2006 News Article

Archibald Hugh "Archie" Stirling of Keir has contacted Clan Stirling Online with information about the Barony of Keir. It is our pleasure to correct our error. In our Stirling of Keir article, "1. The First Laird of Keir" we incorrectly implied that the Barony of Keir was sold to an Arab businessmen Mohammed Mahdi Al-Tajir and that all the contents of Keir House were auctioned off by Christies.

Here is the correct information kindly sent to us by Archie Stirling of Keir ...

"The Present Laird of Keir"

"Sadly in 1975 the late Colonel William Stirling of Keir sold Keir House and 180 acres of the park to Mahdi al-Tajir who in the 1980's was the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Court of St. James. Mr. al-Tajir also bought from Colonel Stirling a further 35,000 acres some miles away from Keir which now forms the water source for Highland Spring, the bottled water company which Mr. al-Tajir started and still owns.
The land which forms the Barony of Keir and 2000 acres of arable land surrounding the house are still owned by the present laird Archie Stirling of Keir.

Although Colonel William Stirling sold most of the great old master paintings in the family collection, those by El Greco, Goya, Murillo, Zurburan etc. and the house itself, many of the remaining pictures and chattels had been placed in large stores on the estate by Colonel Stirling's wife Susan who had refused to move out of the house when she discovered it had been sold, a fact she did not find out about until a year after the event. After this discovery she partitioned off 12 rooms inside the main house where she remained until she died in 1983. With great generosity when he discovered the circumstances of the sale, Mahdi al Tajir did not seek to evict Mrs. Stirling but carried on making his own alterations and refurbishment's to the major part of the house to which he had access without in any way impinging on Mrs. Stirling.

Although it was in many ways tragic that the late Colonel Stirling sold the house it was not simply as a result of foolish expenditure but rather due to an inability to understand cash flow. During his stewardship the family owned considerable estates in Tanzania which were later appropriated by the Tanzanian government, they also had oil drilling companies (KCA Drilling etc), started the Abu Dhabi National Drilling Company, owned oil concessions in the Middle East, had international civil engineering companies which built roads, railways and dams all over the world but principally in East Africa, South Africa, Thailand, Egypt and North Africa. Unfortunately great ideas require great cash flow and many of the sales that took place were to raise funds to placate the banks.

Ochtertyre House
Ochtertyre House - Barony of Keir

Archie Stirling of Keir now lives at Ochtertyre, a substantial house on the edge of the remaining land which is still farmed and run as an estate. In 1995 Christie's, on the instructions of the present laird, held a large sale at a site near Keir to dispose of those items which had been held in store for 20 years and which were beginning to deteriorate through lack of use and the problems arising from long term storage. Included were many items which simply could not be accommodated at Ochtertyre, a house of some twenty five rooms as opposed to the hundred plus rooms of Keir."

Archie also gave us more information about the Barony of Keir.

"The use of the suffix 'of Keir' denotes that I am head of the family and that Keir is an old Scottish Land Barony. Land Baronies such as Keir were awarded by the King. A Barony allowed the Baron or owner of the Estate powers over those who lived there which otherwise would have belonged to the state, in other words the King. Although the Keir barony is older than 1487 and dates back to the thirteenth century it is held in its present incarnation from James the IV of Scotland who was sheltered from his father's army at Keir by William Stirling of Keir. In revenge James III burned Keir to the ground and tradition (backed by the scholarship of the late Sir Ian Moncrieffe of that Ilk) has it that James III was later murdered by the Stirling of Keir so we probably have a regicide in the family!"

We thank Archie Stirling of Keir for his kind assistance in setting the record straight and look forward to learning more about the ancient Scottish family, the Stirlings of Keir.

Michael L Jex
Editor-in-Chief Clan Stirling Online!

William Richard "Rick" Stirling
Web Master Clan Stirling Online!