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Lyon & Turnbull were proud to announce the sale of the contents of Blair in Ayrshire, reputed to be the oldest continually inhabited mansion in Scotland (the original Norman Tower is thought to date back to 1105), never rebuilt nor sold before now. Valued at over half a million pounds, the contents of the castle were sold at our Edinburgh saleroom during a two day sale on the 14th & 15th of March 2012.
The family can trace their ancestry back to William the Lion, when the Barony of Blair was awarded to Jean Francois in 1165 for services rendered and his son changed his name to Blair. Sir Bryce Blair fought with William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Roger de Blair was knighted by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn and married the sister of King David II, Marie Muir - their joint coat of arms can be found above the old tower door. The 1668 wing was built after William Blair (c1640-1689) married Lady Margaret Hamilton, the fifth daughter of the 2nd Duke of Hamilton in March 1666. The initials of LMH & WB are carved above the windows to celebrate their addition. In the 19th century, Captain William Fordyce Blair (1805-1884) was a successful naval captain and, in addition to being very well travelled (Port Blair in the Andeman Islands is reputedly named after him), he achieved considerable financial success by capturing a well endowed pirate ship. He served in the Burmese War and was attached to the French Army with 500 seamen at the taking of Morea Castle and Algiers in 1830. He was a great collector of antiquities and used the walled garden to house a museum.
Gavin Strang, Director in charge of the sale, said: “This was one of the more exciting auctions of 2012, as all the items, including antiques, paintings, silver and books were fresh to the market. We had 900 years of history for sale”.
Amongst the lots in the sale were a good Zeigler carpet (sold for £28,000) and a fine set of twenty-six 19th century Irish dining chairs, as well as many hunting and racing paintings, reflecting the sporting interests of the family down the generations. A notable example was James Howe’s 1804 oil painting ‘The Last of The Leith Races’, estimated at £10-15,000 but which sold for £36,000 (hammer price). There were some fine pieces of Georgian and French furniture, a collection of rare stirrup cups and silver from the early 18th to the 19th centuries. Also of note were the swords belonging to some of the Blairs of yesteryear, from a 1680s basket hilted broadsword to an early 19th century naval officer’s sword.
Gavin Strang continued: “as with any good Country House Sale there were items from below stairs and a collection of pieces, long forgotten, that we uncovered in the attics. Many of the items were linked to the family and were of interest to the many Blairs now living in the States, Australia and New Zealand.”