MHS member Dr John Mortimer is known to his friends as Ian. He was brought up near Glasgow and after qualifying as a doctor he worked as a GP for several years. For most of his working life, however, he was in public health and was District Medical Officer in Hertfordshire. He now lives in Yarpole in north Herefordshire. He spent many years researching the occurrence of the Mortimer surname in Scotland - May 2014

        1      Preface

        2      Geographical Distribution

        3      History

        4      Scottish Archival Sources

Compiled by Dr. John G.M. Mortimer
February 2014

‘Mortimer’ is one of quite a few surnames in Scotland which are obviously of Norman origin. This is due in part to the fact that after 1066 the Celtic monarchy of Scotland was actively encouraging Anglo-Norman barons to come north to promote a move towards a more feudal form of government. Indeed, Scotland at that time was seen as ‘The land for younger sons'.

And so, when I was drawing up my family-tree and was able to trace the male-line back to 1700 from registration documents, I decided to try and ‘bridge the gap’ back to 1066.
It so happened that, by chance, I was introduced, to a Mrs Mary Mackie (nee Mortimer) who had already embarked on sifting through the Scottish archives searching out and recording all the references she could find of the surname ‘Mortimer’.

On this foundation and by continuing the research of the archives and extending the search by personal enquiry and visits to the relevant locations, a comprehensive database was built up of Scottish Mortimers, each identified by date, location and a biographical note. By plotting each of these by location and date on a parish map of Scotland, we were able to demonstrate how ‘Mortimer’ as a surname had spread across Scotland and thus provide ‘linkage points’ for Mortimers who claimed Scottish ancestry.

By 1700, after some 18 generations, the surname ‘Mortimer’ had spread with 67 separate families in 34 parishes in 8 counties.

This plotting procedure also revealed five distinct clusters of the name.

The five clusters are:
    Aberdour, in the County of Fife, between 1126 and 1325.
    Fowlis Easter, in the County of Angus, between 1189 and 1377.
    Craigievar, in the County of Aberdeenshire, between 1377 and 1610.
    Auchinbaddie, in the County of Banffshire, between1384 and 1650.
    Flemington, in the County of Angus, between 1476 and 1628.

These five ‘clusters’ form the framework for the narrative which follows.



“The morning's e'e saw mirth and glee I' the hoary feudal tower
Of bauld Sir Alan Mortimer, The Lord of Aberdour”

The opening lines of the poem “Sir Alan Mortimer” by David Vedder (1790-1854):


In 1126, a young Anglo-Norman knight, Sir Alan Mortimer, came north into Scotland, to Aberdour, on the north bank of the Firth of Forth in the County of Fife, to marry Anicea, daughter and sole heiress of Sir John Vipont, or Vieuxpont. It is not completely clear who this Alan Mortimer was, but it is thought probable that he was a younger son of one of the Mortimers of Attleborough. Although no firm link has been established it is quite likely that the Mortimers of Attleborough were a cadet branch of the Mortimers of Wigmore, though their coat of arms (or semé de lis sable) is nothing like that of the Wigmore Mortimers.

It was the Norman practice, as each baron established himself, to acknowledge the Church; Roger (1054) founded the Cluniac Monastery at Lyons-la-Foret, Normandy; Ralph (1068) established the Priory at Wigmore; so Alan gave “the entire moiety (half) of the lands of his town of Aberdour to God and the monks of St.Colme's Isle", (in the Diocese of Dunkeld in Perthshire). A Papal Bull from Pope Lucius (1181-85), in the lifetime of Alan's son William, confirms the gift of "half ploughgate of land, (fiftytwo acres) and half rental of the mill of Aberdour".

William must have been regarded as a baron 'of high status', for not only was he a Witness to three or four Royal Charters, the first in 1166, but, having been taken prisoner at the Siege of Alnwick (1174), he was used as a hostage at the subsequent Treaty of Falaise.

In 1180, there was a rather bitter dispute between William and the Abbot of Inchcolme, concerning a vacancy at the church of Aberdour (St.Fillan's); the story is that although the Abbot had the 'right of presentation', William was, in modern jargon, 'leaned on' by David, Earl of Huntingdon and brother of the King, to install his clerk, Robert, as chaplain. After considerable acrimony, the matter was settled by a Papal Bull granted by Pope Alexander III which affirmed that the church of Aberdour was in the possession of the monastery and that the Abbot had the Right of Appointment.

The castle and lands of Aberdour remained in the possession of the Mortimers until Robert the Bruce, in about 1325, granted the lands to his nephew, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray.

The Church in Scotland, since the Synod of Whitby in 664, had developed various characteristics of ritual and discipline that were out of step with the English Church; one difference, (important, as it happens, for the continuance of the Mortimer line), was that, in the Scottish Church, celibacy was not a strict requirement.

An early ancestor of the Mortimers was Hugo, Bishop of Coutances (989), and now we find a Hugo Mortimer as Prior of the Isle of May (1165-1200), and a Constantine Mortimer at Lindores Abbey.

"Roger" was a favoured name amongst the early Scottish Mortimers, for it was a Roger, said to be the son of Constantine, who around 1209, was appointed Sheriff of Perth(shire). This was, at that time, a very senior administrative post and during his term of office, Roger was a royal emissary sent to negotiate terms of peace with King John of England.

We know that this Roger had a son, named Hugo, and there is a record, in 1221, of a Hugo Mortimer being the Clerk to King Alexander II, probably one and the same person.

Fowlis Easter

In 1189, Roger had married Christina de Maule, and thereby acquired the Castle and lands at Fowlis Easter, just to the west of Dundee in the County of Angus (otherwise known as ‘Forfar’ or ‘Forfarshire’). It is understood that these lands and Castle of Fowlis had been bestowed upon Christina’s father, William de Maule, by King David I., as a reward for his bravery at the Battle of the Standard in 1138. There was a dispute over this inheritance and it is interesting to note that in the settlement, confirmed by Roger and his son, Roger’s son is styled in the Register "Hugo de Mortuo-Mari".

'Under the Hammer' of Edward I of England (as recorded in the Ragman Rolls), a Roger Mortimer, Lord of Fowlis, ‘done homage’ on the 14th March 1296; but on the 28th August 1296, and coincidently another or the same Roger, "Sir Roger Mortimer of the County of Perth", paid homage at Berwick.

And it was in a garrison in Dundee, in 1312, that we first hear of, probably, their younger son, Roger, who in 1333, was to lead a section of the Scottish army at the Battle of Halidon Hill.

In 1360, by a grant by John, Earl of Atholl, the Mortimers obtained lands at Ballandro (futher up the coast, near Kingshaven in Kincardineshire), which then remained in Mortimer possession until 1468. The last owners were George Mortimer and his son George, both having registered Coats of Arms in 1465, just before they 'resigned' the property.

The lands at Fowlis Easter remained in Mortimer hands until 1377, when Janet, only daughter of yet another Roger, married into the noble Gray family (Janet was said to be "an heiress of Aberdour"). However, there is a record that, two hundred years later, in 1545, a Malcolm Mortimer held 'temple-lands' (of the Order of St.John) in the area. Also, between 1567 and 1575, a Patrick Mortimer was Reader at Fowlis Church in which one of the stained glass windows has the Mortimer Coat of Arms. All of which suggests that the Mortimers remained well established in this area.

..Now, in the 14th century, we see the Mortimer name spread to Flemington, near the county town of Forfar and close to Glamis Gastle (more of that later), and another line spreading northwards into Aberdeenshire, to ‘Craigievar’ and into Banffshire to ‘Auchinbaddie’.


The first mention of a Mortimer in Aberdeenshire is of a "Mortimer of Craigievar" who married an "heiress of Aberdour", in 1377: this would suggest that a branch of the Mortimers of Angus was, by this time, well established at Craigievar, and would represent the ninth generation.

The family name is further extended at this time, into Banffshire, by the grant of land in the Parish of Alvah, by Lady of Mar (a recurring benefactrix), to a younger son of the Mortimers of Craigievar: this is a good example of how the name would have spread.

Bernard (Mortimer) of Craigievar, continued the association with Lady of Mar; and the association with the landed gentry was extended when his daughter, Isobel, in 1391, married Sir Andrew Leslie of Balquain, which is geographically close to Craigievar.

In 1457, Edmond (Mortimer) inherited Craigievar, to be succeeded by Alexander, whose brother John was bailie to his cousin, Lord Leslie.

It is at this time, 1450-1500, that the name spreads to Aberdeen, with Henry and Andrew, both probably younger sons of the Craigievar Mortimers, being Burgesses of that City. Also at this time, there is mention of a Duncan and a Thomas as witnesses and of an Alexander as a chaplain.

William (Mortimer), having inherited Craigievar, acquired additional land in the parish of Inverurie (in the Barony of Leslie), and was succeeded in quick succession by Alexander and then John.

We now enter a disturbed period in the history of the Mortimers of Craigievar, with John and his son and heir, James, being involved in serious fracas and, as a consequence, being subject to "Bonds of Caution"; also at this time, John's brother, Alexander, is outlawed on a charge of murder; all of which must inevitably have led to their subsequent impoverishment and the sale of Craigievar.

In 1610, John has to sell Craigievar, before the building of the present Castle was completed, and "remove back" to Angus; probably assisted by Lord Glamis.

The Mortimers had held Craigievar through eight generations and this would account for the spread (1) locally to Glencat and Inverurie, probably assisted by the traditional friends of the Mortimers, - Atholl, Mar and Leslie, (2) to Aberdeen City, where the Mortimer name recurs in the records over a period of 200 years, and (3) back into Angus.

However, other members of the Craigievar family, who had settled in Aberdeen, namely John and Alexander, were responsible members of the community; John was the Treasurer of the City Council and his son, Thomas, held various senior diplomatic posts, negotiating with the English; and his son, Thomas, is recorded as a Burgess of the City.


The Mortimers first came to Auchinbaddie in the parish of Alvah in Banffshire, when, in 1384, John (tenth generation) was granted land by Margaret, the then Lady of Mar: thereafter there is, practically, a direct ancestral line right up to the nineteenth generation.

Around 1650, records show that Walter, the then owner, and his son George were listed as "delinquents" for refusing to raise taxes. This offence may have been indicative of more serious financial problems, for Walter's grandson George, is on record, not as a landowner but as a merchant. It can reasonably be assumed that during those 300 years of continuous occupancy at Auchinbaddie, younger brothers would have moved away to take up tenancies of farms in surrounding parishes, even into Aberdeenshire and Morayshire.


By 1476, the Mortimers were said to be "well established" at Flemington, a small estate near Forfar, in the parish of Aberlemno in the County of Angus. We have a copy of the deeds, 'the Flemington Charter', which, unfortunately, do not go back far enough to explain how it came into Mortimer possession, but once established there, the Mortimers remained for 7 or 8 generations, allowing the spread of the family (and the name), to neighbouring farms and small estates.

It is in the early 1600s, that Thomas has to sell Flemington, (after eight generations), just as John, having sold Craigievar, "returns" to Angus to re-establish the family at Brechin.

This was clearly a period of instability and dispersal which is reflected in the wider distribution of the family name in the second half of the 1600s, as recorded in the parish records.

The "return" of John, having sold Craigievar, and his relationship with Lord Glamis is significant on two counts; (1) it indicates the family ties between the various branches of the Mortimers and (2) the patronage of Lord Glamis which is confirmed by number of Mortimers with holdings on his Strathmore estate.

We believe that, contemporaneously with Thomas, (i.e. the 18th generation), other Mortimers farmed in the neighbourhood of Flemington, being descendents of earlier branches (younger sons).

At Flemington, still a working farm, there are the ruins of a traditional fortified house, typical of small Scottish estates, which would have been the home of the Mortimers.

When, in 1628, Thomas Mortimer had to sell 'The Mains of Flemington', other neighbouring farm lands remained in Mortimer possession up to and after 1700.


In the early 1600s there is a report of a George Mortimer, a "trafficking Jesuit", languishing in a Glasgow prison awaiting deportation.

In 1506 a Walter Mortimer was Chaplain at Dunkeld Abbey (in Perthshire), and then in 1507, Auditor and Steward to the Bishop: This highlights that throughout this history there have been many references to associations between Mortimers and the Church: Whether this is a peculiarity of the Scottish Mortimers or simply because such associations were recorded, is a matter of conjecture.

And, as we approach 1700; in Fife, there was a Patrick Mortimer, baillie of Cupar, who was the Member of Parliament for Perthshire 1681-2.

From the overall perspective, one can see the relative success of those of the Scottish Mortimers who ‘moved to the City’, and it would have been the younger sons, compared to the gradual decline in status of those who remained on inherited land.

This short account of the incidence of the name Mortimer in Scotland has been put together mainly from printed sources, which, in general, have been in fairly close agreement.

For the NE area, particularly useful have been the publications of the First Spalding Club, the “Collections for a History of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff” (Ab. Banff Coll.) and the 4 volumes of “Illustrations of the Topography and Antiquities of the Shires of Aberdeen and Banff” (Ab.Bf.Ill). Vol.I of this is an index, and when an item is given as being in Vol.1, this refers to the ‘Collections” which in a bit confusing.

The Registers of Sasine and of Deeds have also been consulted.

Other main sources available in the Scottish section of Edinburgh Public Library, or the History Search Room of the Scottish Record Office (SRO), or both.

Register of the Great Seal of Scotland (Reg.Mag.Sig.)
Privy Council (P.C.Reg.)
Privy Seal (P.S.Reg.)
Several publications of the Scottish History Society e.g.
Macfar Macfarlane’s Genealogical Collections (Macf. Gen. Coll.)
G Geographical “ (Macf. Geo. Coil.)

Charters of Inchcolm Abbey (Ch. Inchcolxu)
Lindores “ (Ch. Lind.)
Coupar Angus (Ch. C-A)
Inchaffray (Ch. Inchf.)
Rental of Dunkeld Abbey

The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland
Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae “ ( Medii Aevi )
Index of Scottish Charters (1309—1413) — W.Robertson
Bains Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland
Services of Heirs

J. Davidson - Inverurie and the Earldom of the Garioch (1878)
W. Ross - Aberdour and Inchcolme (1885)
M. Barbieri - Gazetteer of the counties of Fife and Kinross (1857)
R.LG. Ritchie - The Normans in Scotland (1954)
J. Coutts - The Norman Invasion of Scotland U922)
R. Allen Brown - The Normans and the Norman Conquest (1969)
R. Sibbald - History, ancient and modern, of the Sheriffdoms
of Fife and Kinross (1710)
A. Jervise - Memorials of Angus and the Mearns (1886)
W. Cramond - Reminiscences of the Old Town of Cullen (1882)
A.C. Lawrie - Annals of the Reigns of Malcolm and William
Burke’s Landed Gentry
Douglas’s Scottish Peerage

Aberdeen Burgh Records (Burgh Recs. Soc. publications)
Aberdeen Council Letters (edited by Louise Taylor)
SRO references - Sasine - RS 4,5,15~16,17.
Seafield Tenants - GD 248/1384 - 1401