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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XIV.—Balbegno, Balnakettle and Littlestrath

THERE has been given in a previous chapter some account of the ownership of Balbegno at different periods down to 1488, so far as it is ascertainable. After that date the feudal owners of the same and of other contiguous lands were Andrew Wood and his successors. They were also thanes of Fettercairn, with arbitrary power •over their vassals and all within their domain. They could fine, scourge, imprison, and even put to death without appeal to common law. The particular places where these powers were carried out will be described in connection with Balbegno Castle.

The family of Wood, originally De Bosco, was probably of Norman origin. Several of its members were eminent churchmen. William de Bosco acted as clerk to King William the Lion (1165-1214) in his courts at Forfar, Kinghorn, and Selkirk. This William was Chancellor of Scotland and Bishop of Dunblane. About 1240 Ralph de Bosco was Bishop of Aberdeen, and confirmed a grant of the Church of Aboyne to the Knights Templars. Towards the end of the thirteenth century the De Boscos gained a footing in the north of Scotland. In course of time the name was changed to Wod or Wood, and among other owners of lands in the county of Aberdeen appears the name of Andrew Wod of Overblairton, Belhelvie, in the reign of James III. A grant of the Castlehill and Stocket wood of Aberdeen was made to him by that king; but this grant, being contrary to Robert the Brace's Charter to Aberdeen, was revoked by James IV. After the battle of Sauchie near Stirling, fought on 18th June, 1488, when James III. was killed, James IV. became king. On the 26th of the same month, at Perth, a grant of the lands of Balbegno and of the thanages of Fettercairn and Aberluthnot was made to "Andro Wod of Overblairton, Belhelvie, and his spouse Mariota Moncreife." His designations were Camerarius, Ballivus, and Receptor, or Chamberlain, Baillie, and Receiver of the king's rents from the said thanages and from other crown lands in the county of Aberdeen. James IV. treated Perkin Warbeck, the pretended Duke of York and claimant of the English throne, as his guest, and laid a tax on the country for his support. Andrew Wood was collector of this tax for the part north of the Forth, and was paid certain sums of money for his labours. The annual rent of Balbegnoth was twenty merks. The lands of Easter Strath and the Barony of Balmane, which by reason of non-entry had been for twenty-six years in the king's hands, were granted to "his familiar servitor Andro Wod." This allocation continued till 1510, when the lands and Barony were granted to John Ramsay. In the Burgh Records of Stirling, the following entry appears, viz.: "March 18th, 1503. Oure sovrane lord ratifyt and approvit ye charter of confirmation and gift maid to Andro Wod ischar of ye chaumer door of ye feu of ye lands and thanedom of ffethirkern and Abirluthnot after ye form of his infeftment maid to him thereuppon." His fee as usher was .£13 6s. 8d.

The charter of confirmation above referred to was granted in 1498. Although a lengthy document and written in Latin, it is, for its minute and interesting details, worthy of a place here, as follows:—

A translation of the above made by an eminent Latin scholar, A. F. Hutchison, M.A., late of the High School of Stirling, is as follows :—

"James, by the grace of God, King of Scots, to all good men of his whole land, cleric and laic, Greeting: Know ye, because we being at our perfect of twenty-five years complete, after our last general revocation of all donations given and granted by us in our tender age, for the long, continued, good and faithful service done to our umquhil most noble parents our father and our mother—for whose souls may God provide—and to us by our bektred and faithful familiar servitor Andrew Wod of OvirbUir-ts/nn hsMtiarixm. of oar chamber for a long tune bypast. and continued by him to us from day to day. and willing to recompense the Ğa*ne for his service of this sort, that we may not seem forgetful of the doty undertaken.—therefore we have given, granted and confirmed, and by this oar present writing give, grant and confirm to the said Andrew all and whole our land^ and thanages of Fethirkerne and Abirlathnot with their pertinents. lying within oar sheriffdom of Kincardin, which lands and thanages with their pertinents the said Andrew now holds of us in tack (or assedationj for the whole time of his life with the offices of chamberlain and baillie of the same, besides one part of the same land* and thanages given by us to him in feu and at a victual rent* given by oar other letters made (complete) before under oar great and privy seals: to be had and held all and whole the foresaid land* and thanages of Fethirkerne and Abirlathnot with their pertinent* by the said Andrew and his heirs male lawfully begotten or to be begotten between him and Mariota Muncreif, whom failing, by the heirs male of the said Andrew to be lawfully begotten of his own body, of as and our successors in feufirm and hereditarily for ever, and all these heirs male foresaid failing to return to us and our successors, in all their proper ancient metes and divisions, as they lie in length and breadth, in woods, plains, moors, mosses, roads, paths, waters, lakes, burns, meadows, grass-land* and pastures, mills, multures and their sequels, fowlings, huntings, fishings, peats, turfs, coalpits, quarries, stone and lime, workshop, breweries, heaths and broom, with courts and their profits, heregelds, bludewits and taxes payable on the marriage of female vassals, and with all other and singular liberties, commodities and easements and their just pertinents whatsoever, named and unnamed, both under the earth and above the earth, far and near, belonging or that in the future may in any manner justly belong to the foresaid lands and thanages with their pertinents, freely, quietly, fully, honourably, well and in peace, without any impediment, revocation or contradiction to be made in any manner by us or our successors in the future: the said Andrew and his above-said heirs male paying yearly to us and our successors for the foresaid lands and thanages with their pertinents 53 pounds 16 shillings and 4 pence, and three marts called rynmartiH or 15 shillings for each piece {i.e. each mart) of the same, and to the laird of Drumry 20 pounds as annual rent from the same lands and thanages according to the ancient exit, as also to a chaplain in the cathedral church of Brechin yearly £3 6s. 8d. usual money of our realm, at the two usual and customary terms of the year, as is contained in the rolls of our exchequer, in the name of feufirm only, for all other burdens, exactions, questions and demands which can in any way justly be exacted or required by whomsoever from the said lands and thanages with their pertinents.

"In testimony of which we order our great seal to be appended : Witnesses, the reverend father in Christ William, bishop of Aberdeen, keeper of our privy seal; our beloved cousins—George, Earl of Huntly ; Lord Badenoch, our Chancellor ; Archibald, Earl of Argyle; Lord Campbell of Lorn, master of our hospices; Patrick, Earl of Both well; Lord Hailes; Alexander, Lord Hume, our great Chamberlain ;. Robert Lundy of Balgowny, Knight, our treasurer; and our beloved clerks—Richard Muirhead, dean of Glasgow, our secretary ; and Walter Drummorid, dean of Dunblane, clerk of our rolls and register and of the council, at Stirling on the 10th day of the month of March, in the year of our Lord, 1498, and the 11th of our reign.

"Compared with the original, and correct in all. Witness my hand; Richard (son of) Robert (Robertson?)"

These old writings, now collated and brought to light, clearly prove that Andrew Wood of Fettercairn was not, as supposed and stated by some, the famous Admiral Sir Andrew Wood of Largo. They were contemporaries, and probably related as cousins, for the same christian names, Andrew, John, and Walter, are those of both families. The carved figures on Balbegno Castle give colour to this supposition. One of these, a male bust, with the left hand erect, three fingers extended, the face bearded, and the head with cap and morion, is now placed over the garden door, and may represent Admiral Wood in the attitude of a naval commander. The sculpture probably commemorates the great fight in the Firth of Forth, where Sir Andrew and his brothers with two ships captured the three which the English king had sent to make an end of the Scots power at sea. The trinity went down before the two on the left hand.

About 1512 Andrew Wood of Balbegno was succeeded by his son John, a minor, for whom, till 1518, his uncle, Robert Moncrieff of Curroqhuy, near Crieff, acted as tutor, and then a William Gordon, sponsus matris (his stepfather), assumed the duty. David Wood of Craig and a brother William Wood of Bonnington lived about the same time, and were related to John Wood. The sasine granted to him by James IV. in 1512 runs thus:—"The thanages of Fethircarne, Abirludnocht, Balbegnoth, Ballarno, Balnakadle, Fotheray, Thaneston, Molendini Perichcroft, Balmakewin, Molendini de Luther, Drumry, Officii Strath-auchin de Thorn toun, Brodland, Kirkton, and Wester Strath." His wife was Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum. Balbegno Castle was built by them. Their son Walter succeeded in 1579, and married Helen Stewart, daughter of John, third Earl of Athole, whose great-grandfather was Sir James Stewart, " the black knight of Lorn," who married Joanna, the widow of James I. of Scotland. This gave the descendants of Walter Wood and Helen Stewart a connection with royalty. They had four sons, viz.:—Walter, Andrew, David and William. Walter succeeded in 1598, and after him, in 1607, came his son, designated Sir John Wood. To him a brother James was served heir in 1636, whose son Andrew succeeded in 1656. His infeftment, by precept of Oliver Cromwell, confirmed to him.

"The Manor place and Mylne of Balbegno, the lands of Balerno and astricted multures, Caldcoats, utherwayes called Tillifonten, Bonaketill and Strathnosen, Skairruids, the lands of Fetterkairn, the croft besyde the Nethermylne, the mylne of Blackelauche, (Boggindollo), with the office of chamberlanrie and bailyiarie of the said lands, the lands of Strathester, with liberty in the Mure of Luther, and Moss of Balmayne, and power of pasturage of nolt and sheep, all united into the barony or thanage of and within the parochin of Fetterkairn. Entry, £12 13s. 4d."

In 1687 Andrew Wood sold the estate to Andrew Middleton of Caldhame and Pitgarvie, the youngest brother of John Earl Middleton. Andrew Wood married a daughter of Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton, and their son, Major James Wood, residing at Invereskandye, was factor to Lindsay of Edzell, and an elder of the church at Edzell. His wife was Margaret Jackson, and their daughter Jean married John Lindsay of Dalbog. Major Wood's great-great-grandson was the late John Wood, banker, Colinsburgh, wTho died in 1875, leaving a large family, one of whom, John, an eminent artist, resides at Bramerton Lodge, Carlisle. To him and to his wife now deceasedt whose efforts and correspondence in tracing the genealogy of the Wood family were unwearied, the writer has been much indebted. The name of Wood became a leading one in the parish of Fettercairn, and continued to be so down to the beginning of the present century. Andrew Middleton got the lands of Caldhame and Pitgarvie by his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Charles Ramsay of Balmain. From a minute of Presbytery in 1683, he appears, some four years before his purchase of Balbegno, as an heritor of the parish and an office-bearer in the church, with the oversight of Earl Middleton's lands. After his death in 1699, his son Robert became proprietor of Balbegno, and married a daughter of George Ogilvy of Lunan. He died without issue in 1710, and bequeathed the property to his brother-in-law, John Ogilvy, advocate, who died in 1743, and by his wife Isabel Cochrane had four daughters, the eldest of whom, Girzel, married a Dr. Brisbane, and after her mother's death, in 1756, possessed the estate till 1778, when it was sold to the Hon. Walter Ogilvy of Clova for the sum of £7500. In 1819 his son, the Hon. Donald Ogilvy, succeeded, and, in 1846, sold Balbegno to Sir John Gladstone for £32,000.


It was said that the cost of building Balbegno Castle impoverished the Wood proprietors and became a burden on the estate. Also, that Balnakettle and Littlestrath had to be sold to pay the debt. The former at least was not finally disposed of till the time of Andrew, the last of the Woods. In 1678, a retour of Balnakettle was made to "William Fraser, Merchant in Dundee, brother of Andrew Fraser of Balnakettle." Again, in 1682, another retour appears in favour of Mr Robert Reid, son and heir of the

Rev. Robert Reid, minister of Banchory Ternan, for the "lands and dominical lands of Balnakettle, the plough land of Garden Plough, lands of Strathnossen, Skair, and manor place of Balnakettle in the Barony of Balmain, &c." The Rev. Robert Reid of Birnies and Balnakettle was a grandson of Robert Reid, also minister of Banchory Ternan, who succeeded his father, James Reid, the first Protestant minister of that parish after the Reformation. James Reid had other distinguished sons: Thomas, Greek and Latin secretary to James VI.; Alexander, physician to Charles I., who left a large bequest to his native parish; James, a surgeon and an fcminent Latin scholar; Adam, minister of Methlick; and three daughters. The Rev. Robert Reid of Balnakettle had two sons: Robert of Balnakettle, and Thomas, who married Jane Burnett of the House of Leys. One of their sons was Robert, minister of Banchory, and another, Lewis, minister of Strachan, of whose first family was Thomas Reid, D.D. (1710-96), the famous Moral Philosopher. Margaret, a daughter in the second family, married in 1763 the Rev. Alexander Leslie (a descendant of the House of Rothes), minister of Durris and afterwards of Fordoun. They had seven sons and four daughters. Their eldest son was the much respected Dr. James Leslie, minister of Fordoun, who died in 1858 at Stonehaven, in his ninety-fifth year. Their fourth and only married son, Alexander, had by his wife Jane, daughter of Sir William Seton, Bart, of Pitmedden, a sou Alexander Leslie of Birkwood, Banchory Ternan, who had by his wife Johanna, daughter of George Hogarth of Woodhill, three sons and two daughters, and died in 1862. The younger daughter is Grace-Anna Leslie of Birkwood, who married Alexander R. Paterson, M.D., M.R.C.P. Of their family of two sons and two daughters, the youngest is Hilda-Maud Paterson, who favoured the author with Sir Walter Scott's letter, which will appear in chap xix.

So far as is known the next owner of Balnakettle, whether by heirship or purchase, was William Strachan, son of Charles Strachan of Balgays. In a Presbytery Minute of 1702 he appears as heritor of. Balnakettle, and in another of 1704 his son Alexander as that of Littlestrath. William Strachan died in 1722; and shortly thereafter the lands were acquired by Dame Elizabeth Trent, widow of Sir James Falconer of Phesdo, a Lord of Session, who died in 1705. At her death, in 1748, their son John took possession. Lady Phesdo interested herself in parish affairs, and specially in the condition of the poor. A Kirk Session entry, in 1735, bears that she sent a request, with a donation, to summon a James Mitchell for " scandalous language to Captain Gordon at Arnhall." In 1766, a kinsman, James Falconer of Monkton, son-in-law of David, fifth Earl of Kintore, was served heir and took possession of Balnakettle and Littlestrath. In his absence, Sir Alex. Ramsay Irvine acted the part of resident landlord; and the tenants were bound in terms of their leases to perform services to him, like his own tenants. James Falconer of Monkton died in 1779, and his brother Peter succeeded. He died in 1797, and left the two estates to his cousin John, Viscount Arbuthnott. They continued to form parts of the Arbuthnott estates till 1852, when Balnakettle was sold for £8500 to the late David Scott, builderr Montrose, and Littlestrath for £1000 to the late Rev. Dr. Pirie, principal of Aberdeen University. In course of a year or two the late Sir Thomas Gladstone acquired Littlestrath, and at a latter date Balnakettle. Their addition to Fasque estate makes it one unbroken stretch of territory.

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