On the tombstone of James Gruar of Tominrau, who died in 1807, is the following –
“Four hundred years have now wheeled round, With half a century more; Since this has been the burying ground Belonging to the Gruers”
If the inscription is accurate, then it suggests that the Gruers have been laid to rest on this site in Mar since at 1357 at least, making the family’s connection with the Aberdeenshire town one of the longest.
Among the Gruers of Braemar, there exists a legend that the Gruers of the past were noted for their running ability, and their name means either ‘fleet of foot’ or ‘greyhound’. This legend comes from a story during the time of Malcolm III, and that the king wanted to find the physcially fittest of all his people. So he decided to hold a games as well as a race to the top of Craig Conneach, a hill which overlooks Braemar, and the prize being a sword and baldric.
Once the race had already started, the King was aked for permission for a late entry to be allowed to partake in the race. Malcolm did not believe that this youth had any hope of success, but decided to allow him to run anyway. Yet to everyone’s great surprise, the new competitor took off with remarkable speed, and before too long he was catching up with some of the other runners. By the end of the arduous race, the youth had come in first, and was given the nickname the Greyhound, or Goather, or Gruer in the Gaelic dialect from the time, and it is believed that the Braemar Gruers are descendants of the Craig Conneach race winner.
These games that were created by Malcolm III went on to become the first ever Braemar Gathering.
It is believed that the Gruers once owned, for many centuries, the lands of Cluny, near Ballochbuie to Braemar’s east, but lost them to the Farquharsons who forcefully took them, sometime around the end of the 15th century.
This loss of Cluny created a very antagonistic relationship between the two families which did not end until the marriage of John Gruer, the first recorded Gruer chief, to Isobel Farquharson in 1621.
There are recordings of a John Grewyr was tennant in Fortour in 1520, and a Thomas Growar was a burgess freeman of Glasgow in 1628.
For nearly a century, the chiefs of the Gruer clan had held their lands relatively peacefully, with no real trouble, until 1715 which saw the Battle of Sheriffmuir. The Earl of Mar was a strong supporter of James VIII, and as vassals of the Earl both Alexander Gruer and his heir Donald fought bravely at Sheriffmuir. After the failure of the Jacobite forces to crush the Government forces of George I, Alexander and Donald returned to their home at Auchallater.
Alexander Gruer, Donald’s second son, held the lands at Auchallater until 1777 when, due to the lack of a male heir, the line died out.
A number of different Gruer branches have existed in Aberdeenshire and Angus. As early as the 16th century a branch of the Braemar family have been at Forter, at the head of Glenisla, and obtained the Dalvanie lands.
At this point in time, despite the Clans colourful history, it is currently an armigerous clan, and does not have a chief recognised by the Court of the Lord Lyon.