In the days before television, if you were strong and evil minded, what did you do to pass the time? The favoured hobby for some among the 'cultivated' classes long ago seemed to be making an unlawful nuisance of themselves among their neighbours and even their own nearest and dearest, thieving and harassing and even murdering people if they wanted to. So much for breeding. Some of the landed gentry were as wide and reckless as the urban poor in places like Dundee, but fate gave them a larger arena to operate in.
For centuries the Lindsay family competed, on and off, with the Ogilvys for the dubious honour of being the most powerful families in Angus. Their family feud was not continuous, but simmered continuously and sometimes erupted in incidents of horrible violence. But the Lindsays of Angus were not averse to periods of apparently inexplicable internecine violence. They might be characterised as the original Wild Bunch, and if they were not fighting the Ogilvys they had to brawl among themselves.
The fifth Earl of Crawford, David Lindsay, who was also Lord of Brechin and Navar, capped all his inherited honours by being made first Duke of Montrose. But this title was stripped away from him because of his troublesome son, Alexander (styled Lord Lindsay), wo led a 'wild and ungovernable life', fighting with his father and broter. He seized a castle from his mother in the Wood of Dalbog, near Edzell, and used it as a base to terrorise the district. He also overran Lindsay lands in Ruthven and Meigle, stealing the rents. The earl appealed to Parliament against him, but this proved futile. On 16th September 1489, Lord Lindsay was smothered in his bed at Inverquiech Castle, near Alyth, by his wife and his brother John.
David Lindsay, the eighth earl, had his own lawless son, also named Alexander, who was nicknamed the Wicked Master. In 1526 Crawford asked for protection from his son at the High Court of Justiciary in Dundee and Alexander was bound over to keep the peace. In 1531 the Master was actually sentenced to death, but he was reprieved on condition that he and his descendants were forever excluded from the earldom. Alexander was compensated with the barony of Glenesk. The Wicked Master met his end in what must have been a tragi-comic incident in Dundee, In July 1542 he was 'stickit by a soutar [stabbed by a cobbler]...for taking a stoup of drink from him'. David Lindsay of Edzell Castle became the ninth earl.
The Wicked Master's son David was fostered by his aunt, wife of the fourth Lord Ogilvy of Airlie. Airlie seized Finavon in the boy's name, though he returned it under pain of treason. Young David Lindsay was eventually adopted as Crawford's heir on condition that he would reign his claims if he harmed the earl or stole his rents. In 1546 young David married Margaret, daughter of Cardinal Beaton and Marion Ogilvy. The Cardinal made him sign another bond, promising to leave Crawford in peace. His bad temperament was obviously inherited. This may have given rise to the story that Beaton tried to end the Ogilvy-Lindsay feud. When they refused to stop fighting, the cleric cursed both kindred, saying that henceforth every Ogilvy would be madder than his mother and every Lindsay poorer than his father. The curse did not prevent David Lindsay joining another Ogilvy attack on Finavon Castle, though in 1588 he succeeded as the tenth Earl of Crawford.
Another unfortunate Lindsay nobleman was the 17th century lord Spynie, whose residence was at Kinblethmont near Arbroath. The Lindsay-Ogilvy was flared up again in his time and his house was ransacked by the enemy, but he ultiately came to grief because of violence among his kin. Sir Walter Lindsay of Balgavies, a son of the ninth Earl of Crawford, was murdered by his cousin (and fellow Catholic intriguer) David, Master of Crawford. The laird of Edzell's son was soon after David's blood. On 5th June 1607, Spynie was walking in Edinburgh High Street after dinner when he witnessed a brawl between young Edzell and David's men. He tried to break it up, but he was stabbed and died a few days later. Edzell himself had dealt the blow. He fled to remote Auchmull, then to Invermark Castle, Glenesk, leading his father to face Lord Spynie's family. Lord Edzell and five servants had also been wounded in the fray. In 1616 the murderer paid the second Lord Spynie compensation of 8000 merks and the lands of Garlobank. A common man who committed the same crime in that age would have been hanged double quick.