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


IT is no more possible to state precisely when the Blackhalls of Barra first entered on possession of that estate, than it is to determine the date at which the Blackhalls of that Ilk alienated it to them alone, or in conjunction with the Kings, as we may gather they did, although documentary evidence is now lacking. These families, as portioncrs, certainly possessed it for at least a century, and probably longer. In Volume I. of the Register of the Great Seal, which covers the period between 1306 and 1424, Barra is not mentioned. “ In 1493,” according to Dr. Davidson (Inverurie, &c., p. 103), “James King of Bourtie resigned half of the lands of Wester-house (part of Barra) into the hands of John, Earl of Mar and Garioch, for new infeftment to himself and Marjorie Barclay, his spouse.”John Blackhall of that Ilk, we have seen, was laird of Blackhall, but probably not of Barra, between the years 1418 and 1457, or we should have found that important property mentioned in deeds of his time. The first Blackhall of Barra was probably his cousin, and at this period already in possession of Barra, or of some portion of it. If a cousin, his father may have been that Robertus de Blakhall who sat on an inquest at Rayne (p. 18) in 1408. If, therefore, the first Blackhall of Barra was not descended from the first documentary William Blakhall of that Ilk, the separate possession of Barra by a cadet of the family at so early a period would throw back the existence of the Blackhalls without any doubt to a time prior to the first documentary evidence of the name in 1398. The Christian name of the first of the Barra family of whom there is any documentary evidence is unknown. So far as such evidence goes, the first Blackhall of Barra was—

I. Blackhall,

“The good man of Barra-Blakhall,” who, according to a manuscript history of the family of Caskieben, written in 1610, which Dr. Davidson quotes (op. cit., p. 448), married the eldest of the three daughters of Gilbert Johnston of that Ilk and Caskieben by his first wife, Elizabeth Vaus of Mcny. Gilbert Johnston was married before 1428, and seems to have survived till 1476. Douglas (Baronage, p. 35) was also cognisant of this Caskieben document, but mentions the good man of Barra as “the laird of Blackhall,” apparently regarding the term Barra-Blackhall as territorial. The “good man of Barra-Blackhall” was succeeded by—

II. John Blackhall of Barra,

who died in 1505. He married Margaret Burnat, who may have been a daughter of Alexander Barnard or Burnat of Leys, who held that estate between 1454 and 1505, or of his predecessor, who died in 1454, and was known as John Burnat “of Leyis.” (The Family of Burnett of Leys, by George Burnett, LL.D., p. 10, New Spalding Club.) In 1505, as a widow, she was found entitled to her terce. This John Blackhall was also proprietor of Finnersie, etc. (Sheriff Court Records, New Spalding Club, Vol. I., p. 15.) He was succeeded by—

III. William Blackhall of Barra,

who was (probably) his son. “In 1517, William Blakhall was infeft,” according to Dr. Davidson (op. cit., p. 103), in half the lands of Barocht, Wester Rowis, Fallawe, Essenheid, Furdailhous, sixth part of Petgovny, half the Mill of Bourtie, and a third part of Muckle and Little Finnersie, and others. William Blackhall paid tax for his part of Barra in 1548. In a charter of confirmation, granted by Queen Mary in 1547 on February 20th, it is stated that he sold his half of the lands of Barroch, et cetera, to his lawful son, Mr. Alexander Blackhall, for a sum of money paid by him and his relatives on the mother’s side. William Blackhall reserved to himself and his wife, Janet Bissat (probably one of the family of Lessendrum or of Pitmuxton), the free occupation of the half of Filaw. (Reg. Mag. Sig.) He had three children—

1. WILLIAM, his heir apparent, who, in 1541, married Katharine Gordon of Lesmoir, and died, certainly without any male issue.1 He predeceased his father, who, on the 5th of March, 1546, gave in life-rent to Katharine Gordoun, the relict of William Blackhall his son, the lands of Westerhouse in the Garioch. On the occasion of their marriage they had a charter of the two part lands of Barroch (November 24th, 1541. Katharine Gordon married, as her second husband, Thomas Gordon of Kennertie. (Records of Aboyne, p. 127, New Spalding Club.)

2. Alexander, who succeeded him.

3. Elizabeth, who married William Maitland of Bracklaw, and was the mother of Robert Maitland of Auchincrief. She was a widow in 1548, for there is a charter of July 9th in that year, by which Robert Maitland of Auchincrief sells that estate to Robert Maitland, the son and heir of his late eldest son, William Maitland of Bracklaw and Andait, for a sum of money paid by his relatives. In making this disposition, he reserves free tenancy for himself, and after his decease a reasonable third part for Elizabeth Blackhall, the spouse of the said William Maitland. Alexander Blackhall, portioner of Barra, is one of the witnesses. (Reg. Mag. Sig.)

IV. Mr. Alexander Blackhall of Barra.

He appears to have succeeded during his father’s lifetime, for there is a deed drawn up at Barra on October 21st, 1551, by which he grants the middle third of “Meikle and Littil Fynnarsy” to Agnes Burnet, daughter of Alexander Burnet of Leys, with the consent of his father, William Blackhall of Barraucht, free tenant of the said lands. This grant is made in Agnes Burnet’s virginity, and for life, on account of a contract of marriage between him and her, and for a sum of money paid by the said Alexander Burnet. The lands to be held of the Queen. (Reg. Mag. Sig.) The deed is witnessed by John and Thomas Blackhall, possibly brothers. This John may have been the John Blackhall in Tibbertie, who witnessed a charter of George Johnston of that Ilk in 1587. Douglas (Baronage, p. 42) asserts that a daughter of Alexander Burnet of Leys married Blackhall of that Ilk, which, though manifestly incorrect, is of interest, inasmuch as a Blackhall of that Ilk was also a Barra-Blackhall, whose predecessor did marry Agnes Burnet, as now related.*!* Alexander Blackhall of Barra was succeeded during his own and his father’s lifetime by his son, also—

V. Alexander Blackhall of Barra.

The possessions of this family seem at this time to have been considerable. In a charter of James VI., dated September 3rd, 1574 (Reg. Mag. Sig.), the King grants Alexander Blackhall, son and heir apparent of Mr. Alexander Blackhall, portioner of Barra, and his heirs male and assigns, half the lands of Barroch, Westerhous, Fillaw, Eschitiheid, Furdailhous, the sixth part of Petgovny, half the Mill of Bourty, the superiority of half of Muretoun, the third part of Mekill Fynnersy, Littil Fynnarsy, Maneicht, and the mills of Finnarsy, with the tenants, &c., which Mr. Alexander Blackhall resigned. The free tenancy of the lands is reserved (with the exception of Fynnarsy and Maneicht) for William Blackhall of Barra, father of the said Mr. Alexander, and after the death of the said William, the free tenancy of the whole for the said Mr. Alexander. The half of Fillaw and a rational third of the rest is also reserved in life rent for Agnes Burnet. This, the last Blackhall of Barra, remained in possession from 1574 to 1592, and I have given these particulars in detail to show that the blow soon to be struck at the Blackhalls of Barra was not calculated to be without profit to the Royal Exchequer. “The story of Naboth’s vineyard is not new.”


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