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The Great Historic Families of Scotland
The Gordons of Kenmure


THE GORDONS OF KENMURE are descended from William de Gordon, second son of Sir Adam de Gordon, the founder of the main branch of the family. He received from his father the barony of Stichell, in the vicinity of Gordon, and also the lands of Glenkens, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, comprising Kenmure, Lochinvar, and the other estates of the Gordons in that district, which had previously belonged to the Douglases and the Maxwells. His grandson, who bore his name, was the first of the family who settled in Galloway, and his descendants, rising on the ruins of the Black Douglases, and sending out numerous branches, gradually increased their possessions in that district, until they were by far the largest landowners in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright. SIR ALEXANDER GORDON, the seventh Laird of Lochinvar, fell at the battle of Flodden, and was succeeded by his brother, SIR ROBERT, whose claims, after a long contention before the Lords of Council, were preferred to those of Sir Alexander’s daughter. SIR JAMES GORDON, Sir Robert’s eldest son, held the office of Royal Chamberlain to the Lordship of Galloway, and was also appointed Governor of the town and castle of Dumbarton. He was killed at the battle of Pinkie, 10th September, 1547. His eldest son, SIR JOHN, was, in 1555 appointed Justiciary of the Lordship of Galloway. He was for some time an adherent of Queen Mary, but in 1567 joined the associated barons in support of the infant King. SIR ROBERT, his eldest son, was noted for his physical strength, activity, and prowess, and not less for his exploits against the English Borderers and the freebooters of Annandale, who frequently carried their plundering excursions into Galloway.

SIR JOHN GORDON OF LOHINVAR, the elder son of this gallant Gordon, by his wife, a daughter of the first Earl of Ruthven, was elevated to the peerage, by the title of Viscount Kenmure and Lord Lochinvar, by Charles I. when he visited Scotland, in 1633, for the purpose of his coronation. Sir John had previously, in 1629, obtained from that monarch the charter of the royal burgh of New Galloway, which was at that time created on the Kenmure estate. Lord Kenmure was distinguished for his personal piety as well as for his attachment to Presbyterian principles, and was the intimate friend of the famous John Welch, son-in-law of John Knox, with whom he resided some time in France, and also of Gillespie and Samuel Rutherford. It was through his influence that Rutherford was appointed minister of Anwoth in 1627, and that famous divine dedicated to the Viscount his first work, entitled, ‘Exercitationes Apologeticæ pro Divina Gratia,’ &c. The Viscount sold the ancient family estate of Stichell, in order, it was said, to obtain the forfeited earldom of Gowrie, to which he laid claim through his mother. It was reported that the money was paid to the Duke of Buckingham, who had undertaken to support the claim, but in consequence of the assassination of the Duke the very next day, the Viscount both lost his money and failed in his object. The report, however, does not rest on any satisfactory evidence. Lord Kenmure died in 1634, in the thirty-fifth year of his age. Rutherford, who attended him on his deathbed, wrote a tract, entitled, ‘The last and heavenly Speeches and glorious Departure of John, Viscount Kenmure.’ Lady Kenmure, the Viscount’s widow, who lived to a great age, took for her second husband, in 1640, the Hon. Sir Harry Montgomery of Giffin, and was a constant correspondent of Rutherford.

JOHN GORDON, the only son of the first Viscount, died unmarried in 1639, and the title passed to his cousin, JOHN GORDON, grandson of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar. He also died unmarried, in 1643, and was succeeded by his brother ROBERT, fourth Viscount, who suffered severely for his attachment to the royal cause in the Great Civil War, and was excepted from Cromwell’s Act of Grace and Pardon in 1654. The family never recovered from the blow which they then received. Their power and prestige were gone, their extensive estates dwindled away, and the heads of this once great house, frowned on by the Court and the Government, and ungratefully treated even by the exiled monarch in whose cause they had lost and suffered so much, spent their days in obscurity and neglect, on the remnant of their patrimonial inheritance. On the death of Lord Robert without issue, in 1663, the title devolved on Alexander Gordon of Pennygame, who, like the third Viscount, was a descendant of Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar. He died in 1698.

His only son, WILLIAM, sixth Viscount, unfortunately for himself and his family, quitted his retirement and took an active part in the rebellion of 1715. At the head of a body of a hundred and fifty horse, including the Earl of Nithsdale and a number of the Roman Catholic gentry of the western frontier, Lord Kenmure proclaimed the Chevalier St. George as James VIII. at Moffat, Lochmaben, Hawick, and other Border towns. He then joined the Northumbrian insurgents, commanded by the presumptuous and incompetent Forster, and marched with them into England. Though in the well-known Jacobite ballad, ‘Kenmure’s on and awa’,’ he is designated ‘the bravest lord that ever Galloway saw,’ the Viscount, from his mild and modest disposition, and his want of military experience, was altogether unfit to be a leader in such an expedition. Indeed, there is reason to believe that, like his ill-starred coadjutor, the Earl of Derwentwater, he would never have engaged in such a foolish enterprise had it not been for the urgent importunity of his wife, the only sister of the sixth Earl of Carnwath, who also forfeited his titles and estates in the cause of the Stewarts. Lord Kenmure fought with the hereditary courage of his race at the barricades of Preston, where he was taken prisoner and conveyed to London, pinioned with cords and exposed to the insults of the populace. He was tried on a charge of treason, found guilty, and condemned to be executed. He suffered the penalty of the law (24th February, 1716) with great firmness, expressing his regret that he had pleaded guilty at his trial to the charge of treason, and prayed for ‘King James.’

The widowed Viscountess of Kenmure, a woman of great energy and courage, hastened down to Scotland by herself, after the execution of her husband, and secured his letters and other important papers: When his estates were exposed for sale, with the assistance of some friends, she was enabled to purchase them, and through her excellent management, when her eldest son, Robert, came of age, she handed the patrimonial property over to him entirely unencumbered, reserving only a small annuity for herself. She died at Terregles in 1776, having survived her husband the long period of sixty years.

The eldest son of the Viscount who laid down his life for the cause of the exiled family, died in 1741; and JOHN GORDON, the second son, was, by courtesy, eighth Viscount. He was an officer in the royal army, and by his wife, a daughter of the Earl of Seaforth, he had a family of five sons and one daughter. But four of his sons, who, like their uncles, were in the military service of the Crown, died unmarried. JOHN GORDON, the eldest surviving son of the titular eighth Viscount, born in 1750, was a captain in the 17th Regiment of foot, and in 1784 was elected member for the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright. He was restored by Parliament, in 1788, to the forfeited honours of his family, but died without issue, in 1840, in the ninety-first year of his age. He was succeeded by his nephew—

ADAM GORDON, a distinguished naval officer, who shared in the glories of Trafalgar, and other British victories. He was the eleventh Viscount in succession, but, owing to the attainder of 1716, only the eighth in the enjoyment of the peerage. At his death, in 1847, the family titles became dormant, perhaps extinct; but his estates were inherited by his sister, the Hon. Mrs. Louise Bellamy Gordon.


I was reading the article on the Gordons of Kenmure. The article says that Sir Alexander Gordon, who died at Flodden, was the 7th Laird of Lochinvar. That could not be, as he predeceased his father. Alexander's brother Sir Robert succeeded to the title as the 3d Lord Lochinvar. William de Gourdon, Alexander's and Robert's grandfather was the first Gordon to style himself as "of Lochinvar." (Burke's Peerage - 1842.)

 
Bydand and aye
Co-Administrator, Gordon DNA Project

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