Fraser of Pilorth, now Saltoun

By* Angus Fraser


 
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In the Preface to His Book,
The Frasers of Philorth
By Alexander Fraser of Philorth
Seventeenth Lord Saltoun
In Three Volumes: Volume One,
Edinburgh MDCCCLXXIX (1879)

Lord Saltoun States:

"Some remarks upon the subject of the Highland Clan Fraser will explain their position; for their great influence in the Highlands of Scotland during comparatively modern times, and their possessions in those districts, have created the belief that all of the name must necessarily be members of that Clan, and some have supposed that the family had a Highland or Celtic origin, a supposition in some degree countenanced by one or two writers on the subject; especially by one who styles the town of Fraserburgh "strange offspring of a Highland Clan"...

...a branch, which also held lands in Forfarshire, obtained large possessions in the districts around Inverness, and eventually becoming very numerous, originated or formed the Highland Clan of the name. But the senior line, which continued to have their principal seat in the Lowlands, and those of the surname who remained in that section of Scotland, where Teutonic institutions prevailed, and whence the patriarchal system of Clans and Clanships had long been banished, had nothing to do with the origin or formation of the Highland Clan, and never belonged to it. " (meaning the Frasers of Philorth never belonged to the Highland Clan Fraser)

"I have noticed, p. 130 vol. i. and p. 170 vol. ii., the extreme probability, indeed almost certainty, that the representatives of the respective lines of Philorth and Lovat were nearest of kin to each other in 1464. with the exception of the six sons of the Philorth of that date; and such has been the extinction of male descendants in the various branches of the line of Philorth, that at the present time, with the exception of my own two sons, my two brothers, and their four sons, numbering eight persons in all, Lord Lovat is my nearest legitimate male connection of the Fraser name."


 

According to the Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, by George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, 1994...

..."The Frasers probably come from Anjou in France, and the name may derive either from Fredarius, from Fresel or from Freseau. It has also been suggested that they descend from a tribe called Friselil in Roman Gaul, whose badge was a strawberry plant. They first appeared in Scotland around 1160, when Simon Fraser held lands at Keith in East Lothian. About five generations later Sir Simon Fraser was captured fighting for Robert the Bruce, and executed with great cruelty by Edward I in 1306. His cousin, Sir Alexander Fraser of Cowie, Bruce's chamberlain, was the elder brother of another Sir Simon Fraser, from whom the Frasers of Lovat descend."

The Frasers of Philorth, now Saltoun are a Lowland, or Teutonic styled Scottish family in Aberdeenshire, prominent there for centuries. Though never establishing a Clan nor living in the manner of Highlanders, or Gaels, they have always had some connection to their kinsmen in Inverness-shire.


 

Sir Alexander Fraser

"married Robert the Bruce's sister, Mary, who for a time was imprisoned by the English in a cage hung from Roxburgh Castle wall. Simon's grandson, Sir Alexander Fraser of Cowie and Durris, acquired the castle now called Cairnbulg and the lands of Philorth by marriage with Joanna, younger daughter and co-heiress of the Earl of Ross in 1375.

Eight generations later, in 1592, Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth received from James VI charters creating the fishing village of Faithlie, which he had transformed into a fine town, also improving the harbour, which became a burgh of regality and a free port, called Fraserburgh. He was also authorised to found a university in the town, but the scheme was short-lived, falling victim to the religious troubles of the times. When plague hit Aberdeen in 1647, staff and students from King's College were evacuated to the town for two years, but now a street name and some lettering carved on a wall are all that remain of the early seat of learning.

Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth, c. 1537-1623 - Founder of Fraserburgh.

 

The 8th Laird of Philorth also built Fraserburgh Castle, later the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, and in doing so bankrupted him self, being forced to sell the Castle of Philorth, which passed out of the family for over three hundred years until the 19th Lord Saltoun bought it back in 1934.
The 9th Laird married the heiress of the Abernethy Lords Saltoun, and their son became the 10th Lord Saltoun."


"As well as bearing the undifferenced arms of Fraser, Saltoun

has also a 'grand coat' which quarters the arms of Abernethy, Wishart and Ross. The tenth Lord Saltoun was severely wounded at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, but survived thanks to his servant, James Cardno, who rescued him from the battlefield, hiding and nursing him until he finally got his master home to Fraserburgh.

In 1666 he built a house a mile from Fraserburgh which he called Philorth House, where the family lived until it was burned down in 1915. Sir Alexander Fraser of Durris was personal physician to Charles II. He was educated at Aberdeen and soon acquired a reputation for general scholarship but particularly in medicine. He accompanied the king throughout his campaign in 1650, but seems to have been unpopular with some of the more extreme Covenanters because of his progressive scientific opinions. After the Restoration in 1660, he sat in the Scottish Parliament although he was still prominent enough in court circles to feature in the diaries of Samuel Pepys. He died in 1681. The family took no part in the Jacobite rebellion."


Though, historically, the Saltoun family did not participate in Clan military activity they have had their own war Heroes;

"The 16th Lord Saltoun commanded the Light Companies of the First Guards in the Orchard at Hougoumont on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was he who, later in the day, first noticed the Imperial Guard emerge from the hollow where they had been hiding all day, and drew the Duke of Wellington's attention to them.

The 19th Lord Saltoun was a prisoner of war in Germany for most of the First World War. He became a member of the House of Lords from 1936 and devoted himself to numerous public works, and latterly to promoting the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). He died in 1979 at the age of 93. Other branches of the family also prospered. Andrew Fraser of Muchalls was raised to the peerage in June 1633 with the title, 'Lord Fraser'. He completed the early work on Castle Fraser which stands south of the River Don near Inverurie. This magnificent castle, entirely reminiscent of a French chateau, is now fully renovated and in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The peerage conferred on Andrew Fraser fell dormant in the 18th century. The 19th Lord was succeeded by his daughter, Flora Fraser, 20th Lady Saltoun. She is married to Captain Alexander Ramsay of Mar, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, and he and Lady Saltoun are officially members of the royal family."


The Chiefs of the original Clan Fraser

descend from Sir Simon (brother of Sir Alexander, Chamberlain) and are called "MacShimidh", the Gaelic patronymic meaning "son of Simon". Frasers of Philorth, now Saltoun have never been called "MacShimidh" because they do not descend from Sir Simon, neither do the Lowland Frasers have a Gaelic patronymic title of their own, because Gaelic was reserved for use by Highland people and Clans. They deserve our respect as senior line of the South Country family.

The Clan Fraser of Lovat have a Gaelic patronymic title because they established a Highland Clan, by marrying into the land and adopting the customs of the indigenous people, becoming Gaelic.


Though her Fraser family had never been viewed, or seen themselves as a Clan,

on May 1, 1984, by Decree of the Lyon Court, the 20th Lady Saltoun was made "Chief of the name and arms of the whole Clan Fraser". So, a very different definition of the "Clan" has sprung up in the 20th century. This is not the only case of precedence where the head of a Lowland family being made "Chief of a Clan". Remember, the selection of a chief is very different than the Teutonic system of inherited titles. A Clan would elect and follow whatever chief it chose. Unfortunately, from a history student's perspective, in the case of the Clan Fraser, it has muddied the waters a bit, regarding what our Clan truly is and has been.

Thorough study of the different characteristics of Highland (Gaelic) and Lowland (Teutonic) history and culture in Scotland, raises some questions regarding this, as it reveals that Aberdeenshire Frasers had never been considered, nor thought of themselves as a Clan. The greatest historian of their family, in 1879, felt it important make that clear in the preface to his three volume work on his family's history, as quoted above.

It is certain that this Fraser family is a deservedly well respected family and highly thought of part of the world family of Frasers today. Though being the senior line of the South Country Lowland family doesn't necessarily make a Clan, as bearing the manner of Gaelic people, historically, is required, it is our privilege to have the Frasers of Philorth, now Saltoun as the senior line of our world family, in any event.

Much to her credit, Lady Saltoun has done magnificent work for Fraser awareness, the world over and has contibuted much to the fight against the current drug problem in Scotland.

Flora Marjory Fraser, 20th Lady Saltoun, "Head of the name of Fraser"



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*The information exhibited here is decided upon by the editor, Angus Fraser, and his interpretation of available historical records. It is not necessarily the opinion, or belief of The Clan Fraser Association For California.