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Letters & Remembrances: The Forret Name in Fifeshire
The following letter was submitted by John Forret of Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland. It was sent to his father, Andrew "Drew" Forret, more than ten years ago and was written by Andrew's cousin, Andrew(6) "Drew" Forret of South Africa.
Dear Drew and Greta,
When we were with you in May, you mentioned that you were curious about the history of the Forrets. I said that I had gathered some information and would pass it on, and I have not forgotten.
My research has not found the actual origin of the family, but it is reasonably certain that when the Scottish King, starting with Macbeth in about 1050, introduced Norman Knights into their Armies--and also had to import larger and stronger horses to carry the heavy armour and equipment-- one such by the name of de Foret was among the men.
According to some authorities, the surname Forret found in Fifeshire originated from the lands of Forret in the parish of Logie where the family had been settled by William the Lyon (1165-1214). In 1248, Symon de Foret was one of the witnesses to a quit claim by John Gallard de Kieth and in 1466 John Forate de codem was mentioned as one of an assize for clearing the marches of the lands Gaytmilk belonging to the Abbey of Dunfermline.
Elias Forrat was the appraiser of the land of Haugh of Petconnoquhy, Fife, in 1505 and Thomas Forrat was registered as the tenant of the land Barrowfield in 1520.
The Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen (1880), by Joseph Irving, states that Thomas Forret of the Fifeshire house of Forret, Vicar of Dollar, was one of the early martyrs for the reformed doctrines. Educated on the continent and admitted a canon regular in the Monastery of St Colm's Inch, he changed his religious opinions after reading St Augustine, was then admitted Vicar of Dollar and preached the reformed principles to the common people. He was burnt at the stake with four others, Keiler and Beveridge and two friars, Simon, a secular priest, and Forrester, a gentleman of respectability, on Castle Hill Edinburgh, 28th February 1538. The father of the martyr was stated to be Stabler to King James IV (1488-1513).
One James Forret was listed as a portioner of Polduff and John Forret served on an inquest at Perth, while Andrew Forret was a Cuttelar in St Andrews in 1593.
John Forret of Fingask was one of those who took part in the Fife Expedition to Lewis in 1598. In 1606, David Forret had a confirmation charter to part of the lands of Drumeldrie, while in 1694, James Forret was retoured heir of the same David Forret. In the seventeenth century, the lands of Forret passed into the hands of Sir David Balfour, of the Demmlyne family who was admitted as advocate in 1650, and on being appointed Lord of the Session in 1674, took the title Lord Forret. He was also Commissioner for the Fife County in 1685, Lord of the Articles, Commissioner of the Plantation of Kirks and died soon after the Revolution in 1690.
The authentic line to which our family has been officially traced starts from David Forret of Pittormie, who was born about 1750 and was known to have married Margeret Kinnear. Although no other date could be substantiated, the old parochial records of Dairsie give the baptism of their children as David 13-8-1769, Andrew 30-8-1772, Jean 24-5-1775 and Agnes 23-3-1779.
Taking the foregoing as Andrew (1), we find that he married Agnes Wilson on 21-6-1803 and their children were:
Andrew(2) married Margaret Norman at Creich on 6-4-1839 and died on 26-3-1919 at Elie. the writer, Andrew(6), was taken to visit him in 1918 with Andrew(4) and Andrew(5).
The children from this marriage were:
Andrew(3) married Margaret Mitchell on 6-4-1861 at St Andrews, and their children were:
Andrew(4), our Grandfather, married Margaret Nicol at Kinghorn on 2-3-1888, and their children were:
Andrew(5) married Ann S. Whitton at Glasgow on 16-6-1914, and their children were:
Andrew(6) married Issabella G. Davidson at Kirkaldy on 27-9-1941, and their child was:
Andrew (7) Married Valentine Jackson at Johanesburg on 24-2-1973, and their child, Andrew(8) Craig, was born on 5-11-1973.
It is interesting to note that all the people listed were farm workers until the Andrew(4) period. This accounts for the many changes of address. Our grandfather started on the farm, but had difficulties with his mother who was very much the boss; he left home and sailed to England where he was on a farm in the South for a period but did not like it. On his return, the railways were pushing ahead and he was a signalman at Kinghorn. Moving around as a signalman, he was in Dollar, Cowdenbeath and Kirkaldy, but on coming to Thornton, found that the Engine shed work paid better and changed, but it did not stick. When he had OrrBank built (Note fron John Forret: Orrbank was small cottage on the bank of the River Orr in Thornton - This remained in the Forret family until 1983 when my Great Aunt Agnes died and the cottage was sold) water-borne sewage treatment had come to Thornton and he ran the treatment works until he found that the coalmines paid more. At Balgonie pit, he had his leg broken twice, but carried on with the mines, finishing off as pithead overman at Earlseat mine until it closed after the 1926 strike.
Not to be out of a job, he took to tree felling with his brother James on contract work for a short time, before coming back to hutch mending at another Wemyss colliery, finally retiring to Coaltown of Balgonie about 1929/30.
As you will appreciate, this exercise was mainly done on the Andrews, so you can rewrite your own side if required, and if you feel the urge, but I hope you found some interest in the Forret family as I did in trying to trace it.
Well, we are just getting over winter here , That means some dull rainy weather, but seldom bad enough to wear a coat while you are into Autumn with winter around the corner, so we wish you and yours good health and happiness from all the family here.
With our kindest regards,
Last Modified: 22-December-2001
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