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THE SINCLAIRS OF FRESWICK

Freswick House (17th century) and the estate of Freswick are in the parish of Canisbay.
Read about it on www.caithness.org/history/articles/freswickhouse

I. WILLIAM SINCLAIR OF RATTAR, grandson of Sir John Sinclair of Greenland and Rattar, was the first "Sinclair of Freswick", that estate having been acquired by him, in 1661, from Mowat of Buquhollie, and his son, Magnus of Freswick. By his second marriage he had three sons and two daughters: -

  1. James, eldest son
  2. Robert
  3. David
  1. Janet, the eldest daughter, who married John Sinclair of Ulbster. (Retours 1712-1713)
  2. Anne, who married in 1678 Robert Sinclair of Durran The sons were all named in the disposition to their father to the lands of Freswick dated 10th and 20th July 1661.

II. JAMES SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK obtained a Crown charter, on 30th April 1672, in favour of his mother in liferent, and himself and his brothers in succession in fee. He died before 1696 without issue.

The arms of the family, (Nisbet) as recorded by James Sinclair in the Lyon Register, are: - Quarterly first azure, a ship at anchor, with Oars in Saltier, within a double tressure counter-flowered 01"; second or, a lion rampant gules; third as the second; and the fourth azure, a ship under sailor, and, over all, dividing the quarters, a cross engrailed sable, all within a bordure cheque or and gules; Crest, a cross pattee, within a circle of stars argent. Motto: Via crucis via lucis.

III. ROBERT SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK succeeded his brother James, and, dying unmarried, was succeeded by his brother David.

IV. DAVID SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK was twice married, first, to Barbara, daughter of Sir William Sinclair of Mey, (Contract of Marriage, 9th April 1695) and secondly to Sophia, daughter of Sir William Stewart of Burray. (Contract of Marriage, 25th June 1702). He had no issue by either marriage, In April 1712 he executed an entail or destination of the estate in favour of his nephew, William, second son of his half-brother, John Sinclair of Rattar, the destination being, failing his own heirs male or female, "in favour of William Sinclair, second son of John Sinclair of Rattar, and the heirs-male of his body, whom failing, to John Sinclair of Durran, my sister's son, and the heirs-male of his body; whom failing, to return to the heirs-male of the family of Rattar, my father's family". In 1712 and 1713, his sisters, Janet and Anne, were served heirs to him, and some legal proceedings touching the succession took place, but were ultimately abandoned. Mrs. Janet Sinclair, then relict of John Sinclair of Ulbster, executed in 1712 a deed from which the following is an extract: - " Out of the respect I have to the family of Ratter, being my father's family, and for supporting not only thereof, but also of my brother's family of Freswick, and his memory, condescended and agreed with the said William Sinclair that I should ratify the foresaid disposition and right, and denude myself of all title and right I have to the said estate".

V. WILLIAM SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK, second son of John Sinclair of Rattar, and grandson of William Sinclair of Rattar by his first marriage, added to the family estates by the purchase of the wadsets of Dunnet and Greenland, held by Murray of Clairden, and of the reversion of these estates held by Sir James Sinclair of Dunbeath, and in 1751 he purchased Dunbeath from Sir William Sinclair of Keiss and James Sinclair of Latheron for 3000 sterling, and the lands of Warse and others in Canisbay from the Groat family. The House of Freswick was built by him about middle of last century. In 1778 James Sinclair, son of James Sinclair of Latheron, who sold Dunbeath, attempted to set aside the sale, but after many years' litigation the action of reduction raised against Freswick's son and successor failed.

William Sinclair of Freswick was a gentleman of ability and of considerable local note, while his personal appearance is stated to have been dignified and imposing. As leader of one of the two political parties into which the county was in his time divided (Sir William Dunbar of Hempriggs leading the other), he was an influential county gentleman. If vindictive and somewhat unscrupulous towards his enemies and opponents, as they alleged, he was a warm, and, on many occasions, a generous and considerate friend. He was eager in the promotion of his own interests, and his acquisition of a considerable estate from moderate beginnings, and the political and family animosities prevalent in the times in which he lived, account, to some extent, for the rather unfavourable traditionary character he bears.

He married Katharine, daughter of George Sutherland of Forse, and he died in 1769. (Peerage case, 4th July 1769). He had a son and two daughters: -

  1. John, his successor
  1. Elizabeth, eldest daughter, married, when somewhat advanced in life, George Bean, a Writer in Inverness
  2. Jean, married Alexander Sinclair of Barrock, and was grand mother of Sir John Sinclair, late of Barrock
VI. JOHN SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK, Advocate, was Sheriff of the county, and was twice married. His first wife was Margaret, daughter of Sir John Dalrymple of Cousland, and a lady to whom he appears to have been much attached, although for some reason, now unknown, his father was much opposed to the marriage. By her he had a son and a daughter: -
  1. William, who was a Lieutenant in the 78th Regiment, in 1778. He predeceased his father without issue, and appears to have given him much trouble and distress from his extravagant habits
  1. Kitty, who also died before her father, in her fifteenth year
By his second wife, Margaret, daughter of James Moray of Abercairney, who survived him, he had no issue.

In the contested county election, in 1754, John Sinclair was invited by the Brodie party to stand as a candidate, but he declined, and supported General Scott, who was returned.

He died and was buried at Bath, in 1784, and was the last surviving collateral heir-male of the Rattar branch of the Caithness family, so that on the death of John, Earl of Caithness, in 1789, the succession to the earldom devolved on Sir James Sinclair of Mey, in default of heirs-male of the Greenland and Rattar family.

In reference to the settlement of the Freswick estates, he wrote, in 1782, to his second cousin, Dr. William Freswick, of Lochend, afterwards of Freswick: "I look on my grandfather (John Sinclair of Rattar) as the head of my family; from his descendants I never will give away what my father left me, but of these I will choose him I think the most worthy. A cousin or a nephew are equal with me in the scale. Whoever merits most will be preferable". Accordingly, on 30th May 1775, he executed a strict entail of the estates, in the destination of which he preferred the descendants of his paternal aunt, Barbara, daughter of John Sinclair of Rattar, and two of the younger sons of William, tenth Earl of Caithness, great-grandsons of John of Rattar, to the children of his sister, Mrs. Sinclair of Barrock, his nephew, William, the second son of Barrock, being the last named substitute of entail. The estates were settled (1st), on the heirs-male and female of his own body; (2d), on Robert Sinclair, eldest grandson of his aunt, Barbara, and her husband, John Sinclair of Forss; (3d), on Dr. William Sinclair, another grandson of Barbara Sinclair and John Sinclair of Forss; (4th and 5th), on his cousins, William and James, younger sons of William Sinclair of Rattar, tenth Earl of Caithness; and (lastly), on his nephew, William Sinclair, Writer to the Signet, the second son of Alexander Sinclair of Barrock, by his sister, Jean. This settlement of the estates was the cause of great dissatisfaction to his sisters, who, in a process of reduction in 1789 for setting it aside, complained of the entail as "disinheriting them and preferring a person who, although a relation of the family, was not even the nearest heir-male".

John Sinclair is described as a man of quick parts, but proud and extravagant, and inattentive to his affairs.

VII. ROBERT SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK, eldest son of James Sinclair of Holburnhead, and afterwards of Forss, succeeded in 1784, and died at Dunbeath Castle, without issue, in November 1794 (Retour 6th October). He married Esther Bland, said to have been an actress, and to have been the sister, or near relative, of the celebrated Mrs. Jordan.

VIII. WILLIAM SINCLAIR OF LOCHEND, which estate he acquired by purchase, in. 1778, for 2015, was grandson of John Sinclair of Forss, and Barbara Sinclair, and succeeded his cousin-german, Robert Sinclair of Freswick, in 1794. He was a Doctor of Medicine, and practised for many years in Thurso, and the county generally, before succeeding to the estates. He acquired Thura by purchase in 1801. He was twice married; and died on 15th March 1838, aged 90.

By his first wife, Isabella, daughter of Alexander Calder, last laird of Lynegar, who died in 1812, he had: -

  1. John, who died unmarried in 1832 in the twenty-second year of his age
  1. Barbara Madelina Gordon, the late Mrs. Thomson Sinclair of Freswick, twin sister of John
  2. Isabella, who married Mr. Thomas Cochrane Hume of Halifax, North America on 28th January 1840, and had a son, William Sinclair Hume, who died 9th October 1859, in early life, and two daughters; of whom one died young, and the other, Isabella Barbara, married Captain John Hobhouse Inglis Alexander of Southbar, R.N., and has issue
In 1816 William Sinclair married, secondly, his cousin, Jane, daughter of John Sinclair of Barrock, by whom he had a son and three daughters: -
  1. William James John Alexander, his successor
  1. Williamina, who died young
  2. Janet Sinclair Traill, who died in June 1870, at Torquay, unmarried
  3. Jane, who married Major-General Augustus Halifax Ferryman, and died in 1851, leaving one child, Augustus Hamilton Ferryman, now of Lochend and Thura
IX. WILLIAM JAMES JOHN ALEXANDER SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK succeeded his father in 1838, while yet in minority. He served for a short time in the Army, and died unmarried at Nottingham House, on 20th February 1855, in the thirty -second year of his age, and was succeeded by his half-sister, Barbara. He possessed good natural abilities, and but for his delicate health would, had his life been prolonged, have taken a lead in the county. In 1847 he issued an address to the Electors of Caithness, offering to represent the county in Parliament on Conservative principles, but he did not go to the poll.

X. MRS. BARBARA MADELINA GORDON THOMSON SINCLAIR OF FRESWICK married William Thomson esq., Deputy Commissary-General of the Forces, and had an only child, William Sinclair Thomson Sinclair.

XI. WILLIAM SINCLAIR THOMSON SINCLAIR, NOW OF FRESWICK, was born 8th April 1844, married on 18th June 1872 Isabella, eldest daughter of James Henderson, Esq. of Bilbster, and in 1876 succeeded to the family estates on the death of his mother.

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