Douglas of Brushwood Haugh

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Nothing more is known about the Douglas family of Brushwood Haugh than is contained in the story of how the Drysdales got their name.

Drysdale Brothers' Uprising: Defiance and Exile in 1503

The year 1503 witnessed a clash between the Douglas brothers and a powerful neighbour, John Johnstone of Greenstonhill, in Drysdale, Scotland. The incident, documented on May 20th of that year, sheds light on land disputes, the influence of the crown, and the lengths to which families would go to defend their property rights.

The conflict stemmed from Johnstone's desire to divert water from a source running through the Douglas brothers' land to power his mill. The brothers, identified as Thomas, William, and James, 'sons of the sons of the departed Thomas Douglas, of Brushwood Haugh, in the parish of Drysdale, and Shire of Dumfries', vehemently opposed this move, viewing it as an infringement on their inheritance.

On May 16th, tensions escalated as Johnstone, seemingly emboldened by royal approval, commenced construction on the watercourse. The Douglas brothers, unwilling to accept this violation, resorted to force to halt the project. This act of defiance marked the start of a violent turn of events.

The following day, Johnstone returned with a larger contingent of twenty men. The outnumbered Douglas brothers, accompanied by a small group of loyal companions, stood their ground. A fierce battle ensued, resulting in the deaths of fourteen of Johnstone's men and Johnston himself.

News of the bloody confrontation swiftly reached the King. The Douglas brothers' actions, while fueled by a desire to protect their birthright, were deemed unlawful. Facing the wrath of the crown and the threat of capture, they were forced to abandon their ancestral home.

This event holds significance for understanding the power dynamics of the era. It highlights the influence landowners like Johnstone could wield when backed by the King. Additionally, it showcases the fierce determination with which families like the Douglases defended their property, even resorting to violence.

The brothers' flight from Drysdale marked a turning point in their lives. They are believed to have adopted the surname "Drysdale," a permanent reminder of their homeland and the events that forced them into exile. The Drysdale name serves as a historical echo of this conflict, a testament to the unwavering spirit of the brothers who stood their ground against injustice.

Extract from the Dollar Magazine, March 1909, Volume VIII Number 2; article entitled the Drysdales of Dollar and their Dumfrieshire origin, by R Paul.

Page 22: ''' from a courteous correspondent in that town I have received information which makes it tolerably certain that the sites of Brushwood Haugh and Greenstone Hill were somewhere on the banks of the Dryfe in the homeland in the northern part of the parish. This information was communicated by a Mr Kerr, a native of locality and an official of the Caledonian Railway Company now resident in Carstairs, whose opinion is that there were at or near a spot called old walls in the Dryfe valley. This place is still a farm about two and a quarter miles north of Lockerbie and a mile above Lockerbie House which before 1881 had long been the home of the family of Johnstones and later of the Johnstone-Douglasses of Lockerbie. Old Walls lies on the east side of the river Dryfe, and about a mile further up on the other side is Lammonbie Mill.  Mr Kerrs great great great grandfather was a tenant of  Lammonbie Farm and his great grandfather was a tenant of the farm of Lockerbie Hill. His grandfather, who was born in 1777, was for fifty years Baron Officer(2) there to Mister Johnson-Douglas of Lockerbie, and Mr Kerr says that he had frequently heard the story of the Drysdales from his grandfather who always affirmed that the seed of the dispute was in the vicinity of what is now Lammonbie Mill and that the place is named or at least one of them was situated near Old Walls. This is the more probable as the lower end of the drift water has long been the home of the Johnsones and the locus is one of the few places in the parish suitable for a mil.

It has not been possible to find out whether Lamonbie Mill was the actual mill of the 1503 Douglas Drysdale brothers' story or even whether this mill was in existence some 500 years ago.

See also:

•  The Drysdales of Dollar, by Rev. Robert Paul
 Drysdales - a Douglas Sept

1.  Brushwood Haugh is a small semi-rural suburb of Johannesburg, in South Africa.  Maps of Johannesburg in the 1970s show that all its streets bore Scottish names, including Montrose, Drysdale, Bruce and Douglas. On modern maps, Bruce Road seems to have disappeared.
2. Neither this person, nor the role of Baron Officer to the Johnstone-Douglases has been identified.



Sources for this article include:
  • The Drysdales of Dollar, by Rev. Robert Paul
  • Dollar Magazine, March 1909, Volume VIII Number 2

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