“RETTIE: Of local origin from the old lands Reattie or Raittie in the parish of Innerboyndie, Banffshire.”
Source: “The Surnames of Scotland – Their Origin, Meaning & History” by G.F. Black, New York Public Library 1946.
The excellent Maps of Scotland facility from the National Library of Scotland shows various place names throughout the years such as Little Rettie, Muckle (Big) Rettie, Moor of Rettie, Mill of Rettie, Rettie Cottage and Rettie Farm. Rettie Cottage, Banff, Aberdeenshire AB45 2AA is still viewable today via Google Maps.
In Britain, hereditary surnames were adopted in the 13th and 14th centuries. This means the surname Rettie dates from medieval times. Willmus Rettie is an example of this.
The question is: why was the land named Rettie?
About 10 years ago, we were on holiday driving to Holland from France and we passed the Belgian town of Retie. This put the idea in my head that maybe some Flemish knight from Retie in the service of William The Bastard was eventually rewarded with land in Scotland (similar to Walter the Steward).
Alternatively, is the name of Gaelic origin? “Reithe” is “ram” in Gaelic which may (or may not!) be pronounced like Rettie. However, the farmland of Rettie seems more suited to wheat farming rather than sheep farming. The “Hairst O’ Rettie” bothy ballad seems to vindicate this (also Mill of Rettie).
So, for the time being, I like to think the Flemish connection is more viable…