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The Scottish Nation
Chalmer


CHALMER, erroneously Chalmers, (Lat. de Camera,) a surname derived from the office of ‘Camerarius regis,’ chamberlain of the king, held by Herbertus, the first on record of the ancient Ayrshire family of Chalmer of Gadgirth, latterly Gaitgirth, but at first spelled Galdgirth, the girth of Galdus. This Herbertus was Camerarius Scotiae, or great chamberlain of Scotland, in the reign of David the First, from 1124 to 1153. [Crawford’s officers of State.] He is witness to the grant which King David made ‘ecclesiae sancti Kentigerni de Glasgow,’ of the lands of Govan, which afterwards became an endowment for a prebend in that cathedral church. Besides his lands in Ayrshire, which remained for more than six hundred years in the family, he had also the barony of Kinniel in Linlithgowshire, as appears from the first charter of these lands to Sir David Hamilton, in the reign of David the Second, in which it is expressed that they were to be held as freely as ‘quondam Herbertus Camerarius Regis David’ held the same. In his old age this Herbertus Camerarius took orders and became abbot of Kelso. [Nisbet’s System of Heraldry, vol. ii. App. p. 20.] The name de Camera from him was retained by the family down to the reign of James the Fifth.

      His son, Reginaldus de Camera, (born before his father was in holy orders,) was possessed of the barony of Gadgirth in the reign of William the Lion, between 1165 and 1214, and as Nisbet remarks, assumed the name of de Camera, as a surname, in the same manner as the family of the great Stewards of Scotland assumed that of Stewart as a cognomen from the office of their great progenitor. He is a frequent witness to the gifts and donations made by Walter the High Steward, from his lands in Kyle, in the neighbourhood of Gadgirth, to the monks of Paisley, when he founded that monastery in 1160. this remote antiquity of the family is farther established by a writ under the great seal of Scotland in 1609, referred to by Nisbet, in which it is acknowledged by the crown that the family of Chalmer had possessed the barony of Gadgirth for upwards of five hundred years before that period. In consequence of several of the earliest charters of the family having been lost, a chasm occurs in the line of succession for about a hundred years or more, till about 1296, when William de Camera, with others of the barons of Kyle, swore an extorted allegiance to King Edward the First of England.

      His son, William de Camera, adhered to King David Bruce, even when his fortunes were at the lowest ebb, and after that monarch’s release from his long captivity in England, he was appointed in 1369, clerk-register and justice-clerk north of the Forth, the kingdom at that time being divided into two justiciary districts of north and south of that river. His son, Reginald de Camera, besides the estate of Gadgirth, had a charter from King Robert the Second of the lands of Craiginfeoch in Renfrewshire in the year 1375, which, in 1507, were alienated to the Lord Sempill. In the rolls of the county of Renfrew they were anciently called Craiginfeoch-Chalmer, but afterwards they acquired the name of Craiginfeoch-Sempill.

      Sir John de Camera of Gadgirth, the son of this Reginald, in several authentic documents is called dominus or lord of Gadgirth, a designation which infers that this family was considered at that time in the rank and character among the proceres and magnates regni, or greater barons of the kingdom, and as such to have had a hereditary right to a seat in parliament. His son, also named John, dominus de Gadgirth, was one of fifteen barons of Ayrshire, (his name appears first on the list,) who were impannelled as a jury in a cause in 1417, in which the burgh of Irvine laid claim to a piece of muir ground, which was decided by their verdict in favour of the town. [Robertson’s Ayrshire Families, vol. iii. p. 265.] He was one of the Scots auxiliaries who, under the earls of Buchan and Douglas, went to France in 1419, to the assistance of Charles the Seventh against the English. At the battle of Verneuil, 17th August, 1424, gained by the Scots, he highly distinguished himself, and in consequence had a fleur de lis added to his coat of arms, held by a lion in his dexter paw, which for some centuries afterwards was borne as their crest by the family, instead of as previously a hawk volant, but the latter was in the course of time revived. According to tradition this John de Camera of Galdgirth was slain at the battle of the Herrings in France, before 1429. After that time, at least, his name is no more mentioned.

      His son, Sir John de Camera of Gadgirth, was very young at his father’s death, but lived to a considerable age. He had the honour of knighthood conferred upon him by King James the Third. In 1468, he received a charter erecting the lands of Gadgirth and Culraith in Ayrshire, into one barony. He sat as a baron in 1484, the date of the first parliament of James the Fourth, as dominus de Gaitgirth, taking place and enrolment ‘inter dominum Ker et dominum Balcomie,’ two barons of great rank, that is, after the one and before the other. He married dame Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of Sir James Hamilton of Cadzow, and sister of the first Lord Hamilton, by whom he had a son, John, who succeeded him, and a daughter, Marion, married William Dalrymple of Stair, ancestor of the earls of Stair. It is stated in Douglas’ Peerage [Edited by Wood, vol. ii. p. 520,] that “She was a lady of excellent worth and virtue, and one of the Lollards of Kyle summoned in 1494 before the king’s council on account of their heretical doctrines, but the magnanimity of James the Fourth treated the charges with contempt, and the accused persons were dismissed.”

      The son, John de Camera, married, in 1491, Marion Hay, daughter of Peter Hay pf Menzean, brother of John Lord Hay of Yester, ancestor of the marquis of Tweeddale, and had a son, James, and three daughters, who were all well married. The son, James de Camera, on 1st October 1501, as heir to his father, was infeft, on a precept of chancery, in the lands of Culraith and Chalmerhouse, from which latter had sprung the designation of that ilk. He married a daughter of Alexander Stewart of Galston, brother of John first earl of Lennox and Darnley, by whom he had a son Robert, and a daughter, Margaret, married to Robert Cunningham of Cunninghamhead.

      Robert de Camera of Gadgirth, the son, by his wife, the daughter of Sir Hugh Campbell of Loudoun, had two sons, James, of whom next paragraph, and Andrew, styled of Nether Bruntshiels, and a daughter, Margaret, married to Alan Cathcart of Carleton.

      James Chalmer of Gadgirth, the elder son, was a zealous reformer, and is described by Archbishop Spottiswood, John Knox, and other ecclesiastical historians, as one of the boldest of the leaders of the reformation in Scotland. In 1558, when the preachers were summoned to appear at Edinburgh, and in consequence the professors of the reformed religion flocked in great numbers to the capital on the day fixed, (the 19th of July,) the bishop of St. Andrews and the priests procured a proclamation to be made, that all who had come to the town without commandment or warrant, should repair to the borders and remain there fifteen days. The bishop of Galloway said in rhyme to the queen:

                        “Madame, because they are come without order,
                        I red you send them to the border.”

It happened that those of the west country who supported the reformed religion had arrived that same day in Edinburgh, and hearing of the proclamation, they went in a body to the privy chamber, where the queen regent and the bishops were, and complained of this strange proceeding of the priests; on which the queen began to put in practice some of her usual craft, when a zealous and bold man, as Calderwood calls him, James Chalmer of Gadgirth, said, “Madam, you know that this is the malice of the javvels (a term of reproach much in use in those days, supposed to have the same meaning as jail birds) and of that bastard (meaning the bishop of St. Andrews) that standeth by you. We vow to God we shall make a day of it. They oppress us and our tenants, for feeding their idle bellies. They trouble our preachers, and would murder them and us. Shall we suffer this any longer? No, Madam, it shall not be so;” and thereupon every man put on his steel bonnet. [Calderwood’s History, vol. i. p. 344.] The queen regent found herself obliged to temporise. She denied all knowledge of the proclamation, and forbade the bishops to trouble either the professors or their preachers. The bishops were in consequence obliged to adjourn the day of compearance till the first of September. In May 1559, he was one of the barons of the west who hastened to the relief of Perth, when the queen regent threatened to march against that town with her French troops. In September 1562 he was among the barons and gentlemen of Ayrshire who subscribed the famous bond at Ayr, for the defence of the “holy Evangel,” and their own mutual protection, and in July 1567, as a member of Assembly, he was one of the commissioners of towns who signed the articles then agreed to, for the maintenance of the authority of the young king, James the Sixth, the defence of the reformed religion, and the utterly rooting out of popery in the realm. He had several charters under the great seal in 1541 and 1548, of parts of his estates both in the counties of Ayr and Wigton. John Knox, when in the west, preached in Gadgirth castle, situated in the parish of Coylton, and found, as did all the reforming ministers, a warm friend and fearless defender in its possessor. He married Annabella, daughter of Cunningham of Caprington, and had James, his son and successor, and three daughters, the second of whom, Margaret, was married to James Boyd of Trochrigg, archbishop of Glasgow, and was the mother of the famous Dr. Robert Boyd of Trochrigg, principal of the university of Glasgow. James Chalmer, the son, married Marion, daughter of John Fullarton of Dreghorn, and had by her a son, James, and four daughters.

      This latter James Chalmer was infeft in the estate in 1580, as heir to his father. By his wife Isabella, daughter of Sir Patrick Houston of that ilk, he had, with three daughters, a son, James Chalmer of Gadgirth, who by commission under the great seal, 8th September 1632, was by King Charles the First made sheriff principal of Ayrshire, when the crown acquired that heritable jurisdiction from the earl of Loudoun. In 1633, he was one of the representatives of Ayrshire in parliament. In 1641 he was conjoined with the earl of Cassillis and the laird of Caprington as commissioners from the Scots parliament to Newcastle. In the same year he and Sir William Mure of Rowallan were appointed auditors of the accounts of the commissary-general. In 1643 he was a commissioner of supply, and also one on the committee of management. In 1646 he was on the committee of war, and in 1649 he had a troop in Colonel Robert Montgomery’s regiment of horse. By his wife Isabel, daughter of John Blair of Blair, he had five sons and five daughters. His sons were John, his successor; Reginald of Polquhairn; David of Elsick in Galloway, Brice, and Robert.

      His grandson, John Chalmer of Gadgirth, was a member of the convention parliament in 1689, and in the same year of the first parliament of William and Mary. He married Margaret, eldest daughter of Colonel James Montgomery of Coilsfield, third son of the sixth earl of Eglinton, and, with three daughters, had three sons, John, James, and Hugh. The latter, when scarcely seventeen years of age, was killed at the battle of Malplaquet in September 1709.

      John, the eldest son, at the age of sixteen entered the service of the United Provinces as a volunteer in the regiment commanded by Lieutenant-general George Hamilton, in which he afterwards obtained a captain’s commission. In 1714, when a general reduction of the army took place, and that regiment was disbanded, he was continued in the establishment of Great Britain on half-pay till December 1726, when he got a command in the seventh foot. Owing mainly to the great debts which had been incurred by the family from their active adherence to the party of Charles the First, and which were accumulated in subsequent years, adjudications were carried on against the estate in 1692, and in April 1695, Hugh earl of Loudoun, James Viscount Stair, and David Cunninghame of Milncraig (afterwards Sir David), who seem to have been the curators during the minority of Captain Chalmer, entered into a contract amongst themselves, in which they allotted certain portions of the estate to each other, at sixteen years’ purchase, for which they became bound to pay the preferable debts affecting it. On his return home, however, Captain Chalmer challenged the parties at law for thus parcelling out among themselves the lands of his fathers, when he recovered part of them. He died unmarried about 1740, when he was succeeded in that portion of the estate which he retained possession of, by his three sisters, Mary, Anna, and Elizabeth. Mary, the eldest, married the Rev. John Steel, minister of Stair, but dying, at a very advanced age, without issue, she left her portion of the estate to her husband; and he, marrying again, had two daughters, the elder of whom married a Mr. Redfearn, who sold his part of Gadgirth to Colonel Burnet, who had married the youngest daughter; Anna the second daughter married Mr. Farquhar of Townhead of Catrine, and had no issue. Elizabeth, the youngest, became the wife of Mr. John Mure of yr, and had several children. Their eldest son was John Mure Chalmer, W.S. On the death of his parents he obtained that portion of the lands of Gadgirth which was his mother’s; and his aunt Anna engaged in her lifetime to make over her share of the estate to him on his assuming the family name. He married Miss E. Farquhar of Edinburgh, and by her had a son George, and several other children.

      George Chalmer, Esq., the only son, first a lieutenant in the royal navy, afterwards an advocate at the Madras bar, where he realized a considerable fortune, married at Madras Elizabeth, daughter of Francis Latour, Esq. of that presidency, by whom he had a son, Francis Day Chalmer, and two daughters; Anne, married to John Jenkins, Esq. (brother of Dr. Jenkins, master of Baliol, and vice-chancellor of the university of Oxford), and Eliza, the wife of Robert Haig, Esq. of Viewpark, fourth son of James Haig of Blairhill, county Perth, and Lochrin, county Edinburgh.

      Francis Day Chalmer, the 25th in direct descent of this ancient family, major 7th dragoon guards, married 25th May 1833, Sarah Mary Emily, daughter of James Robertson, Esq., captain of engineers, Bengal army. This lady was the cousin and heiress of the late Sir Gilbert Stirling of Mansfield, baronet, who left his estate of Larbert, and his large personal fortune, to be invested in land to be entailed on her heirs. Her eldest son, Gilbert Stirling Chalmer Stirling, born 18th January 1843, will inherit these estates, and the direct lineal representation of Herbertus de Camera, great chamberlain of Scotland in the reign of David I., (1124-1153). The younger children of Major Chalmer are; 2. Reginald, 3. George, 4. Francis; 1. Anne, 2. Emily Eliza, 3. Catherine Frances, 4. Charlotte Amy Rachel.


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