The Pennecuiks of Newhall and Romanno
A 17th- and 18th-century intermezzo





Other sources

  1. 'Pennycook History Booklet', information on many Pennycook ancestors, compiled by Colin Pennycook of Glasgow

Family tree

Family tree of the Pennecuiks of Newhall and Romanno


Other information

Romanno House in about 1720

Plate 90 on page 479 of Chambers' History of Peeblesshire (missing from the edition!)

The Creichtoune family

This large and complex family, whose roots go back to the 12th century, links the Pennecuiks of Newhall with the Penycukes of that Ilk, and with the early Pennycuicks of Perthshire

The Creichtounes and the Penycukes were cousins, and there are various marriage links between the families. Newhall, originally a monastery, was acquired by the Creichtoune family in about 1400, and sold to Alexander Pennecuik in 1646.1

How the Creichtounes link the two branches of the Pennycuick family is a complex subject,i and will at some stage appear separately, in an Appendix.



Newhall estate

Illustration from the 1808 edition of The gentle shepherd, a play ('pastoral comedy') by Allan Ramsay, first published in 1725

Although it is amusing to speculate about a direct link between the Penycukes of that Ilk of Rikillis and Newbiggin and the Pennycuicks of Soilzarie in Perthshire, it may never be firmly established. Between the two family groups, but not provably linked to either, is an interesting knot of Pennycuickdom, namely the family who lived in Newhall and Romanno in Tweeddale. (See the map of Midlothian for the locations of various places mentioned here.)

Dr. Alexander Pennecuik of Newhall

Alexander Pennecuik of Newhall was born in about 1600, probably in the area around Penicuik in the present-day county of Midlothian. According to the Annals of Penicuik1 he was a "lineal descendant and representative of the Penycukes of that Ilk": he would have been roughly one generation younger than the Alexander Penycuke who sold the family estate in 1604 and was 'banished' in 1612, but the precise descendancy is not made clear. See the page on the Penycukes of that Ilk for details.

Dr. Pennecuik became an army surgeon, serving in the Swedish army in the 30 Years War (1618-1648) under Gen. Johan Banér (1596-1641) and Field Marshal Alexander Leslie.2,i Quite what Scots were doing in a war in which neither Scotland or England participated is described in a Wikipedia article.3 He later served as surgeon-general in the Scottish army at the English Civil War in 1644. One source has it that he "went into exile during the Commonwealth [1641-1660]".4 On retiring from these exertions, in 1646 he bought the Newhall estate, five miles south-west of Penicuik, from the Creichtoune family, cousins of the Penycukes.1 (See side note for information about this important family.) He continued to serve as an army surgeon, in the Tweeddale Horse troop, rounding up Covenanters under the command of Claverhouse in the 1670s and 1680s.1

He almost certainly married Janet (Jonet) Leslie. (One source5 gives Janet Leslie as his first wife, but then states that his second wife was Margaret Murray, who was in fact his daughter-in-law - see below.) The parish registers list ten children born between 1644 and 1665, but the Annals of Penicuik mention only four sons: Robert, Stephen, Alexander and James.1 A register of deeds from 1672 mentions a daughter Anna, who married Alexander Campbell in 1672.6 But a degree of uncertainty hangs over Alexander's descendants: Robert for example is not given in the parish registers. See the Family Tree (left) for details.

Alexander died in about 1690. One source says he died in 1692 at over 90 years old.7 The register of Greyfriars Burial Ground in Edinburgh gives his death as 1690.8 Chambers' History of Peeblesshire has him buried in the family aisle in Newlands parish church, south-east of Newhall.9,10

Dr. Alexander Pennecuik of Romanno

The most notable son of Dr. Pennecuik of Newhall was Alexander, who also became a doctor. Born in Newhall in 1652, he inherited the estate in 1709 following the deaths of his elder brothers Stephen, James and then Robert in 1700.1,4 (According to the parish registers however, he was the eldest son, born in 1646.) He married Margaret Murray (daughter of either William or Gideon9), heiress of the Romanno estate in Peeblesshire, and they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. (Alexander apparently liked to think that the name Romanno was Italian,2 but in fact it comes from Rumannoch, meaning 'monks rath'.)

The Worthies


The Worthies, at Leith Tavern

Painting by William Aikman, at Newhall House

Alexander was a prominent figure in the cultural and literary life of the district. As well as a country physician, he was a poet and author: he wrote A description of Tweeddale, published in 1715,2 and belonged to a circle of literati and virtuosi called 'The Worthies', which included Sir John Clerk of Penicuik (the 2nd Baronet), the poet Allan Ramsay, painter William Aikman, and various of the Forbes family.12 These gentlemen met at Newhall, at Penicuik House, and also at the Leith Tavern in Edinburgh (see portrait).

But by this stage (first quarter of the 18th C.) Newhall no longer belonged to the Pennecuiks: the estate his father had built up was given as a dowry on the marriage in 1702 of Alexander's daughter Elizabeth to Mr. James Oliphant of Lanton, a lawyer, who soon got into debt and sold it the following year to the Forbes family. Alexander moved to Romanno, the estate of his wife's family, and became known as Alexander Pennecuik of Romanno; he died there in 1722 and is buried in the churchyard at Newlands.10 The Romanno estate passed to his younger daughter Margaret, who married John Farquharson of Kirktown, Boyne, Aberdeenshire.2 The house (see engraving left) was sold to the Kennedy family (George and his son Adam) in 1720,9 and replaced by the present buildings on the site in the 1930s.13

Back at Newhall, in 1703 Sir David Forbes and his son John replaced the house they had just acquired with a new building on the same site - Forbes House, the core of the present estate. The 2nd Baronet of the Clerk family (Sir John) supervised the interior decoration. As Sir David Forbes was married to Catherine Clerk, sister of the 1st Baronet (also Sir John), Forbes House is said to have been "built by the 1st Baronet and designed by the 2nd".14 The above illustration of the new house is from The gentle shepherd by Allan Ramsay.15 Alexander Pennecuik, although now at Romanno, was a frequent guest at the estate previously owned by him and his father.

[The Alexander Pennecuiks of Newhall and Romanno are often confused. A.P. of Romanno is often referred to as 'of Newhall', for example in his own book.9 A.P. of Romanno's nephew Alexander (see below) is here referred to as 'of Edinburgh'.]

Robert Pennecuik

Captain Robert Pennecuik, according to one source1 the eldest son of the nonagenarian doctor, but more probably the sixth,i was also a surgeon in the English navy, and commodore of the St Andrew when it sailed in 1698 to the ill-fated Darien colony.16 This was an attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to establish a trading colony on the Isthmus of Panama, on the Gulf of Darien, in the 1690s. The scheme was poorly planned, managed and executed, and eventually foundered in 1700 following a siege by the Spanish. Considerable resources had been tied up in this scheme, and its failure had serious financial consequences for Scotland - Wikipedia has it that the financially weakened nation was less able to resist Union with England in 1707. Robert Pennecuik's role in the scheme does not cover the family in glory: he had a reputation for wild, irrational behaviour, and was a poor captain.1,17,i He died abroad in about 1707. There was even a play with songs written about the escapade: Caledonia.18

James and Alexander Pennecuik (of Edinburgh)

A younger brother of Dr. Pennecuik of Romanno, James, born in 1653, was a lawyer in Edinburgh. He married Margaret Deans and they had five children (the birth certificate of the daughter Margaret very helpfully names her grandfather!). Little is known about most of this family; James probably died in 1691 (a will of that year is from a 'James Pennecwik, writer in Edinburgh').19

The fourth child of James was yet another Alexander Pennecuik, born in 1684. He is described variously as a merchant, a "gent", but also as "thriftless, drunken and down-at-heel",20 leading a "dissipated" life, spending all his money, and writing verses of a satirical nature.i He wrote the Historical account of the Blue Blanket, a prose account of the crafts of Edinburgh. Although referred to as a rival to Allan Ramsay,20 it seems his poems were of little lasting value. He died in 1730, and is buried in Greyfriars burial ground, but there are no details of any descendants.7