The Fithies of Boysack and their Kin

Miscellaneous notes

A funeral monument in Arbroath Abbey
The Lands of Fithie in the parish of Farnell


Fithies in Dundee, 1517-1700
The Fithie family of Clackmannanshire, North Shields and South Shields
Family tree of the Fithies of Boysack
Fithies and Eliots: a confused tale
Fithies in Finland

A funeral monument in Arbroath Abbey

In the churchyard of Arbroath Abbey there is a 17th century coped stone monument, undecorated along its length. The only inscriptions on the stone are on its two narrow ends. It now lies near the remains of the north transept of the abbey, at the foot of the monument to the Philps, but in the 19th century it covered a grave that was believed to contain the body of William the Lion, who was buried in 1214 in the abbey that he had founded in 1178. How the stone came to be in that position is unclear.

Fithie monument

It is universally accepted that the stone is the monument to a person or persons surnamed "Fithie", a relatively uncommon Scottish surname that is recorded in a wide variety of spellings. Jervise [Memorials, i, p. 222] says

The supposed grave of King William is now covered by an old gravestone, which bears a monogram, embodying the four initial letters - A. F. Y. P. - and a shield charged with a crane (the armorial bearings of the old Forfarshire family surnamed Fithie); the stone had perhaps belonged to a descendant of the Fithies.

But he makes no comment on the other end of the stone. In contrast, Warden [Angus, iii, p. 247] ignores the initials A. F. Y. P but notes the monogram at the other end:

An old gravestone which now covers the supposed grave of King William the Lion, in Arbroath Abbey, has a shield charged with the armorial bearings of the Fithies - a crane, and with a monogram of the four letters L.F.H.C.

Flora Davidson [Tombstones, p. 9] records the stone thus:

[It] lay till recently at the crossing of the nave ... One [end] bears a shield with helm and mantling; the charge is defaced and flanked AF and YP. On the other is skull and crossbones with a monogram of HFIC.

Finally, the Rev. Dr James Brown Craven states [Craven, Collections, p. 41]:

[A] tombstone, with the monogram of J. F. H. C., lies on "the supposed grave of King William".

Warden's reading is impossible, as there is no horizontal stroke for an 'L'. Only Craven is rash enough to attempt to identify his reading, J.F., as the initials of James Fithie, burgess of Arbroath and second son of Henry Fithie of Boysack. The last Henry Fithie of Boysack's second son was indeed called 'James', and was admitted a burgess of Arbroath in 1621 [Miller, Arbroath, p. 293]:

31 March 1621. Mr James Futhie, sone lawfull to umquhil Hendrie Futhie of Bysack, is maid and creat burges and freeman.

He was a university graduate by 6 Mar 1607, when he, with his father and several others, took part in a raid at Rynd in Inverkeilor parish [RPC, 8, Acta Caut. dated 31 Dec 1607], so one would have expected M.I.F., not I.F. (In fact, he was already designed 'Mr' by 6 Jun 1595 [NRS B4/1/2 fo. 103].) There is no hint of an 'M' on the stone, nor is there is any evidence of his having married [1].

Only two men called 'Fithie' were prominent in Arbroath in the mid 17th century. The one was Alexander, a bailie of the burgh in 1647, who was appointed a commissioner for war for Forfarshire in 1648 [Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, 1648/3/79], and a commissioner for the re-evaluation of Forfarshire in 1649 [ibid., 1649/1/233]. The other was Henry, a commissioner to the Convention of Estates for the burgh of Arbroath in 1667 [ibid., 1667/1/2], provost of the burgh by 1675 [OPR baptisms, St Vigeans] and, from 1676 to 1695, proprietor, with his wife, of the small estate of Peebles in the parish of St Vigeans [PRS Forfar, (S3) vi, 78]. His wife's name was Helen Carnegie, of the family of Carnegie of Newgate in Arbroath. The correct reading of the monogram on the one end of the stone is H.F. H.C. for Henry Fithie and Helen Carnegie. Alexander had a son Henry, as John Carnegie earl of Ethie granted father and son, in life-rent and fee respectively, lands in the burgh of Arbroath in 1657 [NRS B4/1/7, fo. 86]; father and son were both living in 1651, and it seems safe to conclude that the provost was the bailie's son.

Although only the bird's feet remain of the crane on the coat of arms at the other end of the stone, the initials A.F. and Y.P. are still clear [though now, 2018, entirely obscured by moss], and must be those of Alexander and his wife. 'Y' is extremely rare as the initial of a given name; only 'Yoophan', a variant spelling of 'Euphan', seems possible. The 'P' might suggest 'Pearson', as the Pearsons of Lochlands were prominent in the burgh in the 16th and 17th century. Alexander had a grant of an annualrent out of Lochlands in 1647 [PRS Forfar, (S3) ii, 514], while the provost was curator to Thomas, son and heir of Mr David Pearson, who was a minister at Kirkcaldy and grandson of Thomas Pearson of Lochlands, who was a bailie of Arbroath in 1601. Moreover, Peebles had previously been held by the Pearsons; in 1667, David Pearson in Lochlands was served heir special to his father, Mr David Pearson of Lochlands, in, inter alia, Peebles [Retours, Forfar, no. 433]. That Y.P. was indeed Eupham Pearson (daughter of Thomas Pearson of Lochlands, and relict of Gilbert Ouchterlony, maltman, burgess of Arbroath) is confirmed by their marriage contract of 17 Apr 1623 recorded in NRS GD45/12/410 fo.18. The contract also shows that Alexander was the son of Henry Fithie, sometime younger of Boysack, and his spouse Isobel Gardyne.

It is unfortunate that neither Jervise or Warden give a detailed blazon of the arms on the stone, or even commented on whether a crane was the only charge upon the shield. The only arms for Fithie recorded in the Register of Arms are

azur[e] a cran[e] proper


Henry Fithie late provost of Aberbrothock and heir male of [blank]

These arms were registered about 1680. Nisbet [Nisbet, System, i, p. 353] states that the missing words are Fythie of Bysack. The arms differ from those attributed to Fythie of Bysack in the Roll of Gentlemen's Arms collected in the reign of Charles I [Stodart, Scottish Arms, vol. 2, p. 340 and Stodart, Scottish Arms, vol. 1, plate 102], which have a chief charged with three stars:

arms of Fithie of Boysack

The only other examples of Fithie arms appear to be:

The Lands of Fithie in the parish of Farnell

There are three occurrences of the place-name 'Fithie' in Angus. In addition to Fithie in Farnell (now a farm name; there is also Little Fithie there), there is Loch Fithie, just east of the town of Forfar, and the Fithie Burn, which flows through Murroes and is a tributary of the Dighty Water. Similar place-names are found elsewhere in Scotland - Foodie in Fife, and Futtie, i.e. Foot Dee, by Aberdeen.

There was also a Foddis or Foothies Mill in the parish of Crombie (now part of Torryburn) in Fife, originally the property of Culross Abbey; it seems to have taken its name from a Gilbert Foid, who appears to have been the ancestor of a family called 'Fithie' who were tenants and, later, feuars of that mill in the period 1525-1611 [Laing Charters, nos. 350, 828, 1046, 1185, 1348 1605, 1606]. That family's surname clearly did not originate from Fithie in Farnell.

So there is no reason to suppose that other Fithie families found in Scotland, most notably in Clackmannanshire, in Dundee, in Edinburgh, and in eastern Perthshire and western Angus (mainly in the parishes of Alyth, Cortachy & Clova and Lintrathen) had their origins in Farnell. (Some notes on these families will be added to this page shortly.)

However, one family that does seem most likely to have originated in Farnell is that of Boysack in the parish of Inverkeilor.

Jervise [Memorials, i, p. 85] says

The lands of Fithie gave surname to a family that held a respectable position in the county from about the middle of the thirteenth century until within these two hundred years. These lands also paid feu-duties to the Bishop of Brechin, and probably the De Fithies were vassals of the Bishops down to the year 1457 [2], as at that time George Leslie, the first Earl of Rothes, had a grant of Easter Fithies.

When Jervise was writing in the 19th century, there were still Fithies in Angus and Dundee, though it is clear that he is referring here to the Fithies of Boysack and the above-mentioned Alexander Fithie and Henry Fithie in Arbroath. But since then, the surname has died out in Scotland, the last male birth having been in the 1950s.

In the Register of Arbroath Abbey, we find a Duncanus de Fernevel as one of those present at a perambulation on 23 Sep 1219 of the march between Arbroath, Achinglas and the barony of Kinblethmont [Arbroath Liber, i, p. 162, ch. 228]. This Duncan of Farnell may possibly be the same individual who appears as Duncan de Fethyn as witness in 1254 to a settlement of the bounds between certain lands of the abbey and the lands of Peter Maule of Panmure and his wife Christina [Arbroath Liber, i, pp. 322-5, ch. 366]. But the latter Duncan is perhaps the first person who can be identified as a Fithie, inasmuch as he was presumably baron of the barony of Fithie. The first unambiguous mention of the barony of Fithie appears in a inquest of 1262, in which the barons of several baronies, including Fethyn (i.e. Fithie) are jurors [APS i, 99-100; Jervise, Memorials , ii, pp. 301-2; see also Grant, Franchises, p. 188]. Unfortunately, while the baronies are listed, the barons' names are not given.

Warden [Angus, iii, p. 247] notes a mention in 1310 of a Henry of Fethy in the Miscellanea Aldbarensia, a collection of material made by Patrick Chalmers of Aldbar [NRS GD1/47/1/15]. Also in the early 14th century, a Henry de Fithie is said to be found in the records in connexion with Arbroath; Black notes that Henry of Fythie was a commissioner appointed by Robert the Bruce to enquire into the rights and privileges of Arbroath [Black, Surnames, p. 267], citing Jervise as his source. Jervise [Epitaphs, ii, p. 340] in his turn cites Nisbet [System, i, p. 353], who fails to provide any source for this information. Possibly, Nisbet mentioned Arbroath in error for Restenneth, as on 1 March 1321-2, a Henry de Fithie was member of an assize to enquire into the rights of the Priory of Restenneth [RMS, 2, 3583]. It is plausible that he was baron of the barony of Fithie.

Shortly thereafter, in 1325, Henry de Fithie was a member of an assize at Dundee [RMS, 2, ch. 3717, dated 19 Mar 1511-2] and witness, in 1328, to a charter granted by Walter Shakloc to Henry de Rossie, of a third part of Ananie in the parish of Maryton [Arbroath Liber, i, p. 339, ch. 12].

In 1399, John, son of William Tulloch, was granted an annualrent of 10 shillings out of the barony of Fithie [Copy of an unregistered great seal charter, NRS GD16/24/104] and by 28 January 1401-2, the Leslies of Rothes had also acquired an interest in Fithie, as George Leslie, lord of Rothes granted a charter of Little Fithie on that date [NRS GD16/24/76].

In 1438, a Henry de Fithie is a member of an assize [Arbroath Liber, ii, p. 72, ch. 83].

The Leslies, shortly thereafter, became barons of Fithie, and it was incorporated into their barony of Ballinbreich (or Bambreich), with its caput near Newburgh in Fife. Precisely how the Fithies lost their barony is unclear; there is no mention of them in Colonel Leslie's account of his family [Leslie, Records]. Possibly, the senior line of the Fithies ended in two daughters, which could account for the later division into East and West Fithies. There are no references later than 1438 to a Henry de Fithie without further designation. In 1450, we find the first two references, in the Registers of the Diocese of Brechin, to a Henry (de) Fithie of Boysack [Brechin Registrum , ii, App. p. 79, ch. xlii (also in RMS, 2, ch. 494); and Brechin Registrum, i, p.148].

The Castle of Fithie

Jervise notes that Fithie had a castle [Jervise, Memorials , i, p. 86] and that, in his day, it was reduced to being the back wall of a cottage. The 25-inch Ordnance Survey plan of 1865 marks the remains, at the roadside, on the east side of the road that descends past Fithie farmhouse, almost opposite a quarry. What is presumably the castle also appears on Herman Moll's map of 1745, labelled "Fithe". The cottage is not there today, just a small square clump of trees.

Edwards quotes the earl of Southesk as having carried out an excavation somewhere to the south of the castle [Edwards, Ancient City, p. 410]:

"The second excavation in that neighbourhood was at Fithie Law, which occupies a commanding position near the Farnell and Renmuir road, in a southerly direction from the farm buildings of Fithie and the site of the ancient castle of the Fithies of that ilk. This must have been a grand tumulus, the tomb of some chieftain of importance."

But it seems most unlikely that the stone castle dated back to the time of the "Fithies of that ilk" - an expression seemingly first found in the 19th century - and much more likely that it was built by one of the Leslies.


1: Craven's 2xgt grandparents were Robert Brown and Mary Stewart. She was the daughter of Thomas Stewart, an Edinburgh burgess and tailor, and Marion Futhie (daughter of a James Futhie, tailor, burgess of Edinburgh), who married in Edinburgh in 1696. That much is secure. Unfortunately, Craven misidentifies his ancestor James Futhie as the man who was served heir general to his father John Fuithie, cordiner and burgess of Edinburgh on 12 Mar 1653 [Retours, 3763]. Craven's ancestor was almost certainly the burgess and tailor James whose wife was Isobel Gardyne, though there is no record of Marion's birth to that couple.

The James who was served heir in 1653 graduated M.A. from the University of Edinburgh in 1654 and was subsequently minister of the parish of Peebles in Peebles-shire; he had only one surviving child, Elizabeth, who was served heir to him on 3 Nov 1691 [Retours, 7185]. Mr James's parents were John Fithie, burgess & guildbrother of Edinburgh, deacon of the cordiners and a member of Edinburgh Burgh Council, and Janet Pillons.

To add to the confusion, Craven wrongly takes James Fithie, precentor in Dundee, who died before 23 Jan 1655, to have been his ancestor James Futhie's uncle, on the basis of another general retour [Retours, 3985].

2: Jervise's source for the statement that they paid feu-duty to the bishop of Brechin is unknown. The statement that they were vassals of the bishop seems unlikely, if they were barons.



This page updated 21 Jun 2018