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

Old Contracts of Friendship
From the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness


In the sale catalogue of the Abertarff books and papers, which were disposed of at Inverness towards the close of last autumn, I was attracted by the entry, “ Contract of friendship, Alexander Lord Lovat and John Chisholm, John Mackenzie, and Kenneth Mackenzie, 2nd May 1549 and having given a commission for the purchase of this document, I became the possessor of a rather torn and ragged half sheet of foolscap, which was folded and endorsed “Contract of mutuall frendship betwix my Lord Louat and Jone M'Kenze of Kintaill.” Internally the writing was in good preservation, except where the paper was torn ; but it contained some words in which the characters and abbreviations were almost illegible. As illustrative of the state of society in the Highlands in the middle of the 16th century, it may have an interest for the Gaelic Society of Inverness, one of whose objects is to rescue from oblivion manuscripts bearing on the history of the Gaelic people. The document, which, so far as I am aware, has not hitherto been published, is as follows :—

“At Bewling ye second day of may in ye yeir of God ane thousand vc and xlix yiers it is appointit aggreit ife fynale endit betwex ane nobill & potent lord Alexander Lord frayser of Louet Johne Chessolm of Comer on ye tane part and Joline M'Kenze of Kyntaill and Kennocht M'Kenze his sone and apperand ayr on ye toyr part in maner form and effect as eftr followis, that is to say ye sayd Johne M‘Kenze of Kyntaill and Kennocht M'Kenze his sone hes bundin and oblist yam sellHs be ye faytht and treutht in yair bodeis ye haly ewangelist tucheit corporly that yai sail defend matayne & tak afald pt wt ye sayd Lord frayser of Louet and Johne Ohessolm of Comer in yair querellis quhat sumeuyr in contrar all mortall man ye authorite my Lord of huntlie ye Erie of Suthyrland & James Grant of Fruquhy allanerly exceppit And in lykwyss ye sayd Lord frayser & Johne Chessolm of Comer hes bundin & oblist yam selffis be ye faytht and treutht in yr bodeis ye haly ewangelist tucheit corporly yat yai sail defend matayne and tak afald pt wt ye sayde Johne Mckenze and Kennocht his sone in contrar all man mortall ye authorite my lord of hunt-lye & ye lard of Balnagowyn allanerle exceppit and yis band of kyndnes mayd becauss of ye tendyrnes & kyndnes qlk hes beyne abefoyr betwex or forbears ; and [for observing ?] and keeping and fulfilling of yis or band of kyndnes ye sayd Johne McKenze and Kennocht my sone hes subscribit and selit our part hereof to remane interchengeble wt ye sayd Lord frayser and Johne Chessolm. At Bewling the yeir day effoyr wretin before yir wytness Hewehon Symson off Brigend Alexander Bayne and Sir Wylleam Dow chaplane wt wderis diueress. And in lykwss ye sayds pteis abune wretin hes bundin &, oblist yair kyn freynds [and serwands ?] in maner form as is abune wretin.

“Johne McKenze of Kyntail wt my hand led at ye pen
“Kennocht McKenze wt my hand led at ye pen.”

Bonds of this nature seem to have been not uncommon at the period when the above contract was entered into. Law received but doubtful recognition, or at least its rule was too frequently superseded by that of might; and men who could not rely on their own strength as sufficient for their protection were glad to purchase the support of their more powerful neighbours, or exemption from their ill-will, or to strengthen the bonds of alliance with their kinsmen and friends. There seem to have been at least three distinct classes of bonds employed for these purposes.

(1) There were bonds of assurance in which one man undertook not to molest another. Thus, on 22nd October 1527, Hector Mackintosh, Captain of the Clan Chat tan, assures Ewen Alan son, Captain of the Clan Cameron, “ hymeself, his kyne, party, purcheis and enyrdance, his & thare landis, gudis purcheis and enyrdance” up to “ye fest of St Anclrow nixt to come.” We may feel pretty sure that Ewen Alanson would need to keep good watch after the feast of St Andrew, the 30th of November following, hut this bond secures him forty night’s of peaceful sleep, so far at least as the Clan Chattan were concerned. Bonds of assurance were not always so limited in point of time. In 1593 Hugh Rose of Ivilravock received2 a bond of assurance from Huntly securing him and his dependents against molestation “ be ws, our army, kyn, freyndis or Allane McConill dw off Locheall, Alexr. Mc-Rennald of Gargawche, our dependaris, their serwandis, depen-daris or awaitteris wpoune thame, in ony maner of way and this assurance was to hold good till recalled.

(2) Another class of protective bond was that of manrent given by inferiors to superiors, under which protection was stipulated for, in return for a life-long obligation of military service. This seems to have been very commonly resorted to. It must not be supposed that all bonds of manrent were of this nature. Tn some the obligation was for menial service, and the stipulated return was a mere matter of wages. There has been preserved a bond of this kind in which Thomas Davidson binds himself with a servant, to serve Hugh Rose of Kilravock as a gardener for a year, and thereafter if it pleases Kilravock for the rest of his life, receiving therefor during the first year meat for himself and his servant, and four pennies each working day, with a fee of one mark for the servant for the year, and also a chamber to lodge in ; thereafter Kilravock, if he retains him, is to build him a house and give him such wages as are usually given to men of his craft. Four pennies a day, or two shillings Scots for six days work, is twopence of our money as weekly wage, while the servant’s annual fee was but Is. ljd. The special feature of bonds of manrent, whether the obligations undertaken were of military or menial service, appears to be that they bound for life to a state of vassalage. They seem to be, indeed, a relic of slavery or serfdom, the manrent service being even assignable.

When Sir Jno. Campbell, brother to Colin, 3rd Earl of Argyll, made good his claim in right of his wife, Lady Muriel Calder, to the Cawdor estates, he found himself far from home and friends. Sheriff Nicolson, quoting Gregory, gives the proverb, “Is fada an eubh o Loch Obha, ’us cobhair o Chlann O’Duibhne,” as having originated at a battle in Glenlivat between Huntly and Argyll in 1594. But in the book of the Thanes of Cawdor, where the proverb is given thus,  “ S’ fhada glaodh o Lochow ; s’ fhada cobhair o chlann dhoaine ” [the last word evidently misspelt], it is said to have originated in a contest for the possession of the person of Lady Muriel Calder in 1500. Campbell of Inverliver had been sent by Archibald, 2nd Earl of Argyll, to take the child from her maternal grandfather at Kilravock, and bring her to Inveraray, Argyll and Kilravock having obtained a gift of tutors dative to her, and Argyll having the ward of her marriage. Inverliver was opposed by two of her uncles, Alexander and Hugh Calder, who overtook him with a superior party at Daltul'lich, and, pressing him to fight, caused him to utter the ejaculation which has passed into a proverb. Whichever story is true, whether the proverb originated before or after Sir John Campbell’s time, there can be little doubt that the idea it expresses, a sense of imminent danger, and of distant relief, might very well have been uppermost in the knight’s mind as he took possession of his wife’s heritage. It was in these circumstances that his brother, the Earl of Argyll, assigned to him in the year 1522,t “ the manrent and seruice of our traist frendis, and seruandis Alexander McAllane McRoyri and Donald Gromach McDonald Gallach and all thar kyne frendis and seruandis that dependis one them, etc.” Such an assignation, though rare, is said by Mr Cosmo Innes to be “not without parallel.” When bonds of manrent were given by considerable personages, they may sometimes have been compelled to do so by the pressure of circumstances ; but quite as frequently such bonds had a commercial character, and were given as a quid pro qud, a return for gifts of land or other favours. The bond of the Grants in 1546, which is cited in the footnote, J was given by them in consideration of their having been infeft in liferent by Huntly in “ his sex dawachs of his landis of Strathoune .... with the forest and glen of Glenawne, and keping of the hous and for-talice of Drummyne, togidder with the bailliorye of the lorschipe of Strathoune,” and similarly in 1550 the Laird of Fowlis gives his bond of manrent to Huntly “ for the quhilk (he says) the said nobill and mychty Lord hes giffen me his bond of mantenans, togidder with the sume of foarte pundis wsuall ruone of Scotland to be payit yeirlie induring the said space of ray liftyme.” There are many bonds extant approaching in character those of manrent, but in which the obligation is not expressly stated to be for life. They are generally between persons more nearly of equal station, and they may be met with, shading imperceptibly into deeds of the next class.

(3) This third class of protective bond is that between friends and equals, of which the transcript from the Abertarff papers is a fair specimen. The chief of Kintail and his son, who were parties to it, are also parties to a much more formal agreement of a similar kind* between them, and Campbell of Cawdor, Grant of Fruquhy, and Ross of Balnagown. This agreement, which is entered into at the Chanonry of Ross January 15-45, contains a provision that if any of the parties fail in fulfilling their part thereof, the remainder shall take part against “ the brekar fray their consall.” It is difficult to understand by what other sanctions such a contract could have been enforced. A bread) of its covenants could hardly have formed the ground of a civil action, not to mention that the very fact of such agreements been made, presupposed a state of society in which submission to law was uncertain. In the case of the contract between Lovat, Chisholm, and Kintail, which has been the foundation for these remarks, the covenant is affirmed with an oath on “ the haly ewangel,” a disregard of which might perhaps have been dealt with ecclesiastically. In 1570 Lord Lovat and Huntly entered into a contract of friendship! for the enforcement of which there is neither oath nor any other visible provision beyond the sanction which mutual interest supplied. Lovat wanted a feu farm of “ the landis k names of Beowlyne with the salmond fischeing thereof,” etc., and Huntley’s influence is promised to obtain this for him from the Abbot of Kinloss. On the other hand, Huntly, who belonged to Queen Mary’s party, had to maintain his position in the North against Lennox, who had been appointed Regent by Elizabeth, and wanting all the support he could get, he secures Lovat’s aid by this agreement.

On the face of the contract between Lovat and Chisholm “on the tane part,” and the two Mackenzies “on the toyr,” there is nothing to show why it was entered into, nor does tradition or history so far as I am aware mention any special circumstance which called for a strengthening of alliances on the borders of Ross and Inverness at that particular juncture; and I am inclined to suppose that it may have been with some view of avenging his clan on the Macdonalds, with whom the Mackenzies had a hereditary feud, that Alexander Lord Lovat entered into this agreement. He was the son of Hugh, the fifth Lord, who with his eldest son by his first wife Ann Grant of Freuchy, and with most of his clan, fell in tight with the Macdonalds at the Battle of Blar na Leinne, on Loch-Lochy in 1544. Sir Robert Gordon says that 300 of the blood and surname of Fraser were killed at this battle, and there wes a rumor spred that there wes not one of the familie left alyve that was of manes state. Bot it happened by the singular benefite of God, that they left their wyffs with chyld when they went to the feight : by which meanes that familie wes afterwards raised and restored.” But as yet five years only had elapsed : the Frasers who, in the interval, had come to man’s estate could not have been very numerous, and their Chief might be willing enough to strengthen himself by alliances whether for defence or for vengeance.

Another explanation of this contract may be that it was a token of reconciliation between Lovat and Kintail. Hugh, Master of Lovat, who had been killed at Loch-Lochy, was a son of Ann Grant of Freuchy, and tradition says was left at home intentionally by his father, who did not wish his life endangered. But stung by the taunts of his step-mother, Janet Ross of Balnagown, who wished the succession opened to her own son (the Lovat of this contract), the Master followed his father, and with him lost his life. It might very well be, therefore, that the Grants of Freuchy felt some coldness towards the young Lovat and his mother. John Mackenzie of Kintail was married to one of these Grants (a daughter of John, the tenth laird, says the historian of the Mackenzies), and if so a sister of the deceased Anne Lady Lovat, and aunt of Hugh, who was the victim of his stepmother’s taunts. There was thus a reason for coldness between the two families of Lovat and Kintail, which were, nevertheless, closely allied by blood—John of Kintail’s mother having been a daughter of Hugh, 3rd Lord Lovat; and it is not unnatural to suppose that as this contract was “ made because of the tenderness and kindness which has been before betwixt our forbears,” so it bore witness to the close of a temporary estrangement.

This would seem to be the most reasonable explanation, were it not for the introduction of Chisholm as a party to the deed. I have been unable to trace any near connection by blood between him and either Lovat or Kintail, and though there had been early alliances between their families, 1 think lie must have been here conjoined with Lovat, rather because his lands, lying interspersed among those of the Frasers, the interests of the two families as regards defence from aggression were inseparable. The contract thus receives the colour of a defensive alliance rather than that of a deed of reconciliation. It may have been both ; and the reservation by the Mackenzies of their freedom in the case of quarrel between Lovat and Grant, shows that if there had been a reconciliation between these families, doubts were felt as to its permanence.

The reservations made by each of the parties to the contract are not without interest. Both admit a prior allegiance to “ye authorite,” i.e. the Crown, and to “my Lord of Huntlie.” Huntly was at this time Chancellor of the Kingdom and Earl of Moray, and at a previous time had been her Majesty’s Lieutenant-General for the North of Scotland; but “ye authorite” having been alieady “exceppit,” it is evident that Huntly here stands for himself, and not for the Crown. AVhen during the Queen’s minority, he held the Lieutenancy of the Northern parts of Scotland, he had obtained a general bond from the nobility and barons of the North,* pledging them to obedience, and to maintenance of the law, and among the names attached to it are those of Lovat, Chisholm, and John Mackenzie of Kintail. Possibly this bond was regarded as one personal to Huntly, but unless his distinctive qualities and hereditary position had secured for him the attachment of the Highland Chiefs, one can hardly suppose that it would have been long regarded as of perpetual obligation.

The Mackenzies further exempt from their part of the agree ment the Earl of Sutherland and Grant of Freuchy. The cause for this last has been already mentioned, and Kintail was bound by a bond of manrent of 1545 to the Earl of Sutherland.

On his part, besides the Crown and Huntly, Lovat only excepts from the contract his mother’s relative, the Laird of Balnagown.

The document, signed by the Mackenzies, is described as “ our part hereof,” showing that there was a counterpart signed by Lovat and Chisholm to remain -with the Mackenzies. Neither John nor Kenneth Mackenzie could write their own names, a rather unusual circumstance in persons of their degree at that period.

In a deed, cited by Mr Fraser-Mackintosh, of the 9th August 1550, we find the names of the witnesses Hugh Simsonne and William Dow, and we learn that Brigend was Easter Kinmylies, near Inverness.

Perhaps some members of the Society may know where the Brig stood. In a document of this sort there is some interest in filling up local details, and a local association is peculiarly fitted for doing it; but it is as illustrating the nature of social relations in Inverness-shire three centuries ago, that I have brought this interesting contract of friendship under the notice of the Gaelic Society of Inverness; and I hope it may be considered a not unsuitable contribution to the Society’s Transactions.


Return to our Historic Articles Page