Original Communication of Sir Walter Scott, relative to the Clan Graham.

[From Dublin University Magazine, Vol.I, No.III, March 1833]

We have been favoured by a Clergyman, resident in the diocese of Derry, with the following extract from an original communication of Sir Walter Scott, in answer to a request that he would furnish the Reverend Gentleman with a brief account of the original settlement of his own family, the Grahams, in the North of Ireland.

"The sept or clan of Graemes, which at one time was so numerous and powerful on the west border, are said to have claimed their descent from Malise with the bright sword, a younger brother of one of the Scottish Earls of Stratherne, of the name of Graham. This seems uncertain, but they were hardy men, of great power on the borders, and originally of Scottish extraction, though latterly they usually embraced the English interest. Indeed, as they were situated on the debateable land, which was claimed by both kingdoms, each country refused to acknowledge them as the subjects of the rival nation, or to demand from the other, satisfaction for the wrongs they inflicted, and as neither country would permit the other to punish them as subjects, the consequence was, that their depredations went frequently altogether unrepressed. They lived like other borderers, almost entirely upon spoil, and it is said that when the last piece of beef was put into the pot, the mother used to say to the son, "Rise Rowley, houghs in the pot.” They had also like other borderers repeated quarrels with their neighbours, and most probably with the Maxwells and the Johnstons, and as when blood was spilt, it was a point of conscience in that lawless country never to let it pass unrevenged "the heathenish and savage custom of deadly feud” as it is termed in our law books, must often have given rise to lasting and cruel wars.

I do not find any particular mention of their quarrel with the Johnstons (the family tradition) but I observe that in 1550, the Johnstons and Maxwells, and other west borderers, to the number of two thousand men, entered the debateable land, and burned the house of one Armstrong, on which occasion the Graemes and other borderers there skirmished with them, and slew some men, Lord Dacre, then warden of the west marches of England, having his forces drawn up to support them, but not crossing the border, to avoid a violation of the peace;*(see Note 1 at end) and the resentment of the Scotch was so great, that many of the debateable land threatened to become liege men of Scotland, to avoid the effects of the vengeance of the Scots, unless the English warden would agree to protect them effectually.

The end of the dispute was, that the debateable land was divided between the kingdoms, by Commissioners, assigning the upper part of it to Scotland, and the lower, where most of the Grahams dwelt, to England.

In the above-mentioned introduction there is a list of names containing many of the clan of Graeme who are accused of incursions, murders, burnings, &c. committed about 1552. I do not observe any designed as being of Whitehouse. In 1593 it is proposed as a question for consideration, "Because the Graeme's have no commander under the Lord Warden, what course shall be taken to keep good order among them and their branches?" from which it appears that the name had no acknowledged head or chief, who according to border-custom, was answerable for the misdeeds of those of his name, whom he was always supposed to possess the means of restraining or punishing.

The resolution taken by the Warden Lord Scroop, with the advice of the Border Council was, that until he should name an officer over them, the principal men of the name should be held responsible for themselves and those under them. Soon after it would seem that William Bill, of Rosetrees, and Rob, of the Fald had been compelled to enter pledges for the good behaviour of their retainers, and that the Warden intended to proceed in the same manner with the several branches of the Graemes, Armstrongs, Fosters, &c. who are described as having very insolent members belonging to them.

In 1600 many of the Graemes petition the Lord Warden, setting forth their willingness to be amenable to good order in various particulars, and complaining, that the gentlemen of the country were joined together in a league against them, and sate upon the bench and jail delivery as their judges, although they were known to thirst for their blood, and would cut their throats with their own hands if they dared. There is a reply of the gentlemen, who assert that the Graemes and their clans were the chiefest actors of the spoil and decay of the country, and maintain their own league to have for its object only the suppress of their depredations. These proceedings are followed by a note of the names of the clans of all the Graemes, with those of the persons, for whom each leader held himself responsible to Lord Scroop the Warden. The leaders were -Walter Graeme, the good man of Netherby; John Graeme, of Aughouse Well; Fergus Graeme, of Sowport, David Graeme, of the Millens; John Graeme, of the Pear-tree; The Goodman of the Moat. Young Hutchin's clan or gang, answered for by Geordie Hutchins' brother, William Graeme, another brother of Young Hutchins, William Graeme, son of Robbie, Socks Johnnie, Robert Graeme son to Hutchins, Davie and his brother Andrew; Hutchins Arthur, William Graeme of the Fold, William Graeme of the Rosetrees, (these two appear to have had great followers); Daves of Bankhead, Jock of the Lake, Dicks Davis and William Graeme Goodman of Meclop.

The number of names for whom these leaders gave assurance, amounts to four hundred and thirty-nine, being probably the strength of the clan with their dependents in 1602.

James II., on his accession to the Crown of England banished the Graemes to the North of Ireland, upon their own petition, as his proclamation alleges, confessing themselves to be no meet persons to live in these countries. This measure was a political rather than an arbitrary one, but I suspect, much of James's animosity against the Graemes arose from their constant adherence to English interest.

There was a tax imposed on Cumberland for the expense of transporting them, the total of which amounts to £408. 10s. 9d. sterling. They appear to have been transported at three several times, the money being divided among them at the rate of about one or two pounds each. Nicholson has published the names of those who were removed at the second and third transportations, but I do not find the designation of Whitehouse. This however is not conclusive, for many of the exiles are described by patronymics, or by nick-names according to the border fashion.

Most of the particulars I have mentioned are extracted from the introduction to the Border History, and are taken by the authors from a folio manuscript, written by Richard Bell, Warden Clerk of the Marches, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.

If this could be consulted, it might throw light on the subject of your inquiries, but I could never learn where it is now deposited, or if it be in existence.

The deportation of the Graemes seems to have been very perfectly executed, for there is not now a man of consequence of that name in Cumberland, save Sir James Graham, of Netherby, whose family arose "tempore Caroli primi." * * * It was no uncommon thing for the Scottish Borderers to fly to Ireland. In the "Memoirs of Captain Creighton,” published by Swift, that gentleman says, his ancestor fled to Ireland in consequence of having killed a Maxwell, and that two of the offended Clan followed him thither, waylaid and shot him as he went to church. It is, therefore, probable, that your ancestors cause of expatriation may have been altogether distinct from the general transportation of the Graemes in 1603. I have often wished to know if there are any traditions preserved concerning that event in Ireland, and what became of the exiles.* (see Note 2 at end)

If you consider this information as deserving the fulfilment of the promise you have had the goodness to make me regarding the Minstrelsy of the Ulster Settlers, I will be much gratified; and should your collection extend beyond the size of an ordinary letter, it will, reach me safe, and post-free, if addressed to me, under the cover of Francis Freeling, Esq., Post-Office General, London.

* * * If you send me a drawing, or heraldric description, of the Coats of Arms you mention, (the crest a falcon - proper - with escallop shells on the shield), I will compare them with those of the families of Graham here.

I have no connection with the Scottish Monthly Magazine, farther than wishing well to it, and sending it some scraps of information. * * *

I omitted to say, that the song of "The gallant Graham,s” which you mention, seems to have been originally written upon their deportation in 1603; but afterwards, from a similarity of the name, and popularity perhaps of the time, it was re-written, and applied to the banishment of Montrose. The last edition, I believe, is the "Border Minstrelsy." Of the earlier song, I have only a flying line or two, such as-
"They all were dress'd in armour fine. Upon the pleasant banks of Tyne,"
Which must have applied to the Border Graemes, not to those of Mentieth.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

walter scott.

To the Rev. John Graham, Glanone,
County of Londonderry, Ireland.


*(1) In King Edward the Sixth's journal of his own time, there is the following note of this affair:-" 16th of August, 1550, the Earl of Maxwell came down to the north border, with a good force to overthrow the Graemes, who were a certain family that were related to me,-but the Lord Dacre stood before his face with a good band of men, and so put him from his purpose, and the Gentlemen called Graemes skirmished with the said Earl, slaying certain of his men."*
* You will find much correspondence about this affair in the Introduction to Nicholson's History of Cumberland:- In the Gentleman's Magazine for September 1831, page 214, it is recorded that among the manuscripts at Hatfield-house there are many papers touching the Grahams or Graemes, from 1603 to 1607, by which it appears that that tribe were transported to Holland, Ireland, &c., in bands of fifty and sixty each, until they were almost rooted out of their own country.- Before the union of the Crowns, this had been the most bold and formidable of the border clans.

*(2) The only one is their being landed at Groomsport, in the County of Down, which name has since been corrupted from Graemesport, which that event had given to it.