What’s In A Name?

Wikipedia tells me that the name Ogilvie (also commonly spelled Ogilvy) is well known in Scotland. This has been reinforced a few times during our travels, like when we introduced ourselves to our innkeeper in Nethy Bridge and she responded “aaah, Ogilvie, that’s quite the aristocratic surname (I had to look up the word aristocratic, which means I’m probably not). And then a few days later, while paddling on the River Spey, our new friend Jerry said “Ogilvie? You have your own tartan. There’s some yellow in it, right?”

I’m hundreds of years (probably more) removed from anybody important, but it’s still interesting history to me. The name Ogilvie originally comes from the Earls of Angus, and it is derived from the Old British word Ocelfa, which means high plain. I’d rather be named for a mountaintop, but I guess high plain is better than some other options. In any case, it’s fun to visit my roots, however distant.

There are several Ogilvy castles in Scotland, and we tried to visit two of them, Airlie and Cortachy. Airlie Castle is a bit more “modern” (it was rebuilt in the late 1800s after it was badly burned in 1640; more on that later). It is often used for weddings,  events, and “lodging.” I’m not very aristocratic, so it was out of my price range for this trip.

Airlie Castle
Airlie Castle on a sunny day

Cortachy Castle dates to the 1400s and most recently was the private home of the 13th Earl of Airle, Lord David George Coke Patrick Ogilvy. Lord Ogilvy served as Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, and he is one of the last surviving attendees of the Queen’s Coronation in 1937. His younger brother Angus married Princess Alexandra of Kent in 1963, so there are some interesting connections to the royal family.

I had to laugh as I learned more about Ogilvie/Ogilvy lineage for this trip, as it conjured up memories of a visit to the Ogilvie Mountains in the Yukon a few years back. They are named for the famous Canadian explorer William Ogilvie (a descendant of the same British family), and I tried hard to find a link to him in my family tree…but I only succeeded in figuring out that I’m related to Scottish horse thieves. I need to be careful with this ancestry stuff.

Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon Territory, Canada

Horse thieves notwithstanding, I learned a bunch of interesting history as I researched the various castles ahead of our trip. For example, the Ogilvys had a longstanding (hundreds of years) feud with the Campbells, and the Campbells significantly damaged Airlie Castle and set it afire in 1640. There is actually Scottish folk song about it, called the Bonnie Hoose O’ Airlie, written in the 1800s.

A drawing of Airlie Castle before the fire

As for the present day, we reached out to Lord Ogilvy’s assistant via email (is this a crazy world, or what?), and she told us that Airlie Castle was not open for visits because the family was “currently in residence.” In contrast to Airlie, Cortachy Castle is never open to the public–but a few years back, my sister talked her way onto the property and even met Lord Ogilvy. So we figured we’d ask permission to walk the grounds, and we knew we could at least visit the church and cemetery at Cortachy.

While we weren’t permitted access the grounds of Cortachy Castle, Lord Ogilvy’s assistant generously shared information on how we could get close to it on a neighboring property. So after a little sleuthing/exploring around, that’s what we did. And we had a great time, even on a rainy day when we could only get within a few hundred yards of the castle.

As for the feud with the Campbells, we haven’t encountered any on our trip–but I’m keeping my eyes peeled, and Souzz has been watching my back. And I’m now revisiting my friendship with two close friends back home named Campbell–and I’m also totally giving up soup.

2 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?

  1. And don’t forget that Nancy Campbell almost caused me to fail my behind the wheel session in Driver’s Ed. 🙂

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