The Provost Alexander Strang in Forfar
Alexander Strang was the son of David Strang and his wife Grizell Cramond, and he was the brother of Robert and William Strang, who later became merchants in Sweden. Alexander got married to Helen Cramond and with her he had a son called Hercules and a daughter by the name of Grizell. His son Hercules did as his uncles had done before him and travelled to Sweden, became a merchant in Stockholm and later in Köping. Hercules married Anna Scrymgeor in Stockholm. There's many descendants to Hercules and Anna living in Sweden today. Alexanders daughter Grizell was married to a John Smith, and they in turn had a daughter named Janet Smith in 1647.
Alexander Strang and Helen Cramond lived in Forfar. The burgh Forfar had a provost, two bailies, a treasurer and fifteen councillors. Alexander himself was one of the bailies of the Forfar at first, but is also mentioned to have been a provost in the burgh as well. When he was a bailie, the other bailies name was George Wood and the provost was called James Piggot. Alexander Strang was also the commissioner of Forfar in the Scottish Parliament and it's especially for one of his actions there, that he's mentioned as a footnote in the history books during the English Civil War. Alexander is noted as a commissioner in The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland in the meetings in Edinburgh and in St Andrews during 1645.
In November 1646 the “Act anent the committees of war in the several shires” was addressed in the Parliament:
“The estates of parliament, now convened in the sixth session of the first triennial parliament, taking into consideration the necessity and expediency of appointing and continuing committees of war in the several shires of the kingdom for the furtherance of the public service, with the lists given in by the several commissioners of the shires respectively of the persons desired by them to be upon the committees of war of the said shires or to be added thereto, the said estates of parliament nominate and appoint the persons after-named to be upon the committees of war of the several shires respectively underwritten, both for burgh and land, and to be added to the former committees thereof respectively as follows, namely:”
Then it lists all the places and the names of their representatives:
”Item, for the sheriffdom of Angus or Forfar, the estates add to the former committee of war of this shire”, that ends with: “For Forfar, Alexander Strang; and appoint the quorum to be nine.”
The King of England and Scotland at the time was Charles I., under who's rule the English Civil War began. It had started in 1642 with the battle at Edgehill. The King had success in the beginning of the war, but in 1644 the Royal troups were defeated at Marston Moor and after that at Newbury. The negotiations in 1645 didn't result in anything and Charles I. tried to get help from abroad. Later the same year Cromwell won a decisive victory and the King had to run to Scotland. The English demanded that the Scots would hand the King over to them and that question was raised in the Scottish Parliament.
Forfar was a Royal burgh and as such became known for its loyalty to the King. In this region lived families like the Lindsays, Ogilvies, Lyons, Carnegies and Maules, who all were Jacobites. It was then, as already mentioned, that the burgh was represented by Alexander Strang and now he made his mark in history. He stood almost alone in Parliament and refused to be a part of handing the King over to the English, a stand that shows in Sir Henry Spottiswoodes "The Rebel States", which reads:
“Neither did all that Parliament agree
To this abhorred act of treacherie.
Witness that still to be renowned sutor,
Forfar’s commissioner, and the State’s tutor
In loyaltie; who being asked his vote,
Did with a tongue most resolutely denote
In loyal heart, in pithie words, tho’ few –
‘I disagree, as honest men should doo.’"
Alexander Strang wasn't a sutor as the poem states, but it still shows enough of him as an individual. He's supposed to have left the meeting after having made this statement. It didn't make much difference for the King though, who was handed over to the English and after a trial, beheaded on the 30th January 1649.
Alexander Strang was still commissioner of Forfar in 1648 at the meeting in Edinburgh and also later in 1651 at Stirling. The burgh wasn't forgotten for the stand it had taken in Parliament a few years earlier, and after finding an excuse, troops from Dundee went to Forfar under general Monck, who plundered and punished the town. Alexander Strang, probably lost quite a lot during these years.
His brother Robert Strang in Sweden had now decided to give a bell to the town of Forfar, but died before it was finished, in 1651. Their younger brother William made sure that the gift came to Forfar in 1657.
After Cromwells era had ended, the burgh got its priviliges back “in respect of whose faithfull testimony and dissent against the passing of the Act concerning his Majestie’s persone, and for diverse other good causes and considerations,”
Charles II ratified the ancient, and granted some new privileges, to the burgh, and it reads:
"Ratification in favour of the burgh of Forfar
Our sovereign lord, with advice and consent of his estates of parliament, has ratified and approved and, by this act, with advice and consent foresaid, ratifies and approves the charter made and granted by his majesty, under the great seal, of the date 9 May 1665, to and in favour of the provost, bailies, council and community of the burgh of Forfar, and their successors provosts and bailies thereof, whereby his majesty, considering that his ancient burgh of Forfar, with the lands, tenements, houses, biggings, yards, mills and others pertaining and belonging thereto, lying within the sheriffdom of Forfar, was erected of long time ago by his majesty's most royal progenitors, of glorious memory, in a free burgh royal, and that the old infeftments, confirmations, evidents and erection of the said burgh were taken furth of the charter chest of the same burgh, which was within the tolbooth thereof, by the usurpers who invaded and infested his majesty's ancient kingdom of Scotland, and were destroyed by them and their accomplices in the year 1651, out of their malice for the affection carried by the provost, bailies, council and community of the said burgh to his majesty and his interest, besides that the inhabitants of the same burgh were all plundered and brought to ruin by the foresaid usurpers; and his majesty, considering that the loss above-rehearsed was occasioned for his majesty's interest, and being willing that the said burgh should in no way be prejudiced thereby, but should be accounted and esteemed according to the ancient erection thereof, and that the provost, bailies and council of the same, and their successors from time to time perpetually, in all time coming, should bruik and enjoy the said burgh, with the whole lands, tenements, privileges, liberties, immunities and others pertaining and belonging thereto, and in respect of the faithful testimony and disassent given by Alexander Strang, late provost and commissioner for the said burgh, against the passing of the unjust act of the pretended parliament, 16 January 1647 entitled, declaration of the kingdom of Scotland concerning his majesty's person, and for diverse other good causes and considerations, did ratify, approve and confirm the old erection of the said burgh of Forfar in a free burgh royal, with all infeftments, confirmations and other rights made thereupon, and of all lands, liberties, privileges whereof the magistrates and inhabitants of the said burgh were in possession at any time bygone, notwithstanding the said infeftments and evidents thereof, and the said erection was lost and destroyed in manner above-written, and especially without prejudice of the generality foresaid, the disposition of the teinds, great and small of the whole lands lying within the territory of the said burgh and of all other lands, lying within the parish of Forfar, at the least of such lands lying therein as were not conveyed by the late James and Sir George Fletcher, together with the right of patronage of the said kirk of Forfar, made by the said late Sir George Fletcher in favour of the said provost, bailies, council and community of the said burgh and their successors, with all lands, infield, outfield, whole houses, tenements, yards, acres, mills, multures, muirs, lochs, woods, fishings, temple lands and other lands howsoever designed, lying within the burgh ruids of the said burgh and territory thereof, feu mail, feu duties thereof, annualrents due furth of the same payable at any time of before to the priors of Restenneth, abbacy of Coupar and Lord Torphichen, with all liberties, commodities, privileges, immunities, commonties, pasturages and others whatsoever belonging to the said burgh, and of the teinds, great and small, of the same lands, and others foresaid known to belong to the said burgh, and of the teinds of the other lands above-expressed lying within the said parish, together with the temple lands, feu mails, feu duties and annualrents due furth of all lands, tenements and others, lying within the territory of the said burgh, together with the yearly feu duty of 10 merks yearly, payable of old to the prior of Restenneth, furth of the acres and croft of land now pertaining to the poor there, together with the weekly market and yearly fairs contained in the said charter, together also with the office of justiciary and power to repledge, gift of novodamus and dispensation for taking sasine and sasine following thereupon, together also with all other charters, confirmations, infeftments, sasines, writs, evidents and securities whatsoever made and granted in favour of the said burgh of Forfar, provost, bailies, council and community thereof, and their predecessors at any time heretofore, in the whole heads, clauses, articles, provisions and conditions thereof. And his majesty, with advice and consent foresaid, wills and declares that this present ratification shall be as valid, effectual and sufficient to the provost, bailies, council and community of the said burgh of Forfar and their successors, as if the above-mentioned charter was herein expressly inserted and engrossed, with the not inserting whereof, his majesty, with advice and consent foresaid, has dispensed and, by this act, dispenses for ever."
When Alexander Strang died isn't clear, but as the old documents shows, he clearly was a man not afraid to stand up for what he believed to be true.