Notes from the History of Leckie Estate

Notes on the History of Leckie Estate

(from a booklet “The Lairds of Leckie” which was a reprint of an article in the Stirling Sentinel, published in 1906)


The Leckies of Leckie

The lands of Leckie were Crown Property until the reign of Robert the Bruce. The oldest title deeds are dated between 1352 and 1359, during which the lands of Wester Leckie (probably west of the Leckie Burn) were transferred from the Crown to Malcolm de Leky who was a descendant of the Earl of Lennox. Easter Leckie passed through a number of hands, and was not transferred to the Leckies of Leckie until 1617, when both Easter and Wester Leckie came into the possession of Alexander Leckie. By that time it is thought that Old Leckie House had been built on Wester Leckie.

Up to this time the history of the Leckie family had been a turbulent one. The Laird of Leckie was one of those responsible for the safety of the infant Queen Mary, lodged in Stirling Castle in 1545, and he lost his life at the battle of Pinkiecleugh in 1547.

There were constant feuds with the Grahams of Monteith, culminating in a battle at Ballochleam on the hills behind Leckie on the March with Boqhuan. In 1601 the Laird’s son was murdered by the Laird of Dundrod, probably in collusion with the Laird of Calderwood, thereby starting yet another family feud.

The murdered man’s grandson, Alexander Leckie, inherited Wester Leckie while still a minor. In 1617 he was of marriageable age and the combined estate of Easter and Wester Leckie was registered in the joint names of himself and his wife who was Grizzel Murray of Polmaise. He died about 1643, when his son, John, was still a minor and John Leckie inherited the property in 1648. He was apparently a strong Presbyterian, and took an active part in the Civil War. In 1661 he married Jean (or Janet) Buchanan, daughter of Sir George Buchanan of Buchanan, by whom he had a son, John, who was baptised in Gargunnock church on 27th November 1666. Only two years later, in 1668, financial difficulties resulted in the estate being taken over by David Moir of Craigarnhall, Sheriff Clerk of Stirling probably in settlement of a loan or mortgage. That is the end of the line of Leckies of Leckie.

Most of the family seem to have emigrated to America, Canada and Australia from which their descendants occasionally appear to visit Leckie.


The Moirs of Leckie

David Moir, the Sheriff Clerk of Stirling, lived in a house at the bottom of Broad Street, which is still preserved and listed as “Moir of Leckie’s House”. It is not know whether he actually lived at Leckie, but his grandson, George succeeded to the property in 1739 and married Anne Montgomery of Kirktonholme in Dumfries-shire. There were no children of the marriage which eded in separation. In the meantime, however George Moir became an ardent Jacobite supporter. When Prince Charlie landed at Glenfinnan in 1745 he came south to Leckie, crossing the Forth of Fords at Frew, near Kippen Station. The English Governor of Stirling Castle, General Blakeney, had arrested George Moir and held him in the Castle but in spite of that Mrs. Moir entertained the Prince to dinner in Old Leckie House on the 13th September. (A letter written by the Prince from Leckie to Glasgow City Council asking for £15,000 is on view in Glasgow Museum). He went on to spend the night at Touch on his way south. In the following year, after his defeat, the Prince sent his baggage to Leckie, and collected it before re-crossing the Fords of Frew on 1st February 1746.

After the break-up of his marriage George Moir handed over the Estate to his nephew in 1787. This was Dr Robert Graham, son of his sister Isobel, who had married John Graham of Boquhapple. Dr Robert Graham changed his name to Moir. He married Anne Stewart of Ardsheal and had a large family. Plans for major alteration and extension of Old Leckie House were drawn in 1793 but were never implemented.

He was succeeded in 1820 by his son, Dr. Charles Alexander Graham, who took the name of Graham Moir. HE married Henrietta Hay of Drumelzier, who was related to the Erskines of Cardross and the Earls of Elgin. They built the new house which is now Watson House. He died in 1845 and was succeeded by his son, Robert Graham Moir, who died in 1864, and by his grandson, Alastair Edward Graham Moir, who sold the estate in 1906, and died unmarried in 1918.


The Younger family

In 1906 the estate was bought by Mr. George Younger, a member of the brewing firm in Alloa. He was aged 55 and had been Convener of Clackmannanshire. He had stood for Parliament unsuccessfully three times in Clackmannan and Kinross and had just been elected as the Member of Parliament for Ayr Burghs, a seat which he held for 17 years. He had married, in 1679, Lucy Smith* daughter of Dr. Edward Smith F.R.S. of Derbyshire and London, by whom he had three sons. The second of these, Edward John, was an officer in the 16th Lancers, and was killed in the South African War at the age of 19. The third son, Charles, was to be killed in the First World War in 1917.

George Younger became a Baronet in 1911 and a Peer in 1923, with the title of Viscount Younger of Leckie. His wife had died in 1921. He held many public and business appointments and was Chairman of the Conservative party. He died in 1929. His wife did a great deal of entertaining at Leckie in the summer months, with tennis on grass courts in front of the house. She was an accomplished pianist, and had many amateur concerts in the large drawing room. The big walled garden beyond Old Leckie House was famous for its flowers and fruit, including carnations and exotic plants grown under glass. At that time, Old Leckie House was fully occupied by staff in three separate flats.

In 1929 he was succeeded by his eldest and only surviving son, James, the second Viscount. He had been educated in England at Winchester and New College, Oxford. He was a keen athlete and sportsman, rowing twice for Oxford in the Boat Race, and being a first-class golfer and good tennis player. He was also a first-class shot. He worked in the family brewery in Alloa, except for the duration of the First World War, when he served with the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry in Gallipoli, Palestine and France, being severely wounded on the Somme in 1918. He had married Maud Gilmour, daughter of Sir John Gilmour, Bt., of Montrave in Fife, and they had two sons and two daughters. They lived in what is now Watson House from 1930 until the Second World War. During the War the house was used first for evacuated school children, and then as an auxiliary hospital. When Lord Younger died in 1946 it was still in use as a hospital and when it became vacant was sold to the Church of Scotland. The sale included the walled garden, which was subsequently re-sold to Mr. Robert Erskine.

The estate had been substantially reduced in size by the sale in 1936 of six farms on the carse. Since then it has been further reduced and now extends to some 1700 acres, of which 1000 acres are hill grazing and 200 acres are woodlands.

In 1961/62 the third Viscount and his family built two new houses on the hill south of Watson House. Lord and Lady Younger live in Leckie House, and their eldest son, George and his family in Easter Leckie House further up the hill. Their third son, Robert, and his family restored Old Leckie House in cooperation with the Historic Buildings Council and made it their home in 1975.