The Hornblawer

The Lost Clan of the Torwood

by James A. (Jim) Forrester

One of the most ancient and picturesque of the titular and occupational names of ancient Scotland is the name and title of "Forrester". By the reign of Robert II 1371-90), the family of Forrester of Torwood had been long established as the hereditary keeps of the Royal Forest at Torwood. Some believe that the title goes back to the ancient Druids, who held cerain forests in great religious significance, and appointed the most trusted subjects to the important post of protector of the forests. Therefore, the duties of the Forresters differed greatly from the foresters of today.

By the sixteenth century, the Forresters were stated to have held their office "beyond the memory of man". The earliest of the name on contemporarily existing records is a William Forrester, Esquire, who appears in the muster roll of the Peel of Linlithgow in 1311-12. However, the earliest authenticated progenitor of the Chiefly line of the Lords Forrester was Sir Adam Forrester. He was a wealthy and influential burgess in Edinburgh in the fourteenth century. He is recorded as "Sir Adam Forrester of Corstorphine" and is known to have served during the regencies of David II, Robert II, Robert III, and Murdoch Duke of Albany in important posts for the kingdom. He was Provost of Edinburgh 1373, 1378 and 1387. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Homildon Hill, but was speedily ransomed. In 1376, he founded a chapel at Corstorphine, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which still stands. This chapel has within its walls the effigy tomb of Sir Adam and his wife.

His eldest son, Sir John Forrester, served heir to his father on 6 November 1405. He took a leading part in public affairs, appearing in many journals as holding various offices, and performing duties for the king, including in 1423, part of the official delegation welcoming King James I on his return from captivity in England. Sir John's effigy tomb is also located at Corstorphine Church, where he is buried with his first wife, Lady Jean Sinclair, and his second wife, Marion Stewart of Dalwinston.

Sir John's eldest son, was also Sir John Forrester. Not much is known of Sir John the younger's career, except that he distinguished himself more in the field, than in the king's court. He took part in the struggle between the Douglases and Chancellor Chrichton and Sir Alexander Livingston. In 1443, he was with William Earl of Douglas when he destroyed Chrichton's castle of Barnton. In retaliation, Chrichton harried Forrester's lands. Sir John, the younger is buried in Corstorphine Church. This effigy tomb had its head destroyed by Cromwell's soldiers.

Sir John the younger's son and heir was Sir Alexander Forrester of Corstorphine. Sir Alexander (the first) was granted a charter in 1450, but little else is known of his career. He died before 20 September 1473 and is buried at Corstorphine Church. He was succeeded by his son, Archibald Forrester of Corstorphine. Archibald's son and heir was Alexander Forrester of Corstorphine.

Alexander's son was James Forrester of Corstorphine, whose son was Henry Forrester of Corstorphine who begat George Forrester, the first Lord Forrester of Corstorphine.

From the Chiefly line noted above came the successions of Lords Forrester of Corstorphine, and Chiefs of the Clan Forrester. the clansmen were involved in many historic events of Scotland, including the Battles of Pinkey and Homildon Hill and Bannockburn. They were involved in the murder of David Riccio, secretary and confidant of Mary Queen of Scots.

Several Castles in Scotland were built by Forresters, but most are in ruins and of those standing, none are in Forrester hands. The Clan supported the Loyalist cause, and were subsequently financially ruined by fines by Cromwell. This led to the emigration of any of the clan, and the name can now be found all over the world.

This loss of lands, and failure of subsequent Chiefs to produce male heirs, led to loss of memory of the clan. Years passed with the history of the clan forgotten until the 1960's, when Colin D.I.G. Forrester and his father undertook to lead a large group of the family in search of the true history of the family. The painstaking research culminated in 1985 with its official recognition of the Clan by the Lord Lyon as an old lowland clan, under the chiefship of the Lords Forrester of Corstorphine. The Clan Forrester is now officially recognized as a true clan, currrently without a recognized Chief. The Clan crest, as recognized by the Lord Lyon's office is from the arms of the Chief, showing a hound's head and the motto "Blaw Hunter, Blaw Thy Horn". Patron of the Clan is the Earl of Verulam, who is probably the heir to the title Lord Forrester of Corstorphine.

In the United States, the Clan is organized as Clan Forrester Society, Inc., chartered as a non-profit organization by the State of Georgia. Members reside all over the United States and Canada. The Clan Society is involved with protecting the customs and traditions of Scotland and the Forresters, and is sponsoring exhibits at Highland Games and clan gatherings to assure that Clan forrester will take its rightful place along with the better-known clans of Scotland. The Society also sponsored research and development of the Forrester tartan, displayed first at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games and Gathering of Scottish Clans in July 1987.

The Hornblawer