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Kilsyth, A Parish History
Chapter VI


The First Laird Livingston—The Second Laird—The Third Laird —Flodden—The First Baronet—Darnley and Mary— Banishment—Restoration—A Juryman in the Morton Trial —Earl of Lennox Arrested—Kilsyth Befriends Him—Divorced —The Second Baronet—His Accomplishments—Fits out a Fleet—His Estates and Wealth—The First Viscount Kilsyth and Lord Campsie—Defends his Castle—Overpowered by Cromwell—Disgraceful Conduct of Cromwell’s Troops—The Castle Burnt—The Supplication of the People— Cromwell’s Act of Pardon—Cromwell and the Provost of Glasgow—Charles raises Sir James to the Peerage—The Second Lord Kilsyth—Changed Opinions—In Parliament —Resigns Commission—Resigns his Estates—His Vacillation and Character.

There have been four lairds, four baronets, and three viscounts in the Livingston line, proprietors of the Kilsyth estates.

The First Laird:—The noble house of Kilsyth was founded by William Livingston, the younger son of Sir John Livingston of Callendar, who fell before the prowess of Hotspur at Homildon Hill in 1402. He was established in Kilsyth by his father, who bestowed upon him the lands of Wester Kilsyth. Marrying Elizabeth, daughter of William de Caldcotis, a relation of his own within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity, he had to obtain a dispensation from the Pope before his nuptials could be consummated. Along with this lady he obtained the estate of Greden in Berwickshire.

The Second Laird:—William, the first proprietor, died in 1459, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, commonly called Edward Livingston of Balcastle. He married a daughter of Thomas, Lord Erskine, and died October, 1486.

The Third Laird:—Edward was succeeded by his

oldest son, William Livingston, who appears to have been a man of considerable mark. In cases of dispute his counsel was often sought after. He was slain in the memorable but disastrous battle of Flodden. The right wing of the Scottish army was under the charge of the Earls of Lennox and Argyll. It was under the former that William Livingston marched, and while fighting beneath his standard that he fell,

“The English shafts in volleys hail'd,
In headlong charge their horse assail’d ;
Front, flank, and rear, the squadrons sweep
To break the Scottish circle deep
That fought around their King.
But yet though thick the shafts as snow,
Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
Though billmen ply the ghastly blow,
Unbroken was the ring:

“The stubborn spearmen still made good
Their dark impenetrable wood,
Each stepping where his comrade stood
The instant that he fell.
No thought was there of dastard flight,
Linked in the serried phalanx tight
Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
As fearlessly and well:
Till utter darkness closed her wing
O’er their thin host and wounded King.”

The Fourth Laird:—Having married a daughter of the House of Montrose, the hero of Flodden was succeeded by his son, William Livings'ton, who having married a daughter of Sir Duncan Forrester of Garden, and dying in 1545, was succeeded by his grandson Sir William Livingston, first baronet of Kilsyth.

The First Baronet:—The first baronet occupied, if not a great, still a most respectable and prominent place amongst the men of his time. The baronetcy arose out of that dark affair, the connection of Darnley with Mary Queen of Scots. On the 15th May, 1565, the Queen having, at Stirling, created Darnley, who was soon to be her husband, Lord of Arraanach and Earl of Ross, to celebrate his accession to his new titles, the new lord was instrumental in getting fourteen gentlemen of his acquaintance knighted. Amongst the new creations was William Livingston of Kilsyth. It is interesting to notice, in the light of recent conflicts, that Sir William sat on the jury which raised John Erskine to the earldom of Mar. When Queen Mary was in captivity, the ministers of Elizabeth took the utmost precautions for the isolation of the Queen from her Scottish friends, who would very willingly have raised her again to the throne. Setting a close watch on all persons passing between England and Scotland, the bearer of a letter from Sir William Livingston was arrested. The contents of the letter were of a compromising character, and Walsingham, Elizabeth’s secretary, was greatly enraged, believing that his friend Sir William was acting towards him a double part. It is not clear that his attempt to establish communication with Mary was the cause, but, nevertheless, at this time Sir William was banished several years from Scotland* When he is next heard of, in 1574, he is pardoned by the Regent on account of “his great repentance,” and having repaid Walsingham a considerable loan which that minister had never expected to receive, he is once more in favour with the English authorities. On the 15th October, 1580, Sir William was appointed Gentleman of the Bedchamber to James the VI., and when in the following year, Morton, the late Regent, was tried for high treason on account of his supposed complicity in the murder of Darnley, Sir William Livingston was one of the jury of sixteen appointed from among the nobles and gentry of the land who brought in a verdict of guilty. The result of the finding was the execution of Morton.

After the Raid of Ruthven, the Earl of Lennox was arrested and sent to London. Sir William stood by his friend and neighbour in his adversity. He accompanied him to London, and, at an interview with Elizabeth, so softened the Queen’s heart that Lennox was allowed to depart peaceably to France. But for Kilsyth’s intervention there can be no doubt the most severe judgment would have been meted out. Sir William bore northward the letter to James, which said that it was for his sake Lennox had been treated “ otherwise than he deserved.” This was the last affair of importance in which Sir William was engaged. His wife, Lady Christian Graham of Menteith, whom he had infeft in the lands of Inchterff, divorced him towards the close of his life. The particulars of the charge do not appear. He died near the end of the century.

The Second Baronet:—The first baronet left one son, Sir William, and two daughters. Sir William Livingston Succeeded his father in the estates. He was a man of much learning, solid parts, and great aptitude for business. On the 2nd July 1601 he was admitted a Privy Councillor. As a minor baron he attended on five separate occasions, between 1599 and 1609, the meetings of the Estates, and in the course of the latter year he was appointed one of the Lords of Session. The people of the Western Isles having committed great depredations on the peaceable inhabitants of the mainland, the Baronet of Kilsyth, along with the “Captain of the West Seas,” was ordered to arm two ships of sixteen and twenty guns for the destruction of these petty marauders and buccaneers. He was not only a man of talent but also of large means. Besides the barony of Kilsyth, he acquired the estate of Herbertshire, near Denny, the lands of Kincaid and Birdston in Campsie; the superiority of the lands of Glorat in Campsie; and also the lands of Duntreath. This second baronet was the wealthiest of all the Livingstons of Kilsyth, and the most powerful and respected. The reader may well linger for a little over his name and possessions, for in a brief period, and in the tumult of revolution and Covenanting strife, his great estates were to be entirely wasted and his line terminated. He was twice married. First to Antonia de Bord> a French lady. Secondly, to Margaret, daughter of Sir John Houston of that Ilk. He died 1627. He was succeeded by his grandson, who was, however, only in possession six years. The third baronet left a son and three daughters. The son succeeded his father, but dying in his minority and unmarried, he was succeeded by his great uncle, Sir James Livingston, the son of the Lord of Session by his second marriage.

The First Lord Kilsyth:—A study of the life of Sir James Livingston, who became the first Lord Kilsyth, clears up various matters of interest, but regarding which prevalent views are hazy in the extreme. Sir James Livingston was served heir to the Kilsyth estates on the 23rd April, 1647. He immediately on entering into possession of his inheritance became a member of the War Committee for the Sheriffdom of Stirlingshire. Being a staunch Royalist, when Cromwell invaded Scotland he at once offered to defend his castle at Kilsyth against the English. King Charles II. gratefully accepted his offer and returned him his best thanks. In defending his castle, situated some distance beneath Allanfauld farm, he was by no means able to withstand the assault of the Protector’s Ironsides. Cromwell's troops first took the castle, then quartered themselves on the tenantry of the estate, and finally burnt the castle to the ground. The garrison tyrannised and plundered in every direction, and the parishioners were reduced to great extremities. The people having gathered into the castle for safety all their stores, clothes, linen, and valuables, when the building was fired the soldiers behaved in the most cruel and heartless manner. Having formed an armed circle round the castle, they refused to allow them to secure any portion of their effects from the flames. When the garrison departed, the parish was in the depths of penury and want. On the 6th June, 1651, “The Supplication of the Tennents of the Lands of Kilsyth ” (See Appendix I.) was placed before the King and remitted to the Committee of Estates, with an earnest recommendation that the prayers of the sufferers should be granted. The matter of the petition was prospering when the Scottish army, meeting with a severe defeat at Worcester, the claims of the Kilsyth people were lost sight of in the press of still graver concerns.

When Cromweirs “ Act of Pardon and Grace to the People of Scotland” was proclaimed at Edinburgh on the 1 st May, 1654, Sir James Livingston, on account of his Royalist proclivities, was expressly excepted from the operation of its clemency, and he was arrested and imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. While he lay in prison, his second mansion, in the garden of which the parish church is now built, was garrisoned by a party of Royal Highlanders. Fearing it might be used for a depot of the southern army, when they took their departure, rather than run the risk of letting it fall into Cromweirs power, they burned it with their own hands. No wonder Sir James felt bitterly when, in prison, the news came to him of this foolish action. He had the exceeding misfortune at this crisis of having his property wasted at the hands of both friend and foe alike. It has to be said in this connection that the original house at Colzium consisted of both a tower and fortalice, and was the modest residence attached to the eastern barony which extended from the Garrel to the boundaries of Denny. This tower-house shared the same fate as the other two mansions, and was burnt and wasted about the same time as the Allanfauld Castle. There is no clue to the date of the erection of these three mansions, and with the exception of a small part of the house of Colzium, there remain no traces of their existence.

On the 10th October, 1650, Oliver Cromwell addressed from Kilsyth a letter from Kilsyth Castle to the Provost of Glasgow, informing him that he would not harm the inhabitants of that town if they kept to their houses. After his release from prison Sir James enjoyed a few years of tranquillity, and after the restoration of Charles II. he sat in the Scottish Parliament as a representative of the shire of Stirling. The time was opportune, and in July, 1661, he brought before Parliament his claims for the losses sustained by him in the troubles of the time. These claims covered a period from 1645, when his lands were overrun by the followers of Montrose, to the burning of his mansion-house in 1654. In the petition the claims of the tenantry were also embodied. A committee of enquiry was appointed, and after the fullest investigation the damages were valued at over 200,000 pounds Scots. After the committee had given in their report, Charles II. by patent under his hand raised Sir James to the peerage under the style and titles of Viscount of Kilsyth and Lord Campsie. The patent is dated 17th August, 1661. The title was all the restitution ever made either to Lord Kilsyth or the people of the parish for the great losses sustained through the plunderings, quarterings, burnings, and rapacities of Cromwell. The honour would no doubt be appreciated by such a stern Royalist as the new lord, but it had come too late to be long a measure of gratification. Just three weeks after the patent was issued, and at the age of 46, he died in London. His wife was Euphemie, daughter of Sir David Cunningham of Robertland, and she bore him two sons and two daughters.

The Second Lord Kilsyth:—James Livingston, the second Viscount Kilsyth and Lord Campsie, was served heir to his father, by instruments dated the nth May, 1664, and 3rd May, 1665. In the life of the second viscount there is a great deal that is unaccountable. He either did not hold the Royalist traditions of his family, or held them slightly. It is probable his deepest sympathies were with the Covenanting party. Napier hints that he was insane. Certain facts of his career are greatly significant, and may be allowed to speak for themselves. Holding an officer’s commission in the Royalist army, he was still suspected of being far from favourable to the interests of King Charles II., and although his family had been in high favour, he never was employed on any public service either by Charles or James. In 1686 there came a crisis. He held a seat in the Scottish Parliament, but James being anxious to pass the “Act of Toleration,” gave orders to his ministers that they should see to it, that all who had seats in the House, and who were officers obnoxious to the Government, should be called upon to resume their official duties. Lord Kilsyth was one of those so called upon. In plain terms the command meant the resignation of his seat. His lordship took a firm step. Rather than resign his seat, he resigned his commission. The clouds were now darkening, and the storm was soon to break. In the troubles that ensued Lord Kilsyth took no part. He probably kept quiet, because he regarded the cause with which he was associated in heart, namely, the cause of the National and Covenanting party, as hopeless. That such was his belief may be gathered from the fact that in 1680 he resigned his lands and estates in favour of his younger brother William, a Royalist of the most pronounced type. All he reserved for himself was 4000 merks, to be paid annually, and the mansion-house of Colzium for his use during his lifetime. It was a fatal blunder. Instead of this action saving his land to the Livingstons, it was the very means which secured their complete confiscation after William had landed at Torbay, and the National party had fought their long and bitter fight to a victorious termination. That he had failed to discern the signs of the times was soon made clear to him. After his brother had been convicted of complicity in the plot to take over certain troops to the side of Claverhouse, he and the people of Kilsyth had to obtain from the Privy Council “a protection order,” to guard them against the oppression to which they were subjected by the soldiers of King William. It is very easy to fling at the memory of Lord Kilsyth bitter charges of facility and incapacity; it is easy to say he should have always acted in the brave spirit he showed when he flung down his commission, and that he should have given his sword as well as his heart to the Covenanters. It is easy to make these charges now, but it is not to be forgotten that it is not so easy to cut one’s self wholly adrift from the long and honourable traditions of a great family; not so easy in a time of envenomed conflict for a man who wishes to do the right to see clearly or act decisively. The second Viscount Kilsyth and Lord Campsie died a bachelor in 1706.


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