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The Scottish Nation

BLACKADDER, a surname derived from lands on the stream of that name in the Merse division of Berwickshire. The true meaning of the word is Blackwater, – adder, from the Cambro-British awedur, signifying ‘a running water.’ When applied to the stream, the word is usually pronounced, and sometimes written, Blackater.

      There was an ancient family named Blacader, or Blackadder, who possessed the lands of Tulliallan in Perthshire. The ruins of the old castle of Tulliallan, which formerly belonged to them, are still standing. The modern castle of that name belongs to the baroness Keith, by marriage Countess Flahaut in France.

      The original family was Blackadder of that ilk in Berwickshire, who distinguished themselves in the Border feuds so early as the minority of James the Second, towards the middle of the fifteenth century. They received the lands whence they derived their name from that monarch, conferred as a reward for defending the eastern frontier against the incursions of the English. Beatrice, eldest daughter of one of the two portioners of Robert Blackadder of Blackadder, married John Home, fourth of the seven sons of Sir David Home of Wedderburn, so well known in border song as “the seven spears of Wedderburn,” and thereby got the estate of Blackadder.

      This marriage, however, was brought about in a very violent manner on the part of the Homes, with the view of acquiring the lands of Blackadder, having, by rapacity and fraud, appropriated to themselves, in course of time, the greater part of Berwickshire. The person on whom James the Second conferred the lands, and who from them took the surname of Blackadder, as a reward for military services, was named Cuthbert, styled the “Chieftain of the South.:” The royal grant is dated in 1452. On his expeditions against the English who crossed the borders for plunder he was accompanied by his seven sons who, from the darkness of their complexion, were called the “Black band of the Blackadders.” [Writs of the Family, quoted in Crichton’s Life of the Reb. John Blackadder.] When the country required to be put in a posture of defence against the preparations of Edward the Fourth, the Blackadders raised a body from among their kindred and retainers, the Elliots, Armstrongs, Johnstons, and other hardy and warlike borderers to the number of two hundred and seventeen men, all accounted with jack and spear. Their castle, a fortress of some strength, was planted with artillery, and furnished with a garrison of twenty soldiers. [Ibid. Redpath’s Border History.] Cuthbert and his sons joined the train of adventurers from Scotland, who had embarked in the wars of York and Lancaster, marshalling themselves under the banner of the Red Rose, and fighting for the earl of Richmond, afterwards Henry the Seventh, at Bosworth, where the father and three of his sons were left dead on the field. Andrew, the eldest of the surviving brothers, succeeded to the barony of Blackadder. Robert and Patrick entered into holy orders. The former became prior of Coldingham, the latter was made dean of Dunblane. The fourth brother, William, remained in England, where he obtained a title and opulent possessions. [Writs of the Family of Blackadder.] In memorial of their services at Bosworth, King James granted the family permission to carry on their shield the roses of York and Lancaster. It was afterwards quartered with the house of Edmonstone; field, azure; cheveron, argent; upper left hand, gules; crest, a dexter hand holding a broadsword; motto, ‘Courage helps fortune.’

      Andrew Blackadder, the proprietor of the estate, married a daughter of the house of Johnston of Johnston, ancestor of the earls of Annandale, and had two sons, Robert and Patrick. Robert, the elder son, espoused Alison Douglas, fourth daughter of George, Master of Angus, and sister of Archibald, earl of Angus. He followed the standard of the Douglases at Flodden in 1513, and was slain with his father-in-law and two hundred gentlemen of the name of Douglas, on that disastrous field, leaving a widow and two daughters, Beatrix and Margaret, who, at the time, were mere children [Redpath’s Border History.] Of Patrick, the younger son, described as a man of chivalry, who obtained by marriage the estate of Tulliallan in Perthshire, the succeeding paragraph gives an account. From the unprotected state of Robert’s daughters, the Homes of Wedderburn formed the design of seizing the lands of Blackadder, and the way in which they succeeded in their villainous project is but too illustrative of the manners of those rude times to be omitted, especially as by it the patrimonial estate of the Blackadders was for ever wrested from the rightful owners. They began by cutting off all within their reach, whose affinity was dreaded as an hereditary obstacle. They attacked Robert Blackadder, the prior of Coldingham, at the village of Lamberton, while following the sports of the chase, and assassinated him and six of his attendants. [Leslie’s Hist. of Scotland. p. 389. History of the Homes.] His brother, the dean of Dunblane, shared the same fate. Various others were despatched in a similar manner. Patrick Blackadder, the cousin of the late prior, endeavoured to obtain the priory of Coldingham; but on the active interference of the Homes, it was bestowed on William Douglas, brother of the earl of Angus. They now assaulted the castle of Blackadder, where the widow and her two young daughters resided. The garrison refused to surrender, but the Homes succeeded in obtaining possession of the fortress, and seized the widow and her children, compelling them to marriage by force. Sir David Home of Wedderburn married the widow. The two daughters were contracted to his brothers, John and Robert, in 1518, and as they were then only in their eighth year, they were confined, by John Home, in the castle of Blackadder till they came of age. [Douglas’ Peerage, vol. ii. p. 174.] The estate however, had been entailed in the male line, and should have passed to Sir John Blackadder, then baron of Tulliallan, the cousin and tutor of the ladies, as nearest heir of tailzie. But the Homes, who obtained the sanction of the earl of Angus to marry his nieces, refused to quit possession of the lands, or deliver up the fortress. Sir John applied to the legislature for redress against them: but at that period there was no regular administration in Scotland, and both parties had recourse to the sword. During the long minority of James the Fifth, they were involved in mutual hostilities. Sir John Blackadder was beheaded in March 1531 for the murder of James Inglis, abbot of Culross, “because, when he was absent at Edinburgh, the said abbot gave ane tack above his head to the Lord Erskine of the lands of Balgownie.” Happening to meet with him on his return, he resolved to be avenged. Both parties being of equal number, about sixteen horse, a rencontre took place, ‘at the Lonhead of Rosyth, near Culross,’ which ended in the slaughter of the abbot. Patrick, archdeacon of Glasgow, succeeded his brother in Tulliallan. He held also, by the king’s special commission, the wardenship of Blackadder, to which he had been appointed, under warrant and command from the governor of Scotland. While archdeacon he had authority granted him by the Pope, in 1510, to visit all kirks and monasteries within the bounds of the see of Glasgow. He got also, in 1521, the priory of Coldingham, (which William Douglas had forcibly held,) by the king’s seal, with consent of the duke of Albany, protector and governor of Scotland. In this office, he was succeeded by his brother, Adam Blackadder, abbot of Dundrennan in Galloway; the first worth two thousand pounds, the latter one thousand pounds a-year. For bearing Sir Patrick’s expenses in travelling to France to procure these appointments from Albany, who was there at the time, the said Adam bound himself to pay three thousand pounds; for which he gave in pledge two massy silver cups, till the dept was discharged. [Writs of the Family, quoted in Crichton’s Life of the Rev. John Blackadder.] Sir Patrick renewed the process against the Homes, for the recovery of Blackadder. Under pretence of submitting the dispute to friends, to have all differences settled in an amicable way, the Homes appointed a day to meet Sir Patrick at Edinburgh. Thither accordingly he repaired, without suspicion of treachery, having received warrant of safe convoy from Archibald, earl of Angus, under the great seal, and accompanied by a small retinue of domestics, fifteen or sixteen horsemen, who usually rode in his train, but was clandestinely waylaid by a body of fifty horse, that lay in ambush near the Dean, within a mile of Edinburgh. Being well-mounted, he made a gallant charge, and broke through the ambuscade, killing several with his own hand. Overpowered with numbers he fled, taking the road towards the West Port, fiercely pursued. On approaching the city, he was surprised by a fresh troop of horse, secretly posted in a hollow, where St. Cuthbert’s church now stands. These joining in the pursuit, he made the best of his speed to gain the entrance by the Nether Bow, or the Canongate; but before he could reach the ford of the Loch a party of foot sallied out from another placer of concealment to intercept him. Finding himself beset on all hands, he ventured to take the North Loch, near to the place called Wallace’s tower (properly Wellhouse tower) on the Castle brae, when his horse becoming embogged, he and all his attendants were basely murdered. This was in the year 1526. Hume of Godscroft has recorded this affray, [Hist. of House of Angus, vol. ii. p. 86,] but he makes the archdeacon the aggressor. This was the last attempt that the Blackadders made to obtain redress. The estate of Blackadder, of which they were thus fraudulently dispossessed remained in the family of Home. Both Hume and Buchanan, mistakenly, call Patrick archdeacon of Dunblane instead of Glasgow, and the brother of Robert heir of Blackadder, whereas he was his nephew.

      As above stated, Sir Patrick, younger son of Andrew Blackadder, acquired the lands of Tulliallan in Perthshire, by his marriage with Elizabeth, one of the daughters and coheirs of Sir James Edmonstone of Edmonstone. Her dowery was only half the lands, but Sir Walter Ogilvy, who had married her younger sister, “excambed his moiety with Sir Patrick, in 1493, for the thanedom of Boyne.” Robert Blackadder, his son, was, in 1480, being then at Rome, with a public character from King James the Third, consecrated bishop of Aberdeen by Pope Sixtus the Fourth. In 1484 he was translated to the bishopric of Glasgow. He had so much favour at Rome that he obtained from the Pope the erection of the see of Glasgow into an archbishopric. He was frequently employed in the public transactions of the period with the English, and particularly in the year 1505. With the earl of Bothwell, and Andrew Forman, prior of Pittenweem, he negotiated the marriage between King James the Fourth and Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry the Seventh, which laid the foundation for the union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England. He stood, likewise, with the earl of Bothwell, godfather to the young prince, who did not long survive. The archbishop died in 1508, while on a journey to the Holy Land [Keith’s Scottish Bishops, p. 254.]

      In the Appendix to Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials, (vol. i. part i. page 100,) under date August 18, 1499, there is a ‘Remission to Andro Blacatar of that Ilk and Niniane Nesbit, for the forthocht felony done be thaim apone Philip Nesbit of Wester Nesbit, and Johne, his brother, Patrick Nesbit in Mongois Wall, &c. And for the cruell slauchter of umquhile the said John Nesbit, and Philip Nesbit in Mongois Wall, apone forthocht felony committit: And for the spulzeing of thair gudis, &c. And of all crimes that in onywise may be imput to thaim for the committing of the said slauchter and forthocht felony, in the kingis palace and residence, quhare his heines was personallie present.’ In the same valuable work [Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials, vol. i., part i., p. 41] is given in full, a special respite, granted by James the Fourth, on 28th August, 1504, in favour of the ‘men, kin, tenentis, factouris, and servandis of Robert, archbishop of Glasgow, (then about to proceed to Rome on the king’s business,) and especially for the slauchter of umquhile Thomas Ruthirfurde within the abbaye of Jedworthe.’ Among the persons mentioned in the said ‘Respuyt,’ as taken under the special protection of the king in the archbishop’s absence, are ‘Andro Blacader of that ilk, Schirris Johne Forman of Ruthirfurde, Baldrede Blacader, knychtes; Adam Blacader, Charlis Blacader, Dame Elizabeth Edmonstoune lady of Tunnyallane, Patrick Blacader hir sone and aire, Margaret Blacader lady of Carnschallo, Johne Maxwel hir sone and aire, Master Johne Blacader, Persone of Kirpatrick-Flemyng, Schir Patrik Blacader, Persone of Ranpatrik, Robert Blacader, sone and apperand air to Andro Blacader of that ilk,’ &c.

      The name properly should be Blackader, but according to modern orthograpy it is usually spelled with two ds. Besides the noble family of Angus, the house of Blackadder formed intermarriages with the family of Graham, earls of Menteith, and Bruce of Clackmannan, whose line still survives in the earls of Elgin and Kincardine. “They espoused the part of the unfortunate Mary, and sided with the cavaliers in the parliamentary wars of Charles the First. There was a cadet of this family in the Spanish service, under Ludovie, earl of Crawford, and another served with Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden , in his campaigns for the relief of the distressed protestants in Germany. One of their last lineal representatives raised a body of troops, and joined the earl of Glencairn, who, with some of the Highland chiefs, in 1653, assembled a considerable force in the north to repel the usurpations of Cromwell.” [Crichton’s Life and Diary of Col. J. Blackadder, p. 15.]

      The estate and castle of Tulliallan continued to be possessed by the Blackadders for five generations. The next baron after Sir Patrick was John. In 1532 he undertook a pilgrimage, probably to expiate his father’s sacrilege, and during his stay beyond seas, King James granted a warrant of protection to all his domestics, tenants and vassals. He adhered to the interests of the ill-fated queen Mary, and an insurrection having taken place of some of the nobles who were discontented at her marriage with Darnley, she addressed a letter to him, with her own hand, “to meet her at Stirling, on the 13th of August, 1565, with his kin, friends, and household, to pursue the rebels, [as they were called,] who had directed their march southward.” Disagreeing among themselves, however, the insurgent nobles durst not hazard an engagement with the queen’s forces, but fled from Edinburgh, and took their way through Biggar to Dumfries, “the king all the while dogging them at their heels.” This was called the Runaway Raid, or Wild Goose Chase. [Hist. of the House of Angus, vol. ii. page 155.] John Blackadder’s son, Captain William Blackadder, was with the queen’s army at Langside. After that event he was taken and executed, being also accused of having been concerned in the murder of Darnley. With three others, he was drawn backward on a cart to the cross of Edinburgh, and there hanged and quartered, on the 24th of June 1567. Roland Blackadder, subdean of Glasgow, was a younger brother of John. The next laird of Tulliallan was James Blackadder, who married Alison, daughter of Bruce of Clackmannan. His only son inherited his estate about 1602. The latter married Elizabeth Bruce of Balfouls, by whom he had Sir John Blackadder, born in 15906. He was, in 1626, created a baronet of Nova Scotia – a dignity which none of his posterity ever enjoyed. Being of a wasteful and extravagant turn he impoverished his estate, and retired to the Continent. He bore a commission for some time in the French guards, and died in America about 1651. He married Elizabeth Graham, daughter of John, sixth earl of Menteith, and had two sons and a daughter, Marriott, married to Laurence, eldest son of Laurence Oliphany, Esq. of Condie, Perthshire.

      To the title of baronet, the Reb. John Blackadder, the subject of the immediately succeeding memoir, lived to be the lineal heir, having survived all nearer claimants, but as the prodigality of its first possessor had reduced it to an empty honour, it was never assumed either by himself or any of his descendants. He was of a younger branch of the Tulliallan family, who possessed the lands and barony of Blairhall near Culross. His grandfather, Adam Blackadder of Blairhall, married Helen, daughter of the celebrated Robert Pont, minister of St. Cuthbert’s, near Edinburgh, and one of the last of the clerical order that sat as a Lord of Session. The only fruit of this marriage was John, father of the Rev. John Blackadder, minister of Troqueer. The minister himself had seven children, five sons and two daughters.

      The eldest son, William, was born in 1647, and studied medicine. In 1665, he was sent to the University of Edinburgh. He was present at Bothwell Brig, and took an active part in that affair. He graduated at Leyden in Holland in 1680. In 1685 he returned to Scotland with the earl of Argyle in his unfortunate expedition, and was taken prisoner on his landing at Kirkwall in Orkney. After he had been more than a year in prison, a remission came down from London in his favour, and he was set at liberty, on which he proceeded to Holland, where he remained till 1688, some weeks before the prince of Orange came over. In the month of August that year, he and Colonel Cleland were sent to Scotland, to prepare the way for the Prince’s landing in the subsequent November. Having imprudently ventured up to the castle of Edinburgh, to see one Captain Mackay, a patient of his, he was apprehended by the duke of Gordon, the governor of the castle. After being subjected to several examinations before a committee of the council, on rumours of the prince of Orange’s invasion reaching Edinburgh, he was set at liberty, without being put to the torture, though it was frequently threatened. After the Revolution Dr. Blackadder was appointed physician to King William, and died, without issue, about the year 1704.

      The second son, Adam, was bred to the mercantile profession in Stirling, and in the month of November 1674, while yet an apprentice, was, with several others, apprehended for not subscribing the black bond, as it was called, and for attending conventicles. His brother, Dr. Blackadder, presented a petition to the council, and after some time obtained his freedom. He was twice afterwards imprisoned, once in Fife, and another time in Blackness. The latter was for being at his father’s preaching at Borrowstounness, where he baptized twenty-six children. He was afterwards a merchant in Sweden, where he resided for about nine years, and married a Swedish woman, whom he converted from Lutheranism to Calvinism, on account of which he was obliged to fly with her from her country, escaping with great difficulty, it being at that time death in Sweden for a native Swede to turn either Catholic or Calvinist. About the end of 1684 he returned to Scotland, and settled in Edinburgh. He wrote an account of his father’s sufferings, which he transmitted to the historian Wodrow, and some political tracts concerning the Darien expedition, and the state of parties in Scotland. The late Mr. John Blackadder, accountant-general of excise, was his grandson.

      Robert, the third son, studied theology at the university of Utrecht, where he died in 1689.

      Thomas, the fourth son, appears also to have been a merchant. He went to New England shortly after his father’s imprisonment, and died in Maryland before his father.

      The fifth and youngest son was named John after himself, and became a lieutenant-colonel in the army. His Life and Diary, by Andrew Crichton, the biographer of his father, was published at Edinburgh in 1824. He was born at Bardennoch, in the parish of Glencairn, Dumfries-shire, September 14, 1664. He very early evinced a religious disposition, and at the age of twelve is said to have partaken of the Lord’s Supper. He entered the army in 1689, in his twenty-fifth year, as a cadet, at sixpence a-day, in the regiment (now the 26th of the Line), raised at the Revolution by the Cameronians, under the command of the earl of Angus, only son of the marquis of Douglas, of which the accomplished soldier and poet, William Cleland, was the lieutenant-colonel. In less that two months he became lieutenant. He was engaged in the affair at Dunkeld, 21st August 1689, when the Cameronians were attacked by the Highlanders, and in which their gallant lieutenant-colonel, Cleland, fell, an interesting account of which, in a letter to his brother, written on the spot, was printed in the periodical papers of the time, and is inserted in Crichton’s Life and Diary of Col. Blackadder, (pp. 102-105.). On this occasion the Highlanders, victorious at Killiecrankie in the previous month, were signally defeated and repulsed. It is stated that an attempt was made by Colonel Cannan, their commander, to induce the Highlanders to renew their attack on the Cameronian regiment, but they declined, for this reason, that although still ready to fight with men, they would not again encounter devils. [Life and Diary of Colonel Blackadder, p. 98.] Blackadder afterwards accompanied his regiment aborad, and gradually rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He served with distinguished honour under the great duke of Marlborough in the wars of Queen Anne. He was present at the battles of Donawert, Blenheim, Ramilies, and most of the engagements of that celebrated campaign. He was a member of the General Assembly in 1716, and died deputy-governor of Stirling castle in 1729. He had the character of a brave soldier and a devout Christian.

      One of Mr. Blackadder’s daughters died young in Glencairn. The other, Elizabeth, married, in 1687, a Mr. Young, a writer in Edinburgh. Having fallen into difficulties, he went to London, with a design to improve his circumstances. While there he wrote an excellent consolatory letter to his wife in Edinburgh, which has often been printed under the title of ‘Faith Promoted, and Fears Prevented, from a proper view of affliction as God’s rod.’ Mrs. Young appears to have been a lady of remarkable piety and superior learning. She kept a diary or ‘Short Account of the Lord’s providence towards her,’ which gives a summary of the memorable events of her life from 1700 until 1724. She died in 1732. The descendants of her family still survive. – Crichton’s Memoirs of the Rev. John Blackadder. 

BLACKADDER, JOHN, an eminent minister of the Church of Scotland, was born in 1615. He was the representative, as above-stated, of the Blackadders of Tulliallan, and the grand nephew of the celebrated topographer Timothy Pont. He studied divinity in Glasgow, under the eye of his mother’s brother, Principal Strang of that university. Having been duly licensed, in 1652 he received a call to the parish church of Troqueer, in the neighbourhood of Dumfries. In 1662, when episcopacy was attempted to be forced on Scotland, Mr. Blackadder, in his sermons on several Sundays, energetically exposed its unlawfulness, and, to use his own phrase, “entered his dissent in heaven” against it. In consequence of this, and the refusal of the presbytery of Dumfries to celebrate, by order of parliament, the anniversary of the Restoration, he and some of his brethren were conducted to Edinburgh, by a troop of fifty horse sent for the purpose; but after a few examinations, he soon obtained his liberty. An episcopal incumbent having got possession of his charge, he and his wife, who was a Miss Haning, daughter of a merchant in Dumfries, and their numerous family, went to reside at Caitloch, in the parish of Glencairn, where he occasionally preached to large assemblages of people; which coming to the knowledge of the authorities, he was obliged once more to remove. For several years after this he seems to have led a wandering life, preaching in the fields wherever he could get it done without molestation. His exertions were not confined to Dumfries-shire or Galloway, but extended to almost every county south of the Tay. There was scarcely a hill, we are told, a moor or a glen in the southern and western districts of Scotland, where he did not hold a conventicle, or dispense the sacrament. In these excursions he was frequently the companion and coadjutor of Welsh, Peden, Cargill, and other undaunted Covenanters, who in the face of peril and the sword unflinchingly maintained the right and the liberty of the national worship.

      In 1670, having conducted divine worship at a place near Dunfermline, where the people had armed themselves in self-defence, he was summoned before the privy council, but did not obey the citation. When the search for him had become a little relaxed, he renewed the custom of preaching wherever opportunity offered. On one particular occasion he delivered a sermon at Kinkell, near St. Andrews; when, notwithstanding the injunctions of Archbishop Sharp, the people all flocked to hear him. It is stated that when Sharp desired the provost to march out the militia, to disperse the congregation, he was told it was impossible, as the militia had gone there already as worshiper. In 1674 Blackadder was outlawed, and a reward of a thousand merks offered for his apprehension. In 1680 he proceeded to Holland, and settled his eldest son at the university of Leyden, to graduate as a doctor of medicine. After a few months’ absence he returned to Scotland, and in 1681 was arrested in his own house at Edinburgh, and confined in the state prison on the Bass Rock, where he remained about four years. His health being much impaired by the dampness and closeness of his place of confinement, his friends applied to government for his liberation, but unwilling to grant him his release, it was at first proposed to remove him to the jail either of Haddington or Dunbar. At length he was offered his freedom, with permission to reside at Edinburgh, on condition of his granting a bond for five thousand merks. So much delay, however, took place, that, before he could regain his liberty, he sunk under the cruel hardships to which he as subjected, among which “hope deferred” was not one of the least. He died in the prison of the Bass in December 1685, in his 70th year, and was buried in North Berwick churchyard. His cell in the Bass is still pointed out to the visitor. Of his children an account has been given in the preceding article. Blackadder’s Life, by Dr. Andrew Crichton, was published in 1823.

Blackadder in the Dictionary of National Biography

Memoirs of the Rev. John Blackader
Compiled chiefly from unpublished manuscripts, and memoirs of his life and ministry written by himself while prisoner on the Bass; and containing illustrations of the Episcopal persecution from the restoration to the death of Charles II. With an appendix giving a short account of the history and siege of the Bass, &c. by Andrew Crichton (1823)

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