Sketch of the
Civil and Traditional History of Caithness from the Tenth Century
ANCIENT STATE OF HUSBANDRY, HANDICRAFTS, ETC., IN
It is a curious circumstance that in the reign of
David II. of Scotland, more than five hundred
years ago, the weights and measures of Caithness were the standards of
Scotland. By a royal ordinance, or Act of that monarch, entitled the "Regiarn
Majestatem," it is statuted, "that ane common and equal weicht quilk is
called the weicht of Caithness (Pondus Cathaniae) sall be keeped and
used be all men in buying and selling within this realm of Scotland."
This is a sufficient proof that Caithness, notwithstanding its remote
situation, was, at the early period in question, a place of considerable
commercial importance. The inhabitants had already begun to apply
themselves to agriculture; and at a later period they carried on a
regular traffic with Norway and Denmark. Thurso, on account of its safe
and excellent roadstead, was the principal sea-port. From it great
quantities of malt and meal were annually shipped for the Baltic, from
which wood, iron, etc., were imported in return. This is the more
remarkable, when we consider how imperfect must have been the system of
agriculture, and all the operations connected therewith, at the time.
Previous to 1780, there was not a single cart in the whole county of
Caithness. "Crubbans," a kind of wicker baskets, were the principal
substitutes for carts. Two of these, one on each side of the horse, were
hung from a wooden saddle, called a "clibbar," beneath which was a
cushion of straw to protect the animal's back. A sort of bags made of
straw, called "cazies," were used instead of sacks for holding corn. Two
of these, capable, when filled, of containing each half a boll of grain,
were fastened to the crook saddle on the back of a garron, and hung
down, one on each side of the beast. "Six or seven horses thus loaded,"
says Henderson in his Agricultural Survey of Caithness, "might be seen
going in a kind of Indian file, each tied by the halter to the other's
tail, a person leading the front horse, and each of the others pulled
forward by the tail of the one before him. After the driver arrives at
the destined place, the horses are unloaded, and the halter of the front
horse is tied to the tail of the rear horse, by which means they cannot
run away, as they can only move in a circle where they stand." Such was
the simple mode of carriage before the introduction of the cart into the
The old Caithness plough, called the "thrapple
plough," was of a very primitive construction. With the exception of the
coulter and "sock," it was entirely of wood, with wooden pegs for nails,
and it had only one stilt. To this machine four miserable garrons, with
perhaps a pair of oxen, were yoked abreast. The person who held the
plough had a sheepskin tied round his right thigh, to which he held the
stilt to keep the plough steady in its course. A second person pressed
his whole weight and strength on the middle of the beam, to keep the
plough in the soil; and the third, the driver, walked backwards between
the two foremost beasts, leaning his arms on their necks to prevent his
falling. The driver was not unfrequently a woman. The price of the
thrapple plough was only four shillings; and the quantity of soil it
turned up in a day was not much above a quarter of an acre. "The
one-stilted plough," says a statistical writer, "though a fertile
subject of ridicule, was the ancient plough of Rome, Egypt, and even
That Caithness, long before the introduction of the
present improved system of husbandry, produced no inconsiderable
quantity both of grain and stock, we have the recorded testimony of
three intelligent tourists. Brand, who formed one of a deputation sent
by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1700 to visit the
north, says of Caithness:"The county is very fertile, abounding with
grass and corn, hence yearly there is a great quantity of victual
exported, as, anno 1695, there were sixteen thousand bolls embarked, and
taken out, for which end it is much frequented by barks from the Forth,
Clyde, and other places, for ordinarily, when there is no scarcity or
dearth, the meal is sold here at 3 or 4 or at most 5 merks per boll." He
then adds,"The cattle and fish also are to be had very cheap, as good
kine often in the shambles, such as the country doth afford, for 3 or 4
shillings sterling, and sometimes they say for 2s; so that, as I have
heard some of the more intelligent inhabitants observe, that here is the
cheapest market in the world. And the gentlemen can live better here
upon 1000 merks than they can do in the south upon 4000 per annum."
"The county," says Pennant (this was in 1769),
"produces great quantities of oatmeal; and much whisky is distilled from
barley (bere). The great thinness of the inhabitants throughout
Caithness enables them to send abroad much of its productions." What
Pennant says in regard to the distillation of whisky is fully confirmed
by the following extract from the county records:"At a meeting of the
Justices of the Peace, and Commissioners of Supply of the county of
Caithness, held at Thurso, 21st May, 1776, it was, inter alia,
agreed to discountenance, as far as in their power, the pernicious
practice of distilling whisky, so very prejudicial to the morals and the
constitutions of the people, there being from eighty to ninety
stills in the county, which, at a moderate computation, consume from
100 to 150 bolls of barley each." Before whisky began to be distilled in
the county, the great beverage of the people was ale. It may be here
mentioned, as a curious statistical fact, that in the year 1668, no less
than 1749 bolls of malt were brewed into ale in Caithnessa goodly
quantity certainly, considering the limited amount of population at the
period in question. The duty charged to the revenue, at 2 merks per
boll, was £156 0s 6¾d sterling, which, from
the great difference in the value of money, would be nearly equal to
£1000 at the present day.
Wright, author of the "Husbandry of Scotland," has
the following statement regarding the county, which he visited about the
year 1783:"The inhabitants are reckoned at 25,000, and yet, from the
parsimony of the people, and the want of manufactures, there are
exported annually about 25,000 bolls bere and meal. In Wick, curing and
salting fish is a considerable branch, as also salting and exporting
beef. Provisions are cheap and plentiful: beef at salting time a penny
per pound; mutton three halfpence. There is a good inn, everything at a
moderate rate, and excellent claret for half-a-crown the bottle."
The farms at the period in question were generally
small; but one gentleman would seem to have occupied, as middle-man, the
whole of Murkle. "Mr Macleod, the Sheriff-Substitute of the county,"
says Wright, "rents the farm of Murkle, for which he pays £275 of
rent. Has under him thirty subtenants, and eighteen cottagers. The rent
is paid partly in money, and partly in victual. The cottagers pay of
rent from one to two bolls of victual, and perform servicesshearing in
harvest, for examplewhich they are obliged to do without any victuals.
Here is slavery in perfection, without any alleviating circumstance."
When the imperfect state of husbandry at the time is considered, the
wonder really is that the county produced so much grain as it did. As
has been already observed, the tenantry had only small patches of land;
and these were intermingled in the oddest way imaginable one having a
piece here, and another a piece therein what was called rig-and-rennel,
or run-rig. This barbarous custom was originally adopted, it is said, in
order to prevent neighbours at enmity from setting fire to each other's
fields of corn, and to cause the whole of a township band together to
protect their crops and their cattle from the Highland reivers.
As nearly the whole of the rent was paid in kind, the
grain exported belonged solely to the proprietors, who had storehouses
or granaries for receiving it, When the Earls of Caithness lived in the
castle of Girnigoe, they had two large storehouses for this purpose at
Staxigoe. These contained four meal-girnels, each capable of holding
1000 bolls of meal; and four lofts, each capable of holding 1000 bolls
The following account from the Old Statistical
History of Caithness, published in 1793, will give some idea of the
extent of services, and of the customs, as they were called, which the
lairds exacted from their tenants. They tilled, dunged, sowed, and
harrowed a part of an extensive farm in the proprietor's own possession.
They provided a certain quantity of peats for his fuel, carried feal and
divot, thatched a part of his houses, and furnished ropes made of hair
and simmons (straw ropes) for that purpose, as well as for securing his
corns in the stack-yard, weeded the land, led a certain quantity of
midden feal from the common for manure to his farm, mowed and ingathered
his hay, the spontaneous produce of the meadow and marshy grounds, and
cut down, ingathered, thrashed out in part, manufactured, and carried to
market the growth of the farm. Besides these services, the tenants paid
vicarage, or small teind, viz., meat, lamb, wedder, poultry, and eggs
out of each house, with teind geese and mill gault. Grass farms in the
Highlands paid veal, kid, butter, cheese, etc. Tenants on the sea-coast
paid a certain quantity of fish (quatil fish, as it was called) and oil
out of each boat belonging to them, and carried sea-ware for manuring
the proprietor's farm. Amongst other articles of rent, the parsonage or
great teindbeing the tenth sheaf of the tenant's producewas also till
lately drawn by the laird in some places in the county. Tenants also
wintered a beast or more, each according to the extent of his
possession; and their wives spun a certain quantity of lint for the
proprietor's lady, who likewise had from them a certain portion of wool
annually. All these different payments obtained generally in the county
of Caithness, previous to 1793.
How the poor people contrived to live under all these
burdens is not a little surprising to us at the present day. The
condition of the slaves in America and the West Indies was infinitely
preferable, And yet, as the balance of happiness is pretty nearly equal
in all conditions of society, we have no reason to think that they were
without their own share of the comforts and enjoyments of life.
Some sixty or seventy years ago comparatively little
corn was grown in the Highlands of Caithness, the inhabitants thereof
having chiefly devoted their attention to pasturage and the rearing of
cattle. They kept a number of cows, and made considerable quantities of
butter and cheese. These valuable products of the dairy were usually
manufactured in the summer season, at what was called the sheilings,
that is, places affording abundance of common hill pasture, and
frequently situated a good many miles distant from their own
habitations. This seems to have been quite a common practice also with
the peasantry in Norway, and other hilly countries. The author of the
Agricultural View of the County gives the following graphic account of
the Caithness sheilings:"About the 20th of June, the housewife and maid
set out with the milch cows, perhaps from ten to twenty in number, to
the sheilings, where a booth or cabin was previously prepared for their
reception; another for the milk vessels, and a small fold to keep the
calves from the cows during the night. There they passed a complete
pastoral life, making butter and cheese, and living on curds and cream,
or a mixture of oatmeal and cream, seasoned with a glass of whisky
before and after meals, dancing on the green, and singing Gaelic songs,
to the music of which, at milking time, the cows listened with apparent
attention and pleasure. Here they remained for a month or six weeks at
least, while there was good pasture for the cows." Potatoes were
introduced into the county about the year 1754, and for some years after
were cultivated only in the gardens of the better classes. From 1760
till 1786 the tenantry planted a few of them annually in what were
called "lazy beds." Regarding this valuable esculent there is the
following curious note in Chambers's Traditions of Edinburgh: "There was
long, as we have been told by a very venerable personage; a prejudice in
Scotland against the potato for two reasons1st, That it was a species
of the night-shade; 2d, That it was a provocation to incontinence!"
During the latter half of the last century, and even
down to about 1809, the handicrafts in Caithness were in a state of
primitive simplicity. Shoemakers and tailors Were itinerant, and were
fed and lodged by those who employed them. The farmer generally found
both the leather and the cloth. The leather, which was tanned by
himself, cost very little; and the whole family were furnished with
"brogues" at the rate of twopence per pair, and with shoes at from one
shilling to one shilling and sixpence per pair. Farmers and their
servants wore also in the labouring season a kind of half-boots, called
"rillens," made of untanned horse or cow leather, drawn together round
the foot by throngs, and with the hairy side out. For clothing, every
farmer and cottager had a small flock of sheep of the native breed.
"These," says the local writer [Henderson's Agricultural Survey of the
County.] from whom we have already quoted, "annually supplied a fleece
or two of good wool, which the gudewife and her family carded and spun
into yarn either for blankets or blackgrays, (a kind of broad cloth,) or
for Highland tartan for the wear of the family. When the web was
returned from the weaver it was washed in warm water, and if it was
necessary to full it, that operation was thus performed: The house door
was taken off the hinges, and laid on the floor; the web was then laid
on it hot out of the water; then three or four women sat down around it
on a little straw at equal distances, and all being ready bare-legged,
by the signal of a song, each applied her soles to the web, and they
continued pulling and tumbling it on the floor with their feet until the
web was sufficiently fulled; then it was stretched out to dry, and was
ready for the family tailor or for sale, as the case might be."
No. 2.Page 3.
MEMORANDA CONNECTED WITH PUBLIC ROADS IN THE COUNTY OF CAITHNESS.
The first attempt at road-making on a large scale in
Caithness, was by the late Sir John Sinclair, who called out the statute
labour of the district to form a road or tract from the hill of Bein
Cheilt, across the moss or bog called the Causeway Myre, towards Thurso.
The calling out the inhabitants to perform the
statutory service of six days' work at roads was found so unprofitable
and oppressive, that an Act (33 Geo. III., cap. 120) was obtained
in 1793 to commute the statute labour into a money payment by occupants
of lands, at the rate of 30s sterling for every £100 Scots of valuation
held by them, by cottagers and the inhabitants of towns at the current
rate of wages for the six days' work. This would produce about £500.
In 1803 an Act (43 Geo. III., cap. 80) was
passed, appropriating £20,000 for that year towards making roads and
bridges in the North of Scotland, "whereby its fisheries may be
encouraged, and the industry of the inhabitants greatly promoted." It
being provided that one-half the cost of the roads and bridges shall be
paid by the county or district.
In 1806 an Act (46 Geo. III, cap. 138) was
passed, authorising the making six roads in the county of Caithness, of
which one-half was to be paid by the Parliamentary Commissioners under
the previous Act of 1803, and the other half by the county. Of these six
roads, one only, that from the Ord to Wick, and thence to Thurso, and
known as the Parliamentary Road, was made under this Acthalf the cost,
amounting to £16,437 9s 9d, having been paid by the owners of lands
throughout the county. The bad harvests of 1816 and 1817 prevented the
other five roads in the Act from being made at that time, and no
adequate provision was made for roads in the county until 1830, when an
Act (11 Geo. IV., cap. 102) was
obtained to provide for the proper repair of the old roads, and the
making of new ones by an assessment on owners and occupiers of lands
amounting to about £1500 a-year, exclusive of the commutation on
occupiers of cottages and inhabitants of towns. Under this Act, 137
miles of roads were made, and the communications throughout the greater
part of the county opened up. The assessment on occupants under the Act
(1830) was found to be adequate for the future maintenance of the roads,
if expended, over all the leading lines without the limitation of
districts and parishes, but there were not funds sufficient to pay off
the money borrowed to make the roads. To provide a sum sufficient to pay
off the debt in twenty-one years, the proprietors of land agreed to
double the assessment payable by them, and an Act (1838, 1-2 Vict.,
cap. 79) was got to effect this, and to place 137 miles of the
leading lines of roads under the management of the Commissioners for the
repair of Highland roads, as the only means of partially consolidating
the roads and parishes into one trust.
In 1859 the Act of 1838 expired, and with it a large
proportion of the funds.
An Act (1860, 23-24 Vict., cap. 201) has been
obtained laying a uniform assessment on the real rent of all lands and
heritages in the county, payable half by owners and half by occupants;
consolidating all the funds and roads into one trust and system of
management, and giving power to remove tolls when a fair and adequate
substitute for the revenue they produce shall have been provided.
Under this Act, in addition to the former, road
trustees being proprietors, one or more tenant farmers are elected by
To provide for the maintenance of the Parliamentary
roads in the Highlands and in Caithness, an Act was passed in 1819
appropriating to that purpose the sum of £5000, to be paid annually by
the Barons of the Exchequer in Scotland, and requiring the balance in
each county to be assessed on the proprietors of land and of houses in
the county and burghs, according to the returns of rentals for the
property tax in 1814.
The whole of this assessment in Caithness fell on the
landward heritors, there being at that time no owner of house property
in the towns who was assessed for income tax, and hence the towns, at
that time so insignificant, have been raised to their present property
and importance, by means of communications between themselves and with
the South, to which they have up to this date contributed nothing.
No. 3.Page 12.
EXTRACTS FROM OLD INVENTORIES OF THE TITLES OF THE
ESTATE OF MALCOLM GROAT OF WARSE.
These Inventories are in the possesssion of the Clerk
of Supply of Orkney.
1. John Grot, son to Hugh Grot, 1496.Charter
from William De St Claro, Earl of Caithness, to John Groat, son to Hugh
Groat, of one penny land in Duncansby, paying therefor yearly tres
modios Brasii at Martinmas. Dated at Girnigoe Castle, 14th March,
2. William Groat, younger, 1507.Charter from
William Oliphant and Christian Sutherland, his spouse, to William Groat,
younger, of his halfpenny land in Duncansby, for the payment of five
shillings Scots at two terms. Dated the 12th May, 1507.
3. John Groat, 1515.Precept of Sasine by Jo.
Sinclair, Earl of Caithness, for infefting John Groat in ane penny land
in Dungsby. Dated at Nose, 5th Oct., 1515.
4. John Groat, 1515.Sasine in favors of John
Groat of ane penny land and miln in Duncansbay, proceeding on a precept
of Sasine from John, Earl Caithness, to him thereanent. Sasine dated
12th Oct., 1515.
5. William Groat, 1515.Sasine to William
Groat in a farthing land in Dungsby, proceeding on a precept from John,
Earl Caithness. Sasine dated 12th Oct., 1515.
6. Walter Grot, son of William Grot, 1521.Precept
of Sasine, John, Earl Caithness, for infefting Mr Walter Groat, son
and air of umquhile William Grot, in a farthing land in Dungsby. Dated
28th Sept., 1521.
6-2. William Grot, son to John Grot, 1521.Precept
of Sasine by Andrew Oliphant of Berrydale, and Superior of the
fourth part of Caithness, to William Groat, son to John Grot on the land
in Duncansbay called the penny land, dated at Auldwick, 22d Nov., 1521.
The Precept proceeds on a Charter formerly granted.
7. John Groat, 1523.Precept of Sasine, Jo.
Sinclair, Earl Caithness, for infefting Jo. Groat in one penny land in
Dungsby conform to a Charter granted yranent.
The precept is dated at Girnigoe, 22d Oct., 1523.
8. Donald Groat, 1536.Sasine in favor of
Donald Groat on the lands of Skirsary, upon a precept of sasine granted
to him by Pat. Mowat of and Freswick, relative
to a disposition granted by him to the said Donald mentd in the
said precept. The Sasine is dated 16th July, 1536.
9. John Groat, eldest son of William Groat, 1540.
Precept of Clare Constat, George, Earl Caithness, in favours of Jo.
Groat, eldest son and heir to William Groat, for infefting him in a
farthing land in Duncansbay, dated at Mey, 8th March, 1540, before
witnesses. These honest men, John Sinclair of Dun, Walter Mowat of
Rattar, Malcolm Groat of Warse, and another honest man, Mr Jo. Dunnot,
Rector of Cannasby, and seul oyrs.
10. Hugh Groat, 1540.Charter dated 11th
March, 1540, granted by Hugh Groat, portioner of Duncansbay, with
consent of Mariot Bane, his spouse liferentrix thereof, in favours of
William Bane, in Papingo of a fourth part of his two-penny land, called
in the Charter unam obolatam, in Duncansbay, with his whole part
of the field called Stamster, for the payment of a penny blench.
11. Gilbert Grot, son of William Grot, and Hugh Grot,
1543.Instrument of Resignation by Mr Gilbert Grot, son and
apparent heir of William Grot, in favours of Hugh Grot his brother, of
two-penny land in Dungsby, in the hands of Laurence, Lord Oliphant, as
Superior thereof, dated 24th, May, 1543.
12. Donald Groat and his son John Groat, 1547.Disposition
on parcht, Be Dod Groat in Duncansbay, in favour of his son John
Groat, of his halfpenny land in Skirsary, for the payt of 65 mks,
contained in the Reversion of the said lands to Pat. Mowat of Bagirholly,
Superior thereof, and of his twopenny land in Cannasbay, for the payment
of a 100 mks to the Earl of Caithness, Superior, as contained in the
Reversion thereof. Dated at Dunnet, 5th August, 1547.
13. John Groat, son of Finlay Groat, 1549.Precept
of Clare Constat from Geo., Earl Caithness, to John Groat, son to
Finlay Groat, for infefting him in the ferry-house and ferry, and 20
feet round about the said house. Dated at Wick, the day of Nov., 1549.
14. William Groat, 1557.Precept of Sasine,
Laurence, Lord Oliphant, for infefting William Groat in ane Octo land in
Dungsby, as contained in a Charter granted to him thereanent. The
precept is dated 7th June, 1557.
15. Hugh Groat, 1557.Charter, the Master of
Oliphant to Hugh Groat and the heirs procreat betwixt him and Catherine
Ratter, his spouse, on the land in Duncansbay called the penny land, and
another penny land there, making two penny land for the yearly payt for
the land called the penny land, Ten Sh. Scots, and for the other penny
land a penny blench. Dated at Auldwick, the 11th June, 1557.
16. Precept of Sasine on said Charter, dated
11th June, 1557.
17. Sasine on Charter and Precept of Sasine, No. 15
and 16, dated 16th June, 1557, under the subscription of Jo. Stevenson,
18. John Groat, 1557.Precept of Sasine from
Laurence, Master of Oliphant, for infefting John Groat in ane halfpenny
land, called unam obolatam, in Dungsby, as contained in a Charter
granted thereanent. The precept is dated at Auldwick, 12th June, 1557.
19. William Groat, son of Finlay Groat, 1557.
Charter from the Master of Oliphant, dated at Auldwick, 12th June,
1557, in favors of William Groat, son to Finlay Groat, upon ane Octoe of
land of Duncansbay, for the yearly payment of 15 pennys Scots at two
terms in the year.
20. John and Finlay Groat, 1576.Charter, John
Groat, portioner of Dungsby, to Finlay Groat on a farthing land in
Dungsby, and the heirs male of his body, which failing to the said John
and the heirs male of his body, paying therefor yearly, three pecks with
two cops and half a cop bear, dated at Dungsby, 15th Nov., 1576. [There
is in the possession of G. Petrie, a discharge by Malcolm Groat of
Tankerness, to his guid friend Jon Grot of Dongsby of all maills and
duties of ane penny land, with the pertinents and the mill of Dongisby,
which the said John had in tack, and assidation of the said Malcolm.
Dated at Dungasby, 11th Mch, 1570.]
20. Sasine thereon, dated 16th Nov., 1576.
21. Hutcheon Groat, 1572.Letter of Reversion
from Malcolm Groat of Tankerness to Hutcheon Grot of Dungsby, for
redemption of ane halfpenny land in Dungsby, and his haill part of the
field called Stemster, disponed by the said Hutcheon to the said
Malcolm, by payt of 40 Sh. Scots in the Kirk of Cannasbay, or in his
house of heritage in Dungsby, upon any day 'twixt the sun-rising and
down-passing of the samen, dated at Dungsby, 30th August, 1572.
22. Hugh Groat and John Groat, his son, 1589.
Charter of Resignation.Laurence, Lord Oliphant, to Hugh Groat in
Duncansbay, and Marion Mowat, his spouse, and longest liver in liferent,
and John Groat, younger eldest son, and the heirs male of his body,
which failing to his nearest and lawful heirs male and assignees,
qt'soever of his land in Duncansbay called the Pennyland, and also of
one penny land more in said town extending to two penny land, which
formerly belonged to the said Hugh Groat holden of the said Lord
Oliphant, paying yearly for the penny land 10 Sh. Scots, and for the
oy'r penny land a penny blench with Scat and S
to the Cathedral Church of Kirkwall as use is. Dated at Auldwick, 29th
23. John Groat, grandson of John Groat, 1590.
Sasine in favour of John Groat in Dungsby, oye and heir to John
Groat, elder there, proceeding on a precept of Clare Constat from
Laurence Lord Oliphant for infefting him in a halfpenny land, called
unam obolatam ferrarum de Dungsby, which belonged to the said Jo.
Groat, elder, his grandfather dated 16th November, 1589. The Sasine
dated 6th June, 1590.
24. Hutcheon Groat, 1593.Letter of Reversion
from William Groat of Tankerness (in Orkney), to Hutcheon Groat of
Duncansby, for redemption of ane halfpenny land in Duncansbay, and a
part of the field called Stemster disposed by the said Hutcheon Groat to
the said William for payment of .£24 Scots at any time in the Kirk of
Cannasbay, and upon any day 'twixt the sun-rising and down-passing
thereof. Dated 30th August, 1593.
25. Hugh Groat, 1595.-Charter from Hugh Groat,
feuar of 2d land in Duncansbay, and John Groat, his eldest son, with
consent of Marion Bane, his spouse, to George Sinclair of Mey, and James
Sinclair, his second son, and the heirs male of his body, which failing
to John Sinclair, his third son, and the heirs male of his body, whilks
failing to the said George Sinclair, his heirs and assignees whatsome'r,
of three farthing land of their lands in Duncansbay, paying therefor
yearly to the Lord Oliphant, superior, of 10 Sh. Scots if asked
allenarly. Dated 26th September, 1595. N.B.A nott: signs for them with
three subscribing witnesses.
26. John Groat, son of umql. Hutcheon Groat, and Adam
Groat, brother of John, 1603.Charter in English, Jo. Groat,
lawful son and heir of umquhil Hutcheon Groat, portioner of Duncansby,
to Adam Groat, his brother-german, his heirs and assignees qt'soer
bearing and retaining the sirname of Grot and nane other, all and haill
these his proper two penny land in Duncansbay, holden of the Lord
Oliphant, and paying therefor yearly to the said Jo. Groat and his heirs
of ane penny blench and 10 Sh. and one penny Scots to the superior, at
the usual terms redeemable for the pay't of the sum of
. Dated at Kirkwall, 18th Nov., 1603.
27. Adam Grot and John Grot, brothers, 1606."Sasine
wrot on paper" in favours of Adam Grot proceeding on a Charter,
granted to him by John Grot, his eldest brother, portioner of Dungsby of
his two penny land in Dungsby, then in the possession of the said Adam
and Donald Grot of Warse. The Sasine is dated the 11th August, 1606.
Reg'rat in the Books of the Sheriffdom of Inverness and Cromarty, at the
Chanonry of Ross, upon the 21st of said month of August.
28. Donald Groat to John Groat, son of unql. Finlay
Groat, 1607.Charter, Donald Groat of Warse, and portioner of
Dungsby, to John Groat, lawful son and apparent heir of umquil Finlay
Groat, portioner of Dungsby, and the heirs male of his body, which
failing to return to the said Donald Groat and his heirs male on his
farthing land in Dungsby, formerly disponed by John Groat, his father,
to the said Finlay Groat, and was at the date of the Charter possessed
by John Groat, Finlay's son paying therefor yearly three pecks, two
cops, and half a cop of bear at Marts. yearly, in name of feu farm.
Dated 2d Jan., 1607.
29. John and Adam Groat, brothers, 1612.Ane
Instrument taken by Jo. Groat, agt. Adam, his brother, upon Adam's
surrendering one of the two penny lands to him, in consequence of the
reversion mentioned in the Charter Wo. 26. Dated the said
instrument, 21st Feb., 1612.
30. Malcolm Groat of Warse, 1617.Liferent Sasine
in favours of Marion Doul, spouse of Malcolm Groat of Warse, on the
one penny land of Warse and Smiddies, and one penny land in Duncansbay.
Dated the day of July, 1617.
31. John Groat, son of Finlay Groat, 1626.Sasine
in favours of Jo. Groat, son to Finlay Groat in Duncansbay,
proceeding on a precept of Clare Constat granted by Jo., Bishop
of Caithness, for infefting the said John in ane tenement in Wick, ex
boreale parte ejusd. Sasine dated 27th day of 1626, and reg'rat.
32. Malcolm Groat, 1656.Sasine, Malcolm Groat,
the late ferryman's father, upon his land in Duncansbay. Dated 20 and 26
days of Jan., 1656.
Note.John Groat.The ferryman referred to here was
probably John Groat described as "the Ferryman" in a document
belonging to about the same date as the Inventory in which No. 32 is
32a. Malcolm Groat and Donald Groat, his son, 1642. Inhibition.Malcolm
Grant, and Marion Doul, and Donald Groat, his son, agt. Sir William
Sinclair and Sir James, his son, for not implementing the Contract upon
the lands of Wares, 1642.
33. John Groat Finlayson. Inhibition. Jo.
Groat Finlay's son, being the late ferryman's grandfather, agt. Sir
James Sinclair of Cannasbay, and Sir William Sinclair of Cadboll, his
father, proceeding upon and contract of sale of Jo. Harper's D. land in
Duncansby, by them in favours of him. No date.
Note.The John Groat above mentioned is the same
referred to in No. 28 as Finlay's son.
Malcolm Groat of Wares, mentioned in No. 32a,
had a son Donald, who appears to have been succeeded by
Malcolm Groat, whose son, George Groat, on 16th March, 1715,
disponed all his lands in Duncansby, and in the Parish of Latheron,
together with the ferry-house, ferry, and ferry-boats of Duncansby, and
lands pertaining thereto, to Malcolm Groat, his son and his heirs male;
whom failing, to other parties of the name of Groat, mentioned in the
Deed, and their heirs male respectively. The Disposition does not appear
to have been recorded.
Malcolm Groat, last mentioned, became embarrassed,
and on 1st August, 1741, a fitted account, showing an arrear of £8,352
17s 8d Scots, of Teinds and other duties due by him, was subscribed by
him and by Mr William Sinclair [This Mr
Sinclair of Freswick was the second son of John Sinclair, fifth laird of
Rattar. It was he whom the band of Caithness thieves had plotted to rob
and murder. His memory is still fresh among the inhabitants of the
district in which he resided. He would appear to have possessed great
astuteness and force of character, and was altogether a person of much
local celebrity in his day.] of Freswick, and
an. obligation was annexed thereto, binding Mr Sinclair to accept of
£4,000 Scots in full payment of said arrear, for which a Bond was
granted of the date of the account by Malcolm Groat to Freswick. The
original Disposition and the fitted account, both on stamped paper, are
in my possession.
Clerk of Supply. Kirkwall,
9th October, 1860.
No. 4.Page 36.
The oldest extant valuation of the county is dated in
1707. It was subsequently amended and revised at various intervals, and
in 1760 and 1798 the valuation stood as follows:
At Whitsunday, 1860, the valuation on real rent stood
The amount of real rent of the county in 1814, upon
which property tax was levied, was £29,484 14s 10d.
No. 5. Page 91.
EARLS OF CAITHNESS OF THE SINCLAIR FAMILY AFTER
CAITHNESS WAS DISJOINED FROM ORKNEY, AND ERECTED INTO A SEPARATE
1. William Sinclair, Chancellor, grandson of Henry
Sinclair, the first of that name, Earl of Orkney, was invested with the
Earldom of Caithness in 1455.
2. William, second son of the Chancellorhis father
having resigned the earldom in his favourbecame Earl in 1476. He fell
at Flodden in 1513, and was succeeded by his son John.
3. John was killed at the battle of Summerdale, in
Orkney, in the year 1529, and was succeeded by his son George.
4. George died in 1583, and was succeeded by his
grandson George, son of John, Master of Caithness, who died in prison at
Girnigoe in 1576.
5. George having survived both his son and his
grandson, died in 1643, and was succeeded by his great-grandson George.
6. This George being encumbered with debt, and having
no male issue, sold his title and estates to John Campbell of Glen-orchy.
He died in 1676. The title was disputed by George Sinclair of Keiss, a
descendant of the fifth Earl by his second son, who ultimately obtained
7. George of Keiss, now Earl of Caithness, died
unmarried in 1698, and was succeeded by his second cousin, Sir John
Sinclair of Murkle.
8. John, died in 1705, and was succeeded by his son
9. Alexander, died in 1766 without male heir, and was
succeeded by William Sinclair of Rattar, who was lineally descended from
Sir John Sinclair of Greenland and Rattar, second brother of the fifth
10. William of Rattar, died in 1782, and was
succeeded by his son John, Lord Berriedale, a major in the army.
11. John, died unmarried in 1789, and was succeeded
by Sir James Sinclair of Mey, the ninth in lineal descent from George
Sinclair of Mey, youngest son of the fourth Earl.
12. James, died in 1823, and was succeeded by his son
13. Alexander, died in 1855, and was succeeded by his
son James, the present Earl, and the fourteenth of the Sinclair family
who have inherited the earldom of Caithness. His Lordship was elected
one of the Representative Peers of Scotland in 1858.
ARMORIAL BEARINGS OF THE EARLS OF CAITHNESS.
Quarterly1st azure, a ship at anchor, her oars
erected in saltyre within a double tressure counterfloured or; 2d and 3d
or, a lion rampant, gules; 4th azure, a ship under sail, or. And over
all a cross engrailed, dividing the four quarters, salt. Crest on a
wreath, a cock proper, two griffins armed and beaked, or. Motto"Commit
thyself to God."
PEDIGREE OF THE MEY FAMILY
PEDIGREE OF JOHN SINCLAIR, ESQUIRE, OF BARROCK
LETTER OF ME SINCLAIR OF FORSS TO THE AUTHOR.
Forss, 13th November, 1860.
I send you Pedigree of the Sinclairs of Forss, who
are descended from David Sinclair of Dunn, cousin-ger-man to the Earl of
Sutherland, whom, when a minor, he rescued from falling into the hands
of the Earl of Caithness, and placed under protection of Lord Huntly,
for which "valuable service" the Earl of Sutherland gave him the lands
and mill of Forss and Baillie. The Sinclairs of Dunn (not South-dunn)
settled in Caithness about the time Henry Sinclair was created Earl of
Orkney (in 1379), and held the lands of Dunn previous to the earldom of
Caithness (1455), and until 1745, when the then possessor, having been
baulked by his mother in keeping an engagement to join the Stuart
family, shot himself, and the property was sold. The younger brother had
gone into business and made sufficient to retrieve it, but was drowned
in the river of Thurso, at the place called "Sinclair's Pool," when
attempting to ride across it from Thurso East.
I have not been able to trace how David Sinclair was
connected with the Earl of Sutherland, but there is no doubt of the
fact, as the charter bears to be to David Sinclair of Dunn, "our
cousin by consanguinity."
Mr J. T. Calder.
PEDIGREE OF THE FORSS FAMILY.
David Sinclair of Dunn acquired Forss by gift from
John, the fifth Earl of Sutherland, in 1560. He had three sons: 1,
Alexander; 2, William; and 3, Henry.
William Sinclair of Forss, second son of David
Sinclair of Dunn, had two sons. David, eldest, married Janet Murray, and
died without issue.
Alexander, second son, succeeded his father infeft in
1607; married Margaret, daughter of Sinclair of Mey, and had two sons.
David, the eldest, infeft in 1628, died without issue. George, second
son, married1st, Jane, daughter of William Sinclair of Dunn; 2d, Mary,
daughter of Sinclair of Murkle. He had, by first marriage, Margaret, who
married Malcolm Groat of Warse; by second marriage, John, married1st,
Janet Sutherland of Giese; 2d, Barbara, daughter of John Sinclair of
Batter; 3d, Elizabeth, daughter of Murray of Pennyland. He had, by first
marriage, George of Forss, who died without issue; John, eldest son by
second marriage, succeeded his brother, was minister of Watten in 1733,
married Esther Sinclair, daughter of Sinclair of Olrig, and had an only
son, Alexander of Forss, who died unmarried, and was succeeded by his
uncle, James of Holborn-head.
James Sinclair of Holborn-head, afterwards of Forss,
succeeded his nephew, Alexander, and married a daughter of Robert
Sinclair of Giese. He had three sonsRobert of Freswick; William, a
surgeon in the army, died unmarried; and James. Captain Robert Sinclair
of Freswick died without issue.
James of Forss married Joanna M'Kay, daughter of
Big-house, issue four sons and five daughters; was succeeded by his
James Sinclair of Forss, married Jessie, eldest
daughter of W. S. Wemyss of South Dunn, and had issue, James and other
William Sinclair, physician in Thurso, fourth son of
John of Forss by second marriage, married Barbara, daughter of Robert
Sinclair of Giese, advocate, and had a son, William Sinclair of Freswick,
by second marriage.
No. 6.Page 92.
TESTAMENT OF ALEXANDER SUTHERLAND OF DUNBEATH, IN
CAITHNESS. (From the Bannatyne Miscellany.')
This Testament is dated 15th November, 1456, at
Roslin Castle, the seat of the testator's son-in-law, William, Earl of
Orkney, afterwards created Earl of Caithness, and at that time one of
the most affluent and powerful of the nobility of Scotland. The lady,
Dame Marjory Sutherland, who is mentioned in it, was the second wife of
the Earl of Orkney; and their issue branched out into the families of
the Sinclairs, Earls of Caithness, the Lords Sinclair of Herdmanston,
and the Sinclairs of Roslin. She had usually been considered as the
daughter of Alexander, eldest son of John, ninth Earl of Sutherland,
until Lord Hailes, in his Additional Case for Elizabeth, Countess of
Sutherland, proved her real parentage by referring to the following
Testament. At the close of the seventeenth century, Father Richard
Augustine Hay, Canon of St Genevieve, Paris, and Prior of St Pieremont,
compiled the "Genealogie of the Sainte Clairs of Rosslyn;" and among
other original deeds which he had in his possession, and transcribed,
was the following Testament. Father Hay's MS. Collections are preserved
in the Advocates' Library; and the portion that contains the Genealogy
of the Sinclairs was published at Edinburgh, 1835, small 4to, in a
volume edited by James Maidment, Esq., Advocate. The original Instrument
containing the following Inventory and Testament (along with a large
number of Roslin Charters), having recently been discovered in private
hands, it was thought advisable to insert it in the present volume, in a
more accurate form than it appears in Father Hay's Collections. It is
written upon a large sheet of parchment, attested in the usual form by
two Notaries Public. As the deed itself mentions, it was sealed by the
granter; but the seal is now lost, and the parchment partially soiled,
so that the writing in some parts is not very legible.
The titles of the parties having been prefixed, the
In the Fyrst, xxiiij oxyn in Catheness; Item, in ky
iiijxx young and ald, wyth Ennyn Prest in Blenser, wythoutyn caluyfs;
Item, in Tursburst[er], wyth Bulan, xx ky; Item, wyth his son in Clanok,
xx ky; Item, wyth Aytho Faurchar-son, xl ky; Item, xxiiij fra the smyth
wyth Makboyenauch or Faurchar Donaldon; Item, xl schep in Tursbuster
wyth Poyl Colanson; Item, sex rydyn horss in Dunbeth; Item, sex horss in
Turbuster, and iiij rydyn horss; Item, xij merys and stagges; Item, in
utensil and domycyl, xx markis; Item, in grangeys, xxiiij chaldyr of
beyr, xxxv chaldyr of atis.
Item, in Sillier, sex hundreth markis, and iiijxx of
poundis, tharof with Sir James in Werk twa hundreth poundis in sex peny
grotis, wytnes Sir John of Strabrok. Item, wyth the Abbot of Feyrn, a
hundreth pundis of sex peny grotis, and four score of pundis of bonath
grotis, wytnes Donald Brontuch. Item, a hundreth pund wyth myself.
Item, in Clethyng, a goun of Dowa blak furryt wyth
funyeis; Item, a goun of Inglys broun, furryt wyth funyeis; Item, a syd
goun of Dunde gray; Item, a rydyn goun of Dunde gray; Item, a goun of
broun gray to the smal of the leg; Item, a doublat of blak satan; Item,
a doublat of blak semys lethyr; Item, a doublat of fustyan, and a cot of
greyn; Item, a hud of Ynglys broun, and an uthir of Scottis blak; iij
payr of scheytis in Tayn, and iij payr wyth myself; twa blankatis; twa
coveryngis. Item, in to Tayn, iij kystis full of gere, and al my
charteris, wyth the Abbot of Feyrn; Item, a kyst in Dunbeth, wyth part
of geir; Item, a fethyr bed wyth Sir Wiliam Monelaw; Item, a compt burd,
a bouster, a nopsek, a furryng of quhyt, and a Primar buk; Item, in Werk,
a kyst, wyth diuers thyngis tharin. Hec sunt Debita que sibi debentur.
In the Fyrst, thre hundreth wedeys of yrn, that I
lent to the Byschop of Catheness, bourous Alexander Malcum Saulsons son,
and Wiliam of Devan, conjunctly and seuerly. Item, xx lib. of siluer
that I lent to the said Bischop, for the quhilkis I haf Tom Mudy and Wat
of Carnegeys obligaciouns; Item, xij lib. the said Bischop tak of myn
fra Donald Clerk at the markat; Item, my fee the said Bischop is awand
me sen he fyrst enteryt, that is to say yerly xx lib. Item, Alexander
the Crounaris son aw me for the tend of Dail Thurro, and the byrun, wyth
uthyr gudis that he tuk of myn, that cummys to iiijxx of markis and mair.
Item, Henry the Crounaris son aw me for tendis and ky that he tuk of myn
xl markis and mair, as vetail wes sauld in the countre that tym. Item,
al my dettis of Catheness and Suthyrland, as they ar wrytin in my compt
bukis. Item, the Earl of Suthyrland tuk of my gold, silver, jeoullys,
clething, fermys, mal, yrn, and uthir gudis, mair than a thueand pundis,
quhat fyrst, quhat last, atour his lettres and fell and bodylyk athis,
befor natable witnes, the quhilkis I have to schaw for me. Item, the
Vicar of Tayn had my meel that I left in myn ynns in Tayn, and all the
beir that I had grouand in Tayn. Item, Master Wiliam of Ross aw me x
markis that I lent hym, borouys Alexander Mychelson, Donald Maktyrysson,
and Henry Donald Begson. Item, a hundreth pundis that I lent to Sir
Androu Tulaych umquhil Chantour of Murray, for the quhilkis I have my
Lordis of Ross oblygacion and my Lord of Orknays; tharof wes paydto me xxlib. be my Lord of Ross. Item,
Nycol of Tulauch, John of Hauyk, and Eduard of Tu-iuach aw me xx lib.,
the quhilk I have thar oblygaciones of, for the Ersden of Orknay. Item,
the Erle of Huntle aw me for xviij chaldyr of bere and thre chaldyr of
quheyt, and a hundreth wedy of yrn, the quhilkis bere and quheyt I sold
to Rychard of Ruthyrfurd for half a mark ilk bol of bere, and the quheyt
for viij s. the bol, and ilk wedy of yrn for ij s.; Item, xl lib. aucht
me be the said Erle of Huntle that I lent hym, for the quhilkis I have
twa obligaciones of hym under his seil patent. Item, the Lard of
Loranstone, my sister son, aw me iiijxx of lib., for the quhilkis I have
his obligacion, and xxiiij s. for xiiij wedy of yrn, bourth Alexander
Froyg. Item, Master Walter Idyl aw me fourty markis. Item, Henry
Bannermays ayrs iij lib. Item, Theman of Abirden ij chalys; Item, a
chalys in my kyst in Tayn. Item, John Bullok v lib. of the ald dettis,
and xij lib. for a hundreth wedy of yrn. Item, the Lord of Hyrdmanston
xx lib., the quhilkis gif he payis nocht fal ryn apon the Landis of Noss.
Item, Sanderis Frog aw me xxviij s. Item, Sir Androu Wyschart aw me
aucht pundis. Item, Huchon Alexanderson aw me for his wyfis hosttend
bayth of siluer, gold, corn, horss, ky, oxyn, jeoullis, and uthyr gudis.
Item, the Lard of Tuleuard aw me vj lib. that I lent hym. Item,
Makyntoys aw me iiijxx lib. of my malls of Clauyetharn, that tym that I
had the thryd of Murray, and Wat Tomson of Inuerness, John Makyntagart,
and Thorn Angusson, borouss for the said iiijxx of pundis.
Hec sunt Debita que debet.
In the Fyrst, to the Vicar of Werk for tendis a mare;
and til Eduardis barnys iiijxx of lib., outtakand fa mekle as I have
payt til Kenyouch his son.
I, Alexander of Suthyrland of Dunbeth, seyk in body,
hayl in mynd, makis my Testament in this maimer. In the fyrst, I gif my
saul til Almychti God of hevyn, and til his blessit modir the gloriouss
Virgyn Mary, and til al the haly company of hevyn; my body to be gravyt
in the College Kyrk of ane hie and mychti Lord, Wilyam Erle of Catheness
and Orknay, Lord Sinclar, &c., in Rosslyng, ner quhar hymself thinkis to
ly, quhar the said Lord Erle thinkis spedful. Item, I gif and I leyf til
a prest to sing perpetualy for my saul in the said College Kyrk x pundis
of anual rent yeirly; that is to say, vj markis and vj s. of anual rent
that I had fra RobynGray of Leyth, of the
quhilkis vj markis thar lyis fifty s. worth yeirly in Louranston besid
Leyth, and xx s. of the Landis of Leyth in the self, the quhilkis wes
the said Robin Grays, and xxvj s. yerly of the lands wes James Taylouris
lyand in the Canongayt: And gif it happynys the said landis to be quyt
out, I gif and
I assigne the mone to my Lord Erle of Orknay and
Catheness, &c, and til his ayris, to by fa mekle anual as the mone
extendis to. Item, I gif a hundreth lib. to my Lord Erle to by ix markis
of land or of anual, to fulfil furth the said feft-ment: And gif it
happynys that the said sex markis vj s. of anual may nocht be bruikyt be
law to the feftment of the said Chappellan, I ordan myn executoris and
myn ayris, to fulfill to the said Lord and the said College, vj markis
worth of anual, in als convenable a place, or else als mekle mone as wil
by als mekle anual in als gaynand places: And gif it happynys at the
said hundreth pundis wil nocht by the ix markis worth of land or anual,
I ordan myn executoris to gif als mekle mar to the said Lord Erle as
fulfill the ix markis worth of land forsaid or anual; and the said Lord
to ger the said Chappellan incontinent syng for my saul as he wil answer
befor God. Alsua, I gif and I leyf a hundreth poundis of mone that the
Abbot of Feyrn hafis in kepyn, to the byggyn and reparatioun of the said
College Kyrk, and the said Lord to by me throuch stane to lay upon myn
grave. Item, I gif and I leyf of the landis of Ester Kyndeiss yeirly,
til a prest to syng for me, and the Lady my wif in to the Chanonre of
Ross perpetual; the quhilkis vj markis fal be tan up be myn ayris or
assigneis, and fal be payd at twa usual termes of the ycr, that is to
say, Witsonday and Mortymes, to the said Chappellan. Item, I gif and I
leyf to the Chanonis of Feyrn for a Mess, wyth not of the Requiem, to be
done dayly for my saul perpetually, vj markis of usual mone of my landis
of Multayth and Drumnern, and falyeand of thame of my landis of Dunbeth,
to be delyverit at twa termes of the yer, as is befor said, to the said
Chanonis be myn ayris or assigneis. Alsua I gif and I leyf to my son,
Master Alexander of Suthyrland, Ersden of Catheness, the twa hundreth
pundis that Sir James of Werk hafis in kepyn of myn, my said Son passand
for me in pilgrimage to Sant Peter of Borne, and to do the thyngis for
me and my saul that I have chargit him under confessioun, as he will
answer befor the hyeast Juge upoun the day of Doum, as he wes oblist to
me. Item, I gif and I leyf to be brynt in wax in the day of my sepultur
viij stan. Item, I ordane thrie .eln of brayd clayth to wynd me in.
Item, xviij pennys til ilk prest that cummys to myn erdyng and says
Messe for me, and ij s. to thame that cummys ofer, and vj d. til ilk an
that redis the Salter for me. Item, I ordane xxx Trentallis to be said
for my saul, of the quhilkis viij in the Chanonre of Ross, iiij in Feyrn,
iiij in Tayn, iiij in Dornouch, iiij in Kinloss, and vj in Orknay. Item,
I gif and I leyf to my Lord the Erle of Ross xl lib., xviij chalder of
bere, the bol sald for half a mark, thre chalder of quheyt, the bol sald
for viij s., and a hundreth wedy of yrn, the wedy sald for viij s., the
quhilk the Erle of Huntle aw me, of the quhilk I have his obligacioun of
xl lib., and the bere, quheyt, and yrn, he tuk fra my childyr in Abyrden.
Item, I gif to my Lord Erle of Ross, xl lib. of it at Makyntoyss aw me,
he beand gud lord, manteynar, supplear, and defendar to my barnes
executoris and assigneys, and all my kyndmen and servandis, and to
supple my executoris in the gettyn of my dettis. Item, I gif and I leyf
to my Lord Erle of Catheness and Orknay, and Marjory my douchtir, and to
the barnys gottyn and to be gottyn betuix thame, the thusand lib. that
the Erle of Suthyrland hes of my, and is awand me, or quhat at may be
recoveryt tharof. Item, I gif, I leyf, and assignys to the barnes gottyn
and to be gottyn betuix my said Lord Erle of Catheness and Orknay, &c,
and my douchtir Marjory, al the landis that I have in wedsettyng of the
said Lord Erliis wythin the Erledom of Catheness, togidder wyth al the
rycht and clame of wedsettyng that I have and had to the landis of Noss,
wyth the pertinents, and to the landis of Turbuster, wyth the pertinents;
the maylls and profitts of the said landis to remain to the use of my
said Lord and Douchtiris barnys, ay and quhil thay be quyt out be thame
or thair ayris that layed thaim to me; and quhat tym at the said landis
be quyt out the mone to be disponyt and turnit to the use and profyt of
the said barnys, the quhilkis I have made my assigneys to the said
landis, males, and mone, as my letter of assignatioun mar fermyllie
proports in the self. Item, I gif and I leyf and assigneys to my son
Robert, half the landis of Jaxton, and half Skaldouthmure, liand in the
Meyrnys, quhil at he be payd apon a day as the letter of reversione
proportis of the some. Item, I gif and I assigne to my son Nycolace,
Dallyanye and Berydal, quhil he be payd of the some of xviij markis, and
thre yeris maie bygane. Item, I gif and assigne to my son Edward al my
landis of Catouch and Broenach, quhil he be payd of the some as the
letters of reversion proportis. I leyf and assigneis to the said Edward,
Gillyecallom-gil and Strabrora, quhil he be payd of the some as the
letters of reversion proportis. Item, I gif and assigneis to my son
John, the landis that I have in wedsettyng of the Medylton, in the
Meyrnys, and xl s. worth of land yerly that I suld have of the Lard of
Kynnard, quhether the said John wil have it in Kynnard, or of the bord-land
of Skelbow, quhil the said John be payd as the letters of reversion
proportis. Item, I gif and assignes to Donald Bruntouch half the aylhous
of the tour of Gouspy, quhil he be payt of samekle as it drawys to.
Item, I gif and assignes to my douchtir Marion al the lave of my landis
that I have undisponyt upone, and sa mony ky, ald and yong, as I have
wyth Aytho Faurcharsone, or wyth Mackay Benauch, and sa mony ky as scho
aucht to have of Wiliam Polsonys ky. Item, I leyf til Kateryn of Chaumer,
and Elynor my douchtir, xxxky. Item, Kateryn
my douchtir xii ky and xl lib. of it at the Lard of Louranston aw me, I
gif, leyf, and assignes til her marriage. Item, to Jonet, my douchtir,
xvj ky. Item, to Marjory, my douchtir, xxiiij ky. Item, I gif, levys,
and assignes to my son the Ersden, all the ky that I have in Clanok, and
my gray hors, the quhilk ky and hors wes gevin and sald to hym ij yeris
sen, for the quhilkis I put this in his awn place in kepyn for the
froytis that I tuk of his benefice. Item, I geve and I leyf to the
Crounar a horss. Item, to Robert, Nycolace, Edward, and John, my sonnys,
ilk ane of thame a horss. Alsua I geve and I leyf to my Lordis the
Bischopis of Orknay and Ross, the remanant of the hundreth lib, that I
have thair obligaciones for, ilk ane of thame fyndand a prest for me to
syng ij yeris, and for the layf to gar do for my saul, as thay will
answer befor God, as sum tyme I trustit in thame. Item, I leve xl lib.
to the Lord of Loranstoun, of the some he is awand me. Item, I leve to
Kateryn of Chaumer, the aucht pundis quhilk is the Ersden of Orknay aw
me, and the xx lb. that Nycol of Tulauch, John of Hawyk, and Edward of
Tulauch, aw me. Item, I gif to Donald Bruntouch, iij ky and a mere;
Item, to Will Baxter, iij ky; Item, to the Shera a kow; Item, to Safe, v
s.; Item, to the wyf at kepis me, v s. Item, I leyf al my clethyng in to
the disponyng of my son and executour the Ersden of Catheness, to dispon
thame as I chargit him. Item, I gif and I leyf to my said Lord Erle of
Catheness and Orknay, xl pundis of the bonage grottis at the Abbot of
Fern has of myn, and fyfty lib. worth of my corn, catel, and uthyr gudis
and dettis that are aucht to me in Catheness and Orknay, that are
undisponit upon, for his gud Lordschyp done to me, and for to be done to
my barnes, executouris and assigneys, and for the expenses that he has
made upon me, ann in my querelj. Item, I gif and leyfs to my son the
Ersden, xl lib. of the bonage grottis that the Abbot of Fern has of myn,
and fyfty lib. worth of my corn, catel, dettis, and uthyr gudis that I
have in Catheness and Orknay that are undisponit upon, he to be gud
trayst and helplyk freynd til his Moder, Brotheris, and Sisteris, and to
do and fulfyll certane thyngis quhilkis I com-mandyt him to do for my
sayd Lord Erle as they bayth knawys. Item, I gif and I leyf ane of the
chalys that Theman has to the College Kyrk of Roslyng; Item, I gif the
tother chalys that Theman has to Sant Mawnis altar in Kyrkwayl, and the
said chalys to be giltyt. Item, quhat gold, joells, or uthyris gudis
that I have nocht expremit in my Testament, na nocht disponit on befor
my discesse, or foryet in ony mannys handis or kepyn, I will and I
ordane that my said Lord Erle of Catheness and Orknay, and my son the
Ersden of Catheness, dispone upon the said gold, joellis, and uthyr
gudis be thair dis-cresciounes for my saul, and uthyr wayis as thay
think spedefull. Item, I gif and I leyf to the Bischop of Catheness and
to the reperacione of Sant Gilbertis Kyrk, al my fee that he is awand me
sen he was fyrst Bischop, except xl lib. Item, I gif and I leyf to the
said Bischop to syng for my saul and to confyrme my Testament xx lib.
Item, I gif and I leyf my croys of gold to Marjory my dochtir, and at
sche ger do a tren-tall of messis for my saul. Item, I gif and I leyf my
sylvar collar to Sir Gilbert the Haye, and he to say for my saul x
Salteris. The lave of al my gudis expremyt in my Testament that I have
nocht disponyt upon, I put in the disposicion of myn Executouris,
quhilkis I ordane a venerable fadir in Crist Fynlay Abbot of Feyrn,
Master Thomas Louchmalony Chan-cellar of Boss, Master Alexander of
Suthyrland my son Ersden of Catheness, and Alexander of Stratone Lard of
Loranston my sister son, that thay dispone upon the forsaid guidis as
they will answer befor the Hee Juge on the Day of Doum. In wytnes of the
quhilk thyngis my seil is toset to thys present Testament, the day, yeir,
place, and wytnesses before writyn. And to the mar certificatione and
wytnessyng, I procuret the signes and subscriptiones of twa worthy men,
Master Thomas Thorbrand and Sir Robert Halywell publyc notaris, etc. The
attestation of the witnesses, in Latin, follows.
Explanation of some of the old phrases and
contractions in the above document:
"Wedeys of yrn," measures of iron; "Bourth,"
cautioner; "throuch stane," flat tomb-stone; "stan," stone; "trentallis,"
masses for the dead; "xxiiij," fourscore; "Ersden," Archdeacon; "unam
obolatam," one halfpenny; "oy"," others; "croys of gold," cross of gold.
No. 7.Page 106.
MUTINY OF THE HIGH SCHOOL BOYSYOUNG SINCLAIR OF MEY.
1595. Sept. 15.The "scholars and gentlemen's sons"
of the High School of Edinburgh had at this time occasion to complain of
some abridgement of their wonted period of vacation; and when they
applied to the Town Council for an extension of what they called their
"privilege," only three days in addition to the restricted number of
fourteen were granted. It appears that the master was favourable to
their suit, but he was " borne down and abused by the Council, who never
understood well what privilege belonged to that charge. Some of the
chief gentlemen's sons resolved to make a mutiny, and one day the master
being on necessary business a mile or two off the town, they came in the
evening with all necessary provision and entered the school, manned the
same, took in with them some fencible weapons, with powder and bullet,
and renforcit the doors, refusing to let [any] man come there, either
master or magistrate, until their privilege were fairly granted." Pa.
A night passed over. Next morning, "some men of the
town came to these scholars, desiring them to give over, and to come
forth upon composition, affirming that they should intercede to obtain
them the license of other eight days' playing. But the scholars replied
that they were mocked of the first eight days' privilege, .... they wald
either have the residue of the days granted for their pastime, or else
they wald not give over. This answer was consulted upon by the
magistrates, and notified to the ministers; and the ministers gave them
counsel that they should be letten alone, and some men should be depute
to attend about the house to keep them from vivres, sae that they should
be compelled to render by extremity of hunger."H. K. J.
A day having passed in this manner, the Council lost
patience, and determined to use strong measures. Headed by Bailie John
Macmoran, and attended by a posse of officers, they came to the school,
which was a long low building standing on the site of the ancient
Blackfriars' Monastery. The Bailie at first called on the boys in a
peaceable manner to open the doors. They refused, and asked for their
master, protesting they would acknowledge him at his return, but no
other person. " The bailies began to be angry, and called for a great
jeist to prize up the back door. The scholars bade them beware, and
wished them to desist and leave off that violence, or else they vowed to
God they should put a pair of bullets through the best of their cheeks.
The bailies, believing they durst not shoot, continued still to prize
the door, boasting with many threatening words. The scholars perceiving
nothing but extremity, one Sinclair, the chancellor ["Chancellor of
Caithness" was merely a titular office, which was kept up some time
after the Reformation.] of Caithness' son, presented a gun from a
window, direct opposite to the bailies' faces, boasting them and calling
them huttery carles. Off goeth the charged gun. [The bullet]
pierced John Macmoran through his head, and presently killed him, so
that he fell backward straight to the ground, without speech at all.
[Patrick Anderson's History, MS. He adds"I was at the time by chance an
"When the scholars heard of this mischance, they were
all moved to clamour, and gave over. Certain of them escaped, and the
rest were carried to prison by the magistrates in great fury, and
escaped weel unslain at that instant. Upon the morn, the said Sinclair
was brought to the bar, and was there accused of that slaughter; but he
denied the same constantly. Divers honest friends convenit, and assisted
him." [Hist. K. Ja. 6.]
The relatives of Macmoran being rich, money offers were of no avail in
the case: life for life was what they sought for. "Friends threatened
death to all the people of Edinburgh (!) if they did the child any harm,
saying they were not wise that meddled with the scholars, especially the
gentlemen's sons. They should have committed that charge to the master,
who knew best the truest remedy, without any harm at all."
Lord Sinclair, as head of the family to which the
young culprit belonged, now came forward in his behalf, and, by his
intercession, the King wrote to the magistrates, desiring them to delay
proceedings. Afterwards, the process was transferred to the Privy
Council. Meanwhile the other youths, seven in number, the chief of whom
were a son of Murray of Spainyie-dale, and a son of Pringle of Whytbank,
were kept in confinement upwards of two months, while a debate took
place between the magistrates and the friends of the culprits as to a
fair assize, it being alleged that one composed of citizens would be
partial against the boys. The King commanded that an assize of gentlemen
should be chosen; and, in the end, they, as well as Sinclair, got clear
off.From Chambers's "Domestic Annals of Scotland."
Dr Steven's account of this affair, in his history of
the High School, differs from that of Chambers's in some particulars,
but in the main they agree. The Doctor says, that some days before the
autumnal recess, the boys had been very disorderly, and that the head
master, Hercules Rollock, required his outmost exertion to maintain
Bailie Macmoran was the wealthiest merchant of his
time in Edinburgh, but exceedingly unpopular with the inhabitants, from
the circumstance that he exported victual to the Continent. He had been
at one period a servant of the Regent Morton, and afterwards what is
called a messenger, or sheriff's-officer. His house is still standing in
Riddel's Close, in the Lawnmarket. In May, 1598, the town of Edinburgh
gave an entertainment in it to the Duke of Holstein, the Queen's
brother, at which the King and Queen were both present. The room where
the Duke was banqueted is now used as the Mechanics' Library.
There is another circumstance which, in a local point
of view, imparts an additional interest to this unfortunate affair of
young Sinclair of Mey and the Edinburgh bailie. In the "Origines
Parochiales Scotia" it is stated that, in 1624, John Macmoran was served
heir to his father, James Macmoran, merchant-burgess of Edinburgh, in a
yearly revenue of £411 6s, from the lands and baronies of the earldom of
Caithness, including the lands of Clyth and Greenland. Although the book
to which we have referred says nothing about the relationship of the
parties, there seems to be little doubt that the two Macmorans, father
and son, here mentioned, were the immediate descendants, or at least
near relatives, of Bailie John Macmoran who was shot by Sinclair of Mey.
How the revenue was acquired is not said. But, as the Earl of Caithness
of the period had a host of creditors in the south, it is highly
probable that he had borrowed money from the first John Macmoran, or his
immediate heir, and, in way of repaying the loan, had mortgaged or
pledged a portion of his property for the yearly sum of £411 6s.
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