Hector Boece (Boethius)

1465-1536, Historian & Author. Born in Dundee, educated in Paris (where he met Erasmus), appointed first Principal of King's College, Aberdeen by Bishop Elphinstone.  He published a history of Scotland - an immense collection of fact and fiction.

ORIGINS OF FORFAR

The town is extremely old, possible dating back to the Roman occupation of the area.  According to Hector Boece (see opposite), Pictish chiefs met at their castle by Forfar loch to plan how to repel the Romans, who invaded on several occasions between the 1st and 4th centuries.  There may have been 4th/5th century Pictish settlements on the Loch shoreline. Later the Picts may have had a castle here, around which an important Pictish town may have gathered.  However, this is all conjecture and there is no known date for the origin of Forfar. 

 

Malcolm Canmore & Queen Margaret

Forfar was an occasional royal residence for King Malcolm III (Canmore) and Queen (Saint) Margaret (circa 1050) and the hunting around the town was a favorite with the King and several Kings that followed him (Malcolms III and IV, Alexanders II and III, and Robert the Bruce).  Two islands stood above the loch.  One was the site of his castle (known today as Castlehill) and the other was Manorhill (known today as Manor Street). 

 

He may also have built a manor house for his queen and had gardens laid out for her pleasure.  Manorhill in Forfar is the oldest cultivated area within the burgh boundary.   She may have also had a third residence on the Inch in Forfar Loch, where ladies of the court could seek refuge if the castle were attacked.  This area is still known as St. Margaret’s Inch. The last remaining Meic Uilleim (MacWilliams), descendants of King Duncan II, a "claimant" to the throne had her brains dashed out on Forfar market cross in 1215 while still an infant.  The royal connection survived for a long time in the names of some Forfar locations – King’s Muir, Queen’s Well, Queen’s Manor and Palace Dykes.

 

Castle destroyed

The castle may have held the parliament meeting where surnames and titles were first conferred on the Scottish nobility.  Sir William Wallace, Governor of Scotland retook the Castle from the English in 1298.  In 1306 it was reported to King Edward that the Castle had been destroyed.  In 1308 he authorised its restoration, but that year the castle was taken and held for Robert the Bruce.  Later, Bruce ordered that the Castle be razed to the ground and it was never rebuilt.  The ruins provided local stone for the old church steeple and local houses.            

 

Scottish Parliaments

Records show that William the Lyon, Alexander II and Robert II held Scottish assemblies in Forfar.  The town was destroyed by accidental fire in 1244.  King Edward 1 (England) stayed in Forfar for 6 days in 1296.  The Scottish towns considered “good” by Edward included Elgin, Aberdeen, Montrose, Forfar, Perth and St Andrews (Itinerary of Edward I, 1272-1307).

Forfar had lost its political importance by the end of the 14th century, the last parliament being held there in 1372. It is likely that Forfar was more important politically in those early days than in later years as a Royal Burgh.  In 1526 Boece spoke of Forfar as “having in time past been a notable citie, though now it is brought to little more than a countrie village replenished with simple cottages.”

There are two theories regarding how Forfar got its name.  One is that it is from the Gaelic ‘for fuar’, meaning a cold place, while the other means the slope of watching, derived from ‘foither’ meaning slope and ‘faire’ which means ‘watching’.  Imagine almost the entire site of present-day Forfar covered by a huge loch and you see the area as it once was.  The loch of Forfar stretched from Lunanhead in the east towards Glamis in the west.  Great forests rose to the north and stretched far into the Angus glens.  Today little remains of that once great loch.