As a child, I recollect my mother
telling me stories of her Balfour ancestors. Her tales of French galleys,
Spanish shipwreck and Jacobite plots seemed somewhat exotic set against
the background of the Orkney islands.
Her tales, however, had some basis in
truth. Gilbert Balfour, the first of his name to settle in Orkney, is said
to have shared the oar of a French galley with his two brothers and John
Almost certainly survivors from the
Spanish Armada landed in Westray, and my mother recollects her great
grandmother saying that "Bellefour wis a Spainyard".
William Balfour, 2nd of Trenabie, and
progenitor of the Balfours of Balfour Castle in Shapinsay, picked the
wrong side in the '45 Jacobite rebellion and had his mansion house burnt
for his pains. He did, however, live to see better times for both himself
and his children.
As so much work has already been
done on the history of the Orkney Balfours, this website is principally a
compilation of other people's efforts, and I have to admit that my own
contribution, in terms of original research, has been minimal.
The family Tree in my possession was
commissioned by my cousin, Edgar George Balfour from Rendall, Orkney, but
the finished Tree in this site contains several fundamental additions and
amendments. I am also indebted to cousins Bill Balfour and Roger Hollyman,
from Edinburgh and Canada respectively, for providing copies of their
trees which have proved invaluable.
I have replicated David Scott's
excellent work on the Westray Balfours in full. It begins with Sir
Gilbert Balfour moving to Orkney in 1560 and concludes with the death, in
1959, of Miss Barbara Elizabeth Balfour, who was the last of her name to
live in Westray. Although Mr. Scott's article and the Tree tend to
be in sync. most of the time, there are some major differences. These I
have highlighted and linked to the "Comments" page.
I have also replicated the article from
the "Orkney Herald" relating to W. Traill Dennison's paper on
the Spanish Armada and the Westray "Dons".
I have devoted a page to the Coat of
Arms of Captain William Balfour of Balfour and Trenabie, and am indebted
to Yvonne Holton of the Lord Lyon's office in Edinburgh for her work in
producing a colour copy.
One of my most interesting acquisitions
to date is a copy of the "Proofs and Illustrations of the Lineage of
Balfour of Trenaby". This was kindly provided by the Lyon
Clerk, Mrs. C G W Roads MVO and I am obliged to her for the time and
effort she spent on my behalf. This document is replicated in part.
The very nature of genealogical research
means that this site will always be regarded as "work in
progress", and I look forward to receiving corrections (of which
there will doubtless be many) and any additions and enhancements. All
constructive criticisms concerning the layout of this site will also be
I hope you enjoy exploring this site as
much as I have in creating it!