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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter XXVII - Historical Sketches of the Fleming Family—Continued


IN the chapter on the Covenanters in this volume, we have referred to various movements on the part of John, second Earl of Wigton, and his son John Lord Fleming. They attached themselves at first to the cause of the Covenant, but influenced by the solicitations of their relative Montrose, and by the blandishments of Charles IE., they turned their backs on that movement, and lent their support to the measures of the King. After the Battle of Philiphaugh, they do not s6em, however, to have taken a very active part in the public transactions of the time. The overthrow and the execution of Montrose, and the losses and injuries which they them-selves sustained, most likely disposed them to withdraw from public life, and to spend the remainder of their days in retirement and peace. The Earl died at Cumbernauld on the 7th of May 1650, and was succeeded in his titles and estates by his son John. This Earl married Jane Drummond, a daughter of the Earl of Perth, by whom he had five sons and three daughters, and died in February 1665.

The Earl’s second daughter, named Lillias, fell in love with one of her father’s servants called Richard Storry, and having eloped with him, succeeded in forming with him a matrimonial union. She, with consent of her husband, in October 1673, resigned her portion, consisting of the five merk land of Smythson and others, lying in the barony of Lenzie, to her brother, Lieutenant-Colonel Fleming, and received from him a legal acknowledgment that the same would be redeemable in the manner there described. The family afterwards obtained for Storry a situation in the Custom-House. The marriage pf this pair made a great noise at the time, and gave rise to a ballad, which has been preserved in some publications, and of which the following is a copy:—

'The Erie o’ Wigtoun had three doughters,
O braw wallie they were bonnie;
The youngest o’ them, and the bonniest too,
Has fa’en in love wi’ Richie Storrie.

'Here’s a letter for ye, Madame,
Here’s a letter for ye, Madame,
The Erie o’ Home wad fain presume,
To be a suitor to ye, Madame.

'HI hae nane o1 your letter, Richie,
I’ll hae nane o’ your letter, Richie;
For I hae made a vow, and Til keep it true,
That I*ll hae nane but you, Richie.

'O do not say bo, Madame,
O do not say ao, Madame;
For I hae neither land nor rent,
For to maintain yon Madame.

'Ribands ye maun wear, Madame,
Ribands ye maun wear, Madame,
Wi' bands about your bonnie neck
O' the goud that shines sae clear, Madame.

'I’ll lie ayont a dyke, Richie,
I’ll lie ayont a dyke, Richie,
And I'll be aye at your command,
And biding when ye like, Richie.'

'Fair Powmoodie is a’ my ain,
And goud and pearlins too, Richie;
Gin ye'll consent to be my ain,
I’ll gie them a’ to you, Richie,

'O he’s gane on the braid braid road,
And she’s gane through the broom so bonnie,
Her sillar robes doun to her heels,
And she’s awa wi' Richie Stome.

'The lady gaed up the Parliament Stain,
Wi' pendles in her lug sae bonnie;
Mony a lord lifted his hat,
But little wist they she was Richie’s lady.

'Up then spak the Erie of Home’s lady,—
Wasna ye richt sorrie, Lillie,
To leave the lands o’ bonnie Cumbernald,
And follow Richie Storrie, Lillie?

'O what need I be sorrie, Madame,
O what need I be sorrie, Madame?
For I’ve got them that I like best,
And war ordaned for me, Madame.

'Cumbernald is mine, Annie,
Cumbernald is mine, Annie,
And a’ that’s mine it shall be thine,
And we will sit at wine, Annie.’

The subject of this ballad fortned the groundwork of a tale which appeared in the first and second numbers of * Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal' in 1832.

John Fleming, the eldest son of the last Earl, succeeded to the tide and estates. Of his history very little is known. He married Anna, daughter of Henry Lord Ker, by whom he had a daughter, Jane, who became the wife of George Maule, Lord Panmure. He had only inherited the estates a period of three years, when he died, in 1668, and leaving no male issue, was succeeded by his brother William, who had entered the army the year previous, his commission as an ensign in General Thomas Dalziel’s own company of foot being dated 26th July 1667. The following is a translation of the terms in which William, on the 5th of August of that year, was retoured heir of the Biggar estate to Chancery William, Earl of Wigtoun, Lord Fleming of Cumbernauld, heir-male of John, Earl of Wigtoun, his brother-german, in the lands of Spittai, Easter Toft-Combes, Middle and Wester Toft-Combes, lands of Whinbusb, Telfer’s Oxengate, and Gildie Oxengate,—the lands of Heavyside,—the lands of Stane and Chamberlane Oxengate, Mossyde Oxengate and Staneheid, four oxgates of land at Billhead,—the town and burgh of Biggar, comprehending twenty-four burgh lands and two cotlands, with mill of Biggar,— lands of Westraw of Biggar, comprehending thirty oxgates,—two oxgates of lands of Westerraw of Biggar,—the three pound lands of the lordship of Boghall,—a part of the barony of Biggar,—the demesne lands of Iindsielands, the lands of Over and Nether Yoltis, part of the barony of Biggar, two oxgates of the temple lands in the Westerraw of Biggar within the said barony and said burgh of Biggar, ancient extent L.36, new extent L.144, acris of land of the said burgh of Biggar lying round in the lands and barony of Biggar, the six merk lands of ancient extent of Glentoers within the barony of Monkland, with the patronages of the Churches of Stobo, Drummelzier, Dawick, and Broughton ancient extent L.4, new extent L.8; the burghs of barony of Kirkintilloch and Biggar, all erected into the Earldom of Wigtoun.'

The Earl resigned his lands and honours to Charles II., and obtained a signature under the hand of the King, on the 18th of August 1669, authorizing a charter or regrant to pass the Great Seal of the dignities of Earl of Wigton, Lord Fleming and Cumbernauld, and also of his estates, in favour of himself and the heirs-male of his body, containing remainders also to Charles Fleming, his brother-german; Sir William Fleming, Chamberlain of the Household to the King, and son of John, second Earl of Wigton; to Lieutenant-Colonel Fleming, son of Malcolm Fleming, and grandson of John, first Earl; and to Jane Fleming, only daughter of John, fourth Earl, and afterwards wife of George, Earl of Panmure; to the heirs-male of their bodies seriatim, each and all of them, with an ultimate substitution, without division, to the eldest heir-female of the body of the disponee. It is a very singular circumstance that this regrant was never completed; that, in the course of a few years, it became unknown to the family, and remained in oblivion until it was accidentally discovered some time after the middle of last century. By the above resignation of the Earldom, which was gratuitous and not onerous, and by the failure to carry into effect the new warrant obtained, the Earl may be legally held to have denuded himself of the honours conferred on the Fleming family by James VI., and perhaps also of his estates.

The Earl was appointed by Charles II. Sheriff of Dumbartonshire, and Governor of Dumbarton Castle, and also a member of the Privy Council. His name, however, does not appear in connection with any of the arbitrary and discreditable transactions with which the Privy Council during his time was so very largely engaged. He appears to have lived a good deal in retirement, for his name seldom occurs in any public document. From the numerous papers connected with the management of his estates still preserved, it is evident that he was a careful and methodical man of business. He seems to have exacted from his factors a full and satisfactory statement of all their transactions. Earl William died on the 8th of April 1681, and was succeeded by his son John.

This Earl, the sixth who bore the title since its revival by James VI., was a decided Royalist, and of course had no sympathy with the /efforts made by the worthies of the Covenant to thwart the designs of the men of power, and overturn the Stewart dynasty. When William, Prince of Orange, landed in England, he took no part in the general rejoicing, but remained sulkily at his house of Cumbernauld. As might be expected, he lent no assistance to raise the Upper Ward Regiment, the 26th Cameronians, that was embodied at Douglas in 1687, for the purpose of supporting the principles of the Covenant, and the designs of King William. After James VH. had abandoned the throne, and settled in France, the Earl went over to the Continent, and remained for some time at the royal residence to console his fallen master. He returned to Scotland, and joined the party who were resolutely opposed to a union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England. When the measure for effecting this union was brought before the Scottish Parliament, he voted against every one of the articles. This measure, as is well known, was highly obnoxious to all ranks in Scotland;—the noble, the divine, the merchant, the craftsman, and the peasant, could see nothing in it but ruin to their respective orders, and, of course, misery and degradation to their country. The inhabitants of the Biggar district were in a perfect flame during the whole time that the Union Parliament, as it was called, carried on its discussions. During the month of November 1706, addresses or petitions against the Union were presented to this Parliament from tbe parishioners of Covington, Symington, Libberton, Quothquan, Dunsyre, Crawford, and Crawfordjohn. The address from the parish of Biggar was presented on Friday, the 15th of that month, and was no doubt gratifying to the Earl, who was present at this sederunt. A design was entertained to bring some thousands of the men of Clydesdale to Edinburgh, to dissolve the Parliament by force. Cunningham of Eckatt was entrusted with the task of carrying this design into execution; but as he was in reality a Government spy, and as the Duke of Hamilton, who possessed great influence in Clydesdale, and pretended to be a resolute opponent of the scheme of Union, was, at bottom, fainthearted, if not insincere, the whole affair, in the end, came to nothing. The Government thus got a pretext to repeal the Act of Security, the effect of which was, that any person afterwards assuming arms without authority, was held to be guilty of rebellion. The Articles of Union, after calling forth some creditable displays of forensic eloquence and patriotic feeling in Parliament, and the grief and resentment of nearly the entire nation, were, one after another, passed into a law; and Scotland saw the majority of her senators, for the most paltry bribes, barter away her independence, and sacrifice their own dignity and power.

The first effects of the Union were disastrous to Scotland. The abiding sense of humiliation and tarnished honour, the removal of many of the nobles and gentry to London, the ignominious treatment of the representatives of Scotland by the English senators, the improper interference with Scottish commerce, the imposition of new and odious taxes, and the dispersion over the country of a swarm of English revenue officers of dissolute habits and imperious dispositions, all contributed to keep the minds of the people in a state of intense irritation, and to attach them more and more to the exiled House of Stewart. Accordingly, when John, Earl of Mar, was repulsed from the presence of George I. in 1715, then newly landed on the English shores, when the address of loyalty and attachment from the chiefs of clans, which he wished to present, was rejected, and the office of Secretary of State, which he had held under Queen Anne, was taken from him, he set up the standard of rebellion, and called on all true patriots to rally to the rescue of their country.

No sooner was the note of rebellion sounded, than the Government, in virtue of a statute, commonly called the Clan Act, summoned upwards of fifty Scotsmen of note, and, among others, the Earl of Wigton, to appear at Edinburgh in order to give bail for their orderly and loyal behaviour. Only two persons, Sir Patrick Murray and Sir Alexander Erskine, thought fit to comply. The consequence was, that the others were declared rebels, and put to the horn. On a warrant issued by Major-General Williams, the Earl of Wigton was accordingly apprehended on the 20th August 1715, and placed in confinement in Edinburgh Castle. The Earl, by an instrument dated 19th June 1716, demanded that the Governor of Edinburgh Castle should set him at

2 x

liberty; but the Governor,in reply, said, that as he had been committed to prison in the time of war, he could not be released without a warrant from the King, or those acting under his authority. The Court of Justiciary, however, in the course of a few days, ordered the Governor to free him from his bonds; and accordingly he was immediately 9et at large, after he had been kept in ward for ten months.

Many of the gentlemen of the Upper Ward at that time belonged to the opposite side of politics from the Earl, and therefore made a stand in favour of the House of Hanover. Captain Daniel Weir of Stonebyres, the Laird of Corehouse, Sir James Carmichael of Botmiton, Sir James Lockhart of Lee, Baillie of Lamington, Alexander Menzies of Coulterallers, and others, assembled all their vaasals, and had them regularly drilled and ready to take the field in support of the movements of the Duke of Argyle, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Forces. The Duke of Douglas raised a regiment of 800 men, completely officered and trained. The first detachment, consisting of 100 men, commenced their march to the Royalist camp at Stirling on the 27th September 1715, and got the length of Carluke, when intelligence arrived that they were not to advance farther, in consequence of a scarcity of provisions in the camp. They consequently returned to Douglas; but the Duke himself, Baillie of Lamington, Sir James Carmichael, etc., proceeded onwards, and arrived at Stirling on the 29th. They were very likely present at the Battle of Sherriffinuir, which took place about a fortnight afterwards.

It was the Earl of whom we are now speaking, that in 1739 carried on a series of litigations with his vassals and feuars at Biggar regarding their respective rights to the Common, This was most likely done preparatory to his effecting the new entail of his estates in 1741. As already stated, he seems to have been altogether unaware of the regrant by Charles EL in 1669.

By the new deed of entail, he became bound to resign his estates and titles in favour of heirs-male lawfully procreated of his own body; but failing these, in favour of Charles Fleming, his brother-german, and his heirs-male lawfully begotten; and failing all these, in favour of heirs-female. One of the special objects of the Earl was, that as his brother was unmarried, and as his only daughter Clementina had in 1735 married Charles Elphinstone, son of Charles, ninth Lord Elphinstone, the peerage of Wigton should not be merged in or identified with any other title. It was therefore expressly stated, that the heir to succeed should be bound and obliged to assume and bear the title, name, arms, and designation of Lord or Baron Fleming, and no other. He therefore provided, that when any heir other than the heir-male of himself or his brother should succeed, or have a right to succeed, to the estates of Biggar and Cumbernauld, and should also succeed, or have a right to succeed, to the title and dignity of another peerage, then, in that case, and so soon as it should happen, he was bound to denude himself of the estates, and that they should go to the next heir, who should assume the name of Fleming.

The Earl died on the 10th of February 1742, in the 71st year of his age, and was interred in the Church of Biggar. He was three times married. His first wife was Margaret, a daughter of Colin Lindsay, third Earl of Balcarras; and by her he had a daughter, who appears to have died in early life. His second wife was Mary Keith, daughter of William, ninth Earl Marischall; and by her he had an only daughter, Clementina. His third wife was Miss Lockhart, daughter of the celebrated Sir George Lockhart of Camwath; but by her he had no issue.

The Earl was succeeded by his brother Charles, of whom nothing of importance is known. He died unmarried in 1747, and the estates went to his niece Lady Clementina, and the title became extinct. Charles Ross Fleming, M.D., Dublin, claimed the title, and voted at some of the elections of Scottish Peers; but the House of Lords, in 1762, decided that his claim was without proper foundation. After the death of this gentleman in 1769, his son renewed the claim, but with no better success; so that the title of the Earl of Wigton has for more, than a century been dropped from the roll of the Scottish nobility.

Lady Clementina Fleming, only child of John, sixth Earl of Wigton, in 1735 married Charles, second son of Charles, ninth Lord Elphin-stone. On the death of. her uncle Charles, seventh Earl of Wigton, as already stated, she became possessor of the estates of Biggar and Cumbernauld, and she was also, through her mother, heiress-of-line of William, ninth Earl Marischal. Her husband, on the death of his father in 1757, became Lord Elphinstone, his elder brother John having died some time previously.. Her Ladyship by this union had four sons —John, Charles, William, and George Keith—and several daughters. Charles and George devoted themselves to the i\aval service, and rose to distinction. Charles perished at sea, on board the ‘Prince George,’ 90 gun ship, when she was destroyed by fire on the 18th of April 1758, during a voyage from England to Gibraltar. William, who was for many years an East India Company Director, married the eldest daughter of William Fullerton, Esq. of Carstairs; and < from this couple, William, the present Lord Elphinstone, is directly descended. In the year 1773, Lady Clementina 4 did for certain causes and considerations sell, alienate, and, in feu farm, dispone to and in favour of Sir Michael Bruce of Stenhouse, Bart., his heirs and assignees, those parts of the lands of the barony of Biggar and Boghall which she inherited from her father and uncle. In the year following, Sir Michael Bruce, by disposition and deed of entail, sold, alienated, and disponed the same lands to and in favour of Lady Clementina, and the heirs what-somever of her body, and failing them, to the heirs-feanale of her uncle Charles if any existed, to the heirs->male or female, of Jean Fleming or Maule, relict of George Lord Ramsay, or to the heirs-male of the deceased William Fleming of Borochan, etc. This disposition and deed of entail was, however, not recorded in the Register of Tailzies.

John, Lady Clementina’s eldest son, was bom in 1739. He was an officer in the army, and served under the distinguished General Wolfe in Canada, where, at the Heights of Montmorenci, he was wounded in the neck by a musket-ball. He received the command of a company of invalids in 1760, and at a subsequent period was appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle. He succeeded his father as eleventh Lord Elphinstone in 1781, and was several times chosen a representative peer for Scotland. He married Anne, daughter of Lord Ruthven; and by her he had four sons—John, Charles, James Ruthven, and Mount-stuart. He died at Cumbernauld House on the 19th of August 1794. His mother, the venerable Clementina, outlived him upwards of four years, and died at Cavendish Square, London, on the 1st of January 1799, in the 80th year of her age, and, as formerly stated, was interred in Biggar Kirk. The last of the Flemings was thus appropriately laid in the tomb of her forefathers; and many ages, in all likelihood, will roll by before it is again opened.

With the death of Lady Clementina, the connection of the direct line of the Flemings with Biggar terminated. For four or five centuries at least this family reigned superior in the parish. Nay, we are strongly disposed to believe that they held uninterrupted possession of it from the time of the first David. The opinions opposed to this view rest merely on conjecture, while a probability at least exists in its favour. So soon as we obtain distinct and satisfactory evidence of the existence of the Fleming family, we find them in possession of Biggar parish; and, therefore, we are inclined to conclude that the family of de Bigris and the family of Fleming were the same. This evidently, at all events, was the opinion of some members of the Fleming family two centuries ago.

Biggar, no doubt, reaped very considerable advantages from its connection with this old and distinguished family. The presence of a chief who often resided at court, who fought in his country’s battles, who went on important embassies to foreign kingdoms, and who took a prominent part in the great public movements of the age, must have inspired the inhabitants with pride and confidence, while his vigilant eye would rouse them up to industry and self-respect, causing them to cultivate their fields with care, maintain their dwellings in a state of comfort, and cultivate habits of decency and order. No evidence exists to show that they were ever harsh and tyrannical landlords or superiors, but much, on the contrary, to prove that they treated their tenants and vassals with leniency, and conferred on them many favours. It was through their influence that Biggar was erected into a free burgh of barony. They bestowed on the burgesses very ample possessions, and, with the exception of appointing a head bailie, they appear to have left them very much to manage their own affairs. The inhabitants of Biggar parish, no doubt, sustained occasional losses from their connection with the Flemings. In the days of feud and foray, revenge for the offences of a lord-superior was too often exercised on his unoffending vassals. The Flemings were at times obnoxious to men in power, or having at least the means of inflicting injuries; and hence their poor tenants were assailed, and their property destroyed or carried off. Murray, Lennox, and Cromwell made Biggar successively a scene of desolation.

The Flemings, as we have seen, were bountiful patrons of religious houses and the Romish faith. The altars in many a religious establishment received their benefactions, and many a mass must have been said for the salvation of their souls. The erection of the Collegiate Church of St Mary at Biggar, and its magnificent endowment, must ever keep their nameB fresh in the memory of the people of Biggar.

John, Lady Clementina’s grandson, who became twelfth Lord Elphinstone, was an officer in the army, and served in different corps. He attained the rank of Major-General, and, on the 23d of April 1806, was appointed Colonel of the 26th or Cameronian Regiment. His brother Charles, who was born in 1774, entered the naval service, and attained the rank of Captain in 1794. He commanded the ‘Tartar ’ frigate in April 1797, when she was lost by striking on a rock, while engaged in cutting out some valuable merchantmen from a French battery at St Domingo; but the crew were all saved. He afterwards commanded the ‘Bulwark,’ a 74 gun ship, and was stationed for some time in the Mediterranean. He rose to the rank of Admiral; and in the latter part of his life, held the important office of Governor of Greenwich HospitaL In virtue of the entail executed in 1741 by John, Earl of Wigton, to which we formerly referred, he laid claim to the estates of Biggar and Cumbernauld, the ancient inheritances of the Flemings; and as this was resisted by his elder brother, Lord Elphinstone, a litigation took place, in the early part of the present century, to settle the dispute. The Court of Session, on the 19th of January 1804, decerned in favour of Charles, the second brother; and this decision was afterwards confirmed by the House of Lords, and he consequently assumed the name of Fleming, and took possession of the estates. The Admiral for some time represented the county* of Stirling in the Imperial Parliament. In 1816 he married Donna Catalina Paulina Alessandro, a Spanish lady, and by her he had one son and three daughters. Having fallen into pecuniary difficulties, his liabilities amounting to fully L.41,000, he obtained an Act of Parliament in 1826, empowering the Judges of the Court of Session to sell certain parts of the lands and barony of Biggar and lands and barony of Boghall, and to apply the price in payment of his debts. Three of the ten heirs next in succession being at the time of the passing of the Act in foreign countries, three years were allowed to obtain their consent to the sale; and this having been procured, nearly the whole of the ancient possessions of the Flemings in the parish of Biggar were, about the year 1830, brought to the hammer, and, as formerly stated, fell into the hands of five or six different proprietors. The Admiral died on the 30th of October 1840, and was succeeded by his only son John, who was born on the 11th of December 1819.

John Elphinstone Fleming entered the army, and served for some time in the 17th Lancers. At the close of his active military career, some five or six years ago, he was in command of the 2d Light Dragoons of the German Legion, and held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. On the 19th of July 1860, he succeeded his cousin John as 14th Lord Elphinstone; but dying at Bournemouth on the 13th of January following, he enjoyed his elevation to the peerage only a few months. The estate of Cumbernauld, and such fragments of the estate of Biggar as still remain in the hands of the family, are now the possession of Viscountess Hawarden, eldest daughter of Admiral Fleming, and sister of the late John Lord Elphinstone.

We close these brief and imperfect sketches of the Fleming family with a cut, representing such fragments of their once spacious seat of Boghall as still remain—a fitting emblem of the power and glory now departed, that in former ages attached to their name in the district of Biggar.


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