by Richard Gwynallen

Elizabeth MacKay
1694 – 1776
John Harvie
1690 – 1767
Relationship to Fawn: 9th great grandparents

Note: The family name may appear as “Harvie,” “Harvye,” or “Harvey” in the same generation. Here I will use what appears to the older spelling of “Harvie,” which is the one most often used for John, unless documents bear out the use of “Harvey” for one or another relation.

The couple at the heart of this essay have a very simple story.  Very ordinary.  No tales of emigrating.  No war time exploits or daring escapes from wars.  It is also another story of a family in Midmar, Abderdeenshire.  We brought the Midmar area as part of our family story in as part of the essay, Anne Allan – A Banffshire Allan-Ogilvie Connection.  Though Elizabeth and John lived through the 1715 and 1745 risings, we have no knowledge of their involvement.  The MacKays remained loyal to the central government and did not rise.  The Harvies or Harveys are generally associated with Clan Keith who were pro-Jacobite in both risings.  After Culloden, Cumberland marched through Aberdeenshire devastating much of the land.  Perhaps Elizabeth and John simply took care of the needs of those in their community throughout.  The stone raised above their graves by  their community attests to two people who were well respected.

In Aberdeenshire Epitaphs and Inscriptions: Historical, Biographical, Genealogical, and Antiquarian Notes, John A. Henderson, reflecting on how few details there are in Elizabeth and John’s life, wrote: “Probably if all were known it would be just the simple record of a well-spent, quiet life, often more satisfactory than that of one passed in a much more conspicuous sphere.”

Elizabeth MacKay, married John Harvie before 1719, the year their first child, Alexander, the sibling from which we are descended, was born.  Some genealogies list her as the daughter of John (Iain) òg MacKay, a minister in the far north of Scotland.  In other places her father is said to be John MacKay, a farmer in Midmar,  Aberdeenshire.

John Harvie was the schoolmaster in Midmar, Aberdeenshire.  He spent 57 years at this post serving the community.  His father was Alexander Harvey, who Henderson identifies as “long tenant of Mains of Muchel, Cluny.”  This probably means his father ran the principal farm on the estate of Muchel, or, if not the largest, at least the farm with the most fertile ground, in Cluny, Aberdeenshire.

In their day, as now, Midmar was a small village in a rural area dotted with other small villages.  Beyond the parish church, the most notable structure was Midmar castle.  Dating from the 16th century, the castle was owned by the Gordons until it was purchased in 1728 by Alexander Grant, who renovated the interior.


Looking north from Greymore toward Midmar Castle

Midmar Castle - 1

I found no church records for them, but if they did participate in church activity, it was most likely the old kirk.

Midmar Old Kirk - 2

Midmar Old Kirk

Midmar New Kirk - 2

Midmar new kirk built next to the Midmar standing stones

John and Elizabeth had three sons and five daughters, several of them with interesting stories of their own.

The sons take a less modest path

Their sons, Alexander, John and Robert, acquired large fortunes in the West Indies, chiefly in Antigua and Grenada.  Alexander was the first to leave in 1748.  Perhaps the effect of the ’45 left the brothers feeling opportunities lay elsewhere.

Alexander returned to Aberdeen, and left a son who purchased the estate of Broadland in Buchan. John died in London in 1770.  Robert died at Exeter in 1791. These two were unmarried. Robert had been educated for the medical profession.

We are descended from Alexander who returned to and remained in Aberdeenshire. He was the only brother who married.  After returning he married Elizabeth Ceeley.  The plantations of the brothers had used slaves on them.   Later in their lives, Alexander and Elizabeth jointly disbursed most of the fortune he had accumulated to family and parish needs. Whether or not this was done for repentance we do not know, but his brother Robert left annuities for many “negroes and mullattos,” and ordered in his will the manumission of several named slaves, and one of Alexander’s granddaughters, Sarah, marries a lawyer in England, Robert Wilburforce, and the two become involved in the abolitionist movement.

We are descended from Alexander and Elizabeth’s daughter, Mary, who married Charles Edward Gordon, whose family we introduced in The Gordons in Sunny Spain.  

The daughters – preserving the family name

The daughters seem to have maintained the path of service set by their parents.

One daughter, Jean, married David Urquhart, a farmer first in Kincraigie, thereafter in Kinstair. Henderson notes that they had the reputation of both being pro-Jacobite and were suspected of raising funds for the ’45 throughout Aberdeenshire.

Their son, Rev. Alexander Urquhart, born in 1760, served the parish of Tough for 42 years.  Alexander married his Harvei cousin, also named Jean.  These two seem to have had a close partnership not only in marriage but in their work world.  Jean was ordained assistant and successor to Tough, on 17th December, 1789. Alexander did not die until the 8th February, 1832 at the age of 72, so how much of his role she actually assumed at an advanced age is not known. However during their life together she was a highly active and vocal part of parish life.

Tough, Cottage and Church, small village in Marr

Cottage and church in Tough

The present Tough Parish Church was built in 1838, but the bell was brought from the old Kirkton of Tough and, as such, is the same bell Alexander and Jean would have rung.

Tough Church - 1

The present church in Tough, built in 1838

Another daughter, Elizabeth, married Alexander Farquhar.  Alexander was the son of Alexander Farquhar, Baillie of the Royal Burgh of Kintore.  Alexander, Jr. also served as a Baillie.

A Royal Burgh is a burgh established by royal charter.  Kintore, or Ceann Tòrr in Gaelic, is


Kintore Town House

situated on the River Don.  Its Town House dates from 1747, and, thus, would have been there during Alexander and Elizabeth’s time in Kintore. In their day, the building included a room specially designated as a Schoolroom and another as a Council room, and it was also the local Tolbooth prison.

The Gaelic name signifies a town set at the head or end of a round hill, Ceann meaning the head, or the end, and Tòrr meaning a round hill.  This perhaps refers refers to Tuach Hill to the south of the town, with its own standing stone circle. Kintore appears as a town since the 9th century, and had its royal charter renewed by King James IV in 1506, but archaeology has revealed that the area has a very long history of settlement.

Tuach 1

Tuach Hill

A Baille in that time was the chief magistrate or convener of a burgh council, similar to a mayor.

Elizabeth was a widow at the time of their marriage. Her first husband had been a Rae.

One of their daughters, Jane, married John Davidson, an advocate (lawyer) in Aberdeen, who bought the property of Kebbaty in Midmar, and erected a mansion-house.  They house still stands, and remains a private residence, though it long ago left Davidson or Harvey hands.

One or more of Elizabeth’s brothers left considerable fortunes to the children of their sister, and to various other collateral relatives residing in and about Aberdeenshire.  The three brothers seem to have divided their wealth among a wide range of relatives.  To ensure the continuity of the family name, there were stipulations on at least some of the gifts.  Elizabeth’s son by her first marriage, John Rae, assumed the name Rae-Harvie as the inheritance required the continuity of the Harvei name.  See the discussion of Grizel Harvie below for the most full example I could find.

Alexander and Elizabeth seem to have had a very loving relationship if their epitaph speaks true.  In a railed enclosure, a table stone reads:

Sacred to the memory of Alexander Farquhar, for many years one of the Baillies of this Borough, who was born 16th May, 1725. and died 26th February, 1807. in the 82nd year of his age. And of Elizabeth Harvey, his wife, who was born 16th November, 1724, and died 24th February, 1807, in the 83rd year of her age.

They were born within six months of each other, and had been married upwards of 52 years. They lived very happily together, and enjoyed good health till they were 80 years of age, when, their infirmities increasing with their years, they had often expressed a wish that the one might not long survive the other. And the Almighty was pleased to grant their desire. They were taken ill almost at the same time ; died within two days of each other ; and were buried together in one grave on the 2nd March, 1807.

As they lived respected and esteemed, so they died universally regretted by their numerous relations and acquaintances.

The daughter Grizel married Thomas Aberdein. Robert Harvey, born October, 1732, was the youngest son of John Harvie and Elizabeth Mackay.  He left an inheritance to his nephew, the son of his sister, Grizel.  The will made it obligatory on John, son of Thomas Aberdein and Grizel Harvie, in Hillside Farm of Echt, Aberdeenshire, to adopt instead of his paternal surname of Aberdein, the name of Harvey. It seems there was a shift in the spelling of the name at this time.  A patent, authorizing that alteration of name, was granted 17th January, 1792. John Aberdein, afterwards Harvey, born May, 1767, who obtained the patent subsequently purchased the estate of Kinnettles, in the shire of Angus.  Kinnettles means “the head of the bog”.  In March, 1800, he married Angelica Dingwall Fordyce.

Dingwall Fordyce includes the following note: The ScoU Magassiney [The Scot Magazine?] Vol LIII., September, 1791, page 466, chronicles that, on “29th July of that year, died, At Exeter, Robert Harvey, Esq., late of the Island of Grenada. He possessed estates in the West Indies to the amount of £8000 a year, which he has bequeathed to his nephew. To his other relations in Scotland he has left ample legacies.”

Elizabeth MacKay and John Harvei at the end

After a long life of service, John died on the 9th of February, 1767.  Elizabeth outlived him by nine years, dying on the 5th of April, 1776.  They are both buried in Kintore where John Kintore church yardHarvie was born.  Kintore is about 11 miles from Midmar.  It’s possible they married in the Kintore Kirk.  The church that now sits on the site was built in 1819 to replace the older building.

Throughout their years they lived no where else together.  Their lives were fully enmeshed in the Kintore-Midmar area of Aberdeenshire.  They made no fortunes, and received no fame.  Fifty-seven years of children went through their care.  Decades spent attending to the needs of family, friends and community.  Modest, quite lives well lived.

Harvie, John, burial

The flat stone covering Elizabeth and John’s grave.

Here lyes interred the body of Mr John
Harvie, who was 57 years schoolmaster at Midmar.
He was youngest son of Alexander Harvie of this burgh, who likewise lyes here.
He was a kind affectionate father and . . .
. . ght up a large family. He died the 9th of February, 1767, aged 77 years. Also the
body of Elizabeth Mackay, his spouse, who
died the 5th of April. 1776 aged 85 years.


Aberdeenshire Epitaphs and Inscriptions: Historical, Biographical, Genealogical, and Antiquarian Notes, by John A. Henderson, F.S.A. Scot, 1907

Legacies of British Slave-ownership; UCL – London’s Global University; Alison McCall, compiler

Full Record of the Name of Dingwall Fordyce, in Abderdeenshire; Alexander Dingwall Fordyce, compiler, 1885