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THE BRUCES OF STANSTILL

The farm of Stanstill is in the parish of Bower.

The Bruces, of whom the principal family was Bruce of Stanstill, are of old standing in the county. It is believed that ancient charters connected with this family are still extant in the charter-chest of Mr. Wemyss of Southdun; but the information at hand does not extend beyond 1559. At that period, Stanstill, which had formed part of the bishopric, was feued out with other lands to John, Earl of Sutherland. In the charter by the Bishop, Stanstill is mentioned as then held in feu by "William Davidson". As we find, in 1562, "David Saul of Stanstill", and, in 1567, "David Bruce of Stanstill", and David having been a family name, it is probable that "William Davidson" was William David's son, that is, William Saul or Bruce, son of David Saul or Bruce. Saul seems to have been the patronymic or clan name of the Bruces, for, in 1630, David Bruce, then of Stanstill, bequeathed "two hundred merks of his readiest rents to be dedicat and given to the building of ane ile and burying place in the kirk yard of Bower in the Clan-Saul Hillock, where he has ordainit to bury his bodie".

I. DAVID BRUCE, who was probably the David Saul of 1562, obtained a charter of Stanstill and part of Kirk in 1567; and in 1577 he received sasine on Stanstill, and in the hereditary office of Keeper of the Loch of Alterwall and fresh-water fishings thereof, on a charter from Alexander, Earl of Sutherland, the son of Earl John. David Bruce had two sons: -

  1. William, his successor
  2. John, mentioned in 1601
II. WILLIAM BRUCE OF STANSTILL AND HASTIGROW obtained a tack of teinds in 1573; and in 1582 he got a precept as heir to his father. He died in 1622. He was twice married; first to Isabella, daughter of Patrick Mowat of Buquhollie. She died in 1601, as appears from a tombstone to her memory, which had been originally placed in the parish church of Canisbay, and which is still extant in the churchyard there. By her William Bruce had three sons and two daughters: -
  1. David, his successor
  2. William, mentioned in 1617
  3. Patrick, who had a son named Magnus, and other children - Magnus being the eldest
  1. Christian, who married Gavin Bruce, portioner of Lyth
  2. Isabella
William Bruce married, secondly, Janet Murray, widow of David Sinclair, apparent of Forss, and daughter of Murray of Pulrossie, Sutherlandshire. She survived her husband; and much litigation took place between her and her relations (the Murrays of Pulrossie and Spanziedale) and her stepson, David Bruce, with the result, as stated in a letter in 1630, from David Bruce, minister of Olrig (a near connection of the Stanstill family), to Magnus Mowat, of Buquhollie, that "the Ladye craftily wrought her point, to the ruin of the House".

By Janet Murray, William Bruce had a daughter, Janet, who married James Sinclair of Reaster, afterwards of Rattar, son of Sir John Sinclair, first of Greenland and Rattar. By her eldest son, William, the Rattar line was carried on.

III. DAVID BRUCE OF STANSTILL succeeded his father, William, and married Helen, daughter of George Ogilvie of Carnoustie, and sister of Sir George Ogilvie. In reference to the misfortunes which befell the family of Stanstill in the time of David Bruce, minister of Olrig, he writes that, "the want of his tocher gude fra Carnoustie brought a discord betwixt his father and him", of which, he adds, his stepmother took advantage to his prejudice.

David Bruce left the estate much involved in debt, and the minister of Olrig, the fast friend of the family, urged Buquhollie, the uncle of Stanstill, "to lat all friends put to their shoulders for the standing of the House that is so unjustly pursuit", he himself having taken charge of the young heir, whom he describes as a "pretty quick bairn of nine years of age". David Bruce died in 1630, leaving a son and four daughters: -

  1. William, his heir
  1. Janet
  2. Jean
  3. Elizabeth
  4. Margaret
By his will he "left in Legacie" his four daughters as follows: Janet, to Lady Hatton, her mother's sister; Jean, to his cousin-german, Christian Mowat, wife of Sir John Sinclair of Dunbeath; Elizabeth, to her uncle, the laird of Birness; and Margaret, to her aunt, Christian, wife of Gavin Bruce of Lyth.

IV. WILLIAM BRUCE OF STANSTILL appears to have married a daughter of Sir John Sinclair of Dunbeath, for in a bond to Sir John, in 1640, he mentions the latter as his father-in-law. If he had issue, there is no account of them. David Bruce of Lyth, the minister of Olrig, who had taken charge of William when a minor, at his death, in 1633, committed his ward to the care of his brother and heir, William, and a great deal of litigation subsequently took place between them.

The estate was apparently hopelessly sunk in debt, and Sir John Sinclair had acquired apprisings over it, amounting to 20,000 merks, In 1649, William Bruce, portioner of Lyth, got right to these apprisings from Sir John, subject to the condition that Patrick, the uncle of William Bruce of Stanstill, or Magnus, Patrick's eldest son, should be entitled to redeem the lands within a certain time. This makes it probable that, at the period of this transaction, William Bruce was dead, and had left no issue. The estate was not redeemed, and consequently, in 1653, Robert Bruce, eldest son of William Bruce of Lyth, came into possession of Stanstill. The Lyth Bruces were no doubt connected with the Stanstill family, as were the Bruces of Hastigrow and Ham; but the particulars of the relationship have not been traced.

V. ROBERT BRUCE OF STANSTILL, the son of William Bruce, portioner of Lyth, and nephew of David Bruce, minister of Olrig, married Elizabeth or Elspeth, daughter of James Sinclair of Rattar and had a son, William.

VI. WILLIAM BRUCE OF STANSTILL is described, in 1667, as "Younger of Stanstill", and as portioner of Lyth. In 1666 he married Margaret, daughter of David Sinclair of Southdun. (Contract of Marriage). His further history is unknown, but the title-deeds of the estate will no doubt show when Stanstill passed from the Bruce family, as it long ago did. There is some notice of a second son, George.

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