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William Forbes of Tolquhon's Cannon


No trip to the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh is complete without admiring the cast bronze cannon that once defended the Tolquhon Castle.


Tolquhon Castle (Adam Jackson)

In 1420, Sir John Forbes (c. 1390 – c. 1454), third son of Sir John Forbes “of the black lip,” married Mariota (Marjory), daughter of Sir Henry Preston (c. 1368 – c. 1433), Thane of Fermartyn. In that year, Forbes and his wife took possession of "Preston's Tower." Upon Sir Henry’s death in 1433, Sir John, now 1st Laird of Tolquhon, inherited the lands of Tolquhon, which were half of the thanage of Fermartyn (now Formartin.) The castle was vastly extended by William Forbes, 7th Laird of Tolquhon, between 1584 and 1589. His coats of arms and date of the expansion are carved on the castle gate.

Coat of Arms of William Forbes, 7th Laird of Tolquhon

The cast bronze cannon is one of four identical cannons probably cast by a local founder for use in the castle. Two are on display in the National Museums Scotland in Edinburgh. They bear the arms and initials of William Forbes, 7th Lord of Tolquhon, and the date 1588.


The castle remained in the Forbes family until Alexander Forbes, 10th Lord of Tolquhon. Alexander was a Royalist during the Civil War with Oliver Cromwell and fought in the Scottish Army for King Charles II at the final Battle of Worcester in 1651. (See: Alexander Forbes of Tolquhon and the Battle of Worcester,)


He and his brother also invested heavily in the ill-fated Darien Scheme and heavily mortgaged Tolquhon Castle. He was succeeded at his death on 1701, by his brother Thomas, Burgess of Selkirk. Thomas’s son, William, was the 12th Lord of Tolquhon when the castle was seized by the Court of Sessions in November of 1716 for the mounting debts of the family. The castle was sold by the government and later inherited by William Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen (1679 – 1746).In 1929, the site was transferred to the state and is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland. (See: Tolquhon Castle.)

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