Bonnet Lairds
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The Landed Estates and
Bonnet Lairds

While the plot of ground worked by a "cottar" in cooperation with others in the fermtoun was the basic building block of the local rural economy, and while the fermtoun itself was a "mini-local economy", we may perhaps (and very loosely) define the late seventeenth century Lesmahagow Parish local economy as the exchange of goods and services between the several "landed estates" into which the Parish was then "divided". The feudal origins of these landed estates are certainly beyond the scope of this work. It is sufficient to say here that political, economic, religious and social forces over some five centuries had altered the original landholding framework established by the Norman Kings.

Most of the early feudal baron-families had long before relinquished their lands and power in Lesmahagow -- effectively, only the Weir and Hamilton dynasties remained by the end of the seventeenth century. While the Duke of Hamilton controlled his Lesmahagow properties from his palace in Hamilton Parish ten miles to the north, James Weir of Stonebyres and George Weir of Blackwood resided on their Lesmahagow Estates. Lesser members of the "Weir clan" owned smaller estates in the Parish, including David Weir of Auchtyfardle, John Weir of Kerse, Major James Weir of Kirkfield, George Weir of Birkwood, John Weir of Letham, James Weir of Mosminion, and John Weir of Johnshill.

The Church had sold much of its vast Lesmahagow estate over a century earlier to a number of former tenant farmers, thus creating a class of "bonnet lairds". The Logan / Upper Nethan watershed supported a fair number of these "owner-occupier-farmers" in the late seventeenth century including McWharrie of Scorrieholm, Pait of Foulfoord, Fairservice of Meadow, Lean of Cleughbrae, Steel of Skellyhill, Hamilton of Priorhill, Thomson of South Cumberhead and Whyte of Stockbriggs.

According to family tradition, the Browns of Auchlochan were church vassals at an early period, and there is no title to show that any other family were proprietors of the lands of Townfoot of Auchlochan before them... In the Charter Chest at Auchlochan, there is... a precept of sasine directed to John Broune in Authinlothan by Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, Commendator of Kelso, with consent of Sir John Bellenden, Justice-Clerk Administrator of the Monastery of Kelso, to infeft Alexander Broun in the lands of Fulfurde, dated 1575.

Most likely, the neighbouring estate of Stockbriggs, too, grew out of such a modest bonnet-laird holding from the late sixteenth century. By the middle of the eighteenth, the Whyte family of Stockbriggs had added, to their holdings, the farms of Yondertown, Holmhead, Craighead and Greenfauld. These farms were then collectively known as "Betwixt the Waters" because of their situation between the waters of the Nethan and the Logan. In spite of its humble origins, Stockbriggs became a prominent estate by the mid-late nineteenth century, mostly through mineral extraction and the arrival of the railway.

By the end of the seventeenth century, feudalism in the Scottish lowlands had faded behind the smoke of the cannon. However, the "landed estate" was still largely intact as a local economy in and of itself. While the cooperative style "fermtoun" per se may have just nicely started its gradual decline in Lesmahagow Parish by this time, there is no doubt that there were still "mini-local economies" within the landed estate.

From When The Ground Fails: An Economic Watershed
The Scarboro Heights Record V12 #3

Meadow Farm

The table on the previous page is based on a snapshot taken in 1817 of the tenants on Stockbriggs estate. Of particular note is the fact that the Fairservice family -- of long-standing Stockbriggs connection -- were not tenants in 1817. However, and more importantly, the Fairservices had previously been owners of Meadow farm. (The Hamiltons had held Meadow since at least 1623.) The story of this "bonnet laird" Fairservice family has been researched by Robin Fairservice (R& Robin has kindly provided the following summary.

James Fairservice, born about 1680 (Wives Mary Cascallan and Marion Tytop)

At the time of his first marriage he was living in Auchrobert. James was probably a tenant. When children were christened in 1710 and 1714 he was living at Clairhomberg, and in 1717 at Stockbridge.

When his son, James, married in 1734, James senior was described as "in Meadow".

In the Lesmahagow Kirk Session Minutes, August 26, 1721, James admitted to Fornication with Marion Tytop, and was ordered to move out of her house. They were married on August 27, 1721. He was rebuked on September 24, 1721; Marion was near her time of delivery. He was absolved on March 11, 1722. Their son, William, was christened on March 18, 1722.

(Christening and parentage assumed, based upon the Scottish naming rule.)

From the Sasine records James was alive on August 2, 1747, but deceased on November 8, 1752.

Andrew Fairservice, born about 1705 (Buried at Lesmahagow 26 Aug 1767. Wife: Agnes Weir.)

Owned, with his father James, a property called "Meadow" in a 1764 valuation of property listed in the Annals of Lesmahagow. Property valued at 48 Scots pounds. The foundations of the building still exist, alongside a trail that starts at Yonderton. Andrew was described as "of Meadow" in a Sasine dated 26 March 1737.

The Register of Sasines, 1721 to 1780, lists Andrew as the second lawful son of James Fairservice, and his spouse as Agnes Weir, eldest daughter of John Weir of Johnshill.

RS/42/IV fol. 336

Sasine in favour of Thomas Brown of Cleughbrae of lands in Lesmahagow, registered 26 March 1737. Andrew Fairservice of (sic) Meadow acting as baillie for Gilbert Kennedy. Precept (the authority to give sasines) written 24 November 1736. One of the witnesses to the precept was Andrew Fairservice described as son of James Fairservice in Meadow.

RS42/IV fol. 451

Sasine in favour of Andrew Fairservice and Agnes Weir registered 17 April 1740. On 14 March 1740 following on the contract of marriage of Agnes Weir, now wife of Andrew Fairservice, eldest daughter of John Weir of Johnshill, she and Andrew and the longest liver of the two were infeft in conjunct fee and liferent for the said Agnes in case there were no children, in half Andrew Fairservices's lands of Meadow presently possessed by himself and his father James Fairservice in the parish of Lesmahagow and then to their heirs, whom failing to the heirs of Andrew whatsoever.

Witnesses to the precept - Mr. Thomas Wharrie, minister of Lesmahagow, George Whyte of Neuk , Robert Brounlie and William Brown. Witnesses to the giving of sasine - Robert Marshell, William Brown.

Meadow farm consisted of 11 acres of Croftland, or infield, 30 acres of Outfield, 4 acres of Meadow, and 21 acres of Pasture, or higher ground. As an owner Andrew would have been described as a "Bonnet Laird".

James Fairservice, Baptised 17 Jan 1749 (Wife: Lilias Fleming)

From Lanark Register of Sasines 1781 to 1820, James acquired his father's property Meadow on March 19, 1787 and October 24, 1789 as heir to his father.

Also from this register, Andrew Fairservice, a Wright, of Glasgow acquired on July 30, 1830, as heir to his father, 20 s of the 30 s land of Meadow at Lesmahagow. Andrew appears to have sold this land to a Charles Balfour on July 30, 1830.

Presumably, James died in 1830. There is a photo of a headstone that says "Burying Place of James Fairservice" taken in Lesmahagow Churchyard.

Rachel Fairservice, Baptised 12 Feb 1741

From the Lanark Register of Sasines, 1781 to 1820, ref. 892, Rachel must have inherited one third of Meadow from her father, Andrew Fairservice. As part of her marriage contract with John Brown, Workman, Carlton, Glasgow, James Corbett of Kenmuir, on March 23 1786, obtained this land as security for a restrictable life rent annuity of 100 Merks Scots (a Merk was worth 1s, 2d in 1946).

Other lands mentioned were: Pantry Pan in Clughbra, part of Clughbra Meadow, and Craighead called Greenfaulds, and Teinds, Par Lesmahagow.

Previous Owner

A Gavin Hamilton owned meadow in 1686 when he was named as a Fugitive about 1687. A John Hamilton later owned Meadow.

The Covenanter David Steel was captured at Meadow, on the estate of Stockbriggs, on December 20, 1686 and was taken to his home at Skellyhill and shot. From the account in the "Annals of Lesmahagow", Meadow is not far from Yonderton.

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #11