Copy of extract from the ‘Weekly Scotsman’, 11th April 1931.

Cairncross family, Records of Olden Times, by A. F. Cairncross.

Cairncross is the name of lands in Glenesk in Angus, which anciently belonged to the lay abbots of the Celtic Church in Brechin and Glenesk.

The ordinance map of the latter shows "Upper Cairncross" and "Lower Cairncross at Tarfside. About 1230, if not that very year, Morgund, the son of John the Abbot granted a charter to his son Michael of 416 Scottish acres of his lands of Cairncross in Glenesk. The fact that the charter is witnessed by Gregory, Bishop of Brechin; Laurence, Archdeacon of St. Andrews; the celebrated Alan of Durward and other notable men of that time, proves the importance of these lands.

James I., at Aberdeen confirmed this charter on Aug 2nd, 1428. The year 1230 was about the time when landowners in these parts began to be called by the name of their lands. So, some time between 1310 and 1325 Duncan de Cairncross was one of the witnesses to a charter by Henry de Mauls, Lord of Panmure In Angus. (Cairncross lands are now absorbed into the Panmure Estates) This Duncan is the first Cairncross mentioned in authentic records, and Stodart in his Scottish Arms (Edinburgh 1881) is of the opinion that all later Cairncrosses are descended from him. Then Duncan de Cairncross, on May 25th, 1369, witnessed the agreement between Haken Jensen, Governor of Orkney and Shetland, and Bishop William to end the quarrels between them and their men. In 1389, Simon de Cairncross received through the Gustemars of Montrose in Angus payment of a debt by command of the King.

Andre of Wyntoun relates in his reliable history that Cairncross was one of the gentlemen of Angus who fought under Sir Walter Ogilvy, Sheriff of Angus in 1392, in the so-called Raid of Angus, and was slain along with the sheriff and others.


Balmashanner, high and outside the town of Forfar in Angus, belonged to John de Cairncross and Alexander de Cairncross, his son and heir in 1483. Indeed, Crawford in his "Officers of State" states that this family was in possession as early as the reign of Robert 2nd, (1370-1390). That King did give such a charter in1371, Crawford also states that Robert Cairncross, Abbot of Holyrood, Bishop of Ross, and twice Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, was undoubtedly a cadet of the Balmashanner family. It must have been through his influence, being also a priest of the same diocese as Melrose, which the convent of the Abbey there granted his relatives lands belonging to it, Colmslie, for instance.

By 1602, there was quite a small war-like clan of these Melrose Cairncrosses, one of which was John the Chief. Some of them were rather prominent men in Edinburgh and the Burgh of Canongate, such as Micel(?) Cairncross, brother of William Cairncross of Colmslie, who sat in Parliament as deputy of the Constable of Scotland in 1528. By 1614, Robert Cairncross, merchant burgess of Edinburgh, sent a ship of war to accompany the Government expedition to Orkney, which proved a success.


The Glenesk and Balmashanner Cairncrosses had an early connection with Dundee. On Feb 1, 1453, in the Register of the Great Seal, John Cairncross is named as owner of lands in Dundee, and before 1486, Thomas of Cairncross presented two silver chandeliers to the high alter of St. Mary’s Church in Dundee. To secure the right of burial of himself and his wife within the church on their decease. John Cairncross of Balmashanner gives a charter of his lands to his son and heir, James and his wife, Egidia, dated Oct 14, in Dundee, John Cairncross, burgess of Dundee, witness. Confirmed by James IV, Dec 8, 1494. The seal attached to Morgund’s charter to his son Michael is minutely described by the eminent antiquary, the late Sir John Stuart; the late Dr. John Stuart; the insignia is two stags with horns, the armorial plate of Cairncross of the ilk is a stag’s head with horns; the Balmashanner coat –of-arms is a stag’s head with a cross between the horns; the Colmslie has in addition to the stag’s head and the cross a mullet meaning the third son. The seals of the border family have all the stag’s head and the mullet. The place Cairncross near the ancient priory of Coldingham has always belonged to the homes.

A. F. Cairncross.

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