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The Scottish Nation

GIFFORD, a surname, originally Giffard, signifying the Liberal, first conferred on Walter, Count de Longueville, a kinsman of his own, who came over with William the Conqueror. This Walter Giffard was nephew of Gunnora, duchess of Normandy, the Conqueror’s great-grandmother. Having distinguished himself at the battle of Hastings, William created him earl of Buckingham, and bestowed on him in that county 48 lordships or baronies, besides 85 in other parts of England. Several English families of the name are noted in Dugdale. Fonthill in Wiltshire, celebrated for its abbey, belonged to one of them, and is still called Fonthill-Giffard.

      Two of the race came to Scotland under David the First, Hugh, and William, the latter supposed to be an ecclesiastic. The former obtained extensive lands in East Lothian, where he settled. His son, also named Hugh Gifford, witnessed many of the charters of King William the Lion, under whom he rose to distinction, and in 1174 was one of the hostages for his release. From that monarch he obtained the additional lands of Yestred (Cambro-British Ystrad, the strath or vale), now Yester, and in process of time the parish of that name in East Lothian came to be popularly called Gifford. The village of Gifford is remarkable as the birthplace of John Knox. A rivulet which runs through the parish is also called Gifford. His eldest son, William Gifford of Yester, was sent on a mission to England in 1200, and also witnessed several charters of William the Lion. In 1244 he was one of the guarantees of a treaty with England. His son, Hugh Gifford of Yester, was one of the guardians of Alexander the Third and his queen; and one of the regents of the kingdom appointed by the treaty of Roxburgh, 20th September, 1255. According to the practice of feudal times, he had his own sheriff. His castle of Yester was celebrated on account of a capacious cavern, called Bohall (Hobgoblin Hall), which makes a conspicuous figure in Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Marmion.’ He died in 1267, leaving three sons, William, Hugh, and James. The two latter swore fealty to Edward the First in 1296. Hugh was the reputed ancestor of the Sheriffs of Sheriffhall in Mid Lothian, a family which, in the person of John Gifford of Sheriffhall, was forfeited by King James the Third, for keeping company with the English, and entertaining the English pursuivant, called Bluemantle.

      William Gifford of Yester, the eldest son, was in Stirling castle when it surrendered in 1304, and being sent prisoner to England, was confined in Corfe castle till 15th June 1310. His son, Sir John Gifford of Yester, by marriage with the daughter of Sir Thomas Morham of Morham, obtained the lands of that name. With his son, Hugh Gifford of Yester, who was dead before 11th March 1409, the male line failed. The latter had, however, four daughters, his coheiresses. 1st, Jean, or Joanna, married Sir William Hay of Locherworth, sheriff of Peebles, ancestor of the marquis of Tweeddale, to whom she brought the barony of Yester, and that family quartered the arms of Gifford with their own. 2d, Alice, married Sir Thomas Boyd of Kilmarnock; 3d, Mary, married Eustace Maxwell of Tealing; 4th, Euphemia, married Dougal Macdougall of Makerstoun. Nisbet mentions a family f the name of Gifford who possessed the lands of Busta in Zetland.


GIFFORD, Earl of, a title of the marquis of Tweeddale. See TWEEDDALE, Marquis of.

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