When in the crimson west
The setting sun gaes doun,
When the gloamin' brings a' nature rest,
We'll leave the gaudy toun.
On Boamie hill we'll stray
To breathe the evenin' air,
An' mark the licht o' fading day
Engild the valley fair.

Kings in their regal pride
May on the hill hae stood
To gaze along the valley wide,
An' muse in thochtfu' mood;
Or wi' a courtly train
O' lords and ladies fine
Hae mocked the hours wi' lauchter vain
In days forgot langsyne.

W. M. Smart.

Balmashanner is pronounced Boamie-shanner locally. It is situated on the high land just outside the town of Forfar. Jervise, indeed, tells us that the word means "the high land of the town".

It is spelled in many different forms in old records, but the above is now the recognised spelling. It belonged to the king at the beginning of the fourteenth century.

Jervise further informs us that "Tyrbeg or Torbeg (the place of little hillocks) and Balmashanner were held upon the reddendo of furnishing the royal household with three hundred cartloads of peats from the muirs of these lands when the court should have residence at Forfar." In the time of King Robert the Bruce the Cissor family was in possession of these royal, lands, while in 1359 they were in the hands of William de Rubeo Fonte.

The following is a list of the Balmashanner Cairncrosses with what is known about each:


JOHN 1371. (Charter Date)

John the son of William, and his wife Christiana obtained a charter of the lands of Balmoschenore and Tryebeg from Robert the Second on October 28th, 1371.

ROBERT c.1400 - 1410 (Charter Dates)

Robert Carncors obtained a charter of lands at Ceres from Robert the Third about the year 1400.

On July 22nd, 1410, Robert de Carncors delivered up to the governor of Scotland certain lands at Ceres which belonged to him heritably.

JOHN 1438 - 1453 (Charter and Inquest Dates)

On March 10th, 1438, John de Carncors of Balmachenare was a witness to a charter by Margaret de Fenton of Beaufort to Walter Ogilvy, son and heir of the late Sir Patric Ogilvy of Ochterhouse, which is about seven miles north-west of Dundee.

He was one of the jurors on an inquest on July 21st, 1450, and attended another inquest on February 1st, 1453.

ALEXANDER 1438 (Charter Date)

On November 20th, 1438, John, recorded above, and Alexander de Carncors, his son and heir, gave a charter of three parts of the lands at Seres, Craighall, Calange, and Wester Pitscotti to Sir James Kynmont of that Ilk, in exchange for the lands of Balcormo, situated between Seres and Largo, though nearer Largo.

John 1470 - 1494. (Charter Dates)

John Carncors of Balmyschennor was probably the son of the above Alexander. On July 8th, 1470, he was a witness to "Obligaceo Thome Fyff (a baillie of Aberdeen) de quinque libris annui redditus", and at Dundee on October 24th, 1494, he gave a charter of the lands of Balmyschennor and Terbeg to his son and heir, James Carncors, and Egidia his spouse. John Carncors, burgess of Dundee, was one of the witnesses. This charter was confirmed by James IV on December 8th, 1495.


JAMES 1494 - 1528. (Charter Dates)

James Carncors granted a charter of the lands of Balmaschennor and Turfbeg to David Carncors, his son and heir, for his meritorious conduct, but reserving to himself and Egidia Arbuthnot his spouse the fourth part of the lands of Turfbeg in life-rent[1]. The charter was dated at Balmaschanner on August 24th, 1528, being confirmed by James the Fifth on September 8th following.

DAVID 1528 - 1561. (Apprising of Lands) [2]

David Carncors of Balmaschynnare was on July 1st, 1538, on assise at Forfar for apprising the lands of Ochterhouse, which were granted by the king to David, earl of Crawford; while on May 1st 1561 he, or possibly his son, was again on assise for apprising the lands of Teling, granted to David Maxwell.

MR. WILLIAM 1575 - 1599 (Dates when mentioned in public records.)

The title of "Mr." was in those days, as a rule, given to those only who had taken a degree at a university; all others, even landed gentry, were addressed by their Christian and family names without any prefix. When one was designated "of" some particular place it meant that he was the owner of the place, but when "in" was used instead of "of", it showed that he was merely a resident there, and not the proprietor. Mr, William was, therefore, an up-to-date educated country gentleman, but it may be doubted - his book learning notwithstanding - if he was as wise and as successful in the management of his property and his private and public affairs as his forebears, for he seems to have failed to hand over the family inheritance in as good a condition as he found it. His wife was Christina Moncur, who was probably a daughter of Andrew Moncur of Moncur, and they had at least three sons.

We first meet with him in 1575 - 76 in the register of the Privy Council of Scotland, in which we are informed that David Guthrie of Kincaldrum was surety for Maister William Carncors of Balmaschanno, that he would appear before the Justice or his deputy on a certain day past to answer a charge of oppression said to have been committed by him upon William Carden, baxter[3], in Forfar. John Calder, bute pursevant, went to the said David's house at Carret, and seized and took away a six-year-old courser horse to pay for the one hundred pounds of the security. David insists that he can prove the horse to be worth one hundred and twenty pounds, and John Calder not only refuses to give a receipt for the hundred pounds but also refuses to refund the twenty pounds, so that the money can be recovered from Maister William Carncors. The Council finds that Calder did not manage the case wisely, and orders him to give a receipt for one hundred pounds.

[1] life-rent: Scots Law - A rent which one receives for life, usually for support; the right to use and enjoy property during one's life.
[2] apprise: Scots Law - To put up for sale at a set price, appraise 1533. (both fide S.O.E.D.)
[3] baxter = baker


In 1590:- "Caution in 500 by Mr. William Carnecors of Balmashannane for Elizabeth Gray, relict of Patrick Kynnard of Inchestuir, that she will not harm Andro Hude in Balgai, his wife, bairns or tenants".

In 1591- "Registration by Mr. Johnne Russell, advocate, as procurator for the cautionar and principals of a band of caution in 2,000 merks by Mr. William Carnecors of Balmashhennair for George Sutie, and fourteen others, Councillors and bailies of the burgh of Forfar, that John Ogilvy of Innerquharrite with his retainers and four others, shall be harmless of the said bailies, councillors, and other inhabitants of the said burgh. Subscribed at Forfar, 13th April, before Mr. James Rait, minister of Kynnetles; Robert Lauson, reader at Forfar; and Johnne Traill, notary public, who subscribes for the cautioner and others 'because we cannot write our selffis.' "

On 9th September, 1591:- "Registration by Mr. James Fowles as procurator for the parties of a band of caution by Mr. William Carnecors of Balmaschynner, as principal, and Alexander Balbirny, friar of Innerchtie, as surety for him in 1,000 that he will not harm Thomas Nachtane in Balmanaschynner. Subscribed at Wester Machie, 6th September, before Johnne Kynninmonth, of Wester Machie, James Lundy, son of James Lundy in Ummoquhy (?Omachie), and John Watsoun, notary public."

On 14th September, 1592:- "Registration by Mr Johnne Dempstre, advocate, as procurator for the surety of band of caution in 200 by Mr. William Cairnecors of Balmashanner, as principal, and James Strauchin of Carmylie, as surety, not to harm Thomas Wichtane. Subscribed at Carmylie, 9th September, before Patrick Strauchin, brother of the said James; Andro Hayok, tailor; David Hayok, and Johnne Watsoun, notary public."


In 1595:- "Complaint by William Betoun, his majesty's 'Broudinstair' as follows:- Alexander Wilson, officer, having charged Mr. William Carnecroce of Balmashruner, by virtue of letters raised by the said Betoun as cessioner and assignee, appointed by Alexander Strauchane, in the Cannongait, to an action of spuilyie committed by the said Mr. William. The said Mr. William, Alexander Blair of Frairton, and Alexander Lyell, his servant, reft the said letters from the said officer, and still keep the same. Carnecroce and Betoun appearing personally, the Lords admit the said complaint to the said William's probation, assigning the 24th June for this purpose.

On August 11th, 1595, at Edinburgh:- "Registration by Mr. Johnne Dempstair, advocate, as procurator, of band by Mr. William Cairnecorce of Balmashanner, principal, and Andro Muncur of that Ilk, surety, 2,000, not to harm Johnne Traill, clerk of the burgh of Forfar. Subscribed at Balmashanner and Moncur, 7th August, before Bryane York and James Lyell, servitors to the said Mr. Williame, and Johnne Watsoun notary, writer hereof."

On November 27th, 1595, at Holyrood House:- "Alexander Wilsoun, officer, having charged Mr. William Carnecroce of Balmashynnair, by virtue of letters raised at tile instance of William Betoun, his Majesty's ''browdinstair', as cessioner and assignee constituted by Alexander Strauchine, in the Cannongait, to an action of spuilyie committed by the said Mr. William. True it is that, immediately after tae charge the said Mr. William and Alexander Blair of Friartoun, and Alexander Lyell, his servant, violently reft the same letters; wherefore the same had been admitted to Betoun's probation, and certain witnesses having been examined in presence of the Lords of Secret Council, at last Carnecroce had been warned to appear on a certain day and hear sentence pronounced, secundum allegata et probata. And now Betoun appearing personally, but Carnecroce failing to appear, the Lords find Carnecroce guilty of the violent taking of the said letters from the aforesaid officer, and ordain all his movables to be escheated and himself to be committed to ward."


On March 11th, 1597 - 98 at Dundee:- Patrick Lord Gray, with six others, and Mr. William Carnecroce of Balmoschynner, had been charged under pain of treason to appear and answer for their "proude and wilful remaining at the horne unrelaxt, to the misregaird of his Hienes and his authoritie". In further contempt of his Majesty they have "absentit thameselffis of the said hornings, but proudlie and contempnandly remains in the country, hanting all publict placeis and societie of men". Wherefore his Majesty gives full power and commission to Patrick, Master of Gray, sheriff of Forfar, to convocate the lieges in arms, if need be, and to apprehend the said persons and present them before the King and his council, He is to besiege their houses if necessary, "mak oppin durris and use his Hienes keyis", and employ all force requisite for recovery thereof; he is to intromit with their corns and gear and to make penny thereof, accounting for the same in the exchequer; and he is to have indemnity for ail that may happen in pursuing them with fire and sword, and besieging houses to which they may resort.

Mr. William must have made his peace with the King and council, for in the register of the Privy Council is the following: Edinburgh, 17th July, 1599:- Complaint by Mr. William Carncroce of Balmashannair as follows:- Upon 3rd July last, Robert Lyoun in Drumleyis, together with four others, had been put to the horn at the complainer's instance for not fulfilling three decrees, obtained by him against them before the Lords of Session, dated respectively 24th January, 1589, 5th October, 1591, and 5th February, 1591; to wit, the first decree for not restoring the complainor certain corns, or the prices thereof, together with 20 merks for expenses and 40s. paid to the lord's collector; the second decree for not restoring to him certain corns or goods, and for non-payment of' 20 of expenses and 40s. paid to the lord's collectors; and the third decree for not delivering again to the complainer certain peats, or else the price of the same, and for non-payment of 20 of expenses and 40s. paid to the said collector. "At the process quhairof of the saidis persons hes maist proudlie and contempnandly remanit sensyne, as they do yit unrelaxt"; and they are Lord Glammis's men, dwelling upon his lands, and they are therefore such persons as he is bound to answer for.


The pursuer appearing personally, Patrick Lord Glammis appears by Mr. Thomas. Rollok, his procurator, who alleges that the said lord should not be burdened with the entry of the said rebels, because when he was charged to enter them, and ever since, he has been in ward in the castle of Edinburgh. (It appears there was a feud between Lord Glammis and David, earl of Crawford that these noblemen had agreed to submit the cause or causes of the feud to the Privy Council, but that on the day agreed upon Glammis failed to appear, while Crawford was ready to submit in person. Glammis was ordered to enter in ward within the castle of Edinburgh within six days under the pain of rebellion.) The lords find, however, that the said lord ought to have entered then, and in respect of their non-entry ordain him to be denounced rebel.

Making his peace with the Privy Council seems to have caused Mr. William financial difficulties, for shortly afterwards he granted a charter of the lands of Balmashanner, Cottoun thereof, etc., with the consent of Christiana Moncur, his spouse, to Mr. James Fotheringham, rector of Balumbie, and Margaret Lindsay, his spouse, in conjunct fee, for the sum of 4,000 merks. The charter was dated Dundee, June 2nd, 1598, and was confirmed by the King on July 23rd, 1598. This does not mean that he sold Balmashanner outright, as will be seen further on.

Bands or bonds of caution, such as are mentioned above, were far from being uncommon in those days, and Mr. William Cairncross was not different from many of his contemporaries in sometimes finding it necessary to get a surety that he would not harm some particular person; For Dr. John Hill Burton[4] says-; "Feuds and quarrels among the nobles and lairds - This feature of old Scottish life continued to be so prominent that a good deal of the time of the council was still occupied with attention to outbreaks of old quarrels or appearances of new quarrels in important families, and even among members of its own body, The council was exemplary in this part of its duties, generally contriving to compel the parties to appear before it, and give caution, submit their differences to arbitration or go into ward, and, finally, after whatever reluctance, signify their ostensible reconciliation by 'chopping hands'. "He then gives a list of forty-two of the chief cases that came before the council during the four years 1613 - 1616.

[4] The editor of "Register of the Privy Council" in his introduction to Volume 10.


Jamieson's Scottish Dictionary throws additional light on incidents in the career of' this Mr, William Cairncross, and gives the following definitions of the words "lawborrows", "horn" and "horning" : -

The legal security which one man is obliged to give that he will not do any injury to another in his person or property. The import of lawborrows in Scotland is that when two neighbours are at variance, the one procures from the council, or any competent court, letters charging the other to find caution and surety that the complainer, wife, bairns etc. shall be skaithless from the person complained upon, his wife, bairns etc. in their body, lands, heritages etc.; and before such letters can be granted, the complainer must give his oath expressly that he dreads bodily harm and molestation from the person complained upon.

To put to the horn. The phrase originated from the manner in which a person is denounced an outlaw. A King's messenger, legally empowered for the purpose, after other formalities, must give three blasts with a horn, by which the person is understood to be proclaimed a rebel to the King, for contempt of his authority, and his moveable's to be escheated to the King's use.

or Letter of Horning: - A 'letter issued from His Majesty's signet and directed to a messenger, who is required to charge a debtor to pay the debt for which he is prosecuted or perform the obligation within a limited time, under the pain of rebellion. If the debtor disobeys the charge, the messenger publishes the letter at the market cross of the head borough of the shire where the debtor dwells. The messenger must, before witnesses, first make three several Oyesses with audible voice, Next he must read the letters, also with an audible voice, and afterwards blow with his horn, as mentioned.


NICOL 1608 - 1640 (Dates when mentioned in public records.)

"Nicol Carnecroce of Balmishannour for William Andersone, with three other bailies of Forfar; and for David Nevay, with two other burgesses there, 500 merks each, not to harm Sir Peter Young, master almoner." The band, registered by Mr. Robert Narne, advocate, and written by William Heich, was subscribed at Forfar on March 5th, 1608, before Mr. Henry Fullertoun, minister at Forfar, and five others, with Walter Carnecroce, brother of surety.

On September 21st, 1626, Nicol Cairncross of Balmashanner and Walter Cairncross his brother served on a large representative Forfarshire commission for the apprehension of John Rattray and others at the horn for the slaughter of John Rid.

Patrick Cairncross, "son of the late Mr. William Carnecors of Balmaschenner" was a witness to a bond subscribed at Forfar August 4th, 1609.

Nicol must have been Mr. William's eldest son and his heir, as neither Walter nor Patrick are designated "of Balmashanner". He had a daughter, Lucressa Cairncross, who married James Hamilton of Kirkstone of Aberbrothock, and in accordance with her marriage contract was infefted in life-rent in half of the lands and teinds of Kirkstone on November 29th, 1640, sasine being given on August 22nd, 1642. There was also a Lucreice Cairncross, the wife of Mr. Alexander Pitcairne, minister at the kirk of Tannidice, 1633 - 1642.

DAVID 1640 - 1657 (Dates when mentioned in public records.)

David Cairncors, friar, Belmishenner, was a witness to the sasine of John Brown of Fordell on May 18th, 1640. David Cairncross of Balmashanner was a witness to the sasine of James Hamilton, eldest son of John Hamilton of Bothe, on August 22nd, 1642, and he was also attorney for Lucressa Cairncross, the wife of James Hamilton.

On July 1st, 1645, David disposed of an annual rent of 160 merks out of Balmaschanner and Turfbeg (Tyrbeg) in favour of John Wilson in Cars.


On 26th May, 1649, he gave the town and lands of Wester Turfbegg, alias Westergarthe, in life-rent to his wife, Elizabeth Blair, while on February 20th, 1653, he gave an annual rent of 900 out of the lands of Balmaschanner and Tyrbeg in favour of Elizabeth Cairncross, his only lawful daughter. (This Elizabeth married John Lindsay of Pitscandlie, and according to her marriage contract was infefted in life-rent in the lands of Baldearie and Mairstone, in the parish of Rescobie and shire of Forfar, on January 30th, 1664. Her daughter, Sussana Lindsay, married Alexander Guthrie, writer in Edinburgh, and both were alive on August 23rd, 1703.

On February 21st, 1653, David Cairncross of Balmashanner gave sasine on bond to William Gray, Sheriff-clerk of Forfar, of an annual rent of 495 out of the lands of Balmaschanner and Tyrbeg, and on January 15th, 1656, he gave a charter of the lands of Turfebeg (Tyrbeg), Easter and Wester, in favour of William Gray, sheriff-clerk of Forfar. Sasine was given on May 16th, 1657.

PATRICK 1657 - 1676 (Dates when mentioned in public records.)

Patrick Cairncross of Balmashanner, heir male of David Cairncross of Balmashanner, his brother, was, on August 28th, 1657, retoured in `.the town and lands of Balmashanner and pendicles called Caldhame and Tullohill, sasine being given on November 4th, 1657.

Patrick married Susanna Blair, but whether they left any children is not known. The following is worth recording, and probably refers to this Patrick before he succeeded to the family property:- "The Commission of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, sitting at Perth on November 28th, 1650, having considered the petition of Captain Patrick Cairncross and three others, with testimonies concerning their satisfaction, and after hearing themselves personally present - being well satisfied with the evidence of their repentance for their accession to the late unlawful engagement against the kingdom of England and the Commonwealth - do recommend them to the honourable estates of Parliament that they may be looked upon by their lordships accordingly." Patrick Cairncross had evidently accepted a captaincy in the ill-disciplined army of about 15,000 men, commanded by the Duke of Hamilton that invaded England without the approval of the Church of Scotland, to try and rescue and restore Charles the First, who was a prisoner in the Isle of Wight. Hamilton, who lacked both force of character and military skill, bungled the venture, and was defeated by Cromwell. "None escaped" says Sir Walter Scott, "save a resolute body of men under the earl of Callender, who broke through the enemy and forced their way back to their own country." Captain Patrick was no doubt with these resolute men who forced their way home.


Marshall, in his "Historic Scenes in Forfarshire", says: "About 1661 the Privy Council of Scotland appointed a special Commission consisting of their Lovitis - Cairncross of Balmaschanner, Hunter of Restennet, Hunter of Burnside, Guthrie of Halkertoun, Keith of Cadam, Sheriff-Deputy Guthrie of Carsbank, Scott (Provost), and the bailies of Forfar - with full-powers to meet when and where they should find it expedient, and to hold courts for the trial of persons accused of witchcraft."

Although the fortunes of the family at this time (1661) were certainly on the downgrade, the fact that the place of honour on this witchcraft commission was given to Patrick Cairncross indicates the importance of the family in the country at this period.

The first sitting of the commission was held in November, 1661, "for the putting of Issobell Syme, indweller in Forfar, who hath confesst the abominable sin of witchcraft in entering into paction with the divell, renouncing her baptism, and other-ways, as their depositions bears, to a legal trial, and, if she shall be found guilty upon voluntar confession, without any sort of torture or other indirect means used against her to bring her to a confession, or that malifices be otherways legally instructed and proven, that then and in that case and no other wayes they cause justice be administrat upon her conforme to the laws of the Kingdom. Subscribitur ut proxima infra."


Sixteen years later Patrick appears to have sold his estate on a valuation, although he may have remained in possession for some time afterwards, for in the register of sasines is the following entry:
1681, April 28:- Sasine on charter under the great seal in favour of Alexander Watson of Wallace Craigie in life-rent, and Mr. John Watson, his lawful son, in fee, of the town and lands of Balmashanner, with manor place, etc., with the pendicles called Caldhame and Tullohill, in the shire of Forfar, which formerly pertained to Patrick Cairncross of Balmashanner and Susanna Blair his spouse, and were apprised from them at the instance of the said Alexander Watson and his said son on 25th July, 1676. At Edinburgh, 16th February, 1680; sasine on 4th April, 1681.

Note:- The word "life-rent" used above is the right to enjoy a subject and its fruits during life; "Fee" means the full and unlimited right of a proprietor; "sasine" means possession.

This then is the end of the Cairncrosses of Balmashanner after a proprietorship of more than three hundred years.

Click here to go back to the Title page.

Click here to go back to the CONTENTS page.

Click here for the Kings of Scotland.

Click here to go to Chapter VI.