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History of Loch Kinnord
Chapter VI. Historic Period, to 1400 A.D.


While then the national history is occupied in recording a desultory warfare with the English, let us take a glance at the proprietary history of the district in which Loch Kinnord is situated ; for it is presumable, though not certain, that the lords of the manor were also the captains of the chief stronghold.

The earliest proprietors of whom we have any certain knowledge were the Bysets, or Bissets, barons of Aboyne. How long they had enjoyed possession of these lands before their name appears in the old charters cannot now be known; but being of Norman descent it is not probable that they came into Scotland before the reign of David I. (1124-53). And it was likely sometime after this before they became barons of Aboyne. By the year 1242 they had become a very powerful family in Scotland, and the chieftainship seemed to rest in Walter Bisset, Lord of Aboyne. For some time a feud had existed between him and Patrick Galloway, Earl of Athole, who in the same year was burnt in his lodgings in Haddington. Although Walter Bisset proved that at the time of the fire he was entertaining the Queen, Joanna, at his Castle of Aboyne, where she had honoured him with a visit, and whom he had escorted as far as Forfar on her way south, he did not escape the suspicion of having instigated his followers to set fire to the lodgings of Athole. The end of it was that he was obliged to take refuge in England, where the Queen's brother, Henry III., protected him from his enemies in Scotland.

Although they were declared "forfeit," the lands of Aboyne did not pass out of the hands of his family. As we have seen, the charter chest of Aboyne was rifled by Edward I. in 1296, and its contents carried off to England. We can understand why Edward was so anxious to secure these charters. Bisset, in order to be avenged on his Scottish foes, among whom he even included the King, had represented to the English sovereign that the crown of Scotland was a fief of that of England, and that there was evidence of this in the ancient charters. This was just the point that Edward was anxious to establish; and Bisset's own charters were likely to afford the evidence required.

Another Walter Bisset had a charter from King Robert Bruce of the lands of "Aboyne, in the county of Aberdeen." We do not know whether this was a son of Old Walter, the exile, or not; but the Bissets had good family reasons for taking the side of Bruce against the Galloways, who were the kinsfolk and abettors of the Baliols.

At this time there were a great many small lairds on Deeside, as elsewhere in Scotland. These held their lands on charters from greater lairds, or barons; and these, again, from still greater; while the greatest of all, or Lord Superior of the district, held directly of the Crown. Of this last class were the Bissets of Aboyne. In time of war they could have called out the whole military force of the Parishes of Glenmuick, Tullich, Glentanar, Aboyne, Birse, and the greater part of Strachan and Durris.

The last of this powerful family, who seems to have been a son of the last named Walter Bisset, was Thomas Bisset, to whom David II. granted a charter confirming to him the grants made to his ancestors of the lands of Aboyne. The line then terminated in an heiress, who married John Eraser, son of Sir Alexander Fraser and Mary Bruce, second sister of the great King Robert This marriage, which took place soon after the battle of Culblean, brought the whole lordship of Aboyne into the house of Eraser, to remain there only for one generation.

The eldest daughter of John Fraser the Lady Margaret Fraser, married Sir William Keith, the great Marischal of Scotland, who received with her the "arrearage and annuels of Aboyne, with other large estates, particularly the Forest of Cowie, the thanedoin of Durris, the baronies of Strauchan, Culperso, Johnstone, and many others in the counties of Aberdeen and Kincardine"—a princely "tocher," but then Lady Margaret had royal blood in her veins, and the house of Marischal was second to none in Scotland.

Sir William Keith and Margaret Fraser, his wife, had three sons and four daughters. The youngest daughter, the Lady Elizabeth Keith, married Sir Adam Gordon of Huntly ; and the eldest son, Lord John Keith, married a daughter of King Robert II. Here was another marriage into the Eoyal Family ; on which event the parents of the young bridegroom resigned in his favour a large portion of their estates, including the barony of Aboyne. He however died soon after, leaving an only son, Eobert, who also died before his grandfather, leaving an only daughter, the Lady Jape Keith, who married Alexander Gordon, first Earl of Huntly, and "brought to him a large estate," comprising, among others, "the lands of Cluny, Tulch (Tullich), Aboyn, Glentanyr, and Glenmuck," in Aberdeenshire. Subjoined is the genealogy of the proprietors of Kinnord, which was generally included in the barony of Aboyne, till it came into the possession of the Huntly family :—

N.B.—The red lines represent the owners of the lands of Aboyne and Einnord. Dates are noted where they seem important and can be approximately ascertained.

[In regard to the succession to the Aboyne property of John Keith, son of Sir William Keith and Margaret Fraser, it has to be observed that he was defrauded of his title to it by the Regent Albany and the Stewarts. Sir William and his Lady were compelled to grant charters of resignation, making over the greater part of their estates to this ruling or reigning family. I say compelled because it was most unlikely, being most unnatural that they should have voluntarily put their estates past their own children, and because these charters, when examined, are found to be attested only by coteries of this grasping faction and their minions. What are we to think of this one, for example, dated at Falkland, 18th May, 1407, conveying the barony of Aboyne out of the family of Sir William Keith to John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, in which it is provided that, failing Buchan's heirs, other two families of Stewarts, his uncles, and all their heirs, are to come into possession before the rightful heir shall have a claim on the property ? This scandalous deed is attested by seven Stewarts, sons, brothers, and nephews of the beneficiary, without a single Keith or Fraser among the witnesses. No doubt John, Earl of Buchan, was a brave and accomplished knight; but that was no good reason why he should have taken other people's properties. He had already by another of these compulsory charters possessed himself of the baronies of Kincardine O'Neil and Coull; and he must needs have that of Aboyne also. At court he was styled "John O'Coull,"—an epithet, which, passing through several families, notably the Rosses, has survived to the present day. I have not included him in the above Chart; but have entered the rightful heir, to whom it was restored, when James I. returned from his captivity, and put an end to the rapacity of the house of Albany.]

It thus appears that the lordship, or barony, of Aboyne was in the family of the Bissets for at least three generations, probably four, that is about 100 years; that in the fourth or fifth generation it passed into the family of the Frasers, in which it remained for one generation, or about 30 years, passing in the second into the family of Keith, Earls Marischal, in which it remained two generations, or about 70 years, passing in the third into the family of Gordon, in which it is to be hoped it will always remain,


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