Additional Info

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Share

Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Perth, the Ancient Capital of Scotland
Chapter IX


THE MERCER FAMILY

AT a very early period, and during the middle ages, the Mercer family were identified with Perth, its civic government, and its commercial and general prosperity. Their origin it is impossible to trace accurately, but it probably goes back to the Norman Conquest The earliest mention is in the Register of the Privy Council, which says:—"John Mercer is said to have gifted to Malcolm Canmore his three water mills at Perth (afterwards assigned to the town by Robert III.), in return for which the Mercers obtained right to a burial vault in St John's Church." This seems a most important entry, and evidently quite authentic. Malcolm Canmore reigned from 1046 to 1102.

The most ancient, and unquestionably the most interesting family connected with the history of Perth is that of the Mercers. A consecutive narrative, we believe, is not to be got, but a narrative of some importance is that entitled, "The Seven Centuries," printed for private circulation many years ago by the late Mr. Graeme Mercer, of Gorthy. This volume gives a brief history of the family, extending over seven centuries. The Mercers, who took an active part in the social and political life of Perth, generation after generation, were men of great individuality, great mercantile

experience and integrity, and conspicuous for their devotion to the general prosperity and development of the Ancient Capital Their connection with the town has, without exception, been an influence for good, and their honourable name can never be dissociated from it The Perth water or city mills just referred to are designated in our earliest records the King's Mills, until Robert III. assigned them by charter as part of the property of the town. Water mills at that period were very rare and valuable, and belonged only to wealthy persons. These mills, which still exist, were kept going by the water of the aqueduct from the Almond, and, curiously enough, are still kept going by that same channel. How John Mercer came to be owner of these mills we have no means of knowing. He is the first Mercer of whom we have any record. The next mention of the family is in 1162, when John Mercer acquired the lands of Meikleour from Maurice Drummond, another very old Perthshire family. This transaction is represented by a charter called the Meikleour Charter, and was granted in the reign of Malcolm IV. The antiquity of it gives it great value. It has an important bearing on the history of Perth, as it appears to be the most ancient charter that we possess. It is also important as an evidence of Perth as a commercial town at that early period. Three water mills indicate a considerable business which Mercer carried on when he owned so large a property. He gifted these to Malcolm Canmore in exchange for the right of burial in St John's Church, a great privilege at that period, when we consider it was obtained at such a cost We have only a fragmentary record of Perth and its general administration at that period. Civilisation then became more advanced and widespread. To help in its further advancement Malcolm's queen, a woman of great piety and intelligence, founded Dunfermline Abbey. Dunfermline thereafter became a favourite seat of royalty and joint residence of the Court, and doubtless a seat of learning. Its staff of monks was numerous, and Queen Margaret's influence for the time paramount Hitherto, writers of local history have practically ignored what is known as the Meikleour Charter, and in any references to it have conveyed altogether an erroneous impression. The charter is in the possession of the Marquis of Lansdowne, the representative of the Mercer family.

By his Lordship's permission, a copy of this important document is here published for the first time. For the benefit of those who are unacquainted with the language of these ancient charters, the numerous contracted words are here given in full, and the punctuation supplied. The accompanying translation has been specially made for this work:—

Extended Transcript

Omnibus hanc cartam visuris vel audituris Mauricius de Dromond salutem in Domino sempi-ternam. Sciatis me concessisse, vendidisse, et hac presenti carta mea confirmasse Johanni Mercer, burgensi de Perth, totam terram baronie de Mikilour cum pertinenciis intra Stormond intra vicecomitatum de Perth, que fuit Alani de Kynbuke et quam idem Alanus, non vi aut metu ductus nee errore lapsus, apud Perth die Jovis proximo post festum Epiphanie Domini, anno ejusdem millesimo centesimo sexagesimo primo, Domino nostro Regi per fustem et baculum sursum reddidit, pureque et simpliciter resignavit ae totum jus et rectum ae juris et recti clameum que in dicta terra habuit vel habere potuit, mera et spontanea voluntate sua pro se et heredibus suis quiete clamavit in perpetuum, et eandem terram cum pertinenciis dictus Dominus noster Rex mihi et assignatis meis dedit, concessit, et carta sua magno sigillo roborata confirmavit, tenendam et habendam eidem soli et heredibus suis ae assignatis a me et heredibus meis in feodo et hereditate, per omnes rectas metas et divisas suas, in hortis et planis, in pratis et pascuis, in moris et marresiis, in viis et semitis, in molendinis, multuris et eorum sequelis, in fabrilibus et bracinis, in aucupacionibus venationibus et piscariis, in aquis et stagnis, libere quiete plenarie integre et honorifice cum omnibus et singulis libertatibus, commoditatibus aysiamentis ae justis pertinenciis suis quibuscunque ad dictam terram baronie predicte spectantibus, seu quoquo modo juste spectare valentibus in futurum. Reddendo inde domino nostro Regi ipse Johannes et heredes sui ae assignati unum par cirotecarum albarum annuatim ad festum natalis Domini, nomine albe firme, si petatur tantum, pro wardis, releviis, maritagiis, sectis curie et omnibus aliis, omnibus que de predicta terra baronie predicte domini nostri cum pertinenciis exigi poterint vel requiri. Et ego vester fidus Mauricius et heredes mei totam predictam terram predicte baronie domini nostri cum pertinenciis predicto Johanni Mercer et heredibus suis ae assignatis contra omnes homines et feminas warantizabimus, acquietabimus et in perpetuum defendemus. In cujus rei testimonium presenti carte mee sigillum meum apposui: his testibus, venerabili in Xo patre, domino Waltero, Dei gratia episcopo Dunblanensi, domino Roberto, senescallo Scotie comite de Strathyrn, Johanne, Dei gratia abbate de Insula missarum, domino David de Grame milite, Waltero Olifant, domino de Abyr-dalgy, Willelmo de Rothwen, domino ejusdem, Waltero de Moravia, domino de Tolibardy, et multis aliis. Datum apud Perth die Mercurii proximo post festum beati Matthie Apostoli, anno ab incarnacione Xti millesimo centesimo sexagesimo secundo.

Translation of Meikleour Charter [This is the Charter mentioned by Scott in his " Statistical Account of Perth" as having been "granted by Mauritius de Cromod (sic) in favour of John Mercer, burgess of Perth, of the lands of Meicklour, which lands pertained before to Allan of Cambus, and were disponed by the said Allan to the said Mauritius, dated anno 1106, on Wednesday in the afternoon of St Matthew's day." It would be difficult to condense more errors as to names and dates into the space of four lines than is done here.]

To ALL who may see or hear of this charter, Maurice de Drummond (wishes) everlasting salvation in the Lord.

Know ye that I have granted, sold, and by this my present charter have confirmed to John Mercer, burgess of Perth, the whole land of the barony of Meikleour, with its pertinents, lying within the Stormonth in the Sheriffdom of Perth, which was formerly in possession of Alan de Kinbuck, and which the said Alan, not being led thereto by force or fear nor yet in error, at Perth on the Thursday next after the feast of our LORD'S Epiphany, in the year of our LORD one thousand one hundred and sixty-one, did by staff and baton surrender, and did absolutely and unconditionally resign to our Lord the King, and did of his own full and free will, for himself and his heirs, renounce all law and right, and claim of law and right which he had or could have in the said land; and the said land with its pertinents our Lord the King aforesaid gave, granted and by his charter, attested by the great seal, confirmed to me and my assignees:

To have and TO HOLD by the aforesaid, himself and his heirs and assignees, from me and my heirs in fee and heritage, through all its right meiths (boundaries) and marches, in gardens and plains, in meadows and pastures, in moors and marshes, in roads and paths, in mills, multures and their sequels, in forges and malt-kilns, in hawkings, huntings, and fishings, in waters and ponds, freely, quietly, fully, wholly and honourably, with all and sundry liberties, commodities, easements, and their right pertinents whatsoever belonging, or that can in any way rightly in future belong, to the said land of the aforesaid barony: John himself and his heirs and assignees.

Paying therefor to our Lord the King one pair of white gloves yearly, at the feast of our Lord's Nativity in name of blench ferm, if asked for only, for wards, reliefs, marriages, suits of court and all other things, all that can be demanded or required from the aforesaid land of our Lord's barony aforesaid, with its pertinents.

And I, your faithful Maurice, and my heirs will warrant, acquit, and for ever defend the whole foresaid land of our Lord's barony aforesaid, with its pertinents, for the foresaid John Mercer and his heirs and assignees against all men and women.

In Testimony whereof I have affixed my seal to my present charter.

Witnesses:

The Venerable Father in Christ, WALTER, by the grace of God, Bishop of Dunblane.

Robert, Seneschal of Scotland, Earl of Strathearn.

John, by the grace of God, Abbot of Inchaffray.

David de Grame, Knight

Walter Olifant of Abyrdalgy.

William de Rothven of that ilk.

Walter de Moray of Tolibardy, and many others.

Given at Perth on Wednesday next after the feast of the blessed Matthias the Apostle, in the year one thousand one hundred and sixty-two from the incarnation of Christ

The first charter connecting the Mercer family with Aldie is the following, by which John Mercer, son of Thomas Mercer, gets the ward of the lands of his brother-in-law, William Murray of Tullibardine :—

31st May, 1352.—Be it known to all men by these presents, that we John of Menteith Sheriff of Clackmannan have entirely and freely sold to John Mercer Burgess of Perth the whole right and claim which we have in the ward of the lands of Sir William Murray Lord of Tullibardine given and granted to us by William Earl of Sutherland and the lady Joan, Countess, his spouse that is to say Countess of Strathmore together with the right which we had in the annual rent of Pitfar and Aldie by Christian More spouse of the deceased Reginald More for a certain sum of money paid to us before-hand etc, etc Given at Perth on Thursday next after the feast of Pentecost 1352.

The next charter is dated, Scone, 10th February, 1353:—

In the year from the Incarnation of our Lord 1353 on the 10th of February at the Monastery at Scone this agreement was made between the religious men, Sir William, Abbot of the Monastery of Scone and the Convent of the same place on the one part, and John Mercer Burgess of Perth, Andrew his son, and the heirs of the said Andrew on the other part, that is to say that the said Abbot and Convent with the unanimous consent of their whole chapter have granted and let in farm to the foresaid John, Andrew his son and the heirs of the said Andrew their whole land lying in the street Sellatorum of Perth on the east side of the same street which the deceased Thomas Mercer father of John Mercer held of them between the land of our Lord the King on the south side on the one hand, and the land which the deceased Robert Japp Burgess of Perth held of the same on the north side on the other hand, on terms as stated in the Charter. In testimony of which thing, etc., the common seal of the Charter of the said religious men is appended but to the part remaining with the foresaid religious men the seal of the foresaid John Mercer is appended.

In a note to this charter is added :—

In this document we have the name of the father Thomas, his son John and grandson, Andrew, and may conclude that Thomas was born prior to 1280. Beyond this for the want of documentary evidence the history of the family cannot be traced with any confidence. From this Thomas the families of Countess Flahault, Robert Mercer of Scots Bank, W. D. Mercer of Huntingtower and the Mercers of Gorthy can be traced in unbroken descent to the present time.

The Kincarrathie Charter is dated at Scone, 22nd April, 1358. The agreement was made between William, Abbot of the Monastery of Scone, and John Mercer, burgess of Perth:—

The said Abbot and Convent have given and granted with the unanimous assent of their chapter to the foresaid John Mercer and to his lawful heir their whole land of Kincarrathie with all its right measures and divisions commodities and easements and other pertinents belonging to the foresaid land, the mill excepted with four acres annexed to the said mill and pastures for four cows—(terms as stated in the Charter). But it shall not be lawful for the said John or his heir to set in tack the said land of Kincarrathie to any other person more powerful than himself unless with the consent of the said Abbot and Convent And the foresaid John and his heir have themselves to give to the foresaid religious men their counsel assistance and labour as often as they shall be required. And the Lord Abbot and Convent shall warrant acquit and defend the whole land of Kincarrathie with its pertinents to the fore-mentioned John and his heir for the whole period of their life for the payment of only the foresaid farm against all men and women. In witness whereof the common seal of the said religious men is appended to the part of this indenture remaining in the hands of the foresaid John; but the seal of the foresaid John is appended to the part remaining in the hands of the said religious men.

Note.—From this it may be inferred that John Mercer had other children besides Andrew: probably they were Robert, 1374: Thomas, Archdeacon of Glasgow, 1379: John, Master of Arts, 1382.

The following lines "on the arms of Aldie " were written at a very ancient period, but the date we have been unable to discover:—

Behind the arms of the Mercers are
Three mill rhynds, three gold balls with glittering scar;
To let the world know their ancient race
Possess'd three mills for many ages space
In pleasant Perth near situate by Tay,
Which mills Perth keeps unto the present day.
Three balls next show them potent in each thing,
Therefore they gift these mills unto the King,
Who, for their golden gift and loyal mind,
With arched tomb in church did them provide
With lands, rents, arms of privilege and fame,
Kept now by Aldie's lairds, chief of the name.
Lastly the star, clear, shining as a gem,
Proves their descent out of Moravian stem.
Likewise their will and virtue doth presage
In name and fame to last with shining age,
Therefore men may vow with justest breath
Mercers are yea older than old Perth.

From the archives of the Perth Literary and Antiquarian Society we find the following important reference to these lines :—

These lines have the appearance of being a translation. Perhaps they are a translation of some Latin verses either of John or of Arthur Johnston, who wrote many eulogiums or epigrams on such subjects. The last two lines where the family of Mercer is represented as "older than old Perth" allude to the story of Perth told by Boece. The three Mill Rhynds in the arms of Aldie may be reckoned among the signs in armorial bearings which are supposed to have reference to signal events. They give a probability to what is related of the gift of the three mills to the King. But this gift must have taken place at a very early period. The Mills of Perth were the King's mills in 1244, when Alexander II. speaks of them as his mills, and grants to the Blackfriars Monastery a pipe of water from his mill lade. As one of the kings is said to have granted a vault in the church for a burying-place as a compensation in part for the gift of the mills, this removes the time of the gift to a yet more remote period, viz., to the time of Malcolm Canmore, or, at least, to the time of David I., who died in 1153. David about 1140, in a Charter of Confirmation to the Abbey of Dunfermline, in which he ratifies the donations made by Malcolm Canmore and his other more immediate predecessors, either gave away for the first time, or ratified what his predecessors had done in giving away the property of the Church to the Abbey, which Abbey continued to the Reformation to be proprietors of the Church of Perth. They drew the Rectory tithes, and allowed the Vicarage tithes to a vicar who officiated at Perth. Therefore, if one of the Kings of Scotland gave the Mercer family the vault which in many old writs is called 'Adie's Burial,' or burial place, it must have been before the Church of Perth was given to the Abbey of Dunfermline; a circumstance which, while it illustrates the antiquity of the Mercer family, illustrates also the antiquity of the town of Perth.

This John Mercer was not the same as the John mentioned in the first and second charters, if the dates of these are correct. We are not even informed if he was the first to be interred in the vault of St. John's Church. The Mercer vault, of which we give a drawing, has its opening from within the Middle Church near to the north side of the north aisle, and extends northwards from under the wall. This vault is referred to further on. It is probable that John's son and successor was Thomas Mercer. The son of Thomas was John Mercer, the wealthy merchant and banker of the fourteenth century. Thomas Mercer was succeeded by his son John, who married Lady Ada Murray, daughter of Sir William Murray of Tullibardine, by whom he had a son named Andrew.She was the granddaughter, thrice removed, of Ada, fourth daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon, whose first husband was Henry de Hastings. Their grandson competed for the Crown with Baliol and Bruce. She married secondly Malise, brother of Gilbert, Earl of Strathearn, and founder of the abbey of Inchaffray. In 1291, there is a Stephen Mercer, burgess of Berwick, and in 1292, a Duncan Mercer, who founded the altar of St Nicholas, Aberdeen. In 1292, Bernard Mercer, burgess of Perth, swore fealty to Edward I., as also did Austin Mercer of Roxburgh and Walter Mercer, burgess of Montrose. There is among the Meikleour charters one granted by Robert Bruce in 1318, confirming a donation made by Malise, Earl of Strathearn, to Malcolm of Inner-peffray, of a tenement of Meikleour.

John Mercer of Perth, then probably the wealthiest trader in Scotland, may be cited as a prominent example of a distinctive feature of Scottish life in feudal times, in the absence of any broad line of social demarcation between the merchant burgess and the landowner. Engaged in trade all his life and a costumar and chief magistrate of Perth, he seems also to have been employed in a political mission to the Low Countries in 1366. In the reign of Robert II., he appears as an envoy to the Court of England. In 1376 a ship of Mercer's, in which he was returning from abroad, was wrecked on the English coast, when his merchandise was seized and himself imprisoned in Scarboro Castle. In atonement for which flagrant breach of the truce we find 2,000 merks set off against the termly payment of the ransom money in 1377. There is an interesting letter of William, Earl of Douglas, to Edward III., remonstrating against Mercer's incarceration and requesting his liberation. Mercer was liberated, says Walsingham, to the great loss of the whole kingdom, for if he had been held as a prisoner of war he would have enriched the King and kingdom with his inestimable wealth. His son, Andrew Mercer, in revenge for his father's imprisonment, fitted out a fleet, entered the harbour of Scarboro, and carried away several vessels then lying in the port This caused a complaint to the Government. Admiral Philpot, an opulent citizen of London, equipped a fleet at his own expense, and set out in pursuit of Mercer. He overtook Mercer, and captured him with his whole fleet Mercer was imprisoned, but afterwards released by the King.

In 1356 and 1374 John Mercer was Provost of Perth. He was evidently a man of great energy, judging from the documents he has left behind him. On 26th April, 1356, the procurators of the burghs and towns in Scotland assembled in Edinburgh to discuss the liberation of David II., who had been a prisoner in England since 1346. Perth was represented by John Mercer, provost, and two others. The King's ransom was 100,000 merks. The payment of this sum was too heavy for the Scottish people, and it was spread over eleven years. In the annual accounts of the chamberlain, John Mercer is regularly entered as contributing a substantial yearly sum towards its redemption.

On 23rd December, 1359, a discharge was given by Edward III. of England for a portion of King David's ransom amounting to 2,500 merks sterling paid at Bruges in Flanders by John Mercer, burgess of Perth, and Roger Hogg, burgess of Edinburgh. On 27th September, 1363, a charter was granted by David II. to John Mercer in the following terms:—

David, by the grace of God, etc, know ye that we have given etc., to John Mercer, burgess of Perth, that small portion of land near us, from that land lying in the street of the chairmakers of the burgh of Perth, between the land of the hospital of Mary Magdalene and the bridge of Perth on the north side, and by the land of the said John Mercer on the south to be held by him and his heirs with all rights etc., making them a regular and customary debt In testimony of which thing ... At Perth the 27th September in the thirty-third year of our reign.

This must be the land where the old Post Office stood, as the hospital of Mary Magdalene was where the Council Chambers now are. The bridge at that period was at the foot of High Street

On 26th June, 1364, there is a Charter of Confirmation by William, Earl of Ross, of a charter granted by Andrew Barclay of Grandtully to John Mercer for the lands of Meikle Kinnaird in Longforgan.

John Mercer witnesses a Foundation Charter of Robert, Steward of Scotland, dated Perth, 12th January, 1365. His signature is affixed after those of the knights, and immediately before John De Ross and John de Tait, esquires. This precedence was probably granted him as Member of Parliament for the town of Perth.

In 1377 he was appointed Lord Chamberlain by Robert II., but retired in a year afterwards, when Lord Glamis succeeded him. From his accounts, it appears that Andrew Mercer, his son, transacted the duties of the office jointly with him. There is an account, dated October, 1377, of John Mercer, receiver of the King's monies during the vacancy in the office of Chamberlain, of monies received and disbursed from the year 1376. The sum to be accounted for is 1,952 3s. 5d. There was paid to the English King 4,000 merks, being the annual instalment for the ransom of the late King, David II., l,333 6s. 8d. The remainder of the payment, viz., 2,000 merks, was deducted as compensation for the goods that were lost by shipwreck in England, which the English carried away, and thus there remains to be paid of the said ransom, after that payment, 24,000 merks.

John Mercer lived till the ripe old age of four score, and died in 1379. He was long and sincerely mourned by the inhabitants of Perth, for whom he had done so much, as a generous and benevolent citizen and a just man. He was succeeded by his son, Andrew Mercer, who, it is recorded, was married in 1378, and in the same year got a charter of the lands of Balado adjoining the estate of Aldie.

The following lines celebrate the fame of this illustrious citizen of the ancient capital:—

The Mercer Family.

When David Bruce was seized at Neville's cross
All Scotsmen felt and mourned the common loss;
The States at once unanimous decree
A royal ransom their loved prince to free.
One hundred thousand merks of Scottish gold
Within ten years were granted, we are told;
Of this the thousand merks were yearly paid,
And carefully to London were conveyed,
By Perth's real son, John Mercer, who was then
Of Scotland's capital chief citizen;
But not to Perth alone confined his fame,
For throughout Europe was renowned his name;
And numerous "Safe Conducts" can be shown
To prove that he at Foreign Courts was known.
He married Ada, sister of the Lord
Of Tullibardine, who betrayed the ford
Across the Earn at Dupplin, and thus brought
Defeat and death on those with Mar who fought.
Through her it seems his sons did Aldie heir,
And thus the race that designation bear.
When the first Stuart over Scotland reigned
The Mercer war-cry was a battle gained.
When second Richard Englishmen did rule,
The Scarbro' heard their slogan—"the great pool."
Within its walls a venerable Scot
Captured at sea endured the prisoner's lot
For wealth and wisdom far as the sun shone
John Mercer's name was honourably known;
By kings and princes he was deemed their peer,
And to the heart of Charles the Wise was dear.

Robert, the Steward of Scotland, was made Baron Methven in 1370, and became King in 1371, and at that period confirmed a charter of Tullybeagles to John Mercer. John Mercer witnessed a charter to Euphame Stewart, Countess of Moray and Strath-earn, confirming a grant by Robert Stewart, her husband, to Sir James Douglas, of the lands of Keillor, 1370. The other witnesses were John Stewart, Earl of Carrick, afterwards Robert III.; Robert Stewart, Lord of Menteith; Sir John Stewart, and John and Hugh de Ross, all members of the Royal Family, and showing the eminent position of John Mercer. At this period, 1370, William Mercer was Provost of Perth. There was a charter granted by Robert III. to John Mercer in 1374 of land at the bridge of the Castle Gable to the road which goes to the Stormont, near the wall of the garden of the Blackfriars. To be held and possessed by John Mercer in feu and heritage. This land must have formed what is now the south end of the North Inch. The road to the Stormont led up the centre of the North Inch.

In 1382 there is a Confirmation Charter of Robert II. to Andrew Mercer, son of John Mercer, dated at Methven, of certain lands in Aberdeenshire, and in 1383, there is another charter by Robert II. to Andrew Mercer of forty merks sterling yearly and heritably of the customs of Perth to be held and possessed by him and his heirs "until we have procured for him forty merks of land in a suitable place." In 1384, Andrew Mercer was knighted. In 1385, Sir Andrew Mercer was a man of sufficient mark to be chosen as umpire in a dispute between Robert, Earl of Fife and Menteith, and Sir John Logie, which he decided in favour of the latter. He is supposed to have died about 1390, but we have no particulars. His son, Michael Mercer, succeeded him. Sir Michael Mercer of Meikleour (he was evidently also knighted) is named as a witness to various charters between 1420 and 1436. There was a charter to himself from Robert III. of the lands of Findlater, Pittendreich, and Balthayock. The Mercers of Aldie are a not undistinguished baronial family, now represented by the Marchioness of Lansdowne as heir of line.

Who Sir Michael's successor was is not recorded, but we find that in 1470 and 1473 Robert Mercer was one of the magistrates of Perth and Dean of Guild. This, in all probability, was Sir Michael's successor, probably his son. In 1483 and 1486, this Robert Mercer was Provost of Perth. The provost-ship at that time was an annual appointment Robert Mercer was evidently an able and influential man, as well as a popular citizen, for we notice that he was elected Provost of Perth in 1488, 1490, 1493, 1496, 1501, 1504. At this period Sir Laurence Mercer was proprietor of Meikleour. After Robert Mercer's retirement from the civic chair in 1504, there appears to be no mention of any of the family as regards the Town Council, until 1571, when, in that and the two following years, Andrew Mercer, probably the son and successor of Robert Mercer, was among the magistrates. In 1575, 1576, and 1585 he was Dean of Guild, and in 1589 he was again a magistrate. After his death, he was evidently succeeded by his son, who was one of the magistrates of Perth in 1605-6. Gabriel Mercer was succeeded (presumably) by his son, John Mercer. This John Mercer was one of the magistrates in 1644, 1645, 1647, 1649, 1651, 1652, 1653, and 1654. This was the last of the Mercers who was a Town Councillor.

In 1581, we have recorded the death of a Laurence Mercer, probably of Meikleour. His last words were: "I leave my soul to God and my body to be buried in our burial-place at Perth, if it will not be permitted in the Kirk of Caputh or Fossoway, where I happen to die." In 1645, another Laurence Mercer was buried in the vault at Perth. Andrew Mercer of Meikleour, son of the former, succeeded to the estates and died in 1588. His last words were: "I leave my soul to God Omnipotent, and my body to be buried in the aisle and tomb therein where my fathers and predecessors were buried—in the Kirk of the burgh of Perth."

There was a John Mercer born in 1592 who was son of David Mercer, burgess of Perth. Laurence Blair of Balthayock was about this period married to Egidia Mercer. John Mercer was afterwards a burgess, and in 1612 was appointed town clerk of Perth. He married Marjory Fleming. In 1639 he purchased Potterhill from James Mercer, only son of William Mercer, who was the heir of Andrew Mercer, son of Robert Mercer, Newton of Forgandenny. Mercer resigned the town clerkship in 1642, was several times a bailie, and in 1654 was reappointed town clerk. He died in 1675. His only surviving son, John, was his heir. This John Mercer left two sons, William and John, both of whom were burgesses of Perth. William, who died in 1728, left five daughters. John died unmarried. Of these five daughters four died without issue. The eldest married Stewart, laird of Kynnachin in Atholl. He fell at Culloden, and left one son and two daughters. The son died unmarried. The two daughters both married and left issue. The youngest married Robert Stewart of Garth, and left three sons and two daughters. The sons and one daughter were unmarried. The other married Dr. Irvine of Little Dunkeld, and died in 1865, leaving two sons, better known to us as Dr. Alexander Robertson Irvine of Blair Atholl, and Dr. W. S. Irvine of Pitlochry.

Sir James Mercer of Aldie died at Westminster in 1671, and was buried in St John's Church, Perth, in the family vault.

At the fall of Oswego in 1756, the garrison consisted of 1400 men, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Mercer, an officer of great courage, and one of the Mercers of Perth. He was attacked by the French, assisted by a number of Canadians and Indians, and was instantaneously killed by a cannon ball.

Robert, son of the Baroness Nairn, fell at Culloden. He was married to Miss Mercer of Aldie, who died in 1749. Their son, who was Colonel William Mercer of Aldie and Meikleour, married Margaret Murray, heiress of Pitkeathly, and died at Meikleour in 1790. They left three daughters, one of whom, Jane, married George Keith Elphinstone, Viscount Keith. The barony of Keith descended to their only child Margaret, who married Count Flahault; one daughter born in 1819 was the issue of this marriage. On the death of the last Lord Nairne (only son of Caroline Oliphant, the Songstress of Scotland), this lady became Baroness Nairne in her own right. She married the fourth Marquis of Lansdowne, and the title of Baron Nairn is now merged in that noble family in the person of the present and fifth Marquis. Transcript of a manuscript written in 1698 by the grandfather of David Mercer, and Major Mercer, Aberdeen:—

Charter I. by Maurice de Drummond 1162 (already given). Charter II. by William Earl of Ross to John Mercer of Meikle Kinnaird in Long-forgan Jan. 26. 1164 (this may be 1264). Charter III. by Robert II. confirming Charter by Isobel Countess of Fife in favour of Malcolm Erskine of the lands of Tullybeagles and another Charter by him to John Mercer. Date 1358. Charter IV. by David II. to John Mercer of the lands of Meikleour. Date 1363 (confirming Charter of 1162). Charter V. by David Count Palatine of Strathmore to Andrew Mercer his cousin of the lands of Dalkeith in Strathmore. Date 1382. Count Palatine was eldest son of Robert II. Charter VI. by Robert II. ratifying one by Maurice Earl of Strathmore of a tenement in the burgh of Perth. Dated 1347. Maurice Moray was by his mother proprietor of the lands of Abercairny. He obtained the Earldom from David II. and was slain at the battle of Durham in 1346. The Morays of Abercairny are the lineal representatives of the Earls of Strathearn. Charter VII. Renunciation of Meldrum of Cleish to Sir Lawrence Mercer of Meikleour 1498. Descended by the father's side Mercer of Meikleour; Ruthven of Gowrie: by the mother's side Lord Colville of Culross, Earls of Gowrie and Morton and Lord Methven.

Note.—The Charters were seen by old Mr. Mercer of Aberdeen in the Charter chest of the family of Aldie. As John Mercer is mentioned as being a burgess of Perth in 1162, it might be of use to prove the antiquity of Perth if Mr. Mercer of Aldie would at any time grant the favour to the Society of allowing an examination of the Charters.

Evidently in 1724 the Town Council of Perth and the representatives of the Mercer family differed in opinion as to the latter's rights to a burial-place in St John's Church. The question was one of considerable importance, and after the Council had debated it, it was agreed to refer it to Mr. Robert Craigie, Advocate, Edinburgh, one of the first lawyers in Scotland at that period. Mr. Craigie's opinion was in the following terms:—

That the community of Perth have right to the Church not only because they have upheld the fabric but because they are patrons and have been in immemorial possession of disposing of the seats for the accommodation of the people. Nothing set forth in the memorial is sufficient to entitle Aldie to the Church or to any part or aisle thereof nor to debar the Magistrates and Council from disposing of any part of the Church on behalf of those who attend Divine Service. Notwithstanding the town's rights Aldie or any person may have a burial-place in it In order to establish such a right it is not necessary that Aldie should be possessed of a positive grant either from the Town, the Crown or otherwise. A right to a burial-place may be established by prescription or immemorial possession, any positive grant of a burial-place believed to be by private deed which could not enter the records and thereby must be exposed to the accidents of time. The possession mentioned in the memorial is sufficient to establish Aldie's right to the burial-place in question, that is the representatives of the family there being .... buried there as far back as the memory of man reacheth; especially when they happened to die elsewhere and were brought to this burial-place. This makes it a very different case from what commonly occurs when a gentleman of note dies in any place where he has no interest and happens to be buried in the Church. In such a case though several of the family should die and be buried in the same place that would give but a slender right. Another thing that gives weight to Aldie's possession is that it is not alleged that any others but relatives of the family have been buried there. Another circumstance may explain the nature of Aldie's possession if there be no Burgh Record that can instruct the family's applying to the Magistrates and Council for a license to bury in the church. This will import their burying jure proprio by virtue of a right competent to the famliy, though it does not now appear that any inscription within the vault bearing the name and arms of the family, the ancient denomination of the burial-place; its being called Aldie's Tomb, and the tradition mentioned in the beginning of the memorial, all contribute to explain Aldie's possession in a matter so ancient and of this kind that does not pass by charter and sasine.

I am of opinion that the Magistrates of Perth act legally and warrantably when they dispose of any part of the church for the convenience of those who attend Divine Service. And they may lawfully place seats in the church above Aldie's tomb if they can be of use to accommodate the parishioners. As Aldie appears to have right of the burial-place these seats ought to be removed when the family has occasion to bury in the vault And therefore the act of the Town Council in favour of those who have been allowed to build seats upon the tomb ought to be qualified with a proviso that they should be obliged to remove these seats when the family of Aldie have occasion to bury, and failing their doing so when required, that it be lawful for the family or any having their warrant to remove the seats at their own hand on such an occasion. This is what Aldie would obtain in a Declarator, and therefore the Council should, without any process, qualify the act in the manner stated, and Aldie ought to have an extract of it

ALDIE'S VAULT IN ST. JOHN'S CHURCH.

Act of the Town Council ordaining the Scholars' Seat to be removed when Aldie shall have occasion to bury; the Glovers to do it at their own expense, whom failing Aldie will do it This memorial, after referring at some length to the antiquity of the town, proceeds:—

In that age Charters were brief. In this aisle there is a vault below ground which will admit two or three coffins at once only, and as it reaches below the principal side wall of the Church and projects some feet outside the wall, it seems to have been founded with the Church and as ancient as it. The heads of the family wherever they died were buried in this tomb, and Sir James Mercer of Aldie, who died in London, was brought here and buried, and Mrs. Grizel Mercer of Aldie, who died in Edinburgh, was buried here; and these two burials being well remembered by many yet living, and the honours of Sir James Mercer fixed on twelve separate poles being still placed above the tomb. There was no permission or grant required or given by the town. As the heads of the family were regularly buried in this tomb so the other relatives of the family, especially if dying in or near Perth, were buried below the large arch at the north side of the Church where the Scholars' Seat is; this goes under the name of Aldie's Aisle, and so Lady Logie was buried there by express permission of her sister, Lady Aldie, and several of Innernyte children by Aldie's daughter by express permission of Sir Laurence and his lady who was sister to Lady Innernyte; and several of the family relatives. When any of the heads of the family were buried they desired the bells of the Church to be rung as is done to all persons of distinction, and they usually paid to the town 100 merks for the same, also something liberal to the poor. The Aldie family have been in the habit of paying for this burial-place about 50 at the one time and the like sum at another. It is true that the Scholars' Seat has been anciently placed in the said aisle, although so placed it was no obstacle to the tomb, nor did the town ever pretend to any use of that place below the Scholars' Seat until the council on application from the Glovers allowed them to put a seat there with a stipulation that they should remove it, when the town thought fit, for burying, but no notice being taken of the laird of Aldie's right he must feel imposed upon and desire to have redress ; the Glovers cannot be obliged to remove this Seat without an order of the Council, and thus it is plain that when the family has occasion to bury they must apply to the Council, and it will in a short time be optional to them to grant it or not Aldie is not pleading the right and property of the aisle, but merely the use of the area for his burial-place, as they have the Scholars' loft there, and the real and proper use of the church for seats. Some of the Council have asked for Aldie's right of Charter, but it is pleaded for Aldie that as his right is as ancient as the church itself, and as he has been in immemorial possession he cannot now be required to produce any title ; and if the town were asked if they (the town) had any right to the church it is doubtful if any Charter could be produced. It is sufficient that the town is in possession, and nobody will or can controvert that; and so it should be sufficient that Aldie possesses his burial-place, and if any title necessary he might well plead possession as part and parcel of the ancient House of the Green, which has ever continued in the possession of the family since the first John Mercer, who was first Provost of Bertha and Provost of Perth and a man of great importance in his time. Since the family of Aldie have constantly enjoyed and possessed that burial place, and the notion of his right is rooted in all the inhabitants, and none but must look upon it as a remarkable and distinguished piece of antiquity and honour, and they have ever maintained it by carrying their dead thither at a great distance and expense, and it is a matter that must be one of indifference to the town. Some of the inhabitants will remember that they have seen at least 150 spent on the occasion of a funeral; and since Sir Laurence is still anxious about it, it is confidently expected that the seat will be instantly removed to some distance.

With these proceedings, which took place in 1724, the historical narrative of this ancient family comes to a close. For seven centuries it has shown a consecutive record of direct descendants from the parent stem. While some of our nobility can trace their lineage as far back as the Norman Conquest, there is nothing amongst them older than John Mercer. The family, as a general rule, seem never to have been without one representative who had the capability of maintaining the traditions of his ancestors. The town of Perth was essentially the home of the Mercers. Generation after generation of them lived and died in the midst of its social and political life. Its prosperity and development were ever most dear to them, while they generously contributed of their means for the welfare of the people. The various members of the family who appeared on the public platform were evidently men of high principle, who looked with abhorrence on the commission of crime, and who were governed in their actions by principles of honesty and rectitude. The Ancient Capital can boast of many distinguished families closely connected with it during the middle ages, though none so ancient as the Mercers, and it must be admitted that the Mercers, who disclaimed all fighting propensities, exercised an influence for good over the community which was recognised and appreciated; in proof of which we have only to appeal to our local archives. This influence was enjoyed by the Mercers probably to a greater extent than can be said of any other family connected with the Ancient Capital.


Return to Book Index Page