In the beginning

The first mention of the Tillydaff name was in 1317 when Johannes de Tolidef appeared before the baillies in Aberdeen asking for lands that he had inherited through his mother (Alice) to be passed to him.  He had overheard his half-brother Reginald de Ran saying that he was holding land which rightly should belong to John.  Were these the lands of Ranieston, which we know that the Tillydaffs held later?  (The Miscellany of The Spalding Club, Vol V, Page 13)

The site of the Battle of Harlaw
The site of the Battle of Harlaw (Photo by Andrew Wood, CC BY-SA 2.0,

 William de Tullideff was killed at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411.  In the 19th century the Black Cairn at Rothmaise was opened and the body of a knight in armour was found.  It was thought to be that of William as it would have been usual for him to be buried on his own land.  The cairn also contained a large key of “rude workmanship”, and a coffin of four large flat stones, one of which was later in the mill-dam of Rothmaise, and another in a bridge over a small stream at Tocherford.

                             The Black Cairn at Rothmaise, Aberdeenshire
The Black Cairn at Rothmaise, Aberdeenshire

The battle of Harlaw was fought on 24th July 1411 between Donald Lord of the Isles for the Highlanders and the Earl of Mar for the Lowlanders, who were fighting for the rule of Scotland.  The Earl of Mar’s men were said to outnumber the Highlanders tenfold.  Many of his men were killed and afterwards a statute was passed allowing the heirs of those men that were killed to be exempt from feudal duties and for their minors to inherit during their minority.   Thus there is a retour in the Chartulatory of Aberdeen in favour of Andrew de Tulidef, heir to William. (The Thanage of Fermartyn – William Temple)

  TillydaffsCairn2On the Moor of Rayne in Aberdeenshire is a small green mound called Tillydaffs Cairn, although there is no longer a cairn there.  This is reputed to be where Tillydaff, the Laird of Warthill, was killed in 1530 after assaulting a neighbouring landowner, a member of the Leslie family.  He was chased and killed by the family at Lawrence Fair.


The findings at St. Nicholas Church (The Mither Kirk)

In 1597 Andrew Tilliduff of “Rainstoune” (Ranieston) is reputed to have been bewitched by one Helen Fraser, who was tried and sentenced as a witch.  She caused him to leave his wife, Isabel Cheyne, and run off with Margaret Nielson, who had his child.  Helen was such a success that Andrew could never again be reconciled with his wife.  It is perhaps a little surprising that one of the witnesses at Helen’s trial was a minister of the church, Thomas Tullidaff.  The relationship between Andrew and Thomas is unknown.  St. Nicholas Church in Aberdeen has recently been excavated and evidence found of the area where witches were kept chained to iron rings until they were burned at the stake in the 1500’s.  Our Helen would have been one of them.