The Craig Family of Aberdeenshire

The purpose of this text is to dispel some of the myths which appear in a selection of
histories of the family, arising from some fanciful accounts of their early origin and
mistakes regarding the timing of their occupation of certain estates. In particular, that
the family can be traced from the early middle ages and occupied two extant buildings
– Craig Castle and Craigfintry (Craigston) Castle.

The history of the Craig family of Aberdeenshire is that of a group of professional
and farming families that originate in the villages on the eastern edge of the district of
Mar. As the surname derives from a topographically descriptive place name which is
very common across Scotland it is not surprising that there are several different
families of the same name appearing on early records, such as the Ragman Rolls,1 and
since these families are to be found in different parts of the country there is no reason
to believe that they were related by blood. Families that are named after the lands
from which they originate are traditionally described as being of that ilk, that is, the
family name is the same as that of either the place they are from, or the estate they
hold (e.g. Craig of Craig).2 The Gazeteer of Scotland, 1882, lists five estates and a
parish named Craig, including those in Ayrshire (Craig of Colmonell), Perthshire
(Craig of Madderty) and Aberdeenshire (Craig of Auchindoir).

The first person styled Craig in Aberdeenshire, about whom any particular details
appear, is found between the villages of Huntly and Kildrummy, three miles west of
Clatt. He was named Johannes del Crag or John of the Craig, and is recorded on
account of his contribution to the battle of Culblean in 1335. W. Douglas Simpson’s
detailed account of the battle, written in 1930, describes John of the Craig’s superior
knowledge of the area as the decisive element of the victory,

“At their head was John of the Craig, who now would show that he was not merely a
‘bonnie fetcher’ on the guarded walls of a castle, but also that he was a tactician of genius
with a keen eye for ground, and in particular with a thorough knowledge of the
topography of the present scene of operations (see Map, fig. 3). For John of the Craig told
the Regent that he knew of a forest path by means of which Atholl’s position could be
turned and a disastrous attack launched against his flank. The whole tactical situation, not
least in the forest nature of the ground, reminds us of Jackson’s march at Chancellorsville
in the American Civil War. Eagerly the gallant Moray caught at the bold proposal, and
two columns of assault were formed, of which one, under Sir William de Douglas, was to
deliver a frontal attack, while the other, under the Regent in person, and guided by John
of the Craig, would make the flank march and fall upon Atholl’s army pinned to the
battlefield by the attack in front. Both columns, knights and all, marched on foot, as
indeed the nature of the ground demanded.”

Simpson suggests in two texts that John of the Craig was the Laird of Craig, by
which he refers to the Craig of Auchindoir – the lands around the Den of Craig in the
Parish of Auchindoir, six miles to the north of Kildrummy,

“Who the early Norman or Normanised lords of the Craig of Auchindoir may have been
there exists, as far as I am aware, no evidence to show. The fact that the motte was
anciently known as Cummin’s Craig makes it not impossible that its founders may have
been members of the great family of Comyn, whose territorial ramifications were so
widespread and whose influence was paramount in Aberdeenshire throughout the
thirteenth century. Certainly the Comyns had laid their hand on the Great North Road
from Mar into Moray at one important point, for they owned a strong Castle at Balvenie.
But of course the name Cummin’s Craig applied to the motte may have been of quite
recent origin. The first laird of Craig of whom we have any record appears to be John of
the Craig whose dramatic intervention played a decisive part in the battle of Culblean on
30th November 1335.”

The term laird could imply that Craig was the holder of a crown charter with
heritable tenure on the land granted by the King, who retained ultimate ownership of
all land in Scotland. The historian T.C. Smout tells us, “The vast majority [of
landowners] were not of noble rank: they were comprehended under the general title
of lairds, some holding directly of the crown but most as sub-vassals of the nobility.”5
The fact that Craig went into battle at Culblean in defence of Kildrummy implies that
he was in fact a sub-vassal with tenure granted by the Earl of Mar, of whose district
Kildrummy Castle formed the administrative centre. This assumption is further
supported by Simpson’s mention of the land of Auchindoir being given by the Earl of
Mar to Alexander Irvine of Drum at a later date.4 (Also 18)

The Medieval Topography of Auchindoir
Reproduced from Simpson, W. Douglas, Craig Castle and the Kirk of Auchindoir, Aberdeenshire,
in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, Vol. 64, 1929-30.

In regard to the three hundred men that Craig brought with him into battle, two
possibilities have been suggested. Boece states that Craig was the captain of
Kildrummy and brought additional men from the castle; Buchanan adds that he was
the castle’s governor. Later historians suggest that the men, described by Wyntoun as
‘wycht and hardy,’3b were an assembly of other vassals and tenants of the Earl of
Mar,(See 6) which would include Craig’s male family members (if any) and the sub-
tenants farming land on Craig’s estate as well as the minor lairds, sons and
dependents from neighbouring estates. Both assertions are quite possible and as
Buchanan himself states with great clarity,
“[...] when John Craig, the governor of Kildrummy, advancing with three hundred fresh
men, turned the day,” (Buchanan, The History of Scotland, 1582)

we can assume that his authority is reliable. Tenants in both the highlands and
lowlands were under obligation to assist their feudal lord or, as the case may be, their
clan chief, with military force whenever called to do so and failure to appear when
called to arms would mean certain eviction or worse. This military arrangement
encouraged landowners to house as many tenants on their land as possible and was, of
course, not always beneficial to agriculture. It seems likely that at least a proportion
of the castle garrison at Kildrummy would be trained local tenants rather than paid
professional soldiers. In either case we can state with confidence that Craig paid
homage to his local superior the Earl of Mar who, during most of Craig’s lifetime
prior to Culblean, was Domhnall II. This Earl was slain in a humiliating defeat at the
Battle of Dupplin Moor in 1332, within days of his being elected Regent of Scotland,
leaving an infant heir. At the time the battle of Culblean took place Kildrummy Castle
was occupied by Christiana Bruce – the late Earl’s mother or aunt.

The Early Manorial Centre of Auchindoir
Reproduced from Simpson, W. Douglas, Craig Castle and the Kirk of Auchindoir, Aberdeenshire,
in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, Vol. 64, 1929-30.
John of the Craig is not heard of again15b and by 1414 the estate at Auchindoir had
been acquired or reacquired by the incumbent Earl of Mar, Alexander Stewart, who
passed it into the hands of Alexander Irvine. In 1511 the estate was sold to Patrick
Gordon, a member of an ancient branch of the house of Gordon – the other dominant
nobility of the county. The timber buildings Craig occupied are described by W.
Douglas Simpson as a motte castle in a probable state of decay after being neglected
by the Irvines whose primary seat was at Drum. Patrick Gordon and his wife, a
Barclay of Towie, abandoned this site and built the new Craig Castle a mile upstream,
where it remains.4 This would have been some one hundred years after John of the
Craig’s family left the estate. The motte at Craig measured ninety by seventy-two feet
and a height of twenty-five feet from the foot of the ditch as surveyed in 1777, at
which time vestiges of the old castle were still visible.4&7 The motte and the remnants
of the neighbouring Auchindoir church stand today.

Gordon’s New Castle at Craig, Built c.1518-48

The next recorded appearance of a Craig in the area is the line beginning with
William Craig of Craigfintry around 1450, who is found holding a crown charter on
an estate near Fintry, twenty-five miles north-east of Auchindoir, known as
Craigfintry and later Craigston. One of this gentleman’s sons fell, with so many
others, at Flodden Field in 1513. This family branch produced the remarkable
minister John Craig (1512-1600) whom the Pope imprisoned for heresy and sentenced
to be burned to death but who escaped Rome during a riot on the eve of his
execution,24 Sir Thomas Craig (1538-1608), perhaps the flower of the Craig family
tree, the eminent Scottish lawyer and legal advisor to King James during the union of
the crowns of Scotland and England, a poet and author of the great treatise on feudal
law, Jus Feudale, who the King ordered be forever known and styled as Sir Thomas
Craig despite his refusal of a knighthood, and James Craig (1739-1795), the architect
responsible for the design of Edinburgh’s new town. The history of this illustrious
middle class family line is well documented elsewhere(See 8&23) so I will not describe
the individual members’ lives in any greater detail here other than to outline their
residential movements, in as far as it may describe the general situation of the
numerous Craig branches which remained in Aberdeenshire.

In 1588 Thomas Craig took over the estate of St Lawrence House in East Lothian,
east of Edinburgh, 120 miles south of Fintry, so the head of the family left the
Craigfintry estate, its tenants and Aberdeenshire for good. In 1604, shortly before his
death, Sir Thomas acquired the estate of Riccarton, just south-west of Edinburgh, with
which this branch of the Craigs became associated. Craigfintry had been sold to a
member of the Gordon family, as had the Auchindoir estate, it then passed to the
Barclay de Tolly (Towie) family and was finally purchased by the Urquharts.8 In
1597, “a charter under the Great Seal (Vol IV, 349) granted the lands of Creichie with
their attached mill, and the lands and Barony of Craigfintray to ‘Johanni Urquhart,
tutori de Cromarty et Johannae Abernethy, ejus sponsae’.”9 Urquhart built an
idiosyncratic baronial style castle on the estate called Craigston Castle, which was
begun on the 14th of March 1604 according to an inscription upon the castle wall, and
completed on the 8th of December 1607.8 His descendants still live there. The building
which the Craigs inhabited is not documented, except a suggestion that Urquhart’s
mother was living in it at her death in 1590.9 It is worth mentioning that H. Gordon
Slade writes in his survey and history, Craigston Castle, Aberdeenshire, “During his
second marriage John Urquhart set about re-building, or building afresh – for there
are no signs of the incorporation of an earlier house – the present house of

Urquhart’s House at Craigston
Reproduced from Slade, H. Gordon, Craigston Castle, Aberdeenshire.
This part of Aberdeenshire is almost exactly on the Highland/Lowland line and the
local society shows economic and social characteristics of both areas. In the eyes of
the wider world the defining characteristic of the ancient Highlanders was their clan
divisions and allegiances, and certain biographers of the Craig family have
maintained an attachment to this attribute.

A typical definition of a clan would be, ‘a traditional social unit in the Scottish
Highlands, consisting of a number of families claiming a common ancestor and
following the same hereditary chieftain,’(See 10) which could be said to apply to the
Craigs if they choose to claim John of the Craig as common ancestor and accept the
Craigs of Craigfintry, later Riccarton, as their chiefs. As families developed over
centuries within specific areas, many thousands must have grown to a size and
structure which would warrant the title of a clan. However, a clan generally requires a
chief who is recognised as such by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms of Scotland, and
who is therefore entitled to bear the chiefly arms of the family; although whether a
chief’s official recognition would be of great importance to highland farmers who
chose to call themselves clansmen is not certain. The Lord Lyon states,

“I think it would be fair to say that there are official clans that both have a clan chief and
do not have a clan chief, but we would not normally use the word “official”. There is
either a clan or there is not, be it with a chief or chiefless. It is not so much the case that
the clan is recognised, it is that there has been a recognised chief of the name, and that
constitutes a chief or an organised group of people being either a clan or family.”

The first recorded version of the arms borne by the Craigs of Craigfintry and
Riccarton is found in the Armorial of Gelre of 1385, Argent, on a fess sable three
crescents argent,11 but the roll does not identify the name of the bearer. William Craig
of Craigfintry’s descendents bore arms with a field of ermine, not argent, which
differentiation could suggest that the Craigfintry family were not the primogenital line
of the earlier ancestor to whom the plain coat had been granted but were instead
descended from a subsequent son. Sir David Lindsay’s Armorial of 1542 lists the
arms, with ermine field (Ermine, on a fess sable three crescents argent), as belonging
to ‘Cragye of yat Ilke,’12 and they appear again on the Hague Roll of 1592 for ‘Craig
of that Ilk,’13 which tells us that the bearer of those arms was considered Chief of the
name (in 1542 the bearer would have been Thomas Craig’s grandfather, Alexander
Craig of Craigfintry, by 1592 Thomas Craig himself bore the arms). This difference in
the spelling of the surname is not a simple medieval clerical variation. It appears that
the very same arms were, until about 1380, borne by Sir John of Craigy/Craigie, laird
of the estate of Craigie, which became Craigiehall on the western outskirts of
Edinburgh. The nature of this gentleman’s relation to the Craig family and the reason
why the arms he bore were also borne by the Craigs of Aberdeenshire is a mystery,15
notwithstanding the likelihood that both names are derived from the different
pronunciations resulting from the ancient clerical spelling of the name Crag as
Cragge(See 1) – clerks at the time commonly wrote official documents in inconsistent,
and at times corrupt, forms of Latin or French.
Riccarton House

The Riccarton branch of the family died out in 1823. The last male heir of Thomas
Craig to own Riccarton was Robert Craig Esq. (1730-1823) who never married and
left no direct heirs.16&23b The estate of Riccarton passed to James Gibson
(afterwards Sir James Gibson-Craig, Bt, of Riccarton), a descendant of Robert
Craig’s cousin Helen, who assumed the name Gibson-Craig and quartered the Craig
arms with his own as set out by Robert Craig in a clause of entail. However the
family, or clan if it is to be called one, is considered to have no recognised living
chief and would therefore be called an armigerous clan. They must be considered a
humble clan of the inferior category, having no great historical or political
significance, save for a few individuals, so the distinction between clan or family is
of no great importance in this case.

During the Victorian era an entirely new and highly romanticised image of Scottish
culture emerged in literature and the popular media. The consumption of this imagery,
partly led by the royal family but fuelled by a parallel resurgence of interest in
imperialistic and fictitious ideas of chivalry, became something resembling a craze. It
is during this period that many of the ‘official’ clan tartans were rapidly created by
clan dignitaries or, in many cases, forged by enterprising individuals who saw an
opportunity to make money from selling highland and clan merchandise to satisfy the
sudden interest from English scholars and those around the world who were keen to
proclaim clan descent. In disdainful reaction to the continuing popularity of highland
mythology certain historians of the last century have been at pains to make clear
precisely who is not entitled to claim clan membership. Historically, however, clans
themselves have been very welcoming towards newcomers(See 17) and blood descent
was by no means prerequisite. T.C. Smout describes clan descent like this,

“A chief, or supreme head, was linked by close consanguinity to the chieftains of the
septs or main branches of the clan: the dependants of the chieftains, down to the humblest
herdsman on the mountain, sometimes were and sometimes only imagined themselves to
be blood-relations of each other and the chief. In cases where the fiction was hard to
sustain it was sometimes necessary to invent a common ancestor, preferably as distant
and heroic as possible – the Macgregors in 1450 traced descent from one Cormac Mac
Oirbertaigh, swapped him in 1512 for Kenneth Macalpin, and finally for Pope Gregory
the Great, ‘a more mysterious and perhaps in their idea a greater hero.’ The clan
supported its leaders with military service and food and accepted their judgement and
protection in a very similar way to the Lowlanders when they obeyed their ‘feudal’
superiors. But in the Highlands it was not actually necessary for the chief to have any
land in order to gain his dependents allegiance: the chiefs of the Camerons, the Macnabs
and the Macgregors were all apparently landless in 1590, though they had clansmen
scattered as tenants of other chiefs over half the highlands. There was an incident on the
edge of the Highland area in 1562 when the Gordon Earl of Huntly called out his
Mackintosh tenants as their feudal superior to fight Mary Queen of Scots, only to have
them successfully intercepted en route by the Chief of Clan Mackintosh, who called them
out as their clan superior to fight against Huntly.”

The above passage possibly resembles, to some degree, the situation of a number of
Craig branches. The Craigs were also tenants of the Gordons as John of the Craig or
his descendants had left the Auchindoir estate sometime before 1414, and whilst the
chief branch of the family held land it was not in the immediate vicinity of their Craig
clansmen at Auchindoir or, by 1600, at Craigfintry.

Whether the Craigfintry family were directly descended from John of the Craig or
not cannot be said with certainty although only four generations would separate John
and William. If we believe that they were, and that their wealth and status were
derived from the ancient progenitor of the name at the estate of Craig, then the
assumption must be that John of the Craig, his son, grandson or perhaps brother, had
moved the family, for one reason or another, at some time after Culblean, from
Auchindoir to the considerably larger estate at Fintry. It is also possible that some
more distant family members and dependents went with them, but a number of Craigs
certainly remained as farmers on the lands surrounding the Burn of Craig where they
became tenants of the new Gordon lairds or sub-tenants of other local lairds. The
standard model of primogeniture was almost exclusively followed, meaning that first
sons would inherit their father’s estate and position, which they would pass on in turn
to their eldest son. As patriarchs were naturally disinclined to split up the family
estate, second and third sons and their families, as well as brothers and cousins, would
be supported as far as possible with generous leases and tenancies, putting them in the
socially respectable position of tacksmen, but with no land of their own.

Craig graves can be seen throughout the area, including those in the churchyard at
Clatt, three miles east of Auchindoir. The larger part of the village of Clatt and its
surrounding parish was owned by the son and grandsons of Patrick Gordon of Craig,
the first Gordon laird of the Craig of Auchindoir, including the estates of Auchmenzie
and Tillyangus,18 his relations also held Knockespock21 and Terpersie. The Craigs
found here lived as farmers, managing their businesses on Gordon lands, where they
are traced from the 1600s when the parish records begin.25 When John of the Craig’s
direct line left the estate of Craig after perhaps one hundred years, Craig branches
clearly remained in the area, and when the chiefs again moved from Craigfintry after
140 years there, they presumably left many clansmen in that area as well. It is through
these families that, over the subsequent centuries, Craig became a commonly found
name in Aberdeenshire.
Cottage in Scotland, Heneage Finch, 4th Earl of Aylesford, c.1780, Tate Collection

The situations of individual farmers differed hugely, from the upper-middle class
tacksmen, downwards through the respectable tenants with large to small holdings,
then on to the varying levels of peasants. The working farms were generally held by a
tenant-in-mains who held a lease either from a tacksman or directly from the laird and
who would have several sub-tenants on his land both working for him and making
payments to him in exchange for a house and a decent area of land to farm for
themselves. Sometimes the tacksman would also farm, in other cases he would live
off the profit made from his sub-leases. Frequently farms would be occupied by
several joint-tenants, each with a number of sub-tenants, who may work together or
divide up the farmland and work separately, rotating every few years for fairness.
Coming next down on the social scale were the crofters and cottars who worked on
the farm in exchange for anything from twenty acres down to a small strip of land to
farm, a cottage or perhaps only a hut to live in and grazing rights for a few animals.
Finally came the landless labourers who worked wherever they could in exchange for
some wages in money and some in kind. As Smout tells us, “It was reckoned an
inferior and less desirable thing to receive a money wage for work than a fragment of
ground in the farming community.”5

The Aberdeenshire farmers were reported to be a highly respectable, intelligent,
proud22 and industrious class of individuals. The overall standard of living was
comparatively high with “most of them in easy and some of them in affluent
circumstances.”20 Education was considered a privilege of the utmost importance. In
his book entitled From Parish School to University and Other Papers: Memories and
Scottish Characteristics of Forty Years Since of 1899, George A. Craig wrote that the
education which the boys received from the parish schools of Aberdeenshire was of
such a standard that poor boys, of which category he considered himself a member,
were able, in some cases and with conscientious study, to achieve scholarships to
attend the great universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. He ridicules the English idea
of compulsory education, as Scottish parents needed no encouragement to send their
children to school, and describes a boy from a parish school, upon being examined on
arrival at university in his knowledge of the classics, being put directly into the upper
class, bypassing altogether the first year of university studies.19 Having received a
scholarship James Forsyth Craig made his way to Aberdeen University to study
medicine, as had his elder brothers John Smith Craig and the previously mentioned
George Alexander Craig, the three becoming surgeons in Birmingham from the
1870s. This branch of the Craigs had prospered in the tenancies it held and, during the
1830s, George Craig (1813-1888) abandoned farming to instead become a merchant
and chemist, sending three of his sons into the medical profession, one into law and
one to sea. Many families were not as secure; between 1750 and 1850 thousands of
tenant farmers across the country were viciously cleared from their lands to make way
for the grazing of sheep following the collapse of the highland economy. The value of
all the main highland exports, other than wool, had plummeted following an increase
in the market of cheaper alternatives from elsewhere, making the farmers cultivating
this produce worthless to the increasingly money conscious nobles and chiefs who
were keen, not only to survive themselves, but also to compete with the social
splendor of their counterparts in the English nobility and gentry. The lowland sheep
farmers could offer far higher rents for grazing rights than could the resident farmers
raising basic subsistence crops, thus the notorious land clearances began. If a family’s
ancestors arrived abroad at this time from the highlands it is quite possible that they
had been affected by the clearances. The evicted farmers, their faithful allegiances to
their family chiefs and feudal lairds shattered, emigrated in their thousands to the new
life on offer in America and the Antipodes, some crossed over to Ireland and others
came into England to pursue a profession or find whatever work they could.
Names appearing on the Ragman Rolls:
Crag, Agneys del (del counte de Edeneburgh).
Cragge, Johan de la (del counte de Lanark).
Clan Chiefs are frequently also styled of that Ilk, i.e. Craig of the Craigs; this should
be considered a perversion of the original meaning, although one which was certainly
in use by the fourteenth century.
Simpson, W. Douglas, Campaign and Battle of Culblean, in Proceedings of the
Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, Volume 64, 1929-30.

“The Donside castle, however, was gallantly maintained by its captain, John of the
Craig [...]”
Simpson also refers to the account of Culblean by Andrew of Wyntoun (c.1350-
c.1425): Wyntoun, Andrew of, The Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland.
Simpson, W. Douglas, Craig Castle and the Kirk of Auchindoir, Aberdeenshire, in
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians of Scotland, Volume 64, 1929-30.

“It is to be presumed that during the Irvine period the motte castle would seldom be
occupied, and that its timber buildings probably fell into decay, for the main seat of
the Irvines was at Drum, and their interests centred always on Deeside. At all events,
with the arrival of the Gordons as resident lairds, the motte was definitely abandoned
and a new castle was built about a mile farther up the Den of Craig.”
Smout, T.C., A History of the Scottish People 1560 - 1830, Fontana Press, 1998.
Hailes, Lord (David Dalrymple), The Annals of Scotland, Volume 2, Balfour and
Smellie for J. Murray, London, 1779.
Dalrymple also refers to the account of Culblean by John of Fordun (died c.1384):
Fordun, John of, Chronicle of the Scottish Nation.
The Castrum Auchindoiriae (Auchindoir Castle) is apparently mentioned by Hector
Boece and/or George Buchanan in the sixteenth century – see Simpson, W. Douglas,
The Early Castles of Mar, 1928, “Here we have the motte of the early Norman castle -
the castrum Auchindoriae of Hector Boece […].” I have not been able to find this
mention in the Latin texts in order to confirm the rumour, however Simpson writes a
year later in Craig Castle and the Kirk of Auchindoir, 1929,4 “Francis Douglas, who
visited Craig in 1780, alludes to the motte in the following terms: “At the kirk of
Auchindoir, a little below Craig, stood the Castrum Auchindoriae, mentioned by
Buchanan, under the reign of James II, the remains of which are still visible.” I have
been unable to trace any such reference in Buchanan’s History. Later writers speak of
a reference in Boece, which also I cannot find.”
Tytler, Patrick Fraser, An Account of the Life and Writings of Sir Thomas Craig of
Riccarton, Edinburgh, 1823.
Slade, H. Gordon, Craigston Castle, Aberdeenshire.
See Various Definitions below (Appendix – Part 1).
Armorial of Gelre, 1385: Folio 65r
Sir David Lindsay’s Armorial, 1542: Number 302 (DL302)
Hague Roll, 1592: Number 313 (HR313)
Burke, Bernard, The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales,
This Gentleman and his arms are an anomaly, as the other notable families of the
name Craigie bear different arms: John Craigie of Brough, Lawman of Orkney: on a
fess between 6 mullets 3 crescents (Stevenson-pers 296 1509, quoted in Dictionary of
British Arms, Vol. 3, Thomas Woodcock and Sarah Flower) and Craigie of Kilgraston
and Dumbarnie (Perthshire): per pale azure and sable, a chevron argent between
three crescents or.14 As the Lord Lyon, King of Arms (whose position was
established before 1318) saw fit to prescribe the same arms to John de Craigie and the
progenitor of the Craig family of Craigfintry he must have been satisfied that they
were kinsmen.
In his two-volume book, The Scottish Nation (1863), William Anderson suggests
John de Craigy/Craigie was progenitor of the Orkney Craigy family through his son
James of Craigy, from whom the Perthshire Craigies supposedly descend, whist
previously having stated that he had an only daughter and heiress. Anderson also
speculated that Craigie was related to John de Craigy of Linlithgowshire whose name,
he states, appears on the Ragman Rolls of 1296 – this is not entirely accurate, and he
must be referring to: Cragi, Johan (del counte de Linlefcu) or Cragyn (Cregayn),
Johan de (del counte de Linlefcu). Both assertions would appear to be incorrect.
Anderson’s book was, in many cases, compiled from local and family tradition rather
than documental evidence, and for this it is an important record.
The heraldic evidence instead suggests that John de Craigie was a relative or member
of the Craig family of Aberdeenshire, and many writers, including Burke in 1859,
have in fact given this gentleman’s name as Craig rather than Craigie. It would follow
that on his death, circa 1380, the Craigie estate passed to his daughter from whose
marriage the Stewarts of Craigiehall sprang, whilst his arms continued to a brother,
son, nephew or cousin in Aberdeenshire, whose line would later become the Craigs of
Craigfintry. Due to the obscurity of the evidence we cannot rule out the notion that
the ancient families of Craig and Craigie were connected through this gentleman or an
earlier ancestor, although misspelling, confusion and error are equally likely, if not
more likely than an actual blood connection. The possibilities are 1. John de Craigie
was in fact a Craig of the Aberdeenshire family moved now to Edinburgh, 2. the
Aberdeenshire Craigs were descended from the family of Craigie and had relocated
up to Aberdeenshire, 3. both John de Craigie and the Craigs of Aberdeenshire were
descended from a shared ancestor, 4. the families were in no way linked and the arms
described were mistakenly granted to both families, mistakenly attributed to one or
other family by an ancient herald or historian, or even usurped by one or other family.
Although we know nothing of John of the Craig’s family prior to 1335, or how he
came to be governor of Kildrummy, the name Craig is mentioned in Aberdeen city
documents from the 1200s and Craigie in Edinburgh from the 1100s. In truth, the
practice of linking families that are recorded in the middle ages, at a time before
spelling, surnames or arms were used consistently, residing a hundred miles apart,
because they share a surname derived from a common place name, seems futile. It is
not, however, impossible that new evidence will resolve some of these mysteries. A
collection of existing evidence concerning this topic will be assembled hereafter as
Appendix – Part 3.
A Johannis de Crag appears around 1360 as a Burgess of Aberdeen on a crown
charter confirming a previous grant of land to him at Rubyslaw, but whether this
gentleman is John of the Craig of Auchindoir cannot be known. A Johannes Craigie,
also Burgess of Aberdeen, is recorded on another charter of this period. Also at this
time appear charters granting lands named Craig in the sherrifdom of Aberdeen to
Donald Strathechin and Craigie in the sherrifdom of Aberdeen to Mary Meldrum.
The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, Volume 1 (1306-1424), edited by J. M.
Thomson, H. M. Register Office, Edinburgh, 1912.
See A series of original portraits and caricature etchings by the late John Kay, with
biographical sketches and illustrative anecdotes and Grant, James, Old and New
Edinburgh, Cassel, 1880s for an account and etching of Robert Craig.
The crest of the Riccarton Craigs’ arms shows a chevalier bearing a broken lance –
clansmen may choose to wear a badge showing the crest of the chief to which they
pledge allegiance, encircled by a buckled belt. Michael A. Craig suggests in his essay
on the Craigs that the lance represents the broken men who sought and were granted
the protection of the clan; broken men being criminals, evicted tenants, men with
disputes with other clan chiefs etc., in short, the Craigs were welcoming landlords. I
have seen no other document to support this and the broken lance is elsewhere
considered a heraldic symbol of peace.
Bulloch, John Malcolm, The Gordons of Craig, in Proceedings of the Society of
Antiquarians of Scotland, Volume 64, 1929-30.
Craig, George A., From Parish School to University and Other Papers: Memories
and Scottish Characteristics of Forty Years Since, Achilles Taylor, 1899.
The Comprehensive Gazetteer of Scotland, circa 1841.

“The state of agriculture in the county is noticed minutely in the account of the
parishes. The usual crops are reared, such as wheat, barley, oats, and a species of
inferior oats called small oats, ryegrass, clover, turnips, potatoes, beans, and peas.
Lime is a manure in great use, and seems to be well adapted to the soil in many
places. The roads are kept in good order, and there is now a ready access to the
markets in all directions. It need hardly be added, that the Aberdeenshire farmers are a
highly respectable, intelligent, and industrious class of individuals, most of them in
easy, and some of them in affluent circumstances.”
The New Statistical Account of Scotland, 1845, Volume 12.
“In parts of the Lowlands however, the tenant (often there called the husbandman
or gudeman) was the aristocrat of peasant life and often an employer [..]. Indeed some
of them claimed the style of gentlemen even thought they were legally no more than
tenants-at-will and use of this empty title involved them in heavier taxes. As one local
historian has explained apropos of the poll tax: ‘he could, however, escape the
imposition by renouncing any pretence to be a gentleman, which renunciation was to
be recorded in the Herald Register gratis. It would appear, however, that few availed
themselves of this privilege in Aberdeenshire’.”5 (Smout)
For a detailed family tree of the Craigs of Craigfintry & Riccarton see:
Howard, Joseph J., Maltravers Hearld Extraordinary & Crisp, Frederick A., Visitation
of England and Wales, Notes, Volume 5, 1903. Reproduced in Appendix – Part 2.
The F. Crisp pedigree above suggests that Robert Craig did, contrary to popular
belief, have living male first-cousins through his father’s immediately younger
brother – if this pedigree is correct the reason why Robert Craig chose not to pass the
estate to this branch of the family, which would usually be considered the natural
heirs, is not clear. Despite the deed of entail regarding the inheritance of the estate,
any male descendant of this younger branch would by right inherit the arms intact and
potentially the chiefship of the name.
Johnstone, John, The Scottish Christian Herald, Volume 1, Part 1, P141, 1836.
Alexander Craig (b. 1735) held Netherton (at Knockespock), his son Alexander
Craig (b. 1755) farmed Newbigging, George Craig (1771-1838) was tenant of
Tullochleys as was his eldest son, Alexander (1808-75), who paid Henry Percy
Gordon the sum of £40.3s.6p in rent for the year 1864-65. George Craig (1813-88)
became a merchant and chemist in Duncanstone in the neighbouring parish of Leslie.
Appendix – Part 1
Conn, Alexander, The History of the Conn Family.
A mention of the Conn family, neighbours of Craigfintry:
Another son of Alexander Conn was Thomas Conn, recorded as his second son, when
on a jury in March, 1556. In October, 1559 he was in court contesting the right to
Balmelie with Andrew Craig and was again on a jury in July, 1574. (R.S.C.Ab.-vol.i
pp.124; 142; 145 and 211). “As all these families lived fairly close to each other,
disputes arose over ownership of parts of lands and their boundaries. The Mowats of
Balquholly, for example, had had a quarrel with the Craigs of Cragfintry over a piece
of land called Balmelie, each claiming ownership. The Mowats had stolen cattle
belonging to the tenants of the Craigs. At a later stage, a relative of the notorious
Gordons of Gight had attempted to extend the boundaries of Balmelie by building a
fold dyke on Mowat land.”
Aberdeenshire, 1696, three neighbouring parishes (Quoted from Smout5)
Glenmuick: 103 tenants, 9 sub-tenants, 62 servants (2/3 on farms)
Migvie: 17 tenants, 31 sub-tenants, 11 servants (7 in homes of Lairds)
Tarland: 34 tenants, 32 sub-tenants, 65 servants (12 in heritors’ houses)
Various definitions
A comment on the definition of a clan by the Lord Lyon, cited by the recipient of a
letter from the Lyon Court:
“I think it would be fair to say that there are official clans that both have a clan chief
and do not have a clan chief, but we would not normally use the word ‘official’. There
is either a clan or there is not, be it with a chief or chiefless. It is not so much the case
that the clan is recognised, it is that there has been a recognised chief of the name, and
that constitutes a chief or an organised group of people being either a clan or family.”
Vassal, n. Longman Dictionary, 1984.
A man, or sometimes a woman, in a feudal society who has vowed homage and
loyalty to another as his/her feudal lord in return for protection and often a source of
income (FIEF) esp land.
Clan, n. Longman Dictionary, 1984.
1a. A Celtic group, esp in the Scottish Highlands, comprising a number of households
whose heads claim descent from a common ancestor. 1b. A group of people
descended from a common ancestor.

Appendix – Part 2

1. Craig of Craigfintry, Aberdeenshire, Pedigree by F. Crisp.
2. Craig of Revell End, Herts., Pedigree by J. Howard and F. Crisp.
3. Craig of Dilamgerbendi Insula, Hants., Pedigree by J. Howard and F. Crisp.
4. Craig of Clatt, Gartly, Leslie and Kennethmont, Aberdeenshire.
Appendix – Part 3 (In Research)

An annotated bibliography of sources referring to the connections and variations
between the families and names of Craig and Craigie.

An early Highland Laird as imagined in the Black Book of Taymouth, British

Dedicated to
L.C. & I.C.

Text © S. Craig, All Rights Reserved.
Images © Original Copyright Holders.

Further information on this text:
First published in 2010.