15th C. Wedderburns  

The Wedderburns in the 15th/16th century

1) Origins of the four main family branches

2) An archery contest 1528/9 , Scotland v. England

3) Three Celebrated Dundonians



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1) From The Wedderburn Book (Alexander Wedderburn)

2) 'Old Pitscottie' (1573), Robert Lindesay

"The earliest reference to the name in the neighbourhood of Dundee", says �A.W.�, "is the record of one John Wedderburn taking his degree at St. Andrew�s in 1434". Not long after this - between 1450 and 1500 - at least four different families of the name were flourishing in Dundee, "all of them, no doubt, closely connected but for whom no common ancestor can be found". (Introduction to the W.B. p. xxvii)

This entry is followed by mentions of the heads of these �four families�:

David Wedderburn �in the Murraygait� of Dundee (b. c1440) who m. Cristian Anderson. [David d. between 26/10/1495 and 8/7/1497, leaving two sons: James and David, �and possibly some daughters�. (James d.s.p. before 28/10/1524 but David carried on the line of the family.) Three �James Wedderburns� matriculated at St. Andrew�s between 1507-9. They were all elected councillors on 3/10/1523, viz.: James� son; �Robertis� son; & James Wedderburn, elder - i.e. David�s son. (One of these, �probably Robert�s son�, m. Isabell Scrymgeour, �widow of Wm. Barry�, and had a son, Robert, b. c1515 ( q.v.).] (W.B. p. 55)

James Wedderburn, b. �probably a little before 1500�, the e.s. of James Wedderburn [b. c1450] & Janet Barry, is the eldest of the three brothers who are credited with the authorship of the "Gude and Godlie Ballatis". James went to St. Leonard�s College, St. Andrew�s, and was admitted a burgess of Dundee in 1517. Afterwards, he went to France (Rouen) where he �played the merchant�. �After his return he was instructed in religion by James Hewat, a Blacke friar at Dundie. He had a good gift of poesie, and made diverse comedeis and tragedeis in the Scotch tongue�.He counterfooted also the conjuring of a ghaist, which was indeed practised by Frier Laing, beside Kinghorne, which Frier Laing had been confessor to the King.� - After this, James �was declared an heretick in Scotland� and, in 1540, he had to flee to Dieppe. He m. Janet Forrester (d. of David Forrester in Nevay) and had a son, John, b. c1525, & perhaps 2 other sons, Gilbert (to whom there may be references, in 1554, in Leith) & Henry, and �maybe some daughters�. James d. in France (probably in Dieppe) before the end of 1553. (W.B. pp. 10-15 & 22-23)

Walter Wedderburn �in the Welgait� of Dundee (b. c1450), �whose parentage is not ascertained�, was first named in 1523, when David W., �s. of Walter� was admitted a burgess of Dundee. His wife is believed to have been Janet Nicolson. [�He was certainly the father of two, or perhaps three, sons: David (his heir) b. c1500 (q.v.); William, �who perhaps was the person who graduated at St. Andrew�s in 1475-77 and became a monk at Arbroath�; and apparently Andrew, �who d. before 1515, but who may have been an uncle�. (William, brother of David, was retoured Andrew�s heir.) �Walter was thus the progenitor of a branch of the family for many years resident in Fife.�] (W.B. p. 42)

Robert Wedderburn, �whose parentage cannot be ascertained but who is undoubtedly of the Dundee family�, was �probably b. c1460�. - He m. Janet Froster �probably about 1485� (q.v.). [They had 5 sons (James, Robert, David, Alexander and George - the second of whom, Robert, was progenitor of the Wedderburns of Kingennie, Easter Powrie, and that ilk; Blackness, Balindean and Gosford), and a daughter, Elizabeth, b. c1492 (q.v.). Robert was named as a bailie of Dundee in 1492. He d. between 1509-18. (W.B. p. 66)


John Wedderburn, b. c1500, the 2nd s. of James Wedderburn [b. c1450] & Janet Barry (above) is thought to be the principal author of the "Gude and Godlie Ballates". In 1525 John matriculated at St. Andrew�s University, took his bachelor�s degree in 1527 and was Licentiate in 1528. �He may be the John Wedderburn referred to in 1529 in connection with the slaughter of John Thomsoun� (but see footnote�, W.B. p. 15). - It was either John or his brother Robert, Vicar of Dundee, who was chosen to represent Scotland v. England in an archery contest against the English at St. Andrew�s, in 1528-9, which the Scots won. John became a priest in Dundee but �he is very rarely mentioned in the Records� (see Old Pitscottie extract, below). He began to profess the reformed religion and �being summoned, he departed to Almaine [Germany] where he �became very fervent and zealous . He translated many of Luther�s dytements into Scottish meeter�.�. After the death of the King, in 1542, John returned to Scotland - possibly he lived some time at Leith - but in 1574 he was living in exile in England. �Although a priest, he may not, as a Reformer, have considered that an obstacle to secular pursuits, and he had, no doubt, a living to make. It is possible that he is the complainer in the English Courts, 1547-51, but this is speculative.� John d. in England in 1556. It is not known whether he married or had issue. (W.B. p. 11 & pp.14-15)

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Old Pitscottie (1573) Robert Lindesay (from a 19th century edition, with apologies to Middle Scots 'purists'!)

"In this year (unknown) there came an ambassador out of England, named Lord William Howard, and a bishop with him, with many other gentlemen, to the number of three score horse, which were all the able men and waled men for all kind of games and pastimes, shooting, loupin, running, wrestling, and casting of the stone; but they were well sayed ere they past out of Scotland, and that by their own provocation: but ever they tint: till at last, the Queen of Scotland, the King's mother, favoured the Englishmen, because she was the King of England's sister: and therefore she took an enterprise of archery upon the Englishmen's hands, contrary to her son the King, and any six in Scotland that he would wale (pick), either gentlemen or yeomen, that the Englishmen should shoot against them, either at pricks, revere, or butts, as the Scots pleased. The King hearing this of his mother, was content, and gart her pawn a hundred crowns, and a tun of wine, upon the Englishmen's hands; and he incontinent laid down as much for the Scottish men. The field and ground were chosen in St. Andrew's, and three landed men and three yeomen chosen to shoot against the Englishmen; to wit, David Wemyss of that ilk, David Arnot of that ilk, and Mr. John Wedderburn, vicar of Dundee; the yeomen, John Thompson, in Leith, Steven Taburnea, with a piper called Alexander Bailie. They shot very near, and worsted the Englishmen of the enterprise, and wan the hundred crowns and the tun of wine, which made the King very merry that his men wan the victory."

 Pitscottie (extract from Genuki)

"A village in Ceres Parish, E Fife, situated on the Ceres Burn at a road junction to the south of Dura Den and 3 miles (5 km) south-east of Cupar. It was the home of Robert Lindesay of Pitscottie who wrote the first vernacular prose history of Scotland entitled the Historie and Cronicles of Scotland, 1436-1565. The nearby Pitscottie Moor was a favourite meeting place of Covenanters during the late 17th century and during the 1820s the village became a centre of flax spinning. There is an 18th-century bridge over the Ceres Burn."


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The Brothers, James, John and Robert Wedderburn, from a lithograph by Stewart Carmichael. 

This document appears to be dated 15.11.1929, and has certainly been in the possession of a Wedderburn descendant since that date. Although some of the text is difficult to make out, as accurate a transcription as possible is given below:


"Conspicuous among the names of those who have come down in history as leaders of the Reformation are the three Dundonians, James, John and Robert Wedderburn, sons of a merchant at the Westkirk Stile, in the Overgate.


James, the oldest, besides being a merchant, was also a poet and devoted his talents towards bringing about the downfall of the Papists, by writing plays. He wrote at least two dramas dealing with the corruption of the clergy, which were performed in Dundee about the year 1546, but of which, unfortunately, no record remains.


In those days, plays were performed in the street or an open field and were attended by large audiences. James Wedderburn's writings did much to influence the people in favour of the Reformation, so much, in fact, that he had finally to flee the country and take refuge in Dieppe.


John, the second son, was, to begin with, a priest, in Dundee, but he too, before long, became partial to the new doctrines and went over to the Reformers. Shortly after this he fled to Germany, where he heard Luther and M.....thon, and became very fervent and ...la..s..   He returned to Scotland after the death of Max.... M..... again he had to leave the country because of his beliefs.  ....went to England, where he died in 1556.


Robert Wedderburn, the youngest, it is written that he excelled the other two "in humanity and knowledge of the Scriptures". When he left St. Andrews University, where all three brothers were educated, he went to Paris where he met many of the Reformers. After the death of Cardinal Beaton, in 1546, he returned home and became ..........1? r? of Dundee, and is known to have held the position until 1553. That ..... ..... ..... production "The Complaynt of Scotland" has been attributed to him, but whether or not he was the real author ...... ........ .........proved.


The three brothers combined in writing "The Gude and Godlie Ballates" and it was with selections from these that Queen Mary was serenaded on her first .... at Holyrood Palace.


Johnson has written of the three brothers: "...harmonious minds and most distinguished ornaments of your race, three equal in learnings, in piety, happy your parents and the land with gave us pledges so rare. Begotten in heaven, distinguished ALECTUM, bestowed on the earth, from when I reckon it to have the name DEI DONUM."


This eulogy is included in Mr. Stewart Carmichael's lithograph of the brothers - a feature of his big present exhibition of paintings and drawings.


Besides the three  brothers, the Wedderburn family produced a succession of able men, who, during a century and a half, followed one another as town clerks of Dundee and as burgermen.


15.11.27 is written in faded ink at the bottom of the document, possibly the date of the article.


(Note from Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles, page 590: St Andrews - municipal borough - watering place, 13 1/2 miles SE of Dundee and 55 3/4 miles from Edinburgh (NE by rail).


The University was founded in 1411, and is the oldest of the Scottish universities. The Cathedral, now a ruin, was founded in 1159. St. Andrews is the mecca of golf and headquarters of the Royal and Ancient Club, founded in 1754.


Westkirk - KIRK - is an ecclesiastical parish - Aberdeen)


Beside the drawing are some names and dates:







Born in Dundee



(The last date is illegible)

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