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Andrew Seeton
Kenneth Robert Seton
Kenneth Seton of Barnes

A History of the Seeton Family of Nova Scotia

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There were four main areas in Scotland where the Seton family had established themselves: 

  • East Lothian (the principle home of the family),

  • Fifeshire (the senior cadets, the Parbroath branch, as well as the Cariston branch),

  • Aberdeenshire (the Meldrum line descended from Alexander Seton, 1st Lord Gordon), and,

  • Stirlingshire (the Touch line also descended from Sir Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Huntly), though from the Stirlingshire family there was a fifth region established later in Linlithgowshire (the Abercorn line).

The Setons, Ireland and the Barony of Barnes

Sir Alexander got from his royal uncle, King Robert Bruce, important grants of land for services rendered by his father, and also certain honorable and uncommon additions to his paternal coat of arms. A little later he received another grant — this time of the Barony of Barnes, including Easter and Wester Barnes in East Lothian for his own services, particularly in Ireland, whither he had accompanied the king's brother, Edward Bruce in his quest to claim that country's Crown.

The appeal of the Irish chieftains for deliverance from their
English conquerors, the Scottish expedition to Ireland, the crowning of Edward Bruce as King of Ireland in 1316, his victorious march at the head of a small army of Scotchmen, with very little  native assistance, from Carrickfergus to Limerick, his unsuccessful siege of Dublin, his retreat northward, and his final defeat and death with nearly all of his followers at the battle of Dundalk, on October 5, 1318, is one of the most chivalrous episodes, as it was one of the most ill-advised measures, in the history of Scotland.

Sir Alexander Seton was one of the thirty-nine nobles and
others who assembled in Parliament at the Abbey of Arbroath on April 6, 1320, and addressed that famous letter to Pope John XXII. at Avignon, which is one of the most spirited and patriotic documents in history. It induced the Holy See to recognize the independence of Scotland and the title of King Robert Bruce.

His descandant, Sir William Seton was the first created and made lord in the parliament, and he and his posterity to have a vote therein, and be called Lords.' In a manuscript of the British Museum, Sir William Seton is styled 'Wilhelmus primus Dns. Seton,' and several other documents confirm the title to him.

The 1st Lord Seton belonged to the third Order of Saint Francis, and dying in February, 1409, was buried in the Church of the Franciscan Friars in Haddington (the later burial place of the Seton's of Barnes), to whom he left by will six loads of
coal weekly, out of his coal-pit of Tranent, and forty shillings
annually to be charged to his estate of Barnes. His widow is
described as a virtuous and energetic woman, who got husbands for four of her daughters, and built a chantry on the south side of the parish church of Seton, prepared a tomb for herself there, and made provision for a priest to say mass perpetually for the repose
of her soul.

ARMS OF SETON OF BARNES, Heirs of the Earldom of Dunfermline and the Lordships of Urquhart and Fyvie, Baron's of Barnes and Hailes and the Priory of Pluscarden:

Quarterly: 1st and 4th Or, three crescents within a double tressure flory counter-flory Gules (Seton) 2nd and 3rd Argent, on a fess Gules three cinquefoils Argent (coat of augmentation for the title of Dunfermline and descent from the Hamilton's of Sanquhar)


The lands of Barnes were then to remain with the Seton family for the next four centuries, primarily with the head of the Household, The Lord Seton, and later passed to the 3rd son of the 7th Lord Seton, Sir John Seton, Lord Barnes, a diplomat in Spain who founded the branch of the Seton's of Barnes and who died in 1594.

For the third Lord Seton. George Seton and first of the name of George, Maitland wrote:

"This George was tane presoneir be the Phlemmenis, induellaris of Dunkirk, and was spulyeit of all his geir and subftance ; he being in his voyage to France. For the quhilk caus, to be revengit on the said Flemmyngis, he cost ane grit schip, callit the Aquila, and held lang tyme mony man of weir thairin vpon the sey ; and gat sindry revengis vpon the said Flemmyngis, and flew dyuerss of thame. The haldin of the said fchip and men of weir wes aa cofllie to him, that he wes compellit to wodset and annalie the barony of Barnis, the toun, mainis, and milne, of Wincheburgh, certane landis in Langnetherie, and certane in Tranent."

For the 5th Lord Seton, and third of the name of George:

This George lousit the landis of the Barnis, the Manis of Wincheburgh and the milne of the samin, and certane landis in Tranent, wodset be his fader. He compleitit, alfo, the jammay hous of Seytoun fra the first jaistis vp (quhilk was sundit and biggit vp tua hous hicht affoir be Lord Johne, his forgrandschir), and rasit the turngreifs thair-of, and reparit all the haul grit dungeoun. And als he theikit the queir of Seytoun with stane, and reparalit the famin wyth glafing win- dowis ; maid the daskis thairin and cyleringis aboue the altaris, and pauimentit the said queir ; and gave to it certane vestmentis, ane haill compleit stand of clayth of gold, and vtheris of vther silkis.

The lands of Barnes having passed from the 7th Lord Seton, fifth of the name of George, to his 3rd son, Sir john Seton who founded the Seton's of Barnes line.

Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington wrote in his 'History', that this Sir John Seton was a brave young man who after being sent to France and Rome for his education: "he went to Spain, to the court of King Phillip the Second, by whom he was made a Knight of the Order of St. James, or of St Iago (Jago), at that time, the order of knighthood in that kingdom of greatest esteem. In memory whereof, he and his heirs, has a sword in their coat of arms, being the Badge of that Order.

King Phillip also preferred him to be gentleman of his bedchamber, and Cavalier de la Boca (which is Master-Household): he also carried the golden key at his side, in a blue ribbing : all which, were the greatest honours King Phillip of Spain could give to any of his subjects, except to be made a Grandee of Spain. He had a pension granted to him and his heirs of two thousand crowns yearly: when I, the writer hereof, was at the King of Spain his court, I was certainly informed of the truth of all this.

The said Sir John, in the heights of his favour with King Phillip of Spain, was commanded home by King James the Sixth, unwilling to want so gallant a subject out of his court and service. At his return home, he preferred him to be Treasurer of his House; was in great favour with his Majesty.  (He was also created Lord Barns (1587 to 1594) of the Lords of Session in Parliament as an Ordinary Lord, in the place of his younger brother Alexander promoted.  He was likewise created Master of the Kings Household, like that of his father, and Master of the Kings Horse.

It was not doubted, if he had lived some time after the King's coming to the crown of England, he would have highly advanced him in honour and fortune; but he died before King James went from Scotland. He made an great building at the Barnes, vault height, before his death intending that building round a court.  He married the eldest daughter to the Lord Forbes, by whom he had two sons and one daughter. His second son dyed a young man. He himself dyed in the strength of his age, a young man; and was buried in the College Kirk of Seton. "

The Seton Crest
> On a ducal coronet, a Wyvern, vert, wings elevated and sprouting fire proper.

The Seeton's of Nova Scotia then, descend from the Seton's of Barnes, from Sir John Seton, 3rd son of George 7th Lord Seton.

The incomplete spanish-style castle on a ridge in the Garleton Hills of East Lothian, Barnes Castle lies a half-mile (1 km) southwest of Athelstaneford and 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Haddington. Sir John Seton of Barnes began constructing the castle in the late 16th century, but he died in 1594 with the walls barely reaching 5m (16 feet) and only the vaulted basement completed. Thus the castle is often referred to simply as 'The Vaults'. The walls are laid out in a highly formal symmetrical style, which was very advanced for its time, defining a square, intended to enclose a courtyard, with well-defined castellated corner towers. The low-lying ruin is still a prominent landmark and is now a dumping ground for disused farm equipment.

The extensive ruins, near the farm-house of Barny-mains, about two miles from Haddington,is a specimen of these fortified granges. This place was erected by Sir John Seton of Barnes.* The buildings are situated on a bold promontory, stretching from the high lands of Garleton ; and from the arched stone roofs of the under storey, are commonly called " the Vaults." These vaults surround a spacious square, where the beeves, and other beasts of pasture, belonging to the barony, might repose in security, free from the knife of the marauder, while the nut-brown ale lay un-rippled in the adjoining catacombs.

Barnes Castle, East Lothian
> rendering by Andrew Spratt

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