MEMORIALS OF ANGUS AND THE MEARNS, by Andrew Jervise
MURDER OF LADY LEIGHTON
PAGES 38 - 39
In addition to the lands of Usan, those of Capo in the Mearns, Newlands, Athy, and Brunton (Bryanton), in Angus, were possessed by cadets of this house towards the close of the fifteenth century. Duncan Lichton of Athy and Brunton is designed "armiger" or "esquire" - a title which had a very different meaning then from what it has now, used as it is almost without regard either to birth or rank.
The laird of Usan who flourished towards the middle of the sixteenth century married a lady named Helen Stirling. He predeceased her, and she afterwards became the wife of James Straton, perhaps a cadet of the old family of Lauriston, in the Mearns. They lived at Dalladies in the same county, Straton having probably been laird of that property. By Leighton she had a son named John, who succeeded his father, and who, for some unknown reason, entertained a deadly hatred to his mother. At his instigation, both she and her maid-servant suffered a violent death "within the Place of Dallidy," where they were murdered in cold blood during the night of the 24th of April 1549, and the crime was aggravated by both the women being pregnant at the time.
Persons named Waldy, Gracy, and Fothringhame were convicted and hanged for these murders, and afterwards James Shorewood found caution to appear for the same crime, while the laird himself, making his escape before the day of trial, was denounced rebel and put to the horn. On the 1st December 1561, Shorewood was brought before the Court, and James Straton and James Lychtoun (the latter being parson of Dunlappy) appeared as prosecutors, when a protest was entered against Lychtoun by the defenders, who pleaded that "conform to the lawis" the parson "suld tyne his benefice." From this it would appear that in those days the clergy were not allowed to prosecute in criminal cases. No further record of this barbarous murder is given; but, apart from that charge, it seems that the assassins were also accused of "breaking up the chests of the said James Stratoun, and stealing and reiving furth of the said Place and chests all the goods and jewels contained therein."
This murder seems to have had an unfortunate effect upon the fortunes of the house of Usan. It is believed that in the course of the first half of the seventeenth century, the family ceased to have possession of the estate, and John, who, in 1619, was served heir to his father Robert Leighton, in apparently the sunny or south side of the estate - the shady . . .
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This page was updated - 16 July, 2014