North-east castle’s exhibition offers chance to learn more about ancient Egyptian artefact

Castle Fraser opens this Easter. Picture by Dave Fowlie

A historic North-east castle’s little known links to ancient Egypt have been revealed.

It comes as Castle Fraser prepares to host some of the region’s top museum artefacts in a new exhibition.

But the ancient objects, which include amulets and a mummy’s head – affectionately known as Marlon – have an unexpected connection to the castle, near Sauchen.

Paula Swan, property manager of Castle Fraser, said the Fraser family link to ancient Egypt is known by few.

She said: “The Fraser family has a connection with early Egyptology as George Tomlinson, the first Bishop of Gibraltar, married a daughter of Charles Mackenzie Fraser.

“He was a very keen amateur Egyptologist in the early to mid-19th Century and corresponded with scholars throughout Europe and the Near East who were at the forefront of early research into the history of Egypt.

“So there is an unexpected link between Aberdeenshire and this extraordinary time in Egypt’s history.”

PaulaSwan

Home of the Fraser family for more than 400 years, the castle is filled with portraits, ornaments and mementoes – all with their own colourful stories to tell of the lairds.

Tomorrow North-east curator Helen Chavez from Aberdeen Museum Services will be on hand in the castle’s Great Hall to give visitors the chance to see a wellpreserved mummy’s head.

Paula said: “We hope to be able to bring visitors face-to-face with Marlon and learn more about his history and why he became a resident of Aberdeenshire.

“We are delighted this Easter to host the first of our partnership events with Aberdeenshire Museums Service at Castle Fraser to talk about the fascinating link between the Frasers and early Egyptology.

“With 2017 as the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology this hands-on display beautifully ties together all three important aspects of the celebration, and how it connects with Aberdeenshire’s past.

“We are looking forward to working with Helen Chavez and her team over the coming season at Castle Fraser and we’re thrilled about the opportunities that lie ahead.”

The Easter event takes place tomorrow between 11am and 1pm.

A mummified head, known affectionately as Marlon.
A mummified head, known affectionately as Marlon.

Saskia Gibbon, heritage and place manager for Aberdeenshire Council, also hailed the partnership between the council and Castle Fraser, andthe fact it meshed with the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.

She said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the public to see some of the ancient Egyptian artefacts from our collection.

“Staff from the Aberdeenshire Council Museum Service will be on hand to provide information on each of the artefacts on display and to introduce the public to Marlon.”

Castle Fraser stands in more 300 acres of landscaped grounds, woodland and farmland which includes a walled kitchen garden from the 19th Century.

Originally known as Muchall-in-Mar, construction of the elaborate, five-storey Z-plan castle was begun in 1575.

A panel on the northern side of the castle is signed “I Bel”, believed to be the mark of the master mason John Bell of Midmar.

Built as the home of the Frasers of Muchalls – and later Frasers of Castle Fraser – the site was passed down through the Lords Fraser, the Frasers of Inverallochy and then the Mackenzie family, who took the name Mackenzie Fraser.

In 1897 the last male Fraser of the direct line Frederick Mackenzie Fraser died childless.

In 1921 his widow Theodora sold the castle due to the lack of a suitable heir and mounting financial difficulties.

The buyer was Weetman Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray.

The Pearson family restored the castle as a shooting lodge before giving it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976.

The popular castle is open to visitors from Easter through to October.

laitken@ajl.co.uk

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