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


IX. Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk (V. of Barra).

IT is not probable that Alexander Blackhall himself, although declared his cousin’s heir, ever resided at Blackhall, or had actual possession of his property. All the evidence points, as we have seen, to his having been the son or grandson of Robert Blackhall of Fola, burgess of Aberdeen, and the instrument of retour, although illegible in many parts, states that the inquest was made in Aberdeen, and among those sitting upon it, besides some county gentry, there were several burgesses of Aberdeen. It is probable, therefore, that this Alexander Blackhall’s interests were cast in the royal burgh, and that his own future would have been that of a burgess but for the death of his cousin without male issue. Mr. Munro, in his examination of the burial registers of St. Nicholas Church in Aberdeen, found that he died, and was buried in that church in 1593, about three years after he had disposed of his inheritance to Alexander Blackhall of Barra, who must henceforth be regarded as Blackhall of that Ilk. The similarity of the Christian name of these two Blackhalls and their contemporaneous existence has led to some confusion between them, and I am indebted to Mr. Munro for making the situation clear on this point. The correctness of his conclusion is also proved by the terms of the charter of confirmation of 1610, in which the Aberdonian Alexander Blackhall, is referred to as the late Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk, and his decease specifically mentioned.

By 1604 the representatives of the forfeited Blackhalls of Barra were apparently recovering in a measure from the blow they had sustained, and on the 29th of May in that year, as Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk, the former laird of Barra witnesses a charter given by James Gordon, apparent of Lesmoir, to his brother William Blackhall in Leyes in liferent, and to Alexander and Thomas Blackhall, apparently sons of the latter, equally afterwards, of a considerable amount of land lying in the barony of Cults. (Reg. of Sasiues, Aberdeen, Vol. III., fol. 374.J In October of the same year he was a man of sufficiently established position to become surety as Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk, for Patrick Leslie of Badifurrow, that he would not fish for salmon in the Dec and Don “ in forbidden time, with any kind of engine, under pain of horning." At the same time he also became surety with Patrick Leslie of Kincraigy in 500 merks for Norman Leslie and others that they should desist from the same pursuit. It is rather amusing to find the sedate Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk acting in this capacity when, twelve years previously, Burnet of Leyes seems to have been surety for him and his brothers soon after the confiscation of Barra, that they should not poach salmon in the Don and Dee (p. 56). He further witnesses, in 1606, sasine on a charter of lands in the barony of Culter-Cumining by Alexander Burnet of Leyes to William Blackhall in Leyes.

In 1607 again he witnesses, together with Alexander Burnet of Leyes, a charter of part of the lands of Auchterarne to Arthur Skene, also as Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk. Curiously enough, the documentary reappearance of Blackhall of that Ilk as witnessing a charter of Auchterarne, may be correlated with an inquest concerning the same lands, then named Ouchirarne, which was held at Aberdeen in 1504, and on which, among others, sat a previous head of the family, namely, William Blackhall of that Ilk. (Antiquities of Banff and Aberdeen, Vol. II., p. 11, quoting from MSS.)

But the year 1607 saw more than a witnessing of a charter, for in January of that year Alexander Blackhall himself had sasine of the town and lands of Meikle Cocklaw. (Aberdeen Sasines, Vol. VIII.) Two years later he was the principal actor in an important family compact to be now mentioned which for a time seems to have entailed serious consequences on himself and others, if this transaction can be regarded as the cause of a fresh forfeiture to be mentioned presently.

On the 4th of September, 1609, and dated at Invercannie, Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk granted a charter of Blackhall to his son, William, and to the wife of the latter, Elizabeth Strathauchin or Strachan, to whom he appears to have sold (vendidit) the place. This charter was confirmed by the King on April 4th, 1620, when the Blackhalls seem again to have been in unquestioned possession of Blackhall and of the offices so long associated with their name. In the interval, however, a fresh confiscation, possibly brought about by this family arrangement having been come to without the knowledge or permission of the King, had taken place, and Blackhall and the Coronership and Forestership of the Garioch, as I shall relate, passed for a time into the possession of Alexander Burnet of Leyes. How Blackhall again came into the possession of the Blackhalls, after the grant of both lands and offices to Alexander Burnet of Leyes in 1613, can only be surmised.

If (and although possibly entertaining the best intentions in the world towards some members of the Blackhall family) John Leslie, the tenth of Balquhain, can be regarded as their evil genius, who, by his interdiction of the Aberdonian Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk, directly and indirectly brought misfortune on all, Alexander Burnet, the twelfth of Leyes, and his immediate successors, may, without doubt, be regarded as the good genii of Alexander Blackhall of Barra and his children, who had become, as I have related, Blackhalls of that Ilk, by the bargain of 1590 with the Aberdonian heir of the laird who died in 1589. Alexander Burnet of Leyes, whose homely and benevolent features are reproduced in the New Spalding Club history of his family (p. 41), was a contemporary, and, as we have seen, relative of Alexander Blackhall of Barra and that Ilk. He was the laird or baron of Leyes from 1578 till 1619.

The period of the condonation of the feudal irregularity of which Alexander Blackhall had been guilty, in negotiating the transfer of the Blackhall property and honours in 1590, is marked by the charter of confirmation of August 2nd, 1610. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, to learn from the charter of July 30th, 1613, that Blackhall and the hereditary offices were granted by the King to Alexander Burnet of Leyes in consequence of a return of these to his possession by reason of alienation without the royal sanction. This should manifestly refer to a then recent alienation, for all the older Blackhall forfeitures were now matter of a too well remembered past. The only alienation one would say to which reference could be meant was, therefore, that by which Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk sold Blackhall to his son, William Blackhall, on the occasion of his marriage with Elizabeth Strachan in 1609.

This transaction, which was not confirmed by charter, as I have stated, till April 4th, 1620, took place on September 4th, 1609, according to the original charter detailed in the confirmatory charter of the above date. (Reg. Mag. Sig., Vol. 49, No. 386.) This date, however, is not that given in the document recording this transaction, which was handed in at the Mar trial. In this paper, the date of the registration of the deed at Aberdeen is given as Nov. 23rd, 1610, that is, a date later, not earlier, than the King’s confirmation on August 2nd, 1610, of the transaction between the Aberdonian and Barra Alexander Blackhalls. It is possible that the retention by Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk (late of Barra) of the hereditary offices, while he parted with the property to his son, may have been due to the hope of minimising the scope of the alienation, if objection were taken to it later, for as a family the Blackhalls had had sufficient experience of feudal legal processes to render needful every precaution against forfeiture in the interest of impoverished or self-seeking persons having influence with the agents of the Crown.

In any case, whatever precautions they took on this occasion were not sufficient, for, as we have seen, confiscation again followed. And yet, this quiet family transaction, similar to so many which were invariably confirmed by the sovereign of the time, can scarcely have been the essential cause of the fresh confiscation. The whole matter, therefore, is one of surmise, and it is possible that the regularisation of the transaction between Blackhall of Barra and his kinsman of that Ilk, may have alarmed the Setons, or others interested in the confiscated Barra estates. Such a supposition, if valid, would throw some light on the motives which possibly prompted the original action of Alexander Blackhall then of Barra, and now of that Ilk, in seeking to obtain the family honours.

The charter by which the King gave Blackhall and the offices to Alexander Burnet of Leyes in 1613, was not produced at the Mar trial, nor was any annulment of it.

Among the favourite advisers of James VI. at this time was Alexander Seton, the first Earl of Dunfermline, and Great Chancellor of

Scotland, a younger son of that Lord Seton who was so faithful an adherent of Queen Mary’s during her misfortunes. He was one of the Octavians, as has already been stated, and certainly, at the commencement of the 17th century, entertained a warm friendship for Alexander Burnet of Leyes, as is evidenced in a letter reproduced in the history of the Burnetts (op. cit.). The grant of Blackhall and the offices is made by the King to Burnet, his heirs and assigns whatsoever (suisque heredibus et assignatis quibuscunque), on the advice of this Karl of Dunfermline.

In view of subsequent events, and of the attitude of intimate and helpful friendship shown to the young Blackhall family by the Burnetts* on the death of their father, William Blackhall of that Ilk in 1623, the conclusion is forced upon us that this transfer of Blackhall to Alexander Burnet of Leyes was effected with the help of the Earl of Dunfermline, and in the interest of the again forfeited Blackhalls themselves.

As the charter restoring Blackhall to the Blackhalls, or its registration, is not mentioned in the charter of confirmation of 1620, and was not produced at the Mar trial later, and, moreover, as Alexander Burnet of Leyes died in 1619, it is legitimate to suppose that it was never intended by Burnet and Dunfermline to be a permanent forfeiture, and that the documents were intentionally torn up or renounced by Alexander Burnet, an irregularity, if such were the case, which could only evoke human sympathy, as tending to rectify an injustice perpetrated under an iniquitous system. A friend at Court was useful in those days, and if he evinced the eternal quality of human sympathy, coupled with a sense of justice, we do not feel disposed to criticise too severely such an instance of official partiality, at which the King himself, now comparatively rolling in riches, may have been induccd to connive.

It is difficult otherwise to account for the facts that, so soon after this fresh forfeiture, the Blackhalls were again in possession of Blackhall and their hereditary offices, and that no documentary

"The spelling of this surname with the double tt appears to have become usual from the time of the first Baronet of Leys. Previously to that period, it was spelt irregularly, but usually with one t.” A like irregularity characterised the spelling of the name of the property —Leys—before that time, and I have frequently reproduced that used in the original source consulted.—A. M. evidence of their rcacquisition of these is to be found prior to the confirmatory charter of 1620 already mentioned, which makes no reference to the important event which had occurred in the interval. The historian of the Burnetts makes no attempt to explain the matter, but, very naturally, appears not to have inquired into the transaction very minutely, as it was only a collateral incident in the general stream of his story.

Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk appears to have married Grissel (or, as it is interlined in the source from which Macfarlane gets his information, “Aegidia,” “Giles”) Leslie, a daughter of George Leslie of Creichie, and grand-daughter of William Leslie of Wardes. (Macfarlane’s Genealogical Manuscripts, edited by Clark, Vol. II., p. 68.) He seems to have had two children, William, his successor, of whom more presently, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Alexander Irving in Achmoir, and who had a feu charter, in 1606, of the east half of the town and lands of Blackhall, conjointly with her husband and to their heirs. (Register of Sasines, Aberdeen, Vol. V., fol. 46.) In 1614, Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk resigned his legal interest in Minnis, along with several others, to John Seton of Auquhorties, when it was incorporated as a free barony under John Seton, with the manor house of Minnis as its chief seat.

Alexander Blackhall survived his son William, and died some time after 1634, for, in that year, he was a defendant, as we shall learn, with his grandson, in the action for reduction brought against them by the Earl of Mar. Like his friend Burnet of Leyes, although (and perhaps because) descended from Janet Hamilton, the natural daughter of the gay old Canon of St. Machar’s, Alexander Blackhall’s sympathies were with the Reformed Church, for in 1592, as Alexander Blackhill of that Ilk, he seems to have signed the Band anent the Religion in Aberdeen, and we know that his descendants, like the Burnetts, were Protestants. He was succeeded, therefore, during his life-time by his son,

X. William Blackhall of that Ilk,

who was born probably shortly prior to his father’s acquisition of Blackhall. How he was occupied after the Barra forfeiture does not transpire, but in 1610 he appears on the scene possessed of sufficient means to secure two wadsets on the estate of Leslie of Balquhain.

On the 31st of May in that year, John Leslie, fiar of Balquhain, wadset to him the lands of Auldtown of Knockenblews for 6000 merks (History of the Family of Leslie, by Col. Leslie, Vol. III., p. 81), and on the 9th of June, also in 1610, he acquired for 3200 merks a wadset on Whitecross. John Leslie, fiar of Balquhain, redeemed the latter by repaying William Blackhall 3200 merks on January 27th, 1619 (Ibid., Vol. III., p. 83), but the latter still held the wadset on Knockenblews at the time of his unfortunately early death. One of the documents produced at the Mar trial also shows that William Blackhall had a grant of Knockenblews under the Great Seal.

The deed by which Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk parted with Blackhall to his son, and in virtue of which the latter became William Blackhall of that Ilk during his father’s lifetime, is in the following terms:—It is a deed for the fulfilment of a contract of marriage entered into by Alexander Blackhall and his eldest son and heir apparent William Blackhall on the one part, and John Strathauchin designed of Clune and sometime Tutor of Thornton and his “sister german” Elizabeth Strachan as principals on the other, with Mr. John Strachan, rector of Kincardine O’Neil, David Tulloch of Craigneston and William Strachan sometime of Tillifroskie as cautioner. This marriage contract is dated, as I have said, at Invercannie on September 4th, H'09, and the deed was presented at Aberdeen on November 23rd, 1610; the whole being confirmed by the King, as I have stated, at Edinburgh on April 4th, 1620 (Reg. Mag. Sig.), The sale of Blackhall to William Blackhall and Elizabeth Strachan was in conjunct fee to them and without reversion ; also to their legitimate heirs male, whom failing to the heirs male and assigns whatsoever of the said William, whom failing Blackhall was to revert to Alexander Blackhall, and his heirs male and assigns. The latter reserved to himself, as has already been mentioned, the life-rent of the Coronership and Forestership of the Garioch. It will be observed that the heirs male whatsoever (heredibus suis masculis et assignatis quibuscunque) and assigns of William Blackhall had the precedence over any heirs male or assigns (heredibus masculis et assignatis) of his father. That is, that the male representatives whatsoever and assigns of William Blackhall took precedence of the other male heirs and assigns of his father, who were, as we shall presently learn, younger members of the Barra family who had reacquired Finnersie, a portion of the old estate, and his daughter and her husband, Alexander Irving. To this arrangement Alexander Irving in Achmoir, to whom and his wife, as we have learned, half of Blackhall was granted, assented. (Cum precepto sasine directo Alex. Irving in Auchmoir.) Of Elizabeth Strachan, the wife of William Blackhall and the mother of his children, I shall write more fully presently. They had five children.

1. John, baptised on March nth, 1617.
2. Margaret, the eldest daughter.
3. Janet, the second daughter, b. 1615.
4. Jean, d. 1622.
5. Katharine, baptised on May 19th, 1622.

These particulars of his family have been preserved by the fortunately extant private register of Mr. James Mill, minister of Inverurie, now in the Register House in Edinburgh.

On July 10th, 1623, there is registered (Reg. of Sasines, Aberdeen, Vol. IV., fol. 168) a renunciation by William Watt in Balquhain of his right to “ the sunny four ox gait of the shaddow pleugh of the town and lands of Blackhall to Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk and his son William for 600 merks repaid to him by them. For this sum Alexander Blackhall had wadset the land to William Watt in Middletoun of Knockenblewis, the father of the renouncer.

William Blackhall of that Ilk died on the 27th of November, 1623, and the same authority informs us he was buried in the Kirk of Inverurie (also quoted in Davidson’s Inverurie, p. 209). Mr. Mill has given some details of his will.

It is pleasant to find among the curators of his children some names with which we are already familiar. These were Sir Thomas Burnett, the first Baronet of Leys, the eldest son of his old friend Alexander Burnet of Leyes, sometime of Blackhall, and during that time Coroner and Forester of the Garioch, John Strachan again become Tutor of Thornton, of whom we shall say more, Patrick Maitland of Auchincrief, who married a sister of Sir Thomas Burnett’s, and whose ancestor married, as we have learned, one of the Blackhalls of Barra, John Seton, of the recently erected free barony of Minnis, Robert Burnett, Advocate in Aberdeen, and James Burnett of Craigmyle, next brother to Sir Thomas Burnett (Family of Burnett, New Spalding Club, p. 113).

But the main charge of his children and estate was in the hands of his widow, who wc have reason to believe was a woman worthy of her responsibilities. “.....he leiffes his haill Barnes to his wyff, Elizabeth Strachane, and Nominates and leiffes his said spous Tutrix to his haill barnes, and nominates his said spous his executrix, and to Intromet with his haill guidis and geiris, and she to pay all his debtes.” (James Mill’s Register.)

The scanty remains we have of the career of William Blackhall leave the impression that he was a man well calculated to restore the fortunes of his family. To his widow and children, as the representatives of old traditions and as individuals, his early and probably unexpected death (for he made his will shortly before that event “in his awin hous in Blackhall the 22 September, 1623 yearis”) at a crisis of their fate, must have been a great blow. Old as the story is, the impression of tears remains. His widow assumed his task with her weeds, and that task, with its debts and unaccomplished purposes, was not an easy one.

Elizabeth Strachan or Blackhall was the youngest daughter of Alexander Strachan of Thornton in the Mearns. Her mother was Isabel Keith, a daughter of her father’s powerful neighbour, William, fourth Earl Marischal, by that wealthy heiress, Margaret, the eldest daughter of Sir William Keith of Inverugie, who bore him nine daughters and two sons. Among the numerous maternal aunts of Elizabeth Blackhall, who all married the landed representatives of old families, she who made the most historic match, or rather matches, was Agnes, who first married James Stewart, created Earl of Mar on that occasion, afterwards Earl of Moray and Regent of Scotland. The Regent’s widow married, as her second husband, the 6th Earl of Argyll, As the representation of the main line of the Strachans of Thornton, the acknowledged chiefs of a once powerful family, passed into female representation, either in Elizabeth BlackhalFs time or soon afterwards, it may not be amiss in this place to say a few words about that ancient race, as we may gather from her surroundings to some extent what manner of woman Elizabeth Blackhall was.

It has already been mentioned that, in 1309, King Robert the Bruce granted a charter of the lands of Thornton to Valens de Thornton. The heiress of Thornton appears to have been Agneta de Thornton, who married, in the reign of David II., Sir James Strathcean. From that period till the date we are considering, Thornton remained in the hands of the Strachans, and even at the present day, Thornton Castle, lying about two miles north-west of Laurencekirk, though much modernised, retains the old round tower and battlemented block which recall the ownership of the Strachans by the sculptured armory of the trippant hart. Close by is the home farm of Hauchead, where the Tutor of Thornton and one of the curators of William Blackhall’s children lived, and next that lies Halkerton, the old home of the Falconers, one of whom had been a lady of Thornton.

When Isabel Keith married Alexander Strachan of Thornton, the financial position of the family was as secure as that of most considerable landowners in Scotland. Alexander Strachan’s eldest son, Robert, who married a daughter of Sir William Douglas of Glenbervy, the 9th Earl of Angus, had predeceased him. His grandson Alexander Strachan, ultimately the first Baronet of Thornton, was in his minority. Isabel Keith died in 1595, and apparently in 1600-01 her husband married as his second wife Anna Mercer of Meikleour, the widow of James Learmonth of Balcomie. Alexander Strachan of Thornton himself died in May 1601, and his will is dated on the 14th of the same month in that year. His sole executors were his wife and his second, but eldest, surviving son John Strathauchine, who, his father being dead and his nephew in his minority, was thus Tutor of Thornton, until the birth of Alexander Strachan, his grand-nephew, and the future second baronet. At the time of his death Alexander Strachan of Thornton left three unmarried daughters and another son, George Strachan, all of course children of his first wife. He wills that his said spouse shal1 have the enjoyment, maintenance and possession of the place of Thornton and orchards thereof with the said son (John), she upholding and maintaining the same so long only as she and he agree together in the household. He also bids his three daughters, Magdalene, Katharine and Elizabeth, remain with his said executors, so long as they hold house together in Thornton or elsewhere, “ at least until marriages be provided to them by his said sons and others their friends.” He also gives directions to his executors to pruvide for some old and faithful servitors until his grandson and heir should reach his majority, when the latter was to assume their responsibilities in this particular, a touch of the old patriarchal solicitude for dependants which a more emancipated age does not always evince. (Edinburgh Commissariot of Testaments, Vol. 370

Immediately after Alexander Strachan’s having made his will, namely on the 15th day of May, 1601, there is an instrument of seasing, giving to Elizabeth Strachan, the youngest daughter, half the lands of Petgarvie, one of the possessions near Thornton, which had been in the family certainly since 1458 (Reg. of Sasines, Kincardine, Vol. 45 ; also Reg. Mag. Sig.). The efforts of the brothers and friends of the young ladies above mentioned were not unsuccessful. Magdalen Strachan is stated by Rogers (.Memorials of the Strachans, p. 36) to [have married William Rait of Halgreen. Katharine married Robert Middleton of Killhill in the Mearns, and was by him the mother of a doughty soldier of somewhat riotous character, once the companion in arms and afterwards the opponent of that “glory of the Graemes,” the great Marquis of Montrose, whose overthrow he helped materially to accomplish, namely, General John Middleton, who opened with his sword the world-oyster of his time, and died John, first Earl of Middleton.

Elizabeth, as we know, married William Blackhall of that Ilk. It is not difficult to conjecture how Elizabeth Strachan became acquainted with William Blackhall. Her step-mother married, as her third husband, Gordon of Lesmore, and the wife of Alexander Burnet of Leys, the stanch friend of the Blackhalls, was Katharine Gordon, a daughter of Gordon of Lesmore. There were also other sources of mutual acquaintance. Thus, in 1610, Sir Thomas Burnett of Leys married the daughter of that Sir Robert Douglas of Glenbervie, whose sister had married Elizabeth Strachan’s eldest brother Robert. But, in those days, the fixity of land tenure and the absence of international communication, made a whole country side more or less acquainted or kin.

Executor and brother John, who constantly appears in records, looking after the interests of one or other member of his family, had done his work very well On one occasion, when these interests appear to have required protection, he and his friends, including his nephew,

Alexander Strachan, the laird of Thornton, in 1613, seem to have taken the law into their own hands, and caused Captain Alexander Wishart of Phcsdo to disgorge an important document, “invironed about on all sydis be a nomber of men convocat and assemblit togidder be the said Alexander Strauchane, being in nomber auchtein personis, and airmed with hagbutis and pistolletis prohibite to be worne be the Lawis of this realme” .... (Reg- Sec. Sig.). Captain Wishart gave up the document, under the influence of such cogent argument, but brought an action against his assailants afterwards. The lords of Secret Council, however, absolved the defendants in the action, and the affair soon blew over. In 1617, John Strachan, called of Corskie, was engaged in the gentler procedure of playing sponsor or witness at the baptism of William Blackhall’s only son, John, at Inverurie. (James Mill’s Register; Davidson’s fnverurte, p. 213.)

With these traditions it is not a matter of surprise that Elizabeth Blackhall assumed the difficult task in her widowhood of rearing her young family and nursing the ailing fragment of a sick estate, with a watchful vigour which nevertheless ultimately proved futile. She had sasme as a widow of her terce of the lands of Auldtown of Knockin-blews on August 5th, 1625. (Aberdeenshire Sasines, Vol V.)

With this exception, in the interval between 1623, the date of William Blackhall’s death and 1631, no documentary fact of importance concerning his family transpires. The children were still young. Even if the eldest daughter, Margaret, was born the year after the marriage of her parents, she could not have been more than twenty in 1631, and the youngest child Katharine, probably named after her aunt, Katharine Middleton, or after Katharine Maitland of Auchincrief, the wife of one of her guardians, would only have been nine years of age. Margaret, to whom we shall return, may or not by this time have married Patrick Forbes. There may have been some fresh mortgaging of the scanty property left to the family, but of this there is no positive evidence. The incident which again brings the mother of the family on the scene is one which created much interest in Scotland for some time after it occurred, and has never been quite satisfactorily explained. On the morning of October the 8th, 1630, the tower of Frendraught House wa» burned down, and some notable guests of James Crichton, the laird of Frendraught, perished in the flames. These included Viscount

Melgum, the second son of the Earl of Huntly and the young laird of Rothiemay—an important cadet of the Gordons, who had just succeeded his father, slain in a broil with the Crichtons. In the exhaustive investigation made into the affair, the assertions of a serving girl called Margaret Wood, who seems to have lied freely, had to be sifted.1 This Margaret had been in the service of Elizabeth Blackhall shortly before the tragedy, and for one cause or another, it appears to have been insinuated that the “Lady Blackhall” might be able to afford some information on the subject. Accordingly, on the 13th of January, 1631, Elizabeth Strathauchin, “Lady Blackhall,” was summoned before some representatives of the Privy Council at Legatsden, near Pitcaple, to answer certain questions put to her by “ane nobill and potent lord, George, Lord Gordon.” In her replies she denied all foreknowledge of the tragedy. “Lastlie, being demandit, quhat moneyis the said Elizabeth Strathauchin gef at that time to the said Margaret Wood (she) ansuerit—Nocht one penny.” There is an emphasis about that “ nocht one penny” which reveals both dignity and character. The document chronicling the investigation is endorsed “Declaratione, Elizabetli Strathauchine for cleiringe of hirself against the assertions of Margaret Wood.” The Crichtons themselves being Protestants at that time, were freely accused by some, especially the Roman Catholic party, of having immolated their own guests on the altar of religious fanaticism or of having murdered them in order to curry Royal favour, but as Crichton was a considerable loser by the destruction of his own property, there is no positive evidence of his having been guilty of such perfidious conduct. (Reg- of the Privy Council, Vol. IV., Second Series, p. 607.)

On July the 12th of the same year (1631) a supplication was made by Alexander Abercromby of Birkenbog and Hector Abercrombie of Eetterncir for the protection of the law against Sir John Leslie of Wardes and others. Among the persons asserted to have conceived a deadly hatred and malice against them, and to have determined to “dwang and oppress” them and their tenants, and who threatened them “with all manner of personal violence,” appears the name of “Elizabeth Straquhane, Ladie Blakhall.” She, together with the lairds of Wardes, Cluny and Lesmore, the Leiths of Harthill and several others, were bound, “ under the pain of one thousand pounds,” not to molest the Abercrombies. The cause of the unpopularity of this family at this time does not transpire, but, twenty-six years later, Blackhall passed into the possession of Francis Abercrombie, the eldest son of Abercrombie of Fetterneir, and it may have been that there was some sympathy in the countryside with the widowed “Ladie Blackhall” in her fight against circumstances, as the names of those included in the indictment suggest relationship with her.

In 1635, John Blackhall, the only son of William Blackhall of that Ilk, was still a minor, and Blackhall and the other lands which belonged to his father, together with the offices, were, pending his majority, in the hands of his mother. In that year the Blackhalls, little as they could afford it, had to defend themselves against the action for reduction brought against them by John, Earl of Mar.


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