About the Clan

A Synopsis of Rattray History

By Rulzion Rattray, Clan Rattray Historian

Early History

Rattray tradition has it that King Malcolm Cean Mór confirmed an early Rattray as the Laird of Rattray in the early 11th Century, unfortunately there is no extant written record of this. The earliest Rattray for whom there is a written record is Alanus de Ratheriff who was born in 1165 and died in 1210. Jamie Rattray of Rattray once told me that there were memorial stones in Rattray Church of Rattrays before the time of Alanus that were unfortunately later lost.

The Origins of the name Rattray

There are various renditions of the name in early written records; Rathtreff in 1160, Rotref inb 1291, Ratref in 1296, Rothtref in 1205, there are also various other renditions of the name including Rattra. (W.F.H Nicolaisen, 1976, Scottish Place-Names, B.T. Batsford Ltd., London.) The name is composed of two parts the first part is derived from the word rath, from both Gaelic and Cymric (modern welsh or ancient British) meaning fortification; the second part Tref or Treb, Tray, from the Cymric (British) meaning settlement. It is not widely known that British (similar to modern Welsh) was spoken in the area until the tenth century. The name therefore means literally fortified settlement and became associated with the family who held sway over the fortification and the area. The fortification was built on a snake shaped mound, which was in pre-Christian times associated with some form of serpent worship. The Rattray coat of arms are supported by serpents. Interestingly and unusually the weather vane on Rattray Church is also in the shape of a serpent.

Rattray Royal Connections

The Rattrays of Rattray are of royal descent. Patrick Rattray (1400-1461) married a daughter of James Stewart son of Alexander Stewart (Wolf of Badenoch) who was Robert II of Scotland's natural son. Patrick's children were therefore 2nd cousins of James IV. This was an important connection.

Peak of Rattray Power

Patrick's son Sir Silvester Rattray (1426-1491) was the 6th Great Grandson of Alanus (1st Rattray on record) and also gt. grandson of Robert III of Scotland. Using the Clan database we can quickly calculate that Sir Silvester Rattray was the 4th great grandson of the famous Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.

Notes on Sir Silvester Rattray in Clan Genealogical database:

"Sir Silvester Rattry of that Ilk, son of Patrick Rattray, a man of parts and merits. He sat in the Parliament and was one of the assize on the trial of Robert Lord Lyle, anno 1481, and is then designed dominus Sylvester Rattry, dominus de eodem etc. He was possessed of an opulent fortune which appears by the charters hereafter narrated: (1) from John, lord of Dirleton, of the half-lands of Daicollo and Granoc in the Earldom of Athole, dated 3 Dec 1466; (2) under the Great Seal from James III, dom Silvestro Rattray de eod. terrarum baron, de balveny, dated 18 May 1481; (3) from the same prince, of the lands and barony of Balmakerder, dated 17 Jan 1487; and (4) from James IV, dicto domino Silvestro de Rattray et Alisonae Hepburn ejus sponsae, terrarum de Wemyss, cum sale et carbonibus, cum pertinen., dated 8 Feb 1491. By the said Alison Hepburn he left a son John. [Baronage of Scotland by Sir Robert Douglas, 1798; per N.G. Shippobotham].

Silvester Rattray of that Ilk married Margaret Ogilvy, daughter of David Ogilvy of Balmuto [The Scots Peerage, Edinburgh 1904 (Reg. Mag. Sig. 31 Jul 1488); per N.G. Shippobotham].

"Sir Silvester Rattray was one of the Scottish Ambassadors who negotiated a peace with England in 1463" [Burke, c1918, A GENEALOGICAL AND HERALDIC HISTORY OF THE LANDED GENTRY OF GREAT BRITAIN, Burke's Peerage, London].

"Sir Silvester Rattray of Rattray, 10th Laird, one of the Scottish Ambs. who negotiated peace with England 1463, sat in Parl. as a feudal Baron, and on the assize that acquitted Lord Lyle of treason, 1482, m. Margaret Ogilvy, who inherited part of Wemyss and other lands from her mother, Christian, dau. of Sir John Glen of Balmuto, Fifeshire, and had, with other issue, John & Thomas" [Burke, 1963-72 (18th ed.), A GENEALOGICAL AND HERALDIC HISTORY OF THE LANDED GENTRY OF GREAT BRITAIN, Burke's Peerage, London].

"Sir Silvester Rattray of that ilk s. his father on Oct. 20, 1461, m. c1456 Margaret de Ogilvy, dau. of Ogilvy of Duntrune and Christian Glen of Balmuto; they had three sons and one daughter [Lachlan Rattray of Craighall, 1996].

While the above source credits Margaret Ogilvy with being the wife of Sir Silvester Rattray, Alison Hepburn is stated to be his wife by Burke 1864 and the Rattray of Rannagulzion Blue Book. Alison Hepburn actually married Silvester's son of the same name.

"Sir Silvester Rattray, of that ilk, who was appointed one of the ambassadors extraordinary to treat with the court of England, for which he obtained a safe conduct, dated 12 Jun 1463, and is then designed 'Dominus Silvester de Rattray miles." He was a person of great influence in the Scottish court, possessed an ample inheritance, and sat in the parliament of 1481. He m. Alison Hepburn." [Burke, 1864, A GENEALOGICAL AND HERALDIC HISTORY OF THE LANDED GENTRY OF GREAT BRITAIN, Burke's Peerage, London, p 1100].

"Sir Silvester Rattray succeeded his father in 1456. Silvester Rattray was appointed one of the Ambasidors extraordinair to treat with the Court of England, for which he obtained a safe conduct, dated 12th June 1463; in this document he is designated 'Dominus Silvester de Rattray miles'. His seal is appended to a Precept of Sasine of lands of Grauiche in the Earldom of Athole in favour of John Stuart of Fethinkile 26th March 1465. In about 1473 there is a security under his seal for Robert and Thomas Fif. In 1481 he sat in the parliament and was apparently very influential at court. Sir Silvester Rattray married Alison Hepburn, daughter of the Wolf of Badenoch, bastard son of Robert III of Scotland, and left three sons and was succeeded by the eldest, John." [Rattray of Rannagulzion Blue Book].

"Succeeded in 1461, had a sasine of lands of Rattray 1462 confirmed by James III, was appointed Scottish Ambassador to negotiate with the English for which he obtained a safe conduct dated 12 June 1463" [Rulzion Rattray, email of 31 Mar 1995].

"Sir Silvester Rattray succeeded his father in 1456. Silvester Rattray was appointed one of the Ambasidors extraordinair to treat with the Court of England, for which he obtained a safe conduct, dated 12th June 1463; in this document he is designated 'Dominus Silvester de Rattray miles'. His seal is appended to a Precept of Sasine of lands of Grauiche in the Earldom of Athole in favour of John Stuart of Fethinkile 26th March 1465. In about 1473 there is a security under his seal for Robert and Thomas Fif. In 1481 he sat in the parliament and was apparently very influential at court. Sir Silvester Rattray married Alison Hepburn, daughter of the Wolf of Badenoch, bastard son of Robert III of Scotland, and left three sons and was succeeded by the eldest, John." [Rattray of Rannagulzion Blue Book].

Silvester Rattray, m. Alison Hepburn, heiress of Westhall [Lachlan Rattray of Craighall, 1996].

c1514. Mention is made of the relict of Silvester Rattray. [Rentale Dunkeldense; per N.G. Shippobotham].

Ambassador negotiated peace with England in 1463, for which he obtained a safe conduct to travel in England (dated 12th June 1463).

John Rattray (7th Laird) Knighted by James 4th. Killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513

John's daughter Grizal Rattray married John Stewart (Earl of Atholl) in 1523

Battle With The Earl of Atholl

Sir John Rattray son of Sir Silvester was, as you can see by referring to the notes above, killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, along with a very large proportion of the other nobility of Scotland. In the confusion after this the Earl of Atholl (John Stewart, Grizel Rattray's husband) claimed the Rattray land.

Extracts from the notes on Grizel in Clan Genealogical database:

John, 3rd Earl of Athol, who succeeded his father in the year 1513, was married to Grizel Rattray, daughter of Sir John Rattray of that Ilk. A strife subsisted during part of the 16th century between the younger sons of Sir John and the Earl arising out of family arrangements. Silvester Rattray, the third son, was desirous of being served heir to his father and two brothers, but found that it could not be carried through at the county town of Perth, becaude the unfriendly interest of the Ear of Athol was so strong. He therefore obtained from the King a commission to have the service completed at Dundee, on the narrative that for the space of twelve years he had been hindered in getting himself served heir to his father's lands by the Earl of Athol, who had sent Walter Leslie, John Stewart alias John of Lorn, Thomas Laing, David Stewart and others, who slew his brother Patrick Rattray in the chael of his house in Kynballoch, and he was informed that the earl was meditating a similar fate to himself. The commission under the Great Seal is dated 17 Oct 1533. The service accordingly took place under this special commission at Dundee, as appears by an instrument thereon, dated 22 Oct 1533. [The MSS of Col James Rattray of Craighall. Historical MSS Commission IVth Report 1874; per N.G. Shippobotham].

Sir John's son Patrick defended Castle Rattray against the Atholls but was forced to burn the Castle and escape in the confusion. The Rattrays then withdrew to Kynballoch, where Patrick was later murdered by the 3rd Earl of Atholl's men whilst claiming sanctuary in his own Chapel.

Rattray Estate Secured

Silvester Rattray (Patrick's Brother) secured the Barony on 17th Oct. 1533, when Craighall Rattray was declared a free Barony by James Vth. Silvester completed the building of Craighall, started by his brother Patrick.

Extracts from the notes on Silvester in Clan Genealogical database:

"Patrick Rattray's youngest brother, Sylvester Rattray then took up the struggle against the Earl of Athol, and built Nether Kynballoch, later to be called Craighall (as it is called today). Craighall was built high up on the cliff edge above the River Ericht, with a single entrance, which was only accessible by going along the narrow cliff edge, thus making its defence possible, by a few. In this he was enormously assisted by Marjorie his wife, who was the widow of Kinninmonth of that ilk and the daughter of Elizabeth Stewart in turn daughter of the first Earl Athol and wife of the 2nd. Lord Gray, and therefore Marjorie was a granddaughter of the first Earl of Athol. This was a very important factor in the survival of the Rattrays of Rattray and it was because of Marjorie's descent from the Royal House of Stewart. The first Earl was the uterine brother of the King. She was a Plantagenet." [The Clan Rattray Society Journal, Number 2, Dec 1994].

Marjory Gray, 10th child of Andrew Gray, 2nd Lord Gray, married first to Kinninmount of that Ilk, and secondly, to Silvester Rattray of Craighall [The Scots Peerage, Edinburgh 1904, iv, 278 (See Gray Inventory,ii,511, no date); per N.G. Shippobotham].

As can be seen by the notes above the Rattrays only survived by the skin of their teeth, ably assisted by the good offices of Marjorie.