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Obituary: Clan chief and Aberdeenshire laird, Captain Alwyne Farquharson, dies aged 102

Captain Farquharson.

Captain Alwyne Arthur Compton Farquharson – Chief of the Clan Farquharson and decorated war hero – whose lands extended from Perthshire to Aberdeenshire has died aged 102.

The longest serving clan chieftan in history, he was awarded the Military Cross for his role in the Battle of Normandy and worshipped opposite the Queen at Crathie.

A long time friend of the Duke of Edinburgh – the pair had coffee together at Sandringham until both were no longer able; he led the chieftan charge at Ballater Highland Games for more than seven decades.

Becoming Clan Chief

Captain Alwyne Arthur Compton Farquharson of Invercauld and Monaltrie, 16th Chief of Clan Farquharson, was born on May 1st, 1919.

He was the eldest of three children for Major Edward Compton of Newby Hall in Yorkshire and Sylvia Farquharson.

Captain Alwyne in 1978 on his estate.

Alwyne also had a sister Mary and a younger brother Robert.

Educated at Eton College then Magdalen College, Oxford, he was studying Land Economy but was interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two.

Not long after his 20th birthday he joined the Royal Scots Greys.

And he climbed the ranks to Captain, an accolade he was happy to be known by from then on.

The Captain as he’d come to be recognised in recent years.

Injured at the Battle for Caen, on June 10th 1944, he was awarded the Military Cross in 1945.

Alwyne’s aunt – his mother’s sister Myrtle – was the eldest daughter of Alexander Haldane Farquharson of Invercauld.

Her death in 1941 during the Blitz meant Alwyne assumed the role of Chief and laird of Invercauld.

Finding love post war

But it wouldn’t be a task he’d face alone.

Because while he recovered from war injuries he met British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar journalist Frances Gordon.

The Captain and wife Frances, 1953.

The fashionista – who famously loved being ‘dripping in tartan’ – was invited to Deeside to help take inventory of Braemar Castle, but fell in love with Alwyne who was visiting.

They married in 1949.

Frances in 1982 in her trademark cape.

A known entertainer, she painted their home flamboyant colours and regularly hosted Elsa Schiaparelli, Coco Chanel’s rival, in their home.

Moving to Scotland

When the war ended Alwyne moved to Aberdeenshire.

Simon Blackett was estate factor for Captain Farquharson in Braemar, and knew him for over 25 years.

He said: “The Captain dedicated himself to being a responsible and benevolent landowner.

“He was known affectionately by tenants and staff as ‘The Laird’.

Queen Elizabeth II pictured in 1967 with the Captain at Gun Dog trials.

“And he took this incredibly seriously.

“Because he knew the importance of what he presided over given the scale of lands he inherited.”

His lands spread from Aberdeenshire to Perthshire and included an estate on the Isle of Mull called Torloisk, passed down to him by his father.

“The most humble of men, with a quick wit and a friendly word for everyone he met,” added Simon.

Captain Farquharson unveiling a granite marker stone at the foot of the historic rallying cairn, near Balmoral Castle in 1972.

“He was held in such high regard by employees, tenants and neighbours because he considered himself merely the custodian of the land.

“Feeling honour bound to pass it on to the next generation in better order.”

How it all started

Captain Farquharson was the oldest chief in Farquharson clan history.

The origins of the clan begin with Finlay Mor Farquharson, born around 1480.

The Royal Standard Bearer died at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 when hit in the chest by a cannonball fired from an English ship.

Captain Farquharson pictured with the staff of Braemar Tourist Information Centre at its opening in 1982.

But Finlay Mor had many children whose offspring spread far and wide.

Therefore, the clan scattered around the globe.

With Alwyne always keen to meet clan members to regale them with stories of Farquharson activities.

The Chieftain Captain arriving at Ballater Games in 1965.

When Frances died in 1991 he married Patricia de Winton, Madame Farquharson, who supported him in his duties.

And his commitment to the north of Scotland only grew.

Community involvement

He was a member of the Aberdeenshire County Council from 1949 to 1975 and Vice-Patron of the Braemar Royal Highland Gathering.

And was also instrumental in seeing Braemar Castle – the seat of the Clan – become community owned.

Captain Alwyne Farquharson
Captain Alwyne Farquharson, shown at Braemar Castle, the seat of Clan Farquharson, ahead of his 100th birthday celebrations.

The Captain’s step son Tom de Winton is reported to have paid tribute to his loyalty and honour.

“His sense of duty and honour through his Army life and his occupation was immense; he was one of the most kind and loyal people.

“And we should all aspire to be something like him. We walk in his shadow.”

Ballater Highland Games

As Chieftain of the Ballater Highland Games he never missed a march onto the field for 73 years.

This included the last of its kind in 2019 at the grand age of 100.

Ballater Highland Games in 2018: Captain and Patricia Farquharson arrive.

“The only reason Alwyne resigned from his Chiefship – one year before his death – was that he felt it would be improper to be wheeled onto the field.

“He worried it would bring down the tempo of the event,” said Simon.

Church with The Queen

The Captain passed away at his Norfolk home but a memorial is planned in Crathie Kirk in November.

The Royal Family’s Balmoral neighbour, both he and the Monarch had their ‘usual seats’ in the small Church of Scotland.

Captain Alwyne Farquharson.
Captain Alwyne Farquharson.

And his was directly opposite that of Her Majesty the Queen.

Rev Ken MacKenzie said: “People in the parish are very sad to hear of his death.

“He’d reached a great age and was part of this community for a century.”

The Captain is survived by his wife Patricia, five step-children from his two marriages, his nephews and a niece.

You can read the family’s announcement here.