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Early History of the Lidderdales


1. Preface
2. Coast of Arms
3. A Border Family
4. James Lidderdale Goes To Galloway
5. Lidderdale of Isle, so called Persecutor
6. Loss of the Isle
7. His Case

Reprinted from: Robert Halliday Lidderdale, An Account of the Lowland Scots Family of Lidderdale, 1950 unpublished manuscript.

1. Preface

No better apologia for a genealogy has been given than by Anthony Wagner, the Richmond Herald, in his brief and pleasant book "Heraldry in England" (King Penguins), who says of Switzerland "Their doctrine would seem to be that Heraldry and the pursuit of pedigrees are valuable because they foster self respect, family unity and feeling for past benefits, which can and should be shared by all of us."

It was pointed out to the writer that in old families, about once in a century, a member, becoming interested, gathers what can be salved about it for those coming after.

Much interest has been shown by distaff descent and letters and papers have been lent embodying painstaking research which has greatly helped. Mrs. Lawrence lent papers, the result of her husband, the late Lieutenant Colonel G. H. Lawrence's, valuable work on our tree. Mrs. Scarlett-Smith, whose husband the Revd. Lidderdale Smith is descended from Dr. James Lidderdale and Frances Haddock, gave much help in trying to trace the Doctor's ancestry and about his career set out in this account. W.K.Lidderdale had a contemporary news sheet with a most interesting paragraph about this elusive Dr. James and he also handed over other useful papers.

In an earlier attempt the writer regretted the seeming impossibility of locating the family papers of Thomas William Lidderdale of the British Museum who wrote our history for M'Kerlie. Fortunately, and quite by chance, they were found to be in the possession of William Robertson Lidderdale-Forrest of Ewell, who, much interested, kindly supplied copies of letters, a tree of early Lidderdales compiled by Thomas William Lidderdale in the eighteen fifties and approved by the Lyon Clerk of that time. Finally, before he died, he read the proofs of this account, incidentally adding to our knowledge and eliminating errors.

Lilias Dawson had the correspondence between the Rt. Hon. William Lidderdale and General Halliday which makes plain the Halliday Connection. Alexa Carter's recollections of tradition and recent history of the family proved very useful; born Lidderdale she is the oldest in the family and has a good memory. Aubrey Douglas Lidderdale wrote two letters containing his own observations and the result of his grandfather's researches when visiting Kirkcudbright. His grandfather had visited Galloway with his son Eustace, Aubrey Douglas's uncle, who had lent him some papers. Those two letters, perhaps more than anything else, caused the beginning of this account. Edward Wadsworth Lidderdale had been to Dryburgh Abbey with his son David and his notes have helped to begin the straightening out of our connection with the Abbey.

The first of the family to try to clear up our tree was Dr. Robert, Lilias's father, and very useful his work has been but it lacked much discovered later.

Ann Lidderdale, Henry Maxwell's wife, lent useful letters which added to our knowledge of Dr. Thomas Lidderdale and his wife Susan Hepburn, the daughter of his partner. They must have liked Scots doctors in Kings Lynn where he practised.

The few letters quoted at length are of great interest. One shows William Robertson Lidderdale, son of Dr. Thomas's elder brother John, to have been a great horseman and an intelligent man of the world.

Education, being of universal interest, comes next. No first class or interesting academic honours have been gained in the last century. But the following notes on members closely related to the writer will give some idea of the general level of education attained by them.

The sons of Charles Sillem Lidderdale went to Uppingham, one grandson, Halliday Adair, to Bradfield with an Exhibition and on to Magdalen, Oxford, with a demiship, the other, Tancred William Halliday, to Haileybury.

Jane Hester and Patience Mary, Halliday Adair's sisters, went to St. Felix School, Southwold, and Jane went on to the Society of Oxford Home Students (the first women's college) at Oxford. Charles's brother William's sons all went to Winchester and three of the four went on to Oxford, Edward and Henry Maxwell to New College and Alan to Balliol. His other brother Francis Frederick's sons and grandsons were all at Charterhouse. Francis John, his eldest, entered Trinity, Cambridge, going on to Guy's. He became an M.D. and practised at Folkestone.

Dr. Robert's grandson, William Yelverton Lidderdale Dawson, was at the Imperial Service College, now amalgamated with Haileybury, from which he passed sixth direct into Woolwich. On demobilization he entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, taking his Tripos in Mechanical sciences

Perhaps the most important book consulted was Peter Handyside M'Kerlie's "History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway". As it is certain that Thomas William Lidderdale wrote our history for the book no detailed acknowledgement has been made. He was proud of being, in his time, head of the family, for he mentions it. He would be glad that interest had revived and that he had helped.

Concerning the descendants of the Robert, who fled to Ireland in 1688, a difficulty faces the researcher in the destruction of records in the Irish Rebellions and the lack of a well known Genealogical Society, such as that which functions in Edinburgh so helpfully.

If surprise is expressed at the amount of information salved a little reflection will show there is still much to be done or attempted. Research still continues and occasionally is crowned with some success, such as the help given by Mr G.E.Paterson, Curator of the Stewartry Museum, Kirkcudbright, who lent copies of its earliest records, thus bringing to light much of interest now recorded. This enabled the writer to add two members of the family to the "Account" and amend the Genealogical deduction of Thomas William Lidderdale giving the succession of Lidderdale lairds of the Isle. This was accurate except in one instance which had to be altered very little. Many of the earliest members stand out more clearly because of this welcome help.

2. Coat of Arms

The The family's earliest possession is the Coat of Arms. It is not known when, or for what service, the grant was made but there is no question of its antiquity. It is unofficially acknowledged by an Albany Herald, Lieutenant Colonel Wellesley Haigh, in a note (page 234) in Major Jarvis's book "Yesterday and today in Sinai". The note draws attention to some shields, cut in outline on the walls of a monastery in Sinai, carved at the time of one of the Crusades. One of the shields displays a chevron with detail lacking which, he explained, might belong to any of certain families, including the Scots family of Lidderdale.

The Coat of Arms is a chevron ermine on a field azure. The Crest is proper an eagle's head erased. The motto is " Foresight is all ". The helmet wreath is, of course, in the predominating colours of the shield - azure and argent or blue and white.

Notes: Proper means the proper colour, in this case of the native golden eagle. Erased means torn off and not severed with a clean cut.

Fairbairn (most good silversmiths have the book) gives the Lidderdale Crest in Vol. 2, Plate 82.2. Fox-Davies describes it and the Coat of Arms but does not illustrate them on page 995. The eagle's beak is closed.

Early Armorial bearings are simple as they had to be easily recognised on the field of battle. It is held by a few that ermine denotes service to the crown.

With little difference Alexander Nisbet in his book "A System of Heraldry", 2nd edition, Edinburgh 1814, Volume 2, page 10, says of Thomas, son of Robert, deceased, of St. Mary's Isle in Scotland, "Bears arms azure a chevron ermine within a bordure engrailed argent. Crest proper an eagle's head erased." But the motto is "Quo Belle qui Providit", instead of the older motto. The writer has been told that any branch of a family may have a motto of its own choosing. For example, each branch of the Lawrence of India family has the same shield but a different motto.

When the Right Honourable William Lidderdale was presented with the freedom of the City of London in a gold casket, his Coat of Arms was emblazoned on it in enamel. Before this could be done he had to prove his title to it. His right was upheld and allowed - with a bordure - this is according to Alexander Nesbit's Heraldry.

The Arms and motto of the Lidderdales are carved on the table tomb over Thomas and his son David in the Galtway Burial Ground enclosure near Kirkcudbright which is walled, being entered by a door. The door is not locked, and is of iron. Mr Montgomery, of Banks Farm, kindly allows his foreman, Mr Kennedy, to keep an eye on the enclosure.

Lidderdale tomb, Galtway, Scotland
Photograph of the Galtway Burial Ground courtesy of Sophie Murray of Cumbria, England (Sophie standing next to the gate).

Thomas had matriculation of his arms at the Lyon Court in 1672.

In the Kirkyard are buried Carsanes, Maxwells, MacClellans and others of the old families round about. It is two miles from Kirkcudbright.

M'Kerlie's book says Thomas William Lidderdale, as representative of the family (which he was in his day), owned the burial place in the Kirkyard.

On the walls of the family burial enclosure in Galtway Kirkyard are tablets to the memory of the following members of the family mostly buried there.


and underneath has been added

Here lies David Lidde
of Torrs son to
the above Thomas who
died 21st Apl 1732 Aetat 57

Only the "7" is decipherable of Thomas's age. The Coat of Arms is carved on the tomb, with the motto, without difference, as Thomas was the undoubted head of the family.

The tomb is mentioned in the report of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of Scotland, paragraph 260, p. 142. It points out that the lower part of the tomb has been pared away for David's inscription and the photo confirms it. There is no border or bordure on the shield.

The tablets on the walls record:

- JOHN LIDDERDALE of Castle Milk, son of David of Torrs, died 10th August 1777, aged 64.
- His son WILLIAM ROBERTSON LIDDERDALE died 8th July 1814., aged 69.
- His daughters:
- ELEANORA died 30th May 1824, aged 19.
- ELIZABETH died 20th August, 1827, aged 24.
- MARGARET died 28th October 1868, aged 74.
- THOMAS youngest son of John Lidderdale of Castle Milk, Dumfries, who died at Ambergis Bay [Ambergris Cay] of Honduras, 28th December 1777 [should be 1799] aged 39.
- THOMAS ROBERTSON who died at Appleby, Westmorland, 15th May 1852, aged 67 and his only surviving son.
- THOMAS WILLIAM who died on his way to the British Museum Library where he was on the staff, his death taking place in a chemist's shop on 4th September 1884, when he was 54.

In Kirkcudbright Kirkyard a tombstone records the burial of William of Castlemains (or Dykes), Elizabeth Wright, his wife, and most of their family.

Neither on this tombstone nor the tablets is there crest or heraldic device.

In the possession of Eustace Henry Lidderdale is a piece of embroidery, framed, showing the Lidderdale arms impaling those of Hannay of Blairinnie. It is a small and beautifully fine piece of work and, what is s important, accurate. The impalement records the marriage of James Lidderdale to Jane, daughter of James Hannay of Lochbank, Castle Douglas.

Perhaps the embroiderers did not know about Marks of Cadency, or omitted them because the exact degree of the marks was unknown for one or both families. But there were no such marks although James Lidderdale was not the head of the family and James Hannay was probably not the head of his. In Nisbet's Book, vol.II is a good drawing of the shield showing the engrailled 'border', as he spells it, which is a complete edging of even small scollops. The ermine, according to the practice then, is shown with many small tails. Nisbet had and still has a European reputation in Armory and we should be proud that our arms are in his book. See Chapter 4 of "Lowland Lairds" by James Ferguson for Nisbet's reputation.

The writer, through the kindness of Mrs. Lawrence and her sisters, now owns portraits of Dr. Thomas Lidderdale, M.D., Edinburgh, and his wife Susan Hepburn. The man is said to be by de Nime and his wife, someone suggested to the last owners, was by an artist of the school of Hogarth, both being pleasant and competent works. With the portraits was given a metal plaque of fine workmanship, correct heraldically showing Dr. Thomas' arms, with his mark cadency, a crescent, impaling those of his Hepburn wife.

It may be well to explain, to those who do not know, that impalement records marriages of Armigerous families, when the wife is not an heiress. If an heiress, her arms would be quartered and remain for ever an embellishment on the family shield, whereas impalement does not and is only in use by the persons immediately concerned in their lifetime. The Doctor and his wife had one child, Maria, who died S.P. leaving the portraits to her first cousin Eleanora, daughter of James, a younger brother of Thomas from whom they descended to Elizabeth Ellen Lawrence, wife of Lieutenant Colonel G.H. Lawrence, C.M.G., and her sisters. All three being childless, the portraits and plaque were presented to the writer.

3. A Border Family

It is said, that the earliest traces of the family are in Earlston spelt of old in many ways, one being Yrsyltoune and, more beautifully, Ercildoun in the valley of the Leader Water to the West of Berwickshire.

From the Leader, both the families of Lidderdale and of Lauderdale are said by some to derive their names which is credible but less so was the contention of two members, of the Hamilton family, visiting Rhodes' grave in the Matoppos, when the writer was there on duty, that Lidderdale is a variant of Lauderdale. One of the earliest variants of the name is that of James Lidderdayall, which is splendidly phonetic spelling rather upsets such a theory. He flourished about 1538.

There were family activities on the Border. The History of Dryburgh not only shows the leasing of Abbey land to members of the family, but, in Andrew Lidderdale, gave the Monastery an Abbot (1489-1506) which was, before the Reformation, a high Ecclesiastical appointment.

The family are also mentioned as being active in Selkirk and Hawick as the following shows:

"Precept of Clan Constet to Thomas Lidderdale of the Isle [St. Mary's] by Viscount Drumlanrig of a fourth part of a Merkland of Easter Maynes in Hawick."

The deed is dated 10th February 1630. In it John Lidderdale, leather merchant or currier, appears as representative of Thomas before Viscount Drumlanrig and James Gledstanes, Baillie of Hawick (William Ewart Gladstone, the Prime Minister, came from the border family whose spelling of the name was then Gledstanes). Andrew Lidderdale, currier at the same place and William Lidderdale, currier and burgess of the Burgh of Selkirk testified to the premises.

In a very old book "The Account Book of Foulis of Ravelston" Border people called Lidderdale, thought to be from Galashields, are mentioned as supplying tweed to Foulis for his children.

4. James Lidderdale Goes To Galloway

This is the History of the Foundation of the Priory of the Island of Trail and how Fergus, Great Lord of Galloway, the founder thereof, obtained pardon from King David, and gave that Island and other possessions to the Monastery of Holyrood, and how, having become one of the Religious, he was buried therein.

"When the fabric of the Monastery of Holyrood [It was an Augustinian Foundation], near Edinburgh was progressing under St. David, a most happy monarch, it happened that Fergus, Earl and Great Lord of Galloway, failed in his duty to his Majesty, and committed a grievous fault, of which the King, evidently very angry, determined to put the law in force rigourously against him. This Fergus being much devoted to God, and notwithstanding his accidental fault, always faithful to the King, knowing that the King was most determined in the execution of justice, was very much afraid, and in many ways and by various means endeavouring to regain the King's favour. At length, being inspired by Divine counsel, in a change of habit, and in the most secret manner, he repaired to Alwyn, the Abbot of the Monastery of Holyrood, the King's Confessor and confidential secretary for advice and assistance. The Abbot, therefore, compassionating the aforesaid penitent, Lord Fergus, prayed to God to obtain the Royal favour for him; and because he well knew in this case the King's determination for the execution of justice was inflexible, he was afraid incautiously to intercede in his behalf. At last by the ingenuity of both Fergus and the Abbot, it was contrived that the same Lord Fergus should assume the Cloister Habit of a Canon Regular, and thus, God directing, should obtain, along with his brethren the King's favour, and, at the same time, the pardon of this offence, through supplication under a Religious Habit. Leaving to God their purpose, they wait for a convenient day and hour, with the intention of the Abbot speaking to the King on this matter. One day, as usual while the King was visiting the builders of the famous Monastery, the Abbot at a seasonable moment thus addressed him, 'O most Gracious Prince and Founder, we, though unworthy petitioners and Conventual Chaplains, by reason of the wounds of our transgressions, to be cured only by a spiritual remedy, beg to have often the presence of your Highness in Chapter.' At this the Merciful Prince, highly pleased, enters the Chapter House, when the Brethren were arranged in Order at the hour of meeting, sits down in the middle of the Brethren prostrating themselves to the ground at the entrance. The Abbot thus speaks, 'O Most Gracious Prince, we, the Petitioners of your Highness, confessing our faults that we are guilty and transgressors, most humbly beseech thee, in the bowels of Jesus Christ, that your most benignant Highness would condescend to pardon us and every one of us every fault and offence committed against your Majesty, with a single and unfeigned heart, and at the same time bestow upon us your blessings in order that from the future we may be deserving to mediate and pray for the safety of your Kingdom more holily and devotedly, and that your Highness would be pleased in token to bestow upon every one of us the Kiss of Peace.' The King with a most placid countenance replied, 'Dearly beloved Brethren, I forgive you all charges and commend myself to your prayers;' and immediately rising from his seat and taking the Abbot by the hand, kissed him, saying, 'Peace be to thee, Brother, with the Divine Benediction.'"

The interpretation of this story is that Fergus was involved in the conspiracy of Angus, Earl of Moray, defeated at Strathcare in 1130 by Edward Constable of Scotland, and that all the donations of Fergus to the Church were the price of his escape from punishment and his elevation subsequent to 1138, to the Lordship of Galloway, for all of which he was indebted to the Church, and particularly to the Abbot of 'Sancte Crusis', alias Holyrood. It is strikingly shown by the list of gifts to the Abbey, which consisted of St. Mary of Trail [St. Mary's Isle]...etc.

Pages 174 to 176 of M'Kerlie's History of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway 1878 being a fragment of the Chartulary of Sancte Crusis published by the Bannatyne Club in 1836, the translation being from Gordon's "Monasticon". The extract was selected by Thomas William Lidderdale who was probably responsible for the 'interpretation'.

The site and buildings on the Island formed a delightful combination in a very beautiful setting. However, the building of a new dwelling house nearby in the nineteenth century (since completely burnt out and ruined), no doubt replete with every modern convenience and amenity, makes it impossible for those who love mellow buildings in an unspoilt setting, not to regret such changes. Since then the muniment room, during the 1939-45 war, was burned down with the loss of much that might have been useful to chronicles such as this.

This is how it came into the possession of the family from the owner, Robert Richardson (From Dr. Robert's notes, sources not located yet, but the Revd. William MacKenzie's History of Galloway, page 483, confirms it. Dr. Robert, when a boy, knew the publisher John Nicholson well and said when asked for our history, "If only old John Nicholson were alive!"):-

"In the Parliament of 1560, assembled at Edinburgh, in which the state of religion fell under debate and discussion, among those present (were): Alexander Gordon, Bishop of Galloway, Gilbert Brown, last Lord Abbot of New Abbey, Edward Maxwell, commendator of Dundrennan, Robert Richardson, commendator of St. Mary's Isle. The Earls of Cassilis and Morton with the Master of Maxwell (Queen Mary's favourite Lord Herries), the Barons of Lochinvar (Gordon) and Garlies (Stewart) and some others from Galloway".

Whatever happened, the Reformation came later than in England and was neither so abrupt nor so brutal, as this seems to show:

"Maister Robert Richardson who was presented to the Priory of St. Mary's Isle on the decease of the last Prior, Robert Striveling or Sterling [from whom we believe the Sterling Acres, now a portion of the Burgh, probably received the name]."

"Actually Robert Richardson was first styled usufructuary [one who holds the use end profit but not the Property] when William Rutherford was commendator (one who holds a benefice in commendam, i.e. until a proper pastor is appointed)."

On the 30th March 1551 Robert Richardson was raised to be Treasurer and Master of the Mint. According to M'Kerlie his ambitions were to accumulate money and to found a family, in which he succeeded. He purchased a great deal of land and left it to his two sons, Sir James of Smeaton, and Sir Robert of Pencaitland and to his daughter Katherine, her dowry when she married James Lidderdale.

Robert of Poncaitland's direct descendants persist, the present Baronet being the 16th of that title. Much Highland blood must now flow in that family as the Christian names of the present owner are Ian Rory Stewart Richardson. It is strange to see so many highland names because M'Kerlie says the Lord Treasurer came from Edinburgh.

In one of the manuscripts of the Maitland Club, Edinburgh this is recorded, "on the 7th July 1571, Mr. Robert Richardson, commendator of St. Mary's Isle, James Richardson, his son naturall, James Lidderdale, feuar of St. Mary's Isle and several others, the list being headed by Lord Glammis, had lands forfeited." It is natural to ruminate over this unexplained reverse and to wonder what caused it. Jealousy, justice or was it just a corrective?

About the son "naturall". It is recorded that although Commendator, he was put to open penance in his church for having an illegitimate child. A commendator, however, was not in Holy Orders, but was a superintendent. He died in the same year.

We are all descended from him. He must have been an able, virile man of affairs or he would not have filled the important posts he held. Mary, Queen of Scots, having fled, had abdicated and her son, James VI, was an infant in the care of a Regency under Murray. It was in such circumstances that a charter, giving James possession of the Isle, was granted on the 4th August 1572, and was confirmed by the King on the 4th November 1573.

5. Lidderdale of Isle, so called Persecutor

Thomas Lidderdale, 1630-1687, espoused a losing cause, Charles II's clash with the Calvinistic Covenanters. This movement was hostile to the establishment of an Episcopacy in Scotland, and therefore sympathetic references to him are scarce, even in M'Kerlie.

It is from M'Kerlie this is taken - "In 1681 Thomas Lidderdale, along with Grierson of Lag, held one of the grievous courts at Kirkcudbright, against the Presbyterians. In 1683 he held another court at Twynholm in a severe and overbearing manner." That puts his record as adversely as possible. The movement was an insurrection with all its danger to the state. Remember the Calvinists in the past had demolished the transepts of churches and cathedrals, letting in the weather to begin their ruin, because they were cruciform and therefore idolatrous. They had, as enthusiastically, fought Cromwell's nonconformist new model. Gaining power, the extremists were just as violent, brutal, and severe as their erstwhile persecutors. Both did after the manner of the times.

In the Burgh Treasurer's accounts of 29th May 1684, occurs the following item - "That the time spent at the Croce, with the militia, on one muster day, for Brandie, Bear, Aill, the Laird of the Isle being Lieutenant £10.6.8." "This was at the time Queensberry held his commission for trying...several of the adherents of the covenant and so called disaffected and disorderly at Kirkcudbright and, besides being a lieutenant of the militia, Lidderdale, the Laird of the Isle, was also a Steward substitute under the Earl of Nithsdale, at that time hereditary steward of Kirkcudbright."

"He was thus often called upon, during the frequent visits made by Queensbury, Capt. Douglas, Claverhouse, and others of the regnant powers, when in search of Covenanters, to entertain them, and this he did in the lavish and profuse style, as was common with the Court party."

"His connection with that party caused him like Brown of Bishopston, Maxwell of Newlands, etc., to be regarded as a persecutor and, when the wheel turned round and the Presbyterians came in power, he had sadly reduced his estate."

"One wadset followed another to the Hamiltons, to Herons and to Baldoon, etc. Land had become of no value, some of the farms lying waste and offered at the church door to whoever would pay a small Kane and the taxes. He thus has to part with the Isle, the last of his several possessions."

This is correct. What was uncertain. has been cleared up by the senior, in point of age, of the present generation, Mrs. Alexa M.Carter of Edinburgh. She states, "I do not know much of family affairs but my father (William Halliday Lidderdale of Lochbank) returning, somewhat peeved, from Lard Selkirk's funeral quite clearly stated that the Isle passed from our family owing to the foreclosure of the wadset. This I believe. He also stated that his father was too badly off to Join with Mr. L. of Gretna Hall in going to law. They claimed that the purchase was carried out in the absence of the owners and therefore illegal."

The Mr. L. of Gretna Hall was Captain William Robertson Lidderdale who wrote to James L., Alexa Carter's grandfather, about the wadset on the Isle. It must be remembered that James was a leading solicitor in Galloway. This information is dependable and upsets the contention of Lt. Col. Lawrence that the property was sold in 1725. The important deed over the Isle itself went to Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon in 1672 and passed to his granddaughter heiress who married the progenitor of the Earls of Selkirk.

To sum up about Thomas, it is true that the Calvinists, in their turn, persecuted the Episcopalians. Historians and novelists, on both sides, describe the excesses of the times. Since then, it is well to remember both sides have often intermarried.

The fact remains that Claverhouse, Grierson of Lag and Lidderdale of Isle, were linked together in that order; also, that a Steward Substitute, like a modern Justice of the Peace, could not fail to put the law in action on good and sufficient evidence, if legally directed.

The depth of feeling may be gauged by this account - A Scots Inspector of Schools in Rhodesia said that Lag's grave was just over a kirkyard wall, and the younger members of the congregation, when there was still feeling on the subject, spat on it accurately on their way to kirk. If true, and it probably is, this illustrates a depth of feeling now rightly dying out.

The writer has an open mind about the loss of the Isle, for even if there were irregularities in the foreclosing of the wadset, they could hardly be very gross. But the loss of Torrs and Garrantoun, which seem to have been held after the Isle itself was lost, needs explanation by those holding there were irregularities.

Thomas's mother was Margaret Brown, and at present little is known about her. It is pure conjecture that she may have belonged to the family of Brown of Bishopston, mentioned earlier as a leading "Persecutor " for Thomas's family seem to have been united in aversion to Covenanters. "Phanaticks " Evelyn the Diarist called them.

That is all that has been gathered about Thomas, Laird of the Isle, who, putting loyalty first, lost all in its cause.

There is a tradition, which reached the writer, after he had begun this account, that Thomas and his son, having fled, died abroad, but he lies buried in Gata with his younger son and this seems to disprove it. It may be the rumour rose and spread because Robert, Thomas's brother, fled to Ireland.

In the minute book kept by the War Committee of the Covenanters in the Stawartry of Kirkcudbright in the years 1640-1641, on page 74, is this note taken from the Burgh Records of Kirkcudbright (J. Nicholson's " Minute Book kept by the War Committee of the Covenanters in the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright in the years 1640 and 1641 pub. by him in Kirkcudbright - MDCCCLV.").

"The quhilk day, Thomas Lidderdale of St. Marie's Isle, Stewart deput of the Stewartrioe of Kirkcudbright, presented to Samuel Carmont, and of the Bailzies of the said Burgh, ane order direct from the Lords of his Majesties Privie Counsell Quhairby the said Lords doe ordaine Maister William M'Millan and noter Keiper of field oonventicles, now prisoner in the Tolbooth of the said Burgh of Kirkcudbright to be transported to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh " and so on etc., with instructions to those cancerned to escort the prisoner "from shayer to shayer firstly to the sheriff of Nethisdaill or his deput and to get one ressait of him from them for the said principal steward and his deput their exonerations. As witness their following subscriptions.


That is enough to show Thomas did his duty, an unpopular duty, and so, being on the losing side, suffered, having no one to defend him and explain and point the defects of the victors, which omission more than one modern writer has made good.

Crookett, the novelist, mentions Thomas in, more than one of his novels and, being a perfervid admirer of the Covenanters, does not flatter him, calling him, 'hullion', whatever that may mean; opprobious no doubt.

Thomas rests in Galtway's beautiful kirkyard in the Lidderdale enclosure under his coat of arms. It is peaceful there and the words of passing novelists fade and are forgotten and trouble him not.

6. Loss of the Isle

It is as well to gather available information about the Isle to get some idea of the loss.

According to 'Caledonia', Katherine's dowry consisted of "Two and a half merk land of Torrs, seven and a half merkland of little Galtway, reserving from the last mentioned eight acres of land contiguous to the old church of Galtway for the use of the minister (the glebe of the ancient parish of Galtway)." They had also a nineteen years track, running from Whitsunday 1574, of the tithes, revenues and lands of the parish churches of Galtway and Annoth, also of Kirkmadine and the tithes of the Priory lands etc.

The declared rental at the general assumption of 1561 represents that the Priory was worth £235.4.4. in money, "in meale, oats, bear - 90, 80 and 77 bushels respectively, and that the kirks thereof were Kirkmadyne with St. Mary's Isle called Galtway."

There is also a tax roll in Exchequer of St. Mary's Isle given by James Lidderdale, Prior (the deeds being in the name of the Prior would necessitate that description being continued), in a judicial court in Kirkcudbright 13th October 1630, which contains a full detail of the lands, their annual worth, the names of the various tenants of the same, the taxed value and other details. Then comes, in the quaint phraseology of the time, a charter by the magistrates of Kirkcudbright, with inter alia, details - The grain mill, vulgarly called the new mill of Kirkcudbright, with crofts, mealdices, multures [toll paid to the miller for grinding], the bannock Knaveship [a certain quantity of grain the due of the miller] and all other sucking [or suken, a district round a mill the tenants farming which must grind their corn therein] beside multures and wont of the same.

In the report of the Historical Manuscripts Committee on the St. Mary's Isle papers, a grant dated 1558 in favour of Stephen is mentioned as having been made by Robt. Richardson, probably because Stephen was, or may have been, an uncle of James, Richardson's son-in-law, and a fellow Reformer.

That exhausts all that is known about the Isle. How it was lost follows for there is no reason to doubt William Robertson Lidderdale, son of John of Castle Milk, was correct in his contention, set out in his "case ". (He seems to have used his first name seldom, signing "R" for Robertson. He claimed Headship of the Family and this was not disputed nor could it be.)

The foregoing does not explain the hard fact of the loss or how it occurred, only why it came about. If there was a 'smart' foreclosing of a wadset it was most probably on the Isle itself. This, so desirable is the place, may explain why so little seems to have been done to save a part, say Grange or Torrs. The estate was encumbered piecemeal and parted with in some such way. The property itself was divided into Torrs, Gerrantoun Grange and Galtway, and oollaterals held one or other at times. The last David, for instance, was always David of Torrs, which rather strengthens the belief that when the Estate was sold in 1725 this would be the last part of it.

It is not clear, and may never be, why no attempt was made to free the estate when the debt was possibly not too great and there appeared the means to do so. Why did John, who bought Castle Milk, a property near Gretna and an Estate in Yorkshire, not use the money to free the Isle? Did he share the belief that the monastic property had brought had luck, or did he want to start afresh where there had been no ill-fortune?

The same conundrum governs the fortune, stated in M'Kerlie, to have been made by John's cousin Thomas, also a grandson of the last laird. But this money was made on a Spanish voyage on which he died in the West Indies. It may have gone to his sister, who married a surgeon, named Douglas, if her brother died intestate.

It is interesting to remember that Castle Milk is now owned by the Jardines who amassed a fortune in the East.

To revert to the loss, judging by letters written in the 1850's there was nothing but good feeling in the family to the Selkirks, with great liking and respect for the Earl.

Far too late, Capt. William Robertson, heir to John, entered the lists, planning the redemption, but he had neither the money then, nor the necessary backing to carry it out and the idea faded out. It is however of interest and is set out fully as follows.

7. His Case

"In the year 1672 Thomas Lidderdale was proprietor of St. Mary's Isle in the parish of Kirkcudbright. In a few years thereafter a wadset was granted to Lord Basil Hamilton [it was granted to Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon his father-in-law. The error rather sheds doubt on the accuracy of the writer of the above Case], the progenitor of the Selkirk family, with the usual redeemable clauses. The Heir or heirs of Thomas Lidderdale went abroad and their descendants have not yet appeared to clear the wadset and demand the estate. From the great lapse of time the presumption is that the whole of that branch of the family is extinct and Robert Lidderdale, being the only male heir in existence, appears to have the right to call on Lord Selkirk to accept the conditions of the wadset, in a fair court and reckoning, and to deliver up the Estate until such time as a more rightful heir appears (if ever).

N.B. The family of Lidderdale have for several centuries retained the burial place of Gata (usual local pronounciation of Galtway) in the centre of Lord Selkirk's Estate, and no later than 1777, in opposition to Lord Selkirk." [The statement, " several centuries " exaggerates, it should be two centuries, only, 1574 to 1772, about.]

" The deceased John Lidderdale grandson of Thomas Lidderdale and son of David Lidderdale was buried there and John's son, Robertson, built a large high wall round the burial place, and since then, has repaired it upon the representation of Sir George Home [a daughter of Sir George Home is buried near our enclosure in Galtway Kirkyard], a relative of the family, who, being on a visit to St. Mary's Isle, observed the burial place was going out of repair."


From the affinity which I presume exists between your and my family, I trust this intrusion would be admissable on account of the importance and consideration of the subject and the cause thereof. If your father is still in life he may probably have some ideas, on the case, but, on consideration, I would wish you to have the friendly goodness to have the Register of Edinburgh to be searched as to this wadset, which can easily be done from the alphabetical list year 1672 to 1700. Any expense you may incur, I will thankfully repay and must beg this application be considered as most confidential. Under the impression of this wadset Lord Selkirk and his heirs may hold the Estate ad finitum, but surely the existing presumptive heir can recall it on payment until a more rightful, heir casts up.

(Signed) R. LIDDERDALE, by Langtoun, 14th March 1811.

The claim calls for comment, not because it was based on error. William Robertson, John of Castle Milk's heir, was, as far as tradition goes, correct in his main contention.

When William Robertson said in his letter "the whole branch of the family is extinct" he referred to the death of Thomas the oldest son of Thomas (1630-87) who had died in the West Indies without issue making his younger brother David of Torrs the representative of the family, and William Robertson was David's grandson.

It may be as well to emphasize who actually got the property. The important wadset went to Sir David Dunbar of Baldoon in 1672. This Baronet left his lands in Wigtonshire and Kirkcudbright to his granddaughter and heiress who married, in 1691, Lord Basil Hamilton, the progenitor of the Earls of Selkirk. This explains why some authors say the money was found by Dunbars and others by Hamiltons. The property eventually passed to the Hope Dunbars who still hold it.

Contemporary members of the family were of opinion that it was doubtful if William Robertson had at this time the necessary means to take advantage of success. The rebellion of the American Colonies had prevented the transfer of John of Castle Milk's assets to this country, that and an unreliable steward. However, William Lidderdale writing to his brother Charles comments on William Robertson Lidderdale's reputation for spending and so does 'Aunt Bessie Hutton' (Mrs. Weinholt's aunt and Mrs. Lawrence's great aunt) a close relative of Mrs Lawrence (who owns the correspondence) and therefore a relative of our family. There is also the Establishment in London which he describes. All this tends to confirm his extravagance but, no doubt, his American income ceased at an awkward time and he and his brother Thomas failed to adjust their expenditure to tide over the troubles.