Freskin

Freskin, of Sutherland


Freskin, a person of unknown descent, but who is believed to be of Flemish origin, upon whom King David I., in pursuance, it is said, of a colonising policy, bestowed wide landed possessions. These included Strabrock (Uphall and Broxburn), in West Lothian, and the lands of Duffus, Roseisle, Inchkeil, Macher, and Kintray, forming the larger part of the parish of Duffus and a portion of the modern parish of Spynie, between Elgin and the Moray Firth. At least Freskin is said to have held these lands of King David I., for Freskin himself is named only once, in a charter granted to his son William, between 1166 and 1171, by King William the Lion, which confirms the lands named as having been held by Freskin.[1] Freskin therefore must have died before 1166. According to the editor of the Registrum Moraviense, followed by Sir William Fraser in his Sutherland Book, he had three sons, Hugh, who was the ancestor of the Sutherland family, William of Duffus, and Andrew, a churchman. But Hugh, son of Freskin, is only named once, in a writ dated between 1147 and 1150, and that in such circumstances as to make the evidence untrustworthy,[2] while Andrew is clearly identical with a namesake of a later date. The weight of testimony rather points to the probability that Freskin had only one son, a view already adopted by Lord Hailes and George Chalmers.[3] Shaw, in his History of Moray, also assigns to Freskin only one son, William.

[1] The original charter was formerly in the possession of Katherine Stewart, Lady Cardross, and was seen by Nisbet. Its present custody is not certain, but a copy exists in a MS. 'Cartæ Variæ,' belonging to the Society of Antiquaries. The witnesses were David, the King's brother, Andrew, Bishop of Caithness, Felix, Bishop of Moray, Matthew, Archdeacon of St. Andrews, Earl Waldeve, Earl Duncan, Richard Morville, constable, Ness son of William, Richard Cumin, Gilbert son of Richerius, William Vetere Ponte, William Lyndsay, Henry Luvel, John de Vallibus, William Hay, Walter Berklai, Richard the clerk. Earl Waldeve succeeded in 1166, and Felix, Bishop of Moray, died in 1171.
[2] Cf. Early Scottish Charters, by Sir Arch. C. Lawrie, 186, 430, where the objections to the write are stated.
[3] Mr. Innes, in a note (Registrum Moraviense, Pref. xxxii), would have preferred this view, but found what he thought was evidence of two sons, Hugh, son of Freskin, and William, son of Freskin, in a charter in Shaw's Moray, 1st ed., 406. But the charter is of date 1196, and Shaw's copy is incomplete - the names being really Hugh, son of William Freskin, and William, also son of William, of a later generation. (This copy is preserved in a French MS. Cal. of Docs., France 491.) It therefore does not conflict with, but rather supports the theory in the text. Mr. George Chalmers also gives two sons to Freskin, but his only authority for Hugh is the doubtful charter cited above.

Sources: Balfour Paul, J. (1911) The Scots Peerage, vol. 8. Edinburgh: David Douglas.



The long ennobled and illustrious family which takes its surname from Sutherland is more fortunate than many other noble and baronial houses of Scotland. Its high antiquity and splendid lineage are established in an unbroken line from the days of King David the Frist in the twelfth century, while the dignity of Earl of Sutherland is nearly contemporary with the first known ancestor of the family. The earldom was created by King Alexander the Second of Scotland about the year 1235, and has long been recognised and ranked as the most ancient in that kingdom.
     The earliest historian of the Sutherland family was Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonston. He was the second surviving son of Alexander, the eleventh Earl of Sutherland, and his history of the family, after many years of labour, was finished in the year 1630. A contemporary copy of the original manuscript is still preserved at Dunrobin, along with a later copy from which the printed edition of 1813 was made, and a continuation of the history down to the year 1651 by Gilbert Gordon of Sallachy. Sir Robert Gordon's book is a well-known historical and genealogical work, and has been largely quoted by later historians.
     In regard to the earlier generations, and especially as to the origin of the family of Sutherland, Sir Robert Gordon does not escape from the prevailing fault of the historians of his day. In his desire to assign a greater antiquity ot the family than that which they have from the twelfth century, he ventures far beyond the domain of authentic record. He tells us that in the year A.D. 63 a "certain people called Morrayes," expelled from Germany, arrived in the Firth of Forth, and finding favour in the eyes of Corbred, king of Scotland, were settled in the region between the Spey and the Ness, thereafter called Morayland from its inhabitants. Thirty years later, in A.D. 91, another company of Germans arrived, who received lands to the north of Morayland, and gave their own name to the locality, callig it Cattey. But as they were of the same kin as their predecessors in Morayland, these Cattean Germans were also in time styled Morrayes, and "divers thaines and cheiftaynes of that stok and surname did successivelie governe and rule ther, one efter another."
     Sir Robert further relates the story of Alan, Thane of Sutherland, who was killed by Macbeth, and a Walter, Earl of Sutherland, who was created by Malcolm Canmore. But these are fabulous, and must be discarded from the true history of the Sutherland family.[1] Their earliest known ancestor was FRESKIN, who under King David the First, in the twelfth century, held the barony of Strabrock in West Lothian, with Duffus and other lands in Morayshire. To these possessions his son William succeeded, and to him King William the Lion confirmed them by charter on the same terms as his father Freskin held them under King David.
     In the history given in Nisbet's system of Heraldry, of the family of Murray, Earls, Marquises and Dukes of Athole, who were descended from William, son of Freskin, the writer states that the charter included the lands of Strabrock, Duffus, Roseile, Inchikel, Macher, and Kintraf, "quas terras pater suus Freskin tennit tempore regis David avi mei." The charter has no date, but must have been granted between 1165 and 1171, as Felix, bishop of Moray, who died in 1171, is a witness. To authenticate his description the writer states that the charter was under the great seal of King William the Lion, and adds:-- "The original charter I have seen, and copied it from the original in the custody of Dame Katherine Stewart, Lady Cardross, who was proprietor of the lands of Strabrock, as is also her son, the present Earl of Buchan, who has still the charter in his charter-chest."[2]
     The learned editor of the Cartulary of Moray, which was presented in the year 1837 to the Bannatyne Club by the first and second Dukes of Sutherland, specially refers to this charter as affording direct evidence that William was the son of Freskin, and that Freskin himself was the first known ancestor of the Sutherland family. Mr. Innes says, "Willelmus filius Freskin witnessed a charter granted by Malcolm IV. to Berowaldus Flandrensis of the lands of Innes at Christmas 1160. Between 1162 and 1171 he obtained a charter from that king of the lands of Strabrok, Duffus, Rosile, Inchikel, Macher and Kintrai, 'quas terras pater suus Freskin tenuit tempore regis David avi mei.'" In a footnote Mr. Innes adds, - "This charter certainly existed in the middle of last century in the charter chest of the Earl of Buchan, the proprietor of the lands of Strabrok in Linlithgowshire. Though now missing, it is still in the inventory of his lordship's title-deeds, and it was seen and copied by Nisbet, from whom the words above are quoted [Nisbet, Appendix, p. 183]." In these quotations, Mr. Innes correctly states the terms of the charter, and the proper place of its deposit - the charter-chest of the Earl of Buchan, the earl being then owner of the lands of Strabrock. Mr. Innes has, however, inadvertently stated that the charter was granted by King Malcolm the Maiden, instead of his brother, King William the Lion.[3]
     As already indicated, Mr. Innes supposed the description of that important charter to be written by Nisbet himself. In the preface to the second edition of Nisbet's work, it is explained that many memorials of private families are printed in the work, which neither "Mr. Nisbet nor the publisher are any ways answerable for. They must stand upon the faith of those who gave them in, and the vouchers they adduce for their support." But, from a knowledge of his style, we have no hesitation in saying that the history of the Murray family and the special notice of the charter in question were written by George Crawford, author of the "Peerage," "Officers of State," etc., and may be relied upon as accurate. From its importance in establishing Fresking as their first known ancestor, this charter by King William the Lion must be said to be the foundation charter of the Sutherland family.
     Freskin had three sons, from one of whom, Hugh, is descended the family of Sutherland. Of him a memoir follows.

[1] Lord Hailes, in writing his additional case against the claim of Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonston to the Sutherland peerage, 1766-1771, refers to this in letters to the family law agent. He says:-- "There is a passage in our case about the Thanes of Sutherland and Earls of Sutherland created by Malcolm Kanmore. It is an unlucky one, and is more so, because I remember it was taken from the first draught, and it never was my opinion to use it." And again he says - Sir Robert Gordon (the claimant) has "found it more for his account to argue upon our foolish theory of Thanes of Sutherland afterwards made earls by Malcolm III. For my own part I am satisfied that there was no comitatus of Sutherland till well on in the reign of Alexander II. Nothing has given me more trouble than to change our ground in that particular. Great part of the learning in Sir Robert Gordon's Case is bestowed upon our concession about thanes and earls. Our cause was murdered in the beginning of that century." [Original letters to Mr. Alexander M'Kenzie, clerk to the Signet, in October 1770, in Sutherland Charter-Chest.]
[2] A System of Heraldry, by Alexander Nisbet, Ed. 1804, vol. ii., Appendix, p. 183.
[3] This is not the first instance in which Mr. Innes has been unfortunate in his reference to King Malcolm the Fourth. In the translation of the famous charter by that king to the abbey of Kelso, Mr. Innes makes King David uncle to Malcolm instead of grandfather. [National MSS. of Scotland, Part i. No. xxxii.].

Source: Fraser, W. (1894) The Sutherland Book. Edinburgh: Privately Printed.

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