The Poll Tax of ’96

In 1696 the Scottish economy was in dire straights and it was thought a good idea to raise funds by imposing a tax. This was a Poll Tax, which was a tax on people, on existing. A bad idea at any time but useful three hundred years later for genealogists. The Aberdeen & North-East Scotland Family History Society have published booklets ( 2003/4 ) which reproduce the lists of poor souls in each Parish who had to pay the tax. At enormous expense ( £2.25p ) your webmeister has obtained copies for Leask research.

I have two booklets, One is “The People of Slains and Logie Buchan, 1696” and the other, “The People of Ellen, 1696”. The Ellon booklet only shows a Margrat Leisk of the “Paroch of Ellon”. Margrat is grouped with a “tennent” called James Gordon of Achredy. Her entry shows “Margrat Leisk, of fee £9 6s.8d.” Her tax was 10s. 8d. ( Ten shillings and eight pence ).

The Slains booklet is more interesting showing both individuals with the name Leask and Leask place names still in existance today. Probobly in complete breach of copyright I will reproduce any text that features the wonderful name.

At the very beginning of the list –


ANE List of the POLLABLE PERSONES within the PAROCHIN of Slains, given up be JOHN LEITH and WILLIAM HAY, Chamberlanes to the Earle of Erroll, two Commissioners appoynted for that effect, and be JOHN MIDLETOUNE, Notar Publict in Leask, Clerk and Collector, nominat be them for the said pariochin.

The Mill of Leask makes an appearance. A “Mr Robert Hay, tennent ther, and gentleman, his poll is £3, and the generall poll for himself, wife, and two children is £4. 4. 0”. There are also several servants of Robert Hay as well as a miller and his wife. No Leasks reside there.

Neather Leask. “George Wilken, tennent ther, his proportione of his masters, valuatione is 7s 4d, and the generall poll for himself , and his wife, and son, is £1 5 4”. Also mentioned are other subtennents.

KnapLeask. “Alexander Mathew, tennent ther, his proportione of the valued rent is 7s., and the generall poll for himself, wyfe, and son, is £1 5 0”.

Forvie. “Mr Alexander Leask of that ilk, his waluatione, in the said pariochin, is £500 0 0. The hundreth pairt wherof, payable be the tennents, is £5 0 0. The said Alexander Leask of that ilk, his waluatione being £500, is layable for the poll of £12, and the generall poll of 6s., both is 312 6 0. Item, Gilbert Leask, his son, his poll is £1 16 0. William Leask, his brother-german, his poll is £1 16 0. Alexander Leask, his brother-german, his poll is £1 16 0.”

So here guys is our beloved leader. he was worth a bit! He also seems to have a brother with the same name.

Another tennent mentioned after this was “George Lawrensone in Mayns of Leask, is 0 19s 0″. Another was Alexander Cordiner in Leask, is 0 5 0″.

Mayns of Leask. George Lawrensone, tennent ther, his proportione of the valued rent is 19s, and the generall poll for himself and wife is £1 11 0″. Also mentioned are sub tennents and servants.

InLaisk. ( Where is this? ) Alexander Cordiner, tennent ther, his proportione of the valued rent is 5s 6d, and the generall poll for himself and wife is 1£0 17 6”. Also servants and sub tennents.

It seems to me that although there were place names with the illustrious name Leask, there was only one family in the district. That was the clan leaders family. He was valued at £500 at the time which sounds like a lot of money. It was only two years later that he invested somebody elses money in the Darien scheme, went bust and then disappeared. I see from Madam Leasks history of the family that he borrowed the Darien money from a Robert Cumming of Birness. After the listing for KnapLeask is the Ward of Slains. The tennent there is a Alexander Cuming or Cummings.

I feel disappointed, even a little down. I was expecting a heroic scottish clan, something along the lines of an Errol Flynn film, “Captain Blood” you know.

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