Strachan family connexions

James Strachan (d. 1808), of Mincing Lane & Tooting
James Leigh Strachan-Davidson (1843-1916), Master of Balliol College, Oxford

The Strachans are a good old race, about whom a great amount of misconception and misstatement has already been printed: and we are sorry to find that Dr. Rogers has only added to the confusion and obscurity.

Thus one reviewer of Charles Rogers's Memorials of the Strachans, Baronets of Thornton, Kincardineshire; and of the family of Wise of Hillbank, formerly Wyse of Lunan, in the County of Forfar [The Herald and Genealogist, vol. 8, p. 302].

This page arose from an attempt to discover the identity of the James Strachan of Tooting who was father to Mary Elizabeth Strachan, the wife of James Lindsay(-Carnegie) of Boysack (1764-1805). It turned out that that James Strachan was connected, in some way, to James Leigh Strachan-Davidson, the Master of Balliol, but the exact relationship was unclear.

This page clarifies James Strachan's connexion to Strachan-Davidson, fills out the detail of Strachan's life and documents the maternal ancestry of Mary Elizabeth Strachan for the first time. It also traces the ancestry of James Strachan and James Leigh Strachan-Davidson back to the year 1590 in Kincardineshire, though fails to find proof of the claim of their relationship to the Strachans of Thornton.

James Leigh Strachan-Davidson

In his Memoir of his good friend, James Leigh Strachan-Davidson [Portrait; monument in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford], who was Master of Balliol from 1907 to his death in 1916, J. W. Mackail remarks [James Leigh Strachan-Davidson Master of Balliol: a Memoir (Oxford 1925)]:

Earlier records are very imperfect; the intricacies of Scottish genealogy are great, and the intermarriages in the various families are in this case more than usually perplexing.

Mackail proceeds to summarise Strachan-Davidson's origins. Given the 'intricacies' and 'perplexing intermarriages', and his reliance on what Strachan-Davidson and others would have told him, Mackail did remarkably well. Perhaps he simply ignored some 'facts' that did not fit; but he was surely unaware of much of the detail. Here is a summary of Mackail's version, from pp. 9-11 of his Memoir:

Mackail's account is coherent. Unfortunately, the marriage of Alexander Strachan to Magdalene Davidson was on 12 April 1763, and the marriage of James Strachan and Mary Leigh was on 14 January 1787, which makes Mackail's version untenable.

Here is a rather fuller, corrected account of Strachan-Davidson's ancestry:

Alexander Strachan & Magdalene Davidson

Alexander and Magdalene, a daughter of the deceased Patrick Davidson of Woodmiln (presumably the son and heir of Patrick Davidson of Woodmiln, provost of Perth; Woodmiln is in the parish of Abdie FIF) were married in Dundee on 12 Apr 1763. He was a merchant there and was admitted a burgess of Dundee in 1767, as free apprentice of Robert Guthrie, merchant. In 1783, he is listed in the Dundee Register as a merchant in the Seagate, Dundee and as a director of the Dundee Bank.

In June 1784, he entered into a partnership to refine sugar at a sugar house in Joiner's Hall Alley, Upper Thames Street, London. His partners were James Bell, Distaff Lane, London (sugar refiner); Robert Bell, Longlane, Southwark or Blackheath in Kent (tanner); John Bell, Dundee (tanner); and William Alison, Dundee (merchant) [See this article on the Dundee Sugar House (David Perry, "The Dundee Sugar House, Seagate, Dundee", Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal, vol. 19/20, 2014)].

His elder son, James, was born on 26 Jun 1766 in Dundee. Subsequent developments make it seem reasonable to suppose that Alexander sent his son James down to London in 1784 to involve himself in the business there.

Alexander died on 31 Oct 1792 and his son James "in Dundee" was served heir general to him on 18 May 1802.

James Strachan & Mary Leigh

James and Mary were contracted to marry at Dundee on 13 Jan 1787 and married there the next day. He is designed "merchant in the parish of St Dunstans in the East London", while she is "daughter of Mr -- Leigh of North Court in the Isle of Weight [sic] & of the same parish".

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The (English) arms of Leigh of Northcourt

John Leigh of Northcourt married Amelia Turner, daughter of a Thomas Turner of Oxfordshire, on 26 Aug 1755 at Fareham, Hampshire. When he drew up his will on 10 Sep 1770, John Leigh had four daughters. His fifth daughter, Mary, was born between that date and 17 Oct 1771, when she was baptized at Shorwell on the Isle of Wight. Leigh died in September 1772 and was buried at Shorwell, leaving his five daughters as his co-heiresses.

So Mary Leigh was 15 or 16 when she married James Strachan in Dundee.

James and Mary's two eldest children, Alexander and Mary, were born in London. Their third child, Alexander Leigh, was born in Edinburgh in 1792. They then moved to Dundee, where James was admitted burgess in right of his father in 1794 and where their next five children, including James in 1799, were born. Their youngest child, William, was born in Edinburgh in 1808.

Edinburgh directories show the family living in the New Town from 1807: at 43 George Street, 20 S. Frederick St, 11 S. Charlotte St, 24 Frederick St, 134 George St and finally, in 1820/1, at 17 Union Street. Their eldest surviving son, Alexander Leigh Strachan, a cornet in the 6th Regiment, Bengal Cavalry, died at Kedgeree, Bengal on his way home on 6 Oct 1817. Their second surviving son, John Strachan, died at Edinburgh on 2 Jul 1816 and was buried in St Cuthberts Kirkyard. So James, their third surviving son, became his father's heir.

By 1822, the Strachans were at Weymouth in Dorset. Their elder daughter, Amelia Anne, was married at Melcombe Regis, Dorset on 22 Oct 1822 to Capt. Gerard Leggatt of the Madras Army [Asiatic Journal, vol. 14, p. 521]. Their younger daughter, Magdalene, was married at Melcombe Regis on 10 Sep 1823 to Lieut. George Atkinson, R.N., of Salisbury; in the young couple's marriage contract of 19 Aug 1823, Magdalene is "daughter of James and Mary Strachan, of Lauriston, Scotland and Weymouth, Dorset" [365/39], while elsewhere she is "youngest daughter of Jas. Strachan, Esq., of Thornton, and formerly of Lauriston, co. Forfar, N.B." [Wm E. O'Byrne, A Naval Biographical Dictionary (London 1849)].

Mary Leigh died at Bath on 15 Apr 1825 [Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 18, p. 267; Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 95, part 1, p. 477] and was buried in the south aisle of Salisbury Cathedral beneath a black marble slab inscribed [James Harris, Copies of the Epitaphs in Salisbury Cathedral (Salisbury 1825), p. 139]

In hoc Sepulchro
Mortalia conduntur Mariæ uxoris
Jacobi Strachan Armigeri
necnon filiæ minimæ natu
et Cohæridis
Johannis Leigh de Northcourt
Vectæ Armigeri,
Bathoniæ Aprilis 15
Ætatis 53
Salutis 1825
E vivis decessit.

There is a brass plaque bearing her arms in the cathedral; a [broken link] rubbing of that brass is held by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Her husband died on 17 Feb 1836 at Eastfield near Leith and was buried beside his son John and his daughter-in-law Jane Duthie [See below], in St Cuthberts Kirkyard, Edinburgh.

James Strachan & (1) Jane Duthie

James, son of James Strachan & Mary Leigh, was born at Dundee on 30 Sep 1799. he married, firstly, on 5 Aug 1829 at Edinburgh, Jane Duthie. In the marriage record, he is designed "Esq., of Manilla" and she is "second daughter of the late James Duthie, Esq." [Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. 26, p. 841]. Jane's mother was Margaret Wait. James Duthie was in St Mary's, Jamaica when his eldest son, Archibald Hamilton Duthie (who became rector of Deal, Kent) was born in 1797, and Jane may also have been born there about 1803, or possibly at Stirling, where her sister Maria was born in 1811. James Duthie died at Melville Place, "near Stirling" - apparently, Melville Place, Bridge of Allan - on 8 May 1817.

The London Gazette records the dissolution, on 30 Apr 1833, of various partnerships that James Strachan had entered into, with Murray & Syme and others, at Liverpool, Batavia and Manilla.

James Strachan & Jane Duthie had a single child, Jane Ann Strachan, born on 28 Sep 1833 in Edinburgh. Jane Duthie died there on 4 Oct 1833 and was buried in St Cuthberts Kirkyard, Edinburgh.

James Strachan & (2) Mary Catherine Mowbray

Following Jane Duthie's death, James was married, secondly, on 3 Apr 1836 at St James's Episcopal Chapel, Edinburgh, to Mary Catherine, second daughter of John Mowbray of Harwood, W.S.; Mary Catherine's birth does not seem to have been recorded, but John Mowbray is said to have had only one daughter by his first wife, Elizabeth Scougall, so Mary Catherine was probably the first child by his second wife, Patricia Hodge of Awalls (which is in Liberton, Midlothian), and born about 1809.

James Strachan & Mary Catherine Mowbray went out to Manilla. A daughter was born there on 24 Sep 1838 but must have died young. A second daughter was still-born on 14 Oct 1839, and Mary Catherine Mowbray died at Manilla on 22 Oct 1839.

James Strachan & (3) Mary Ann Richardson

James's third marriage was to Mary Ann Richardson at Kirkby Ravensworth, near Richmond, Yorkshire on 13 Dec 1842. Mary Ann was the elder but only surviving daughter of John Richardson of Lowther, Westmoreland, by his wife Lucy Sidebotham, and was born on 15 Aug 1810 at Lowther. She was only 17 months old when her father died; he had been principal agent to the earl of Lonsdale, Receiver General for Westmoreland and an alderman of the city of Carlisle.

Their eldest child, James Leigh Strachan, was born at Byfleet, Surrey on 22 Oct 1843 and baptized there on 31 Dec 1843. Their second son, George Arbuthnot Strachan, was born at Madras on 27 Sep 1845. Their youngest son, William Dalrymple Strachan, was born at North Lodge, Teddington, Middlesex on 20 Aug 1847. A daughter was born at North Lodge on 10 Apr 1849 but must have died as a baby [The Indian News and Chronicle of Eastern Affairs, 1849, p. 212]. Mary Ann Richardson died at Pau, in south-west France, on 1 Feb 1852.

The following monuments at Lowther to Richardsons were formerly listed on the site "":

Lowther (In. choir, S). In memory of John Richardson of Lowther, Esquire, late principal Agent to the Earl of Lonsdale, Receiver General for this County, and an Alderman of the City of Carlisle. He so discharged the Duties of a Father, Husband, and good Christian as to gain the Respect and Esteem of all who knew him and died most sincerely regretted by a numerous Acquaintance on the 25th Day of January 1812 aged 46 years. Also of Lucy Richardson his wife who after having faithfully performed the duties of an affectionate Parent died deservedly lamented on the 30th July 1829 aged 50. Arms: Sa. on chief ar. 3 lions heads erased of the field. Crest: Arm embowed, vested and cuffed ppr., hand grasping hammer.

Lowther To m.John Richardson of Lowther Esqr. who died on the 25th of January 1812 aged 46 years. Also to the memory of his daughter Caroline who died the 30th of July 1817 aged 5 years. Also of Lucy Richardson his wife who after having faithfully performed the duties of an affectionate parent died deservedly lamented on the 30th of July 1829 aged 50 years. Also of John James Richardson their son who died on the 20th January 1838 aged 29 years.

Lowther (In. W). Sacred memory of Mary Anne eldest daughter of the late John Richardson, Esquire, of Lowther, Westmorland, and the beloved wife of James Strachan, Esquire, of North Lodge, Teddington, Middlesex, who died at Pau in the Basses Pyrénées, France, on the 1st of February 1852, aged 41 years. sincerely beloved and universally regretted by a numerous circle of friends and relations. "As for me I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness."

James Strachan & (4) Emily Plues

James married, fourthly, on 13 Apr 1853 at St. Peter's, Walworth, Emily, third daughter of the late Rev. William Plues. M.A., of Skelfield, Ripon and his wife Hannah Swire. James and Emily moved with his sons to Leamington, Warwickshire, where James Leigh Strachan entered Leamington College.

In 1861, James Strachan acquired the estate of Ardgaith in the parish of Errol, as next heir of an entail that had been established by Thomas Davidson, sometime procurator fiscal and conjunct town clerk of Dundee, who died on 23 Jan 1837 at his home, Ellenbank in the Perth Road, Dundee. Originally, it had been Davidson's intention, as he had no children, that various of his maternal relatives should be the heirs of entail.

Davidson's mother was a Margaret Guthrie, dau. of John Guthrie & Ann Dempster (dau. of George Dempster, 1st of Dunnichen, & Margaret Rait), and the persons originally named as heirs were his cousins german (except for the first, who was the son of his cousin german, Speid of Ardovie):

  1. Thomas Davidson Speid (alias Thomas Speid Davidson, 1818-47, presumably Davidson's godson), son of Robert Speid of Ardovie, W.S.; Robert's mother was Margaret Guthrie's sister Christian.

  2. Major John Guthrie, of the 33rd Foot.

  3. Lt-col. James Greenhill, H.E.I.C.S. (i.e., Maj.-Gen. James David Greenhill, 1776-1840), whose mother was Margaret Guthrie's sister Jean.

  4. James Guthrie in Jamaica, Major John Guthrie's younger brother.

In each case, the destination was to heirs male of the body. In the case of James Guthrie, failing such heirs male of his body, the destination was to heirs whomsoever and assignees.

Davidson originally drew up a lengthy trust disposition & deed of settlement on 16 Jan 1822. In the final codicil, of 10 March 1836, he named, as final heir of a revised series of heirs of entail, "James Strachan eldest son of the deceased James Strachan my brother in law and the heirs male of the body of the said James Strachan the younger whom ... failing the heirs whomsoever of the said James Strachan the younger". The elder James Strachan had just died on 17 Feb 1836.

Davidson's wife was Helen Strachan, a daughter of Alexander Strachan and Magdalene Davidson, born on 21 Dec 1771 in Dundee. She died in Feb 1844.

Curiously, Davidson never owned Ardgaith. The instruction to his trustees was that, after his wife's death, they should buy an estate near Dundee, and entail it to the series of heirs named by Davidson. So the trustees bought Ardgaith, which passed to Major John Guthrie (though he was omitted from the series of heirs given in Davidson's final codicil!); Major John Guthrie, now Guthrie-Davidson, of Ardgaith died aged 80 on 21 May 1854 and the estate passed to his younger brother. James Guthrie-Davidson of Ardgaith died at Dundee on 22 Feb 1861, aged 82, and James Strachan inherited and duly changed his surname, as did his eldest son, to Strachan-Davidson.

On 17 Jul 1862, Jane Ann Strachan, James's daughter by Jane Duthie, was married at Milverton, Warwickshire to Seymour Mowbray, a younger brother of James's second wife, Mary Catherine Mowbray.

The summary given above of James Leigh Strachan-Davidson's ancestors leaves some points needing clarification:

In an attempt to make progress on these questions, we turn to what is known of another man, James Strachan of Mincing Lane & Tooting.

James Strachan of Mincing Lane & Tooting

On 20 Mar 1815, Mary Elizabeth Strachan, widow of James Lindsay Carnegie of Boysack, was served heir general to her father, James Strachan, merchant in London. Until now, the only other published details of Mary Elizabeth's ancestry were Fraser's note [ref.], that James Strachan was "of the ancient family of Strachan of Thornton, in the county of Kincardine", a similar remark by Jervise [Jervise, Lindsays, p. 367] and Warden's [Warden, Angus, vol. 3, p. 440] statement that he was "of Lower Tooting, in Surrey, of the Thornton of Thornton family". Mary Elizabeth's mother is nowhere identified.

In his will, written on 4 May 1805, James Strachan is designed "of Tooting in the County of Surry Esquire". He mentions, in addition to his daughter, her late husband and her children, the following people:

He also leaves the sum of £100 to the Corporation of the Trinity House "in Case a School for Mathematical Science & particularly of navigation and nautical Astronomy ... shall be established by the Corporation" for the "Education of Orphans or other Children of Sea faring Men", as well as bequeathing a gold ring to each of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House.

Using that information as a starting point, we can trace the details of James Strachan's life backwards.

James Strachan & Jane Stephenson (married 1796)

Jane, his wife, was Jane Stephenson, who had married John Clarke at Tynemouth in 1775. Robert Clarke (1782-1849), the merchant in London, was their son, and thus became James Strachan's "son-in-law" in the older sense of that term. John Clarke died at Tooting, Surrey in 1792, and his widow married James Strachan "of the parish of St Mary, Islington, in the Co. Middlesex, widower" at Tooting Graveney, Surrey on 22 Nov 1796. James's very characteristic signature on that marriage record is shown below:

signatures of James Strachan and Jane Stephenson or Clarke

Their marriage was noted as "At Lower Tooting, James Strachan, esq. of Mincing-lane to Mrs. Clarke" [The Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 80, p. 966].

James Strachan's death was noted as being on 28 Apr 1808, "At Lower Tooting, James Strachan, Esq. one of the Elder Brethren of the Trinity House" [Scots Magazine, vol. 70, p. 399].

Jane died at Lower Tooting on 17 Mar 1845, aged 88, and was buried at Tooting-Graveney [W.E. Morden, The History of Tooting-Graveney: Surrey (London 1897), page 40].

James Strachan & Amelia Turner (married 1778)

James and Amelia were married on 24 Dec 1778: "At St George's Church, Bloomsbury, Mr. James Strachan, merchant, in Mincing-lane, to Mrs. Leigh, of Bloomsbury, relict of John Leigh, Esq; of Northcourt, I. of Wight" [General Evening Post, 22-24 Dec 1778]. The marriage record has "James Strachan of the Parish of St Dunstan in the East London, a Widower & Amelia Leigh of this Parish a Widow". One of the witnesses is a Mary Strachan. James's signature on that marriage record is shown below:

signatures of James Strachan and Amelia Turner or Leigh

In 1785, "The Rt Hon Lord Mayor Treasurer reported that he had received of James Strachan of Mincing Lane Esq £50 for the Use of Bridewell and Bethlem Hospitals". Whereupon "James Strachan of Mincing Lane Esqr. being proposed by the Right Honble Lord Mayor Treasurer to be Elected a Governor of these Hospitals It is Ordered that such Election shall be determined by a Majority of Votes at the next General Court" [Bridewell Royal Hospital].

James Morgan Strachan, James's natural son, was born, by his father's reckoning, on or about 23 Oct 1789, just over a year after the burial on 29 Aug 1788, at St Leonard's, Streatham, of Amelia, James's late wife [Daniel Lysons, The Environs of London (London 1792), p. 486]. The burial record has "Buried Augt 29 Amelia Strachan wife of Mr -- Strachan Mercht".

James Strachan's admission, as "Capt. James Strachan", as one of the Elder Brethren of Trinity House is recorded on 17 Oct 1788 [Joseph Cotton, Memoir on the Origin and Incorporation of the Trinity House of Deptford Strond (London 1818), p. 244]. The next election was that of the Rt Hon. William Pitt on 14 Apr 1790.

Strachan's interest in navigation is also apparent from his being a subscriber to Andrew Mackay's The Theory and Practice of finding the Longitude at Sea or Land (London 1793).

In 1796, one John Michael Thiel was convicted at the Old Bailey of stealing eleven beaver skins, value 20s. six rackoon skins, value 2s. and nine fox skins, value 8s. the property of James Strahan, James Mackenzie and Alex Glennie. Mackenzie and Glennie are clearly the two Scotsmen named as executors of Strachan's will. They were in partnership with him at 23 Mincing Lane. That partnership was dissolved, by mutual consent, on 30 Jun 1799, when Strachan retired [London Gazette, issue 15153, p. 660]. Earlier, Strachan and Mackenzie had been partners; thus, on 26 May 1784 there was a sale at Cowes on the Isle of Wight of "Hogsheads good James River leaf Tobacco, & some old striped leaf. Samples ... to be seen at J. Strachan, J. Mackenzie and Co. No 23 Mincing Lane" [Morning Chronicle And London Advertiser, 25 May 1784].

James Strachan & Helen Campbell (married 1769)

James Strachan married Helen Campbell, widow of John Dick, ship chandler, Wapping on 10 Jun 1769 at St Alphege's, Greenwich. James is designed "Widower of the Parish of Barking in the County of Essex". James's signature on that marriage record is shown below:

signatures of James Strachan and Helen Campbell or Dick

Although Helen Campbell had married John Dick on 11 Feb 1762 at Wapping, there is a record dated 8 Feb 1772 of the intention of a John O'Connor to marry an Elliot Dick, described as "natural & lawfull daughter" of both the late John Dick and Helen Strachan previously Dick, Elliot Dick being 16 but under 21 years. John O'Connor and Elliot Dick were married at St Olave's, Hart Street, London on 10 Feb 1772. James Strachan's signature as witness to that marriage is shown below:

signature of James Strachan

John Dick's origins were in Leith. In his will, dated 28 Mar 1768, he leaves his property of Park Hill "in North Britain" to his wife. He refers to his sister, Ann Watson; gives a mourning ring to William Bell in Leith, wine merchant; conditionally, gives the residue of his estate to, among others, his brother Robert Dick and Elizabeth Anderson wife of Peter Anderson of Laverock Bank, North Britain. Probate was on 31 May 1768. Park Hill and Laverock Bank are both at Leith; Peter Anderson is better known as Patrick Anderson of Laverockbank, a wine cooper in Leith; his wife was Elizabeth Dick.

The possibility that James Strachan had some connexion to Leith is clear.

James Strachan & Alexandrina Allan (married 1752)

The marriage of James's daughter Mary Elizabeth to James Lindsay(-Carnegie) took place on 2 Jun 1786 at St Dunstan in the East, London. Her father and step-mother Amelia were the witnesses, whose signatures are shown below:

signatures of James Strachan and Amelia

Mary Elizabeth's birth on 9 Jul 1764 and baptism on 27 Jul 1764 were recorded at St Dunstan in the East. Her mother is named as Alexandrina. She was Alexandrina Allan. The marriage register of South Leith has

M r Ja s Strachan Ship Master and Miss Alexandrina Allan Da r to M r Harry Allan W r of Edin r after Proclam n of Banns were married the 22 d June 1752

James Strachan was master of the snow Mercury of Dundee in the years 1753-56. He undertook voyages from Dundee to Charleston, S. Carolina in 1753, Leith to S. Carolina in 1754 and Dundee to Charleston in 1756 [NRS CE57, CE70]. In August 1756 he was in Dundee and planning to sail to Charleston in mid-September. He advertised in the Edinburgh Evening Courant for Scots tradesmen willing to become indented servants in America; those interested were to contact him or Robert Grant, merchant in Leith (his wife's sister's husband). The ship had exceeding good accommodation for passengers.

The merchant Edward Harrison was in Quebec in 1763, where he acted as debt-collector on behalf of various London merchants, including James Strachan [ref.]. The next year, on 4 Aug 1764, James, on his own behoof and that of others, bought Kent House, St Louis Street, Quebec. He sold the house on 24 Oct 1777.

Alexandrina Allan died in September 1766 and was buried on the 18th at St John's Margate, Kent.

Although there seems to be no record of the birth of any other child to James and Alexandrina, they had a son James. On 4 May 1774,

James Strachan, only son procreate of the marriage between James Strachan Merchant in London and Alexandrina Allan his Spouse who was daughter of the ... deceast Hary Allan

became executor dative to his grandfather Hary Allan, writer in Edinburgh. On 27 May 1774 this son James was served heir portioner general, together with his cousin Thomas Grant, son of Alexandrina's sister Elizabeth, to their great-grandfather Robert Allan, merchant in Edinburgh, so James was probably born in 1753. But James must have died without surviving issue before his sister Mary Elizabeth was served heir to their father on 20 Mar 1815; indeed, he probably died before the birth of James Morgan Strachan, his illegitimate half-brother, in 1789.

The difficulties J. W. Mackail faced are now apparent. Some of his dates were adrift. Both James Strachan, the shipmaster turned merchant in London, and James Strachan, father of James Leigh Strachan-Davidson, were married four times. But the former was not the grandfather of the latter.

It seems possible that James Strachan of Mincing Lane was the brother, born about 1729, of Alexander Strachan, the Dundee merchant; in that case, when Alexander's son James went to London, he would almost inevitably meet Mary Leigh, the elder James's step-daughter.

Alexandrina Allan (1733-1766)

Alexandrina Allan was the youngest child of Hary Allan & Elizabeth Strachan (yes, another Strachan!). Alexandrina was born on 20 Feb 1733 and baptised at Carriden WLN on 4 Mar 1733. She was confirmed on 13 Aug 1747 at Leith, where her father and his brother, Charles Allan, a surgeon in Edinburgh, were pillars of the episcopal church. Hary Allan owned property at Brignees in Carriden and, after Elizabeth Strachan's death shortly after Alexandrina's birth, he married, secondly, at the Citadel of Leith on 13 Feb 1738, Mary, daughter of George Drummond, merchant in Edinburgh, and relict of Thomas Cornwall of Bonhard (which is in Carriden) [The Scottish Antiquary, or, Northern Notes and Queries, vol. 8, no. 31, p. 125 (Edinburgh 1894)].

Hary Allan, writer in Edinburgh

Allan was the eldest son of Robert Allan (who d. 26 Sep 1719), merchant burgess of Edinburgh, & Elizabeth Elphinston (daughter of Sir Thomas Elphinston of Calderhall [1629-1678] & Jean Lauder [d. 1672, daughter of Richard Lauder of Halton]).

Hary Allan became a member of the Royal Company of Archers on 1 Jul 1715. He was admitted burgess & gildbrother of Edinburgh on 9 Jan 1723 (at which time he was writer & servant to Mr David Erskine of Dun, Senator of the College of Justice), in right of his father.

In 1726, Hary and his brother Charles Allan were among the first members of the Friendly Society of Restalrig [Francis J. Grant (ed.), The Register of Burials in the Churchyard of Restalrig 1728-1854 (Edinburgh, Scottish Record Soc., 1908), preface; and Book of the Old Edinburgh Club, vol. 4, pp. 153-189 (Edinburgh 1911)], formed to care for the ruins of St Triduana's Chapel at Restalrig in South Leith and its kirkyard.

He is listed, together with his brother Charles, as a subscriber in 1740 to John Major's Historia Majoris Britanniae.

His son Charles was captured in the 1745 rebellion and transported to the Americas, while his elder daughter, Elizabeth Allan, married Robert Grant, and was mother of the Thomas Grant mentioned above.


The above has not resolved the question of "Lauriston".

The relevant Lauriston would appear to be the one in the parish of Longforgan, Perthshire. Lauriston House in Longforgan was built in 1689 for Robert Strachan of Lauriston by Andrew Wright, who also worked for Patrick, 1st earl of Strathmore & Kinghorne. (Strathmore, who was Strachan's feudal superior, paid £200 towards the building of Lauriston House.) [A.H. Millar (ed.), The Book of Record: a Diary written by Patrick first Earl of Strathmore (Edinburgh 1890), p. 98; see also Mary Young, Rural Society in Scotland from the Restoration to the Union, Ph.D. thesis, 2004, University of Dundee, pp. 86-7, 90 and 247].

In 1675, this Robert, son of Alexander Strachan, married Catherine Fyffe (born 1651) eldest child of James Fyffe of Dron (a neighbouring property in Longforgan) and Christian Wintoun [W. Mason Inglis, Annals of an Angus Parish (Dundee 1888), p. 106]. Their son, James Strachan of Lauriston, was served heir general to Robert on 6 Jul 1703; he was appointed a Commissioner of Supply for Perthshire in 1704; and there is a testament for him, registered at Brechin on 8 Jun 1747. From that testament, James's wife was a Magdalene Forrester. The minister of Longforgan from 1684 to 1697 was Mr David Forrester of Milnhill (1634-1697); previous to 1684, he had been minister at Lauder, Berwickshire. Milnhill is another neighbouring property to Lauriston; Mr David's daughters Martha and Magdalene erected a monument in the Howff, Dundee to their elder brother, the advocate Alexander Forrester of Milnhill (1666-1715) [Howff, no. 81; The Book of Record, p. 161].

It is possible that James Strachan of Lauriston's wife and Mr David Forrester's younger daughter are the same Magdalene Forrester. And it also seems possible that Alexander Strachan, merchant in Dundee, was a son of James Strachan of Lauriston and Magdalene Forrester. Interestingly, one of the name-fathers and witnesses to the baptism of Alexander Strachan's son James in 1766 was the then James Fyffe of Dron.

But none of this explains references as late as 1823, such as those given above, to the Strachans as being "of Lauriston". Lauriston had been sold by 1777 to a Thomas Wemyss, thread-maker in Dundee, of the firm of John Wemyss & Sons, though he was forced, by bankruptcy, to put the property up for public roup in 1798 [Edinburgh Gazette, 26 Jan 1798, issue 479, p. 35].

Further complications: Forresters and John Strachan, Bishop of Brechin

The monument in the Howff, Dundee to Alexander Forrester of Milnhill, advocate is one of the monuments to Forresters in that burial ground.

Another commemorates George Forrester, dean of guild of Dundee, who died on 3 Jan 1675, aged 40. This monument on the "burial place of the family of Forrester of Forrester" was, it seems, in 1811, "repaired by James, only son of the late Alexander Strachan, merchant in Dundee, kinsman and heir to Mrs Helen Forrester, last survivor of the family who are interred here". Helen Forrester died on 10 Apr 1788. The name of the Right Rev. John Strachan, bishop of Brechin, who died unmarried on 2 Feb 1810, is also on the tomb [Howff, no. 80; Alison Mitchell (ed.), Angus Monumental Inscriptions Pre-1855, vol. 4].

It is unclear who the "Forresters of Forrester" were; the principal family of that name were the Forresters of Corstorphine.

Miss Helen Forrester was the last surviving child of John Forrester, surgeon apothecary in Dundee. She and her sister, Miss Margaret, were served co-heirs of provision to William Rodger, merchant in Dundee, on 1 Jun 1775; Margaret died later that year [Testament registered 1 Dec 1775; the sole executor was her sister Helen and the cautioner was Alexander Strachan, merchant in Dundee]. John Forrester was the youngest child of George Forrester, the dean of guild, and Martha Forrester [Discharge by John Forrester, 8 Jul 1707, NRS GD124/2/176]. Following George's death in 1675, his brother John Forrester of Cookspow (or Cockspow and other variant spellings, in the parish of Airth, Stirlingshire) became tutor to three of the six recorded children of George and Martha - Alexander, David and John [Abbreviations of Tutories, 7 Apr 1675]. Of these three sons, Alexander was served heir to his father on 18 Jan 1676, but was dead by 25 Jun 1692 [His testament; his brother John was his executor, the cautioner was Mr David Forrester, minister at (Long)forgan]; David Forrester died before 4 May 1715 [Joint testament dative of David and his brother Alexander; their brother John was their executor]; and John Forrester, who was baptised on 18 May 1674, married Marion Wood at Dundee on 31 Dec 1702 and died in 1723 [Dundee Mortcloth records]. Marion Wood was living on 17 May 1737 [Historical Manuscripts Commission, Report on the Laing Charters (H.M.S.O., 1914), vol. 1, p. 291]. There is some indication that she was a daughter of Sir John Wood of Bonnyton (in Maryton) and sister of Major-gen. Sir James Wood of Bonnyton [Wedderburn, Wedderburn Book, vol. 2, foot of p. 378, which however names Marion's husband as Alexander Forrester, surgeon in Dundee].

According to James Thomson's 1843 MS Book of the Howff [in Dundee Central Library],

Bishop Strachan, his brother Alexander and nephew James were descended of ... Strachan of Thornton ... it appears they were related to the earl of Middleton. At the death of lady Diana Middleton about 1770, Mr Alexander Strachan, being one of her ladyship's executors, ... came into possession of part of the Middleton estates. We [i.e. James Thomson] have seen a genealogical table written by Mr Alexander Strachan ... for his brother James, merchant in London and maternal grandfather of Mr Lindsay Carnegie of Boysack & Spynie".

Thomson also writes

The Rev. David Forrester seems to have been a younger brother of dean of guild Forrester.

Further, James Strachan esq., on 7 Oct 1852, paid revisal dues to gain permission to repair both these monuments [Alison Mitchell (ed.), Angus Monumental Inscriptions Pre-1855, vol. 4]. This is surely the Master of Balliol's father.

Although this lends support to the idea that Alexander in Dundee and James in London were brothers, and sons of James Strachan of Lauriston and Magdalene Forrester, it introduces new difficulties. John Strachan (ca. 1719 - 1810) was bishop of Brechin from 1788 to 1808, but there is little definitive information about his relatives. He appears to have been born ca. 1719 at Redford, Garvock where his father was a tenant farmer. Certainly, a John Strachan at "Reedfoord" wrote to John Alexander [who became bishop of Dunkeld in 1743] on 20 Oct 1741, about his hopes of becoming tutor to the Pitfirran family [NRS CH12/23/239], and "Mr John Strachan at Redford" was a subscriber to The Ancient Liturgy of the Church of Jerusalem, which was published in 1744. The Rev. William Ruxton Fraser, in his History of the Parish and Burgh of Laurencekirk, writes (p. 250) of the future bishop:

His whereabouts during the Rebellion had been frequently a matter of interest to the authorities, and the farmhouse at Redford was visited on one occasion by a company of soldiers in search of him. The farmer replied to the inquiries about his son, "He rose from his bed in my house this morning, but God knows where he is now!"

But it was his father, also John Strachan, who was arrested shortly before Culloden and imprisoned, firstly at Aberdeen, later at Edinburgh, before being released on bail on 22 Sep 1746; he is described as tenant to Mr Keith at Redford and was held on suspicion of having carried arms and having failed to give them up. His place of origin is said to be Brechin [The Prisoners of the '45, vol. 3, pp. 354-5 (Edinburgh, Scottish History Soc., 1929]. This is confirmed by a subsequent action brought by John Strachan in the Court of Session in 1749 against the officer who had arrested him, a Lieutenant McLauchlan [ref.].

The bishop's will mentions three nieces: Ann, Margaret and Jean Auchinleck, Margaret being the wife of a John Beattie at Middleton in Laurencekirk (married 1779). Miss Ann Auchinleck, who was the bishop's executrix, was born in the parish of Methlick ABD and died in Dundee on 3 May 1834, aged 84 [Her testament registered at Dundee Sheriff Court, 22 Aug 1834 - NRS SC45/31/2 pp. 252-5; Howff burial records]. The executrix of her will and sole heir to her residual moveable estate was Magdalene Strachan (daughter of Alexander Strachan & Magdalene Davidson, and wife of Andrew Willison, surgeon in Dundee). So there are certainly close connexions between the various Strachans, even though the precise relationship remains unclear.

[Note added 3.6.2021: It now seems that the three nieces of the bishop were the daughters of Mr Robert Auchinleck in Dykeside, Methlick, and Mrs Jean Strachan. She was buried at Methlick on 18.7.1768 and he was buried there on 21.11.1771.]

The precise relevance of lady Diana Middleton is also unclear. She was lady Diana Grey, daughter of Harry Grey, 3rd earl of Stamford, and wife of George Middleton of Seaton (in Old Aberdeen) & Fettercairn. She died on 14 Jan 1780 at Nicholson Street, Edinburgh. Her husband, an advocate, who died in 1772, had purchased the village and house of Fettercairn from John lord Clermont, titular 3rd earl of Middleton, a distant cousin, and transferred ownership to his wife. William Garden's Map of Kincardineshire of 1774 shows various property owned by her, including, apparently, Gossesslie [for which, see below] in Marykirk. Her heirs held Fettercairn in 1782 [Francis Douglas, A General Description of the East Coast of Scotland from Edinburgh to Cullen (Paisley 1782), p. 269].

Strachans of Lauriston; Strachans of Gossesslie

In spite of the anachronistic reference in 1823 to the Strachans as being 'of Lauriston', is seems one must conclude that the James Strachan of Lauriston mentioned above was the father of Alexander Strachan, merchant in Dundee. James would have been born about 1680, the son of Robert Strachan and Catherine Fyffe. Their marriage record is on a damaged page of the Longforgan marriage register and is not entirely legible:

9 Novr 1675 Qlk day Robert Strachan sone [laull] to Alexr Strachan somtymes of Go[sles]lie was cotracted with Cathrin Fyfe [daur] laull to James Fyfe of Dron and having consigned pledges wer 1o proclaimed ye following Sabbath
... Decr 1675 Qlk day ye foresd Robert Strachan with Cathrin Fyfe wer proclaimed for the 2 tyme against which Rot Ogilvie brother german to Thomas Ogilvie of Trotock* did object by re[ason?] ... some pretended promiss or[?] ...

* Trottick in Longforgan parish

The testament dative of a Margaret Winton was registered at St Andrews on 21 Oct 1685. Her testament has:

... Margaret Wintoun relict of the deceist Alexr Strachan of Gasleslie* within the parochin of Longforgon ... who deceist in the moneth of Januar 1685 ... given up be Robert Strachan her lawfull son ...

* The index of testaments has 'Hasleslie'; James Fyffe of Dron was cautioner.

So Robert Strachan's parents were Alexander Strachan of Gossesslie (in the parish of Marykirk, Kincardineshire) and Margaret Winton (who, like Catherine Fyffe's mother, may have been a daughter of Wintoun of Strathmartine).

Alexander Strachan of Gossesslie was served heir to his father, John Strachan of Gossesslie, on 16 Feb 1633, in the lands of Gossesslie, in the thanage of Fettercairn and parish of Marykirk, and in the mill of Over Balmakewan called the mill of Luthers with the multures, in the thanage of Aberluthnott [Special retours, Kincardine, no. 61 (Translation)]. On 18 Apr 1634, Alexander Strachan of 'Goislie' was cautioner of a bond granted by Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton [Rogers, Memorials, p. 41].

Alexander Strachan of Gossesslie's father John had a crown charter of confirmation on 7 Mar 1628 of a charter de me granted to him on 4 Jun 1611 by Alexander Strachan of Thornton, by which Thornton sold to John the lands of Gossesslie, rendering therefor one penny blench, and also of a charter of 14 Oct 1617 granted to him by Sir John Wood of Fettercairn, of the mill of Over Balmakewan, with its lands, &c, to be held of the king for 10 merks [RMS, 8, ch. 1219]. John Strachan of 'Goislie' was cautioner in Aug 1626 of a bond granted by Sir Alexander Strachan of Thornton [Rogers, Memorials, p. 41].

John Strachan of Gossesslie was served heir to his father, John Strachan in Gossesslie, in the superiority of the sunny half of the town and lands of Nether Balmakewan, on 7 May 1591 [Special retours, Kincardine, no. 183 (Translation)]. The elder John's testament dative was registered on 17 May 1591. He died in Dec 1590. The executors were his eight younger surviving children: Barbara, Alexander, Bessie, Katrene, Robert, James, David and Andrew. His widow was Katrene Mylne.


The ancestors of both James Strachan of Tooting (and thus of Mary Elizabeth Strachan, the wife of James Lindsay Carnegie of Boysack) and of James Leigh Strachan-Davidson were the Strachans of Lauriston in the parish of Longforgan, Perthshire and, before that, the Strachans in, and subsequently of, Gossesslie in the parish of Marykirk, Kincardineshire. Although they thus belong to the Kincardineshire Strachans, rather than the possibly entirely unrelated Strachans of Carmyllie in Angus, no direct relationship to the Strachans of Thornton has been found.

John Strachan, bishop of Brechin, who appears to have been the son of a John Strachan, tenant at Redford of Garvock to Robert Keith of Craig, cannot have been a brother to Alexander Strachan, merchant in Dundee or to James Strachan of Tooting. He may have been a more or less distant cousin.

Some further sources

More on Strachans at A Brief 1000 Year History of Clan Strachan and at Heraldry of the Strachans.

Fyffe Family Papers, 1756-1847 at William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan; papers of some of the Fyffes of Dron

Elizafield - an American plantation owned by descendants of Hary Allan's daughter Elizabeth and her husband Robert Grant

This page corrected and updated 5 Sep 2023