Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants (F) Frasers and
Tweedies of Tweeddale
Leave it to the master of all Scottish tradition, Sir
Walter Scott (1771-1832), to enshrine the legend of the origin of the
Tweedies, related in the preface to The Betrothed, as follows:
"A baron, somewhat elderly, we may suppose, had wedded
a buxom young lady, and some months after their union he went to the
Crusades and left her to ply the distaff alone in his old tower, among the
mountains of the County of Peebles, near the source of the Tweed. He
returned after seven or eight years—no uncommon time for a pilgrimage to
Palestine—and found his family had not been lonely in his absence ; the
lady having been cheered by the arrival of a stranger (of whose approach
she could give the best account of any one) who hung on her skirts and
called her mammy, and who was just such as the baron would have longed to
call his son, could he have made his age correspond, according to the
doctrine of civilians, with his own departure for Palestine. He applied to
his wife, therefore, for the solution of this dilemma. The lady, after
many floods of tears which she had reserved for the occasion, informed the
honest gentleman, a human form arose from a deep eddy still known and
termed Tweed pool, who deigned to inform her that he was the tutelar
genius of the stream, and, bongré, malgré, became the father
of the sturdy fellow, whose appearance had so much surprised her husband.
This story, however suitable to Pagan times, would have met with full
credence from few of the baron’s contemporaries, had not the wife been
young and beautiful, the husband old and in his dotage. Her family (the
Frasers, it is believed) were powerful and warlike, and the baron had had
fighting enough in the holy wars. The result was that he believed or
seemed to believe the tale, and remained contented with the child with
whom his wife and the Tweed had generously presented him. The only
circumstance which preserved the memory of the incident, was that the
youth retained the name of Tweed or Tweedie. The baron, meanwhile, could
not, as the old Scotch song says, ‘keep the cradle rowing,’ and the Tweed
apparently thought one natural son was family enough for a decent
Presbyterian lover. So little gall had the baron in his composition, that
having bred up the young Tweed as his heir while he lived, he left him in
that capacity when he died, and the son of the river-god founded the
family of Drumelzier and others, from whom have flowed, in the phrase of
James Hogg (1770-1835), the Ettrick Shepherd: ‘Many a brave fellow and
many a bauld feat’."
This tale is quoted in The History of the Tweedie,
or Tweedy, Family; A Record of Scottish Lowland Life & Character by
Michael Forbes Tweedie (1902). The author notes: A pool in the Tweed, near
Drumelzier [also spelled Drummelzier], is still called the ‘Devil’s Pool,’
and tradition says that the family name was originally Tweedeil or Tweed
devil, and thus subsequently Tweedie; this is, however, of course, mere
tradition and nothing more, and has no real basis of truth.
The first mentioned in the records is one Johannes de
Tueda, living in the reign of Alexander II, who afterwards had a Charter
from Alexander III, granted him under the name of John de Tuedy, about
1214-1249. He was the owner of lands on the river Tweed from which the
family took their name. However after the manner of the times, the name
was spelt in many different ways, even in the same document, and it was
not until comparatively modern times that any uniformity was observed. It
was in Drumelzier, Hopkelloch, Kilbucho, and Oliver, and the adjoining
country, that we find the family resident in the earliest days of its
recorded history, when surnames first began to come into use.
There is confirmation by Robert (Bruce) King of Scots
of the Charter of William Fraser to Roger son of Fynlaw of Twedyn dated at
Glasgow, 12th June, 19th year of reign (1325).
Witnesses: Bernard Fraser, Abbot of Arbroath, Chancellor; Walter, Steward
of Scotland; James, Lord Douglas; Alexander Fraser, Chamberlain of
Scotland, Knights. Thus, the Barony of Drumelzier was granted to Roger by
Sir William Fraser, whose daughter became the ancestress of the Tweedies
of Drumelzier for "a pair of guilt spurs or 12 pennies if asked." This
marriage of the daughter of a local family to a stranger likely gave rise
to the tradition of the mythological origin of the family of Tweedie.
In 1351 Tweedie of Drummelzier married the fourth
daughter of Sir James Douglas and Lady Agnes Dunbar, who was the
celebrated Black Agnes of Sir Walter Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather.
It would seem that the only available records are those of the crimes of
the period. It is, indeed, an illustration of :-
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones.
In an article on "The Parish of Tweedsmuir", Rev. G.J.
Gray describes it as the largest, most southerly and most thinly populated
parish in Peebleshire, covering an area of slightly over fifty square
miles, comprised mainly of sheep farms and hill pasture, with a little
arable land, and he quotes from The History of Peebleshire, edited
by J.W. Buchan and Rev. H. Paton:
"Undoubtedly the earliest proprietors were the Frasers,
who owned the greater part of the parish. Oliver Fraser built Oliver
Castle (not now in existence) in the 12th century, the old site
of which adjoins the present house on its lower side. Sir Simon Fraser, a
descendant of Oliver [Ed: Oliver died without issue - see below],
was a mighty man of valour for Bruce; it seems likely that his lands in
this parish passed, through his daughters to Sir Patrick Fleming of Biggar
(14th cent). From the 15th century on, the Tweedies
are lairds of Oliver, until Christian Tweedie (1774-1806), daughter of
Thomas Tweedie of Oliver who built the present house, married Thomas
Stoddart of Cardrona Mains, and from their son George (1838) to the
present day, the name is Tweedie-Stoddart of Oliver. It is one of the few
estates on Tweedside which is still held by the descendants of the
earliest known vassals."
Another book on Peebleshire and Outland Borders
notes: "Oliver was the eldest son of Gilbert Fraser of Peebles or Neidpath
Castle and, dying without issue, he was succeeded by his nephew, Adam
Fraser, who also inherited his father’s estate in Drumelzier. Bernard
Fraser was the next owner of Oliver Castle. He flourished during the
reigns of William the Lion and Alexander II, and was Sheriff of Stirling
in 1234. Simon Fraser, Sheriff of Peebles, who died at Oliver in 1291, was
a grandson of Bernard, and appears as the next proprietor. [Ed: Sir
Bernard had an only daughter, Helen, who became a nun. Sir Simon Fraser
(d. 1291) was a grandson of Sir Gilbert Fraser - see below.] His son
and heir, also named Simon, confirmed this grant after 1296. After the
Frasers, the next known proprietors were the Hays. The latter owned
Peebles or Neidpath Castle. For upwards of 300 years it has been possessed
by Tweedies and Tweedie-Stoddarts, branches of the same family."
According to Clan Fraser, A history celebrating over
800 years of the Family in Scotland by Flora Marjory Fraser, The Lady
Saltoun, Chief of Clan Fraser (Scottish Cultural Press, 1997):
"They first appear in Scotland around 1160 when Simon
Fraser made a gift of a church at Keith in East Lothian, to the monks at
Kelso Abbey. These lands eventually passed to a family who became Earls
Marischal of Scotland after adopting Keith as their name. The Frasers
moved into Tweeddale in the 12th and 13th centuries
and from there into the counties of Stirling, Angus, Inverness and
"Families descended from the early Frasers were of
Touch-Fraser, Drumelzier and Hales, Oliver Castle, Corntoun, Fruid,
Frendraught, Cowie, Forglen and Tulifour. From the family of Fruid
descended the Frasers of Daltullich, Dunballoch, Fanellan, Kingillie,
Munlochy, Newton, Phopachy and Tain."
1st Generation: Simon Fraser [Keith];
Gilbert Fraser & Bernard Fraser.
2nd Generation: Oliver Fraser [Oliver
Castle], Udard Fraser & Thomas Fraser.
Issue of Udard Fraser:
Sir Bernard Fraser, 1st of Touch-Fraser,
Sheriff of Stirling; Sir Gilbert Fraser [Oliver Castle] & Adam Fraser of
Drumelzier & Hales.
Issue of Sir Gilbert Fraser:
John [Touch-Fraser]; Sir Simon [Oliver Castle]; Sir
Andrew & William, Bishop of St. Andrews & Guardian of Scotland.
Issue of John Fraser:
Sir Richard Fraser, father of Sir Andrew Fraser (d.
1297) from whom descended Sir Alexander Fraser (k. 1332 Dupplin),
Chamberlain of Scotland, progenitor of the Frasers of Philorth (Lords
Saltoun); Sir Simon Fraser (k. 1333 Halidon Hill, Berwick), progenitor of
the Frasers of Lovat (Lords Lovat); Sir Andrew Fraser (k. 1333) & Sir
James Fraser of Frendraught (k. 1333), whose line ended with his great
granddaughter Mauld Fraser.
The younger brother of Sir Richard Fraser was Sir
Alexander Fraser of Corntoun, progenitor of the Frasers of Corntoun,
Kinmundie & Muchalls (Lords Fraser).
Issue of Adam Fraser:
Sir Laurence Fraser, 2nd Drumelzier & Hales,
whose son Laurence died without issue; and Sir Alexander Fraser (d.c.
Issue of Sir Alexander Fraser:
Sir William Fraser, 3rd Drumelzier & Hales,
whose daughter became ancestress of the Tweedies of Drumelzier; and
Bernard Fraser (d.c. 1296), progenitor of the Frasers of Fruid, Tain,
Munlochy, Phopachy, Dunballoch, Newton, Kingillie & Fanellan.
Rev. James Fraser, minister at Kirkhill, and author of
the Wardlaw MS, was one of 24 children of Rev. William Fraser (d.
1659), minister at Killearnan, s/o James Fraser, of Phopachy (d. 1639),
s/o James Fraser, of Fruid.
Oliver built Oliver Castle, but died without issue.
Oliver’s nephew (s/o Udard), namely, Sir Bernard Fraser, 1st of
Touch-Fraser, Sheriff of Stirling, had a daughter Helen who became a nun;
so Oliver Castle passed to Sir Bernard’s brother, Sir Gilbert, who was the
first to occupy Oliver Castle, which then passed through his second son,
Sir Simon (d.c.1283); to his son, Sir Simon, Filius (d. 1291); to his son
Sir Simon, the patriot (k. 1306), who had only two daughters.
Castle passed to the Hays of Yester in 1312 when the elder daughter of Sir
Simon Fraser, the patriot, married Sir Hugh Hay, progenitor of the Earls
of Tweeddale. The younger daughter married Sir Patrick Fleming, progenitor
of the Earls of Wigton. Sir Simon Fraser, the patriot (k. 1306), had no
male heirs; thus ending the old line of the Frasers of Oliver Castle.
The Tweedies had the reputation of being a savage race
and were always ready to misuse their strength to dominate their
neighbours, which continued from father to son through several
generations—an example being the feud between the Tweedies and the
Flemings in 1524.
The cause seems to have arisen over the disposal in
marriage of Catherine Fraser, the heiress of Fruid, in Tweedsmuir.
Catherine was a descendant of the old family that had held large estates
in the upper part of Tweeddale for many years, and was connected with the
Flemings by the marriage of Patrick Fleming of Biggar with one of the
co-heiresses of Sir Simon Fraser. The Flemings, with their connections,
the Hays of Yester, claimed some control or superiority over the lands of
John, Lord Fleming, wanted her to marry Malcolm, not
his heir of that name, but another and probably an illegitimate son. The
Tweedies, on the other hand, were determined that she should marry James
Tweedie, the nephew of John Tweedie of Drumelzier. Ascertaining that Lord
Fleming, accompanied by his heir Malcolm and a small retinue of domestics,
intended to go hawking over his lands near Drumelzier, about forty or
fifty of the Tweedies assembled and waylaid the hunting party among the
hills. A hot altercation ensued, ending in a fight, in the course of which
Thomas Tweedie of Drumelzier slew Lord Fleming. [Ed: Charles Fraser
Mackintosh (1828-1901), quoting John Anderson, refers to the heiress of
Fruid as Agnes Fraser, and Malcolm as the brother of Lord Fleming.]
On the 4th March, 1530, the whole matter of
the slaughter of Lord Fleming at last came up before the Lords of Council,
when they pronounced a decree by which John Tweedie of Drumelzier was
ordered to found a Chaplaincy in the church of Biggar, and to endow it
with a yearly stipend to make provision for prayers for the soul of the
late John, Lord Fleming. James Tweedie was ordered out of the Kingdoms of
Scotland and England and ‘to remain abroad for three years, or during his
Majesty’s pleasure, and the parties in dispute should take each other by
the hands and bind themselves for the orderly behaviour of themselves,
their kin and followers’.
This decree was confirmed by James V on the 22nd
March, 1531, and the marriage of Catherine Fraser to James Tweedie was
part of the bargain, and the King also, in this same year, granted a
charter of the lands of Fruid to Catherine Fraser ‘and her spouse James
Tweedie, the nephew (nepos) of John Tweedie of Drumelzier’.
However, the relative peace between the Tweedies and
rival clans did not last long. In 1558/9 James Tweedie of Drumelzier, John
Tweedie of Fruid and his brothers William, Patrick and John, along with
Thomas Tweedie, were accused of the ‘cruel slaughter of William Geddes,
son and apperand air [sic] to Charles Geddes of Cuthilhall’ but got off
with fines and warnings from the Privy Council. William Tweedie of
Drumelzier and Adam Tweedie of Dreva were among those charged in the
brutal murder of David Rizzio, French secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots,
although both escaped punishment. Adam Tweedie of Dreva attacked Robert
Rammage, slicing off his ears but, when taken before the Court of
Judiciary in January 1566, was absolved. In 1592 James Tweedie and his
friends murdered James Geddes in the Cowgate in Edinburgh.
In 1631 Drumelzier was sold to Lord Hay of Yester.
Pennecuik in 1715 described the Tweedies of Drumelzier as ‘a powerful and
domineering family now quite extinct’.
Neidpath Castle eventually passed, through the female
line, to the Earl of Wemyss.
John Buchan (1875-1940), who was Governor General of
Canada from 1935 until his death in February 1940, took the title Lord
Tweedsmuir from the parish of Tweedsmuir in Peebleshire.
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