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The Historical Families of Dunfriesshire and the Border Wars

One article of the Treaty of Peace in 1551 provided that there should be no marriages between natives of the Borders of England and those of Scotland; that no Borderer should pass from his own country to the other without a safe conduct; that no Scottish Borderer should ever sleep a night in Carlisle, and that there should be no trade between them. The object was to prevent quarrels which might lead to war. But the long hostilities had completely impoverished the south of Scotland, and stripped it of cattle, and the starving Borderers had more temptation than before to pillage their richer neighbours. While the treaty for the division of the Debateable Land was pending, Wharton writes that "the Lord Maxwell and Lord Johnstone, with 400 horsemen and a power of Scotland for 2000 men, came to the Debateable Land, but returned without doing harm, save that the Frenchmen burned a thatched cote house." He would not require a bond from the Warden of Scotland lest he should seem to acknowledge the Scotch authority over that district. John Maxwell was now Warden of the Scottish Borders. He is better known as Lord Herries, a title he obtained by his marriage with a cousin, the heiress of Terregles, and he resigned the office three years later on account of "diver’s feuds" with some of the most notable families in these parts. The Book of Complaints, a MS. preserved in the Cathedral Library at Carlisle, contains the names of 400 offenders, who at different times made plundering forays into England. They probably extended over thirty or forty years, and included "Richie Grahame, younger of Netherby," many Bells, Grahames, several Johnstones, Gordons, Elliots, and other Border names; the young Laird of Graitney, Gordon of Graitney Hill, Edward Irving of Graitney Hill, David Johnstone of Robgill, &c., &c., who were specially reported to the Warden and Bishop of Carlisle; and were liable to be hung with little ceremony if captured. On the East Borders many of the chiefs, even those who had taken an oath to the King of England, were compensated for their losses after the war with the honour of knighthood, as the Lairds of Cessford, Fernihurst, Grenehead, Buccleuch, and others; but this dignity was conferred very sparingly in Dumfriesshire, though some of the chiefs had left that county rather than surrender to the English, and had lent their swords to resist the invaders of East Lothian and Edinburgh.


In 1455 a Royal Statute had commanded that 200 spearmen and as many archers should be maintained upon the East and Middle Marches of Scotland for their defence, and 100 spearmen and 100 archers upon the West Borders; also that "they who are near the Border are ordained to have good households and armed men as offers, and to be ready at their principal place, and to pass with the Wardens when and where they shall be charged;" but at the first Parliament, which met at Edinburgh after the peace of 1551, it was proposed that an annual tax should be levied instead for the purpose of keeping up a larger standing army. This was opposed by about 200 of the smaller Border chiefs, who assembled together in Edinburgh, and sent the Lairds of Calder and Wemyss to protest against any taxation, for they "would defend the realm as their forefathers had done," but had no money. They were soon put to the proof, for in 1557 an English army crossed the Borders of Scotland so suddenly that Lord Maxwell and other Scotch commissioners were still at Carlisle trying to arrange that peace should continue with England, in spite of a war which had just broken out between the English Queen Mary, on behalf of her husband Philip’s dominions, and their French ally. Bothwell, afterwards husband to the Scottish Queen, was Lord of Liddesdale, and though on this occasion he was thrice defeated by the Armstrongs, he is said to have had more success against the English regular troops. As a Border chief he was courageous and humane. The principal leader among the Armstrongs, Sandie or Sander, who had acted as guide to the invaders in the last war, declared to the English Warden in 1550 that he "must become a Scotsman," if he was not protected against Lord Maxwell; but in 1557 Christopher Armstrong signed a bond of man-rent to "John Lord Maxwell, and Sir John Maxwell of Terregles (i.e., Lord Herries), Knt., his tutor and governor," in return for the gift "of the males of all and haill the lands which are contained in a bond made by the late John Armstrong, my father, to the late Robert, Lord Maxwell, gudsire (grand-father) to the said John, now Lord Maxwell." This John Armstrong was the chief summoned to pay homage to James V. in 1529, and who on appearing with 24 followers to meet the King during his passage to Dumfriesshire was taken and hung, a treacherous act, which disaffected all the Armstrongs towards the House of Stuart. An English Cumberland MS. of the 16th century says that they were very troublesome to England, but tolerated because at any time they could produce three hundred or four hundred men to oppose the Scots. Christopher’s son Willie lived to equal his grandfather’s fame, as a thief. James VI. made an expedition into Dumfriesshire in 1587 on purpose to capture him, but failed; and in 1596, when he was taken by the English and shut up in Carlisle Castle, Sir Walter Scot of Buccleuch led a party armed with ladders and other appliances from Sark or Morton, ten miles distant, scaled the walls of the fortress, and rescued him. The same year, some difficulty having arisen between the King and his Edinburgh subjects, there was a report that he meant to let loose Kinmont Willie (as Armstrong was called) and his followers upon the city. Immediately the shops were emptied and the wares placed in the strongest house in the town, while the owners armed and stood ready to defend them, for ten years, previously Buccleuch and Lord Home had led such a party into Stirling, and before they left it not even an iron grating remained upon any of the windows.

Peace was concluded between England and Scotland in 1559, and the young Queen, now a widow, returned from France two years later in the midst of the distractions caused by the Reformers and their opponents. A Reformation was, indeed, needed in Scotland, where the King’s illegitimate son had been made Archbishop of St. Andrews when a few months old, and the revenues of abbeys and churches were bestowed on court favourites and sold to laymen as a provision for their younger sons. John Johnstone, Laird of Newbie (1565-76), bought the living of Dornock, and seems to have inherited the living of Kirkpatrick-Fleming. He bequeathed the last to his second son Robert, who was a married layman and adhered to Romanism; and in March 1595 there is a decreet in the Register of the Privy Council against James Johnstone of Dunskellie (the laird), Robert Johnstone, [He was uncle to the laird.] Laird of Newbie, and Charles Murray of Cockpool, for having their children baptised by a Jesuit priest. The towns of Dumfries and Sanquhar welcomed the Reformation, and Lord Herries had early ranged himself on that side, even joining Murray in opposing the Queen’s unfortunate marriage with Darnley in 1565, on the ground that it was prejudicial to the Protestant interests. But his devotion to Queen Mary, who gave him the title of Herries on the baptism of her son James, made him revert to the support of the Roman party When it became a question of Mary and her enemies as much as of religion; and the Border families long adhered to Romanism.

Among the records of Criminal Trials for 1572 at Dumfries, June 26th, appears that of "John Johnstone, commonly called Sir John Johnstone, commendator (i.e., Abbot) of Saulsyde," convicted of celebrating mass "after the Papistical manner." Symon Johnstone and John Johnstone of Kellobank were his securities. The same Abbot had been found guilty of fire-raising two years earlier, and laying waste the house and lands of Robert Johnstone of Craigaburn.

On the 20th of August, 1563, Queen Mary visited Dumfries for the first time, and passed a night under Lord Herrie’s roof. She came again with her second husband, Henry Darnley, in 1565, from Edinburgh, halting a night at Lanark and Crawford on their road. Two years later she was consigned a prisoner to Lochleven Castle suspected, probably unjustly, of having been accessory to her husband’s murder. As to the charge of having married Bothwell, Lord of Liddesdale, one of his murderers, she is believed to have been influenced in so doing by fear. Her infant son was placed on the throne, with her half-brother James, Earl of Murray, as Regent, [Four illegitimate brothers accompanied Mary from France, all of whom were hostile to her.] who had throughout been her secret enemy. On September 8th, 1567, an Act was passed by the Parliament summoning certain chiefs in Dumfriesshire to appear at Edinburgh, and consult on a mode of pacifying the Borders, which were much agitated in favour of the deposed Queen. "Forasmuch as on our Sovereign Lord’s coronation," it ran, "and acceptation of the office of Regent of the realm by his dearest relation, James, Earl of Murray, &c., &c., he charges and ordains Patrick, Bishop of Wigton, William Gordon, Alexander Gordon, John Gordon, Maxwell, Lord Carlyle, Thomas Kirkpatrick, Charles Murray of Cockpool, and John Johnstone of that Ilk to appear in person at Edinburgh," &c. But the Queen’s escape the next year set the whole Borders in a flame, and her army of nearly 600 men was chiefly collected from Galloway, Annandale, Nithsdale, and Liddesdale. Many of the Dumfriesshire chiefs signed a bond to support her cause, among them Hay, Lord Yester, Maxwell, Herries, Edward Maxwell, Abbot of Dundrennan, Crichton, and the Lairds of Ros, Seaton, Somerville, Johnstone, and Lochinvar; while Drumlanrig, Lord Home, Glencairne, Lindsay, the Earl of Morton, and many more, took the part of the Regent. The rival forces met at Langside, two miles from Glasgow, where the Queen’s troops sustained a decisive defeat, May 13th, and escaping on horseback, through Crawford, Sanquhar, and Dumfries, to Dundrennan in Galloway, she adopted the fatal resolution of crossing over to England to ask for protection from Queen Elizabeth.

Three weeks later the Regent Murray followed up his victory by an armed progress through Dumfriesshire to restore order, and take an oath of allegiance from the chiefs. At Crawford, in Lanarkshire, the castle surrendered, for its owner Sir James Hamilton (Johnstone’s uncle) had been captured at Langside. Sanquhar also surrendered and was spared, as Lord Crichton promised to repair to Edinburgh within a given time. Gordon of Lochinvar was more obdurate, and two of his castles were burnt down; and on the 18th of June, the Regent marched to Dumfries, and taking possession of a large house belonging to Lord Maxwell, stayed there all the next day, expecting the owner to do homage to him. Maxwell had been there the preceding morning, with the Laird of Johnstone, Maxwell of Cowhill, and Lochinvar, and a thousand of their men, and they had cleared the town of provisions; but he never presented himself to the Regent, and it was supposed that his colleagues restrained him from doing so. Several of the Maxwells, Irvings, Grahames, and Bells, came and offered their homage, and John Johnstone, the Laird of Newbie, gave a pledge for the fidelity of all the Johnstones, consequently the Regent abstained from burning the two castles of the Laird of Johnstone—Lochwood Tower and Lochouse Tower—which he occupied on his return. [Holinshed’s History of Scotland. State Papers.] On June 20th, he marched to Hoddom Castle belonging to Lord Herries, near which he encountered a band of 1000 outlaws, a few of whom he captured. Hoddom yielded the next day, when the Laird of Drumlanrig was placed in it and reappointed Warden of the Marches, a post he had held since 1553. "Great hunger," writes Holinshed, "began to pinch in the army. A pint of wine was sold at seven shillings Scots, and no bread to be had for any money." Annan capitulated on being invested with 1000 men, and the Regent had an interview there with Lord Scrope, the English Warden of the Marches. Lochmaben was also taken from the Maxwells, and near Lochwood the army seized on a large quantity of cattle. On the 24th June it arrived at Peebles, and the following day at Edinburgh; but bands of outlaws still continued to harass the country under pretence of fighting for the Queen. In the Register of the Privy Council for October, 1569, a list is given of these depredators, whom their chiefs were bound over to arrest or keep in check. Under the head of Will Bell of Gretno we read "the which day John Johnstone of Gretno (or Graitney) obliges himself that Will Bell of Gretno shall be punished for disobedience of the laws." John Johnstone of Graitney also pledges himself for the good conduct of the Irvings, and the Laird of Johnstone and John Johnstone of Newbie pledged themselves for the good conduct of the gang of Fairholm.

On hearing of Queen Mary’s flight to England through the assistance of Lord Herries, the Regent immediately caused him to be proclaimed an outlaw. Herries wrote from Dumfries, September, 1568, to the English Privy Council to intercede on behalf of his unhappy sovereign, and a month later went to London to try and obtain a personal interview with Elizabeth. Failing in this he visited France to plead for Queen Mary with her brother-in-law, Henry III., and encouraged by the assassination of the Regent Murray in 1569, tried to organise another military movement in her favour on his return. To put this down, and to avert an incursion of the Borderers into England, Queen Elizabeth sent an army under Lord Scrope to ravage the Border estates of those Lairds and Noblemen particularly attached to Mary’s cause, and her orders were barbarously carried out.

Scrope reported from Carlisle, April 21st, 1570, that he had encamped at Ecclefechan, and sent Musgrave to burn Hoddom Maynes (i.e., Newbie Mains), Trailtrow, Ryuthwell, Calpole, Blackshaw, Sherrington, Bankend, Lochar, and Old Cockpool; that at the last place, in an encounter with Lord Maxwell, he had taken 100 prisoners, including the Alderman of Dumfries and 16 Burgesses, but had afterwards been driven back by Lords Maxwell and Carlyle, and by Charteris, Grierson, Kirkpatrick, and Carruthers. At Cummertrees he had another battle with them, when he captured several Lairds; Maxwell, Carlyle, Johnstone, and other chiefs only escaping "by the strength of the Laird of Cockpool’s house, and a great wood and morass." He had been ordered to spare Douglas of Drumlanrig’s tenants, but they opposed him as fiercely as the rest. Another of Scrope’s lieutenants, Lord Sussex, wrote to the Secretary, Cecil, that he had thrown down the Castle at Annan, and had not left a stone house standing in that town, which was an "ill neighbour to Carlisle." The insurgents are described by Buchanan as Highlanders and Borderers, the Laird of Fairniherst, the Johnstones and Armstrongs, the Grants and the Clan Chattan, besides the Maxwells; but Drumlanrig and his son-in-law, Jardine of Applegirth, remained attached to the young King. He accuses the Borderers of "misorder and cruelty, not only usit in war, but detestable to all barbarous and wild Tartars, in slaying of prisoners, and contrary to all humanity and justice, keeping no promise to miserable captives." After the whole of Scotland had been agitated for more than two years, and pestilene had broken out, the insurrection was finally suppressed, and the English retired from Dumfriesshire.

As before stated, the Lairds of Teviotdale signed a bond at Kelso, under the auspices of Scot of Buccleuch, in 1169, to support the infant King James VI. against the Queen’s adherents in Dumfriesshire. Consequently they escaped the English ravages. James Gledstanes of Cocklaw was one of those who signed it; and Gladstane of Gladstane, took part in the skirmish called the Raid of Redswire in 1575 under a Scot. Though the headquarters of this family were in Lanarkshire and Peebles, they are early found in Dumfriesshire, and Herbert de Gledstanes of that county signed the Ragman’s roll in 1296. In 1455 Herbert de Gledstanes of that Ilk and Homer de Gledstanes were deputy-sheriffs of Dumfriesshire under Lord Maxwell, the Warden of the borders, and from the uncommon name of Homer being found at that time in the Maxwell family there may have been some family connection between the Maxwells and Gledstanes. In 1517 and in 1543 Herbert Gledstanes was one of the bailies of the town of Dumfries. In 1579 William Gledstanes, son of this Herbert, was a bailie, and the records of Dumfries show that he had two brothers also burgesses of the same town, viz., John and James Gledstanes, the first of whom was returned heir to their father in 1564. Herbert, probably another brother, is mentioned in connection with Dumfries in 1572, but was a bailile of Kirkcudbright at that date. The familiar name of Catherine Gledstanes is also found in the burgh books of that period, as the wife of Adam Paterson and Walter Gledstanes of Craggis appears in the Dumfries burgh books of 1575. James Gledstanes left an only daughter, who married Robert Mackynell, but his brother left sons, and a Herbert Gledstanes appears again among the bailies of Dumfries in 1622. Sir James Gledstanes is mentioned in 1578. He was probably in Holy Orders, as the term Sir was generally applied to priests.

The old bard, Scot of Satchells, describes the establishment of his chief, Scot of Buccleuch, at Branxholm in the early part of the 17th century. Possibly he enlarged as much on facts as Sir Walter Scott has done on his description—

No baron was better served in Britain;
The barons of Buckleugh they kept their call,
Four and twenty gentlemen in their hall,
All being of his name and kin;
Each two had a servant to wait upon them.

But he explains in prose that although 23 of these gentlemen bore the name of Scot, the other was Walter Gledstanes, a near cousin of my lord’s.

As late as 1619, there is an action brought against James Johnstone, brother’s son to the Laird of Westraw (ancestor to Sir Frederick Johnstone), for having robbed his master, in which he is described as household man and servitor to Irving of Wisbie. It was thought no degradation for the younger sons of a laird’s family to act as serving men in another house. The mercantile class in Scotland was chiefly drawn from that source, for the prejudice against entering into trade which we still find among the landed gentry in Germany and some other countries never seems to have existed here. The will of John Johnstone, merchant, brother to the late James Johnstone, Laird of Westraw, is proved on June 4, 1576, and several of the Johnstones of Newbie and of that Ilk, of the Maxwells, Kirkpatricks, and other Dumfriesshire families were merchants. A relationship with a provincial chief was extremely useful in early days, as it ensured a safe conduct through any district in which his authority was respected; and the merchant living in a town, probably a seaport, and with more education than his country cousin, was a very useful relative for a laird to possess. The Gladstones therefore followed the prevalent custom when their junior branches migrated into towns and set up in business, as they grew too numerous for the hereditary land to support.

The names of all the men in the burgh of Annan, on September 9, 1591, are given in a bond of man-rent with Lord Maxwell. When the Annandale Peerage claims were last heard, an advocate pleaded that Johnstone was at that date the commonest name in Annandale among all classes. But in this list of nearly 100 names only two Johnstones appear, and both of them connected with the Newbie family, and in all the deeds I have collected at that period whatever Johnstones are named were related in a left-handed way or otherwise to the chiefs of the house. These men of Annan were Littles, Tods, Wilkins, Hairs, Irvings, Veilds, Halidays, Louche (probably Losh, still a Cumberland name, or Loch, for in 1603 Robert Loch was a bailie of Annan, and collector of His Majesty’s revenues), Wilsons, Raes, Vauche (Welsh?), Menzies, Rigs, Blacks, Richardsons, Potts, Galloways, Carliles, Millars, Bournans, Gasks, Hutchins, Palmers, Bells, Whites, Tyndings, Robesons, Grahams, Smyths, Warriors, Corbets, Mikes, Hegis, and two John Johnstones. David Millar was notary public.

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