The Hillslope estate, which was originally known as Calfhill, adjoins Colmslie on the south side of the latter, the Allen Waters forming, as with Colmslie, the eastern boundary. A tower was built on the estate by the first laird, Nicol Cairncross, and on the lintel was until recently to be seen the inscription:

(Nicol Cairncross) N. C. 1585 E. L. (Elizabeth Lauder)

the initials being those of the laird and his wife. The date has generally been accepted as the date of the construction of the tower, which is now in ruins. This estate remained in the possession of the Cairncrosses from 1569 to 1759, when, owing to the death of the sixth and last laird, Hugh Cairncross, without issue, it passed into the hands of descendants of females of the house[1]. The name of the estate was changed from Hillslope to Glendearg last century because of the general belief that Hillslope Tower was the Glendearg tower of Sir Walter Scott's romance "The Monastery". Of Melrose district Sir Walter says "a land where the horses remained almost constantly saddled, and the sword seldom quitted the warriors side - where war was the natural and constant state of the inhabitants, and peace only existed in the shape of brief and feverish truces."

NICOL (1568 (not birth date) - 1618 (d. this year or a few years later)).

Nicol Cairncross, the first laird of Hillslope, was a brother of Robert Cairncross[2] of Colmslie, and was the third son of William Cairncross of Colmslie. He married Elizabeth Lauder before 1569, and had six sons, Nicol who succeeded him, James, Robert, William, George, and John together with a daughter Margaret, who married William Scott of Burnhead. The latter was an officer in Holland in his father's lifetime, and served under Walter Scot of Buccleugh against the Spaniards about the year 1604.

Under a charter by Alexander Balfour, dated at St. Andrew, on May 14th, 1569, Nicol and his spouse Elizabeth Lauder, for certain sums of money, became possessed of the lands called Calfhill, also known as the East side of Lawdopmuir, presently occupied by them, paying £10 yearly as the old rent, and 13/4d in augmentation, with duplication at entry of heirs, The witnesses were sir James Balfour of Pittindreiche, Knight, Michael Balfour of Schanweall, and David Balfour. Instrument of sasine was given by John Hume, as bailie, on August 14th, 1569.

[1] The Genealog. Tree on p.169 gives no hint as to the identity of -"females of the house" in relation to the claimants shown on p.80.
[2] Robert C. - d. 1573.


The first mention of Nicol is on February 15th 1568, when, under a charter by the Cornmendator of Melrose, he became possessed of the five merk lands of Maxpopill, now called Maxpoffle, two and a half miles south of Melrose, for certain sums of money, to be held for the yearly payment of five merks, with eight shillings of augmentation, and duplication at the entry of heirs, with service of courts, etc. Instrument of sasine thereon, dated February 23rd, 1568, was given by John Cairncross, bailie, and probably Nicol's uncle. Robert alias Hob Cairncross, half brother to Nicol, was one of the witnesses.

On May 14th, 1570, Nicol and Walter, brothers of Robert of Colmslie, witnessed a charter of the latter. After Robert's death in 1573 Nicol became one of the curators of Robert's son William, and in that capacity appeared before "My Lord Regentes Grace and Lordis of Secreit Counsale" in October, 1574, in connection with the teind sheaves of Duncanlaw.

On November 9th, 1575, Nicol gave his consent to an agreement by his nephew William of Colmslie; on June 4th, 1578, he consented to a sale of ground by William; and on February 4th, 1583 - 4, he witnessed a surety of William to a bond of caution. Nicol appears to have been a man of means, and was on numerous occasions surety for other persons. The following is a list of his bonds:

1. In 1581 - Caution in £100 by William Hume, Nicol being surety, that Hume should not trouble Mary Fleming, Lady Lethingtoun, or her tenants, in the "bronking" of the west side of the lands of Blyth.


2. On June 10th, 1584 - Caution in £2,000 by Paull Dog and Nicol Cairncross for Robert Douglas of Coschogill that he should behave himself dutifully, should not reset or i-nt-er-co-mmune with the traitors and rebels, and should appear before the Council on fifteen days of warning. This was deleted by a warrant passed in Council an April 18th, 1586.

3. On March 5th, 1585 - 6:- Caution by Nicol Cairncross for Alexander Hume and others that should appear before the Justice in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh when required upon fifteen days warning to underlie the laws for all crimes laid to their charge, under pains of the Acts of Parliament.

4. On April 15th, 1586:- Nicol Cairncross became surety for George Cranston in Cauldshiels under 100 merks.

5. On June 18th, 1586:- Caution in £2,000 by William Home, Nicol Cairncross of Calfhill, and Walter Cairncross of Lugate (Nicol's uncle) for Gawine Ellot of the Stobbis, that he should enter before the Council, Robert Ellot of Reidheucht, when required, upon ten days warning "after the returning of the commissionaris fra the Bordouris." This resulted in a letter of summons, on March 8th, 1587 - 8, charging the sureties to appear and enter Robert Elliot. "Nane compeirit. Decerns." Indorsed "1587, letters simpliciter ordanit aganes Gawin Ellot of Sobbes for Robert Ellot." However in 1590 William Hume appeared before the Council on behalf of himself, Nicol, and Walter, and having presented Elliot as required, protested that he and his cocautioners should be freed of their caution in time coming ".quhilk protestatioun the saidis Lordis admittit." (Which protestation the said Lords admitted.??)

6. On December 30th, 1587 - 8:- Caution by Nicol Cairncross for John Hume that Dame Jean Johnnestoun, Lady Saltoun, her tenants and servants, should be harmless of him under penalty.

7. On September 15th, 1588:- Sir James Hume of Coldenknowis, Captain of Edinburgh Castle, and Nicol Cairncross became sureties for Hob Elliot, then in ward in Edinburgh tolbooth, that on his being released they would enter him again in the same tolbooth when required on fifteen days warning, under a penalty of £2,000, "and payment of all attemptatis committed againes England be the said Hob and sic as he lyis plege for."


8. On June 23rd, 1590:- Nicol was cautioner for John Murray that as surety for Sir Walter Scot of Branxholme he should pay to Sir John Seytoun, sometime Comptroller of the Maills and duties of Ettrik Forest "quhatsumevir yearis restard awand preceding the XV day of December 1587" in case it be found that he ought.

9. On March 5th, 1590 - 1:- Caution in £1,000 by Andro Ker of Lintoun and Nicol Cairncross for William Ker of Cesfurde, warden of the Middle March, that the fortalice of Cesfurde should be forthcoming to the King when required.

10. On June 15tn, 1591:- Nicol Cairncross of' Calfhill and Willaim Cairncross of Colmslie became sureties for James, Lord Borthwick, the principal sureties being Waiter Cairncross in Lugate and his spouse Dame Grissell Scot, relict of William, Lord Borthwick.

11. On December 20th, 1591 - 2, Nicol Cairncross became surety for John Cranstoun of Morestoun, Andrew Ker being cautioner for Nicol and Robert Cairncross of Colmslie.

12.[3] On February 14th, 1593 - 4, John Hume of Carrelside was cautioned, Nicol Cairncross being surety in 1,000 merks, not to harm Margaret, Marione and Jean Hammiltoun, daughters of the late John Hammiltoun of Sanct John's Chapel, or Patrick and James Hammiltoun their tutors. These women were Nicol's cousins, daughters of his father's sister Margaret, and are mentioned in the Colmslie chapter under date March 9th, 1590.

13. On July 14th, 1595, Nicol was surety in 1,000 merks for Mr. Henry Moneypenny, burgess of Perth, not to harm Mr. William Leith of Craightoun.

14. In 1598 - Nicol and three others were sureties in 1,600 merks for James Hardy and others, not to harm the Pringles of Edinburgh.

15. On June 1st, 1598 - Nicol Cairncross and Alexander Lauder were sureties for William Lauder who was donatur to the ward, non-entries and marriage of Robert Lauder, and who was to use these gifts to the profit of Robert until the latter attained lawful age.

[3] Item No.12: These seven lines contain a great deal of confusion, the full extent of which only becomes apparent when the details of the marriages of the several Margarets are added to the Genealog. Tree set out on p.169.
Nicol, 1st Laird of Calfhill, does not seem to have had an Aunt Margaret, married to Hamilton.
Nicol, 2nd Laird, did have an Aunt Margaret, "his father's sister", but she married R. Lauder in 1565 and went to live in London. (p.52). The Margaret who married John Hamilton, would be the cousin of Nicol, the 2nd Laird. On the death of John Hamilton before 1590, this Margaret m. William McDougall, who died before 1592 (?). She next was married to William Hart by 1592. (See p. 54.8) Quite a femme fatale! The event related on p.57 might indicate that the Hamilton family did not hold their daughter-in-law in very high regard. I think the young ladies in question would be termed these days as 'cousins - once removed' of Nicol, 2nd Laird. A further possible mention of this Margaret appears on p.46 (?) Nicol, 1st Laird, does not seem to be connected with any of the matter covered in Item 12.


16. On November 14th, 1598 - James Hamilton was surety for Nicol Cairncross, and Nicol Cairncross was surety for the Hoppringles, Walter Cairncross in Lugate, and the latter's son-natural, John, not to harm the Govanes of Cardrons.

Only once, it would seem, did Nicol find it necessary to obtain a surety for himself. This was on November 16th, 1596: "caution in £1,000 by Nicol Cairncross as principal, and Andro Ker as surety for him, that he and those for whom he is answerable shall keep good rule and satisfy all skaiths committed by them since 1st October last, or to be committed by them in time coming".

On December 14th, 1585, Nicol Cairncross (2nd Laird), eldest lawful son of Nicol Cairncross (1st Laird), of Calfhill, for the "guid trew and thankfull sereus (service) done to his hienes by his lovit Nicoll Carnecros of Calfhill" was granted for his lifetime by King James VI a yearly pension of 200 merks furth of the feu maills of the Bishopric of Glasgow.

On December 27th, 1586, Nicol (1st Laird) obtained a lease of the teinds of the lands of Eildoun for nineteen years, paying yearly £10, while in the same year he and Elizabeth Lauder his spouse obtained a lease, for their lifetime and thereafter for nineteen years to an heir immediately succeeding them, of the teinds of their lands of Calfhill. On August 9th, 1588, mention is made of Nicol and his brother Walter. In the following year, 1589, on October 28th, as a result of good services done by Nicol and his predecessors, Nicol's son Nicol was granted a lease of the teinds of the lands of Whitely or Whitely-banks "for the lifetime of the said Nicolas, younger, and his heir male, and after their deaths to three heirs male of the said Nicol's heirs, successively, and their heirs, for other two nineteen years, paying yearly 10 merks". This tack or lease was assigned by Nicol on April 4th, 1596, to John Spottiswood for 1,700 rnerks.

On March 31st, 1589, Nicol and his servitors Robert and George Cairncross witnessed a Threepwood charter in favour of William Bannatyne.


On June 18th, 1597, Nicol and his eldest son obtained a lease of the teinds of the lands of Blainslee. This lease they assigned to William Cairncross of' Colmslie shortly afterwards, for his heritable right to the lands and barony of Newlands, under reversion of 500 merks.

Nicol was one of the witnesses to the sale of Allanshaws by Charles Cairncross to William Cairncross of Colmslie on June 16th, 1600. In 1601, on September 30th, Nicol and his second son James were seized in, or given legal possession of, the lands of Dothelia, Cowthroppil and Bordlands.

Nicol, with five of his sons, Nicol, James, George, Robert and William, figured in the complaint by Margaret Home on July 29th, 1602, dealt with in the preceding chapter (p.58.5, 99.5), and was fined 7,000 merks, while a further complaint was lodged against his son George an October 23rd, 1606, together with Robert Cairncross, Nicol's half-brother, and John Cairncross in Exiltoun. (Latter mentioned again p.99.6)

As a result of a summons of Sir Gideon Murray about his corn being thirled to Longshaw Mill, on May 5th, 1608, "the quhilk day compeirit William Hunter Williamlaw ard Nicol Cairncross of Lgudhowpmire and granted to the tennour and effect of the summounds raisit be Schir Gideane Murray in all pointis".

The last record of Nicol is dated May 18th, 1608, wherein he and his son Nicol are mentioned as heritable feuars of the lands of Hillslope Calfhill. However, he appears to have been alive on April 22nd, 1618, when the estate of James Cairncross, described as "son of Nicol of Calfhill", passed to Robert Cairncross, brother of James. Had he died before 1618 he would in all probability have been termed the late Nicol of Calfhill. In a charter dated 1627, he is referred to as the deceased Nicol of Calfhill.

NICOL (1585 (1st Mention) - 1646 (died)

The second laird of Calfhill was Nicol, the son of Nicol. He had three sons, James who succeeded him, William of Allanshaws, and Nicol, together with a daughter Eupham. He appears to have had a natural son, Peter or Patrick, as well, and died in 1646.


The first mention of Nicol is on December 14th, 1585, when he received a yearly pension of 200 merks from the King for the good services done by his father. Four years later, on October 28th, 1589, he received a lease of the lands of Whitely or Whiteleybanks, also for the good services of his predecessors, On April 12th, 1596, Nicol assigned this lease to Jonn Spottiswood, with his father's consent.

On July 28th, 1589, Nicol was one of the witnesses to a charter of Williamlaw to William Hunter and Barbara Cairncross his spouse. On June 18th, 1597 (?), Nicol and his father obtained a lease of the teinds of the lands of Blainslee, but disposed of it in the same year to William Cairncross of Colmslie. In 1600, on June 6th, Nicol witnessed the sale of Allanshaws to William Cairncross of Colmslie by Charles Cairncross.

In 1608, Sir Gideon Murray brought an action against William Cairncross of Colmslie, Nicol Cairncross (1st Laird) of Calfhill, the latter's son Nicol (2nd Laird) and many others, for not bringing their corn to be thirled at the mill of Langshaw. The bailies decreed that the defenders should pay multure and other accustomed duties, and bring their corn to the mill. To this Nicol agreed. Nicol, 1st Laird, died some time between 1618 and 1627.

In 1627 the Earl of Melrose granted anew the lands of Calfhill, Notmans Park, and Maxpoffle to Nicol and his heirs in feufarm This was because the evidents and securities of these lands had been destroyed by a great fire, and the Earl was "desirous not to prejudge the said Nicol (2nd Laird) in his possessions".

On May 3rd, 1641, there was registered a bond by Nicol of Calfhill to Rachel Knox, daughter of the deceased Mr. John Knox, minister of Melrose, for 400 merks of borrowed money and eight merks of interest, Nicol's sons James and William being security for him under penalty of £40. The bond was dated and witnessed at Melrose on July 3rd, 1637.

The last reference to Nicol is on April 29th, 1641, when his son Nicol and George Freir bought from him "ane hagge[4] of wood" and Nicol obliged himself not to trouble his son or Freir "for cutting of the same the space of two years after the date thereof, in case the same cannot be gotten sold or disposed by them". The son Nicol is also referred to in May, 1640, when George Turner signed a bond in his favour for £43.12.0d for oats received.

[4] A section of timber marked off for felling? Rf. Merr-Webster.


Eupham, Nicol's daughter, figured in a case of March 27th, 1658, when William Fisher sought a new order against her confirming a former order of July 14th, 1655, ordaining her to pay him £7 and expenses. The order was granted. On March 12th, 1659, Eupham, daughter of the deceased Nicol Cairncross of Calfhill, sued Patrik Blackie in Calfhill for 55/- as balance of a greater sum, and £4 for her servants fee for shearing to him, together with a firlot of oat meal in bounty, priced at £3.10.0d, and four merks as the price of four ells of lining bought by him from her about Yule. Defender was held as confessed for the principal sum of £12.8.0d and 20/- expenses.

JAMES (1637 (1st mention) - died 1652).

James the third laird held the estates for the short period of six years only, succeeding his father in 1646 and dying in 1652. He married Margaret Ker who survived him and became the wife of Anthony Murray before 1657. James appears to have had one son only, William.

On July 3rd, 1637, James and his brother William witnessed the bond of their father Nicol Cairncross to Rachel Knox. On April 29tn, 1641, James was again witness to a bond by his father to Nico1, younger brother to James. On August 19th, 1643, James was witness to the execution of a charge.

On April 19th, 1649, there was registered a discharge by Thomas Lithgow to James and two others for 200 merks and £20 of expenses contained in their bond to him dated June 28th, 1643, and a decreet of' the previous March 20th.

William Maben, on June 13th, 1657, sued Anthony Murray for £4.2.0d Scots in respect of merchandise bought by the latter and the deceased James Cairncross, while in the following month Robert Freir, "flesher", sued Murray and Margaret Ker his spouse, executors dative to James Cairncross, for £6 Scots due to him by the late James as the price of flesh bought by him.


WILLIAM (1653 (Inherited - 1st Mention ) - died 1684)

The fourth laird was William the son of James the third laird. His Precept of Clare Constat, or writ of inheritance, was dated February 2nd, 1653, and he held the estate until his death in 1684, i.e, for thirty-one years. As he left no offspring he was succeeded by his cousin Walter Cairncross.

William is next mentioned on July 1st, 1665, when he was superior of the lands of Maxpoffle. On October 14th of this year Andrew Olipher was decreed to pay the sum of 20 merks to William as the agreed price of "the bark of certaine saughes".

On March 17th, 1666, William was discerned to pay the sum of £11.3.4d with £1.4.Od expenses as his portion of the stipend of Elizabeth Strong, widow of David Bishop of Lesmore, and on December 22nd, 1666, he was called upon to pay £4.4.0d with 8/- expenses to Mr John Waughe, schoolmaster, being part of the latter's stipend for 1666.

In April, 1673, George Pringle of Buckholme brought an action against William in connection with his infeftment of the lands of Ladupmure (Calfhill) with the houses, yards, teindsheaves, and other teinds, and the moss or meadow called Redcrossmoss with its pertinents, these lands etc. being claimed by George Pringle. The upshot of the case was that William was confirmed in his possessions after producing the Calfhill charter granted to his grandfather Nicol Cairncross in 1627, and the Writs of Clare Constat of himself and his father James.


The following extraordinary case was heard at Edinburgh on July 11th, 1679. John Durie of Grange complained that "in obedience to his Majesty's proclamation he came forth with the rest of the heritors of the shire of Fife under command of the Earl of Balcarras to assist against the rebels in arms in the West, and having attended in the camp with his Majesty's forces until the rebels were defeated on 22nd June last, the said complainer with the other gentlemen and heritors of the said shyre, having marched off to provide themselves with convenient lodgings, and Robert Airkie, the complainer's servant, with the other servants, being in the rear of the company, trew it is that George Pringle of Buckholm, William Cairncross of Hislope, Alexander Lythgow of Drygrange, Francis Scott of Colmslie, Robert Fell bailie of Melrose, Andre Fisher of Housebyre, George Pringle of Blindlie, Andrew Darling of Appletreeleaves, John Sommervaill: in toune of Kilisyth, and divers others, their attendants and followers, did fall upon and invade the said complainer's servant, and robbe and take from him ane horse and shable and fouling piece belonging to complainer, and did cut his said servant with ane sword on the arm without any provocation given to them by him or speaking, who having told them that the complainer his master was riding in the said Earl of Balcarras his troup, and called for help and told that he would go up and advertise the said Earl his hard useadge, the forenamed persons did restore to him the said complainer's horse, but keeped and run away with the arms, and complainer being very much concerned for to recover these arms, did cause make all diligence search for discovery thereof, and his servant having at length found out the forenamed persons at ... where they had alighted to bate their horses, and he having informed the complainer thereof, and complainer having thereupon gone towards the said persons and in ane discreet manner sought back the said shables and other arms, the said persons did in a violent and rude manner fall upon and beat the complainer to the ground and rifled his pockets, and took his horses and arms from him, and beat and abused his said servant, notwithstanding of all the complainer's intreaties, and that they would wait till his friends and some gentlemen did come up to witness that he was assisting as aforesaid against the rebels; and the forenamed persons, not resting herewith satisfied, one of their number did violently cut and wound the complainer dangerously on the face with a sword, and another of them did hold a cocked pistol to his breast, and so forced him to ride upon a little nag of one of their servants, otherwise to shoot him through the head, and thus they carried the complainer till about midnight within four miles of Edinburgh, so that at length by the loss of his blood, he fell from his horse, whereupon they left him, and a little thereafter the forenamed person, who had wounded him, having come off from the rest of the company, did offer to shoot the complainer if he should ever say or own that he was the person that wounded him, and thereafter left him and his servant bleeding in their wounds, till some of the dragoons coming up in the morning did take the complainer and his said servant on the highway, while they were coming faintly towards Edinburgh for help to their wounded bodies, and brought them prisoners to the Castle of Edinburgh where upon caution and discovery of the matter, he and his said servant were set at liberty."


Both parties appeared personally, when the defenders denied the crime, and offered to prove that any violence done to the complainer was committed by James Somervaill. Witnesses were examined, and after hearing and considering the evidence, the Lords found the defenders guilty "of a heinous riot in seizing the said John Durrie of Grange and his horse, arms and 'clockbag', and being the occasion of wounding him after his return from his Majesty's service; therefore they ordain them to restore to him his horse, gun, arms and clockbag in as good condition as when they took them, and to pay a fine of 4,000 merks (sic) towards defraying the pursuer's damages and expenses and cure; and ordains ilk one of the defenders in their relief to pay as follows, viz: The said Andrew Fisher to pay three hundred merks, and ilk ane of the rest of the seven defenders one hundred merks, and either to pay the same instantly or go to prison till they give obedience."

This was in the reign of Charles the Second, when the people of Scotland were torn between loyalty to the King on the one hand, and loyalty to their own religious convictions on the other. They were not allowed to worship God according to their conscience, but were dragooned, by the "bloody Claverhouse"*for instance, into adhering to the episcopal form of religion. Extremists among the covernanters in the west of Scotland were attempting to raise an armed rebellion in consequence, and the landowners of Melrose had been summoned by the government to join the Kings host advancing against those so-called rebels. On reading this amazing case against those Melrose gentlemen, including the bailie of Melrose, it would seem that the whole truth regarding the matter was not told, but only the complainer's version of the event.

The last reference to William is dated April 12th, 1680, wherein he is designated "William Cairncross of Hillslope and Calfhill". Four years later he died. (1684)

* John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount of Dundee.


WALTER ((1st Mention) 1662 - died 1707)

The next, and fifth laird of Hillslope was Walter, eldest son of William Cairncross of Allanshaws, who was a brother of James the third laird. Walter had three children, Hugh who succeeded him, Elizabeth and Janet.

During the period 1662 - 1666 Walter and his father were involved in a number of lawsuits, the following being a list, those concerning William only, being detailed in Chapter XIV:

1. On January 25th, 1662, William Cairncross of Allanshaws was ordered to pay £9 and costs to George Paterson for a boll of bear bought and received by William's son Walter, who promised to redeliver at Michaelmas, or pay the £9.

2. On August 9th, 1662, Walter was ordered to pay £28 Scots and costs to Janet Chrisholme, being the amount borrowed from her in December, and £5.6.8d to Janet's husband for drink "bought and drunken be him".

3. In 1662 Walter was ordered to pay £24 Scots with costs to Ephraim Wilkieson as the price of twelve hogs promised to the pursuer in March.

4. In the same year Walter was ordered to pay £13 and costs to Anna Lawder in conformity with his ticket dated 1662.

5. On January 3rd, 1663, Walter was ordered to pay £7 Scots and costs to David Thompson for necessaries furnished to him in July.

6. On February 28th, 1663 Walter was ordered to pay £100 Scots to William Edgar, fiscal, "for deforcing Andrew Kennedie, officer, on February 23rd, when pointing his sword for payment to Ephraim Wilkieson on the House of the Moor of £20 principal and 40/- expenses in decreet 25th October last."

7. On August 15th, 1663, Walter and his father were ordered to pay £11.9.0d and costs to John Notman and his spouse for meal and gray bought from them in December.


8. On the same day Walter was ordered to pay £20 and costs to Charles Lawder, burgess, being the amount paid by Lawder to the bailies of Lawder as cautioner for Walter, in conformity with an act dated April 2nd, 1663, under the town clerk's hand, and discharge.

9. On October 15th, 1664, Walter was ordered to pay £27 Scots and costs to John Trotter, as the price of a "naig" bought from Trotter in April and payable in fifteen days.

10. On March 3rd, 1666, William Cairncross of Allanshaws was ordered to pay £4.5.0d and costs to John Watson for meat and drink furnished to his son Walter, and for which he became cautioner.

Under date August 3rd, 1680, is a record reading "The Lords of his Majesty's Privy Council having considered a certificate under the hand of the Earl of Haddington on behalf of Cairncross of Allanshaws, that he attended the King's hoast, the Lords assolized him". In the index is a note to the effect that Cairncross of Allanshaws was prosecuted by mistake for absence from the host. He apparently took part in the advance against the "rebels in arms in the West".

Four years later, on the death of his cousin William Cairncross in 1684, Walter succeeded to the Hillslope estate, and held it until his death in 1707.

HUGH ((Inherited) 1707 - died 1753)

The sixth and last laird of Hillslope was Hugh the son of Walter. He held the estate from 1707 to 1753, i.e. for forty six years, when he died without issue. The estate then passed to Hugh's two maiden sisters Elizabeth and Janet who both died in January, 1759, thus bringing to a close a propietorship of one hundred and ninety years.

Elizabeth and Janet obtained sasine on Precept of Clare Constat on August 21st, 1754, by the Duke of Buccleugh, of Allanshaws, Calfhill, East side of Ladhopemuir, Notmans Park and Maxpoffle, These ladies in 1759 left movable estate to the amount of £12, 262. 2. 0d Scots. The former bequeathed her property to John Rutherford of Edgerstoun, and the latter to Alexander Pringle of Whitebank and his children. The bequest was disputed by Thomas Mill[5], schoolmaster, as their nearest in kin, and he was successful in reducing the former settlement, while he compromised his claim in the latter-case.

[5] Re Thomas MILL - It is not made clear how he was able to claim kinship with the old dears. There must be a great deal of family history still to be recorded, particularly concerning the females.


The following article, by T. Craig-Brown[6], on the fight for the succession to the estate appeared in "The Scotsman" of December 26th, 1919, and is reproduced with the kind permission of the Editor. This article contains several inaccurate statements, as the claimants depended largely on hearsay evidence, and knew little about their ancestors, in comparison with what is known today.

THE CAIRNCROSSes of GLENDEARG. (Commencement of Article.)

A hundred and fifty years ago the indwellers of what was then the little village of Galashiels were greatly perturbed over the issue of a lawsuit to determine the ownership of the lands of Hillslope, now known as "Glendearg", thanks to the common identification of Hillslope Peel with the Tower of Glendearg in Sir Walter Scott's story of "The Monastery". From a voluminous statement of an appeal to the House of Lords now lying before the writer, one version of the race of Cairncross of Hillslope is reproduced as under, omitting branches which have become extinct or merged into obscurity; -

Nicol Cairncross, who acquired Hillslope in 1569 and died in 1627.
Nicol Cairncross, his eldest son, who died in 1646.
James Cairncross, his eldest son, who died in 1653.
William Cairncross, his son, who died in 1684 without issue. Walter Cairncross, son of William of Allanshaw, who was a son of the second Nicol, succeeded his cousin, and died in 1707.
Hugh Cairncross, his son, who died in 1753 without issue. Elizabeth and Janet Cairncross, who succeeded their brother, both dying on the same day in January, 1759, and without issue.

(This genealogy is in agreement with that shown on page 169.)

[6] The compilers of the 'HISTORY' do nothing to explain who T. CRAIG-BROWN was or why he felt constrained to write up the 'details' one and a half centuries after the events.


There is nothing to indicate who the first Nicol was, but he was no doubt a member of the ancient race of Cairncross of Colmslie, At Holyrood House in 1578 Walter Cairncross, brother of the late Robert of Colmslie, was one of the witnesses to a discharge granted by Jonet Scott, father-sister(?) of the late Buccleuch in favour of a"rycht honorabill man, Sir Walter Ker of Cesfurde", who paid her 1,000 merks for the failure of George, son and heir of Andro Ker of Faldonside, to marry her, according to a contract of 1564. Fourteen years seems a long time, and 1,000 merks a small sum for the satisfaction of a breach of promise case in such exalted circles. Autres temps, autres moeurs. Of the two old maiden sisters who succeeded to the lands and were the last to occupy the Tower of Hillslope, Sir Walter, in his introduction to "The Monastery", says:- "Hillslap is remembered by the humours of the last inhabitants, two or three elderly, ladies, of the class of Miss Raylands, in the Old Manor House, though less important by birth and fortune." And, by the way, it may be as well to remember that the author expressly says that neither the tower of Hillslope, nor either of the other two, Colmslie and Langshaw, "bear the most distant resemblance to the descriptions in the romance".

It was long and widely known that after the death of the last laird and his sisters, there would be a fight for the succession, and expectation was not belied, William Heatly, smith in Newtown; Thomas Miln in Clintmains; William Myrtle, mariner (with Alexander Home of Manderston), claimed the property as descendants of daughters of the family[7]. William Cairncross, a carrier, claimed as heir of James, a second son of William of Allanshaws and Hillslope. Between these claimants the competition went on for some time; but the carrier, either bought off or convinced that his case was untenable, withdrew his plea; and the three were served as heirs portioners, attaining possession with the title deeds of the family. But another and more formidable claimant now entered the lists in the person of Hugh Cairncross, mason in Galashiels, who, recognising that the carter's claim, if made good, would exclude him, had not interposed. For the genealogy already given, he substituted the following: -

Nicol, who purchased Calfhill or Hillslope in 1569. James, his second son.
Nicol, who purchased Calfhill or Hilslop in 1569.
James, his second son.
Nicol, his son, who succeeded his grandfather in 1627.
Peter, his third son, died abroad.
George, his son, mason in Langhaugh, died about 1703.
George, his son, died in 1762, (Grandson?)
Hugh, his son, the claimant.

[7] '.. daughters of the family.' - Who were these?


On the strength of this genealogy, he brought an action of reduction before the Court of Session. The respondents having objected to the claimant's title on the ground that his ancestor was illegitimate, the Lord Ordinary allowed him to prove his propinquity. Mutual proofs were accordingly taken, a great number of witnesses being brought forward on both sides. As there were few or no documents to go upon, the case depended greatly on parole evidence, much of it hearsay. After 113 witnesses had been examined, the term for proving was closed; but, on application, leave was given to the Galashiels claimant to examine another ten. Thirty of the witnesses were from Galashiels - described in the record as a "small village". Proofs being ended and the cause heard, the triple claimants brought a charge against the other of having suppressed an old indenture of George Cairncross, one of his predecessors, which would have weakened his contention.

John Aymers, wright in Galashiels, deponed that he took a paper which had been in his custody, defaced with smoke and dirt, and torn in the foldings, to Hugh Cairncross about two years ago, because he had seen the name William Cairncross on the back of it, and Thomas Paterson, merchant in Galashiels, deponed he had seen Aymers deliver the paper to Cairncross. Cairncross himself said he had got a paper from his father who had got it from Aymers, quoted on the back, "Copy Indenture between George Cairncross and George Mein." His diligent inquiry after the original indenture had proved fruitless, which he sincerely regretted.

Katherine Dobson (62) deponed that her first husband, William Cairncross (Hugh's grandfather), told her that his father, George, was a son of Peter, who was a son of Nicol Cairncross of Hilslop (as shown on page 169).


John Aymers, aged 60, further examined, said he had lived in Galashiels all his life, and deponed he had heard from his father (who also lived in Galashiels all his life) that William Cairncross was the son of George, the son of Patrick, the son of Nicol.

Other witnesses to the same effect were John Wylie, 49; Andrew Hyslop, 62; John Frier, 60; James Bryson, 72; and Peter Darling, most of whom bear names well-known in Galashiels.

James Minto deponed that the claimant, Hugh, was named after the laird of Hillslope, and James Bryson deponed he had heard of the claimant, when about seven or eight, going to Hillslope on a visit on Hansel Monday, and accidentally falling on the kitchen floor, the laird crying out - "What! Are you going to take the infeftment already?". William Speedon deponed having heard the laird say that William, the claimant Hugh's grandfather, was the nearest relation he had. Minto further deponed to his seeing the laird meet with William at Fairnalie. They were on opposite sides of the river Tweed, and Hillslope called to the boatman to bring William over that he might drink with him, as he was both of his kin and his blood.

John Lumsdaine deponed that about a month before the death of the late Hugh Cairncross of Hillslope, with whom he was intimately acquainted, and being at his house, he observed Hugh to be dying, and counselled him to do as the prophet Isiah told King Hezekiah - to set his house in order, for though none could touch him while he lived, after his death there would be contests about the succession. To which Hillslope answered that his nearest blood relation and the person who had the only right was the claimant; but he was a poor man. Several witnesses testified that the two sisters who last held the lands had at first been friendly with Hugh's family, but afterwards had changed their tone. Being fond of rank and family, the poverty and mean occupation of the claimant was a mortifying circumstance. After the death of their brother they were much taken notice of by the families of Minto, Egerstoun, and Whitebank, grew uppish and high-minded, and despised their poor relations. When Janet Laidlaw, a witness, went to visit them after the last laird's death, they were very angry, having heard that Hugh Cairncross had gone to Edinburgh to advise about his right to the estate. They said it was designed for a much greater man.

See pp.78.9 and 79.1 for main provisions of their bequests.


On the part of Heatly, Mill and Myrtle, the other claimants, a number of witnesses were called to prove that it was generally believed and said that, though Hugh's family was undoubtedly of the Hillslope line it was through an illegitimate ancestor. Important hearsay evidence to this effect was given by Thomas Darling, surgeon, 63, who had lived at Langhaugh all his life, and who narrated a conversation with his father, who died in 1755, at the age of 86. Alexander Pringle of Whitebank gave concurring testimony.

The upshot of the case was that the Court of Session found on 8th August, 1767, Hugh Cairncross had not instructed a sufficient title, and the three respondents were thus confirmed in possession of the estate of' Hillslope.

The defeated applicant, having apparently been informed that the Lords of Session were greatly divided in opinion, appealed to the House of Lords, who, on March 9th, 1769, "ordained and adjudged that the appeal be dismissed this House, and the interlocutor therein complained of be hereby confirmed,"

In the papers of the Haigs of Bemersyde there is a document which narrates that the two old maiden ladies, who died on the same day in 1759, were, in their last illness, prevailed on to convey their movable estate to the prejudice of their nearest kinsman, Thomas Mill, one of the three successful claimants to the lands, a poor schoolmaster. Mill had recourse for advice to the laird of Bemersyde, who employed Walter Scott, father of Sir Walter, to obtain a reduction of the settlements. The claim succeeded, and both wills were reduced in 1763, the combined personality being £12,262 Scots. The legatees named were John Rutherford of Edgerston and Alexander Pringle of Whytbank, in about equal proportions; but of Whytbank's share (£6359 Scots) Mr. Scott reports to Mr. Haig that very little came to "poor Mill", the greater portion being swallowed up in judicial expenses.


As to the estate of Hillslope (Hillslap, as it is often spelled), the writer is without information as how the three successful claimants disposed of it, but ultimately it became the property of Mr. William Patterson, a wealthy tanner in Galashiels. It was he who gave it the name of Glendearg in recognition of a popular idea that it was the place Sir Walter had in his mind when he described Glendearg in "The Monastery", although Sir Walter himself expressly scouted the identification. Now, for a hundred who could tell where Glendearg is there is probably not one who ever heard of Hilslop. "Such tricks hath strong imagination" when "given shape or time" by a pen like Scott's.

Of Hillslap Tower and the adjacent towers of Colmslie and Langshaw, there are excellent plans and drawings contributed by Mr. William Anderson to Macgibbon & Ross's well-known book on "Scottish Castellated Architecture". The Cairncrosses of Colmslie, who were the senior branch, boasted several eminent men of the name - one a Bishop of Ross and Abbot of Holyrood, in the reign of James V; another Alexander, Archbishop of Glasgow, who went to Ireland after the Revolution. Scott quotes an old rhyme:

"Colmslie stands on Colmslie Hill;
The water it flows round Colmslie Mill;
The mill and the kiln gang bonnilie,
and it's up with the whippers o' Colmslie!"

Who or what were the "whippers"? (End of Article??)

(Possibly the answer to this query is found on p.22 of the George T. R. Cairncross Folio: "When Colmslie was last occupied we cannot tell. According to tradition it was used in the end as a prison during the persecuting times, and people still think they hear a voice from the castle dungeon cry 'Woe, woe to the bloody house of Colmslie!' ".)

Comments on the above Article:
It is not at all clear whether Craig-Brown's article extends from p.79 right through to p.84. The compilers of the 'HISTORY' have drawn attention to the fact that the article 'contains several inaccurate statements', but have failed to follow them up and give us the correct version in each and every case. This is extremely disappointing. References to authenticated matter already in the fore-going text should have been given, or a comprehensive analysis of the article appended here. A précis of the finding handed down from the House of Lords, would have made very interesting reading and might have revealed much concerning lines of kinship of the various claimants. The date quoted for this finding seems rather suspect; it implies ten years of legal haggling - 1759 to 1769. As against this, we have the statement on p.83.7 - "…both wills were reduced in 1763, …" i.e. six years before the Lords gave a finding. What do we believe? It is curious that the earliest definitely known ancestor of 'our' Edinburgh (via Prestonpans) line - John born c.1683, who appears on Genealog. Tree p.169, apparently did not even bother to make a claim. It is quite possible that he might have died before 1759 as he would by then have been 76 years of age. His son James (b. 1722), by Tree p.169, was reputed to be the first cousin of William 'The carrier' who did make a claim to the estates, but James does not appear among the claimants. This seems to throw much doubt on the relationship of James and his father, John concerning the place allotted to them in the Genealog. Tree, p.169. The compilers of the 'HISTORY' do not seem to be quite convinced either, as they have placed a query in front of 'John b. 1683'. That goes for his reputed brother William too. More research is obviously needed to clarify family relationships near this period.

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