Old Lochee Book 1911.

From "Lochee" - As it was and is - by Alexander Elliot - 1911

 

Chapter 7

THE MANOR HOUSE OF LOGIE.

LOGIE, whether estate, churchyard, or manor, has always claimed the interest of the people. The manor, for generations a conspicuous landmark, is tersely described as: a large and not inelegant building, seated on a small rocky eminence, prettily wooded, in the gorge of the corrie between Law Hill of Dundee and the Hill of Balgay." Along a dell on the east side a streamlet meandered townwards, and the banks were studded with a profusion of bushes and great trees. It was through the centre of this attractive ravine that the great high­way to Lochee and Coupar Angus was projected. The estate, originally of considerable extent, owing to change of ownership, became curtailed. Previous to 1660 it was held by David Hunter of Balgay. Sir Alexander Wedderburn, first of Blackness, Town Clerk of Dundee, at this date wasinvesting heavily in landed property. Logie being contiguous to Blackness, he determined upon its purchase, and with that end in view he entered into negotiations with its owner. As shown by the Wedderburn Records, the transaction was satisfactorily carried through, as it is therein stated that "on December 14-19, 1660, he (Sir Alexander) got a charter from David Hunter of Balgay of the lands and Manor Place of Logie, near Dundee, together with part of Balgay known as Longforebank."The property remained in the hands of the Wedderburns for a considerable time; but in 1698 Sir John, the eldest son of Sir Alexander, found it expedient to dispose of it. Logie accordingly was sold to the town for 17,500 merks, to be repurchased in 1719 by Sir John's son, another Sir Alexander of Blackness, for the amount the town had paid for it. Three years later Logie was destined to undergo further change.


Alexander Read of Turfbeg having married Elizabeth Wedderburn, eldest daughter of Sir Alexander Wedderburn, fourth baronet of Blackness, purchased Logie and Longforebank from that gentleman in 1722. Of their sons, of whom they had several, Alexander succeeded to the estate. He married Annie, daughter of Robert Fletcher of Ballinshoe. Indeed, the Wedderburns, the Fletchers, and the Reads appear to have been closely allied by marriage. Sir Alexander Wedderburn of Blackness, who died in 1675, was wedded to Dame Matilda Fletcher; Alexander Read and Elizabeth Wedderburn of Turfbeg were married in 1715; and Alexander Read and Ann Fletcher were united in 1756. The Fletchers have inaccurately been credited with the erection of the mansion. This is borne out by the discovery of important data relative thereto. In 1905, when the house was being demolished to make way for city expansion, a rybat-stone of a window in the north elevation was splintered, and disclosed a brass plate skilfully inserted in the centre. The plate measured 7½ inches in length and 4½ inches in breadth. It bore the following inscription, viz.:—"The North part of this House was built in 1722 by Alexr. Read & Elizabeth Wedderburn of Turfbeg, who were married in 1715. The Middle part of the South Front was built in 1756. The East part in 1772. The West in 1778 by Alexr. Bead and Ann Fletcher of Logie, who were married in 1756. Alterations were made in 1823 by David Fyffe and Helen Douglas, who were married in 1816." It will be observed from the foregoing that the work of construction had been carried out in sections, with a considerable lapse of time between each, and that several proprietors had individually contributed towards its completion. It will be noted, too, that no mention is made of the person who was responsible for the erection of the middle part of the south front in 1756, and the east part in 1772. As Alexander Read and Ann Fletcher were married in 1756, it may be assumed with a fair measure of certainty that this extension was carried out by that gentleman and his lady; and further, that the addition in 1772 had been effected under their supervision, in all probability to meet family exigencies. In 1797 Fletcher Read, the son of Alexander Read and Ann Fletcher, seems to have come into possession of the manor, as we find from the Burgh Records that that lady entered upon the lease of a flat on the west side of Tay Street, from a John Peter, wright in Dundee, her husband meanwhile having died. After the demise of Fletcher Read the mansion and grounds were purchased by Mr Isaac Watt, merchant in Dundee, who made extensive alterations. That gentleman it was who removed the main entrance from Old Coupar Angus Road, on the west side of the gardens, to the new road at Logie Den, nearly opposite the toll-house. Subsequently, when the estate again came into the market, the mansion house and pleasure grounds were detached from the rest of the estate.


Major Fyffe, latterly of Smithfield, Monikie, purchased the house and grounds from Mr Isaac Watt's trustees in 1820, and about the same time Mrs Anderson of Balgay acquired the remainder of the property. When making alterations on the mansion it was the Major who caused the brass plate to be inserted into the rybat-stone. His name and that of his lady are inscribed thereon. Major Fyffe removed to Monikie, and Mr James Watt of Denmiln, Newburgh, became proprietor in 1827. It was from Mr Watt's executors that Mr William Cleghorn, manufacturer, in 1868 bought the house and grounds. After Mr Cleghorn's decease, the mansion, which he had occupied for many years, went into the hands of Mr Black, a local builder, who let it in an indiscriminate way for a time. Thereafter the house was removed piecemeal, the final clearance being effected in 1908. The rock upon which this interesting edifice stood is undergoing excavation to allow of the extension of Black Street to Lochee Road.

It has been stated that Blackness and Logie were forfeited because of the part played by Sir John Wedderburn, fifth Baronet of Blackness, in the Rebellion of 1745. This statement is erroneous, not alone as far as applied to Logie. but also to Blackness. As will be seen from the foregoing, Logie was purchased twenty-three years before the advent of Prince Charlie to Scotland. As to Blackness the statement is equally untenable. Because of financial reasons that estate was publicly exposed for sale in 1741—four years anterior to the Rising—and was purchased by Alexander Hunter of Pitskelly, by whose descendants it has since been held.

In the negotiations between Sir Alexander Wedderburn and David Hunter in 1660 anent the lands of Logie, an interesting item has been brought out. Hitherto it has been generally accepted that the mansion recently removed was the only structure of the kind on the estate. This, however, has been dispelled by the light thrown upon the matter by the charter of transfer granted by Hunter to Wedderburn, which declared that along with the estate a manor place was included. It may be inferred with certainty that a building of that kind had formed part of the property, as we find that in April 1666 a George Gairdine (Gardyne) "in Logie" had granted a bond to Sir Alexander Wedderburn, for what purpose is not given. With the view of eliciting further information on this interesting point, Mr Charles Johnston, Lochee, the contractor who was engaged to remove Logie House, was interviewed. As far as his observations went, he said, he had found no trace of any previous mansion. At the same time he admitted that that was no reason, for coming to the conclusion that there had been none. Logie House, it had to be remembered, was a large building, and far more extensive in every respect than most of the manors of the seventeenth century. If the old house had occupied the same site, he was of opinion that the whole of the foundations had been cleared away, as they would have been of no use for supporting a larger and more substantial building. There was one thing, however, that led him to suppose that at one time there had been another house, and that it had stood upon that spot. In the course of demolition of Logie House, in the base­ment of the east wing, a chamber of considerable dimensions, hewn out of the solid rock, was discovered. It was reached through, a trap-door in one of the side rooms. To what use the chamber had been devoted he could vouchsafe no opinion; but of a certainty, he remarked, it could not by any means be regarded as a cellar, for which it was in no way adapted. If an earlier building had existed, then, he thought, it was likely the chamber had belonged to it; and also, it was just possible, that when the later mansion was constructed this underground apartment had been incorporated as part of it. Professionally he was thoroughly acquainted with the grounds of Logie, but with the exception of the site mentioned he knew of no other where there was a likelihood that the old manor had stood.

Mr Johnston also mentioned a rather interesting incident. When one of his workmen was in the act of removing a window from the front elevation he observed a small piece of paper, neatly folded, inserted into a crevice. He removed it with some degree of care, and was amused when he undid the folds to find that it enclosed a sixpence. The paper, too, was covered with writing, which recommended that the person who found the money should drink to the health of the individual who had secreted it; and the hope, too, was expressed that both parties should by and by meet in the better land! From particulars further given it seems that the party who was guilty of this little bit of homely eccentricity had been employed renovating the woodwork of the window's shortly after James Watt had entered into occupancy, and that he had taken advantage in this unique way of communicating with posterity. Mr Johnston rewarded the finder but retained the coin.

The stones and fittings of Logie House were removed to Wellgrove. where they were re-erected into a new tenement. The finely-moulded pilasters which flanked the doorway of the mansion have been utilised to embellish the entrances to the tenement.

STORY OF AN INDIAN PRINCESS—TRAGIC EPISODE.

The story of the Cradle of Logie and the tragedy with which it is associated has long been a fertile theme upon which the imagination could dwell and the heart go out in sympathy towards the helpless creature who is said to have been the victim. The Cradle House in its time was a weird object in the neighbourhood. It was situated in a hollow some distance west from the gardens, and its foundations were visible long after it became untenanted. Shunned by day, it was regarded with consummate dread after dark. The tale of its erection and the dastardly purpose to which it was put has often been told with a degree of romance, in the circumstances altogether excusable. Taken in the concrete, and making due allowance for the vagaries of a credulous time, the wonder is, if the incidents related were founded upon fact, that no real tangible record of them has been kept. Thomson, adverting to the Cradle, with some caution, says, "it seems to have been erected by a former owner of Logie for the reception of an Indian lady whom he had seduced, brought here, and then abandoned." But he does not penetrate the veil, and gives no clue to the perpetrator of the deed. He suggests that the statements evidently are exaggerated, and declares that "there are several stories related in connection with the affair, but all of them are so mixed with the marvellous and incredible as to stretch beyond belief." It is just the marvellous and the incredible that appeal to the superstitious mind, and from which the most fantastic and unreliable narratives are woven. The popular belief is that Fletcher Bead, the proprietor of the mansion of Logie at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was accused of the neglect and ill-treatment of his wife, an Indian lady of high caste, and that because of his exalted social status he was permitted to go unpunished. Having regard to Fletcher Read's professional career, it is averred that he was engaged in military service in India under the East India Company. Logie House

In his capacity as an officer of rank, narrators say, he had ample opportunity of mingling amongst and becoming intimate with members of the most dignified and exclusive circles. Here the spell of romance creepeth in. A prince, said to be fabulously wealthy, was blessed with a beautiful daughter. To her, rumour avers, Fletcher Read professed ardent attachment. He wooed and was rewarded, not only with her hand, but, if we are to believe all that has been said and written, with her weight in gold added thereto as luck measure. The marriage, it is presumed, was duly solemnised amid great rejoicing and accompanied by the gorgeous pageantry and splendour of an Indian Court.

As the young lady was a favourite child, the Prince, exhibiting much solicitude for her welfare, presumably gave expression to his sentiments. To allay his fears, which he possibly alleged were groundless, the wily husband declared that he would cherish his newly-made wife as tenderly as if she were a child in a cradle. That is the kernel of the story, and it finishes there as far as India and the lady are concerned. The curtain rises upon a different scene—cold, and bleak, and bare compared to the sumptuous clime of a sunny land. Faithful to his promise, so runneth the story, Fletcher Read brought his wife to his Scottish home. It is not recorded how she was received by his staid relatives. Possibly she was regarded as a rara avis, and, for the time being, treated as such. It is said that her portrait is still in existence, either as a painting of some size or in the shape of a cameo, possibly both. This need not of a truth be gainsaid, as one of the ladies of the Read family had a taste for fine art, and was an adept at the brush and palette. In the long run it seems, if not discarded altogether, the Princess was neglected. A small house, detached and situated some distance from the mansion, had been built for her reception. Pavilion-shaped, the corner of each elevation terminated in a short chimney, and gave it the fancied semblance of a cradle. Despite protests and loving endearments on her part, she was compelled to make the Cradle her home, and live separate from her husband, who by this means appeased his own conscience, and fulfilled the promise he made to the Prince, whilst at the same time he got rid of her importunities. During the lady's sojourn in the Cradle House her personal liberty, to all intents and purposes, was as much curtailed as if she had been a prisoner. It is also stated that an ayah had accompanied her from India as an attendant; and that the Prince, suspecting the integrity of his son-in-law, sent an emissary to Dundee on a mission of espionage. Taking a lodging in Scouringburn, he kept in touch with the lady while she lived. At her death, so the story runs, the ayah and the emissary disappeared, none knew whither, and probably no one cared. Nor are we vouchsafed the slightest knowledge that the husband had apprised his relative of the demise of his daughter. It is probable, for prudential reasons, he did—not as a matter of duty, we would infer, but rather of policy and self-interest. Over this and a great deal more there is complete obscurity. In all probability the remains of the unfortunate Indian Princess were interred in the neighbouring churchyard of Logie.

At all events, Fletcher Read in due time is accredited with having received intelligence of the death of the Prince, his father-in-law, accompanied by an addendum that, as he was heir to a vast fortune, he should repair to India and claim it. Deceived by specious representations, sanguine and expectant, shall we say, he arrived in due course at his destination. Arrangements were made for his reception, and a cavalcade befitting his rank awaited him. Unsuspectingly he was escorted into the interior—and, once again, dense obscuration sets in. Read, it is averred, was heard of no more. If, however, we are to believe certain narrators, he departed this life in a manner more violent than the poor lady he is said to have so cruelly deceived. Stairway Logie House

Thus, briefly, according to popular dicta, the fateful story of the hapless Princess is outlined. In so far as it applies to that unfortunate personage there may be, and possibly is, much truth in it; but, 011 the other hand, there is just the possibility that, through lapse of time and the vagaries of imaginative writers, the details may have been greatly magnified, even distorted.
In view, however, of recent inquiry several questions bearing on certain phases of the mystery present themselves. In the first place, are we to take for granted that Fletcher Read in reality was the person indicated in the narrative as having mendaciously deceived the lady? Secondly, was he ever in India? If so, did he ever discharge the duty of an officer in the service of the East India Company ? And, thirdly, if he was not the person described in the narrative, who might that individual be?

In answer to the first query, we have to state that we have been unable to discover evidence to establish in any way the averment that Fletcher Read ever was married to the daughter of an Indian Prince; or, further, that he had been connected with the Cradle House and its unhappy associations. On the con­trary, we have abundant proof of his marriage to another lady altogether. Amongst the charters in the Dundee Burgh Court Room there is preserved a deed of annuity drawn up by Thomas Marr, a well-known local lawyer in his day, and dated 4th June 1804, in favour of "Jean Scott, my spouse." The document is signed "Fletcher Read," in clear, legible characters. Could any­thing be more explicit? It is understood that the lady referred to in the document was a member of an influential family con­nected with the immediate neighbourhood.
In reply to the second query, it is almost absurd to assert that Fletcher Read ever was in India, and that he was engaged in active service as a soldier. The fact is his military experience never extended beyond a lieutenancy in the Angus Fencibles and Forfar and Kincardine Militia under Colonel Riddoch. In Dundee he was known as a gay, heedless man about town, and a member of convivial and sporting coteries. Nor need it be denied that, along with several boon companions, including two foolish seamen who belonged to Lochee, he took a leading part in an outrage on public decency by enacting the Day of Judgment inLogie Churchyard—an escapade, too, very much misrepresented and inflated—and was guilty of other silly and questionable misdemeanours.

Let us turn to the manner of Fletcher Read's death. It is recorded that it .was a violent one, and was carried out at the behest of his reputed wife's kinsfolk in India. The tale has been accepted as veracious for a century at least, and the act was regarded as one of retributive justice. Now, we will show that the reverse is the case. If there was violence of any kind at his passing it was not of the type represented by the sensational storyteller, but was due rather to the free-and-easy bibulous habits of the time. The following extract from the Scots Magazine, 1807, succinctly sums up the manner of his departure, viz.:—
"At Shepperton, Surrey, January 22, Fletcher Read, a gentleman well known in the sporting world. He had spent the previous evening with some convivial friends, and was found dead in his bed on the ensuing morning by his servant, having, it is supposed, died through suffocation."

The foregoing, it is hoped, will dispel some of the aspersions cast upon the character of a man who, whatever his follies, did not deserve to be stigmatised because of the sins and short­comings of someone else.

Now we come to the third query. If it was not Fletcher Read who ill-treated the daughter of the Indian Prince, who was the person ? An indication is made in the direction of another member of the family altogether, and antedates the so-called Fletcher Read episode by many years. The uncle of Fletcher Read Avas Major Fletcher, who was long in India, and who eventually rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Com­pany's service. Major Fletcher was brother of Mrs Alexander Read of Logie, and a close intimacy seems to have existed between them. The presumption therefore is that, instead of the nephew—the son of a favourite sister—it was the uncle who should bear the burthen of the odium attached to the Indian lady's ill-treatment and premature death. In the desire for empire it is well known that little respect was paid to the rights and privileges of the natives of India, and it is equally an assured fact that many acts of violence and injustice were perpetrated upon the conquered races. Major Fletcher in all probability shared the prevailing indifference, and held in light esteem any act he might commit, no matter how gross.


If Major Fletcher brought the Indian lady to Logie—which he possibly did before he acquired the estate of Lindertis, near Kirriemuir—he must have done so on the sufferance of his brother-in-law, Alexander Read, and his wife, both of whom occupied Logie long after the Major had disappeared. The inference, therefore, is that the Major had resided at Logie as a member of the family for a time sufficiently lengthy to cover the period of the Cradle incident. If Major Fletcher was the husband of the poor lady—and everything points in the direction that he was—then her death must have taken place previous to 1780. In that year we find him arranging for the disposal of his worldly affairs in favour of John Wedderburn, of London. The deed, according to the "Wedderburn Records," is dated January 13, and is recorded in the Books of Council and Session, 29th Feb. 1780. The Major is described as Thomas Fletcher, Esq. of Lindertis, Lieutenant-Colonel in the service of the East India Merchant Company, and amongst other trustees named is Mrs Ann Hunter alias Fletcher, his spouse. Again, a disposition is confirmed on 9th December 1799 to John Wedderburn of several properties, including Lindertis, by the only surviving trustees of the late Thomas Fletcher. Neither the date of his death nor the manner by which it was encompassed has been ascertained as far as research has gone.

After the death of the Princess, Major Fletcher, it is under­stood, married Ann Hunter, daughter of the Laird of Blackness, who was one of his trustees. When the Major departed for India it appears that she accompanied him. Such, however, was the hostility of the friends of the deceased Princess, who were in waiting, that it is told she had to be concealed to escape their fury. No satisfactory explanation of the Major's death is vouchsafed. The popular version is that it was one of retribution, suffered at the hands of outraged kinsfolk, whilst a writer states that he was killed in an encounter with the celebrated Hyder Ali, by whom he was cut to pieces. There is just the probability that the manner of Major Fletcher's end having reached the public in a garbled form, had seized upon the popular imagination, and become warped and distorted into the version commonly accepted. Verily the story from beginning to end is a bit of a tangle, unravel it who may.

Subsequently, after her return home, Mrs Fletcher became the wife of Mr Thomas Mylne, the proprietor of Mylnefield, near Invergowrie. It is also averred that the Princess left two children, who were taken in charge by their stepmother and educated. In after years, it was rumoured, they went to India, where they attached themselves to their mother's people. After the death of Mr Mylne and the disposal of the estate to another owner, Mrs Mylne resided in the Dowager House at Kingoodie, where she continued to live until a more suitable residence on the Blackness estate was provided for her. This mansion, which is still extant, though its once beautiful grounds are covered with streets and modern tenements, was known as Annfield, the house and adjoining street being named after the lady. Mrs Mylne died in 1852 at the great age of 103 years. Such, therefore, is the story of the "Dark Lady of Logic," presented in a new light, and, it is hoped, divested of some of its weird mystery.

From the foregoing brief narrative the impartial reader will be enabled to discriminate between parties, and doubtless, despite the illusions of romance, apportion the blame to those who ought in fairness to bear it. (note.—For the information relating to the Dark Lady's children and their residence with their stepmother, Mrs Mylne, at Kingoodie, circumstances not hitherto noticed, and other valuable hints, I am indebted to Mr A. Hutcheson, F. S.A.Scot., Broughty Ferry, who has had special opportunities of knowing the case and attendant incidents.—A. E.)