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Mini 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 Aberdeen…

"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. 1296).

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.

Neidpath Castle Neidpath 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 Fruid.

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.

Marie Fraser  Clan Fraser Society of Canada


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