OLIPHANT, or OLIFAND, Sir
William (d. 1329) of Aberdalgie, Perthshire, was eldest son of Sir Walter,
Justiciar of Lothian, under Alexander I. This office was originally
bestowed on his ancestor, David de Olifand, who while a soldier in the
Army of King Stephen, rescued King David I. of Scotland at the siege of
Winchester Castle in 1141, and enabled him to reach Scotland in safety.
Sir William Oliphant’s name
first appears as witness to a Charter of John, Earl of Atholl, some time
before 1296. Being taken prisoner on the capture of Dunbar Castle in 1296,
(1) after the defeat of the Scots Army by John de Warenne, Earl of
Surrey. He was on 16 May committed a prisoner to the castle of Devizes,
where he remained till October 1297, (2) and then only received his
release on condition of Serving
Edward I. beyond seas.
at Sandwich, previous to embarkation for
Flushing, he and Edward de Ramsay were allowed 12d. a day, and each of
their squires 6d. (3) Subsequently Oliphant returned to Scotland, and
supported Wallace in his endeavour to uphold Scottish independence.
On the capture of Stirling
Castle from the English in 1299, he was entrusted with its defence by the
Governor, Sir John Foulis. After a feeble attempt. to bar the progress of
Edward I. in 1304, Comyn gave in, his submission to Edward, and Stirling
Castle remained the sole fortress in Scotland that had not surrendered to
the English King. Oliphant on being commanded to give it up, replied that,
having received the custody of it from Sir John Foulis, he could not hand
it over to Edward without forfeiting his oath and honour as a Knight, but
if permitted would instantly go to France to inquire of Sir John Foulis
what were his commands, and if they countenanced surrender he would obey
But Edward, according to
Langtoft, being then "full grim", replied that he would agree to no such
terms, and that Oliphant would retain tire Castle at his peril. (4) During
the siege all the goods and chattels of Oliphant were seized by Edward and
bestowed on Hubert Malherte. (5)
siege continued for ninety days, (6) and the
reduction of the Castle taxed all Edward’s ingenuity and resources.
Thirteen "great engynes" were brought by him to batter down its defences,
(7) the leaden roof of the refectory of St. Andrews being incited down to
supply leaden balls for their use. The siege was under the immediate
direction of Edward himself,
who, in his eagerness to effect the fall of
the Castle frequently exposed himself to imminent peril. For a long time
the defenders held a decided advantage, but ultimately by the use of Greek
fire and the construction of two immense machines for throwing stones and
leaden balls, he made such breaches on the inner walls, and so harassed
the defenders that Oliphant offered terms of surrender. It is stated that
he stipulated for the freedom of himself and the garrison, but that Edward
belied his troth and broke through the conditions; for "William Oliphant,
the warden thereof, he threw bound into prison and kept long time
in thrall". (8) The castle was
surrendered on 24 July, 1304, (9) and Oliphant is mentioned as a prisoner
in the Tower on 21 May 1305. (10)
From Michaelmas 1306
till Michaelmas 1307 the sum of six pounds and twenty pence, was paid for
his maintenance by the Sheriffs of London to the Cornmittee of the Tower.
On 24 May, 1308,
Edward II gave command to the Constable of the Tower to liberate him on
his giving surety for his good behaviour.
On his way to
Scotland he came to Lincoln, and took out of prison four Scotsmen, who
had served under him in Stirling Castle, who were to go with him on
the King’s service into Scotland. (12) He was in receipt of pay from the
King of England in January 1310—-11, (13) and he was appointed by Edward
Governor of Perth, which held out for six weeks against Robert Bruce.
Ultimately it was captured by strategem. Bruce, after retiring with his
army for eight days, returning suddenly during the night, and scaling the
walls at the head of his troops. The town was taken on 8 January 1311-12.
when Oliphant was sent a prisoner to the Western Isles. (14) On 23
February 1311-12 the Collectors of Customs of Wool and Hides in Perth were
required to pay the whole of these to Oliphant, in satisfaction of the
King of England’s debt to him. (15)
his freedom at least before 21 October, 1313, when he received protection
on his setting out for Scotland, and for his return to England. (16) On 26
December 1317 he received from Robert Bruce the lands of Newtyle and
Nynprony. Forfarshire, to be held in full barony; also by subsequent
charters, the lands of Muirhouse in the shire of Edinburgh; and by Charter
of Scone, on 20 March, 1326, the lands of Ochtertyre, Perthshire. He was
present at a great parliament held at Aberbrothwick in April 1320 and his
seal is attached to the remonstrance then addressed to the Pope asserting
the independence, of Scotland.
He was also present at a
Parliament held at Holyrood on 8 March, 1326.
He died in 1329, and
was buried at AberdaIgie, where the original monument to his memory is
still in fair preservation. He left a son, Sir Walter Oliphant of
Aberdalgie, who married the Princess
Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Robert Bruce.
From him the Lords
Oliphant are descended.
Dict, of National Biog. Vol. 42. T. F. Henderson,
(1) Hist. Mes. Comm. 6th Report p. 690.
(2) Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1272-1307, entry 953.
(3) Stevenson. Documents illustrative of the History of Scotland ii 40.
(4) Chronicle p. 325.
(5) Cal. Documents
— as (2)
(6) Chronicon Galfridi le Baker ed. Thompson p. 2.
(7) Langtoft p. 326.
(8) John of Fordoun ed. Skene 1,336 Wyntoun, ed. Laing ii. 362.
(9) Cal. Documents — as
(2) — entry 1562.
(10) ib. entry 1668 Stevenson as (3)
— p. 11.
(11) Cal. Documents —
as (2) 1307—57. entry 36.
(12) Rotuli Scotiae 1. 61.
(13) Cal. Documents as (11)
(14) Chronicle of Lanercost p. 272.
(15) Cal. Documents — as
(11) — entry 247.
(16) ib. entries 313, 339
and Anderson’s Oliphants in Scotland, 1879 pp. XII - XXI.