“The Fire of Frendraught”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1794 (Ritson)
Keywords: fire feud betrayal brother family trick
Found in: Britain(Scotland(Aber))

Description

Brothers Lord John and Rothiemay are enticed by Lady Frendraught to stay at Castle Frendraught to end their feud. Their room is set afire by night. Lord John's servant offers to catch him out the window, but it is too late. Lord John's wife is heartbroken

Long description

The brothers Lord John and Rothiemay are enticed by Lady Frendraught to stay at Castle Frendraught to seal a compact between their feuding families. Their room is set afire by night. Lady Frendraught expresses mild regret for killing Lord John, but none for Rothiemay. Lord John's servant offers to catch him (but not poor Rothiemay) out the window, but it is too late. When Lord John's wife hears the news, her heart is broken.

Notes

In terms of feud, this wasn't notably worse than much of what passed in Scotland; the survival of the song may be due to its religious associations (this was the reign of Charles I, when Puritanism was on the rise but the king appeared to be so High Church as to be soft on Catholicism).

C. V. Wedgwood writes in _The King's Peace_, p. 120,

"In 1630 a principal member of Huntly's family [Huntly was one of the leading Catholics] had perished with several companions in a fire at Frendraught, a house belonging to the Crichtons. The Crichtons, though apparently reconciled, were hereditary enemies of the Gordons, and foul play was suspected. If the horrible business had indeed been a murder and not an accident, it was probably the result of personal enmity and nothing more, but a religious motive was suspected. The Catholics told a tragic tale of the heroism of the young victim who has expounded the true faith to his companions as the flames crept up the tower in which he was trapped."

Rosalind Mitchison, in _A History of Scotland_, second edition, pp. 169-170, says this of the affair:

"[A] famous dispute... lay across Aberdeenshire in the 1630s, the affair of the burning of the tower of Frendraught, part of the Crichton homestead which went up in flames one night in October 1630 with a son of Huntly and Gordon of Rothiemay, and their attendants, inside. It was never established that this was more than a ghastly accident, but the Gordons were passionately resentful. Huntly [the chief of the Gordons] took the quarrel to the Privy Council. The Council investigated repeatedly, tortured a servant or two for information, executed a hanger-on of no great social status, but failed to gain evidence against Crichton of Frendraught. Dissatisfied, Huntley let in broken men from the Highlands to ravage Crichton land, and for years the north-east was troubled by burnings, looting, and kidnappings."- RBW

Historical references

References

  1. Child 196, "The Fire of Frendraught" (6 texts)
  2. Bronson 196, "The Fire of Frendraught" (4 versions)
  3. Friedman, p. 267, "Fire of Frendraught" (1 text)
  4. OBB 145, "The Fire of Frendraught" (1 text)
  5. DT 196, FRNDRGT*
  6. Roud #336
  7. BI, C196