Home Up Pre-History The District The Streets City Industry The Tenement Family Names North East Art

The Doric Columns

Mar's Castle -

Mar's Castle - Port Hill
Mar's Castle became an old tenement which stood on the East side of the Gallowgate, slightly south of the end of Innes Street.  It is said to have been built by the Earl of Mar as his Town Lodging. A burial ground and Meeting House for the Society of Friends lay next to the 'Castle'.   Declared unfit for habitation, it was acquired by Aberdeen Town Council and demolished 1897.  During demolition the date 1595 was found on the corbelled Gable and 1563 on the Baronial Turret. The illustration Left shows Mars Castle with Innis Street descending towards Loch Street. 

Gallowgate & Port Hill Map

Mar's Castle stood on the east side of the Gallowgate, nearly opposite Innes Street. It was demolished at the beginning of 1897 to make way for street widening.

Very little is known about the building. It is said to have been built by an Earl of Mar for his town lodging in the 15th century. However, when it was being demolished on account of its tumbledown state, the date 1595 was found on the gable. At one time, it had a large garden and summer house at the rear.

Site of Mar's Castle, (below) after its demolition in 1897. The building in the background was for many years the meeting place of the Society of Friends (Quakers).  The louvred building behind and slightly south was for many years the Meeting House of the Society of Friends (Quakers). They also had a burial ground in front of the building on the Gallowgate side in the 1670s. Their building was later acquired by John Watt and Sons, leather merchants. The upper part had louvred windows which made it very suitable for the drying of leather.

An old writer says that during the Civil Wars (of the Stuarts) "There was no city in Scotland which did suffer more hurt than Aberdeen did, nor oftener."  Aberdeen indeed endured a long persecution, but it did not learn mercy, which persecution never teaches, save to natures of noblest calibre.  On the whole, in those days, Aberdeen was Royalist and Prelatic, though its Presbyterianism was of the stiffest sort.  Aberdeen showed no toleration for anything that was not after one of its few set patterns in ritual and politics.  It was wholly unable to understand the "Quakers" when their preaching began in 1662.  It straightway proceeded to prevent such people from "harbouring" within it, by issuing a municipal mandate, withholding all "lodging and furtherance" from "Jesuits, Priests, Quakers, and other trafficking strangers."  Yet from all we can gather, the Society of Friends were particularly well represented in Aberdeen, showing but few of those extravagances and vagaries which in some places had tended to bring them into discredit, and to bewilder outsiders.  Though Barclay of Ury - a scion of a great county family - startled Aberdeen by walking through it in sackcloth and ashes, he was a man of proved learning and ability, who had allied himself to the newest sect, because in Calvinists and Catholics alike he had found "an absence of the principle of love, a straightness of doctrine and a practice of persecution" which offended his idea of Christianity.  Barclay was frequently imprisoned and publicly insulted.  On one such occasion he remarked to a sympathiser:

"I find more satisfaction, as well as honour, in being thus insulted for my religious principles, than when, a few years ago, it was usual for the Magistrates, as I passed the City of Aberdeen, to meet me on the road and conduct me to Public Entertainment in their Hall, and then escort me out again, to gain my favour."

Another prominent Aberdeen man who joined the Quakers was Alexander Jaffray, the husband of Andrew Cant's daughter.  He had been a Presbyterian, an Independent, and a 5th-Monarchy man, and had more than once been Member of Parliament and Provost of his native city.  As a member of the new "Society," however, he and his colleague Skene quickly found there way to prison.  It is well to remember that the prisons of those days, though sadly deficient in sanitation and decency, had some compensations in the way of free ingress and egress.  Not till 1697 was an order made that prisoners "should not be allowed to go out of prison under silence of night, without finding sufficient caution to the Magistrates for their speedy return."  Skene's wife, was Lillian Gillespie.

It is sad to find that as soon as the persecutions of the Aberdeen "Quakers" ceased, disunion crept among them, and diminished their forces almost to vanishing point.


The site of 'Mar's Castle', more commonly known as the 'Old Castle', which was a very strong and substantial building bearing the date 1494. In 1866 there were remains of walls on the site, but these were not strong enough to have belonged to the Castle, no trace of it survives.

It is known to have been considerably altered in the mid 19th century to form shops, houses etc.  This picture shows the extent of its dilapidation.  It was demolished at the beginning of 1897 to make way for street widening. Very little is known about the building. It is said to have been built by an Earl of Mar for his town lodging in the 15th century. However, when it was being demolished on account of its tumbledown state. At one time, it had a large garden and summer house at the rear.

Thomas, 9th Earl of Mar  died without a male heir and the title passed to his sister Margaret, and then to his niece, Isabel, who married a son of Alexander Stewart, Wolf of Badenoch.  Thereafter, the Mar earldom was annexed by James II, passing to James Stuart, natural half-brother of Mary Queen of Scots. In 1565, Queen Mary reinstated Sir John Erskine as 18th Earl of Mar. The 19th Earl was Lord Treasurer of Scotland from 1616 until 1630. The 20th Earl was appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle; the 21st Earl, Chancellor of Scotland.

A Chimney Sweep views a poster outside H Lauder's Shop.  Opposite the diagonal shopfront at the base of the Mar's Castle tenement is much simplified

We allude to Samuel Rutherford's exile in Aberdeen, where he was sent, far from his "sweet parish of Anworth," as a punishment for his expression of anti-prelatic opinion.  He arrived in Aberdeen in 1636, and remained there till 1638.  He was not a prisoner in one sense, for he was at large in the City, having his lodgings "in Mar Castle, a grim old pile in the Gallowgate, the last vestiges of which have disappeared.   But he might no longer preach the Gospel, and it was very bitter to him to be thus silenced.  Though he meekly said, "Christ and I will bear it."  Yet letter after letter, written to members of his former flock, reveal his suffering.  We must quote a few expressions of its intensity, since it is a form of pain, which, in one way or another, befalls many, and what in the end it really meant for Rutherford, it may mean equally for any of us.  He bewailed:
    "My closed mouth, my dumb Sabbaths, the memory of my communion with Christ in many fair days in Anworth, whereas now my Master getteth no service of my tongue as then, hath almost broken my faith in 2 halves. . . . Oh, if I might but speak to 3 or 4 herd-boys of my Master, I would be satisfied to be the meanest and most obscure of all the pastors in this land."
    "I pray God that ye never have the painful experience of a closed mouth."
    ". . . Pray that I may get one day of Christ in public —such as I have had long since - before my eyes be closed.  My borrowed house and another man's bed and fireside and other losses have no room in my sorrow."

Yet what is the revelation of time concerning the ordeal of the "silenced" Minister of sunny Anworth?  He is now best known by his famous "Letters," through which the treasures of his spiritual experience have been scattered broadcast to thousands and most of those letters were written from Aberdeen and could never have been written but for his exile there.  When his Master seemed to have shut him up into the hand of the enemy, He had verily set His servant's feet in a large place.  God puts us where we can do our best work - provided we do what comes to our hand. 


But if Rutherford, because he could no longer address many scores of hearers, had grudged writing to a private friend here and there, then his own life and the world at large would have been impoverished.  Yet the defect would have been wholly his. 

He who is content to do his best is sure to fulfil the goodwill of his Father.

Send mail to jazzmaster@jazzeddie.f2s.com with questions or comments about the design of this web site.
Last modified: 01/09/2013