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Kilsyth, A Parish History
Chapter XIV


The Kilsyth Estates—The York Buildings Company—The Edmonstone Achievement—The Edmonstone Family—Princess Isobel — Royal Descent — Cadency—Princess Mary — First Three Edmonstones—The Fourth Sir William—Connection with Sir William Wallace—The Fifth Sir William—Murder of Sir James Stewart —Sir James Edmonstone — The Gowrie Conspiracy—Apprehended by Arran—A Deep Plot— Popular Fury—Settles in Ireland—Duntreath Redeemed—The Ninth Laird—His Brief but Brilliant Career—Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the Eleventh Laird—Buys Kilsyth—M.P. for Dumbartonshire—Sir Charles, Second Baronet—Sir Archibald, Third Baronet—Contests Stirlingshire—Sir William, Fourth Baronet—A Brush with Pirates—Visits Lord Byron—Captain Wild—Sir Archibald, the Fifth Baronet.

The Kilsyth estates were held by the Livingston family for a period of over 300 years. William Livingston, the first proprietor of that name, died in 1459; and as his father fell at the battle of Homildon Hill in 1402, he must have entered on the possession of the Kilsyth property some time before that event, because it was to his father he owed his establishment in Monyabroch parish. After the Rebellion of 1715, Lord Kilsyth had to flee the country. His estates were forfeited, and became the property of the Crown. After being a few years in the hands of the Government, in 1720 they were bought by the York Buildings Company. This corporation were in possession of them till 1782, when they sold them to Campbell of Shawfield. In the following year this gentleman parted with them to Sir Archibald Edmonstone of Duntreath. Although, from time to time, this family has sold portions of them, the

greater part is still in their hands, and thus for over a century they have had uninterrupted interest in the prosperity of Kilsyth,

A glance at the Arms of the Edmonstones is suggestive of some of the distinguishing incidents in the history of the family. A Scottish eye at once notices with pleasure the double tressure on the field with its flore-counter-flore embellishment. The crescents are indicative of cadency. The sinister hand couped gules in the middle chief of the upper tressure, is a witness of Irish connection. The helm affront—an important distinction in heraldry—declares the bearer to be of the blood-royal if barred. The helm of the Edmonstone escutcheon appears, however, to be only that of a baronet. The annulet is adorned with strawberry leaves. The crest was originally a camel’s head. It next became a horse’s, and now it is a swan’s. The camel’s head is the undoubted crest, but its meaning and origin are alike unknown.

The Edmonstones are a very old family. It is probable they are the descendants of one or other of those Saxon barons who accompanied Margaret, sister of Edgar Atheling, to Scotland, when she was married to Malcolm Canmore, Their first appearance in authentic history dates from 1248, when there was living in Midlothian a certain Hendruas de Edmondiston, an intimate relation of the Setons, another ancient Scottish house. The first Sir William Edmonstone of Duntreath was the son of the brother of Sir John Edmonstone, who married the Lady Isobel, daughter of King Robert II, It was long believed that this first Duntreath Edmonstone was the son of the Princess Isobel; but this error was fully exposed by the late Sir Archibald Edmonstone, who was too veracious a historian to allow the pride of a double descent from the Scottish Royal family blind his interests to the truth, His investigations have indicated the Edmonstone achievement and placed the cadency of the family beyond dispute.

In 1425 the first Sir William Edmonstone, then designated “of Culloden,” married the Lady Mary Stewart, second daughter of King Robert III. It was owing to this marriage that Sir William received the barony and lands of Duntreath. Sir William was the fourth husband of the fascinating Princess Mary. In *397 sbe was married to George, Earl of Angus. The earl dying in 1404, the princess married, in the following year, Sir James Kennedy, son of Sir Gilbert Kennedy of Dunure. Sir James, the second husband, having been killed in a quarrel with his elder brother, after a very brief space, she took for her third husband Sir William Graham of Kincardine and Mugdock. A year after his death she married Sir William Edmonstone. The Princess Mary had family by all her husbands, and by Sir William she had a son William, and a daughter Elizabeth. The first Sir William was a man of affairs. He died in 1460. The date of the death of his princess is unknown. Her remains were deposited in Strathblane Church. Near the centre of the church there is a tombstone, bearing the following inscription :—

Here lyes IN THE SAME GRAVE WITH MARY, COUNTESS OF ANGUS,
sister to King James the First of Scotland, from
WHOM HE IS LINEALLY DESCENDED, ARCHIBALD EDMONSTONE, Esq.,
of Duntreath, in this Kingdom, and of Redhall in Ireland, who died in the year 1689,
AGED ABOUT FIFTY-ONE YEARS.

The first Sir William Edmonstone and his princess only held Duntreath in life-rent. Their son having, however, married Matilda Stewart, a daughter of the noble house of Lennox, through the influence thus acquired—Lord Avondale, his wife’s brother, being the Chancellor and favourite of King James III.—he got himself securely established as proprietor of the Strathblane lands. His eldest son, the third Sir Archibald, held high office at the Court of the King. He married the sister of George Shaw, the Abbot of Paisley and Lord High Treasurer of Scotland. This marriage was as fortunate for his house as his father’s or even his grandfather’s had been. The abbot was one of the kindliest of men, and a prime favourite with James IV. He used his position to forward the interests of his sister’s husband, to secure a good appointment for him, places for his brothers, and husbands for his sisters.

The fourth Sir William Edmonstone, on his succession to Duntreath, was appointed Captain of Doune Castle and Steward of Menteith. He was four times married. His first wife was Sibylla, daughter of Sir William Baillie of Lamington, and the marriage was solemnised on the 17th May, 1497. It is through this union that the Edmonstones trace their descent from the great Scottish deliverer and patriot, Sir William Wallace. On this subject Blind Harry is the chief authority. In lively verse he describes the courtship and subsequent marriage of Sir William Wallace and Marion Bradfute. Of the latter, the old poet has left a picture daintily done.

"In Lanark dwelt the fair, well known to fame,
For matchless beauties crown’d the charming name.
Now in her spring of life she grew apace,
Spreading to bloom, and crowned with every grace.
The syrens with persuasive eloquence,
Charmed from her lips and beautified her sense,
While piety adds lustre to her name.
Wallace beheld and owned the pleasing flame :
The print of love new stamp'd his ductile breast,
And with soft characters his soul imprest.”

By this marriage it is said that one daughter was born before the lady fell a prey to the fury of Hazilrig, and that from her descended the Baillies of Lamington. There is a descent from Wallace, but it does not appear to have been from so honourable a source. And yet there is no evidence forthcoming to stamp the connection as illegitimate. It is perfectly true that Sir William Baillie of Hoprig did marry a daughter of Wallace. The difficulty is not as to her father, but, strange to say, as to who the mother of this lady was. On that point there has as yet been no genealogical testimony forthcoming. Wallace’s daughter bore her husband a son, William, who married the daughter of Sir William Seton. The three succeeding possessors of Lamington were Sir William Baillies, and Sibylla was the daughter of the third. It is consequently perfectly clear that the Edmonstones have flowing in their veins the blood of the great Scottish patriot. Sir William fell on Flodden field, the 9th September, 1513,—adfidem regis in campo bellico nuper in Northumbria.

When the fifth Sir William Edmonstone succeeded to Duntreath lands, and the Stewardship and Chamberlain-ship of Menteith, he fell under the displeasure of Queen Margaret, the wife of James IV., for holding Doune Castle against her wishes, and for refusing to account for his intromissions with the rents of the Stewartry, which belonged to her. After a strong resistance, the offices were taken from him, and given to Sir James Stewart. This gentleman held the appointments till the death of James V., on the 14th December, 1542. Mary of Guise, the widow of the King, then coming into possession of the Stewartry, reinstated Sir William Edmonstone in his old places. Sir James Stewart, however, as Sir William had done before him, refused to yield up his places and emoluments. Losing all patience with him, Sir William, with his brothers Archibald and James, laid wait for the chamberlain at a Spot between Doune and Dunblane, on. Whitsunday, 1543, and foully murdered him, and also certain that were with him. If Sir William Edmonstone did not lose his life for this violent conduct, he was still severely punished. He had for a time to go into hiding, and his appointment as Steward of Menteith was annulled. In 1547, there was an Act passed under the Great Seal granting him remission for the part he had taken in the murder. He was a strong Presbyterian, and was a member of the General Assembly of 1567, when he signed the Church’s Testimony against Popery. He died some time before the middle of the year 1578.

Sir William was twice married, first to a daughter of the house of Lennox, by whom he had one son, of unsound mind, who was passed over in the succession, and secondly to Margaret, daughter of Sir James Campbell of Lawers, who bore him seven of a family. The eldest was Sir James Edmonstone, sixth of Duntreath. Being a man of considerable acumen, be was employed in various legal affairs. He formed one of the court of six jurors who found relevant the indictment against the Earl of Gowrie for the part he had taken in the famous Raid of Ruthven. Strange to say, it was in the mesh of circumstances which followed the trial and execution of Gowrie that Sir James Edmonstone got himself inextricably involved.

After the flight of the “Banished Lords”—Angus, Mar, and others—into England, Arran determined to make the severest example of some of their friends. One Robert Hamilton of Inchmanchan having pretended that he had discovered a conspiracy against the King, Arran, then master in Scotland, took the fullest advantage of his position. He apprehended Sir James Edmonstone, John Cunningham of Easter Mugdock, and Malcolm Douglas of Harlehame, all of the parish of Strathblane, and clapped them in Edinburgh prison on the charge of plotting against the King's life. It is extraordinary that we should so soon have found one of the judges of the Gowrie trial placed at the bar charged with a like crime. The charge against the Strathblane proprietors was that they had entered into a scheme for taking possession of the King’s person whilst he was hunting, detaining him in one of the “Illis of Lochlowmunt in the Leuuenax,” till the return of the “Banished Lords,” when he should be handed over to their tender mercies.

Cunningham and Douglas were as ignorant of the crime as the babe unborn. Instead of plotting against the King, they were the victims of a plot which Arran had concocted for their destruction. Sir James Edmonstone was charged along with Cunningham and Douglas, because he was known to be the intimate friend of both, and because Arran, having negotiated with him to confess his guilt, had arranged that when at the trial this confession was made, he would be immediately pardoned. When the trial came on, Sir James Edmonstone, according to the stipulation with Arran, made no defence, he confessed his part in the conspiracy, and threw himself on the clemency of the King. Cunningham and Douglas resolutely protested their participation in, and ignorance of, so base a plot, but were found guilty, and hung. But how came it about that Sir James Edmonstone had lent himself as so debased and unworthy a tool to the furtherance of this foul conspiracy of Arran? After the fall of the treacherous earl, Sir James made show of making a clean breast of it. He swore on soul and conscience that his only reason for confessing his guilt, and inculpating the “Banished Lords” and his neighbour proprietors, was because Arran had threatened to take his life if he did not accede to his wishes. The reason may or may not be true. Granting it is true, it is no vindication whatsoever of his action. Sir James was a blackguard. When the truth came to be known, the fury of the people of Killearn and Strathblane knew no bounds. The Earl of Montrose had to become caution to the extent of £1000, that a large number of men of these parishes would do no injury to Sir James Edmonstone. On one occasion, Sir James came to Duntreath when his daughter-in-law was there alone, and stole a large sum of his son’s money, which was then in the house. It is evident the Edmonstones are no exception to the rule laid down by Sir George Mackenzie, that it is the sign of an ancient and considerable kindred to have had a criminal or two in the family! Sir James injured his estate by mortgages. On the 17th February, 1614, he entered into a contract of wadsett with his son-in-law, Sir William Graham. On the 14th October of the same year, Sir William Graham transferred the whole lands of Duntreath to Sir William Livingston of Kilsyth, the lands being redeemable at a fixed sum. Sir James’ first wife was Helen, daughter of Sir James Stirling of Keir, by whom he had one son, William, and three daughters. His second wife was Margaret, daughter of Sir John Colquhoun of Luss, by whom he had one son and four daughters.

Having mortgaged his estates, lost his public appointments, and become an object of odium in the neighbourhood where he lived, we can easily understand that when the scheme was matured for the “plantation of Ulster,” Sir James very gladly availed himself of the inducements then held out to Scotsmen of moderate means to settle in that part of Ireland. In 1609, the estate of Broadisland, in the county of Antrim was obtained on the usual terms by Sir James in name of his eldest son, William. This William was the seventh of Duntreath, and strongly attached to the Presbyterian cause. On his new estate he built a mansion house, erected a church and provided it with a Presbyterian minister. Having married Isobel, daughter of John Haldane of Gleneagles, he settled down on his property, made Ireland his home, and died about 1629.

Archibald Edmonstone, eighth of Duntreath, was entirely destitute of his father’s love for Ireland. On his succession he made the redemption of Duntreath his first concern. After two years negotiation, on the 28th July, 1632, King Charles I. granted a charter in his favour of the lands of Duntreath, upon the resignation by William Livingston of all his interest in them. He was a member of Parliament for the county of Stirling in 1633, an ardent Presbyterian, and deeply interested in the exciting questions pertaining to Church and State then current. His wife was Jean, daughter of the staunch Presbyterian family of Halcraig, in Lanarkshire. This lady bore him two sons and two daughters. Dying in 1637, he did not long enjoy the ancient possessions of his fathers.

William, the eldest of Sir Archibald’s two sons, was born deaf and dumb. His brother Archibald consequently became the ninth of Duntreath. If the “Dumb Laird" had his failings, he was not without his accomplishments, and various incidents have been brought forward to establish his claim to the second sight, or to more than common shrewdness of observation. The career of Sir Archibald was brief and brilliant. He continued the strong Presbyterian traditions of his ancestors, and by holding conventicles, shared the troubles of those who patronised those illegal assemblies. Into the Irish Rebellion of 1688, he threw himself with ardour, raising a regiment and stoutly defending the Protestant cause. While gallantly defending a position near Coleraine, he suffered from the effects of the cold and exposure, and died in 1689. By his request, he was buried in Strathblane Church, in the same grave with the Princess Mary. His son Archibald, tenth of Duntreath, resided for the most part in Ireland, and was for many years a member of the Irish Parliament. Duntreath Castle having fallen into a ruinous state, he was living at Auchentorlie, in Dumbartonshire, when his son Archibald was born on the 10th October, 1717. The mother of this son was his second wife, Anne, daughter of John Campbell of Mamore, second son of the ninth Earl of Argyll. Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the eleventh of Duntreath, abandoned the family connection with Ireland and the Whig principles which had hitherto held sway in his family. He cast himself with energy into Scottish political life, and sat for many years as Tory member for Dumbartonshire, and also for some time as member for the Ayr burghs. He did a profitable stroke of business when, in 1783, he parted with his Irish possessions, and bought with the money the estate of Kilsyth. From that time to the restoration of Duntreath, Colzium House became the chief residence of the Edmonstones. In recognition of his public services, on the 3rd May, 1774, Archibald Edmonstone was created a baronet. His first wife was Susanna Mary Harenc, a French lady of noble family. She bore him five sons and four daughters. A man of great energy and foresight, his country, his family, and his tenantry and estates were all benefited by his labours. He died in July, 1807, at the long age of 89 years.

Sir Charles Edmonstone, the twelfth of Duntreath, and second baronet, was born at Greenwich, 9th October, 1764. Studying at Eton and Oxford with distinction, he was called to the English Bar. Being eager to run the race his father ran in 1806, he successfully contested Dumbartonshire. His first political triumph was shortlived. In the following year he was beaten by Henry Glassford. In 1812, he was elected for Stirlingshire, and this seat he held till his death at Brighton, 1st April, 1821.

By his first wife, Emma, daughter of Richard Wilbraham Booth of Rode Hall, Cheshire, he had a son, Archibald, and a daughter. Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the third baronet, was born in 1795. At his father’s death he contested Stirlingshire. He was unsuccessful. His opponent was Henry Home Drummond of Blairdrummond. There voted for Mr. Drummond 47, for Sir A. Edmonstone 42, majority for Drummond 5. These five votes cost the county the representation of a man of the rarest talents and personal worth. Defeated in his first effort he never again sought Parliamentary honours. He devoted his life to theology and poetry, to travel and beneficence. In Kilsyth there never has been a proprietor so greatly beloved. He married, in 1830, his cousin, Emma Wilbraham of Rode Hall. This lady bore him three daughters, who all died in infancy. In looking over his manuscript verse, I have noticed two poems and a sonnet addressed “To E. W.,” and in the whole large collection of his poetry these are the only occasions on which he tunes the erotic lyre. He died on the 13th March, 1871.

Sir William Edmonstone, the fourteenth of Duntreath, and the fourth baronet, succeeded his brother. He was born 29th January, 1810. At an early age he entered the navy. Whilst serving as a midshipman on board the Sybette frigate, in a brush with the pirates of Candia he was wounded in the face by a sabre stroke, which carried away part of his lower jaw. Every inch a sailor, and on constant duty, he was created by the Queen a Companion of the Bath and Naval Aide-de-Camp. Afterwards he became Superintendent of Devonport and Woolwich dockyards. In 1869 he became rear-admiral, and at his death he was admiral on the retired list. He was the last living man who had seen the dead body of Lord Byron. When on a cruise in Grecian waters, his vessel anchored off Missolonghi. Bearing a letter of introduction to Lord Byron, he went ashore and called for him. Byron, having received an appointment to lead the Grecian expedition against Lepanto, was in great spirits. For nearly a whole day he entertained Sir William with his vivacious company and conversation. When they parted, the poet pledged the young sailor to visit him on his return cruise. This Sir William very gladly consented to. In little more than a fortnight his ship again cast anchor at Missolonghi. The young sailor was at once put ashore, and made all haste for Lord Byron’s villa. The butler answered his call. "He had come to see Lord Byron,” he said. “His lordship had died the day previously,” replied the butler. The young midshipman was thunderstruck, but having always a ready way with him, he at once observed: “Then I must see the body.” The butler remembered him having been with Byron so recently, and conducted him to the room where the remains were lying. He stood and gazed a long time on the dead face of the great poet. The touch of death had not yet stained it. The features were singularly clear and distinct. The face was beautiful, and of a marblelike purity and whiteness. Many years afterwards, when he had occasion to inspect a London lunatic asylum, Sir William thought he recognised a face that he knew, in one of the patients confined in a padded room, and in the last degree of madness. On inquiry, he found the patient was Captain Wild, who was staying with Lord Byron at the time he spent the happy day with him at Missolonghi. This story I had from Sir William’s own lips on one occasion as I sat next him at dinner.

Sir William married, in 1841, Mary, eldest daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Parsons, C.M.G. By this lady he had eleven of a family—two sons, Archibald William, born and died in 1865; Archibald, the present baronet, born 30th May, 1867 ; and nine daughters, all of whom are now married.


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