Forbes of Inverernan

Updated: Nov 20

John “Black Jock” Forbes of Inverernan played an integral part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 and founded a cadet branch of the House of Forbes that lasted for six generations.


John was born in 1664 to William Forbes, 2nd of Skellater, and his second wife Agnes, daughter of William Mackintosh of Kyllachy. He was nicknamed “Black Jock” due to his dark complexion. In 1684, John married Elspet Stewart, by which he had nine sons. Only the eldest, William, lived to grow up and marry. However, he predeceased his father. In 1686, his father gave him Inverernan, a part of the Skellater estate, and he was then known as “John Forbes of Inverernan.”

King James VII and II

From the first, “Black Jock” appears to have sided with the House of Stuarts in the attempt to hold and then regain the British monarchy. On December 11, James II and VII, fled from London and threw the Great Seal into the River Thames. However, he was captured and later placed under guard.


Black Jock rallied to his side as the baptism record of his third son noted on December 22nd, 1688: “John Forbes of Inverernan had a son baptised, called George. The father being absent at the King's wars, his brother William of Edinglassie did presen the child.” However, he was present at the baptism of bis fourth son, Kenneth, on April 19, 1690.


By 1701, Black Jock had been appointed Baillie of Kildrummy, to John Erskine, Earl of Mar, (1675 – May 1732). In 1709, John married Margaret Alexander, daughter of Thomas Alexander, minister of Logie Coldstone. He had two sons with his second wife: Alexander, who was born in 1710 and became his successor; and Charles, who was born in 1712, became a Captain of the 60th Royal American Regiment of Foot, and was killed in 1758 at the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga, in New York, United States.

In 1715, Black Jock built the stone arch Poldullie Bridge over the River Don. The bridge was so well built that it survived the catastrophic flooding of August 1829 known as the Muckle Spate and still stands today.


Black Jock was close to his friend and patron, the Earl of Mar. In 1707, under the Acts of Union, the kingdoms of England and Scotland united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. Mar served as one of the Commissioners for the Union, and was made a Scottish Secretary of State. After the Union of 1707, he became a representative peer for Scotland, Keeper of the Signet, and a Privy Counsellor to Queen Anne of the House of Stuart. In 1713, Mar was appointed as the British Secretary of State. However, when Queen Anne died in 1714 and King George of the House of Hanover assumed the throne, he was thrown out of favor.

In retaliation, Mar organized a rebellion against the British government in the name of James Francis Edward Stuart, son of the deposed James II and VII. He planned the campaign at Kildrummy Castle and raised the banner for “King James 3rd and 8th” at Braemar on September 6, 1715, thus inciting a “Jacobite” uprising, based on Latin word “Jacobus” meaning “James.” He immediately turned to his baillie Black Jock for support. He had expected Forbes to raise at least 400 men for this endeavor and was sorely disappointed. In a scathing letter dated September 9, 1715, Mar wrote


“Jocke – Ye was in the right not to come up with the 100 men ye sent up tonight when I expected four times this number. It is a pretty thing when all the Highlands of Scotland are now rising upon their King and country's account as I have an account of them, since they were with me, and the Gentlemen of our neighbouring Lowlands expecting us down to join them, that my men only should be refractory. Is not this the thing weare now about which they have been wishing these 26 years? and now when it is come and the King and Country's cause is at stake, will they for ever sit still and see all perish? I have used gentle means too long, and so I shall be forced to put other orders I have in Execution. I have sent you inclosed an Order for the Lordship of Kildrummy which you are immediately to intimate to all my vassals; if they give ready obedience it will make some amends and if not, ye may tell them from me that it will not be in my power to save them (were I willing) from being treated as enemies by those who are ready soon to join me, and they may depend that I shall be the first to propose and order their being so. Particularly let my own tenants in Kildrummy know that if they come not forth with their best arms, that I will send a party immediately to burn what they shall miss taking from them. And they may believe this is not only a threat but by all that's sacred I'll put it in Execution let my loss be what it will, that it may be an example to others. You are to tell the Gentlemen that I'll expect them with their best accoutrements on horseback and no excuse to be accepted of. Go about this with all diligence, and come yourself and let me know your having done so. All this is not only as ye will be answerable to me but to your King and country.” (Scott, Sir Walter, Bart. 1830. Tales of a Grandfather, Volume 3. London: A & C Black.)


Black Jock immediately executed those orders and raised more troops for the Jacobite cause. He r3cruited many of his Skellater relaties including his four elder half brothers (who were all over 60 at the time); his nephews George, Lachlan, and Nathaniel; and many Forbes cousins.


1715 Battle of Sheriffmuir

Black Jock joined Mar’s army and engaged with the British government forces at the Battle of Sheriffmuir on November 13, 1715. There he was wounded, captured, and held prisoner. He was tried for treason and condemned. However, on the night before his planned execution on November 8, 1716, he died by his own hand in Carlisle Prison. His wife Margaret brough back his broadsword and dirk were brought back from Carlisle by his widow. (Loan exhibition catalogue, Feill a'Chomuinn Ghaidhealaich, Highland Association Bazaar, 31st October, and 1st and 2nd November, 1907.)


Unlike many Jacobite supporters, his family was able to hold onto the estates and his son Alexander became the 2nd laird of Inverernan. In 1736, Alexander married Lady Jean Alexander, daughter of Alexander Alexander of Auchmull and Jackstoun, Baillie of Aberdeen. Their children included John, who was born in 1739; Alexander, who was born in 1744; Charles, who was born in 1748 and became a student of Divinity; Helen, who married Alexander Mitchell, merchant in Aberdeen; and five other daughters Janet, Agnes, Jean, Isabel and Ann. Alexander built the first Inverernan House in 1764 which was reconstructed and enlarged in 1828. Alexander died in 1787 and was succeeded by his eldest son John, 3rd Laird of Inerernan. John died unmarried in 1808, and was succeeded by his brother, Alexander.


Alexander, 4th Laird of Inverernan, was a captain in the army of the Honourable East India Company (H.E.I.Co.) which represented British merchant interests east of the Cape of Good Hope. In 1774, he married Elizabeth Grant. Their son Alexander was born in 1775 and became a Major in the 71st Highland Regiment of Foot. Their daughter Mary Ann was born in about 1780 and married George Forbes of Blelack, the brother of Sir Charles, 1st Baronet of Newe. Their son John was born in 1784 and followed his father into the H.E.I. Co. Service. He was killed at the siege of Deig in India in 1805. Alexander, 4th of Inverernan, died in 1819 and was succeeded by his son Major Alexander Forbes.


Alexander, 5th Laird of Inverernan, married Margaret Sarah, daughter of Duncan Forbes-Mitchell of Thainston. They had eleven children, but only two survived beyond infancy. Alexander was born in 1813 and died in 1828. Katherine was born in 1810, married William McCombie of Easter Skene, and died in 1838. The fifth laird was responsible for greatly rebuilding and expanding the family home of Inverernan House in 1828. Alexander, 5th Laird of Inverernan , died in 1830, and was succeeded by his sister, Mary Ann.

General Sir John Forbes, 7th Laird of Inverernan,

In 1809, Mary Ann Forbes, 6th Laird of Inverernan, had married George Forbes, the fourth son of the Rev. George Forbes of Leochel. They had nine children: Katherine who was born in 1810; Elizabeth who was born June in 1811 and married Robert Meiklejohn, minister at Strathdon; Christian who was born in 1813; Mary who was born in 1814 and married Rev. St. John Howard; Johanna who was born in 1815; John, who was born in 1817; Georgina who was born in 1818; Alexander who was born in 1819 and who joined the H. E. I. Co. service in Bombay and died without issue in 1849; and Charlotte who was born in 1820. Mary Ann Forbes, 6th Laird of Inverernan, died in 1848 and was succeeded by her eldest son John.


John, 7th Laird of Inverernan, served in the British Bombay Cavalry in Sind and Afghanistan in 1841 and 1842, under Major-General Sir William Nott G.C.B. (1782 – 1845.) In 1843, he served in Sind under General Sir Charles James Napier, G.C.B. (1782 – 1853) and was present at the battle of Hyderabad. He fought in the Persian campaign of 1856-57, including the assault and capture of Bushire surrender of Bushire at Borazjoou and battle of Kooshab, where he was severely wounded. He also participated in the siege of Ratghur. For his service, he was designated a Knight Commander of the Bath (K.C.B.)

Obituary of Gen. Sir John Forbes, 7th Laird of Inverernan,

In 1849, he married Emily Sandelia Gidley Drummond, daughter of Captain Adam Augustus Drummond. They had eleven children: Mary Ann (born in 1851); John (died in infancy); Sandelia Augusta (1856) who married her cousin George Forbes Meiklejohn; George (1858) who succeeded to Inverernan; William Lachlan (1859) who became Major of Fusiliers and served in India, in the Boer War, and in World War I; Emily Frances (1860); Katharine Stewart (1862); Charlotte Murray (1864); Alexander James Drummond (1865) who was a Captain in the Rhodesian Horse; Charles Augustus (1866); and Gordon Stewart (1868) who was a Major in the King's Own Scottish Borderers, infantry regiment of the British Army, during the Boer War and World War I and earned the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). John died in 1906 and was succeeded by his second son, George.

George Forbes, 8th of Inverernan, as Lonach Highlander

In 1897, George, the 8th and last Laird of Inverernan, had married, 1897, Alice Sophia Mary Milman, daughter of Major-General Egerton Charles William Miles Milman. They had three children: John was born in 1899; Alexander Stewart was born in 1909; and Elyne Isabella. George Forbes died in 1915 and the Inverernan estate was sold in 1925.


By 1934, H.J. Tennant owned Inverernan House and he sold it to Alexander Lewis Paget Falconer Wallace, who owned nearby Candacraig. He had purchase Candacraig from Sir Charles Forbes of Newe, Kinglassie, and Skellater, 3rd Bart.


In 1935, Inverernan House was again reconstructed and enlarged by G Bennet Mitchell of Aberdeen as a reproduction of Bellabeg House, one of the finest houses in Strathdon. The house was also used as the dower house for Candacraig, when Wallace died in 1975. About 1980 it was sold to Sylvia and Andrew Lawson-Johnston and finally to its present owners about 2012.


Lonach Highlanders at Inverernan House, 1900

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