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The Blackhalls of that Ilk and Barra
Chapter III. — The Blackhalls of that Ilk


ALTHOUGH it is possible that the William de Blackhall, who sat on the inquest to retour William de Tullideff in 1398, was the head of the family, of this we cannot be certain, as his territorial designation is not given. Among “the old writs of the family of Urquhart of Cromarty” there was, however, one, which showed that the Christian name of the chief of the Blackhalls about that time was also William. This charter was one “by William de Blackhall of that Ilk to John de St. Claro of Six Pecks of Land lying within the Burgh of Crumbathye with five acres lying in the field called Kydimrys, dated at Athunoble, 16th July, 1407.” (Macfarlane's Genealogical Manuscripts, edited by Clark, Vol. II., p. 358.) In the preamble to the action for reduction brought against the Blackhalls of that Ilk in 1634, reference is also made to William Blackhall of that Ilk as the father of John Blackhall of that Ilk, to whom a charter of the Coronership was granted in 1433. (Reg. of Acts and Decreets, Vol. 475, folio 557.) For reasons which will be given later, it may be assumed that William Blackhall of that Ilk, or one of his predecessors, was also, in all probability, the proprietor of Barra as well as of Blackhall. This William was succeeded, as his “son and heir,”

by—

II. John Blackhall of that Ilk.

Among the charters produced by the Blackhalls during the action for reduction referred to, the earliest was “ane decreit absolvitour of ane assyse in ane Justice Court within the regalitie of Gareoche, in favour of John Blakhall, daittit the 18th of May, 1418, anent the Crownarshippe, with ane seal and nyne other vestiges” (loc. cit.). On the 28th of  November, 1433, Alexander, “Earl of Mar and Garioch,” grants a charter of the Coronership to John Blackhall of that Ilk, as set forth in another charter shown at the same trial with “ane scall” attached. In the preamble, it is stated that in this charter of the Coronership of the Garioch, that office was given to John Blackhall of that Ilk, by the Earl, “Tobehalden of him and his successors” (loc. cit.). A third charter with a worn seal was also shown on the same occasion, which was granted on the seventh day of . . . . 1457, by the King’s Majesty to “the said John Blackhall of that Ilk, and Crownar ” (loc. cit.).

There is no direct mention in these charters, so far as we know them, of the Forestership of the Garioch, but we shall sec from a charter, dated some fifty years later, that by that time both the Forestership and Coronership w ere regarded by the King as hereditarily belonging to the Blackhalls of that Ilk. “John do Blackhall, dominus ejusdem,” was bailie in a charter of lands given by Alexander de Forbes to Master Alan de Futhes, Canon of the Church of Moray and Ross. It is dated 15th May, 1424 (Reg. Epis. Aberd.), and with the exception of the oldest Charter referred to in the Mar trial (1418), and the Cromarty charter of 1407, is the earliest evidence of the titular distinction of the Blackhalls of that Ilk, with which I am acquainted.

Robertus de Blackhall, who sat on an enquiry before the Bishop of Aberdeen, held at Rayne on October 28th, 1408 (Reg. Episc. Aberd., Vol. I., p. 216), may have been an uncle or brother of John Blackhall of that Ilk, and possibly the ancestor of the house of Barra.

Although the charters have been lost, if at any time existent, it may be argued, from the reasons assigned for the forfeiture of the Blackhalls of Barra in 1591-2, that both Blackhall and Barra were about this period in the hands of the Blackhalls of that Ilk. They certainly were not possessed in common any later.

III. William Blackhall (of That Ilk)

He was the father of the fourth laird, with whom we shall have to deal presently, but he may never himself have inherited the property. He had a brother, Robert Blackhall, who had a charter of half the lands of Freland, in Fife, held in blench farm for half a pound of pepper. He gave these lands to his nephew, William Blackhall, who had a charter signed at Inverurie on September 10th, 1488, and confirmed by James

IV. (Reg. Mag. Sig.)

Robert Blackhall also had a son, John Blackhall, who received a fourth part of the lands of Blackhall from his father. These lands came into the possession of Robert Blackhall from William Mearns, “ to be halden of John, Earl of Mar.” (Register of Acts and Decreets, Vol. 475, foL 557.)

This was the William Blackhall, I believe, whose six roods in Inverurie, sunk to two roods in the time of William Blackhall, the fifth known laird (1513), yielded the one year’s rent of ten solidi, with which and other sums Patrick Leslie, burgess of Aberdeen, founded the altar of the Three Kings in the Parish Church of Saint Nicholas in Aberdeen. The date of this foundation is somewhat indefinite, but it must have been some time between 1451 and i486, the period when William Blackhall must have lived. (Reg. Episc. Aberd., Vol. II., p. 298.) The King (James IV.), as tutor and governor of his brother John, Earl of Mar and Garioch, confirmed this transfer “pro certa summa pecunie persoluta” at Aberdeen, 8th December, 1491. (Reg. Mag. Sig.) A John Blackhall, probably the same, also had sasine of Blackhall or some part of it in 1493. (Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, Vol. X.)

A William Blackhall or Blackhaw, possibly the father of the next . laird, who, as I have suggested, may have been the eldest son without succeeding, had sasine of some lands in Fyvy in 1494. (Exchequer Rolls, Vol. X.) They were burghal roods, and he paid vli. on admission.

IV. William Blackhall of that Ilk.

On November 14th, 1503, this laird had a charter from James IV., confirming him in half the lands of Fola-Blackwater, which he had acquired without the consent of the King, who, however, pardoned the feudal irregularity, “not wishing to cause any prejudice or injury to our beloved William Blackhall of that Ilk.” (Carta Willelmo Blackhall de eodem, (Reg. Mag. Sig. Lib., 14, No. 20). Had James the VI. acted with like generosity, for which there was even more occasion than in the present instance, a disastrous period in the history of the Blackhalls would have been avoided.

On the occasion of his receiving this confirmatory grant of Fola, William Blackhall resigned both Blackhall and his offices of Coroner and Forester of the Garioch into the King’s hands for regrant. The office of Forester appears in the charter in conjunction with the Coronership, under the phrase, “que etiam fuerunt dicti Willelmi hereditaria” It is thus explicitly stated that the offices were hereditary.

The reddendo for both lands and offices is ordained to be “ tres sectas ” annually rendered at the three chief places in the county of Aberdeen, with ward, relief and maritage. The reddendo of hunting-dog collars for Blackhall thus seems to have disappeared at this time. In the present day the feu-duty paid for Blackhall is the sum of eleven shillings and a penny, and is paid to the Duke of Fife, whose ancestor purchased many of the Mar superiorities, after the attainder of that Earldom in 1715. Again, on the 20th September, 1508, the King confirmed William Blackhall and his wife, Isabella Hay, in possession of Fola, which William Blackhall acquired from Robert Gardine “for a certain sum of money paid to sustain the life of the latter and of his children, and to pay his debts.” (Reg. Mag. Sig.)

Isabella Hay, the wife of William Blackhall, appears to have been a daughter of Hay of Ury, as in a birth brief to be mentioned later, a descendant of one of her sons (Robert) claims descent from the Blackhalls of that Ilk and the lairds of “Ury Hay.” There is no note of any other marriage of a Hay with a Blackhall.

In 1502-4, William Blackhall paid a composition of “xxvi. li. xiii. s. iiii. d.” for the confirmation of the charters of Blackhall, Fola and the offices. (Exck. Rolls.) In 1505, William Blackhall of that Ilk sat on an inquest to retour John Chalmer of Strathechyn, and again in 1507 to retour William Buchan of Auchmacoy, and on one also in the same year to retour George Meldrum of Fyvie. In the last inquest, William King of Bourty, sat with him, bearing a name of which we shall hear more. As William Blackhaw of that Ilk, the fourth laird is stated in a charter of 1507 of the- lands of Johnnisleys, in the Garioch, to William Gordon of Fulzcmont, to claim the superiority of those lands. (Reg. Mag. Sig.)

There is intrinsic evidence of this William Blackhall having been a man of initiative and energy, for as William Blakhale of Blakhale the Coroner of the Garioch was admitted a Burges;- of Guild of Aberdeen in 1504-1505. (New Spald. Misc., Vol. I., p. 43.) Indeed, some of his acquisition and reacquisition of land may have been the result of success in his operations as a burgess. He had learned the secret of breaking out from acres to the sea, and may have seen, with prophetic eye, the vision of a “Tory Democracy”!

In the Mar action there was a charter produced dated 20th March, 1508. By this the fourth part lands of Blackhall, to which reference has already been made, were granted by John Blackhall, the son of Robert Blackhall, to William Blackhall of that Ilk. The generosity of this cousin was probably stimulated by a solid consideration offered by the burgess, laird and coroner (loc. cit. supra, p. 19).

Before proceeding to trace the history of the descendants of this laird, it may be of interest to consider shortly the history, conditions of tenure, and emoluments of the offices which were declared by the King, at this time, to be hereditary in the family.

There is no documentary evidence of the Coronership and Forestership of the Garioch having at any time been in the possession of any family prior to their being held by the Blackhalls ; nor, indeed, at any later period, except for a short time during their forfeiture, when they were conferred on Alexander Burnet of Leys, as will be related in due course.

The antiquity of both offices is considerable. Thus, in the reign of David II., the “office of Cronarie” in Berwickshire was in the hands of Adam Coussor (Robertson’s Missing Charters, p. 30), while Alexander Strathaquin had a charter of the Coronership of Forfar and Kincardine (Ibid., p. 51); Allan Erskine held the office of Crownership of Fyfe and Fothryf (p. 50); and Thomas Durance had a charter of the “Crounarship” of Dumfries. The Forestership as an office is also met with in the same reign, for John Crawford of Cumnock had a charter “of the keeping of the new forest of Glenkenne ” (Ibid., p. 57). We have, moreover, reason to believe that these offices were not created in the reign of David II., and they have, therefore, a still greater antiquity, and are doubtless one of the many evidences of the organising faculty of the methodical Norman.

For example, the burgh of Aberdeen, in its corporate capacity, was appointed custodian of the Royal Forest of Stocket by Robert I. by charter on October 24th, 1313, “with all the privileges, conveniences and easements belonging, or which shall in future belong, whether by law or by usage, to the said forest.” In the same reign also the eustody of the forest of Drum seems for a time to have been given to Alexander Burnard, the ancestor of the Burnetts of Leys, who still have a hunting horn among the charges in their arms. This is regarded as symbolical of the Forestership mentioned. This office, however, appears to have been granted soon afterwards to William of Irwyji, the ancestor of the Irvings of Drum, and Burnard was compensated for its loss by a fresh grant of land. (Family of Burnett of Leys, New Spalding Club, p. J).

Both offices seem frequently to have been hereditary, and in some instances tenable by females as heiresses, or in conjunction with their husbands. Thus Agnes Vaus was, prior to 1439, Coroner of half the barony of Renfrew, and Alison Park was Coroner ward (Coronator Warde) of Stragriffe prior to 1484.

In 1452 Gilbert de Luinsden and Mariota, his wife were the Foresters of Coldingham : “Tenend. prefatas terras, &c., dicto Gilberto et heredibus ejus et officium prefatum dicto Gilberto et Mariote ejus spouse et eorum heredibus in feodo.” (Reg Mag. Sig.) When an incumbent of the Forestership of the groves of Torwood (nemoris de le Torwood) resigned the office, free tenement and a rational third part of the profits of that post were reserved for himself and his wife Margaret. (Reg. Mag. Sig.) (ante 1476.) William Murray of Tullibardin, looked at by the eyes of posterity, was very appropriately the Coroner and Forester of Balquhidder in the fifteenth century (1482). (Reg. Mag. Sig.) We have seen that an Alexander Strachan was Coroner of Forfar and Kincardine in the reign of David II., and we find that about a century later, the Coronership of the same counties was held by John Strathachin of Carinyle, probably a member of the same family. After him, however (in 1472) the Forester of Forfar and Kincardine was John Lyon of Curtastown, afterwards laird or lord of Glamis (postea dom. Glam mis). (Reg. Mag. Sig.)

The profits of the Forestership were evidently considered of yore sufficiently valuable for separate treatment in charters. Thus, we shall find that when Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk, in 1609, parted with the lands to his son William on the latter’s marriage, he retained his hereditary offices in life-rent. In a charter granted in the 16th year of the reign of James II., confirming transactions between Thomas de Lummysden and his brother Gilbert de Lummysden, concerning lands in the barony of Coldingham, with which are combined certain benefits conferred by the Prior of Coldingham on Gilbert Lummysden and his wife Mariota (possibly related to the Prior), some information as to the sources of the income of a Forester are given. (Reg. Mag. Sig.).

In an enquiry before the said Prior (John Aclif), touching the office of Forester of the barony of Coldingham, it appears that a certain John Forstaire (no doubt the equivalent of present day Forsters, Forrestiers, and Forresters) has the following perquisites or dues, namely, meat, drink and fodder (pabulum equinum) for himself and his man, when he comes to the prior’s house; the said Forester also has charge of “Wrac” and “Waif” in the said demesne of Coldingham, and receives for the said wrac and waif 12 pence a pound (12 den. de libfa); for ships or boats plying in the said demesne with “carcata cum blado,” salt, coals (carbonibus) or anything of the kind for sale there, one boll before the transaction and another boll after it (unam bollam ante malam (malum) et alium bollum post-malam) belongs to the said Forester; for the anchorage of any kind of ship 12 pence, and for boats 4 pence, with the thraves of oats (cum thraven avenarum) of any arable land of the farmers (de qua libet terra husbandii fermariorum) with the exception of the lord prior’s fields in the “town” of Coldingham; for any cart of . . . (de qualibet plaustro merini (mereinii ?) 4 pence; for a draught horse one penny; “de quercu quadrato cum bovibus tracto ” 4 pence; and game-birds (pheasants) “gallinas silvestres” for himself according to custom; also a cloak suitable for a gentleman (et unam robam generosis aptam) “at the feast of the Nativity of our Lord as (prout) appears in a certain public deed of William de Cranstoun sealed with five seals.” (ibid.)

It is evident from these details that the Forestership of Coldingham was not only what might be termed a “fat living,” but also a post of some dignity. When William Blackhall of that Ilk was retourcd heir to his father in 1547, this office of Coroner and Forester is said “in time of peace to be worth ten solidi, and now thirty solidi per annum.” (Record of Retours, Vol. I., fol. 1.)

The Coronership of Norman England and these district Coroner-ships of ancient Scotland appear to have differed essentially. Both seem to have had a property qualification, and the old Norman Coronership was exercised as an honourable function, without pecuniary profit. Whether this was also the case in Scotland at one time I have not been able so far tc determine by documentary evidence. The English Coronership also appears to have always been elective, while the Scottish Coronerships were granted by a feudal superior to a vassal. The name would seem to imply that some interests of the Crown were their special care.

William Blackhall died some time prior to 1513 and left issue:—

1. William, his successor.
2. Robert, portioner of Fola, and Burgess of Guild of Aberdeen, of whom more later.
3. John, Parish Clerk of Inverurie.
4. Agnes, married to Walter Banzeaucht (Badenoch, or Benzie) in Inverurie. She inherited some land in Inverurie from her father. (Proctocol of Sir John Christisone, by apostolic authority, notary, creatcd by Mr Arthur Boece.)

V. William Blackhall of that Ilk.

One of the documents produced at the Mar trial was “an instrument of seising of the lands of Blackhall, Folia and Blackwatter, and forrestschippe and crownarschippe of Garioche given to William Blackhall, son of the said William Blackhall of that Ilk, proceiding on the Sheriff of Aberdene his precept, daittit the pennult of Februar, 1513. Notar Sir Georg Patersone.” {Inc. cit. supra, p 17.) By a deed signed at Edinburgh on the 29th of May, 1524, this William Blackhall of that Ilk, “son and heir of William Blackhall of that Ilk” sold to John Brtoun of Creich the lands of Freland, in Fife, which his father had received from his uncle, Robert Blackhall of Freland. The King (James V.) granted a charter of confirmation on June 14 following. (Reg. Mag. Sig.)

The next transaction in which we find this laird taking part, is the devising of some property to his immediate relatives, and a little later he espouses the cause of John Blackhall, the Parish Clerk of Inverurie, against one of the Leslies of Kincraigy, who, by what seems to have been a ‘*snatch” election, secured for himself the post for which John Blackhall appears to have become temporarily unfit.

These events are chronicled in the “Proctocol of Sir John Cristisone, by apostolic authority” already mentioned, which is in the Register House in Edinburgh, and from which the following excerpts are made. This document was brought to my notice by the Rev. John Anderson of the Historical Department of the Register House. I take this opportunity of expressing my indebtedness to Mr. Anderson for much help and courtesy in my search into the history of the Blackhalls.

The first excerpt from this source is an “Instrument narrating that William Blackhall of that Ilk gave up all his right claim and property in and to the lands of two roods lying in the territory of the town of Inverury, between the Royal lands in the east and west, and the lands of Patrick Forbes and John Williamson on the south and north, to Robert Blackhall his brother-german, his heirs, etc., in which case Agnes Blackhall, their sister, shall be placed in conjunct fee of the same during her life, and not otherwise.” This agreement was come to at Inverurie on March 6th, 1530. “The same day Robert Blackhall, burgess of Aberdeen, within the town of Inveroury, resigned the two roods above described (Williamson’s lands being given as the south boundary) into the hands of John Anderson, one of the bailies of the said town, in favour of Walter Banzeaucht, who duly received sasine, and then required the baillie to induct his spouse, Agnes Blackhall, in the conjunct fee of the lands, whereupon the baillie placed her in possession of her conjunct fee in terms of her charter, by rope and thatch.”

On the nth of October, 1537, after the death of Walter Banzeaucht, his son John got sasine of a good deal of town land, including two roods belonging to William Blackhall of that Ilk, who the same day, together with Agnes Blackhall, his sister, and the mother of John Banzeaucht, protested that the sasine given to the latter should not prejudice their rights in the future. (Protocol.)

The other family incident of interest concerned the Parish Clerkship.

The instrument narrates “that Alexander Leslie of Kincragy, with sixty-six other persons, male and female, and Sir James Kyd, vicar, parishioners of Inveroure, gave their election and votes to John Leslie to enjoy and possess the office of clerk of Inveroury when it shall vacate by decease of John Blackhall last parish clerk, and chose the said John Leslie as a fit and able person for the office, and presented him to William, Bishop of Aberdeen, upon which the presentee craved instrument. Done in the said parish between 6 a.m. and i p.m. on 23rd June, 1536.” As the next step in this procedure, on June 24th “John Leslie, son of Alexander Leslie of Kincragy, appeared at the high altar in the parish church of Inveroury, declaring that he was the true and undoubted elect and presented parish clerk of Inveroury, therefore, lest that church remain destitute of service, he offered himself ready to serve the vicar at the altar and the parishioners in all things which belonged to the office of parish clerk as he is duly bound.”

On the same day William Blackhall of that Ilk appeared for the incapacitated John Blackhall (who was probably his brother, although that is not expressly stated) as his tacksman and depute, and “offered himself ready to do service in the office of clerk, and protested solemnly that the election and votes of the parishioners of Inveroury given to John Leslie should not prejudice his own right and that of John Blackhall, parish clerk, because it was not divulged to the ears of the parishioners, nor perfectly known to them as to any manner of vacation.” The family feeling here evinced by William Blackhall of that Ilk had its grander development in the larger patriotism which cost him his life in battle against the English some years later. These are the roots from which springs the highest philanthropy which dies for abstract right in the interests of the whole human family, and sometimes at the hands of the race it desires to benefit.

Referring to this election Dr. Davidson (Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch, p. 143) remarks : “The Inverouric election seems to have been a characteristic example of parish politics; the attempt of one important party to supplant another in local position, a bit of village life not seldom repeated since. Blackhall of that Ilk was at the head of society in the parish, and Kincraigie—a cadet of the house of Balquhain—was then rising into influence.”

Among the assessors mentioned in the dispute between William Strachan of Glenkindie and Lord Elphinstone in 1535, the account of which in Vol. IV. (p. 469) of the Antiquities of Banff and Aberdeen (Spalding Club) is abridged from the original in the Innes charter chest at Floors Castle, there is an association of three names which interest, and will again interest us, namely, those of William Blackhall of Bourty, William Blackhall of that Ilk and William Kyng of Barraucht. As representatives of the constituents in a human bomb destined to explode in due time, they still lay peacefully within the shell of ignorance of the future, while the man who lighted the fuse was yet unborn.

By a deed signed at Bandodil on August 22, 1543 (Proctocol cit.), William Blackhall gave a tack or lease of the sunny third of the lands of Blackhall, till Whitsunday 1547, to James Skeyne, on terms which seem rather advantageous to the latter. One of the conditions of this tack or lease is that “The said James, notwithstanding infeftment of the lands shall not remove Sir James Kyd, tenant, until Whitsunday, 1547.” It may be explained in passing that the clergymen of the period, who had taken an Arts degree at the University were “Domini” or Masters, while those who had not done so and yet were clerics, used the prefix of Schir or Sir, doubtless an abbreviation of Mon Sieur.

William Blackhall of that Ilk married Margaret Forbes, the daughter of George Forbes of Auchintoul. Her mother was a daughter of Sir William Leslie of Balquhain by his third wife Euphemia Lindsay, the only child and heiress of William Lindsay of Cairney, and the granddaughter of the first Earl Crawford, by the Princess Janet, daughter of Robert III. Her brother was the first Leslie baron of Pitcaple. Matthew Lumsden (Genealogy of the Family of Forbes, p. 63, Ed. 1883) gives Margaret Blackhall’s name as Bessie, but he evidently confuses her with a sister who married John Forbes of Terpree (Historical Records of the Family of Leslie, by Colonel Leslie, K.H. of Balquhain, Vol. III., p. 10-13).

William Blackhall fell in battle against the English (mortuus in conflictu contra Anglos), according to the special retour of his son William, on the 10th of September, 1546. If this be correct—and the dates are given without abbreviation in the retour—it is a point of some interest.

We know that the battle of Pinkie was fought on the 10th of September, 1547, but history is silent as to a conflict with the English on the same day in the previous year. Even Lindsay of Pitscottie, who enters with sume detail into the commotions which led up to the battle of Pinkie, mentions no fight that can be dated in September, 1546. Pitscottie, however, gives the date of the battle of Pinkie as September 18th, 1547, not September 10th, the usually accepted date. (History of Scotland, 3rd Edition, p. 304). In any case William Blackhall fell in battle against the English, and his wife seems to have predeceased him, as there is 110 provision made for her in the retour of her son to his father.

The note of a transaction which I have recently received through the kindness of Mr. M. Livingston, of the Record Office, inclines me to believe that, notwithstanding the unabbreviated precision of the date given in the retour of the next laird in that document, we may conclude that William Blackhall died, to use an old phrase, “in Pinkie.” This note, which is dated the 26th of August, 1547, fifteen days prior to the usually accepted date of the battle, is a letter of reversion by James Skein in Bandodill in favour of William Blackhall of that Ilk, binding himself to restore the latter to “his sown third of the lands of Blackhall” on repayment to Skein of 12 score merks for which he (Blackhall) had wadset the third. We have already learned that on August 22nd, 1543, William Blackhall of that Ilk had granted a tack.or lease to Skein of a sunny third of his lands. Before those merks were paid, the harvest of Pinkie had been gathered, and if the sunny third was redeemed, it must have been by the next laird. According to Pitscottie, the preparations made to meet the English on that occasion were rapidly undertaken, so that the mobilisation of the feudal array could not have been a matter of more than a fortnight or so. (Op. cit., p. 300.) As William Blackhall was of age in 1513 (vide supra, p. 24), he must have been well on to sixty when he fell, as we may assume he did, at Pinkie, and we learn from Pitscottie that the proclamation of the Governor (Hamilton) was to all men “betwixt sixty and sixteen, spiritual and temporal, father as well as son, to compear at Edinburgh in their best array, with a month’s victuals.....” (Op. cit., p. 300.) William Blackhall appears to have left no children except his son and successor

VI. William Blackhall of that Ilk,

who had a special retour to his father on February 1st (1547 ?-1548). The status at any given period of a territorial family, or the personal esteem in which an individual was held, is to be gauged in a measure, by the social position of the jury which attended the inquest to retour the heir. On this occasion, the local aristocracy were very fully represented, and it is possible to see in this fact some homage to the man who had died for his country and sympathy with his heir. During the Mar action, several documents connected with the tenancy of this laird were laid before the Court, to wit :,(i) an instrument by which he got sasine of the lands of Blackhall on a precept from the Chancellerie on May 8th, 1548; (2) another instrument of sasine of the same lands to himself and his spouse, Janet Strathauchin, on the 9th of February, He got sasine of Blackhall again on his own resignation on the 20th of April, 1551. On this occasion the Queen (Mary) gave a chartcr of confirmation to himself and his wife, Janet Strathauchin, of the lands of Blackhall with the manor house of the same, together with the offices of Coroner and Forester and the emoluments of these, to be held by the said William and Janet, or the survivor of them in conjunct fee, and by their legitimate heirs male, whom failing by the heirs male whatsoever of the said William. (Reg. Mag. Sig.) This, the immediate successor to the laird who fell at Pinkie, appears himself to have died about the year 1554, because, on the 16th of December in that year, William Strathauchin of Tibbertie and Janet Auchinleck, his spouse, “yair airis and assignais ane or ma(ir)” had a gift from Oueen Mary of the whole lands of Blackhall and the offices and their emoluments in the interest of the family of “umquhile William Blackhall of yat Ilk.” As we have seen above by another charter, Janet Strathauchin, the wife of this now deceased laird, had conjunct fee of the lands, and offices, and to the survivor. It is difficult to understand, therefore, why, if she were still alive, the Strachans of Tibbertie, probably her own family, were imported as caretakers of her property and children. The wording of the “Letter” (Reg. Secret. Sig., Vol. XXVII., fol. 90; appears to leave this point, to my mind, uncertain. If not dead, she must surely have been incapacitated from some cause and for some tune. If, on the other hand, she was dead, and the Strachans had charge of a young son or family absolutely orphaned, we are confronted with the curious genealogical coincidence that two successive lairds, both bearing the name of William Blackhall, married two successive Strachans, each having the Christian name of Jonet or Janet. For in the retour of Alexander Blackhall to his cousin, William Blackhall of that Ilk, in 1591, the rights of Janet Strachan, the widow of “ the said William,” are specially reserved. Although termed in the retour “quondam Willielmus Blackhall de eodem,” he is also specifically called the son of his father, and at this point there is a hiatus in the document which can only be filled in by “ the son of his father, the late William Blackhall of that Ilk.” In that case it is more probable that the Janet Strachan, whose rights are reserved, was the mother, not the wife of the next laird to whom Alexander Blackhall succeeded, as we shall learn in due course. If this were so, it is possible also that Margaret Blackhall, who had a general retour to her father without seeking lands in 1610, as we shall also learn later, was the sister of the last William Blackhall of the direct line, and the daughter of that William Blackhall who succeeded the victim of Pinkie. The date of death of her father is unfortunately not mentioned in the retour, nor was it customary to mention this fact in such documents. If, on the other hand, she was a daughter of the last William, the name of her mother nowhere transpires, unless it was the same as that of her grandmother, viz., Janet Strachan. This supposition may, I think, be dismissed, in view of the fact that the Janet Strachan, whose rights are reserved, as above stated, is declared to have had conjunct fee of Blackhall, and that we know the Janet Strachan of 1550 had. This date was also probably that of her marriage, and as her husband died, so far as can be determined, in 1554> it is not probable that his family consisted of more than two children, namely, his son and successor, and possibly a daughter, who may have been the Margaret of the retour mentioned.

VII. William Blackhall of that Ilk.

The conditions on which the Strachans of Tibbertie had ward of the lands of Blackhall, &c., are stated in these words: “while (until) ye kuchfull entree of the rychtuis air or airis yrto being of lauchfull aige, wt ye relief yrof quhen it sal happin, and also ye manage of YVilliame Blakhall, sone and air to ye said Uinqle William Blakhall of yt ilk, and failzeing of him be deceis unmarijt, ye manage of ony other air or airis, male or female, yat sail happin to succeid to ye said William in his heritage wt all proffittis of ye said manage ” (loc. cit.). Little can now be ascertained concerning this laird. The document setting forth his retour has been lost, but among the deeds produced at the Mar trial there is one which concerns him. It is entitled “ Ane instrument of Seasing of the lands of Blakhall and office of Crovvnarschippe foirsaid givin to William Blakhall, sone and air to William Blakhall of that Ilk, proceiding on ane Precept out of the Chancellarie following on ane retour, daittit the first August, 1581, notar William Bruce.” The fact of his retour and possession of Blackhall and the offices is thus fully established, but no further particulars can be gathered beyond these of the interval between his infancy and his death, which is chronicled thus: “Wilycm Blakhall of that Ilk, dcpartit in Aberdeen the fyft day of August, 1589 yeris” (Spalding Club Miscellany, Vol. II., p. 63). If he had other relations besides his sister or daughter Margaret, there is no evidence that they survived him. In Margaret Blackhall’s general retour to her father, William Blackhall of that Ilk, which took place in 1610, “she sought no lands,” as I have stated, and for reasons which will become clearer as we proceed. (Record of Retours, Vol. IV., fol. 453.) “Willelmus Strathachin de Tippcrtic,” either he who had a grant of the ward of Blackhall in 1554, on his successor, heads the list of the jurors on this inquest. At this date, Margaret was unmarried, and if she was the sister of the last laird in the direct line, can no longer have been young. But whether this was so or not, of her later history nothing is known.

Before mentioning the next holder of Blackhall and the offices, it will be convenient to deal with the Blackhalls of Barra, for their contact with him appears to have been connected in some way with the forfeitures to which the Blackhalls had soon to submit, and which commenced with the alienation by the Crown of the estates of that junior, but wealthier branch of the family.


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