The First Earl Fife who had Duff House built but never lived in it, instead used Rothiemay House as his main residence. He developed and extended both the House and particularly the grounds, as is shown on General Roy’s Map of 1747.

1747 Roys Map showing Rothiemay

As with many other families he had many children, 14 of them, seven sons and seven daughters. The seventh offspring, the fourth son, was named George. He was educated in Edinburgh and then St Andrews. He had two years from the age of nineteen in the 10th Regiment of Dragoons but had been given education by his father with a commercial future in mind.

Shortly after leaving the Dragoons he married Frances Dalzell, daughter of General Dalzell; apparently they kept the marriage secret for several months but the Duff family letters don’t give a clue as to why. George lived in London for many years because Frances didn’t want to come to Scotland!

They had four children, the youngest of which was Frances; she was born 26th June 1766 in Elgin. She became the “family pet” and while her mother may not have liked Scotland, “Little Fan” was mostly brought up by her paternal grandmother, Lady Fife, wife of the First Earl, at Rothiemay. A painting of Rothiemay House was made in 1767, much as Little Fan must have known it.

Rothiemay House from a painting in 1767

Little Fan seemingly was a very beautiful, well mannered and agreeable child; but she was a delicate child, even catching smallpox at one time, and in 1777 had jaundice. The letters indicate that her appetite was always small. In various letters she is referred to not just as “Little Fan” or “Lady Fan”, but even as “Miss Monkey”. Her uncle Arthur (son of William, First Earl Fife) was a particular favourite and they frequently corresponded, but Little Fan was clearly much admired, even by a previous handmaid of the Countess (Little Fan’s grandmother) who wrote “a charming and young creature”.

We know of at least two suitors; “Bob” who has not been traced, and also James Urquhart, but nothing was to become of these as she suddenly died, aged just 20, on 6th March 1787. Although initially interred at Grange (near Huntly) she was moved to the Duff House Mausoleum – perhaps because she was a family favourite.

In the Duff House Mausoleum, just inside the door, is a list of who in 1912 was believed to be buried in the crypt.  This includes four people who do not have the surname of Duff – instead “Tayler” (the “e” is not a mis-type!). 

Rothiemay House early 20th century

This name Tayler was introduced to the Duff family when the elder daughter, Jean or Jane Duff, of the 3rd Earl Fife married William Alexander Francis Tayler in 1802.  As close relatives – Jane’s older brother James became the 4th Earl Fife – they were given Rothiemay House to live in.  This building had a fire in 1964 and was demolished, although the gatehouse and some other buildings remain.  This is a 20th century photo of Rothiemay House; the feature picture is at is was in the mid nineteenth century – much as Lady Jane Tayler would have known it.

During her life Jane was held in much esteem by the locals around Rothiemay but also in Banff where they were frequent visitors.  As evidence of how much she was liked her obituary recalls that “her kindness was not occasional, or by fits and starts, but perennial”.  The Banffie wrote “she has gone – and will be missed by many, but the good she has done will live after her, and there will be many hereafter to speak – and the witness is on high – of the good deeds and alms which she did”.

The four Taylers at rest in the Duff House Mausoleum are:

The Honourable, the Lady Jane Tayler, died 22 May 1850

Alexander Francis Tayler, died Sep 1854 (husband)

Alexander Tayler, died 26 Jul 1809, age 6 (son)

Alexander Francis Tayler, died 8 Nov 1828, age 14 (son)

Jane and Alexander had six other children as well as the two above, although it seems they were beset with problems.

  1. The first born, Alexander, died in an accident at Duff House on the day of the birth of his brother, William.  Alexander was pushing amongst adults trying to see his new brother and a unfortunately knocked him and he feel into a bath of boiling water.  He survived a few days but his injuries were too severe;
  2. Anne, the second born, also died in an accident but it’s nature is not known;
  3. William, born 1809 at Duff House, later in life married his cousin Georgina, granddaughter of Captain George Duff (see the Story on this website entitled “Trafalgar”).  Two of their children became celebrated as historians of the Jacobites and the Duff family itself (Henrietta and Alistair), and the oldest as an accomplished artist;
  4. Jane Marion born 1810 died 1869;
  5. James George born 1811 died 1875;
  6. Alexander Frances (in the Mausoleum) born 1814, died 1828 of measles;
  7. George Skene, born 1816 became a Commander in the Royal Navy, died 1894;
  8. Hay Utterson, born 1819, died 1903.

The two children in the Mausoleum were born deaf and dumb, as was Hay the youngest.  This seems to have been a sad inheritance from their great grandmother, Mary Forbes, but does not seem to have re-occurred.

Alexander and Lady Jane were very well connected around the area, not only with the local population around Rothiemay, but elsewhere because of their family connections.  There are many newspaper reports of them attending events in Banff in the first half of the nineteenth century.  They were very much part of the gentry and mixed accordingly.  One little piece of evidence of this is that William Marshall, one of the greatest composers of Scottish fiddle music, named one of his 257 tunes after her; no doubt heard in Rothiemay and Banff: