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Introduction / The Island / History and Ownership

Orkney Balfours

Gilbert Balfour (to become Sir Gilbert Balfour), the first of the Balfour family in Orkney, was the youngest son of Andrew Balfour of Munquhanny in Fife. He was involved, with his brothers, in the murder of Cardinal Beaton and the siege of St Andrews Castle (the time of the Reformation in Scotland). He married Margaret Bothwell, the daughter of Francis Bothwell and Catherine Ballendine. Margaret's brother was Adam Bothwell who became Bishop of Orkney in 1559. It was the following year that Gilbert Balfour obtained the feu of lands in Westray from his brother in law. Also included was Papa Westray, some land in Sanday and Pharay.

Sir Gilbert Balfour was a colourful character and eventually met his end in Sweden where he became involved in a plot against the king, was found guilty and executed in1570. His only son, Archibald Balfour had predeceased him, so his estate passed to his nephew Sir Michael Balfour of Garth. Sir Michael succeeded to the estate of his grandfather Andrew Balfour 2nd of Munquhanny, his father having died previously.

The feudal lands in Orkney, including Pharay, passed from Sir Gilbert Balfour through the Balfour family for a number of generations:

  • Sir Gilbert Balfour (granted feu in 1560)
  • Sir Michael Balfour 3rd of Munquhanny (nephew) who married Mariota Adamson
  • Michael Balfour of Garth who married Margaret Sinclair of Quendale, Shetland in 1593
  • Patrick Balfour of Pharay
  • George Balfour of Pharay m. 1657 (1) Marjorie Baikie in 1657 and (2) Mary McKenzie in 1678
  • William Balfour of Pharay

William Balfour of Pharay had no male heir. His daughter, Isabel Balfour, married James Stewart of Brugh, Westray in 1724. This saw Pharay become part of the Stewart estate having been in the Balfour family for over 160 years.

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