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

Exchequer Rolls of Scotland
An article from the Transactions of the Gaelic Society

General Remarks.

Some time ago I had occasion, in searching for a bit of historical information that I rightly supposed to be contained therein, to overhaul one of the nineteen published volumes of the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, which are in the Inverness Public Library. I found so much of other interesting information m the said volume that I had a good look over the whole series. I found all the volumes, except the first one, and the indices of two or three of the other ones, uncut, as they came from the binder’s hands. This neglect by the reading public is accounted for, mainly if not wholly, by the fact that the Exchequer Rolls and other documents are in mediaeval Latin. There are a few short pieces, however, in early Scotch-English, which, owing to the ever-shifting spelling and obsolete words, are far more difficult to understand than the Latin text. The latter indeed, so far as it was written by the chief clerks of the realm, is very intelligible and ingenious. Feudal and other terms, of which the Romans knew nothin, are phrased with amusing cleverness; and as for the body of the work, its style is above the average level. But in the “Rentalia Domini Regis,” or “Rents of the Lord King,” the Latin of the no doubt much puzzled clerks of the Commissioners sent forth to “set” or let the King’s lands, becomes often ungrammatical, and not infrequently a jargon of confused languages. Besides the "Rentals,” the “Libri Responsionum,” or Responde Books, contain a record of sasines, and take their name from the responsibility of Sheriffs for the payment of fees, fines, and reliefs by the people who received “enfeoffment.”

The first volume begins with 1266. The documents belonging to the reign of Alexander III. are very fragmentary, but valuable. They suffice to show that in settled order, commerce, and general progress, Scotland at the death of the Third Alexander was not behind but rather ahead of England. Truly this state of advancement was astonishing in most things pertaining to what we call civilisation. On Alexander’s death the period of long troubles commenced. After Bannockburn, Bruce set himself, with organising skill and energy, to repair the damages of war, rapine, and devastation. He did much in a few years to restore Scotland to its flourishing condition under the last of the Alexanders. The administrative forms were the same as before; but Bruce had to reward his old companions in arms by large portions of what had been of old Crown land—the Swordlands—of both Picts and Scots. The Brucian records are also fragmentary, for what the father won and restored the son nearly lost, and what he left to his successor was a dilapidated Scotland, financially as well as otherwise. David Bruce’s only redeeming qualities were personal courage and a jovial disposition. He could keep the future Wolf of Badenoch and his unruly brothers under control and clap them in prison. His successor and nephew, who was older than himself, Robert II., the first of the Stuarts, was unable to rule well his own family, not to say his kingdom. His libertinism in youth was retrieved by warrior courage and conduct. On ascending the throne it was soon discovered that he had exhausted his better qualities, and that his evil habits still dung to him. He was soon glad to devolve the cares of State on his capable second son by his first marriage, Robert, Duke of Albany, and to hide himself in his country and island castles and manors with his “beloved Maura” or “dearest Mariota de Gardney.” He sowed dragon s teeth for his dynasty and for his kingdom by his double families and broods of illegitimates. The Third Robert, his son and successor, was a well meaning man, but an incapable ruler. He was fortunate in having got a good wife, and in being the father of the greatest of the Stuart kings.

The Duke of Albany possessed the ruling gifts which his father and his elder brother lacked. The Rolls, like all the other remaining public documents of the forty years between 1380 and 1420, when he died, bear a good deal of silent testimony in favour of Albany. It is true that Earl Douglas and other nobles, who deserved to be forfeited and executed as traitors, were too strong for Albany, and that he had to compromise with them; and that after Harlaw, too, he could not adequately punish or bring the Lord of the Isles to obedience, although he made a son of his own Earl of Ross, and fortified the Castle of Dingwall. But as far as legal writs ran, the Duke of Albany was a good ruler, and the protector of the poor from the oppression of the proud and powerful. On his death misrule crept in. Duke Murdach of Albany could not rule his own family, far less the Kingdom of Scotland.

The Five Jameses.

So the right heir of the Crown, James the First, was brought home from his long captivity in England, and placed on the throne. James introduced some English forms and principles into Scotch jurisprudence and Scotch administration. No one can justly blame him for his strenuous endeavours to extend the authority of the King and laws to every part of the country. The Albany family deserved punishment, perhaps, but scarcely the exterminating severity with which they were treated. Who would ever think of displacing King James to put the incapable Duke Murdach or his rowdy son Walter on the throne of Scotland? As for the execution and forfeiture of the Earl of Lennox, Duke Murdach’s father-in-law, mo documents throw light on them, but some Perthshire traditions indicate that during the Albany rule the Earl of Lennox took possession of the Crown lands in Discher and Toyer (Breadalbane), Glenlyon, and Strathtay, and dealt with them as if they had been his own legal possesions. The forfeitures of the Earl of Lennox and the Albany family not only enriched the Crown, repairing the loss of the thanages bestowed by Bruce on companions in arms, but they also enhanced the historical and antiquarian value of the Exchequer Rolls, by detailed accounts of the farms and rents of farms on the forfeited estates. King James, statesman, poet, and accomplished gentleman, became the victim of a dynastic conspiracy of murderers, at the head of which was his aged uncle, Walter, Earl of Atholl, whom he had never suspected of treasonable designs, on whom he had heaped benefits, and who countenanced, if he had not instigated, the destruction of the Albany family. As a man and as a king, James the First was the best of his race, and one of the very greatest rulers Scotland ever had. He certainly struck hard, on behalf of King and Commons, at the haughty nobles who set themselves above the law, and had his life been spared twenty years longer, they would probably have been all brought under obedience, or disposed of by the executioner. He never suspected Atholl as a rival claimant for the Crown; and what is stranger still, notwithstanding Harlaw, he restored Boss to Alexander of the Isles, and trusted him as a cousin and faithful subject much more than, as later events proved, Alexander should have been trusted.

In the Exchequer Bolls there is far less evidence of trouble and confusion during the minority of James II. than should have been expected. But at a later stage there is abundant evidence of vigorous rule when the young King took the helm in his own hand. The great stain on the second James's shield is that, in a fit of youthful passion, he slew the treacherous, overbearing Earl of Douglas when he went to his Court at Stirling under a letter of safe-conduct. The Earl of Douglas was at the time steeped to the lips in treason to king and country; but “tho’ the loon was wee! awa’, the deed was foully done.” This foul deed was the Second James's only dishonourable act. The contemporary historians of this period were almost all foreigners, who paid small attention to Scotch affairs. The few native chroniclers recorded very confusedly only the chief events of this and of the early part of the next reign. The publication of the Exchequer Rolls and other State documents, Scotch and English, correct the errors of Boece, Pitscottie, and Buchanan, and throw steady light on the obscurest of Stuart reigns. “James with the fiery face” gains immensely by the revelation of his motives and actions which these documents supply. He was every inch a king, and if not quite such a model in private life as his father, nor such a far-seeing statesman, he was not a whit less vigorous in asserting the authority of the law, and in striking at leagued treason, the existence of which he had plenty of reason to be convinced of, although the full proofs were not brought to light until centuries after his premature death. In Mary of Gueldres he had a splendid wife. It is rather a singular fact that the Stuarts were generally fortunate in marrying noble women, although the first was the only one of the five successive Jameses, without a break, who was a most faithful husband.

The next reign was an unhappy one. It began well under the guidance of the widowed Queen and Bishop Kennedy. They both died too soon for Scotland and its boy-king. Perhaps James the Third would have been a wd king of his kind in a settled, highly-civilised country. He was devoted to architecture, music, and the fine arts. He kept the haughty nobility at a distance, and surrounded himself with favourites, or persons skilled in the arts to which he was devoted. There is, strange to say, not a single mention of Cochrane, the master mason or architect, who was hanged with others—but not with the tailor, who lived long afterwards—over Lauder Bridge. There is no proof whatever in the Rolls that Cochrane was ever actually invested in the Earldom of Mar. If he was the architect of the splendid buildings of this reign, the King might well be excused for preferring his company to that of the rude, blustering nobles who could not write their names. He could not, however, be excused, for neglecting his duties as a king. The mailed fist was needed for the government of Scotland, and James only wore velvet gloves. The Rolls show changes in regard to the letting of Crown lands, which leave no doubt as to the prevalence of both favouritism and neglect. But the accounts of revenue and expenditure were duly kept in regular form, and a good deal of what was taking place in the political state of the country, and what was going on at Court, can be gathered from their contents. It may be noticed that from the beginning, down as far as the published series extends, all the accounts are kept in Roman numerals. It was a terribly clumsy system. Old Scotchmen were evidently good mental arithmeticians, but their Roman numeral system compelled them to stop short of decimal fractions. They did not go further than a fourth, a half, and a third, say, of a penny or other small coin. James the Third perished ignobly. His excellent Queen, Margaret of Denmark, who brought as her tocher, or rather as the pledges for her tocher, the Orkney and Shetland Islands to Scotland, died before him. Had she lived, perhaps, the conspiracy would never have come to a head At least her influence should have sufficed to save her son from revolting against his father.

James IV. was a sad libertine, and withal a splendid king. Under him grants to mistresses and appointments to illegitimate children became again as rank as they were in the time of the first of the Stuart kings. As a king, however, he was popular as well as masterful. He was also an accomplished knight, scholar,

and linguist. He is certified to have spoken Gaelic, as well as Latin, French, and English. He had much to do with the settling of the Highlands and Islands, after the final suppression of the Lord of the Isles, who, by the way, was not sixty years of age when he died in the monastery of Paisley after all his varied career. James, when he had no other more useful adventure by sea and land in hand, made a pilgrimage either to Tain or some other shrine. He was always moving about, and resumed the habit of the early kings in taking a personal part at the Justiciary Courts. Justice was administered impartially under the watchful eyes of a king who, although no saint, was essentially a just and upright man. He was temperate in a very intemperate age in the matter of drink, but was, at the same time, a splendid host and a charming guest when sojourning in His castles of his nobles. Altogether, he must be placed next, as a ruler, to the First James, and, of the two, he was by far the more popular. His marriage with Margaret Tudor ultimately led to the union of Scotland and England, and yet the matrimonial connection and his common sense did not prevent him from rushing into an unreasonable war with England, conducting that war foolishly, and meeting his fate at Flodden. As a statesman he was infinitely inferior to his great ancestor, yet his final folly notwithstanding, he did much for Scotland, and well deserved popularity in life and mourning in death.

His son’s reign began in shadows and ended in shadows. Upon the whole, it is as gloomy as the reign of the Third James. But "the King of the Commons,” while much inferior to his father, was not a feeble ruler like his grandfather. The tyranny of the Douglases probably warped his natural disposition. At anyrate, while he got on well with the Commons, and made himself a hero of ballad and legend stories, he showed suspicion and vindictiveness towards the nobility, and, under bad guidance, misunderstood the signs of the time in respect to ecclesiastical and political affairs. His sensual excesses are supposed to have clouded his mind and shortened his days. He lived, indeed, but what seemed to be half his span. Not one of the five Jameses died what could be called a natural death.

How Kings and People Fared.

The Kings of Scotland had never any great command of money, tout they did not lack the means of maintaining royal pomp of State, when it suited them, and from having generously hospitable homes. They had manors, lands, and forests of their own in all parts of the country; and so, by moving about with their Court attendants, they could enjoy many changes of domicile, and consume the rent in kind, wheat, barley, oats, marts, mutton, poultry, pigs, herrings, salmon, etc., where they were payable, along with money rents, and use the other services of tenants. As they began to be more stationary in their habits, and took to staying, except in the hunting season, chiefly in Edinburgh,, Linlithgow, .Stirling, Perth, and Falkland, the rents in kind of distant possessions were commuted for money, but the old distinction between money and produce was still retained down to a very late period. The household accounts show that our kings and their courtiers lived generously, and even luxuriously. They had, as far back as the records go, French, Spanish, Rhenish, and even Greek wines. They were fond of spices of all kinds. Pepper is often the quit rent of blench holdings. Honey and sugar they had in abundance. They consumed great quantities of home-brewn ale, and had beer imported from Germany and the Netherlands. I have not noticed in the first sixteen volumes a single mention of whisky or “aqua vitae.* But that is not at all strange, as, until last century, whisky was not generally used as a drink at all. It was, however, used as medicine more than a thousand years ago. According to the ancient poems of Wales, there were distillers in Galloway in the days of the Romans and King Arthur, and the monks afterwards continued to distil what they called “strong waters.” Ale was made both from barley and from , oats—the former being much preferred, but the latter being not despised. A middle class of ale was brewed from mixing barley malt and oat malt together. Honey and wax were apparently plentiful. Wax was in great request for church, palace, and castle lights. Honey was used for a hundred purposes of cooking and brewing, besides being eaten from the comb or from the jar into which it had been melted, along with bread and meat. Grapes and raisins, like spices, were imported. The home orchards produced apples, pears, and plums. The Scotch kings of the later era had good gardens at Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Falkland, Perth, Stirling, etc. We may conclude that their predecessors had gardens also, which, if not so good, were still more numerous, because they roved more, about to eat the produce of their possessions where it was grown. The accounts of cooks or clerks of the kitchen, in the time of the five Jameses, record a huge consumption of salad herbs and of endives, leeks, and onions. Kale of all kinds was largely grown and used all the year round America had still to be discovered, and it was not Jill a century after the discovery of America that Sir Walter Raleigh introduced that prince of vegetables, the potato. What were the substitutes that did duty for the potato in the olden times? Parsnips and cabbages chiefly, which were both pitted at the beginning of winter, and so kept good till new ones grew. 1 have not come across any mention ot turnips. The parsnip was not a garden but a field crop. Its Gaelic name is " curran, and it has affixed its name to many Highland places, like “Tom-a-cliurrain,” “Lub-a-churrain,' and so forth. Of course the clerks in the kitchen took no notice in their accounts of the smaller fruits and vegetables which were mere garaishings, and grew in all the king s gardens. Some of the queens had gardens and gardeners of their own, and we get a hint of flower gardening here and there without anything more It is different with medicinal plants. A monk near Stirling was paid handsomely for medicinal herbs from his garden, which were given to the horses of the king. Roses were apparently favourite flowers, for red roses are among the quit rents of very ancient charters, along with such other curious reddendoes as falcons, hounds, broad arrows, small arrows, scarlet cloaks, etc. The broad arrows were shot from a catapult sort of machine, and the small arrows by archers.

All ranks of the Scotch people, from the king on the throne o the lowest of his subjects, ate mostly through the winter months of the year salt beef and mutton—including goats’ flesh in the second category. The “ marts ” and sheep and goats were killed at Martinmas, salted in barrels, and afterwards smoked and thoroughly cured for spring and early summer use. Salmon and herrings were treated in almost the same way, and so was the venison, which was not consumed when freshly killed. In the accounts, “ birds,” that is game birds as distinct from poultry, figure more rarely than might be expected; but that is no doubt because they are only mentioned when bought, which would only happen when the king did not live near his own land. He had many foresters and huntsmen, and Crown tenants reared and trained dogs of the chase for him. Under the Jameses it appears that at Falkland and other places the royal table was supplied by fresh meat in winter—animals being fattened for the purpose, and poultry being, of course, always available. But from Martinmas to well on in summer the salted and smoked stores of butcher meat, fish, and venison had to serve the people in general for the animal part of their food. The Lowlands had pigs in fair abundance—the millers especially—and herds of porkers consumed the beech mast and acorns in the woods of the .king and the nobility. Geese and ducks were also numerous in the Lowlands. In the Highlands pigs were seemingly few. The three mills of Balquhidder, instead of pigs, had to give annually to the king eight well-fed calves. The Scotch people needed much the aid of antiscorbutic vegetables to modify the heating effect of their winter diet—salt meat and oatmeal. But they had always plenty of milk. They milked goats and sheep as well as cows. They made great quantities of cheese and butter, much of which was exported to foreign lands. The principal exports for many centuries were wool, woolens of three descriptions, hides, skins, tanned leather, furs, smoked fish and herrings, and salmon salted down in barrels. Probably the whole population did not amount to seven hundred thousand. They had, therefore, plenty of elbow-room, and very often “grassings' were “waste,” that is without tenants, besides all the wide stretches which were always forests. The accounts of cities and burghs show the trades of the urban population and the ups and downs of the national commerce, which was, indeed, in a more flourishing condition in 1285 than it was at any time during the next three centuries, although it made a wonderful upward start under the rule of the Fourth James; but all that or more was lost in the next two reigns. James the Fourth kept thousands of sheep in his forest of Ettrick, and had herds of horses and cattle in the old royal forests of the southern Highlands, Strongartnay, Grlenfinlas, Mamlome, the greatest and best of them all, Strathbrand, etc. Glen-Urquhart and Glenmoriston had been forests in the previous reigns, with which the Lord of the Isles had “intromittit” at first, and of which, with Urquhart Castle, he subsequently got a lease, and so held them legally until his next rebellion. The amount of wool exported in this king’s time proves that there must have been a larger number of sheep in Scotland than has hitherto been supposed. But they were chiefly kept in the Lowlands or places bordering thereupon. The Highlands needed most of the wool grown in them for clothing their own inhabitants. But with hides and cattle they also exported some cloth, yam, and many furs. Upon the whole, when internal and external peace prevailed, under such a ruler as James the Fourth, who most usefully expended his energy and employed his love of adventure in settling the islands and northern mainland after the final collapse of the power of the Lord of the Isles, the state of the Scottish kingdom was far from unhappy. The people had plenty of elbow-room, and the means of subsistence sufficed for their wants. The tragedy of Flodden for nearly a century stopped and even reversed the current of progress which was in full flow from 1490 till 1512.

The essential features of national and court life revealed by the Exchequer Bolls are, from first to last, astonishingly modem. From the beginning of anything that can be called continuous record history—say from 1130 to the beginning of the present century—the social and industrial organisations of Scotland remained much the same. But, of course, with the removal of the Court to England a break occurred at the social apex, and the Reformation made a thorough change in the form and guiding principles of the national religion. James V., who was a libertine like his father, threatened bishops, priests, abbots, and monks with pains and penalties if they did not amend their lives, but he never went beyond threats. Mis great-great-grandfather, James I., would have made a better reformer had his life not been cut short. He was painfully aware of the ecclesiastical scandals— which afterwards became worse—and not only had the mind of a reformer, but the pure and noble personal character which gave him a right to reform a demoralised Church, and made him an example to its clergy, some of whom were as anxious for the repression of abuses as he was himself. Harpers, bards, jesters or fools, yea, and companies of seemingly regular playactors, appear in the household accounts back as far as they go. But one is somewhat surprised to learn that King David Bruce had pipers. He was not content, like the Queen, with one piper. So there were pipers in Scotland two centuries before the battle of Pinkie, the date usually assigned to the first historically recorded appearance of the piper on the battlefield, and who knows how long they might have been in popular use before David Bruce had his pipers? As to the early use of the word “Clachan” for the Church-place both in Highlands and Lowlands, the Rolls put an end to controversy. The word was in use from immemorial times, instead of having been introduced, as some contended, about the period of the Reformation. “ Clachan,” or the stone circles, were the churches of the Druids, and the first Christian missionaries established their places of worship at or near them, partly, perhaps, as a sign that the heathen religion was superseded by a better one, and partly, we may be sure, because they could not find more convenient places than those at which the people had been accustomed to assemble for many generations.

Valuation Roll Information.

The Exchequer Rolls are rich quarries for genealogists and those who search after place-names. It so happens that the associations, that is to say, the settings or lettings of the King’s land on leases, give in many instances detailed, or what may be called Valuation Roll, accounts of the people, places, rents, and services. Forfeitures and wardships brought, at different times, wide domains which were not Crown lands under the survey of chamberlains, sheriffs, and bailies. In the Highlands, the forfeiture and execution of Duncan, Earl of Lennox, placed under such a survey, in the reign of James I., the county of Lennox, which extended beyond the bounds of the present Dumbartonshire. The Earldoms of Stratheam and Monteith fell, for other reasons, into the possession of the Crown. Discher and Toyar, or the north and south sides of Loch Tay, with Glendochait and Glenlochay, were, like the Lordship of Doune, Glenlyon, Rannoch, and Apnadall, original Crown lands, which, after having been partly granted away and partly taken away, without a legal title, by Duncan, Earl of Lennox, and his son-in-law, Duke Murdach of Albany, were all recovered by James I., and kept by his successors until most of them were granted on feu-ferme conditions by James IV. to particular owners. Balquhidder was also King’s land, and part of the dowry of Queen Margaret Tudor. The word “Breadalbane” is never before 1550 used in the Rolls. Its lands are always described as the Lordships of Discher and Toyer— Deasair agus Tuair, sun side and shade side—and of Glendochart and Glenlochay. Across the heads of Glenlochay, Glenlyon, and Rannoch stretched the Forest of Mamlorae, or old Caledonian Forest, which it seems, however, although it remained a forest always, was never placed under strict forest laws until the reign of James II. We have no detailed account of the Earldom of Atholl, when it was forfeited by Earl Walter's share in the murder of James I. But about 1520 the then boy-earl of the Lome Stuart descent was a ward of the Crown, and his possessions are summarised, while the dowry lands of his mother, Countess Janet Campbell, are, by way of exception, given in detail. In 1450 a rental of the Earldom of Atholl was given in by Robert, the son of Duncan, then chamberlain or bailie. This is the rough, loyal, fighting Robert of Struan, from whom the Clan Donnachaidh, or Robertsons, took their second surname. Lochaber, the Earldom of Ross, the Lordship of Ardmanach, Cantire, Knapdale, Islay, Mull, and other places, fell under survey after the final collapse of the Lord of the Isles, the death of his son, Angus, and the defeat of Alexander of Lochalsh. Apparently Glen-Urquhart and Glenmoriston had always been King’s lands till the Lords of the Isles, who were Earls of Ross, got for some time a partly forcible and a partly legal hold of them. The Earldom of Moray came several times under survey by default of heirs. While the Lovats had good stretches, like Abertarff, of purely Highland lands, their possessions about the Beauly Firth—or Loch Whennor—were somewhat limited, until the Reformation helped them to get hold of the Priory lands and fishings. Beaufort and Kiltarlity belonged to the King, and the King’s lands there were extended at the end of the sixteenth century, or beginning of the next, by an exchange. Janet Fentone and her husband got the Mains of Kincleven, in Perthshire, in exchange for Bunchrew, Phopachy, and other lands in the Airds. In all the cases we have mentioned, and in others similar to them, there are more or less detailed accounts of holdings, while the summer grazings attached to them go as parts of them without being mentioned, except when there are changes that make specific mention necessary. But they are never forgotten in the rents and entry or renewal duties. The Commissioners of Assedatiun, who were periodically sent forth to set or let tlie permanent Crown lands, had clerks that were much inferior in their Latinity to the chief clerks who wrote the charters and the Exchequer Rolls. But if their Latin halted badly, they gave the place names and the names and surnames of the tenants, down to the man who paid a few pence for a hut and allotment, with more phonetic accuracy than their superiors. The assedation reports are very full, and in regard to topography and ethnology, exceedingly interesting. The very best of them are those concerning the King’s lands in the Lordship of Doune, Breadalbane, and Strathgartney, that is the Loch Vennacher, Loch Katerine, and Glenfinlas districts. The next best are those concerning the Macdonald forfeited lands in Cantire and Knap-dale. King’s tenants were, as a rule, better protected from external assaults and raiders than the tenants of the Abbots and Bishops. Turbulent nobles and other leaders of lawless men feared to ravage the King’s lands, at least in the more settled districts. But in other respects the King’s tenants suffered under disadvantages. They had to give, for instance, more hunting and hosting or military services than other men’s tenants. For any sudden emergencies the King’s tenants were called out as the army readiest to hand. But as for the hunting services, there were so many royal forests that the pressure of them was only felt occasionally, and when the pressure came it had its compensations. The tenants enjoyed the sport as well as the King and his nobles, and they further enjoyed the venison which was so freely distributed among them. In the places where the King had lands and no forests to visit, the system of letting or setting a whole thanage or barony to a middleman, for a term of years, can be traced back in the records to the usurpation of Edward of England, if not further. Edward let the Scotch Crown lands, as far as he got hold of them, for the rents and duties—valued in money—which were paid to Alexander III. The big tacksman, or middleman, or undertaker could squeeze as much as he liked those who had previously been kindly tenants of the Scotch Kings, generation after generation, for anything the English usurper cared, since, as a class, the kindly tenants of the Scotch Crown were most inimical to his pretensions. This bad system of middlemen never afterwards wholly came to an end, although it was much modified in favour of the tenants. The more ancient plan was to raise the King's rents by a chamberlain, steward, or bailie, or mair, who was simply an officer of the Crown, and could easily be removed on proof of attempting oppression. Crown tenants, about the forests which the kings were in the habit of frequently visiting, had ready access with their complaints and grievances to their sovereign lord, and, if they made good their case, pity then the officer or middleman who abused his position. In certain cases, however, power was given to middlemen to sublet to other tenants than those who had been on the land before. This happened when the old tenants had been harbouring outlaws or traitors, or had themselves been breaking the laws. James IV. granted out to individuals considerable portions of outlying Crown lands on a feu-ferme tenure, which was a modification of the old feudal system, and by which the revenues of the Crown gained, excepting in cases of favouritism.

Anent the Castle of Inverness.

In the seventh century King Brude had a fortified place— which almost certainly was Craig Phatrick—overlooking the River Ness. It needed a miracle on the part of St Columba to burst open its strong gates, and so to get an entrance for himself and the Christian faith within its defences. In the reign of Malcolm Ceann-Mor the old circular or oval strongholds of the Celtic races began to give place to strong and frowning stone and lime castles. If Inverness had not such a castle in Malcolm's time, it had assuredly one of the kind when his son, King David, made it one of the eight justiciary places of Alba, or Scotland north of the Firths of Forth and Clyde. As what Cromwell left of the Abbey of Kinloss testifies to this day, King David’s monastic erections were built, so to speak, to last for ever. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that his castles were equally solid. But in 1411, that is to say, about 260 years after King David’s death, the Lord of the Isles—Donald of Harlaw—found little or no difficulty in taking possession of Inverness. Through neglect, King David’s Castle may by that time have fallen, partially at least, into ruins. In 1412 the Duke of Albany began to build or rebuild the Castle of Dingwall, and Donald of Harlaw’s antagonist, Alexander, Earl of Mar, the best of the Wolf of Badenoch’s many illegitimate sons, rebuilt, under the Council’s orders, the Castle of Inverness. The Rolls record the cost of large quantities of materials, lime, timber, stones, used for the building, and also the wages of master masons and others. The new castle was a towered structure. The Earl of Mar likewise made two “ turn-spikes ” for it; that is to say, two winding stairs in circular towers. He must have had some difficulty, perhaps of a temporary kind, until lead or slates could be procured, in roofing it; for the people of Inverness are allowed a remission of duties for having covered some of the towers of Mar’s Castle with “duvates,” or turf. A “Scotch house,” or timber building, was part of the structure. The Second James spent money on building “ a palace ” at Inverness, which probably means that he added a royal residence to Mar’s Castle. We hear nothing more after 1460 of castle or palace, until Inverness, town and castle, are captured by Farquhar Mackintosh, on behalf of the Lord of the Isles, near the end of the century. It seems that on that occasion both town and castle were burned. In consequence of the devastation the town’s payment of rent and duties to the King was for a time remitted. Soon afterwards the Earl of Huntly was appointed keeper of the Castle, and the office became hereditary in the family. Farquhar Mackintosh was the son of Duncan Mackintosh, the first “Captain” of the Clan Chattan named in the records. It was the settled policy of James IV. to break the power of the Lord of the Isles forever more, by inducing his vassals to take Crown Charters of their lands. Duncan Mackintosh, the “Captain” of the Clan Chattan, who held his lands in Lochaber of the Lord of the Isles, was one of the first to accept a Crown Charter His son Farquhar was not as true as his father to the new feudal allegiance, and he suffered accordingly. He had to deal with a King who was not to be trifled with. Farquhar was sent to prison about the year 1495, and he is found nearly eighteen years later still a prisoner in Dunbar Castle, with a pretty liberal allowance for his maintenance there. Perhaps Flodden set him free. In the course of his long imprisonment he found it necessary to cancel all his “fealls,” or alliance and manrent bonds, because his former allies and his relations and friends were making a bad use of them. It was scarcely fair to former vassals of the Lords of the Isles, who received Crown Charters, to find themselves afterwards placed under new feudal superiors, as was the case in Lochaber when Huntly received the lordship thereof. In Cantire, Knapdale, and the Southern Isles, Argyll was very much what Huntly was in the east side of the country. As lone as James IV. lived these lieutenants of his helped greatly in carrying out his policy, and no doubt aggrandized themselves at the same time. Argyll died witn James at Flodden, and his successor was ten years later accused of oppression and deprived of his lieutenancy. The Crown, however, was still too weak to act directly on the old vassals of the Isles with sufficient effect, and, with a few exceptions, such as Maclain of Ardnamurchan, each newly-made King's man liked to be a law to himself. The previous method of exercising authority through Huntly and Argyll had consequently to be resorted to again.

Clan and Clan Surnames.

Before 1400 very few Highland clan surnames are found in charters and public records. Little more than a century later, when King James and the flower of the Scotch nobility, gentry, and commons perished at Flodden, nearly all the clan surnames we have to-day were flourishing and rapidly superseding patronymics in charters and records. Somerled’s descendants, whether children of Donald, Dugall, or any other chieftain, were from first to last record people. In other cases, leading families in whom chiefship or chieftainship, or captainship, of surnames vested afterwards, can be traced up to the reigns of the Second and Third Alexanders, and, in rare instances, to that of William the Lion. The Clan Duff or Macduffs have a fair right to say that, as a sumamed lineage, they go back to Macbeth’s time. They certainly have the honour of being the first named as a clan with an ancient privilege, confirmatory of their legend, in a State document. But while no doubt the distinct lineages with clan instincts and customs always existed among the Celts of Scotland, the fifteenth century is the great century for the evolution of most of the clan surnames we have to-day. In the islands and in large parts of -the mainland, the fall of the nearly independent principality of the Lords of the Isles liberated Macleods, Macleans, Mackenzies, and many others from record obscurity. In o^her places various causes operated in favour of giving prominence to clan surnames and alliances—one of which was bonds of manrent and of mutual aid and protection. On the Border, like causes, as in the Highlands, produced like effects. Clannishness prevailed in ancient Galloway and in southern Ayrshire, in Bruce’s Earldom of Carrick particularly. Many of the Gaelic surnames, whether saintly or tribal, of the people of that region were record-marked before the greater number of the Highland clan surnames advanced to record recognition. Imitation, and no doubt necessities of existence, extended the clannish organisation, natural to the Border Celts, to their non-Celtic neighbours of the Middle and Eastern Marches. On the other hand, feudal organisation superseded the Celtic one in Fife.

The Clan Mackenzie.

If the enlightened policy and personal influence of James IV., who several times visited the Isles and West Coast, raised by Crown charters the former vassals of the Lords of the Isles to the status of feudal barons in the eye of the law, they forthwith further raised themselves in their own eyes as chiefs of tribes bearing their surnames and claiming common descent; which claim was usually well founded, although there were probably many cases of adoption. On the mainland of Ross-shire the rise of the Clan Mackenzie to leading position was astonishingly sudden. Before Harlaw we have seen no mention at all of the Mackenzie surname in the records of the kingdom of Scotland, although it cannot be doubted that in Kin tail the family from which the future chiefs and clan sprung must have for a long time previously been important local vassals of the Earls of Ross, and afterwards held a similar position under Donald of Harlaw and his two successors. A century later the Mackenzies had expanded into a great clan with large territorial possessions. Then came the Reformation, which gave them new and greater chances of expansion and acquisition, of which they took full advantage, having in the then disturbed state of the country no fear of occasionally breaking the law. Before 1600 they had made themselves the ruling dan of Ross-shire, and had extended their possessions from Kintail to the Black Isle. As a clan of one lineage they could not have been numerically very strong during this period of astonishing conquests. No part of their territories was indeed ever solidly planted by Mackenzie tenants. But they knew how to amalgamate clannish with feudal organisation, and consequently succeeded in acquiring and retaining large stretches of the mainland of Ross, and later of adding thereto the Island of Lewis. The chiefs of Kintail planted out Mackenzies as vassals of their own in all new possessions, and the Mackenzies so planted out, while true to their chiefs and their clan, condliated, or, when needed, coerced, the old native tenants so as to make them good Mackenzie subjects and soldiers.

The Clan Gregor.

Their lawless and criminal proceedings in the sixteenth century, their cruel oppression in consequence thereof, the long proscription of their surname, their indestructible vitality, and remarkable bravery, made the Macgregors the most romantic of all the Highland clans. But further back than Black John, who abducted and forcibly married Helen Campbell, daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchay, and a young widow, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, it is difficult to trace their authentic history. Their legendary history finds no corroboration from records or from the early chroniclers. Yet it may contain many grains of truth, if they only could be winniwed from the fictions. The Macgregor surname belongs to the era of the five Jameses. The Rolls do not throw much light on its origin. The Dean oo Lismore, his brother Duncan, “daor oglach” or servitor, and the Dean's curate at Fortingall, supply to some extent by obituary notices an outline of the history of their clan, from the death of John “Gregorius” of Glenorchay, in 1390, to 1579. Even in the hands of these three Macgregors the clan surname only became fixed after the death of Gregor, son of one-eyed John, who died in 1415. By whatever patronymic or surname they were known, they must have been a pretty numerous, if, perchance, a scattered kindred before Gregor of 1415, and John Gregorius of 1390. The many death notices in the “Chronicle of Fortingall” between Gregor’s death and the end of the century prove that beyond dispute. But with the exception of Glenstrae, held of a subject superior, where were their land possessions? In the “Libri Responsionum” there is no Macgregor sasine recorded. But in 1468, or 1470, “ Duncan Beg,” or Duncan the Little, was King’s tenant for four years of ten merklands in Glenlyon, that is to say of the “Toiseachd” of Roro. He succeeded Alan Stewart, whose lease was not renewed because he had not paid his rent. Duncan died seven years later, but his descendants continued as tenants or tacksmen of the King, and afterwards of the Menzieses of Weem, for many o'enerations. About 1430 the slaughter of a man and the despoliation of his lands by Macgregors in Stratheara is recorded in the Rolls. Payments are made to two Macgregor priests in the succeeding reigns, one of whom was chaplain of Dumbarton Castle. Towards the end of the fifteenth century a Macgregor is mair of Crieff. With the exception of the slaughter of the Stratheam man, there is no sign of the lawlessness which characterised Clan Gregor proceedings during the next century. The said proceedings were not due to a double dose of original sin, but to a sense of injury. If we may venture on such slight foundation as Duncan Beg’s lease of Boro, and the man of Crieff’s official position, to assume that the ancestors of the Clan Gregor had for centuries been kindly tenants of the King’s lands, foresters, local officials, and tacksmen, in later times, of thanages, that supposition would account for the claim of descent from Kenneth MacAlpin, and for the vengeful resentnj/ent aroused by the feu-ferme charters of James IV. and his successors to individual owners. The process to which kindly tenants and local officials of the Crown would be subjected by the feuing charters to individual proprietors would be the opposite of that by which the gentry of the Isles were raised from Macdonald vassalage to the independence of free barons. The Clan Gregor, moreover, in the sixteenth century, began, although they did not end there, the slaughters and depredations for which they were subsequently prosecuted; and cruelly persecuted in the Lennox and Perthshire districts, which had been Crown lands from the dim ages of antiquity. The forests of Strathgartney, Mamlome, Benmore, etc., which still belonged to the King, were their places of refuge, and in Breadalbane they took to squatting on the Church lands of the Abbots of Scone, and the Perth Carthusians, to whom the First James had given Ardtalnaig, and his son the barony of Glendochart with the exception of Macnab’s “Eilan Ryne,” and the property of Charles Campbell in Glenfalloch.

The hereditary tendency existed over all Scotland, but it was stronger in the Celtic than in the “ Gallda ” districts, because it was a natural adjunct of clannishness. Forfeitures and transfers of ownership produced more or less displacement always of old tenants and local officials to make room for kinsmen or trusty supporters of new owners. The temporary occupation of Ross-shire by the Lords of the Isles left its permanent traces on the population of that country, which, with all their absorbing and displacing vigour, the Mackenzies were not able to efface. In Lochaber the Macdonalds kept a firm hold as middlemen of Keppoch and common tenants, although the lordship passed to the Gordons, and the Mackintoshes were emancipated from their former vassalage. The people displaced through changes of ownership often nursed their wrath to keep it warm, never forgetting their “duchas” or hereditary claim to ancestral possessions, although in most cases that daim had never recognition and sanction from the written law of the land.

"The King of the Commons.”

In 1539 James the Fifth sent a Royal Commission of assedation to the North, to let or set his lands of the Earldom of Ross and Lordship of Ardmanach on five years’ leases. The Commissioners were the Comptroller, David Wood of Craig; Robert Reid, Abbot of Kinloss; James Foulis of Colintoun, Clerk of the Roils; Thomas Bellenden, Director of Chancery; and Henry Lawder, King7s Advocate. They began their sittings at Inverness on the 21st of April, 1539, and such cases as were left over at Inverness were afterwards settled by the Comptroller in Edinburgh. James the Fifth deserved to be called “ The King of the Commons.” All his assedation Commissions were instructed to favour the cultivating tenants, and not to grant leases of large tracts of Crown lands to men of big estates, with liberty to have sub-tenants. James set his face against the system of middlemen which prevailed during the confused years of his minority. His father’s system of feu-fermes had, on increased rent, given much of the old Crown lands to private owners. But, by forfeitures and revocations, James became a larger proprietor of Highland property than any King of Scotland nad been since the War of Independence. By means of his assedation Commissions he checked the grasping policy of mighty local potentates, and brought the tenants of the Crown into direct contact with their sovereign landlord. As a statesman he misread the portents of the time in which he lived; and as a man he led a scandalously immoral life, but he was always a popular favourite, and not undeservedly, for his constant was to raise the people and to abase the too powerful nobles who set law and justice at defiance. As they contain the names of the cultivating tenants, James the Fifth’s assedations are fuller and far more interesting than those of his predecessors.. The system he tried to establish was gradually abandoned after his death, and the feu-ferme charters of his father were also, in course of time, converted as a rule into free barony charters.

After James the Fifth’s Death.

When James died, the administrative machinery was so well organised and firmly fixed that it worked on without a jar. Arran, the next heir to the throne after baby Mary, was the natural guardian, or ‘tainistear,’ of the realm, while the Queen-Dowager was as naturally the guardian of her child. So to the next heir and to the Queen-Dowager their separate duties were entrusted. Genial, oscillating, easy-going Arran was scarcely the right man in the right place during the troublesome times in which his governorship happened to be cast. The Queen-Dowager, as a wife and mother, was an admirable woman; but in affairs of State, while she shewed herself possessed of the ruling capacity of her remarkable family, she also proved that she shared likewise in their unfathomable guile; unfathomable indeed to their own generation, but quite intelligible now. The moment Henry the Eighth heard of his nephew of Scotland’s death he claimed roughly the infant Mary as a bride for his son Edward, and when Mary of Guise and Cardinal Beaton joined forces to thwart his project and to keep Scotland bound down to the French alliance, bluff Harry was foolish enough to go to war with Scotland. The English invasions devastated the Border counties, while the escape of Donald Dubh of the Isles from Edinburgh Castle, after his forty years’ imprisonment, gave Henry a Celtic ally of at least great temporary importance. But Donald Dubh’s influence proved to be less than either Henry or himself before trial supposed it to be. James the Fourth and his son had so far effected a settlement of the island and mainland forfeited estates of the Lords of the Isles, by giving their vassals feudal Crown charters, that the restoration of the old regime had been made next to impossible. The Clan Donald chieftains themselves did not strive with united will and resolution to reestablish the Principality of the Isles. The Donald Dubh episode, which was unsuccessful almost from the beginning, quickly terminated by Donald’s death in Ireland. There are few direct references to Donald Dubh and the rebellion in this 18th volume of the Exchequer Rolls, although there are many concerning sequelae of previous Clan Donald forfeitures.

In this volume, the Isles, which were so very prominent in previous ones, almost vanish out of sight, either because they fairly well preserved the order the King of the Commons had established in them, or because Arran, beset with greater cares, and constitutionally negligent, let them stew in their own juice. The issuing of Commissions of Justiciary to local potentates indicates the increase of disorder on the Highland mainlands, although they were beyond the scope of the invasions which devasted the southern counties, and also the weakness of the central authority, even before the ecclesiastical leaven introduced a new ferment. Two of these Commissions correct both the disputed dates, 1536 and 1556, of the storming of the Castle of Borwe in Sutherland. The first k>i these—dated Edinburgh, 17th August, 1554—empowers Hugh Kennedy of Girvane Mains, Knight, to try all thieves, somars, and fire-raisers, within the dioceses of Ross and Caithness, as well in town as in country, and all the aiders and abettors of the rebel V. M'Kay. The second—dated 4th October, 1554—empowers John, Earl of Sutherland, and Sir Hugh Kennedy, conjunctly and severally, to punish each and every person who delayed or stayed away from the army at the siege of the house of ‘ Boirrow/ The storming took place, no doubt, between the two dates. The Sutherland affair was unlike the other disorders of the period; for it was a war between a clan and a feudal magnate, which had come down from generation to generation. V. M‘Kay is the mode in which Lowland scribes phonetically corrupted Aoidh MacAoidh. But the corruption did not start with them. Aodh MacAoidh would have been the correct form in Gaelic, but it is evident that the Farr people had preferred the genitive to the nominative of their chief’s name before 1554. In /$/?/ _18517 the absence of John, Earl of Sutherland, in France, gave the Mackay chief a good chance, of which he fully availed himself, for avenging on clan wrongs and grievances by invading and despoiling the earldom He was summoned to a justiciary court at Inverness, and refused to attend. He was then outlawed, and the Earl of Sutherland and Sir Hugh Kennedy were authorised to raise the array of Sutherland and Ross to war with him—to pursue him with fire and sword would be the terms of their commission. He wisely declined to meet them in open fight, and so they resolved to sit down to besiege his Castle of Borwe, which they took and levelled to the ground, after a short siege.

We have searched in vain for any reference to the doings and “Justification” of Ewen Alanson of Lochiel, who is traditionally said to have been a great chief of cattle-lifters, and to have been executed at Elgin. Towards the end of James the Fifth’s reign he could not have been an outlaw, for he then got sa&ine of lands which are Lochiel lands to the present day. Huntly’s commission ordinarily invested him with all sorts of functions, but the Exchequer Rolls throw no light on his proceedings in Badenoch and Lochaber during the regency period. Had there not been a long suspension of the Gordon power after the escape of King James from the Douglases? We find that on the 16th of April, 1554, the Sheriff of Inverness has to account, through a sasine given to George, Earl of Huntly, for £3 4s, for rents of the Castle and castle-place of Inverlochy, with its ancient bounds, moats, ponds, closes, and lawn—‘lie grene’—which through non-entry had been previously in the hands of the Queen and her late father for the space of thirty-one years, and for 2d by duplication of blench rent.

The Castle of Inverlochy was, of course, like the Castle of Inverness, held by the Gordons on terms and tenures entirely different from those on which they held their landed estates.

Dingwall Castle and Conon Fishery.

George Munro of Dalgardy figures rather prominently in Queen Mary’s time as Chamberlain of Roes and Ardmannach, Captain of the Castle of Dingwall, and Custumar of Inverness, Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness. He is styled “of Delcartie” in the Rolls, but when he signed an obligation to pay up arrears in 1565, he designated himself “George Munro of Dawachcarte.” He gives the same “with my hand” signature on a similar occasion in 1566. No doubt, Dawach Carte was the true old name of his place, but whoever could think that ‘Dalcartie' and still less ‘Dalgardy' hailed from such a source? Although the fact is not expressly stated, we may safelv assume that the Chamberlain used Dingwall Castle as his official residence. A yearly payment is made for winning peats and stacking them in Dingwall Castle. In Sir William Murray of Tullibardin’s 1567 account, mention is made of £8 13s 4d spent on “‘burdis’ chains, bars, and other necessaries” for the new gate of Dingwall Castle. There could have been no garrison, like Wish art’s small garrison at Ruthven, for if there had been a garrison, however small, the keep and wages would have appeared in the accounts. Since peats formed the Chamberlain’s sole fuel at Dingwall Castle, are we to infer that, in Queen Mary’s time, that district, and all Easter Ross, indeed, were bare of wood. That inference is undoubtedly borne out by many other indications.

In the same account in which the expenses for the new door of Dingwall Castle are given, we meet with a payment of 52/ by the Comptroller, for “the freight and transport of six barrels of salmon from Dingwall, in Ross, to the port of Findhome, In Moray, and thence to the port of Leith.” The fishings of the Conon belonged to the Queen, and from the care taken of them, and the export of barrels to Leith, and use and sale of salmon at home, they must have been very productive. In 1565, John Wardlaw in Leith buys 16 barrels of salmon from the Queen’s Conon fishery. We can see from the payments made that the Conon fishing business was fully organised. To take one account, that of 1561—A money fee of £3 6s 8d is paid to “a servitor called the kennare of the water of Conane for the keeping of the salmon of the Queen,” and he also receives for his meat and drink—“pro suis esculentis et poculentis5—12 bolls of bear. The 'kenn-are’—probably ‘oeann-aire’ spoiled—is a permanent servant. In many of the accounts he is called ‘ Canar.’ Another permanent servant is the 'circinator,’ or cooper, who in this account gets 40/ for his fee. A good deal of outlay is made on building cruives, and on cobbles, &c.

Queen Mary at Inverness and in Badenoch.

In his account for 1563, the Comptroller, Sir John Wischart (or Wishart) of Pitarro, takes credit for expending on the house and household (“domo et familia”) of our Lady the Queen, during the time of her residence within the burgh of Inverness, in the month of September, in the year 1562, 28 wedders and 36 capons. The other food and drink supplies, which, we may assume, were on the same liberal scale, were probably bought by the household officials in the open market.

In Badenoch, a saying has come down that “Bad Queen Mary burned the woods of that district". As to the burning of the woods, we cannot say, but the li#th volume of the Exchequer Bolls proves bayond dispute that, in her expedition against Huntly, Queen Mary did go to Badenoch, and spent at least some days there—clearly at Ruthven. Immediately on the heels of the battle of Corrichie, military occupation was taken of the lands of the Gordons. After the gruesome trial, condemnation, and forfeiture of the dead Earl, in Edinburgh, Wischart or Wishart of Cambeg was appointed Chamberlain of the forfeited lands. In this volume, he renders three separate accounts of his intromissions as Chamberlain of Badenoch, Chamberlain of Lochaber, and Chamberlain of Strathdee, Braemar, and Cromar. Wishart’s Badenoch account, which was not audited until 1567, is for three terms, beginning 1st February, 1562-3, and ending 1st July, 1564. One of the items in it is an expediture of £40 16s 8d on the purchase of 44 wedders, 3 marts, and 8 lambs for the Queen and her household at the time of her residence in Badenoch. Her residence there must have been at Ruthvn Castle, which she enjoined Wishart to occupy and garrison for her. He only paid for a garrison of six servants, but the place itself was strong, and with “ great fettir lokkis, paddo iokkis, and stok lokkis,” and gunpowder (‘ pulvere bumbardino ’) from Edinburgh, he was safe enough, and to thieves and rebels formidable enough, since the Laird of Grant and The Mackintosh, and even the chief vassals and tenants of Huntly, were all at his service. There may be some hint of the burning vengeance attributed to Queen Mary in the fact recorded by Wishart that during the three terms of his account the lauds of Ballakmoir were lying waste, and therefore paying no rent in produce, animals, or money. It is a hundred account the lands of ‘Ballakmoir' were lying waste, and therefore pities that this Lowland Chamberlain did not give a detailed of Badenoch and Lochaber in the reign of Queen Mary.

Return to Scottish Historical Articles


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