Formartine Parish Church

Susanna Bichard, Session Clerk
T: 01651 851345

Tolquhon Tomb

Tolquhon Tomb was constructed for Sir William Forbes, laird of the newly-built Tolquhon Castle, in 1589. It was to be the final resting place of the laird and his wife, Lady Elizabeth Gordon.

The tomb was part of an aisle added to the medieval Tarves Kirk. The original church and much of the aisle are now long gone, but the tomb still stands largely complete. Two aisles were added to the church. A description written in 1732 indicates that one was for the Gordons of Haddo, the other was for the Forbes of Tolquhon.

Of particular interest are the portrait statuettes of Sir William and his wife. These are remarkably lifelike images – as close as you can come to meeting a late 1500s lord and lady. Sir William wears a flat cap, a ruff, a puffed and slashed doublet and knee breeches. Lady Elizabeth wears a long embroidered gown with full sleeves and a ruff.

Above the arch are the couple’s heraldic achievements. Carved on the tomb are:

  •      Sir William’s arms, quartered with those of the Prestons, from whom they acquired Tolquhon through marriage in the early 1400s
  •      the motto SALVS PER CHRISTVM, or ‘Salvation through Christ’
  •      lady Elizabeth’s arms, quartered with those of her husband
  •      the motto DOCHTER TO LESMOR – Elizabeth was a daughter of a Gordon of Lesmoir

The tomb appears to have been inspired by the tomb of Bishop Gavin Dunbar in St Machar's Cathedral, which was probably built in the 1530s.

You can learn more on the Historic Environment Scotland website.

The tomb is not the only memorial of interest in the kirkyard. Leaning against the south face of the present buliding are four memorial slabs. Two of these, dated 1583 and 1617, commemorate members of the College of Heralds, Thomas Craig and William Craig. The others commemorate a parish minister, Thomas Gardyne, who died in 1633, and his wife and sister-in-law, Isabel and Agnes Chalmers.

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