We do not hear of a Findlater between 1391, when Johannes de Sancto Claro de Deskford and Ricardus de Fynletter were put to the horn, and 1527, at which time the name reappears at Aberdeen in a "Preceptum Remissionis Willelmi Findletter, et ii aliorum, pro actionibus presciptis etc" .
LOYAL FOLLOWERS OF PHILORTH & PITULLIE
Pittulie is just west of Fraserburgh and was the residence of the fiar of Philorth, that is the heir to the barony. Pittulie had been transferred in 1562 to Alexander Fraser and his wife Magdalene Ogilvie by his grandfather: "Regina confirmavit cartam Alexandri Fraser de Phillorth, qua pro gratitudinibus etc concessit Alexandro Fraser nepoti suo et Magdalene Ogilvy ejus sponse terras de Pettalloquhois (inter Pettowlis et Pettindrum) vic Abirdone, tenendi dictis Alexandro juniori et Magdalene etc".
In 1598 this Alexander passed over Pittullie to his son, another Alexander, who became the ninth laird, and his wife Margaret Abernethy. Then in a deed of 1608, Alexander Fraser younger and subsequently ninth of Philorth sells to Andrew Fraser, son of John Fraser of Querrilbus, his first cousin, the lands of Over and Nether Pitulles and a life rent is reserved to Alexr and his wife Isabel Gordon, which suggests that he had married her as his second wife. In this deed, John and Cuthbert Findlater are witnesses. The curiosity is that on 2nd May 1608 Alexander Fraser, yr of Philorth had granted Cuthbert Findlater, son of ........... Findlater in Pittulie the liferent of Pittulie, with John Findlater in Pitullies acting as baillie. Some few days later on 18th May 1608, the deed of sale was registered under the Great Seal. The Pitullie lands were subsequently alienated to the Ogilvies of Boyne, who in the early 1700s themselves alienated the land, being in financial difficulties.
In his history of the Fraser family, Lord Saltoun states that the then laird was led astray by seeming friends, but is oblique. Perhaps the land might have been pledged against an advance, which was then not repaid. In the 1608 deed Cuthbert Findlater is noted as the servitor of Alexander Fraser younger of Philorth. In fact the Frasers only finally gave up Pitullie in the 1690s. At all events, the lands were feued out to William Cumming of Pittulie & Auchry (1634-1707), who was buried at Monquhitter. He was the eldest son of George Cumming of Lochtervandich, Provost of Elgin and decided to move away from Elgin to Buchan, where in Monquhitter parish he founded Cummingstown.
It is clear that John and Cuthbert Findlater were closely associated with Alexander Fraser 9th Laird of Philorth (b ca 1560), who married Margaret Abernethy. They were both obviously literate and trusted by the laird, and being go-betweens with Cheyne of Essilmont (see below) and being witnesses to the important deed alienating patrimonial lands. It is possible that Cuthbert acted as a nominee for Philorth in 1608, when the liferent of Pittulie was granted to him. Cuthbert went abroad, presumably in commerce and had died by 1623 leaving a widow. John is always described as in Pittulie, so one must assume that he continued to run the family farm.
FRASERBURGH and the FRASERS of PHILORTH
It was in the middle of the sixteenth century that Alexander Fraser 7th of Philorth set upon the great project of transforming the fishing hamlet of Faithlie into a Burgh of Barony renamed Fraserburgh. The first charter for the Burgh, then called Faithlie, was granted in 1546. He died in 1569, but the grant was confirmed to his grandson, Sir Alexander, 8th laird in 1588 and reconfirmed in 1592 with the change of name. The lands of the Frasers of Philorth were promoted to a Regality in 1601. This may well have been to give the burgh more clout, because of Aberdeens opposition to its existence.
The original intention was that there should also be founded an University, but although the college was established by Act of Parliament in 1597, it did not develop. At the time Fraserburgh was the easternmost port of Scotland and would have been able to attract a good deal of coastal trade as well as trade with Scandinavia, which was one then of Scotlands major trading partners. In the mid-1600s there were four boats of 20 tons, against nine in Aberdeen.
However, Fraserburgh, by its position, had a very limited hinterland, without river connections. It is no chance which led to Aberdeen developing at the mouth of two rivers, leading back into the heart of Strathbogie. Fraserburgh was set up by a rising and powerful family, who had fallen on hard times and who were now trying to make something more of their patrimony. It would seem that they were aided and abetted by a number of Findlaters.
Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth, who was presumably born shortly after his parents marriage in 1534 and who died in 1623, married Magdalene Ogilvie of Boyne. It was he who founded the Burgh. His son married in 1595 Margaret Abernethy, the heiress of the ancient family Abernethy of Saltoun. Thus her son, another Alexander, became the 10th Lord Saltoun.
EARLY FINDLATER ACTIVITY
In 1606, John and Cuthbert Findlater of Petulli were bound in the sum of 300 merks not to reset, supply or intercommune with Patrick Chene of Essilmouth, whilst he remains at the process of the horne at which he had been put for not paying to John Forbes of Auldylene (Old Ellon?) 500 bolls of oatmeal with a peck to each boll thereof. . As John is the first-named we might assume him to be the elder brother. Patrick Cheyne of Essilmont, father of this Patrick, had married Magdalene Fraser, daughter of Philorth (b ca 1535) and Magdalene Ogilvie. Cheyne had been outlawed for not conforming to an order that he should pay his debt and the Findlater brothers were bound over not to assist him, on pain of being fined 300 merks.
In a licence granting him and others the right to leave the kingdom, Cuthbert is described as son of William Findlater of Petulli. As witnesses to the Fraser deed in 1608, the brothers must both have been of age, so a birth date of 1570/80 would be reasonable. This would imply a birthdate of about 1540 for their father Wiiliam and would be consistent with a birthdate of ca 1500 for their grandfather William, as he must have been of age in 1527, when he had remission (unless this was another William). In 1612, Michael Findlater of Petulli is called as a witness in a case of assault in the house of Magnus Fraser, Burgess of Fraserburgh. If a brother, he would be 60 years old or more, so it seems more likely that he was of the next generation.
Cuthbert has sasine of the liferent of Pittulie in 1608 and Margaret Davidson had sasine of land in Fraserburgh as his widow in 1623 to herself and to the heirs of herself and her husband Cuthbert Findlater. It would appear that they only had daughters, as Elizabeth Findlater, named as their elder daughter and then wife of George Pyper, had sasine of the Fraserburgh property in 1649, with liferent reserved to her mother.
RISE OF THE BURGESS FINDLATERS
Cuthbert Findlater prospered to the extent of owning land in Fraserburgh and being an intimate confidant of Alexander Fraser of Philorth. Moreover he ended his life as the laird of the castle of Pittullie.
In the same generation John Findlater marries Magdalene Fraser. The name Magdalene is most unusual in this period and occurs in the Fraser family only after the marriage of Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth (ca 1535-1623) to Magdalene daughter of Sir William Ogilvie of Boyne. They had a daughter Magdalene who married Patrick Cheyne of Essilmont. In view of the rarity of the name, it is reasonable to assume that this is the Magdalene Fraser who subsequently married John Findlater after the death about 1601 of Essilmont. Their elder son, Mr John Findlater, son of John Findlater sometime Baillie of Fraserburgh who had married Magdalene Fraser, is a graduate of Kings College Aberdeen.
Looking to Fraserburgh, we have Sasines,
(1) sale by John Findlater, with consent of his wife, Magdalene Fraser and his sons Mr John and Thomas and of Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth on 2nd July 1629. This establishes two generations, with the approximate dates of birth of the sons who must have been of age to consent. Mr John graduated from Kings College Aberdeen in 1624, fixing his birth at ca 1604. Thomas was presumably a few years younger. Philorth as feudal superior would not have had to give his consent, therefore a more significant relationship is implied. The property was probably a marriage gift from him, as father of Magdalene Fraser.
(2) to Elizabeth Findlater, eldest daughter of Cuthbert Findlater and Margaret Davidson together with her husband George Pyper, with liferent reserved to her mother on 4th June 1649.
(3) to Elspeth Findlater spouse of John Midiltoune on 18th August 1657.
(4) sale by John Findlater, once Baillie of Fraserburgh and now indweller there on 19th November 1637, but registered on 29th March 1644.
(5) to Thomas Findlater, in Peterhead, son of Mr John Findlater and Elspeth Muir and grandson of Thomas Muir, and to Janet, Barbara and Isobel Muirs, the other daughters of Thomas Muir, confirmation of two tenements on 20th March 1649
Only one Mr John Findlater can be found in University records, as a graduate of Kings College, Aberdeen in 1624. It is worth noting that he attended Kings College, the county college, rather than Marischal College, more closely associated with the Burgh of Aberdeen. County families including the Frasers made up many of the early classes at Kings College.
We should note that whereas the name John follows traditionally in the Findlaters, and one might expect them also to use Cuthbert, in fact the two sons of John the Baillie are named John, traditionally, and Thomas, a new name.
At this period it was traditional to name the first son after the fathers father, the second after the mothers, and daughters conversely. However, in some families, the same name was traditional for the eldest son, thus all lairds of Philorth, excepting second sons, were Alexander, which can be confusing. It is therefore attractive to think that Magdalene Frasers father might have been a Thomas Fraser. Indeed there is a Thomas Fraser of Strichen who has a daughter Magdalene, but it seems that she married Hutcheon Rose younger of Kilravock in about 1604.
John Findlater I, born ca 1550, owned property in Aberdeen, which was to remain the family home of the Aberdeen branch until the 1700s. This can be deduced from the fact that in the records of Marischal College, feu duty is paid in 1640 for Mr John Findlaters house by the Bow Bridge. As no John was born to the family until John, Master of the Grammar School in 1643, this Mr John can with reasonable confidence be identified as the father of Alexander I. According to the 1712 Stent Roll, Mr John Findlater, Master of the Grammar School, owned three properties in the Green Quarter, one of which was the family home, one a tenement and the other a tenement and yard. Alexander Findlater I, Dyer and Burgess, had in 1624 bought this last, which was on the site of the old Priory of the Carmelite Friars (Greyfriars).
The family also owned the Doocott or Ducat Croft (ie Dovecot), the deeds of which are in the collection of Aberdeen Town Council, as they now own the property. This was outwith the city boundaries, in the Croft Lands. It was situated by the Bow Bridge over the Denburn, on the Doocott Brae, that is on the south side of the river and the west side of Justice Mills Lane, which leads to the Dee Bridge and then the road south. This property was bought by Alexander Findlater I, in 1609 and it was confirmed to John Findlater in 1669 by the feudal superior, Kings College.
It was sold in 1741 by his two surviving daughters, Christian and Bessie Findlaters, as heirs of their father, having proved themselves heirs of their youngest brother James Findlater, sometime merchant in London. For them to prove heirship to their brother, who lived in the Aberdeen house, he must have been without issue, or at least legitimate issue. For him to possess the Aberdeen property, all his fathers other sons must have predeceased him and have had no issue themselves.
Alexander I, a dyer, was married on 10th January 1603 to Elspeth Nicholl and admitted as a burgess in September 1604. He must therefore have been born about 1575 or at least not later than 1585, but not in Aberdeen, as the baptismal register for St Nicholas is extant at that period. In 1604, he paid a stent of 13s 4d and in 1608 a stent of 30 shillings. Michael Findlater was born in 1612 and was admitted a burgess in 1640, as second son of Alexr Findlater, burgess. In 1639 a Band was taken of those householders who had or had not subscribed to the Covenant. Alexander Findlater, dyer in the Green Quarter is listed as a subscriber, while Michael Findlater, merchant in the Footdee Quarter is a non-subscriber. Alexander I was buried on 4th February 1641 in St Nicholas kirkyard.
His elder son, Alexander II was born in 1611. Alexander II is not listed in the 1639 Band, presumably because he was then unmarried and was living in his fathers house. The document is strictly a record of householders who did or did not pay a levy towards the expenses of the covenanters, rather than a record of who had or had not signed the Covenant. On 30th July 1639 he married Margaret Duff and the births of Issobel, Alexander and Andrew Findlaters are recorded in the baptismal register of St Nicholas for 1640, 1641 and 1642 respectively. As Andrew was baptised in September 1642, the next son, John, must have been born in 1643, probably in October, and by his age at death, aetatis suae LXXV, on 16th November 1717, recorded on his tombstone in St Nicholas Kirkyard, one would also reckon 1643. His baptism was at St Nicholas, but the pages for the three years following 1642 are virtually illegible, so that the name can be made out, but not the date.
When the Town Council met in 1644, before the attack by Montrose, who was acting as the Kings General, Spalding states that it was in the house of Alexander Findlater by the Bow Bridge. Spalding lists "Alexander Findlater, litster" sixth of the 109 Aberdonians who were killed in the battle of Justice Mills on 13th September 1644. That he is listed sixth, although not a burgess indicates his status. He died at the age of thirty-three and left a family of four children, of whom only John seems to have survived infancy.
This John was the Master of the Grammar School. In the record of his Burgess admission on 4 May 1682, John Findlater is described as "eldest son of Alexander Findlater, Dyer, Burgess". The entry reads "Eodem die (4th May 1682) magister Joannes ffindlater ludomagister scholae gramaticalis dicto Burgi (Aberdeen) ac filius legittimus natu maximus defuncti Alexandri ffindlater tinctor burgess ejusdem Burgi receptus et admissus fuit in liborum Burgensum et fratrem gilder pro compositione centum librarum moneth Scots et propter specialem favorem et benevolentiam quam gerunt dicti magistratus erga illum et prestito per eundem jurato solito". However Alexander II is not recorded as a burgess. Clarification may be found in the deed of confirmation of the Doocat Croft in 1669 from Kings College, where Johns ancestry is stated as "magister Johannes Findlater tamquam filius unigenitus ac haeres et successor dictorum quondam Alexandri Findlater sui patris et Alexandri Findlater sui avi" and his father (Alexander II) is stated to be "Alexander Findlater filius Legittimus primogenitus antedicti quondam Alexandri Findlater ac pater dicti Magisteri Johannis Findlater". On this basis we can assume the scribe who recorded the burgess admission meant to write filius solus defuncti Alexandri ffindlater tinctoris filii legittimi natu maximi defuncti Alexandri ffindlater tinctor burgess ejusdem Burgi that is only son of Alexander Findlater, dyer, son of Alexander Findlater dyer, burgess. Thus he missed out a generation, which would be easy to do, with father and grandfather bearing the same name and both being in the genitive case in the original Latin. This is confirmed by the fee of £100, which would have been reduced had his father been a burgess.
John Findlater was a Jacobite and was deposed from his Mastership by the order of the Royal Commission for Visiting Universities and Schools of Scotland, on the grounds that in 1715 he said that "the King had returned which was an occasion for joy and that the school would not therefore meet on Thursday." He also carried the school boys to the church where the Old Chevalier was prayed for by the Episcopal intruder under the name of James VIII. John Milne was appointed to replace him. John Findlater died on 16th November 1717 in his 75th year, shortly after being deposed.