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Forbes Memorial Fountain of Fettercairn

The Forbes Memorial Fountain is Category B Historic Scotland structure on the Main Street of the town of Fettercairn, southwest of the city of Aberdeen. The Gothic fountain was funded and erect by the people of Fettercairn in fond memory of Sir John Stuart Forbes, 8th Baronet, of Monymusk, of Fettercairn and Pitsligo.

Sir John was the grandson of influential banker and philanthropist Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, 6th Baronet (1739–1806). His parents were Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet, and Williamina Wishart Belshes, the only child of Sir John Stuart, Baronet of Fettercairn. His father, the 7th Baronet, commissioned Scottish painter Sir Henry Raeburn to create portraits of himself and his elder brother William.

Both his father and his unmarried brother William died unexpectedly in 1826 and so John succeeded as Sir John Stuart-Forbes of Pitsligo & Fettercairn, 8th baronet. This brought him the Fettercairn and Pitsligo estates, Greenhill House and the George Street house. He also inherited the major shareholding in the Forbes Bank created by his grandfather, Sir William Forbes, 6th Baronet of Monymusk and Pitsligo. In 1864, he also succeeded to the estates of Invermay and Balmanno, on the death of his maternal cousin, Alexander Hepburn-Murray-Belsches of Balmanno. He adopted the name Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes, and registered new arms reflecting the inheritance.

He studied law at the University of Edinburgh, and qualified as an advocate in 1826. In 1833 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1834 he married Lady Harriet Louisa Anne Kerr, daughter of William Kerr, 6th Marquess of Lothian. They had one daughter, Harriet Williamina Hepburn-Forbes (1835-1869), who married in 1858 her cousin and British Conservative politician the Hon. Charles Henry Rolle Trefusis, the 20th Baron Clinton. They were the parents of Charles John Robert Hepburn-Stuart-Forbes-Trefusis, 21st Baron Clinton.

Like his grandfather before him, Sir John became active in civic life and in philanthropy. He was an active member of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and a patron of the Fettercairn Farmers' Club. In 1856, he and the Marquis of Tweedale founded the Scottish Meteorological Society. Sir John also wrote two books: On the Constitutions and Statistics of the Friendly Societies of the Counties of Aberdeen, Banff and Kincardine and On Agricultural Meteorology.

Photograph by Neil Tasker

He died in London on 28 May 1866 and was interred in the family tomb in Edinburgh Greyfriars' Churchyard. While all his property was passed to his daughter Harriet, Lady Clinton, the baronetcy passed to his nephew, William Stuart Forbes in New Zealand (1835-1906), son of Charles Hay Forbes, thereafter being titled as 9th baronet.

Upon Sir John’s death, Archibald Cowie Cameron (The History of Fettercairn, 1899) reports that “a public meeting, presided over by the late Sir Thomas Gladstone, was held in the village to consider the propriety of providing a suitable memorial of the deceased baronet and to be acknowledgment of the esteem and respect in which he was held in the district.” The village residents raised £140 for a fountain, which was designed free of cost by the late David Bryce, R.S.A., Edinburgh. The 20-foot high fountain is described being in the early English Gothic style and constructed in Redhall freestone by John Rhind, sculptor, Edinburgh. The inscription reads: “Erected to the memory of Sir J. H. S. Forbes, Bart., of Pitsligo and Fettercairn, by his neighbours and other friends, 1869."

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