The Logans of Restalrig
As residents of Leith, the very fashionable port area to the north of Edinburgh I’ve always been curious about any clan connections this neck of the woods may have – We are – it appears- in the heart of Logan country…
The Logans of Restalrig.
Lochend park and its central loch, a haven for birdlife and the occasional migrating shopping trolley, was once the main water supply for Leith. Much larger than today the loch is skirted on its northern side by steep cliffs which seamlessly transition into the walls of Lochend Castle.
The area was once controlled by a powerful Anglo Norman family the Lestalrics. The Lestalric family turned up around 1166 a very neat century after the first wave of conquests, sweeping north along with the likes of the St Clairs the De Bruis’ (as in Robert The Bruce) Montgomerys and my lot the de Moffets. The Normans were originally Vikings who had raided France so much the decided to settle – a bit like Brits who go on holiday in Spain and end up with a villa.
Lestalric gradually morphed in Restalrig which is more familiar with Leith residents and travellers on the 25 bus. the area as far afield as South Leith was controlled by the Lestalric family until 1382 when Sir John de Lestalric died , leaving his estate to his daughter Katharine and her husband, Sir Robert Logan, who became the laird. Robert’s family had come from Ayrshire and had supported Robert the Bruce, a decision that cost them their lands in that area when Edward I of England forfeited them. Dominus Walter Logan was captured by the English in 1306 and hanged at Durham.
The Logans had remained loyal to Robert the Bruce and another Sir Robert Logan (the grandfather of Robert of Restalrig above) and his brother were Knights Errant who along with Sir William de Keith, Sir William de St. Clair of Rosslyn; and Sir James Douglas were tasked to carry the heart of Robert the Bruce to the Holy Land. On the way they became involved in a battle at Teba in what is now Andalusia, in southern Spain – against the Moors. The Scots knights threw themselves into the proceedings and Douglas was so convinced of the power of Bruce’s embalmed heart that he considered his fellow knights invincible – The Moors were happy to prove that point mistaken and most of the Scottish knights including Douglas, a hero of Bannockburn and both Robert Logan and his brother were slain. Thus started the tradition of Scots doing badly in away legs in Europe.
Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig quickly built an impressive power base around Leith, while the Harbour and Riverbank were controlled by the city the Shore area was held by the Logans much to the detriment of the citizens of Leith. In 1400 Robert was appointed Admiral of Scotland.
In 1406 James the eldest son of King Robert III was captured by English pirates while sailing to France. He was taken as hostage to England and with Robert III dying in the same year the uncrowned James I of Scotland began an 18 year spell in captivity. Its important to point out though that hostage taking was a sort of popular Anglo Norman pass time of the day and hostages, though they would have preferred to be somewhere else were generally treated well. In 1424 Sir Robert Logan was offered as a package of hostages in exchange for King James I, securing his release.
The fortunes of the Logan family trundled along merrily; Robert’s grandson John was made Sheriff of Edinburgh by James II another grandson was given land at Coatfield and a large mansion house was erected behind where the Kirkgate stands today. becoming the Logans of Coatfield and yet another branch of the family occupied land near what is now Mill Lane.
All good things for the Logan family at least began to com to an end. In 1513 along with many of Scotlands Nobles they joined their king James IV on the field of Flodden. One of Scotlands greatest military disasters there are no accurate records of the total losses as estimates of Scots dead vary from 5,000 to 17,000 compared to barely 1,500 English. Hardly a single noble line in Scotland wasn’t effected by this battle.
The Barony passed from father to young son, another Robert Logan (the family are not gifted with imagination when it comes to boys names). Robert married well; into the powerful Home family of the Scottish Borders and took possession of Fast Castle that once stood on the storm battered cliffs of Berwickshire. Scotland itself was soon heading into stormy waters. With Elizabeth on the throne of England – the Scottish reformation was tearing Scotland apart and Mary, Queen of Scots was soon to loose her head. The Logans seem to have made some attempt to play both sides during the reformation, however with James VI on the throne and Mary in the tower Robert was charged by the King to attempt to secure his mother’s release. History tells us that didn’t quite go to plan.
Everything began to seriously go south for the Logan family in the 1600s when Sir Robert became implicated in the hair brained Gowrie Conspiracy; a plot to kidnap James VI with Dirleton castle dangled as the carrot under Robert’s nose for his involvement in the affair. Though the failed kidnap attempt had taken place in 1600 Sir Robert was not implicated in the conspiracy until 1608 – two years after his death when an alleged co-conspirator, George Sprot claimed to have seen letters by Restalrig offering Fast Castle as a base for the conspiracy to be planned out. Sprot’s confession was treated with the opposite of leniency and he was rewarded with a last dance on the end of a rope at Mercat Cross for his trouble.
The problem was that Sprot’s testimony was unreliable at best, evidence based on the statement of an illiterate servant that Sprot claimed to have spoken to. It was circumstantial at best but at time in history that defined the phrase ‘witch hunt’ it wasn’t surprising that the Logan family had all their lands around Restalrig forfeited by the king.
And that was pretty much it for the Logan’s or Restalrig. For over 200 years the principle family of Leith and yet little remains above ground to mark their presence. Restalrig castle finally passed to the Elphinstone family (who by coincidence are connected to Dirleton Castle) and Arthur Elphinstone, 6th Lord Balmerino was beheaded for his part in the Jacobite rising of 1745. The castle was burned and the present Restalrig house built around 1820 with a small part of the tower gable built into the present house. The only other mark of the presence of the Logans can be found at St Margaret’s Parish Church where an armorial gravestone stands to Janet Ker the widow of Sir John Logan.
Logan is well recognised today as a prominent Scottish surname. Clan Logan’s crest is the pierced heat – a nod to that ill fated journey to the Holy Land and the clan’s connection with Scottish royalty.Tagged