The properties in this region came in and out of possession of the Archbishops of St Andrews, who were the most powerful diocese in medieval Scotland. They constructed Dairsie Castle in the early 14th-century, which sits within view of Kemback House across the River Eden, and Dairsie Bridge, a 16th-century stone bridge which replaced an earlier wooden structure used by King James IV on his way from St Andrew to Stirling in 1496. A Scottish parliament was held at Dairsie Castle in 1335 and King James VI of Scotland sought refuge here, aged 17, in 1583 following a coup d’état (subsequently failed).
Kemback House was first recorded as the home of Malise Graham, 1st Earl of Menteith (1406-1490), the son of Euphemia Stewart, Countess of Strathearn, who was the granddaughter of King Robert II. Euphemia inherited both her father’s titles (which also included Earl of Caithness, which she passed to her uncle), but this unconventional arrangement led to her son Malise being stripped of the title of Earl of Strathearn, under the pretext that he inherited it from his mother, and so he lost the valuable lands as well. At this time Malise was a teenager and being held hostage in England, and so unable to defend his rights. For this dishonour, and other disputes with the Crown, his tutor and uncle Robert Graham of Kinpont eventually conspired and succeeded in the murder of King James I of Scotland at Perth in 1437. The treasonous act did nothing to restore the title to his nephew; the title passes to James I’s uncle and has since been conferred on HRH Prince William of Wales and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
Of greatest interest to us is Mariota Oliphant of Aberdalgie & Kellie (1376 - 1446). We believe that Mariota is the woman commemorated by a carved stoned effigy that lies on a mound within Kemback grounds. The stone head was decapitated, which may have been a punishment for her husband Robert Graham’s part in the assassination of King James I (or common theft). She was herself the great granddaughter of King Robert the Bruce, through his daughter Elizabeth Bruce.
Robert Graham was tortured and executed for the crime and his estate reverted to the Archbishopric of St Andrews after the death of his wife Mariota Oliphant, who was the friend and cousin of Princess Mary Stewart (daughter of King Robert III of Scotland); their remaining 4 sons were recorded, without further explanation, as dead on 24 February 1447, leaving no heirs. Thus Kemback came into the hands of Princess Mary’s children: Bishop Kennedy (a cousin of the executed Robert Graham) and then his half-brother, Patrick Graham, who was the grandson of King Robert III and became the first Archbishop of St Andrews.
Archbishop Patrick Graham was deposed in 1478 by William Schevez, who forged accusations against him and ultimately paid a bribe of 11,000 Merks (the Scottish currency at the time) – they had become notorious enemies after Graham opposed Schevez’s appointment to Archdeacon of St Andrews. He became Archbishop Schevez. Not from the nobility, Schevez was looked upon unfavourably by the aristocracy, and his considerable influence with King James III was suspect. Prior to becoming Archbishop of St Andrews, William Schevez was often sent on diplomatic missions by the King, including a (subsequently failed) marriage alliance with Princess Cecilia of England for his son, the James Stewart, Duke of Rothesay. His skills as a physician and keen interest in medicine and astrology earned him the reputation as one of the most educated men of his day, but he didn’t help his reputation as a scheming necromancer and quack by choosing 3 black cats for his coat of arms.
With no heirs of his own, Archbishop Schevez transferred ownership of Kemback to his brother Henry Schevez of Kilquhiss in 1478 (we can only assume by forcibly evicting the relations of Archbishop Patrick Graham who resided there), whose coat of arms was added to a now ruined church in the Kemback cemetery. Thereafter it passed from the Schevez family to the Makgill family in 1667, and then in turn passed into Thomson stewardship in the early part of the 20th century.