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The Blackhalls of that Ilk and Barra
Hereditary Coroners and Foresters of the Garioch by Alexander Morison (1905)


THE Editor for the New Spalding Club of the Records of Aboyne (p. 183), in discussing a charter conveying land, refers to one of the witnesses—Alexander Blackhall of that Ilk—as “a member of an ancient family, who frequently appear as witnesses to Aberdeenshire charters.” The object of the following pages is to give some account of that family. It is, moreover, one of the conditions attached to the granting of a “free search” among the documents in the Historical Department of His Majesty’s Register House in Edinburgh, that the results of such investigation should be published. As I obtained such permission in connection with an examination of the family history of the Blackhalls of that Ilk, I now fulfil the obligation thus imposed on me. But for this, the following records, if published at all, would probably have been circulated privately, for immediate interest in the history of most families is limited. It may be, however, that a certain general interest attaches to the history of the Blackhalls, as a concrete instance of the feudal forfeitures, to which King James VI. was sufficiently ill-advised to resort, in order to fill his depleted Treasury. It would, moreover, be strange, if, in the continuous story of a number of human beings, such as is set forth in these pages, there were no “touch of Nature” discoverable calculated to make “the whole world kin,” and consequently more or less interested. Possibly the Reader may, in this history of the Blackhalls, find some such justification for the wider publication of these memorials, which the circumstance mentioned has rendered necessary.

The spelling of proper names (with the exception of that of Blackhall, in which case the more recent mode is usually followed), will be found to vary in these records. The form of words used in the original documents has, as a rule, been retained, as impressing more vividly on the mind the reality and actual occurrence of events long past, and the historical existence of persons also long dead. To be vague in the apprehension of any history, is to lose the full force of such teaching as it may contain, and in an age of scepticism, a fact, if remote, requires all the corroboration possible.

I desire to take this opportunity of acknowledging the courteous aid afforded me by the officials of the Department mentioned, in which I have gathered much of my material. Besides these, however, and among others- to whom I am indebted, I have especially to express my obligations to Mr. Alexander M. Munro, City Chamberlain of Aberdeen, who had the kindness to read my manuscript and to correct and supplement its contents in several important particulars. A like service was rendered me by my friend, Mr. Walter H. Guthrie of London.

I desire also to record my thanks to Sir George Reid, R.S.A., for the permission which he has so kindly granted of using his beautiful picture of Barra Castle as a frontispiece to this book.

To my friend, Mr. Frank Crosbie of London, an amateur draughtsman and printer, whose artistic ability has been of much service to me in other and more technical fields, I am indebted for the designing and execution of the arms of the Blackhalls of that Ilk, and also for the photograph of the portrait of Sir Alexander Morison, from which one of the illustrations has been made.

Many of the documents I have used were copied for me by the Rev. Walter MacLeod of Edinburgh, a favour which I gratefully acknowledge.

Finally, it is difficult for me to express in words my sense of obligation to Mr. P. J. Anderson, the Secretary of the New Spalding Club. Without his unvarying kindness and wise advice, and that of Mr. Munro, this book would not have been worthy of acceptance by the Club.

A. M.
14, Upper Berkeley Street,


Chapter I. — The Garioch and the Earldom of Mar
Chapter II. — The Blackhalls of that Ilk and Barra
Chapter III. — The Blackhalls of that Ilk
Chapter IV. — The Blackhalls of Barra
Chapter V. — The Eve of the Forfeiture of the Blackhalls
Chapter VI. — The Blackhalls, Burgesses of Aberdeen
Chapter VII. — The Forfeiture of the Blackhalls of Barra
Chapter VIII. — The Barra Blackhalls of that Ilk
Chapter IX. — The Mar Action
Chapter X. — After the Mar Action
Chapter XI. — The Blackhalls of Finnersie
Chapter XII. — Later Descendants of the Barra Blackhalls of that Ilk


Appendix A. Barra Castle
Appendix B. Regent William Blackhall
Appendix C. Pedigree of Blackhalls of that Ilk and Barra
Appendix D. Illustrative Documents

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