AN INFAMOUS smuggler’s house went on sale yesterday – with the possibility of loot still buried in secret tunnels.
Old Merchant House in Portsoy on the Aberdeenshire coast was once the home of the 18th-century merchant Alexander “Laird” Brebner.
But beneath his private pier and townhouse was a secret smuggling enterprise – where he sneaked the luxury goods brandy and tobacco past excise officers.
Yesterday, the house went up for sale, including the unexplained passageways which could contain a hidden bounty.
Sandra Scrudis, 55, and husband John, 61, bought the house after visiting the village in 2005.
She said: “Alexander Brebner was a very famous local smuggler and merchant.
“He owned about eight vessels and even his own pier off the harbour where all of his contraband used to come in.
“There’s a smuggler’s hole behind the house which is still blocked up halfway. That’s where they used to take all the stuff through from the harbour.
“There’s a rumour that there’s still undiscovered packages down there. No-one has had the fortitude to go through it yet.
“Apparently the house is reported to have lots of concealed tunnels.”
Mr and Mrs Scrudis, originally from East Sussex, came on holiday to Royal Deeside nine years ago. They took a trip along the Aberdeenshire coast and came across the village of Portsoy – and ended up buying Old Merchant House.
Sandra said: “We came up on an Easter break and ended up in Portsoy Harbour.
“We wandered in with our ice cream and were just smitten by it. Our love of Portsoy just grew from there.”
The couple had been looking at setting up a business in Aberdeen but it later fell through.
They ended up using the house as a holiday home and later bought another property in the village – Durn House – which they now run as a bed and breakfast.
Built in 1726, the Old Merchant House overlooks the 17th-century harbour used for the export of Portsoy Marble, which is featured in the Palace of Versailles in France.
The four-storey harbour townhouse also featured in a parody advert of Whisky Galore for Tennent’s lager.
Mrs Scrudis said the advert was filmed in Portsoy and featured the bootlegger’s house in the background.
She added the history of the building – and Brebner’s legend was even more interesting.
She said: “He was actually quite a notorious smuggler and merchant in Portsoy who owned the house at the time.
“He was very rich but he was always getting caught so he employed his own solicitor – who lived in the house with him – so he always had someone on hand when he fell foul of the legal system. He even used to sell items to the local nobility.”
The house has been extensively renovated over the last nine years but retains many of its original features, such as a stone internal staircase and two 18th-century fireplaces.
The 12 windows to the front offer views over the scenic harbour, the schedule for the property reports. The property is on the market for offers over £325,000.