Teaninich Castle History
Teaninich Castle Has A Fascinating History
There was a defensive structure at Teaninich since the Iron Age or Early Medieval period. It was labelled in the Scott’s Gaelic as Cnoc a’Chaistell meaning Castle Hill. This enclosed area was approximately 32 by 29 meters, with defensive banks and ditches as well as postholes and pits. Those structures are no longer visible.
Archival records show that the Munros were in possession of Teaninich from at least the 1600s. In the 16th century the lands in which Teaninich Castle are located were known as Fyrish. In 1588 King James the 6th of Scotland (James I of England) granted the lower quarter of Fyrish lands to a Hugh Munro (1565-1593, 1st of Teaninich). Records show that his grandson, Hugh Munro (1625-1701, 4th of Teaninich) expanded the family estate.
Hugh the 4th of Teaninich, his grandson (Hugh Munro, 5th of Teaninich) and his great grandson (Royal Navy Captain James Munro, 1719-1788) were in possession of Teaninich during the Jacobite uprisings.
There is a lintel in the back of the castle dated 1734 and Teaninich Castle appears in a military survey of Scotland map dated 1750. Because the Munros fought on the side of King George II in the Jacobite uprisings which ended in 1746, their estates were not forfeited and the Munro ownership continued.
The estate then passed from Navy Captain James Munro (1719-1788) to his son, Captain Hugh Munro (1770-1846, 8th of Teaninich), the so-called Blind Captain. Captain Munro joined the 78th Highlanders during the wars with revolutionary France. Unfortunately, in 1794 in a skirmish outside the Dutch city of Nijmegen, he was blinded in both eyes by a musket ball. Remarkably, Hugh refused to become a victim of his predicament. Instead, on his return to Scotland, he threw himself wholeheartedly into managing Teaninich estate. Major renovations were begun on the castle. He enthusiastically supervised the work, pacing out rooms to his exact dimensions and even climbing planks and scaffolding. The Blind Captain also straightened the course of the River Alness to prevent flooding, laid out the village of Alness, and provided accommodations to some of the families who were homeless following the clearances at Glencalvie, Ross-shire. In 1817 he founded the Teaninich distillery, which is still in operation over 200 years later. In 1819 Hugh sold Teaninich Castle to his brother, John Munro, and retired to Coul Cottage, the estate dower house.
Major General John Munro (1778-1858, 9th of Teaninich) had an important role in the government and administration of colonial India. A gifted linguist he was said to be able to speak and write at least 8 languages, including French, German, Arabic, Persian and several Indian dialects. He held various important positions including private secretary and interpreter to various British Commanders in Chiefs of India, and as Diwan (Prime Minister) to the Regents of Travancore and Cochin (kingdoms in south western India) from 1812-1818. There he helped reform the judicial system and was known for fighting corruption. In tribute to his service a small island archipelago was named after him (the Munroe Islands). John took up permanent residence at Teaninich Castle in 1831. By the late 1840’s Teaninich Castle had an estate staff of fifteen regular servants and ten laborers. They worked the mixed farm with commercial fishing and distillery.
Because John Munro's eldest son James St John Munro had disposed of his inheritance before assuming the role of Consul General of Montevideo in Urugay, the estate then passed to John's 2nd son, Stuart Caradoc Munro. Stuart died in 1911 without children. He willed the estate to his nephew Almeric Stuart John Munro Spencer who then sold the property in 1923.
One of the notable 20th century occupants of Teaninich Castle was Francis Burton Harrison. Harrison was born in New York City in 1873. His father was a lawyer and private secretary to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his mother was a novelist. Harrison graduated from Yale University where he was a member of the secret Skull and Bones Society, and from NYU Law School. He served in the Spanish- American war and was elected to the United States Congress in 1903. In 1913 Harrison was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to serve as Governor General of the Philippines, a position he held until 1921. In 1920 Harrison was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
In 1923 Harrison took up living at Teaninich Castle, spending his time between Scotland and resorts on the Mediterranean. He was recalled to Manila in 1934 following Philippine’s independence and became advisor to several Philippine presidents. Upon his death he was given a State funeral and was buried in Manilla.
It is said that the writer Frances Hodgson Burnett had visited Teaninich Castle and that the mysterious walled garden at Teaninich may have helped inspire her book the “Secret garden”.