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The Scottish Nation
Dennistoun


DENNISTOUN, a surname derived from the ancient barony of Danzielstoun, in Renfrewshire, belonging to a family, the representative of which is Dennistoun of Colgrain in Dumbartonshire, now styled Dennistoun of Dennistoun. The ancestor of the family, Danziel or Daniel, conjectured to have been of Norman extraction, is said to have settled on the Gryfe in the former county, and to have called his lands Danielstoun, after himself, assuming that name also, in accordance with the practice of the age, as his own surname. In process of time it was gradually softened into Dennistoun. The statement of Buchanan of Auchmar that the family sprung from a younger branch of the old earls of Lennox, and had large possessions on the Endrick in 1016, is extremely doubtful.

      In both Craufurd’s and Douglas’ Peerages, (the latter quoting the Chartulary of Paisley, 127. D.) It is stated that Ronaldus de Dennistoun was one of the witnesses to the Inquisition made by David the First, when prince of Cumbria, into the possessions of the church of Glasgow in 1116; but the name is not to be found in the copy of it printed in Hamilton of Wishaw’s Description of the Shires of Lanark and Renfrew issued by the Maitland Club. In these “Peerages” Denistoun of Dennistoun is styled Lord Dennistoun, but the date of creation is not stated; neither is the person specified on whom that title was first conferred, nor the monarch mentioned by whom it was bestowed.

      Sir Hugh de Danzielstoun, or Denzilstone, of that ilk, one of the patriotic barons who unwillingly submitted to Edward the First of England, (although his name does not occur in the Ragman Roll,) was the father of Joanna of Janet Danielstoun, who married Sir Adam Mure of Rowallan, and whose daughter, Elizabeth Mure, married, in 1347, King Robert the Second, and was the mother of King Robert the Third, a circumstance which gave rise to the proud saying among the Dennistouns, that “

Kings come of us, not we of kings.” From both monarchs the family received various grants of land, principally in the western counties, till their possessions came to be very extensive.

      Sir John de Danielstoun of that ilk, knight, the only brother of the above-named Joanna or Janet, was, in the checkered reign of David the Second, the constant associate in arms of his illustrious father-in-law, the earl of Wigton, and the brave Sir Robert Erskine, and like them was distinguished for his loyalty. He was high sheriff of Dumbartonshire, governor of Dumbarton castle, and one of the lords of parliament who concurred in the settlement of the crown upon the descendants of his niece, Elizabeth Mure. With one daughter, Janet, married to her cousin, Sir Adam Mure of Rowallan, ancestor, through the female line, of the marquis of Hastings, he had five sons; namely, Robert, his heir; Walter, pastor of Kincardine O’Neil, of whom afterwards; Sir William of Colgrain; Hugh, and Malcolm.

      Sir Robert, the eldest son, was one of the hostages selected from the noblest families in Scotland, for the ransom of David the Second, specified in the treaty of 3d October 1357, and in 1370 he was commissioner for a treaty of peace with England. He succeeded his father as sheriff of Lennox and keeper of the castle of Dumbarton, and died in 1399. Having no sons, his two daughter were coheiresses of his great estates. Margaret, the elder, married Sir William Cunningham of Kilmaurs, ancestor of the earls of Glencairn; Elizabeth, the younger, became the wife of Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood, from whom descended the Maxwells of Calderwood and Pollock, and the Lords Farnham in the Irish peerage.

      On the death of his elder brother, Walter, the second son, parson of Kincardine O’Neil, already mentioned, forcibly took possession of the castle of Dumbarton as belonging heritably to his family, and held it till 1402, when Robert III. offered him the see of St. Andrews, then vacant, as a recompense for its surrender, but he died about Christmas of the same year.

      The male line of the family was represented by Sir William de Danielstoun of Colgrain, third son of Sir John de Danielstoun above-mentioned. This gentleman had acquired from his father, before 1377, the lands of Colgrain and Camis Eskan in Dumbartonshire, and had, besides, several grants from the crown. He held office in the household of Robert the Third, as well as in that of his eldest son, the ill-fated duke of Rothesay; and on his death in 1393 his widow, the Lady Marjory, had a pension from the king’s chamberlain. His descendant, Robert Danielstoun of Colgrain, was attainted for joining William, fourth earl of Glencairn, in his correspondence with Henry the Eighth of England, but in 1546, had a remission under the great seal for all treasons and crimes committed by him in concert with the said earl.

      In th seventeenth century, John Denistoun of Colgrain, in direct descent from this Robert, adhered faithfully to the king during the civil wars, and in 1653, when the last effort was made by the cavaliers in Scotland, under the earl of Glencairn, for the restoration of Charles the Second, he joined that nobleman’s banner, and received from him the commission of colonel. In the following autumn, however, after Glencairn had left the army, and General Middleton, who had succeeded him in the command, had been surprised and defeated in a defile in the Highlands by Morton, one of Monk’s officers, the laird of Colgrain was specially included in the treaty of surrender, and his estates exempted from attainder. He died in the ensuing year, from a wound received in the Highland expedition. Having no issue male, his eldest daughter, Margaret, succeeded to the estates in virtue of an entail made by her father, on condition of her marrying the heir male of the family, William, the elder of the two sons of Mr. Archibald Dennistoun of Dalchurne, minister of Campsie, – which she did, – and of sixteen children which they had, only one son survived, John, who freed the property, which had been much involved, from debt. James, his son and successor, was twice married, and had three sons, and a daughter, Mary, the wife of John Alston of Westerton, Dumbartonshire. Richard, his third son, purchased Kelvin Grove, near Glasgow, and took his designation from that estate. He married Christina, daughter of James Alston, merchant in Glasgow, heir to the estate of Westerton.

      James Dennistoun of Colgrain, the eldest son, succeeded in 1796, and for nearly thirty years, was convener of the county of Dumbarton. He was also vice-lieutenant of the county, and colonel of the Dumbartonshire militia. He died in 1816. His only son, James Dennistoun of Dennistoun, inherited the estates of Colgrain and Camis Eskau, and in 1828 obtained from the Lord Lyon of Scotland, authority to bear the arms and style proper to the baronial house of De Danzielstone of that ilk in Renfrewshire. He commanded the yeomanry cavalry of Dumbartonshire, and was a deputy-lieutenant of the county. He died 1st June 1834. By Mary Ramsay his wife, daughter of George Oswald of Auchencruive, he had five sons and six daughters. His eldest son, James Dennistoun of Dennistoun, advocate, born in 1803, author of ‘Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino,’ and ‘Memoirs of Sir Robert Strange,’ died in 1855. A memoir of Mr. Dennistoun is given in the Supplement to this work.

      Alexander Dennistoun, a son of the late James Dennistoun of Golfhill in Lanarkshire, was member of parliament for that county from 1835 to 1837, and his brother, John Dennistoun, a merchant in Glasgow, represented that city from 1837 to 1847.


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