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Antiquarian Notes, Historical, Genealogical and Social
(Second Series) Inverness-Shire, Parish by Parish
Chapter II. Kiltarlity


JANET ROSS, LADY DOWAGER OF LOVAT, 1544:1565.

LORD LOVAT at his death in 1544 was in his 55th year, and the Master of Lovat 19 years old. The MS. history says that Dame Janet Ross—her eldest son being between 16 and 17 years old at his father's death and no near male of age to take charge—herself "undertook the management of her son's affairs, which she executed with great fidelity and address," and the historian praises her in other respects, she having leaned early to the Reformed Faith, and after the Reformation becoming a violent partizan.

The charge of the education of the youthful Alexander, Lord Lovat, was entrusted to the well-known Robert Reid, who united in his person the offices of Bishop of Orkney, Abbot of Kinloss, and Prior of Beauly. The Bishop had under his education at one time, Lord Lovat, his brother William, afterwards of Struy, the sons of the Lairds of Kintail, Fowlis, Balnagown, and the Sheriff of Murray, and kept a pleasure barge plying between Beauly and Kinloss.

After Alexander, Lord Lovat, attained majority he married Janet Campbell of Calder, and died young in 1557. His mother and he had several litigations, and she was constantly in Court, as I notice from the Inverness-shire Records, with her tenants and others; nor was her daughter-in- law, Janet Campbell, a whit behind in this respect. She is found litigating with John Vic Ranald, Andrew Vic Homas Roy, Thomas Vic Hamish, John Vic Horkill, and Struy, her brother-in-law, for keeping her out of her Terce of Aigais, and with all the tenants of Dalcross. Janet Ross's latest litigation seems to have been in objecting to the service of her grandson Hugh, as heir to his father Alexander, on 2nd May, 1560. When Alexander died his brother William, first of Struy, became Tutor to his nephew Hugh, Lord Lovat, and appears to have done his best to make things agreeable for the two Dowagers. Dame Janet Ross lived at Kirkton of Pharnaway with her children, her son Alexander having built her there a comfortable house, and the Tutor allowed Alexander's widow to keep her court at Lovat. This did not last many, years, for Janet Campbell soon married for the second time, Donald Gorm's son of Sleat, a widower. The following singular narrative is taken from the MS. history and shows beyond all doubt the masculine character of Janet Ross. Bean "Cleireach" who had been rewarded for his treachery by the Bailieship of Stratherrick had just died at Dalcrag. "Cleireach" here means a cleric or scribe, not that Benjamin or Bean's surname was Clark. I refrain from giving the wretch's real surname, as he was a "Mac" of one of the tribes of Clan Chattan. The narrative proceeds--

"In the end of May, 1559, the Tutor of Lovat made a tour through the different parts of the estate to administer justice. He fixed John Fraser of Farraline Bailie of Stratherrick. He made an appointment with the two ladies dowager to meet them at Kilichuiman, now Fort-Augustus, where, having prepared everything for their reception, they went up by boat on Loch-Ness.

"The Lady Dowager Janet Ross expressed a great desire to see the field at Lochy, where her -husband was slain. Her son, the Tutor, immediately convocates 100 men of a convoy, and attended his mother to the field.

"After their return, the Tutor left the ladies in the Fort at Kilichuiman, and went himself to Glenelg, where he settled affairs, and returned to the ladies, who all arrived safe in the Aird in the month of September. The ladies sailed down Loch-Ness, and the Tutor went by Stratherrick, the Leys, and Dalcross to Inverness.

"There is a memorable event which happened these ladies as they were sailing home by Loch Ness, which I would not mention, but that the country people firmly believe it still, and I have seen them send six miles for the water of the lake to their cattle. The story is—The ladies had ordered the bell of Kilichuiman to be put in the boat, to be set up in Glenconventh. When they were about the middle of the lake they were overtaken with a violent tempest, so that they could neither sail nor row. One of the men (wiser it seems than the rest) desired to throw out the bell into the loch, since they could not carry it back. This was accordingly done, and presently followed a calm, so that the ladies got safe to shore. From that time the waters of Loch Ness, or according to others who are more wise, the water below where the bell was cast became medicinal. Superstitious people call it wine, and send it from a great distance to their cattle when they are sick.

Lady Lovat's double performances above recorded may be fairly characterised as "a sin and a shame."

There is some dubiety as regards the children of Hugh, Lord Lovat, by his two marriages. Both the MS. history and Mr Anderson say that by his first marriage with Miss Grant of Grant Lord Lovat had one son, the Master of Lovat, killed at Blar-nan-leine, and one daughter. They differ as to names, however, and otherwise. The MS. calls the mother Katherine; Mr Anderson says Anne Grant of Grant. The MS. says the daughter's name was Katherine, who married John Rose of Kilravock, while Mr Anderson calls her Janet and that she died young. I do not find any John Rose of Kilravock at this period. The MS. history and Mr Anderson agree that by the second marriage with Janet Ross Lord Lovat had two sons, Alexander and William, also two daughters, but differ as to the names of the daughters and number of sons—the MS. giving a third son Hugh, dying unmarried in his eighteenth year, and the names of the daughters as Agnes and Marjory, who it is said died unmarried. Mr Anderson on the other hand calls the eldest Ann, and the second Katherine, who married Rose of Kilravock without giving his Christian name. With reference to Lord Lovat's daughters the one styled by Mr Anderson Ann was undoubtedly Agnes, for her contract with William Macleod, apparent of Macleod, has her own signature. But the question is, was she by the second marriage as both the MS. and Mr Anderson say? If so, she must have been very young at the time of her first marriage, for her contract is dated at Lovat 15th April, 1540, and the marriage is stipulated to take place before 1st July of that year, so it was not a contract as between children brought about by parents as a matter of policy. Now, her brother, Alexander, Lord Lovat, was only between 16 and 17 in July, 1544, four years later. [As Hugh, Lord Lovat, then a widower, was in June 1527 upon terms of marriage with the widow of Lachlan Mackintosh of Mackintosh, which fell through, it is almost certain that his daughter Agnes, married in 1540, could not have been by his second marriage with Janet Ross.] Agnes Macleod had but one child, Mary, the wealthy heiress of Dunvegan, and after a lengthened widowhood she married on 2nd May, 1562, designing herself Lady Terciar of Dunvegan, Alexander Bayne of Tulloch, with issue. Then as to the second daughter, sometimes called Catharine, sometimes Marjory, said to have been married, and not to have been married, I have to observe that at Kirkton of Pharnaway on 26th March, 1562, a contract of marriage is entered into between Margaret Fraser, daughter of Dame Janet Ross, Lady Lovat, with her mother's consent on the one part, and Allan Macranald of the Leys on the other part. By Lady Lovat's will in 1565 she specially bequeaths to Agnes and Margaret her daughters, "her clothing and ornaments of her body," while of their tocher a balance remained of 93 6s 8d Scots due to Leys, and 66 13s 10d to Tulloch.

By Allan Macranald, Margaret Fraser of Lovat had a son Allister, who was slain in a brawl by Angus Williamson of Termit, otherwise "Angus of the Brazen Face" of Kellachie, in the year 1599. Young Easter Leys was the unfortunate man whom Angus referred to in his celebrated conversation with James VI. Angus readily got pardon for "whipping of a man's bonnet" and then assumed that the pardon covered an incident omitted to be mentioned as going too much into details, viz., that there was "a head in the bonnet" so whipped off.


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