Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

History of Aberdeen and Banff
Chapter II


The transition epoch—coming of the new population—influence of queen Margaret—Malcolm Canmore's northern expeditions —the Aberdeenshire mormaers become earls — renewed immigration under David — rise of towns: Aberdeen, its founders and early population—trading privileges and charters : the northern hanse—Aberdeen mint and markets—restriction of taverns — Banff — Cullen, Inverurie, and Kintore. — the ecclesiastical revolution: the church in aberdeenshire — the see and its endowments — parishes — the new territorial aristocracy and feudal barons — sheriffdoms — Flemish settlers—the earldom of Garioch—the Leslies—the earldom of mar and the durwards — the bysets — advent of the Cumyns: statesmen, castle-builders, pious founders — the abbey of deer — Durward and Cumyn rivalry — the Le Neyms, Cheynes, etc.—the north-eastern thanages—serfdom—fusion of races.

The reign of Malcolm Canmore inaugurated for Aberdeenshire, as for Scotland, the great transition which was to be completed in the two fruitful and prosperous centuries intervening between his time and the struggle for national independence under Wallace and Bruce. Hitherto the history has been, for the most part, obscure and uncertain, but now begins the clear guidance of charters and other authoritative records. Malcolm visited from time to time the province in which he saw his power established by the overthrow and death of Macbeth. At the beginning of his reign he passed through Aberdeenshire and Banffshire at the head of a military expedition against the insubordinate population of the north, punishing the Celts and confiscating their lands, especially in the country that had been ruled by Thorfinn, and in which the Macbeth connection principally lay. Nine years after his accession came the Norman Conquest, an event fraught with mightier consequences for the north-east than for the southern territories where the new Teutonic population was already installed. The first effect of the Conquest is seen in the vast influx of Anglo-Saxons driven from England by the sword or the laws of the Conqueror. The new-comers would be welcomed by their kindred in Lothian, formerly a Saxon kingdom; and numbers of them would gradually move northward as far as Aberdeenshire. An immigration of new settlers from the Continent also set in— of seafaring Scandinavians, industrial and trading Flemings, and agricultural Saxons. The Court of Malcolm and Queen Margaret became a centre from which Anglo-Saxon influence radiated through the country. The old Gaelic language was superseded at the centre of affairs by the new Teutonic speech, and through the Queen's Anglo-Saxon clergy the Church itself became an agency in the transition. As might be expected, the dislike of the Celtic population for the new order of things becomes at once apparent. Rebellious attempts to expel the immigrants and recover lost ground were followed by punitive expeditions, forfeitures, and fresh plantations of new settlers. A second expedition to the north, in 1078, was headed by Malcolm in person, and during its progress through Aberdeenshire he granted to the Church of St Andrews his lands of Monymusk and Keig, together, as is believed, with a decayed monastery. So arose the Priory of Monymusk as a cell or dependency of the Priory of St Andrews,—a cell of peculiar interest as the only Culdee establishment, so far as is known, that ever existed between the Dee and the Spey. Having settled affairs beyond the Spey, Malcolm returned by the old religious house at Mortlach, and from this visit is supposed to date the recognition of its abbot as a bishop outside his monastery, and the establishment of the bishopric, to be translated half a century afterwards to Aberdeen. Tradition credits Malcolm with having had a hunting-seat in the great forest of Mar; and the ancient Castle of Kindrochit, the foundations of which are still to be seen on the bank of the Clunie, in the village of Braemar, is associated with his name.

Alexander I., who succeeded to the throne after an interval of struggle and the short reign of his brother Eadgar,'had the principal scat of his kingdom at Scone, where he founded his monastery, the charter of which throws an important side-light on the progress of events in Aberdeenshire. The charter is signed by Rothri or Ruadri, Earl of Mar, and Gartnach or Gartnait, Earl of Buchan, both of them of the old Celtic stock, yet appearing at Alexander's Court under the title not of mormaer but of comes or earl, and having a recognised place in the constitutional body of seven earls which long played a prominent part in Scottish affairs. Probably, indeed, the change of style implied as yet no change in their relations to their provinces : they were earls at Court and mormaers as of old among their own people. For in the second group of entries in the 'Book of Deer' we find the same Ruadri, years after Alexander had been succeeded by David, witnessing, as mormaer of Mar, a grant by the same Gartnait as mormaer of Buchan. The Scone charter suggests, ndeed, that it was Alexander's policy to draw the mormaers to Court, and convert them Into councillors of State and oificers of the Crown; and this was the reign in which were instituted the offices of chancellor, constable, and sheriff. Alexander's policy in relation to the Church is seen in his filling the Monastery of Scone with Augustinian canons-regular from Yorkshire, in his establishing the new sees of Dunkeld and Moray, and in his appointments of ecclesiastics from the south to these bishoprics and to St Andrews. The gift of a bishop of non-Celtic race and southern tongue does not appear to have evoked a spirit of gratitude among the Celts of Moray. With Angus, the son of Lulach's daughter and successor of Maelsnechtan in the "kingship," at their head, we find them in alliance with the turbulent men of the Mearns—Aberdeenshire quiescent and the territories on both sides of it in eruption. Alexander's narrow escape at Invergowrie was promptly followed by his raising a force in Fife with which he pursued the insurgents across the Mounth.

Soon after the accession of David he likewise had his expedition to the north, where the Gaelic chiefs and people were more restive than ever under the pressure of the new feudal barons. In 1130 a body of insurgents organised beyond the Spey by Malcolm, an illegitimate son of the late King Alexander, and Earl Angus, now an old man, passed through Banffshire and Mar, crossed the Cairn-a-Mounth, and were encountered at Stracathro by Edward the High Constable, son of Siward, Earl of Mercia, and cousin of King David. The undisciplined Celts were unable to withstand the well-directed attack of the royal army, and a rout and disorderly flight ensued, Earl Angus himself being among the slain. Edward pursued the fugitives as far as the Spey, and, according to a chronicler of the time, obtained possession of "the whole of that large territory." Celtic risings under Highland chieftains continued intermittently to disturb the country. The famous " plantation of Moray " under Malcolm IV., when a wholesale removal of the Gaelic inhabitants took place and strangers from the south were put in possession of the land, was followed by new rebellions. Wyntoun records that Alexander II. suppressed one of these in the west, and

"Owre the Mounth theyne passed he sene,
And held his Yhule in Abbyrdene."

In the reign of Alexander I. it is found that several towns have sprung into existence. By his charter to the Scone monastery he granted to the monks a dwelling in each of his "principal towns," and these were Edinburgh, Stirling, Inverkeithing, Perth, and Aberdeen. This is the earliest mention of Aberdeen in the documents of history. It was barely yet half a century since the Norman Conquest, but a new and progressive population had established itself in Scotland, and, apart from the wars of kings and chiefs, a silent revolution had set in which was changing the whole drift and spirit of the national life. Bodies of Teutonic settlers had built little towns by the sea or on the greater rivers, and formed themselves into communities bound together by mutual interests of trade and defence. Aberdeen has its place, it would seem, among the earliest of these communities. It may probably, like Berwick, have been a Viking station before the great immigration, but on this subject history is silent. Aberdon was its original name—a name still preserved in the adjective Aberdonian and the Latin Aberdonensis. Apardion is a form that comes to us through the Norse sagas. Centuries had elapsed since St Machar had planted his monastery on the high bank of the Don, and the Celtic name Aberdon had doubtless been in use among the monks and the people among whom they lived and laboured long before the new trading and maritime community was formed. The old name had been adopted by the new settlers, and whatever may have been the original vowel sound in the last syllable, it was with them the ee so characteristic of the Aberdeenshire dialect, and so indicative of affinity with the German tongue. In the vicinity of the city grew up the hamlets of Gilcomston and Ruthrieston, the names of which combine a Celtic personal name with the Saxon "town." Ruthrieston is doubtless the town of the mormaer Rothri. How soon the immigration into the north-east set in is unknown, but from the days of Malcolm Canmore an intermittent stream of Flemings, Anglo-Saxons, and Scandinavians had been coming to the Scottish seaports as peaceful settlers to establish trade and pursue their handicrafts. The foundation of the Church of St Nicholas would mark an epoch in the history of the city if its date could be ascertained. Probably St Nicholas was not the earliest edifice consecrated to public worship in the town, and Professor Cooper places the building of the church towards the middle of the twelfth century, when, as he suggests, it may have been erected on the ruins of a preceding church destroyed in the Norsemen's raid. Two visits of Norsemen took place in the early days of Aberdeen. About the middle of the twelfth century Swein Asleif's son spent a month at Apardion, where he found Malcolm, King of Scots, and was well entertained; and the Heimskringla tells of the buccaneering King Eystein bringing his ships to Apardion, where he killed many people and wasted the city.

The oldest of the city charters, granted by William the Lion about 1180, discloses the fact that in the second quarter of the century the burgesses were already united together and with their neighbours in other communities under a "free Hanse " or set of trading privileges. By this charter William confirmed to his burgesses of Aberdeen, to all burgesses of Moray, and to all his burgesses dwelling to the north of the Mounth, " their free Hanse, to be held where they will and when they will, as freely and peaceably, fully and honourably," as their ancestors had enjoyed it in the days of King David his grandfather. By a second charter of somewhat later date King William declared his burgesses of Aberdeen free from the payment of toll on their own goods throughout his whole kingdom. There were two federations of Scottish burghs in David's time, if not before it. One was the Court of the Four Burghs—Berwick, Roxburgh, Edinburgh, and Stirling— still represented in the Convention of Royal Burghs; the second was this " Hanse" of Aberdeen and other trans-Grampian communities, a prototype and precursor of the famous Hanseatic League of the North Sea and Baltic cities. Merchant leagues and guilds arose out of the conditions of the time. The result of David's grant was to draw the merchants of Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin, and Inverness into a union that would help them in defending their several and corporate rights. They gave reciprocal privileges in their markets, and set apart districts where particular towns were to have the right of exclusive trading.

William the Lion frequently visited Aberdeen, where he established a mint and built a royal residence between the Green and the Dee, which then flowed along the site of the modern Guild Street. This residence he' gifted after a time to the Trinity or Red Friars for a monastery, apparently the first establishment possessed by that order in Scotland. King William also granted to the Trinity Friars the lands of Banchory and Cowie, with other possessions, including salmon-fishings and mills in different parts of the district. This example was followed by his successor, Alexander II., who was a patron of the Dominican order, and established the Black Friars in his residence and garden on Schoolhillr where no doubt the Yule referred to by Wyntoun was spent. A charter of 1222 throws light on the conditions under which the burgesses carried on their business. Their weekly market was held on Saturday, and to this market the traders from other placcs might repair under the king's protection, provided they bought or sold no merchandise elsewhere within the sheriffdom. The cloth-market was reserved exclusively for the burgesses, except between Ascension Day and the beginning of August, when outsiders might buy or sell cloth and other merchandise along with them. The charter also established a merchant guild, from which, being craftsmen and not merchants, the fullers and weavers are expressly excluded ; and the guild merchants received a monopoly of the cloth manufacture, " dyed or shorn," within the sheriffdom, a monopoly which seems to have been in existence in David's time. Traffic in hides and wool, the great staples of export, was also restricted to the burgh mart. An incidental prohibition is laid in this charter on the multiplication of taverns, but an exemption is made to the extent of one house in each town " where a knight is lord of the town and dwells therein.'r By two charters of Alexander III.—the one granted at Kin-tore in 1273 and the other at Kincardine in 1277—the burgesses of Aberdeen obtained the right to hold a yearly fair of two weeks from the day of the Holy Trinity, and were declared, along with their servants, to be free from poinding of goods save for their own debts and obligations.

The origin of Banff as a burgh is contemporary with that of Aberdeen. Cullen, Inverurie, and Ivintore have their places likewise among the earliest of the royal burghs of Scotland, as is shown by royal grants of "tofts" or building sites to the Church; and numerous charters bear witness to the frequent presence of the kings at their royal castle in the neighbourhood of Kintore.

The last document in the ' Book of Deer'—the Latin charter by David—is a practical intimation that a new chapter of Aberdeenshire history had been opened. By this charter the king declares the clerics to be free from all lay interference and undue exaction, "as it is written in their book, and as they pleaded at Banff and swore at Aberdeen." In other words, they were not to be prejudiced in the enjoyment of their old rights and immunities. It was at Banff that David gave his charter to the Priory of Urquhart, his northern cell of the Monastery of Dunfermline; and as this charter with reference to Deer was executed in Aberdeen, it is probable that the proceedings to which it refers had in both instances taken place before him. Of these proceedings the transference of authority from the northern rulers to the King of Scotland is the obvious explanation. The charter may also have been intended as an assurance that the interests of the monastery would not suffer by the change in Church organisation.

Various of the possessions conferred upon the monks of the Celtic monastery of Deer can still be identified, as Aberdour, Aden, Altrie, Auchmachar, Biffie, Ellon, Elrick, Pitfour, and Skillymarno. The old place-names are generally recognisable in their modern forms, but the stone landmarks by which others of the lands are defined have disappeared, and with them all means of identification. It may be assumed, however, that the medieval possessions of the monastery are included among those of the Cistercian abbey that took its place, of which complete lists are extant. The gift by Gartnait and Ete has the peculiarity that the lands which were its subject were free from all exactions, " with the gift of them to Cormac, Bishop of Dunkeld." The explanation seems to be that Nectan, who witnesses the deed as Bishop of "Abberdeon," was exercising his functions as a suffragan or subordinate bishop. " Cormauch," indeed, is one of the four traditionary bishops who presided over the Church in the north-east before the see of Aberdeen was established. Besides Nectan the document is witnessed by Leot, Abbot of Brec.hin ; Ruadri, mormaer of Mar; Matadin, the brehon ; and Domongart, ferleighin of Turbruad or Turriff. In another document Cormac, Abbot of Turriff, appears ; while a third, by which Colban and Eva, with the chief of the Clan Morgan, mortmain all the endowments, bears the character of a minute of public proceedings at Ellon, of which the "goodmen" of the district were witnesses. Ellon was the .administrative capital of Buchan, and the head-courts of the mormaers and first earls were held on the Moothill, or Earl's hill, a slight elevation near the bank of the Ythan. The ferleighin, of whom Domongart of Turriff is the only example recorded in Aberdeenshire history, was originally the scribe, but later his duty included that of teacher, and was associated, occasionally at least, with the position of archdeacon.1 Another ecclesiastical office, not mentioned in the ' Book of Deer,' but strongly in evidence with regard to the holding of property at Ellon, was that of scoloc or scholar. In some cases the scolocs seem to have been husbandmen holding or cultivating lands under the clergy. In common with the old Columban monastery on the Ugie, the Monastery of Turriff, which was dedicated to St Congan, one of the Irish ollowers of St Columba, had passed into oblivion until recalled by the discovery, in r86o, of the 'Book of Deer.'

The bishopric of Aberdeen dates from about 1150, but the arrangement of temporalities was not completed at the death of David in 1153, and it was not till 1157 that the new see was confirmed by the bull of Pope Adrian IV. (Nicholas Brakespeare). The revenues assigned to the bishop were on a magnificent scale, including the church of Aberdeen, the church of St Machar, the whole town of Old Aberdeen, the church of St Nicholas of Aberdeen, the tithe of the burgh mill and of the can or customs of the port, important fishery rights on the Don with the tithe of the Cruives and several other fishings, a net on the Dee and tithes of the whole river and of the crops on its banks, the tithe of the king's revenue of Aberdeen and the burghs between the Dee and Spey, the tithe of Baldwyniston both of corn and fish, and the tithe of Badfothel (Pitfodels), the town of Rayne, Clatt with its church, the town and monastery of Mortlach with five churches and the dependent monastery of Cloveth (Cabrachj, the churches of Rayne, Daviot, Auchterless, lnvercruden, Belhelvie, Birse, Druinoak, and Banchory-Devenick, with their respective pertinents, the "land of Ellon which Master Ph'lip held," the town and church of Fetternear, the "town which belonged to Bastian the presbyter," and the "town which belonged to Achelis, beside Aberdeen." To these endowments the barony of Murthill (Murtle) was added by Malcolm IV., the lands of Birse by William the Lion, and the free forests of Birse and Fetternear by Alexander II. By the middle of the thirteenth century Aberdeen was the third in revenue of the Scottish sees, and in virtue of his territorial possessions and power its bishop was one of the magnates of the kingdom. Nectan seems to have died while the proceedings connected with the erection of the bishopric were still uncompleted, and the papal bull is addressed to Edward, Bishop of Aberdeen, who had been Chancellor under David, and whose non - Celtic lineage may be inferred from his name.

Several of the early bishops were men of note, and some of them took a leading part in national affairs. Bishop Gilbert de Stirling, according to Boece, recovered the forests of Birse and Clova from the " wicked Highlanders " ; Bishop Ralph de Lambley, who had been Abbot of Arbroath, is distinguished as a man of ascetic habits, who made his visitations on foot; Bishop Peter de Ramsay was one of the councillors of the realm during the youth of Alexander III.; and Bishop Hugh de Bennam attended the Council of Lyons, and appears to have been murdered at his residence at Loch Goul. Henry le Chen or Cheyne held the see through the War of Independence and the reign of Robert Bruce.

The reorganisation of the Church included also the division of the country into rural deaneries and parishes. In Aberdeenshire and Banffshire there were the deaneries of Mar, Buchan, and the Garioch. At a later date Buchan, which included Lower Banffshire, was divided into two, a dean being given to Boyne. Aberdeen and its vicinity were made a separate deanery, and Strathbogie was a deanery of Moray. Territorially these rural deaneries corresponded generally with the modern presbyteries.

The new settlers who were obtaining grants of land all over the country were strangers to the monastic system of the Celtic Church. Following the arrangements they were accustomed to, they would build a church, provide for its maintenance and ministrations by a moderate gift of land and by tithes of all produce, and appoint a clergyman to attend to the spiritual wants of themselves and their dependents. In this way the manor became the parish. The old monastic system had decayed, and, though in Deer we have an exception, the possessions of the chief monasteries were secularised and in the hands of laymen. Since Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret set the example with their great foundation at Dunferml'.ie a new order of abbeys and priories, distinguished by splendid architecture and many of them richly endowed, had been springing up. In Aberdeenshire there were the Abbey of Deer, which took the place of the old monastery, and the small priories of Fyvie and Monymusk. In 1275 we find the Aberdeenshire parishes marked off very much as they have come down to us, with secular clergy provided for by teinds and stipends. But even at this early date the parish clergy were heavily mulcted by their diocesan or conventual supenors, and obliged to depend upon the piety and benevolence of their people, whose assistance, voluntary at first, soon became recognised dues rigorously exacted, leading ultimately to the alienation of the people and the overthrow of the Church.

The change in the status of the two mormaers seems to have rapidly followed on the change of title, for in the time of William the Lion Aberdeen was a vicecomitatus or sheriffdom. The jurisdiction of the sheriff absorbed the functions which the mormaers had formerly exercised on behalf of the Crown, and he made periodical justiciary circuits through the county. The new institutions and system of government, however, are associated with the advent of a new ruling class, and a member of the reigning house comes upon the scene as Earl of Garioch.

The first of the new settlers in Aberdeenshire of whom we have distinct record is Bartolf, or Bartholomew, the founder of' the great county family of Leslie. Bartolf is presented to us as a Saxon notable who came over from Hungary in the suite of the family of which Queen Margaret was a member, rose to high favour and position at the Scottish Court, and received extensive grants of land in Fife, Angus, the Mearns, and Aberdeenshire. The Aberdeenshire grants included Cushnie and Lesselyn or Leslie, from which latter the family took its name. The oldest charter of the Leslie family, which is also the oldest charter of any lands in Aberdeenshire except Church lands, dates from the last quarter of the twelfth century, and being a charter to Malcolm, son of Bartolf, is hardly compatible with the idea of this Bartolf's having been in the retinue of the Atheling family on its return from Hungary a hundred years before; but it fixes the priority of the Leslies among the families that became permanently established in Aberdeenshire. The charter is historically important for another reason. It is addressed by David, Earl of Huntingdon and the Garioch, to all his vassals, clergy and laity, Franks (or Normans) and English, Flemings and Scots, and proves that in the latter part of the twelfth century a colony of Flemings was settled in the centre of the county.1 Multitudes of Flemings who had settled in England, or been engaged as mercenaries in Stephen's wars, came north in consequence of the edict of banishment issued by Henry II. against foreigners soon after his accession (1155). They formed little settlements in many parts of the country, established trade and handicrafts, particularly weaving, and reclaimed waste .land. One of these settlements was at Crutertston or Courtieston, in the parish of Leslie, named probably after a Fleming settler; and Flinder, still prominent among the place-names of the neighbourhood, is a further record of this medieval colony.

How powerful the Fleming interest was and how deep its roots were struck are shown by the fact that two centuries after Earl David's time the privilege of "Fleming law" was still recognised in the contemporary charters as appertaining to the descendants of the old settlers at Courtieston,1 while similar communities, with similar privilege of government by their own law, were established up and down the country, and persons described by the name Fleming or Flandrensis constantly appear in the charters. A few years before the date of the charter by Earl David to Malcolm the son of Bartolf, King Malcolm IV. bestowed the lands of Innes, just beyond the Spey, on Berowald, a Fleming who had been assisting him in clearing away the old population of that troublesome region. Another Fleming leader, named Freak1 n, obtained lands in the north and south of Scotland, and his descendants, as Earls of Sutherland, and in the person of Sir Andrew Moray, the associate of Wallace and Bruce, were to play a prominent part in northern history, and to be intermingled with the great Aberdeenshire families of Cumyn and Cheyne. The Sutherland earldom was earned by William Freskin's services in suppressing an insurrection in the far north in 1197, and under Alexander II. the like services were rendered again and again. The hardy and resourceful Flemings were among the first pioneers in the settlement of lands exposed to the full force of Celtic resentment and attack. They were also the pioneers of industry in northeastern Scotland. Wool was a staple export of Aberdeen, but it was also spun and woven by the Flemish settlers in the rising city as well as in the interior of the county. They were traders, artificers, and fishers, and the planters of towns and of these little communities that could live and thrive in the midst of a Celtic people, who saw with dismay the ceaseless encroachments of the stranger. Such immigrants could not fail to impress their character, customs, and language upon the land of their adoption. To this period—namely, the earlier part of the reign of William the Lion — may be assigned the beginning, as regards rural Aberdeenshire, of the great transformation which"; within half a century was to' give it a new population, speaking the Lowland Scotch tongue, and even that specially Teutonic form of it, the "Broad Buchan," which has held its place as a distinct dialect for more than six hundred years.

The creation of the earldom of Garioch by Malcolm IV. or William the Lion, and its bestowal on their brother David, who afterwards became English Earl of Huntingdon, must be regarded as one of the great landmarks in this history. It was a political event arising out of this transformation, accelerating its progress, and contributing to its completeness. We may also see in it the beginning of that rule by great families of non-Celtic origin which now becomes the most assertive element in the history of these counties.

The administrative headquarters of the earldom were at Inverurie, and for three generations the heads of the Leslie family held the office of Constable of Inverurie and keeper of the castle, their functions including command in war, the administration of justice, and general supervision of the earldom in the absence of its lord. Earl David was for the most part an absentee. The best-known passage in his career is his participation in the Third Crusade (1190-1192) by the side of the Lion-hearted Richard; and in this enterprise he was accompanied by some Aberdeenshire men, including Malcolm the younger brother of Norman Leslie the Constable, and one of the Durwards recently come to Mar. Unlike so many of the crusaders, Earl David survived the campaign against Saladin; but of its hardships and dangers he had his share, including shipwreck and sale into slavery, from which he had the good fortune to be bought back to freedom by some of his countrymen. The Abbey of Lindores may have been founded before he went to the crusade, but its charters are dated after his return, including the foundation-charter, which recites that he had founded it for the welfare of his relatives, beginning with Kjng David, and bestows upon it the churches of Fintray, Inverurie (with the chapel of Monkeigie), Durno, Premnay, Rathmuriel, Insch, Culsalmond, and Kennethniont, with all their endowments.

After the death of Ruadri two claimants for the succession to the earldom of Mar appeared in the persons of Morgund, or Morgrund, and Gilchrist. Morgund's legitimacy was disputed, and apparently the issue turned on conflicting principles of feudal, canon, and Celtic law. King William, who had just comc to the throne, decided at first in favour of Gilchrist, who though of Celtic blood was connected through his wife with influential Norman and Saxon houses. His daughter, Orabilis, was the wife of Malcolm de Lundin, who had property in Forfarshire, and their son was Thomas the Doorward, first of the Aberdeenshire Durwards. After a few years the decision as to the earldom was reversed, Morgund receiving the title and the upland territories of his predecessors, while Gilchrist had the more fruitful country between the Dee and Don, from Coull eastward to the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, including the thanage of Onele. Gilchrist gave to the new Culdee Priory of Monymusk the churches of St Andrew of Alford, St Marnan of Leochel, and St Wolok of Ruthven and Invernochty, together with certain lands; but the confirmation charter of these gifts by John, Bishop of Aberdeen, omits the Ruthven and Invernochty churches, doubtless because, while Gilchrist claimed them, they really belonged to Earl Morgund. Thomas Durward succeeded Gilchrist and revived his claim to the earldom, but without success. Possessing these extensive Aberdeenshire estates, along with others in Fife and Forfar, Durward was a man of wealth, and his benefactions to the Church included gifts of the forest of Trostach, between the Dee and the Cannie, with the church of Kinnernie, to the Abbey of Arbroath, and the church of Echt to the Abbey of Scone. Two strongholds of the Durwards, the Castle of Coull and the Peel of Lumphanan, probably dated from the time of Thomas Durward, and he erected at Kincardine O'Neil (Onele) a stone bridge across the Dee on the main road between north and south by the Cairn-a-Mounth. The Dee was also spanned at the same period, it is believed, by bridges at Durris and near the mouth of the Muick, for it was an age of enterprise and progress far in advance of the dark centuries that were to come.

By 1233 Thomas had been succeeded both in the estates and in the office of Hostiary by his still more celebrated son Alan Durward, who is called Earl of Athole in a charter of this year confirming his father's gift of the wood of Trostach, as also in a royal charter of 1234, but whose connection with the Athole earldom must have been of short duration, and possibly arose from marriage with the heiress, who had become a widow in 1232, or from guardianship of her son. Justiciai for many years, married to an illegitimate daughter of Alexander II., and himself an ambitious and self-assertive man, Alan Durward was head of the opposition to the Cumyns. In Aberdeenshire he built and endowed a hospital beside his father's bridge across the Dee; at Montrose he founded a monastery of the new order of Dominican or Preaching Friars. He had a charter from the abbot and convent of Arbroath of the lands of Banchory-Devenick, which were converted into a free barony, subject to certain services and rents; in Moray he also acquired lands, and he renewed the claim to the earldom of Mar, but failed, as his father had done, to oust the Celtic earl in possession.

The Scoto-Norman de Bysets or Bissets appear about the same time as the Durwards, and as lords of Aboyne were their immediate neighbours in Deeside. They had wide ramifications in England, and were among the barons who early acquired possessions on the Border. The first of them on record in Scotland is Henry, who witnessed a charter of William the Lion before 1198, and within the next few years several members of the family were settled in the north Walter was Lord of Aboyne, and about the same date he founded the preceptory of the Knights Templars at Culter, erected a chapel and other buildings, and gave to the preceptory the church of Aboyne. The Bysets were connected by marriage with several of the Scoto-Norman houses, and Walter's wife, a sister of Alan of Galloway, the grandfather of John Baliol, the competitor and king, was nearly related to Patrick, the young Earl of Athole, who had apparently been under the tutelage of Alan Durward. The turning-point in the fortunes of the Bysets, and one of the most striking incidents in the vicissitudes of families, occurred at the famous tournament at Haddington of 1242, when Athole entered the lists against the Lord of Aboyne, unhorsed him, and on the following night was burnt to death in the house where he slept. The Bysets were strongly suspected of being impb ;ated in the affair, and they had many enemies among the jealous and turbulent adventurers who were so keenly pushing their interests in Scotland. From the gathering storm John Byset sought refuge in Ireland, while Walter tried to avert it by getting his chaplains to excommunicate all who were concerned in the murder, and by taking temporary shelter with the king; but ultimately he had to retire to England, and yielding to pressure, the king decreed outlawry and forfeiture against the leading members of the family. Walter took service under Henry III. of England, who had on hand the war in France; and when Henry afterwards sent an army to the north in menace of Scotland, so prominent a knight could not in the circumstances escape the suspicion of being the instigator of this movement, and the hostility towards him in Scotland continued unabated till his death in Arran in 1251. The forfeiture was ultimately removed in favour of Thomas Byset, the nephew and heir of Walter, probably at the instance of Alan Durward, one of whose charters, in 1256, when he had control of affairs, is witnessed by Thomas Byset; but the Bysets did not recover their former importance, and most of their northern possessions passed by the marriage of heiresses into other families. They are represented to this day, however, by the Bissets of Lessendrum, who have been in continuous possession since the thirteenth century and are one of the oldest Scottish families.

There is no more striking and memorable passage in the history of north-eastern Scotland than that which concerns the sudden emergence, the brilliant reign for nearly a century, and the sudden and tragical extinction of the Scoto-Norman family of Comyn or Cumyn. Robert de Comines, its founder in Britain, came over with the Conqueror, was sent by him to subdue the north, and perished at Durham, his successor "being rewarded with extensive lands in Tynedale and elsewhere. Another of his descendants, William Cumyn, came to Scotland and was chancellor in David's reign, but afterwards returned to England, where he became Bishop of Durham. Richard Cumyn, who inherited the family estates in Northumberland, was principal minister of King William, and his son, William Cumyn, who in 1189 succeeded to the estates in the south of Scotland as well as those in Northumberland, acquired by royal gift the manor of Lenzie and lands of Kirkintilloch, was Justiciar of Scotland in 1209 or earlier, and for the next quarter of a century had a hand in all the great transactions of State. The first event in his life that directly concerns this history is his marriage with Marjory, daughter and heiress of Fergus, the last Celtic Earl of Buchan. This event, fraught with important consequences for Buchan and the north, appears to have taken place in 1210. Nearly a century had elapsed since Gartnait appeared as a feudal earl at the first Alexander's Court at Scone, and the countess, there can be no doubt, had been brought up in the ways of Norman fashion. Cumyn was the first statesman of the age, probably also the wealthiest nobleman, and through his vassals and dependents he could bring into the field a considerable army. In 1222 he was appointed guardian of the earldom of Moray, in which capacity he suppressed a Gillespoc rebellion, capturing and beheading the insurgent chief and his sons; and in 1228 he had the lordship of Badenoch and Lochaber conferred on his son Walter, afterwards by marriage Earl of Menteith, and for a time the head of the Cumyn interest. Walter was the second of William Cumyn's two sons by a marriage prior to that with the heiress of Buchan ; and Richard, the elder, had the succession to the hereditary Cumyn estates in the south of Scotland. Matrimony, war, and statecraft were profitable to the Cumyns. They had several residences in East Aberdeenshire, their chief seat being at Kinedar (corrupted into " King Edward "), between Turriff and Banff, where a castle was erected on a position of natural strength such as had been chosen as sites for the older Celtic strongholds. The date of Kinedar Castle must have been before 1272, when the second earl gave its tithes to his hospital at Turriff. Another of their seats was at Kelly, near Haddo House, the modern residence of the Earls of Aberdeen, where Alexander III. was a guest in 1272. Others were at Slains, Rattray, and Dundarg. The earl's courts were held at Ellon as in the former Celtic days, but each residence was a fortress of defence, whenever defence became necessary, and a minor administrative centre from which the district around it was supervised.

It is, however, as pious founders that Earl William and Countess Marjory are most prominent in the Aberdeenshire records. Before the death of William the Lion the countess had granted to the monks of Arbroath the churches of Turriff, Inverugie, Strichen, and Rathen; while the earl and countess together gave the same monks the patronage of Bethelnie with all its pertinents, and a toft in the village of Bethelnie with common pasture and other "easements." To the monks of St Andrews the earl granted lands in Fyvie, and another of his ecclesiastical benefactions was a gift of the rent of lands in Strichen to the chapel of St Mary beside his castle in the town of Rattray—a hamlet which was to become for a time a royal burgh and then to pass into decay, and ultimately to disappear, through the closing of its harbour by sand. But the great ecclesiastical work of Earl William was the erection of the Abbey of St Mary of Deer. The old monastery now passes away, its possessions being transferred to the abbey, which rose on a new site three-quarters of a mile farther up the river and on its opposite bank, in a marshy and wooded hollow between two eminences, also wooded, as is implied in their names of Sapling Brae and Aikey Brae. Like the other churches of the period, that of the Deer Abbey was in the First Pointed or Early English style, the arches lancet-shaped, with double mouldings cut in red sandstone laboriously transported from Byth some twelve miles away. One hundred and fifty feet long, ninety feet wide across the transepts, and thirty-eight feet across the nave and aisle, the erection of such a structure in central Buchan is itself an evidence that a revolution had taken place in industry as well as art. Its first occupants were a colony of Cistercians brought from King David's Priory of Kinloss, whither their predecessors had been transplanted from Melrose in 1150. His church was a work in which the great earl took pride, and on which he expended liberally of his wealth ; and within its precincts his remains and those of the countess were entombed.

On the death of Earl William in 1233 his son Alexander succeeded to the earldom, and Walter, Lord of Badenoch and Earl of Menteith, a man of more mature years and experience, stepped into his father's place as first of the nobles in prestige and influence. For a time P2arl Alexander makes no particular figure in history, but later on he was appointed to his father's office of Justiciar in succession to Alan Durward, and ultimately combined with it that of High Constable, which came to him on the death of his father-in-law, Roger de Quenci, Earl of Winchester, by whom it had been held. Through his wife, a great-granddaughter of David, Earl of the Garioch,—she was a cousin of John Bah'ol, the claimant and king,—he came into possession on Earl Roger's death of estates in Galloway, Fife, and the Lothians, and took his place as sheriff and chief territorial magnate of Wigtown.1 In Aberdeenshire he endowed in 1261 the Holy Rood of Newburgh, a hospital or cell of the Abbey of Deer, and in 1273a hospital at Turriff for a master, six chaplains, and thirteen poor husbandmen of Buchan. One of the most salient incidents in the career of Earl Alexander arose out of the ambition of Alan Durward. An open conflict between the parties headed by these twro Aberdeenshire notables began on the death of Alexander II. in 1249, when obstruction was raised by the English party to the coronation of the young king Alexander III., on the ground that he had not been knighted. Walter Cumyn carried the predominant sense of the magnates with him in demanding that this formality should be disregarded, and that the Bishop of St Andrews should proceed at once with the coronation ceremony. After the coronation and the futile attempt of Henry III. to get it annulled by the Pope, there arose a long and bitter struggle over the questions of regency and tutelage. Durward was ousted from the Justiciarship and the Abbot of Dunfermline from the office of Chancellor, the Earl of Buchan taking the place of the former and Walter Cumyn exercising a general control over the course of affairs. After the child-marriage between the king and a daughter of Henry III. various emissaries were sent north, among them Simon de Montfort, on ostensible missions of public policy and secret missions of intrigue. The seizure of Edinburgh Castle gave the Durward and English party control of the king and queen, and a regency was formed in which Durward was associated with Peter de Ramsay, Bishop of Aberdeen, Malcolm, Earl of Fife, and other prominent members of the party. The Pope's intervention to the extent of excommunicating Durward and the English party having been successfully invoked • by the Bishop of St Andrews, the Cumyns in turn seized the king, the. queen, and the great seal at Kinross in 1257, and reinstated themselves in power. Durward fled to England. W ith statesmanlike moderation the Cumyn party formed a new regency, in which, while retaining a majority, they made room for him and some members of his party. Walter Cumyn shortly afterwards died, and the Earl of Buchan became head of the Cumyn interest and leading statesman for the next thirty years. Durward while in power revived his claim to the earldom of Mar; but after the compromise he seems to have worked amicably with both the Aberdeenshire earls, with whom, after the battle of Largs, he took part in the expedition against the Hebridean chiefs.

In the latter part of the twelfth century Duncan, Earl of Fife, was feudal lord of Strathaven, or Upper Banffshire, a peer of Celtic descent, whose ancestor, however, was agent of Malcolm Canmore in the overthrow of Macbeth, and whose family had all along been associated with the new order and the new people. There is on record an agreement by whi the Bishop of Moray made over to Earl Duncan the possessions of the old Columban cells scattered up and down the district, in return for a fixed annual payment, and the earl's barony was erected into a parish, and Andrew, a non-Celtic priest of Brechin, appointed its incumbent. Duncan was succeeded in Strathaven by his son Malcolm, and >"n Strathbogie, which he also possessed, by his second son David, called after it de Strathbolgin, whose successors carried this surname to the house of Athole. Through marriage with one of the three heiresses of Alan Durward, the Earls of Fife succeeded to a large part of the Durward possessions in West Aberdeenshire, and held them until the forfeiture, early in the fifteenth century, of Robert, Duke of Albany, who had acquired the earldom in the same way.

Among the other early settlers were the Le Neyms, who had been established in Berwickshire and Tweeddale, and came north in the days of William the Lion. By the middle of the thirteenth century the Le Neyms had disappeared, and in their place at St Fergus was the Norman family of Le Chen or Cheyne. Reginald le Chen, though bis name does not appear in the Durward-Cumyn struggle of 1255-1257, was one of the magnates who in 1258 entered into the treaty with the Welsh, and in 1267 he was Chamberlain of Scotland. Besides his Buchan estate he held lands in Ayrshire and elsewhere. In Aberdeen he founded and endowed the house of Carmelite or White Friars beside King William's Maturine establishment on the bank of the Dee. The Carmelites had

just come to Scotland, where they established nine convents, another of which was at Banff; and they held considerable property in the city and county of Aberdeen. One of Reginald's sons, also known as Sir Reginald le Chen, lived through the wars, and by marriage with Mary de Moravia, co-heiress of the Fleming house of Freskin, added to his territorial possessions in Buchan the manor-place and Castle of Duffus and other lands in Moray, as well as estates in Caithness and West Lothian. A relative, probably cousin, of the younger Sir Reginald, and grandson of Alexander, Earl of Buchan, was Henry le Chen, Bishop of Aberdeen, who had his share in the troubles attending the struggle for the throne. Contemporary with the Le Neyms, and also from the Border, were the Corbets, who acquired possessions in Gamrie, and Peter de Pollock, who came from Renfrewshire to Mulben, and had lands on both sides of the Spey; the Lambertons were settled at Bourtie before or during the days of the first Earl of the Garioch. Michael de Ferenderach, whose name is derived from Frendraught, witnessed a charter of William the Lion about 1202, and his descendants remained in possession until after the battle of Bannockburn, when they incurred sentence of forfeiture. It is evident from the early charters that even outside the Lowland earldoms the land to a large extent had passed into new hands.

Side by side, however, with the strangers by whom the county had been colonised were families of the old Celtic stock having lands confirmed to them by charter; and among the thanes, whom we now find exercising fixed authority over the lands not assigned to feudal lords, a few appear to have been descendants of the old toisechs. The Celtic land system was entirely broken up, and tribal- ownership had disappeared. Great part of Aberdeenshire and Banffshire was held of the Crown in feudal tenure by the Earls of Buchan, Ganoch, Mar, and Fife, each of whom had his vassals. The tribal territories not placed under these lords became thanages, and were regarded as royal demesnes, the thane holding his land in feu-farm and paying an annual feu-duty, and the land being either cultivated by bondmen " natives " or let to free farmers. An early notice of thanage in Aberdeenshire is found in the charter of William the Lion of 1170 to the Bishop of Aberdeen of seventeen townships of Brass or Birse, together with the royal forest of Brass, and all the "1 natives " of the said lands, but excluding the king's thanes. Two generations later, in 1240, Alexander II. granted the whole lands of Birse to the bishop in free forest without exception, the thanage being thus extinguished. Between the Dee and Don in the time of Alexander III. there were the thanages of Aberdeen, Kintore, Onele, and Aboyne. The Aberdeen thanage included the town of Old Aberdeen, and no doubt the royal forest of Stocket, which was afterwards granted to the burgh of Aberdeen by Robert Bruce. Aboj'ne was a royal residence during the eclipse of the Bysets, and Alexander III. frequently occupied it after their reinvestiture. Onele was the Dunvard country, its status in the administrative system of this period being less than that of an earldom, though its thanes were among the most powerful men in the country. Kintore, with its lands of Thaneston and its royal keep of Hallforest, is prominent in the charter history for centuries as a thanage, and its territory ncluded not only Kintore and Kinkell, which was partly north of the Don, but Kemnay, Kinnellar, Dyce, and Skene. This thanage was transferred to the Earl of Moray in 1375, to be held as a barony, with the bondmen, bond-service, "native men," and their issue, for military service. North of the Don there was the great thanage of Fermartyn or Formartine, occupying most of the territory between the Ythan and the Ury and lower Don, with its principal seat at Fyvie, and having at its eastern extremity the much smaller thanage of Belhelvie. West of the thanage of Fermartyn was that of Conveth, represented by the modern parish of Inverkeithney, adjacent to which were the thanages of Aberchirder and Nether-dale. There.were also the great thanage of Boyne, with its forest, and the smaller ones of Glendowachy or Doune, and Munbre or Mountblairy.

Thanages were much more numerous in the north-east than elsewhere, and very few are met with south of Forfarshire. They emerge at a comparatively late stage of the transition epoch, after most of the country was in effective possession of the new feudal lords. Few of the thanedoms survived the wars of independence and succession : either the lands reverted to the Crown and were granted anew as feudal baronies, or the thanes, where the name survived, were transformed into hereditary landholders, paying to the Crown a fixed rent. Along with the thanages there was another class of Crown lands called "shires," and we find the shires of Clatt, Tullynessle, Rayne, and Daviot among the grants of King David to the bishopric of Aberdeen.

A peculiar significance attaches to the word nativi or " natives " in these early charters. The Church itself at this period had its thralls: in the Aberdeenshire records there is the case of Gillemor Scolgo, the " native liegeman " of the prior and convent of St Andrews on their lands of Tarland, who in 1222 had their licence to abide during their pleasure with Sir James, the son of Morgund, sometime Earl of Mar, in consideration of the yearly payment of a pound of wax, and on condition that whensoever they should be reclaimed both Gillemor and his sons, with all their belongings, should return to the prior and convent as their "native men" to dwell in such reasonable place as should be allotted to them.

The "native" or "neyf" was a serf, and the name suggests a bondage imposed upon a conquered population by immigrants. Mr Cosmo Innes, the great authority on the medieval law and history of Scotland, calls attention to the "great peaceful silent revolution which has never found its way nto the pages of our historians," represented by the fact that the servile labour of the agricultural class, which had prevailed all over Europe, died out first in Scotland.1 The last claim of serfdom proved in a Scotch court was in the Sheriff Court of Banff in 1364, when an assize found that three men were " the native and liege men " of Alexander, Bishop of Moray; but in 1388 Adam, Bishop of Aberdeen, granted a charter of the church lands of Murtle to Alderman William Chalmers, with the bondmen, natives, and their issue, who, however, are omitted in a subsequent charter of the same lands in 1402. In the early days of the new Lowland population serfdom was an institution in general practice, and the plea might be set up for it that it served the purpose of keeping the old inhabitants usefully employed and out of mischief. They were not chattels but serfs attached to the soil and transferable with it to new lords. Residence of a bondman for a year and a day in a free burgh made him a free man. The institution became attenuated and gradually died out. With partial exceptions in the cases of colliers, salters, and fishermen, it seems to have ceased in Scotland by about the end of the fourteenth century; but, as we have just seen, it is traceable in these counties down to that rime.

The castles of Aberdeen and Banff were erected in the days of Alexander III. as defences against the Scandinavians, who were again threatening the peace of the country and meeting with their final discomfiture at the battle of Largs. The " snow tower" of Kildrummy, a royal castle and long the headquarters of the earldom of Mar, goes back to a much earlier period, and in the reign of Alexander II. we find his northern treasurer, Gilbert, Bishop of Caithness, adding seven towers to the original building and otherwise increasing its strength. Among the royal castles of the twelfth century was that of Inverurie, which with Dunnideer passed to the earldom of the Garioch. The Cumyns had their several castles in Buchan ; the Cheynes were the builders of Ravens-craig on the Ugie ; the Durwards had their strongholds at Coull and Lumphanan 3 the Earls of Mar had a castle at Migvie in the same district, and the Bysets one at Aboyne, of sufficient pretensions to be a royal residence. The ancient defensive works gradually gave place to durable structures of stone-and-lime, and as time advanced these new castles became numerous throughout the province. In their vicinity the immigrant settlers built "towns," over which the lord exercised his powers of regality, and his lands were portioned out among his retainers, who repaid him in rents, dues, and military service. It was the interest of the barons, at a time when their power rested upon the number of followers they could call to arms, to induce the former population to accept their rule, and doubtless many of the Celts fell in with the new order of things and ranged themselves under the banners of the southern lords.

Whatever means may have been employed to facilitate the fusion, we see the Celtic and Teutonic races rapidly coalescing when the Celtic dynasty of kings became extinct, towards the close of the thirteenth century. A time of great national prosperity and of rapid progress in wealth and civilisation had been experienced. A young and energetic people had come in and possessed the lands, had built towns and great churches, and had dotted baronial castles over the country. At the end of this period of "luve and le" Aberdeen had its place as one of the most prosperous of Scottish towns, with a body of sturdy citizens jealously upholding their trading privileges and generally comporting themselves as a vigorous self-governing community. The country round it was in the hands of some of the most enlightened men of the age. Industrial communities had taken root all over the district. The new population had supplanted or absorbed the old Celtic inhabitants—entirely in the low country and to a large extent everywhere, except in a few of the remoter glens; and the counties of Aberdeen and Banff were occupied by a people which has not received any important additions from without or undergone any considerable ethnological change during the last six hundred years.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast