BALCARRES CRAIG is a lofty ridge, with a precipitous termination to the south-west, in the parish of Kilconquhar in Fifeshire. It forms a marked feature in the landscape, from every point in this part of the county. Our view of this highly picturesque craig, with the artificial ruins which surmount it, is taken from the grounds of Balcarres, to the south.
In 1587, John Lindsay, rector of Menmuir in Forfarshire, obtained charters of an annual rent out of the lands of Balcarres, and of other lands in Fife; and in 1592, he had a charter of the lands of Balcarres and Balweel erected into a free barony. He was of Walter Lindsay of Kinblemonth, second son of Alexander, second Earl of Crawford, who died in 1445. The rector of Menmuir, who is said to have been “a wise and learned person,” and very skilled in the law, was appointed a lord-of-session in 1581. In January, 1595, he was appointed one of the Commissioners of Exchequer, called the Octavians; in March of the same year, Lord-privy-seal; and in the following year, Secretary of State. He was also Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews. He died in September, 1598. His eldest son died shortly after him, and was succeeded by his brother, Sir David Lindsay of Balcarres, a man of great learning, who is said to have had the best library of his time. He was a laborious alchemist. It is said that there at one time existed, in the library at Balcarres, ten volumes written in his own hand, upon the Philosopher’s stone. He was created Lord Lindsay of Balcarres by Charles I. in 1633. Alexander, second Lord Lindsay, engaged in a military life, and had command of a troop of horse in the army of the Covenanters; but afterwards, seeing how matters went, he accepted the colonelship of horse for the shire of Fife, when troops were raised to attempt to rescue the King. On the arrival of Charles II. in Scotland, he repaired to his majesty, by whom he was created Earl of Balcarres in 1650-1. He was appointed Governor of Edinburgh castle, Secretary of State, and high Commissioner to the General Assembly, which met at St. Andrews in 1651. In 1664, his estate was sequestrated, and he fled to the continent, joining Charles at Breda, where he died previous to the Restoration. Colin, the third Earl of Balcarres, was a strong friend of James VII., and refusing to acknowledge William III., was, on the rising under the Earl of Dundee, apprehended and thrown into prison. He was subsequently set at liberty, and engaged in the plot of Sir James Montgomery of Skelmorly, for the restoration of James, on the discovery of which he fled to the continent; where he wrote “An Account of the Affairs of Scotland relating to the Revolution in 1688.” With great difficulty, he was allowed to return home in 1700, after an exile of ten years. He obtained a pension from Queen Anne, in consideration of his losses; and he afterwards supported the treaty of Union in parliament; but on the breaking out of the Revolution in 1715, his old predilections returned, and he joined the standard of the Pretender. After the suppression of that outbreak, he surrendered by advice of the Duke of Marlborough, and was confined to his own house, till the bill of indemnity was passed. He died in 1722, at the age of 70. The fourth, fifth, and sixth Earls of Balcarres, all served in the army, and saw much service in various parts of the world.
The Hon. Robert Lindsay, second son of James, fifth Earl, born in 1754, was many years in the civil service of the East India Company; on his return to Scotland, he purchased not only the lands of Balcarres, but the other lands belonging to the earldom, which were then for sale, and which are now in the possession of this younger branch of the family. Since the sale of the Scotch estates, having now no property in Scotland, the earls of Balcarres reside on their estates in England. Lady Anne Lindsay, the eldest daughter of James, fifth Earl of Balcarres, was the authoress of that exquisite Scottish lyric, ‘Auld Robin Grey,’ which she composed while residing at Balcarres in 1771. It was log supposed to be an ancient poem, and puzzled for a time the antiquaries both of Scotland and England. She also wrote various other poems of considerable merit, though not likely to attain the undying fame of this pathetic and simple ballad. She married Andrew Barnard, Esq., of Barnard Castle, Secretary to the colony of the Cape of Good Hope, and died in 1825.