History of the Oliver Beatties
BEAT'A': the History of the Oliver Beatties of
High Street Linlithgow, West Lothian Scotland.

By J. Gordon Beattie. York: Ryedale Printing, 1991.
Call # ARZ (Beattie) 95-7522 at the New York Public Library - History & Genealogy Division, 5th Avenue and 42nd Street,
New York, New York.
Submitted by Ray Beaty, October 28, 1998
Border Map
Click here for enlarged section showing the Beattie clan.

In addition to a detailed study of the descendants of Thomas Beattie (1770- 1838) who lived on High Street in Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland, Rev. Beattie's work includes a substantial amount of information on the general history of the Beattie family.

He states that "BEAT'A'" ,the title of his book, is derived from the family tradition that this was shouted by the Beatties as they went into their reiving forays. Rev. Beattie says this translates as "let's beat everyone in our path" but may have been used simply a clan cry referring to the family name.

With some good documentation and reasoning he debunks the following that we have seen in other sources:

  1. Linking the Beattie name with the MacBeth clan. He points out that this assertion is given in Scottish books on Tartans which are produced primarily for tourists. Also, some modern peddlers sell a "Beattie" tartan (McBeth plaid) which has its origins more in financial gain than in any historical reality.
  2. Liking the Beatties with Highland Scots. Rev. Beattie points out the Beatties were Lowland or Border Scots...not Highland Scots.

Rev. Beattie presents documentation and reasoning for the following assertions and facts.

  1. The existence of Beatties in areas of Scotland outside of the Border area is due to the occasional dispersal of reiver families from that area. He discusses the major dispersals in 1537 and 1598.
  2. "Beattie" is derived from a version of "Bate" which in turn comes from Bartholomew.
  3. Ancestors of the Border Beatties were Saxon refugees of the Norman Conquest, escaping from London or Northumberland in the eleventh century. In 1070, Princess Margaret (of the English House of Alfred) and her Saxon followers fled England from the onslaught of the Norman Conquest. Their ships were driven north to Scotland and into the Firth of Forth where she was taken to the court of the king of Scotland, Malcolm III, who was living in his new palace in Dunfermline. Margaret married Malcolm and her followers settled in the Dumfriesshire area.
  4. Rev. Beattie also points out that some historians consider Arkil of Northumberland, who moved across the border in 1066 to escape the Norman conquest, to be the founder of the sons of Bartholomew, Bates, Batesons, Battisouns, and Beatties of the Dumfriesshire area. Rev. Beattie points out that whether the Margaret theory or Arkil theory or some combination of the two is accurate...all point toward a Saxon origin of Beattie.
  5. He lists Baetie, Baitie, Baittie, Baitty, Batye, Baytie, Beatie, Beaty, Beatty, Betay, Betie, Bette, Bettie, Bety, and Betty as documented variations of Beattie.
  6. He provides some good detail on the town of Langholm in Dumfriesshire where "the Beattie are of the Borders is centred..." Being seventeen miles north of Hadrian's Wall and only eight miles from the present day England - Scotland border it has seen a great deal of varied history.
  7. Unlike some Reiver families, Rev. Beattie points out that the Beatties have always been on the Scottish side of the border and that Northumberland English has been predominant on both sides of the border.
  8. Rev. Beattie discusses some dates in border history significant to Beatties:
    1. 1455 - The Beatties aid Red Douglas in the overthrow of Black Douglas at the battle of Arkinhom, 1 May 1455. As a reward King James II (1437-1460) made several grants of land to the Beatties for their services to the Crown. This firmly established the family around Langholm and the Eskdale area.
    2. 1504 - Adam Batie was hanged by the criminal court at Dumfries for being part of the "king's rebels...of Eskdale.."
    3. 1537 - the year of the greatest dispersal of Beatties from Langholm with migrations to the north of Scotland, to Ireland and to Galloway. Some evidently remained in the area also. See story at the end of this list.
    4. 1544 - Beatties and other Border clans came under the English. 116 Beatties were noted under the leadership of a Sander Beattie.
    5. 1547-48 - Under English leadership -the Lennoxes, Armstrongs, Beatties, and Littles sacked and burned the town of Annan.
    6. 1585 - The Maxwells, Armstrongs, Scots, Beatties and Littles attacked the Johnstone castle of Lockwood.
    7. 1598 - more Beatties were despersed and the clan was effectively broken up. Rev. Beattie claims some went to Northumberland in England from where they had migrated five hundred years earlier.
    8. 1618 - the list of "last of the Border blackguards" included the family name of Beattie.

    1537 story - Rev. Beattie relates in detail the series of events resulting from King James V (1513-1542) stripping the Beatties of Eskdale of their lands and giving the lands to Robert Lord Maxwell. Seems that when Maxwell summoned the Beatties to acknowledge him as their feudal superior, the Beatties declared the royal grant was unjust. As the Beatties were mustering against him Ronald Beattie, the chief, gave Maxwell a fast, white mare to flee on. Maxwell shortly sold the lands to Scott, Warden of the Middle Marches. Scott and his men seized the Beattie possessions and divided up the 40-50 Beattie estates. Maxwell, however, appealed to Scott to reward Ronald Beattie for saving Maxwell's life. As a result, Beattie was given the perpetual tenant-right of Watcarrick, one mile south of Eskdalemuir. Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) states that the Beattie descendants continued to occupy Watcarrick into the 19th century.

  9. Analyzing the 1988 telephone directories, Rev. Beattie states that in 1988 there were 2,213 Beattie households in Scotland and 478 in England. He limits this to an accounting only of the "Beattie" spelling, although earlier he lists the other spellings above as variations on the same family. Likewise, some statistics from Ireland are gathered in the same limiting manner.
  10. Rev. Beattie also argues that the Reiver families have been given some what of a bad rap. He claims and points to historical evidence that they typically did not kill....just plundered, burnt, stole and carried off young women! So the arsonists, abductors, and theives are acquitted of murder!
  11. One informative point for researchers made by Rev. Beattie is that due to the centuries of reiving/raiding in the Border area early church records do not exist. The Armstrongs by themselves supposedly burned over 100 churches.

Although the book is of special significance to our Beattie descendants in and from Scotland, the work is a definite contribution to our family history in general. I highly recommend it to one and all.

Related Web References:
http://www.reivers.com/ - "Official" Reivers site.

http://ppp.jax-inter.net/users/rutledge/reivers.htm - more Reiver links

http://www.borderart.com/ - antique style maps of Scotland and Ireland, including The Reiver Families of the Borders

http://www.northumberland.gov.uk/VG/rvintro.html   - The Border Reivers - an Introduction

http://www.legends.dm.net/ballads/borders.html - Literature, Folkore, Fiction related to the reavers

http://wsrv.clas.virginia.edu/~ejs5a/albion3.html   - Albion's Seed Grows in the Cumberland Gap (discussion of the Reivers influence on culture in the new world.)

http://wings.buffalo.edu/anthropology/JWA/V1N4/reivers-art.txt - so that's where "blackmail" comes from!

Last update: June 29, 1999