Past Forsyth Castles
by: Alistair C.W. Forsyth of that Ilk, Chief of Clan Forsyth.
Of the Castles built by Forsyths it is sensible to commence with the earliest though many of these are now only sites.The earliest lands recorded to a member of our family were granted by King Robert the Bruce being 100 solidates in the lands of Salakhill, which weidentify today as Sauchie in Sterlingshire, within ten miles of the castle of Sterling, to Osbertus, then described as “Serviens Regis” and son of Robert de Forsyth. This landcapable of supporting forty cows, a significant herd in those days had previously been granted to Michael Begg by King Alexander 1 to support him in the office of Serjandus of Sterling. Robert de Forsyth was described by the King as “Serventi Nostro” indicating a position within the Royal Household.
We do not know who the wives of either he or his son Osbert were but it was customary within the tight circle of the Court for marriages to take place between sons and daughters of courtiers. Osbert was appointed Serjandus of Sterling in place of Michael Begg who retiredand relinquished the lands to the new appointee, for the King did not provide a salary butgranted land for the duration of the appointment to support his official.
Osbert received his appointment in 1321 and relinquished it in1342 to Hugo Urry who took over the lands with the appointment of Serjandus from Osbert. The Serjandus was an officer of the Sheriff Court. He executed every kind of summons, carried out arrestments of persons and property, denounced rebels and put themto the horn; he could also give sasines. His insignia were a wand and horn and he often wore a signet ring with which he would seal official documents. Osbert had three sons DAVID de FERSITHE who was appointed “Claviger Regis” (King’s Macer) in 1364 and by King Robert 11 a Baillie of the city of Aberdeen in 1390.
William, the second son, was appointed Baillie of Edinburgh in 1364 and Clerk of the Queen’s Liverance in 1371. Baillies were judged in the local court of the city to which they had been appointed by the King whilst the Clerk of Queen’s Liverance was the financial controller of the Queen’s affairs. Robert the third son became a collector of taxes in 1364 and eventually progressed to become Constable of Stirling Castle.
David de Fersithe had two sons JOHN de FORSUITH who was granted the lands of Gylecamstoun, now a suburb of the City ofAberdeen, and William who would settle at Milleague in Banffshire to found the Forsyth cadets in the North East of Scotland.
DAVID FORSYTH of GILCOMSTOUN, the only son of John, was one of the King’s Esquires at the court of Robert 111 and on being knighted in 1488 he was granted a new Coat of arms being charged with griffins in place of his former Blazon which had been three Cross Crosslet Fitche which he claimed were the ancient arms of his family…. It is this record that was said to strengthen the claim that the family came from France and whilst the cross crosslet was an heraldic symbol used by French knights who had been on the Crusades in the Holy Land, these arms would have to be identified in the ancient armorials of France that probably no longer exist.
David had two sons and a daughter Margaret. She married Sir Duncan Forrester of Torwood, Comtroller of the King’s household whilst his elderson DAVID FORSYTH of GILCOMSTON (2nd) was appointed Marischal (steward) of the Household based at Falkland Palace.
It was this David who married Margaret, daughter of David Blakader of Tullialloun, in Perthshire and niece of Robert Blackadder, Archibishop of Glasgow by whom the married couple were granted the lands of Dykes also known as Halhill, in 1499.
The castle of Halhill in the parish of Lesmahago, Lanarkshire was a large Keep which was demolished in 1828 and was described as having a central arch so large that one hundred men could stand beneath it, shoulder to shoulder. It was from this time that the family decided to use the territorial title of Dykes to become the “Forsyth’s of Dykes”. Perhaps it was David’s younger brother, Thomas. The third son, who became a Canon in Glasgow Cathedral and was a close associate of Bishop Robert who may have helped in arranging the happy and successful marriage. DAVID FORSYTH of DYKES fell at the Battle of Flodden against the English in 1513 when as a member of King James 1V bodyguard and surrounded, they fought with their Sovereign to the death, a fact that was recorded and rewarded with a pension for his son, David, who was a minor.
The sketch shown above is a representation, based on the remnants of foundation stones of the castle of Dykes otherwise known as Halhilland the 17th century map by Johnathan Blaeu.
It was drawn by Nigel Tranter, the famous Scottish historical writer and acknowledged expert in Scottish domestic architecture of the middle ages who was a close friend of the Chief and his family.
What then happened?
The young David Forsyth of Dykes (3rd) continued living at Halhill when in 1533, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, younger brother of the Regent and illegitimate son of King James V, expressed a desire to own Halhill.
The King made Sir James Feudal Superior of Dykesand the Forsyths continued in residence. However, feeling uncertain of their future they exchanged their remaining lands of Creveychin with Thomas Erskine, Earl of Mar for the lands of Inchnock and Geyne in the Barony of Monkland, close to Dykes in 1539.Their plan was to build another Castle thus enabling them to relinquish Halhill to Sir James Hamilton.
In the event, Sir James fell from the King’s favour in 1541 and David Forsyth of Dykes continued in residence until 1585 when following the Reformation, Halhill, being ultimately Church Property reverted to the Crown. However, by this time David had completed the construction of his new Castle Tower In Inchnock, one mile North East from Monkland Kirk, a site which today is covered by a housing estate. Halhill or Dykes was in due course granted to the Earl of Thirlestane, ancestor of the Dukes of Lauder, who allowed the Castle to fall into ruin.
- “Solidates” was an area of land measuring about 1.5 acres
- Being “put to the Horn” was a declaration that was pronounced on rebels and Bankrupts and consisted of the “Serjandus” or other official blowing three blasts of his ceremonial Horn from the local market square before reading the King’s proclamation, those named were then pronounced outlaws.
- A “Sasine” is a document giving title and a description of a land grant.
- Register of the Great Seal of Scotland. Vols 1,11 & 111, Protocul Register of theArchbishop, Diocese of Glasgow 1499-1513.
- Stoddart’s Ordinary of Arms.
- Sheriff Court Book of Fife 1515-1522. Gylecomston Charters, Archives of the City of Aberdine.