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   7 Generations

Reivers and merchants, kings messengers and opportunists.

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                Robert Trotter of Catchelraw was the son of Thomas Trotter of Catchelraw and Jean Hepburn. 

                     Robert Trotter 1518–1563      =          Elizabeth Sinclair 1505–1580



     JOHN TROTTER 1553-1641, 11TH great grandfather = Janet McMath 1555–1641

                John Trotter was the 1st Lord of Mortonhall. His Father was Thomas Trotter of Catchelraw.


Until the year 1635 when he became Laird of Morton Hall, he owned a tenement on the west side of a close at 107 High Street, Edinburgh. Before 1706 it was known as Trotters Close. It was later renamed Bailie Fyfes Close.  The gateway stands today with the Sinclair/Trotter coat of arms still above it. The Trotter family tomb is a few hundred yards away.   

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Mortonhall was given by Robert the Bruce to Henry Sinclair of Roslin in 1317. In November 1486 Sir Oliver Sinclair of Roslin’s ownership was recorded in a charter by James III granting Mortonhall to him as part of the Scots Barony of Pentland.


John Trotter  1st of Mortonhall was a merchant, and royalist. He had four younger sons and four daughters. As younger son John had been fortunately apprenticed in Edinburgh and, empowered by a successful merchant career, was able to acquire Mortonhall and its associated Scots barony from the king in 1635.


His family habitual  Stuart supporters and were fined for continued  support to the Stuart cause. 

John Trotter (1553 - 1641) 1st Lord of Mortonhall                            son of Elizabeth Sinclair        

James Trotter (1584 - 1659)                                                                son of John Trotter                

James Trotter (1622 - )       born Dunfermline                                     son of James Trotter  


William Trotter (1656 - 1692)                                                              son of James Trotter

James Trotter (1680 - )                                                                       son of William Trotter           

William Trotter (1703 - 1743)                                                             son of James Trotter

Janet Trotter (1738 - )                                                                        daughter of William Trotter



The Trotters of Catchelraw were one of the Foraging and Riding Clans of the East Marches; long involved in the fluid uncertainties of Border Reiver life on the Scottish East March. The chaotic world of the Border Reivers was brought to an effective end by the 1603 Union of the Crowns.

By the early 1620’s peace had arrived in the Borders, possibly for the first time ever.

At their worst the Reivers were bandits and cutthroats. At best they were kings messengers and keepers of the peace. They were men of their time living a legend which lasted 300 years. Some of the most notorious of the reiver families were legitimatised as the strongest and the most cunning attracting royal patronage, outliving their time by stealth of purpose.  The strongest and those quickest to change sides and loyalties made fortunes and grew into the new aristocracy. Kerr and Beccleuth did better-than-well out of the chaos of the pacification of the mid shires.


In 1583, recorded in the CALENDAR OF BORDER PAPERS, are the “Names on the Marches”. Separated into Scotland and England and into the Gentlemen and the Surnames the list is the definitive and prime list of the new society Border Reivers. Into the Scottish East March as “Gentlemen” was listed the Trotters. They prospered as  the lower aristocracy of the day and developed  skills as merchants , tradesmen and entrepreneurs. 

The Ruthvens, the King and the Gowrie Conspiracy; the Ruthven-Trotters

On 5 August 1600, King James VI of Scotland  was invited to  visit the Ruthvens Alexander and John at Gowrie House. The king had greatly benefited from extensive loans from the Ruthvens on many occasions but there was the idea that the King wanted rid of the Ruthvens and the debt or that the Ruthvens wanted to squeeze the king for payment. The resulting fiasco in a tower room  resulted in the king fleeing and accusing the Ruthvens of treason.


There was much cruel slaughter (John and Alexander were  in all or part, stabbed, hacked, left to die, hanged drawn and quartered)  whilst the 2 youngest Ruthven brothers according varying legends made off to England, William made it to Virginia (as Ruffin)  whilst Patrick spent 19 years in the Tower of London.  The Ruthven lands and titles were forfeit and the name of RUTHVEN was proscribed on pain of death. 


On marriage in  Berwick a young Ruthven married a Trotter and so the brides name Trotter was taken.  There was a period of Ruthven Trotters and others. After his release Patrick died in poverty in a cell in the King's Bench in 1652, being buried as "Lord Ruthven". His son, also named Patrick, presented a petition to Oliver Cromwell in 1656, in which, after reciting that the parliament of Scotland in 1641 had restored his father to the barony of Ruthven, he prayed that his "extreme poverty" might be relieved by the bounty of the Protector.

The Ruthven papers, contemporanious  diaries  found in the 20th century by the family, greatly dispute the story.












Sir James Ruthven Trotter 1584-1667

After fleeing from  the risk of execution and to avoid using a proscribed name Alexander Trotter on his marriage in Berwick to Lady Trotter took the family name of Trotter. 


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