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[Exchequer Rolls; Register of the Privy Seal; Bain's Documents; Report of Historical Manuscripts Commission - Atholl and Home, etc.; Hay's Genealogie; Nisbet's Heraldry;


THE St.Clairs of Herdmanston can illustrate a more ancient establishment in Scotland than the St.Clairs of Roslyn, Earls of Orkney, but no common origin can be traced. The Herdmanstons derive from

I. HENRY DE ST.CLAIR, vice-comes of Richard de Moreville, Constable of Scotland, from whom he received, in 1162 - for certain military services - a charter of the lands of "Hermanestum cum lola terra quam Ricardus Camerarius tenuit de Hugone, patre meo, de Morevilla et de me", which lands have ever since continued in the family; thus in point of ancient descent the first in East Lothian. Very few, if any, of the great Scottish families possess ancestral estates granted at so early a period. What adds to the singularity in the present instance is the fact that Herdmanston is not a large estate, and on that account must have been greatly exposed to the rapacity of the more opulent and powerful neighbouring nobles. Anderson [Diplomata Scotiae, folio 76] has engraved a curious charter, in quitclaim of certain "nalivi", by which Richard de Moreville conveys to Henry Sainteclair " Edmundam filium Bonde et Gillimichel fratrem ejus, et filios et filias suas, et totam progeniem ab eis descendentem". In the Acts of the Scottish Parliament, Henry de St.Clair appears as a witness in the year 1180. From the close association with the de Morevilles, it may be inferred that this Henry de St.Clair was of the same family as Hugh de St.Clair, co-excommunicate with Balliol and de Moreville after their opposition to the tyranny of Becket, the English Archbishop. In the "Haigs of Bemerside", Petrus de Haga is stated to have married, about 1203, Ada, daughter of Sir Henry de St.Clair of Carfrae. In succession to him is

II ALAN DE ST.CLAIR, who, with his spouse, Matilda of Windsor, received a charter from William de Morevill, Constable of Scotland, on whose death in 1196 a charter of confirmation issued from Roland Fitz-Uthred, Earl of Galloway, who had married the Constable's sister, and succeeding him in his estate and office, was bound to confirm the former gift. About 1244 Alan de Saynclair, or Scincler, as it is also spelled, takes oath with others that he did not send people to waste the land of the Kings of England. Alan's wife was evidently English.

III JOHN OF HERDMANSTON, who was with the Scottish King and army in Argyll in 1248, may be considered as the successor to Alan. This John was succeeded by

NOTE. - John of Herdmanston may not have been of the St.Clair lineage. Andrew Herdmanston was of Balnagowan in Ross, about 1368.

IV JOHN DE SEINCLER, Lord of Herdmanston, who swore allegiance and fealty to King Edward of England at Montrose, 10th July 1296. The seal affixed by him to this document is lost. He will be the J. de St.Clair noted as receiving at Glasgow, 22nd August 1301, 100 shillings for the Earl of Dunbar. After the Battle of Bannockburn, amongst the prelates, nobles, and barons assembled by the victorious Bruce at Cambuskenneth, 6th November 1314, is Johannis de Sancto Claro. His successor was

V SIR WILLIAM ST.CLAIR, who, like his predecessor, and his contemporary namesake of Roslyn, was the companion-in-arms of King Robert Bruce, who, on account of his heroically valiant services at the famous and decisive Battle of Bannockburn, presented him with a sword, on the broad side of which were engraved the words - " Le Roi me donne, St.Cler me porte" - The King gave me, Sinclair carries me. Sir William obtained in 1325 a charter from King Robert I of the Barony of Cesswith or Cessford faciendo servitium quatuor. architenentum in exercitu regis. Under reference to the Herdmanstons, Hay has - "Willielmus Saintclair occiditur in obsidione Berwici facta per Robertum Senescallum, David Rege captivo". This siege occurred in 1355.

NOTE - The "Sword of Bruce" was stolen from the Herdmanston family early last century.

VI SIR WILLIAM ST.CLAIR, NEXT OF HERDMANSTON. allied in marriage with the other ancient, but far more powerful, family of the St.Clairs of Roslyn, who, in truth, exceeded most other families in the kingdom for grandeur and wealth. His lady was Margaret [daughter of William St.Clair of Roslin], afterwards Countess-Dowager of Angus. Being within the fourth degree of relationship, she had obtained in 1353 a papal dispensation to marry Thomas Stewart, Earl of Angus, Chamberlain of Scotland, in 1357. The Earl died in Dumbarton Castle about, and not later than, 1362 - when an entry appears in the Rolls for his funeral expenses - leaving issue by Margaret St.Clair a daughter Margaret, in her own right Countess of Angus, on whose resignation, in 1389, her natural son George -by William, Earl of Douglas - obtained a charter of that Earldom. King David had, in 1342, assigned to John de St.Clair the thanage of Cowie (Colby) in place of a pension of £20, and in the 34th year of his reign - 13th April 1364 - King David granted a charter to Margaret de Santo Claro, Countess of Angus, for £20 sterling annually from the same thanage of Colby. By this noble lady Sir William had three sons -

  1. JOHN, next of Herdmanston
  2. JAMES, probably first of Longformacus
  3. SIR WALTER, Baron of Cessford, whose heiress - CHRISTIAN, married Sir William Cockburn, who disputed about the Barony of Cessford in 1416.
VII SIR JOHN ST.CLAIR, OF HERDMANSTON, was brother-uterine to Margaret, Countess of Angus and Mar - the former in her own right and the latter by marriage. The relation is recited in a charter executed by the Countess in 1389, amongst the witnesses to which is Joannes de Sancto Claro de Hermiston frater noster. This Lord of Herdmanston witnessed a charter at Perth, 13th January 1367; and a John St.Clair is noted as a witness on 23rd February 1369, and in 1371. In 1376 he resigned Cessford to Sir Walter St.Clair, and Robert the Second issued a charter on the 8th March same, at Perth, to "our faithful Walter de St.Clair all the Barony of Cesswith, with the mill and pertinents, on resignation of John de St.Clair". A charter, dated 12th August 1381, by Margaret, Countess of Mar and Augus, has as witnesses her brothers John and James of St.Clair. Polwarth was bestowed upon Sir John in 1377 by reason of his marriage to Elizabeth, the daughter and sole heir of Sir Patrick de Polwarth of Polwarth. He had issue -

SIR WILLIAM ST.CLAIR, next of Herdmanston.

VIII SIR WILLIAM: ST.CLAIR, EIGHTH OF HERDMANSTON, was made prisoner at Homildon in 1402. A Sir William St.Clair had safe-conduct to England and back (September, 1405), and was hostage for the Earl of Douglas (September 1405). Sir William St.Clair, Lord of Herdmanston, has safe-conduct till Pentecost (March 1407); the Lord of Herdmanston, hostage for the Earl of Douglas, safe conduct till Midsummer (May 1407).

XI SIR JOHN ST.CLAIR, next on record, obtained in 1434 a notarial transumpt of the charter to his predecessor, Henry de St.Clair, of the lands of Carfrae formerly mentioned, which transumpt is attested by a Thomas St.Clair, and in 1444 Sir John had an investiture of the Barony of Polwarth. In 1446 he was allowed £3, 6 shillings and 8 pence for his expenses at the siege of Edinburgh Castle. There is a reference in the Exchequer Rolls of 1359 to the rent of Polmase-St.Clair, and in 1455 Polmass-Sinclar and Polmass-Weland, Stirling, are each found assessed at 10 shillings annual rent. In the latter year there is also an entry as to the Castle ward of the ville de Polwarde, which in 1456 is remitted on account of the waste condition of the lands. On the 8th December 1440, Sir John de St.Clair, Knight, Lord of Lethrig, and John de St.Clair, lord of Herdmanston, appear as witnesses, also John de St.Clair of Polwarth, 24th July 1444, and St.Clair of Herdmanston, armiger, on 28th March 1450, attests confirmation of charter by Sir George Seton of Langnudre, Knight, to Lady Katherine Seton, relict of quondam [the deceased] John, Lord of Seton, his grandfather. He appears again as a witness 11th April 1450, also on 17th October 1463, and 12th October 1464, finds him one of a jury. He had issue -

  1. JOHN, died during fatherís lifetime, married Katharine, daughter of Sir Thomas Hume of that Ilk [of Hume], by whom he had two daughters -
    1. MARION, the eldest, was married to Sir George Hume of Wedderburn. She got sasine of Polwarth 10th November 1475
    2. MARGARET, married Sir Patrick Hume, brother of Wedderburn, and ancestor of the Earls of Marchmont. Margaret Sinclair was retoured in 1476 as one of the heirs of her grandfather, and another retour on 7th May 1504, apprises us that Margaret Sinclair, mother of Alexander Hume, died, seized of Kimmerghem Berwick.
    From these double marriages the families of Hume quarter the coats of St.Clair with their paternal bearings.
  2. SIR WILLIAM ST.CLAIR, next of Herdmanston
  4. JAMES
NOTE - Polmase St.Clair and Polmase Weland; Can Polmase have been so divided on the occasion of the Stratherne heiresses marrying Weyland de Ard and William St.Clair ?

JOHN ST.CLAIR, FIAR OF HERDMANSTON, died in apparency, for on the 2nd May 1472, a charter was transumed as requested by Katherine Home, relict of the late John Sinclair, son and apparent heir of Herdmanston. Dying without issue male, there arose a dispute and a question in law anent the right of succession to the estate betwixt his two daughters, the heirs of line and at law, and his brother Sir William St.Clair, his heir-male (Registers of Parliament). At length, by the mediation of their mutual friends, the matter was settled and composed, the heir-male got the ancient family estate of Herdmanston, and the heirs-female got the estates of Polwarth and Kimmerghem.

XII SIR WILLIAM ST.CLAIR, succeeding his brother, continued the line of the family. He may be the William St.Clair, Lord Conservator of the truce, 14th August 1451. His successor

XIII JOHN SINCLAR had sasine to Herdmanston in 1481, and is named in the Acta Domini Concilii of 1484. As superior he received on 21st February 1501-2, the resignation by George Ker, of Samuelston, and Marion Sinclair, his spouse, of the lands of Friarness, Berwick. On the 3rd March 1504-5, upon resigning his patrimonial lands, a charter of confirmation issued to John Sinclar of Herdmanston, and his heirs, of all and singular the lands of Herdmanston with castle, fortalice, and mill, and the patronage of the chapel of St. John the Evangelist near the castle; lands of Carfra with mill in bailie of Lauderdale, near Berwick; - and lands and Barony of Wester Pencaitland, with the mill, which latter were fallen in the King's hands by the non-entry of John, Lord Maxwell.


He is noticed in a complaint of 25th May 1519, preferred against him by Dame Nicholas Ker, Lady of Samuelston, in the matter of the lands of Friarness, in Lauderdale, belonging to her in heritage, and held by her from him in chief In sequence to the foregoing, on the 9th June 1519, a writ stopping execution was sent to the Castle of Herdmanston requiting Sir William Sinclair of that Ilk [of Herdmanston] to give copy of process led against Nicholas Ker. On the 30th July 1522, confirmation issued to William Sinclair de Herdmanston and Beatrix Ranton, his spouse, for Herdmanston, Milton, and Wester Pencaitland, and Myddyll in Berwick. On the 2nd January 1530-31, William Sinclar of Herdmanston issued a Charter of Frierness, in Carfra, to Elizabeth Home, Lady Hamilton, which formerly belonged to her grandfather, George Ker of Samuelston, and was adjudged to William Sinclair in the time of Nicolas, daughter of George Ker. Witnesses: Alexander and James, brothers of granter. Signed," Willyam Sinclar of Herdmanston", Seal attached: Shield coucho bearing a cross engrailed. Crest: A griffin's head and neck. Legend: "S.WYLLMI SINCLAR DE HERDMANSTON".

NOTE - Beatrix Ranton, Lady Herdmanston, has several notices of an uncomplimentary nature in records.

XV JOHN SINCLAIR DE HERDMANSTON, and Margaret Sinclair, his spouse, got confirmation 27th June 1545, and on 10th July 1546, as Lord of Herdmanston, he issued a Precept of Sasine in favour of George, Lord Home, for the lands of Friarness, which he held in chief for ward and relief. On the 5th May 1552, he infefts Alexander, Lord Home. In 1542 he is witness to a resignation made of the Baronies of Roslin and Pentland. He died before 7th September 1567, when the Regent and Lords of Secret Council charge Margaret Sinclair, relict of John Sinclair of Herdmanston - now the spouse of James Ormiston of that Ilk - the said James, and others, their servants, and all others, possessors, keepers, holders, and detainers of the tower, fortalice, and house of Herdmanston, to render and deliver same to the officers executors hereof under pain of rebellion and horne [outlawed].

XVI SIR WILLIAM SINCLAIR OF HERDMANSTON, and James Ormiston of that Ilk [of Ormiston], appear apud Edinburgh, when Herdmanston claims the teinds [tithes] of Pencaitland. Ker of Cesfurde and Fadounsyde make complaint 13th August 1586, that Francis, Earl of Bothwell, obtained a commission to arrest Fawdonside's brother for that he allegit intromettit and awaytuke from Sir William Sinclair of Herdmanston certain cattle. They state that the commission was most inconsiderately and inadvisedly granted. John (Adam?) Robsoun, in Thorbrandsheuch, entered caution 17th March 1586-87, to underlie the law for crimes which Herdmanston and his tenants have to lay to his charge. Caution was taken on 10th January 1588-89, that John Cockburn of Wodheid shall relieve Sir William Sinclair of Herdmanston of his part of the first barons' tax of £40,000 for his lands of Wodheid, if found that he should do so; and on the 10th February following caution was given by Patrick Livingstone of Saltcoats for the second term of barons' tax for his lands of Kelhop, lying within the barony of Carfrae and bailiary of Lauderdale, besides 20 shillings already consigned by him in the hands of the Clerk of the Council. Again, there is caution 14th July 1590, for 5,000 merks from Patrick Murray of Falahill in favour of Herdmanston. The latter became caution in 1,000 merks 27th November 1591, for James Sinclair of Ewingston that he should not harm Alexander Aicheson of Gosfurd, William Sinclair of Roslin being cautioner in relief. Again, on 8th December 1591, there is caution by Sir William Sinclair of Herdmanston as principal, and Sir William Sinclair of Roslin as surety, Robert Sinclair, Writer [lawyer], being procurator for the parties, and amongst other witnesses is Oliver Sinclair of Ravensneuk. On the 2nd November 1592, Herdmanston has a dispute about some lands, and this is his last notice in the records. He is noted on 23rd August 1582, as one of the signatories to the Secret Hand, in which the Ruthven raid originated. On 24th May 1587, Archibald Turubull, in Hova, made complaint that Herdmanstone has kept captive his son Gawine for alleged theft of sheep. The Lords ordain Gawin to be still kept pending satisfaction.

In the Chartulary of Roslin there is an entry in 1571 of William St.Clair, brother-german [full brother] to Sir William St.Clair of Herdmanston, knight, appearing as witness to an infeftment. Nevertheless, to cite Hay, the story runs thus:-

XVlI SIR JOHN SINCLAIR OF HERDMANSTON, as is said, married Janet Hume, upon whom he begot

XVIII HENRY, who succeeded to the estate. His son

XIX SIR WILLIAM, espoused Sibilla, daughter to Sir John Cockburne of Ormeston, Secretarie of Scotland, upon whom he begot

XX SIR JOHN, who was Commissioner for Haddingtonshire in 1644. He married Margaret, daughter to James Richardson, Laird of Smiton, by whom he had

XXI SIR JOHN, who held Roslin in wadset. In 1666 John St.Clair of Roslin raised letters of lawborrowes against Sir John St.Clair of Herdmanston and Dame Helen his wife.

XXII SIR JOHN married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Sinclair, Baronet of Stevenson, by whom he had issue -

  1. JOHN, next of Herdmanston
  2. ROBERT, who had no male issue
  3. GEORGE, whose issue failed
  4. MATTHEW, of whom hereafter
XXIII JOHN ST.CLAIR, married in 1659 Katherine Sinclair, Mistress of Sinclair, only daughter of John, 10th Lord Sinclair of Ravenscraig. The only surviving issue of this marriage was a son Henry, who succeeded his father in Herdmanston, and to his maternal grandfather as Lord Sinclair.

XXIV HENRY ST.CLAIR OF HERDMANSTON, LORD SINCLAIR. In 1677 he got a new patent of the Sinclair peerage, with remainder in default of the male issue of his own body to the heirs-male of his father. By his lady, Grizel, daughter of Sir James Cockburn, Baronet, of Closeburn, he had with other unmarried male issue two sons -

  1. JOHN, Master [heir apparent] of Sinclair
Dying in 1723, Lord Sinclair was succeeded in the Sinclair estates by his eldest son

XXV JOHN, MASTER OF SINCLAIR, who, having participated in the Rising of 1715, was attainted, and never assumed the title, He died without issue in 1750, and was succeeded by his brother

XXVI THE HON. JAMES ST.CLAIR, de jure, 12th Lord Sinclair, who never assumed the title. He was a general in the army and a distinguished diplomatist. He died without issue in 1762, when the representation of the Herdmanstons opened to the descendants of his granduncle,

DR. MATHEW ST.CLAIR, fourth son of Sir John St.Clair of Herdmanston, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Ker of Cavers. He had issue -

  1. CHARLES, rightful Lord Sinclair
  2. A daughter, married to Mr. Molleson
He died in 1728, and was succeeded by his son

XXVII CHARLES ST.CLAIR OF HERDMANSTON, Advocate, 1722, who, on the death of General the Hon. James St.Clair of Dysart, inherited a claim to the Sinclair peerage in virtue of the remainder contained in the new patents of 1677. He married Elizabeth, daughter of the Hon. Sir Andrew Hume of Kimmerghem, a Lord of Session in Scotland; and dying on 4th January 1775, he was succeeded by his son

XXVIII ANDREW ST.CLAIR OF HERDMANSTON. He married Elizabeth, daughter of John Rutherford, younger of Edgerton, and granddaughter of Sir John Rutherford of Edgerton, and had issue -

  1. CHARLES of Herdmanston
  2. MATHEW, Commander Royal Navy, lost at sea in 1800
  1. ELEANOR, died unmarried 1786
Andrew St.Clair died in 1776. His eldest son

XXIX CHARLES ST.CLAIR OF HERDMANSTON succeeded him, and in 1782 preferred his claim to the dormant barony of Sinclair, which he got acknowledged after an investigation in the House of Lords. He thus became Lord Sinclair; and was the first of his line to hold that title without descent from the Earls of Orkney, Lords Sinclair. The original Sinclair Barony was not resigned to the Crown when the new patent - in virtue of which the family of Herdmanston now enjoy the title - was granted by King Charles II in 1677.

NOTE - Blans: George Sinclair in 1455 received £13, 6 shillings and 8 pence from the Customs of Haddington, and in 1461 had sasine; in 1473 Edward Sinclair is of Blans; in 1491 George de Sancto Claro; in 1513 John Sinclair, who is a witness in 1531; 1575-1590 David Sinclair is of Blans; and on 16th April 1605, there is caution in £1000 for William Sinclair of Blans.

NOTE - Gosfurd: Thomas Sinclair witness, 1463; receives, 1464, repayment from Queen of £100 money lent; in 1465 receives fermes of the County of March; in 1474 has charter of Gosfurd and pertinents subject to 24 marks, annual rent; has confirmation 28th January 1458-59 to him and his spouse Mirabelle Dalrymple. In 1506 John Sinclair has sasine, and is in 1507-10 chamberlain of the lordship of Ballincrief and Gosfurd. Ballincrief in 1471 was tenanted by William Sinclair; in 1508 by James Sintclar; in 1569, John, son to William Sinclair in Gosfuirde; in 1582, Alexander, son to the late William Sinclair of Gosfurd, and John, son to Alexander in Ballincrief are cited to appear.

In 1513 William Sinclare in Morham is vice comes in huc parte, viz. , Edinburgh infra Haddington, also for Roxhurgh, Selkirk, Linlithgow, and Berwick.

Adam Sinclar de Fynlark, 1438; John Sinclere is de Finlarge, 1498; George de St.Clair of Hume, 1439; William Sinclare de Northrig, 1497; quondam [the deceased] Archibald Sinclar de Westhall, 1503; Andrew Sincler (de Sancto Claro), Vicar of Lagan and Notary Public, 1509, in 1527 and 1529 is Canon of Ross; Mariote Sinclere, wet-nurse to James Prince of Scotland, and David Carruthers her spouse, 1512; Dominus Patrick Sinclare, Rector of Oldhamstocks, 1450; William Sinclair of Auchinfrankach, 1501; John Sinclare of Auchingilbert, 1515; William Sinclair of Pynlarg in Forfar, royal charter in 1529; charter to Edward Sinclair of Galvelmoir in Perth, 1528-29, confirmation to him and Elizabeth Lytill his spouse, 1544-45; charter to James Sinclair and Isabelle Inglis his spouse, of Murdocarny in Fife, 1529; Dominus Adam Sinclair, prebendary of Crichton, 1543; D. Thomas Synclare, capellanus witness, 1419; D. George Sinclare, rector de Polwarth, 1516; John Sinclair, rector of Comry, 1533; D. Stephen Sinclare, vicar de Aberfule, 1543; the king confirms in 1495 the charter of William Sinclair, Lord of Auchingibbert, to his nephew Richard, with reservation of a third to Margaret Gladstone, wife of granter; etc., etc., etc.

George Seintcler received safe conduct to England, 23rd March 1424.

Alexander Sinclere received passport to England, 25th February 1425-26.

Earlston: This was bought in 1472 by a younger son of Sir John St. Clair of Herdmanston from Sir Patrick Hepburn of Hailes. In 1541 John Sinclair is of Erliston (Exchequer Rolls); he married Janet, daughter of John Gordon of Troquhain, and was succeeded by a son John, who married Catherine, daughter of John Glendinning of Drumrash, and had two daughters (1) Margaret, married, 1582, to John Gordon of Airds, whose issue succeeded; and (2) Rosina, married to John Stewart of Ardoch, George Sinclair, son of and brother of the late John Sinclair of Earlston, is noted in 1590. John Sinclair had a son accidentally drowned, and a natural son also named John, afterwards legitimated but excluded from the succession. He was an officer in Lord Kenmures troop of horse at Killiecrankie. and from him lineally descended William Sinclair, who held farms on the Kenmure estate. The devotion of Robert Sinclair to Viscount Kenmure is well known. His mother, Annie Gordon, was of near kin to the Viscount, Robert was grandfather of John Sinclair, farmer, who died at New Galloway in 1813 or 1814, leaving sons and daughters. His grandsons, William and Robert, left only daughters, and his grandson, John Sinclair, had by his wife, Mary Jane Sadler, daughter of a Bristol merchant, John Sinclair, architect, in Western Australia; Robert Sinclair, auctioneer, Toowoomba; and David Dalrymple Sinclair, law student in Western Australia. About a hundred years ago a seal was found in the garden of Earlston bearing the arms of Sinclair and having this legend, "Sigillum Barones Baroniae De Earlston".

The Sinclairs of Kellister and Snarnes, a small estate on the shores of St. Magnus Bay, Shetland, have a tradition that their forbears escaped from Castles Girnigo and Sinclair by cutting their way from the dungeon floor to the sea, and then fleeing to the Orkneys. The old deed of land situated in Sinclair Bay was in their possession in 1854 (letter from Robert Sinclair of Gympie, Queensland, a member of this family).

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