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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter III - Earldom and Earls of Huntly
Section XIX


GEORGE, FIFTH DUKE OF GORDON —APPOINTED LORD-LIEUTENANT OF ABEEDEENSHIRE—H15 DEATH—THE DUCHESS OF GORDON—RETURN TO HUNTLY LODGE HER DEATH— DUKES OF RICHMOND AND GORDON AS LANDLORDS.

THE Fifth Duke of Gordon attained the rank of full General in the army. He was also Colonel of the Scots Fusilier Guards. In 1820 he received the honour of the Grand Cross of the Bath.

In 1813 he married Elizabeth, only daughter and heiress of Alexander Brodie of Arnhall. Shortly afterwards he settled at Huntly Lodge—a modern mansion which stands on a fine elevated site, near the edge of the forest of Binn, about a quarter of a mile from the old Castle of Strathbogie, and on the opposite side of the river Deveron. In this mansion the Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly resided for fourteen years. During this period they became much respected and beloved by the people of Huntly and the surrounding district.

On the death of his father, in 1827, he became fifth Duke of Gordon, and Earl of Norwich. The Duke and his Duchess then removed from Huntly Lodge to Gordon Castle. He was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, Governor of the Castle of Edinburgh, and Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire.

The Duke discharged all the functions and duties of his high position with unaffected dignity, friendliness, and hospitality. He was an exceedingly genial gentleman, and was implicitly trusted and universally respected. He was a very kind and considerate landlord and won the gratitude of all classes.

He died on the 28th of May, 1836, at the age of 66. His death was deeply regretted over the north of Scotland. Indeed, there was much heartfelt grief when the last male representative of the Dukes of Gordon departed. Having left no issue by his Duchess, who survived him, the title of Duke of Gordon and Earl of Norwich became dormant. But all the Gordon estates of the Dukedom were inherited by Charles, fifth Duke of Richmond, a grandson of Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon, who then assumed the surname and the arms of Gordon.

After the death of the last Duke of Gordon (of the male line), his widow, the Duchess of Gordon, returned to Huntly Lodge, the residence associated with the early period of her married life. There the Duchess lived a remarkably unaffected, charitable, and Christian life; and she was much respected and beloved by all classes in the locality.

Shortly after the death of her husband, the Duchess resolved to erect a memorial to his memory and her own in the place where they had spent many happy days, amongst a community warmly and deeply attached to them. Her sentiment and conception assumed the form of an institution which would confer benefit on the people of Huntly and the surrounding district. Accordingly, to realise this she built and endowed "The Gordon Schools," a chaste and characteristic building, standing at the north end of the town. It consists of a central clock-tower with an archway in it, through which runs the avenue to the old castle and to Huntly Lodge, and a school and teachers’ houses on each side. Busts in marble of the Duke and Duchess are placed in niches on either side, within the archway. On the outer and reverse sides are placed the following inscription:-

Gordon Schools, erected in memory of George, fifth Duke of Gordon, by his widow.

Founded 1839—Opened 1841.
These memorials of George, fifth Duke of Gordon, and his widow, Elizabeth, Duchess of Gordon, are placed here in testimony of the respect and affection of an attached tenantry and a faithful people.

The Duchess of Gordon in the later years of her life took much interest in religious movements. For a number of years a series of large religious meetings were annually held at Huntly, in which the Duchess manifested a special and warm interest. She died in 1862.

The fifth Duke of Richmond died in 1860, and was succeeded by his son, Charles Henry Gordon Lennox, Duke of Lennox, Earl of Darnley, Baron of Torbelton, Duke of Richmond and Gordon, &c. He was born in 1818, and educated at Oxford. In 1841 he was elected member of Parliament for West Sussex, and continued to represent this constituency till 1860. He was appointed Lord Chancellor of the University at Aberdeen in 1861.

On the suggestion of the late Lord Beaconsfield, he was created Duke of Gordon, on the 13th of January, 1876.

Having made some reference in preceding sections to the fourth and fifth Dukes of Gordon as landlords, it seems right to state some facts and circumstances which came within my own recollection and observation. In the glen of Clunymore, in the parish of Mortlach, Banffshire, there are five crofts on the territory of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon, which the original occupiers reclaimed from moorland and moss. These crofts had been given off in the time of the fourth and fifth Dukes of Gordon. Fifty-six years ago the cultivated portions of these crofts ran from about six to fifteen acres; and the rents of them varied from 10s to £1. Strange to say, the one with the largest extent of arable land was the lowest rent—10s. Although the cultivated land of these crofts has since been much increased, the rents are the same now as they were years ago; the Dukes of Richmond and Gordon have never raised the rents, nor in any way disturbed the successive tenants.

About the year 1841 a large number of the farms on the Huntly and Gordon estates of the Duke of Richmond were relet. At that time it was resolved that a number of small farms adjacent to each other should be formed into one large farm. In such circumstances the usual way of proceeding is to warn the tenants to remove, and if they decline, to evict them. In this instance, however, the procedure was different It was thus:—the tenants whose farms were to be annexed to make a large farm, were informed of what was intended to be done, and if they could not find suitable farms on some of the other estates of the Duke, or elsewhere, or if they still wished to remain, then they were permitted to reside in the dwelling-house of the farm, with their kailyard—rent-free and five pounds a year for the remainder of their life. As might have been expected, a considerable number of old tenants gladly accepted this kind and generous arrangement. Not a single tenant was evicted.

When a boy, I have sat at the fireside of one of these who accepted the above arrangement—a hale and hearty old man, in the parish of Mortlach, Banffshire. His small farm was one of five which were annexed to Keithmore. His house stood on a bank on the south side of the Water of Fiddich, near the bridge which there spans this beautiful stream, a little below the Militown of Auchindoun.

Having concluded the eventful history of the Earls and Marquises of Huntly, and the Dukes of Gordon, of the lineal male line, the Aboyne Peerage has yet to be treated. On the death of the fifth Duke of Gordon, the fifth Earl of Aboyne became Marquis of Huntly.


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