)

Aside: Today, Aberdalgie is a village in the Perth & Kinross council area (formerly Perthshire), located two and a half miles southwest of Perth itself. On a sunny day, the drive into Aberdalgie via the A912 (off the confusing M90 motorway complex) on the narrow unnumbered road, (passing Aberdalgie house on the right,) is a peaceful and relaxing one. You might take time to visit the Aberdalgie and Dupplin church (renamed in 2014 as the Aberdalgie and Forteviot Parish church) with it’s distinctive entrance – a war memorial in the shape of a Celtic cross, or continue West through the village to turn right on to the B9112. On your immediate right is the start of the Dupplin Estate (once home to the Hay family and the Earls of Kinnoull). A few hundred feet down the road, on your left is the long driveway which eventually leads to the old Sauchie farmstead, and on the same side, a little way further on from that (just before the road narrows and opposite the Dupplin Nursery) is an almost concealed left hand track leading to the (Dupplin Castle) “Old Gardener’s House”. It is behind this house, nestled in a bend of the river Earn, that you will find the fenced off and padlocked remains of the Old Dupplin Church & Graveyard.

The late W.G. Watson wrote in his field notes:

“[The Old Dupplin] graveyard is heavily overgrown with tall grass, nettles, elderberries, etc. a few grave stones just visible but inaccessible due to vegetation. Graveyard owned by Lord Kinnoull, and is not part of Dupplin Estate. Believed to be some Kinnoull graves in with a number graves of local people.”

The Old Dupplin Graveyard is indeed still overgrown and in a deplorable state of disrepair*, but unlike the adjoining medieval Dupplin Church (now reduced to ruins) which was abandoned in 1618 (the date of the union of the Dupplin & Aberdalgie parishes), the graveyard continued to see use into the early 19th century (and later).

We are fortunate to have access to an earlier survey of the memorial stones (Mitchell et al in 1973) which gives us a clue as to the final resting place of Laurence Keir, his wife and some of their children.old duplin graves

Description and location of  graves in the Old Dupplin Church Graveyard, after Mitchell, 1974.†‡

Item 3 is of immediate interest to us as this appears to be stating that Mary Paterson died in December 1811,  followed by her husband (Laure)nce Keir who dies in the same month, three years later. This ‘cracked & flaked’ fallen grave stone also confirms the deaths of a number of Laurence and Marion (Mary)’s children and in the book by Mitchell (1974) the editor adds to this entry a note reading:

… (Ed. See Aberdalgie & Perth OPR md 1767 as Marion PATTERSON, chn bapt: Geo 1772, Thos 1774, Laurence 1776, Alex 1779, Helen 1781, Cath 1783, Thos 1785, John 1788)

As final ‘proof’ of these burials, we discovered that the news papers for the appropriate years contained their death notifications. The  Perthshire Courier for Thursday 19 December 1811 for example touchingly reports:

“Died, at Lower Hillton, on the 3rd of December curt. [current year, 1811] aged 61, Mrs Lawrence Keir, much and justly regretted by all who knew her.”

The OPR ‘Mort Rolls’ [Source: ScotlandsPeople] adds and confirm that:

[On] Decr 8th [1811] [monies were] collected & received for the Mort Cloth for Mrs Keir at the Hilltonn, late at the Orchard of Aberdalgie. She died Decr 3r 1811.

Clearly, Marion-Mary Paterson, the wife of Laurence Keir (born ~1750) died at Lower (sometimes referred to as Nether) Hilton (Hillton, Hilltonn or even Hilltown) in 1811, but the real question is “why was she there at that time?” The answer for now must remain “we just don’t know”.

Additional: Through extensive (and sometimes frenetic) research we have established that the two Hiltons (upper & lower in the parish of Forteviot) still exist today (as a private house and a farmstead ) 400 meters apart and both can be found about 4 miles East of Aberdalgie near the Hilton Junction rail tunnel which goes under the M90 at Craigend. (Taking the same route as described in the aside above, you can see the drive way to Hilton House (on the Roundel & surrounded by Fir Knowe) to the left before leaving Craigend. If you get to the graveyard at the Kirkton of Mailler (Malar) you have gone too far.§) This minor, 2-story manor house was built in 1732 probably for the Wilson family (who we know were living there in 1776). By 1797 (according to the Horse Tax records) a James Chalmers and family occupied Hilton in Forteviot parish. We do not know which farmstead (upper or nether Hilton) this later record refers to nor do we have any firm connection between Marion Paterson/Keir and either the Wilson or Chalmers families. We would be grateful if any reader of this blog could come forward with additional information.

Laurence Keir did indeed die late in 1814. The Scots Magazine and Edinburgh Literary Miscellany (Vol.77) records for the date, 28 Dec 1814:

“At Sauchie, in the parish of Aberdalgie, of a lingering illness, Mr Lawrence Keir, in the 77th year of his age.”

Sauchie farmstead (the location of which – near the Old Dupplin Church – has been described earlier) was occupied by a David Miller in 1797 [Source: ScotlandsPeople – Perthshire Horse Tax: 24 Sep 1797]. It was still in his possession in Nov 1807 [Source: extant newspaper advertisements], so we can only assume that the lease for that property (from the Earl of Kinnoull) was taken up by Laurence Keir after that date (which corresponds well to the Keirs being”late at the Orchard of Aberdalgie” in 1811).

And with the death of Laurence Keir, we end the saga of the children of William Keir and Mary Clerk¥. In the following posts we will return to the remaining child of Rodger Keir and Isobel Armour to be detailed – that being their 2nd son, George Keir (Sr.) who was born in 1705.


* This was still the case a few years ago when the site was visited (independently) by two members of the Keir Collaboration. Interestingly, The New Statistical Account of Scotland (published 1845) states that the Old Dupplin Church site was the location of the manse & glebe of the ministers of Aberdalgie until as late as 1832 when an excambion of land nearer the new Aberdalgie church was made and the minister relocated to the present manse built by the then incumbent, Earl of Kinnoull.

† Monumental inscriptions (pre-1855) in South Perthshire by John Fowler Mitchell and Sheila Mitchell, The Scottish Genealogy Society, 1974.  (However the Family History Centre of the Perth & Kinross Council have a small booklet from which the above diagram is partly based.)

We have investigated all of the names listed above and it would appear that these graves are of ‘locals’ who had some relationship with the Earls of Kinnoull. We know for certain that Laurence Keir (and his forebears) were tenants of Kinnoull (at the Orchard of Aberdalgie and at Sauchie). BTW Andrew and George Gloag were siblings of John Gloag (and also stone masons in Perth.)

§ The Canmore (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland) website has a quite detailed ordinance Survey map of this area under its listing for Aberdalgie House.

¥ We have not quite finished however with this branch as the children of Laurence Keir and Marion Paterson still have quite a story to tell.

Finally: We have considered the possibility that we have two Laurence Keir (or at least two Patersons) – one who married a Marion Paterson and another who married a Mary Paterson, but the evidence, whilest not fully cancelling out this theory, doesn’t fully support such a proposal either. (The simplest proposal is the one presented here – that Marion Paterson changed her name to to the equivalent, Mary.)


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