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 Knox.

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 welcome.

I hope you enjoy exploring this site as much as I have in creating it!

Yours etc.

Bill Cowsell