Posted by a Contributor in March's Magazine
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 family turned up around 1166 exactly a 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.
Lestalric gradually morphed into Restalrig, which is more familiar with Leith residents and travellers on the number 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 remained loyal to Robert the Bruce and yet another Sir Robert Logan (the grandfather of the above Robert of Restalrig) was a Knight 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 fancy 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.
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 the same year the uncrowned James I of Scotland began an 18-year spell in captivity. It’s important to point out that hostage taking was a sort of popular Anglo Norman pastime 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 part of 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 the current Kirkgate.
All good things for the Logan family finally came to an end in 1513 when, along with many of Scotland’s nobles, they joined their king James IV on the field of Flodden – one of Scotland’s greatest military disasters. Hardly any noble line in Scotland was unaffected.
The Barony passed to another Robert Logan (the family were not gifted with imagination when it came to boys names). Robert married well and took possession of Fast Castle on the storm battered cliffs of Berwickshire.
With Elizabeth on the throne of England while the Scottish reformation was tearing Scotland apart and Mary, Queen of Scots about to lose her head, stormy waters were inevitable. 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 James to secure his mother’s release. History tells us that didn’t quite go to plan.
Everything began to go seriously 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 until two years after his death in 1608, when an alleged co-conspirator, George Sprot, claimed to have seen letters 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 based on the statement of an illiterate servant. It was circumstantial at best but at a time in history that defined the phrase ‘witch hunt’ it wasn’t surprising the Logan family had all their lands around Restalrig forfeited by the king.
For over 200 years the Logans were Leith’s principle family, yet little remains above ground to mark their presence. Restalrig Castle passed to the Elphinstone family 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.
Clan Logan’s crest is the pierced heart – a nod to that ill-fated journey to the Holy Land.
Info: Rodger Moffett is from scotclans.com