JOHN ROBERTSON OF EDINBURGH – 1600
originally published in "Robertson's Rant" March/April 1999 by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot
Four hundred years ago, John Robertson of Edinburgh did a wonderful thing for his Chief and clan. While I have not been able to discover much about the man himself, the story behind his selfless act of generosity is well worth remembering.
The story begins when William Robertson of Struan became our eighth Chief in May 1566 upon the death of his father. As he was a minor at the time of his father's death, he became a Ward of the Crown. When he married a daughter of Menzies of Menzies he alienated more than half of his barony estates to James Menzies of Weem without the consent of King James VI. These lands were then forfeited by Decree of Recognition to the Crown.
When William died without issue in 1588, his brother Donald became the ninth Chief. He was unsuccessful in getting the forfeited lands restored. Donald's son Robert succeeded his father and became the tenth Chief. During his chief-ship, Robert was able to add the lands of Laggan, Rannoch and Kinloch to his estates, but he was a poor economist and he incurred large debts on much of the remaining clan lands. If not for a kind clansman, Robert would have lost most of these lands.
John Robertson was a wealthy merchant burgess of Edinburgh. He had quietly paid the royal fines and acquired the forfeited lands on July 24, 1597. When he heard about the financial trouble his chief was in, he quietly paid the various wadsetts (mortgages), thus making the ownership of those lands free and clear too. With all the barony estate titles now clear, on December 31, 1599, John Robertson reconveyed the forfeited lands back to Robert. These lands were included in the charter under the Great Seal ratified and confirmed on January 13, 1600, which restored all the estates of the barony of Strowan back to the Chief's family.
Robert learned his financial lesson well. Thirty years later, when his son Alexander became our eleventh Chief, the estates were still free and clear. Alexander was confirmed in possession of all the family estates by charter under the Great Seal on February 6, 1630.
We too can learn from this wonderful act of generosity and take pride in the loyalty shown by this clansman to his chief and clan.