House of Gask

Probably the dwelling most associated with the Oliphant Clan from the 17th Century onwards is the house at Gask. Gask was the home of a staunch Jacobite branch of the Clan. Although the land had been in the hands of an Oliphant from the mid 14th century, no Castle of note was built there. The house of Gask became home to William Oliphant of Newton (son of Colin, Master of Oliphant, and brother to the 3rd Lord) from whom descends the Gask branch of the Clan. After him came a succession of Laurence Oliphants, who were the Lairds of Gask and chieftains of the Gask Oliphants. The house was held until Culloden, after which a volunteer party of English soldiers, under Ensign Fawlie, plundered the house. Laurence Oliphant of Gask and his son were both involved in Culloden, in the Duke of Perth's Horse, so were forced to flee thereafter to France. After a period of time, Ebenezer Oliphant of the Gask branch together with the then Oliphant of Condie (and others,) reinstated Laurence at Gask. Gask was sold in the late Nineteenth century upon the death of Thomas Kington-Blair-Oliphant at his instruction and all the Oliphant possessions dispersed. Thomas decreed this as a result of having had to spend much of his life claiming the Gask estate in the femail line, despite it having been left in the male line. Thomas was calculating enough to have had his portrait painted signing the will concerned. Thankfully, his descendents bought and collected back most of what had been dispersed and, so the story goes, hung Thomas' picture upside down in the downstairs loo for thirty years or so to reflect their view of his action.

Today, both the Clan Chief and the Chieftain of Gask descend from the fifth Oliphant of Gask each, once in the female line.

At Gask was born Carolina Oliphant, (later known as Lady Nairn,) the famous Scottish Poetess. She was a masterful writer of poetry, including a lament for the loss of the house of Gask called "The Auld Hoose".

The Auld House

O! the auld hoose, the auld hoose,
What tho' the rooms were wee,
O, kind hearts were dwelling there,
And bairnies fo' O' glee.
And wild rose and the jassamine
Still hang upon the wa
Hoo mony cherished memories
Do they sweet flow'rs reca'.

O, the auld Laird, the auld Laird
Sae canty, kind and crouse.
Hoo mony did he welcome there,
His ain wee dear auld hoose.
And the leddy, too, sae genty,
There shelter'd Scotland's heir,
An' clipt a lock wi' her ain han'
Frae his long yellow hair.

The mavis still doth sweetly sing,
The bluebells sweetly blaw.
The bonnie Earn's clear winding still,
But the auld hoose is awa'.
The auld hoose, the auld hoose
Deserted tho' ye be,
There ne'er can be a new hoose,
Will seem sae fair to me.

Still flourishing the auld pear tree
The bairnies liked to see.
And oh, hoo often did they spier
When ripe thay a' wad be?
The voices sweet, the wee bit feet
Aye rinnin' here and there.
The merry shouts oh, whiles we greet
To think we'll hear nae mair.

The current chieftain of the Gask branch is Laurence Philip Kington Blair Oliphant of Ardblair and Gask (see Links). Laurence lives at Ardblair Castle, which is thus now the de facto seat of the Oliphants of Gask. Ardblair is however a Blair seat, inherited through the Robertson's of Strowan. Ardblair contains not only the majority of the Gask Oliphant artifacts and portraits but also the Lords Oliphants' charters and known possessions, so is probably the most important port of call for Oliphants. Fortuitously but not unsurprisingly, as it is a private home and strictly viewable by prior appointment, the colourful Laurence and his family welcome Oliphant visitors, whom Laurence often regales with a wonderful collection of humorous stories. Laurence also discharges his duties for the Blairs, for whom he is simultaneously a chieftain, as Chieftain of the Blairgowrie Games, which are always worth a visit.

The present house at Gask is a beautiful Georgian building with wings branching off each end and a spectacular pedimented front. Unfortunately its beauty has been damaged slightly by the fact that since being sold it has had the top floor removed. Nevertheless, it remains hugely interesting in its own right, as well as being of such primary interest to all Oliphants.

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