According to some researchers, the Scottish name Mathers originates from a place name on the east coast of Scotland, a place name associated with the Clan Barclay. The Barclay lairds of Mathers took the title “laird of Mathers” or equivalently “Second of Mathers” etc, and some Mathers claim that this is the origin of the Mathers surname, and by implication, that the Mathers descend from the early Barclays of Mathers. There are certainly quite a number of people called Mathers who lived in this area in the nineteenth century, but its more than likely that they took their name from the place rather than by descent from the Barclays. But I won’t let that stop me from claiming a cannibal laird as an ancestor – see my earlier post https://mountainsrivers.com/2014/01/20/my-cannibal-ancestors/
George Barclay, 5th of Mathers, became the most famous of the medieval Barclays of Mathers, when he and his uncles Patrick and John murdered Sir John Melville of Glenbervie, the arrogant and unpopular Sheriff of the Mearns, boiling him and making him into soup. He is supposed to have built a castle on the sea cliff near Mathers, known as the Kaim of Mathers, to take refuge from the vengeance of King James 1 of Scotland for his part in the murder.
As I was visiting Edinburgh after Easter for work, I thought I would take a couple of extra days and drive up to see what remains of the Kaim of Mathers and the Mathers villages. So I drove up to St Cyrus, about two and half hours drive north of Edinburgh, and stayed in a bed and breakfast place converted from a former fishing station. The Old Fishing Station is on the beach in the St Cyrus Nature Reserve and the Kaim of Mathers stands on the cliff at the northern end of the beach – a couple of kilometres walk along the beach or the clifftops (called the Heughes of St Cyrus).
Damn, I have arrived too late. The Castle of Mathers has fallen. The sea has eroded the cliff on which it stands, and most has fallen into the ocean leaving only a fragment of a tower. The Kaim is perched on a sea stack accessible only via a narrow ridge. In the dip before the stack the ridge narrows to the width of a foot with vertical drops on either side. As late as the 1970s, there were remains of the outer castle wall at this point, which was then wider. But they have since collapsed into the sea, as will the rest some day not too far off.
As near as I can work out, it must have been built around 1430 by George Barclay, 5th of Mathers. Later I drove inland about 10 miles into the Mearns, and found the gully on the back of the Hill of Garvock, where the cooking occurred. I spoke with a local farmer who was doing some work in a neighbouring field, and he confirmed that it was the gully that is still known as « Sheriff’s Kettle ».
The next day I walked up the beach to approach the Kaim from below.