The Willison Family Tree
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John Willison, the grandson of the Covenanter, or Auchen the Droll as he was more commonly known, was born about 1688 and earnt his nickname because of his humour and gift of repartee. It is thought that he was one of many in a line of Willisons over the years who had tenanted a farm on the Douglas estate, probably Andershaw, Auchendaff.
Stories are told of the Laird and Auchen - Archibald The First Duke of Douglas was recorded as being a close acquaintance of this lowly farmer.
 
One of the sources of this tale is Douglasdale: History and Traditions by Hutchinson and MacFeat (1940).
 
The book relates: "The Duke played little part in society and formed few friendships among people of his own rank. During the many years he spent at Douglas, his associates were in the main chosen from among the common people and he was frequently censured for seeking such low company.
 
One of his closest Douglas friends was John Willison, the tenant of the small farm of Auchendaff, a holding which then ranked as one of the poorest in the district. Willison was a man of no education and no pretentions to gentility, but a keen sense of humour and a gift of repartee earned him the name of 'Auchen the Droll.'
 
A typical story tells that once when Willison was leaving the castle Douglas Castle the Duke gave him a bottle of superior wine to take home with him to Auchendaff. The bottle was safely stowed away in a side pocket, but a few minutes later when the Duke looked out of the window he saw his visitor searching anxiously on the ground, apparently for some missing article. A servant sent out to make enquiries was told that he was only trying to find a large stone to put in the other pocket to balance himself on the back of the pony. Douglas, on learning this , was not slow to take the hint, and with the remark, "cunning Auchen, cunning Auchen", he supplied a second bottle to maintain the balance. 
 
There is some reason to believe that it was Auchen who attended on behalf of his master at the sale of Craignethan. Bidding by a known  representative of the Duke of Douglas would probably have considerable raised the offers, but the presence of this ill-dressed farmer excited no suspicion and it was only after the estate was disposed of to him, at a comparitively low figure, that the other bidders became unduly curious. On being asked by the auctioneer for his credentials, Auchen proudly presented a letter from the Duke's solicitors."