Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scottish Nation

KIRKALDY, a local surname, derived from the town of that name in Fifeshire, where there is said anciently to have been a place of worship belonging to the Culdees, hence Kilculda or Kilculdei, in course of time corrupted into Kirkcaldy.

      One of the brightest of our historical names is that of Kirkaldy of Grange. Of the family, however, our public records furnish but a few scanty notices. As their estates, lying in the parish of Kinghorn, adjoined Kirkaldy, it is supposed that they derived their surname from that town. In Prynne’s History, a Sir William de Kirkcaldy is mentioned as one of the Scots barons who submitted to Edward III. of England during one of his invasions of Scotland, and a charter of King David II., dated “Apud Edynburgeh,” contains the name of a Simeon Kyrcaldie.

      There were at an early period two principal families of the name, the Kirkaldys of Inchtower or Inchture in the shire of Perth, and the Kirkaldys of Grange in Fife. From their surname the latter appear to have been the elder branch, although supposed to have descended from a younger son of the former. Their connection with Fife must have been prior to the reign of David II., as we find a pension granted by that monarch to an Andrew de Kirkaldye, “Capella ano, 5 marcarum sterlingorum annustim de custuma civitatis Sancti Andreae, quosque per Dominum Regem ad Aliquod beneficium ecclesiasticum fuerit promotus,” &c. The house of Inchture has long been represented by the noble family of Kinniard, Marjory, daughter and sole heiress of Sir John de Kirkaldy of Inchture having, at the end of the 14th century, married Sir Reginald de Kinniard, knight, and her lands were confirmed to him by a charter of Robert III., of date 28th January 1399. A minor branch, the Kirkaldys of Wester Abden, also in Fife, appear to have ceased as a distinct family about the beginning of the 17th century.

      In the Register House at Edinburgh are preserved no fewer than eighteen MS. charters and two remissions (the dates ranging between 1440 and 1568, both inclusive) relating to the family of Kirkaldy of Grange, now extinct, but which at the period to which they refer appear to have been one of the most important in the county of Fife. John de Kirkaldy, a younger son of the family, vicar of Newburn in that shire, is mentioned in Archbishop Shevez’s confirmation of privileges to the university of St. Andrews, dated at Edinburgh, 2d June 1479.

      William Kirkaldy de Grange appears as one of a quorum which served Patrick Crichton of Cranstoun-Riddel heir to his father, at Edinburgh, 7th December 1506, and he is mentioned in a charter dated 13th February 1528, as being alive in that year. His eldest son, Sir James Kirkaldy, married Janet, daughter of Sir John Melville of Raith, one of the early Reformers, in whose right he acquired the lands of Banchrie and others in Fifeshire, with the baronies of Grange and Auchtertool. Introduced by his father-in-law to the court and service of King James V., he was made a lord of the bedchamber, and on 24th March 1537, appointed lord-high-treasurer of Scotland, in place of the abbot of Holyrood. “He was considered,” says Crawford, “one of the wisest and worthiest in the nation, but through the interest of Cardinal Bethune, he lost his office of treasurer.” (Officers of State.) This did not happen, however, till after the death of James V. He is described by his brother-in-law, Sir James Melville of Hallhill, as “a stout man, who always offered by single combate, and at point of the sword, to maintain whatever he said.” The year following his appointment as treasurer, with his three brothers, Sir George, who obtained the lands of Craigcrook in Mid Lothian and others in Stirlingshire, John, and Patrick, his father-in-law, Melville of Raith, his kinsman, William Barclay of Touch, and eight others, he received a remission for all crimes, excepting treason, and in October 1539 he and his three brothers received a similar remission from the crown. As an instance of the favour and confidence with which he was treated by the king, it is related that on James’ return from his voyage round the Isles in 1540, he showed the laird of Grange a scroll drawn up by Cardinal Bethune and the priests, containing the names of 360 nobles and barons whom they had doomed to be burnt for heresy, amongst which was his own, with those of several of his friends and kinsmen. With honest sincerity he denounced the insolence and rapacity of the clergy, expatiated on the abuses which they had brought into the church, and on their great wealth and profligacy, and advised the king to annex their benefices to the crown, as had been done by his uncle, King Henry, with whom he strongly counselled him that he should maintain a friendly intercourse. The king took the advice in good part, and shortly after, when the cardinal and some other prelates went to Holyrood-house, and renewed their application for the punishment of heretics, after many reproaches, he thus sternly addressed them: “Packe, you javells! (Jail-birds.) Gett you to your charges and reforme your owne lives, and be not instruments of discord betwixt my nobilitie and me, or elles, I vow to God, I sall reforme you, not as the king of Denmarke doth, by imprisonment, neither yitt as the king of England doth, by hanging and heading, but by sharper instruments, if ever I heare suche a motion made by you again!” (Calderwood’s Historie, vol. i. p. 146.) The same year, when Sir James Hamilton of Fynnart, natural son of the first earl of Arran, was accused of a conspiracy to the king, then on a journey to Fife, James sent the accuser with his ring, to Sir James Learmouth, master of the household, and Sir James Kirkaldy the treasurer, and by their means, Hamilton was speedily executed. The treasurer’s second son, James Kirkaldy, married Helen, daughter of Leslie of Pitcaple, and heiress of Kellie in Forfarshire, a ward of the crown, and on his father’s leaving court to attend the nuptials, in his absence Cardinal Bethune and the priests obtained from the king a warrant to commit him to ward in the castle of Edinburgh. His imprisonment, however, was short, and he was soon restored to favour.

      After the disastrous rout at Solway, the king on his way to Falkland palace, where he died soon after (on 13th December, 1542), visited the treasurer’s house of Halyards, where he was courteously received by the Lady Grange, “an ancient and godlie matron.” The treasurer himself being absent, his eldest son, William Kirkaldy, and others, waited upon the king. At supper, the lady attempted to comfort his majesty, praying him “to take the work of God in good part.” “My portion,” he answered, “of this world is short, for I will not be with you fifteen days.” On his attendants’ asking him where he would hold his Christmas, he replied, “I cannot tell; choose you the place. But this I can tell you; before Christmas day ye will be masterless, and the realm without a king.” The treasurer and his son, William, were with the king in his last moments. By the advice of the former, the earl of Arran assembled the nobility, and obtained the regency during the young queen’s minority, and for a time the treasurer adhered faithfully to him; but, when the Romish party obtained the ascendency, he and Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, and Balneaves of Hallhill, whom he had made treasurer-clerk, were among the first to withdraw from him. He keenly supported the English connection, and in 1543 was dismissed from the office of lord-high-treasurer, mainly through the machinations of Cardinal Bethune. In revenge, he joined the celebrated conspiracy against that haughty and cruel churchman, and on the evening of his assassination, with three of his sons, he joined the murderers in the castle of St. Andrews, where his eldest son, William, had been since the morning. To the assistance of the garrison, King Henry remitted several sums of money, with £200 to the laird of Grange, who appears to have received other sums from that monarch, for his support of the projected marriage between the young Prince Edward and the infant Queen Mary. At the meeting of the Estates at Edinburgh on 4th August 1546, he and his three brothers and four sons, with all others within the castle of St. Andrews, were declared traitors and forfeited. On the surrender of that fortress, the garrison blamed their countrymen for deserting them, and the laird of Grange, on being carried with the rest prisoner to France, remarked, as he embarked, “I am assured God sall revenge it ere long.” With Monypenny of Pitmilly he was confined in the castle of Cherbourg, and while there they stoutly refused to go to mass, the laird of Grange telling the captain of the castle, on his insisting on it, that if compelled to attend, “those that were there should see by their behaviour how much they despised it.” After his release from Cherbourg he resided in England and beyond seas till 1556, when, by the mediation of the queen-dowager, he made his peace with the Scottish government, and his forfeiture being withdrawn he had his estates restored to him. He died soon after.

      With four daughters, he had five sons, namely, Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange, the foremost knight and soldier of his time, of whom a memoir follows; Sir James, who was hanged on the same scaffold with his brother in the High Street of Edinburgh; Sir David and Thomas, who both served with the garrison of St. Andrews, and being sent to Arran’s camp on proposals of peace, were not allowed to return; and George, of whom little is known. The daughter were, Marjory, married to Sir Henry Ramsay of Colluthie; Agnes, to Sir Robert Drummond of Carnock; Marion, to William Semple, second baron of Cathcart; and Elizabeth, to Sir John Moubray of Barnbougal, chief of an ancient family, which became extinct about 1620.

      Sir William Kirkaldy, the eldest son, married Margaret, daughter of Sir James Learmouth of Dairsie, provost of St. Andrews, and with her he got, on 5th October 1564, a crown charter of the lands called Nether Friarton, near that city. He had a daughter, Janet, who married Sir Thomas Ker of Ferniehirst, ancestor of the marquises of Lothian (see LOTHIAN, marquis of), an adherent of Queen Mary and one of the defenders of Edinburgh castle, when besieged by the troops of the regent Morton. The barony of Grange was restored on 29th November 1581 to William, son of Sir James Kirkaldy, and nephew of Sir William, the latter having no sons of his own. His mother, Helen Leslie, the heiress of Kellie, proved false to her husband, and betrayed him to her paramour, the regent Morton. He escaped from the prison at Dalkeith, to which the regent had consigned him, and eight days after she was found strangled in her bedchamber. In 1590 William Kirkaldy of Grange, Sir James’ son, signed the Solemn League and Covenant, and in 1596 he was indited, with three others, for convocating an unlawful assembly. He had, with a daughter, two sons, Robert, who succeeded him, and Thomas. On 14th May 1664, Charles II. created John Kirkaldy, then in possession of Grange, a baronet of Scotland, but the title was not connected with any grant of land in America, as was usual with the baronetcies of Nova Scotia. Sir James Kirkaldy, the second baronet of Grange, and ten other persons, were, by order of the Scottish privy council, committed to the tolbooth of Edinburgh, on 25th June 1674, charged with holding an armed conventicle in Fife, for which he was fined £550. Sir John Kirkaldy of Grange, the third baronet, was alive in 1722, and on his death in 1739 the title became extinct. The estate of Grange, after being in possession of a family of the name of Skene, and subsequently of the Carnegies of Boysack, became the property of the Fergussons of Raith.

      Mr. Grant, in the notes to the ‘Memoirs and Adventures of Kirkaldy of Grange,’ (Edinburgh, 1849, p. 382,) says that there are two families of the name in England, Kirkaldy of Monkwearmouth, Durham, and Kirkaldy, late of Sunderland, now of Liverpool, both of whom bear the arms of the line of Inchture; namely, a fess wavy, between three mullets gules, with the crest and motto of the lairds of Grange, “fortissima Veritas.” He believes that there is only one family in Scotland bearing the name.

KIRKALDY, WILLIAM, of Grange, reputed the bravest and most skilful soldier of his time, was the eldest son of Sir James Kirkaldy of Grange, high treasurer to James V. He early embraced the principles of the Reformation, and was one of the conspirators against Cardinal Bethune. After the surrender of the castle of St. Andrews, he was, with the others, sent prisoner to France, but contrived to make his escape, and afterwards distinguished himself highly in the service of the French king. On his return to Scotland, he attached himself to the lords of the Congregation, and had several gallant rencontres with the French forces sent over to the assistance of the queen-regent. For his concern in the murder of Cardinal Bethune, he had been attainted, but the attainder was taken off by parliament in 1563. In 1566 he joined the confederacy of nobles for the removal of Bothwell, and the protection of the infant prince, and at Carberry Hill received the surrender of Queen Mary. He afterwards pursued Bothwell in the Orkney seas, scattered his small fleet, and obliged him to fly, with a single ship, towards Norway.

      After the battle of Langside, where he greatly assisted the regent Moray, Kirkaldy was appointed governor of Edinburgh castle. He was also lord provost of Edinburgh. Up to this period, he had shown himself to be firmly attached to the Protestant, or king’s party, but during the absence of the regent at the conferences at York, Maitland of Lethington obtained an extraordinary ascendency over him, and, unfortunately for himself, he was persuaded to give his support to the cause of Mary.

      The regent Moray’s death in 1570 revived the hopes of the queen’s adherents; and, being animated with the utmost rancour against their opponents, they resolved on an immediate appeal to arms. Assembling at Linlithgow, the chiefs of the queen’s faction marched thence to Edinburgh, and held a parliament there, but were soon after compelled to remove to the former town, where they openly proclaimed the queen’s authority. On the other hand, the leader of the king’s party having chosen the earl of Lennox regent, convoked the Estates at Stirling, and issued a counter-proclamation. To the assistance of the latter, sir William Drury, marshal of Berwick, arrived with a large force from England, and a truce was concluded between the contending factions, which was continued till the end of April 1571. On the day after its expiration, Captain Crawford of Jordanhill, by a successful night attack, surprised the castle of Dumbarton for the regent, and taking prisoner, among others, Hamilton, archbishop of St. Andrews, who had sought refuge in the fortress, that prelate was almost immediately afterwards executed at Stirling, without even the semblance of a trial. On the 12th of June, Kirkaldy held a parliament in the queen’s name in the Castle of Edinburgh, and in the subsequent September, he projected a well-concerted plan for seizing the regent and all the nobles with him at Stirling, which, owing to the imprudence of those to whom the enterprise was intrusted, proved a failure; but, in the accompanying struggle, the regent Lennox was killed.

      On the earl of Morton being appointed to the regency, that nobleman set on foot negotiations for an accommodation with the principal leaders of the queen’s party, in which he was at length successful. Maitland and Kirkaldy, however, in the expectation of receiving some promised succours from France, still resolved to defend the castle of Edinburgh in the queen’s behalf. That fortress was, in consequence, closely invested by the forces of Sir William Drury, who had joined the regent’s army with a formidable train of artillery. After performing prodigies of valour, Kirkaldy saw his defences battered down, one well destroyed, and the other choked up, his guns silenced, and his provisions exhausted, and in vain offered terms. The garrison mutinied, and threatened to hang Maitland over the wall, which compelled Kirkaldy to capitulate, when he surrendered to the English commander, May 29, 1573, on promise of good treatment. In spite of this assurance, however, the brave Kirkaldy and his brother were ignominiously hanged at the Cross of Edinburgh, on the third of the ensuing August, and Maitland only escaped the same fate by taking poison.

      John Knox, with whom he had quarrelled about the end of 1570, as related in the life of the Reformer, had, previous to his death, in November 1572, sent Kirkaldy, by David Lindsay, minister of Leith, the following remarkable and solemn message: “Go,” he said, “to yonder man in the castle (meaning Kirkaldy) – he whom ye know I have loved so dearly – tell him that I have sent ye once more to warn him, in the name of God, to leave that evil cause, for neither the craigy rock in which he so miserably confides, nor the carnal prudence of that man Lethington, whom he esteems even as a demigod, nor the assistance of strangers, shall preserve him; but he shall be disgracefully dragged forth to punishment, and hanged on a gallows in the face of the sun, unless he speedily amend his life, and flee to the mercy of God.” At the instigation of Maitland, Kirkaldy returned a scornful answer, which afterwards occasioned him the most poignant regret. “Begone,” he sais, “and tell Master John Knox he is but a dirty prophet.” On the day of his execution, when he saw the scaffold prepared, says Calderwood, the day fair, “and the sun shining clear,” his countenance changed, and Mr. David Lindsay, who was with him, asked him the cause. “Faith, Mr. David,” he answered, “I perceive well now that Mr. Knox was the true servant of God, and his threatenings to be accomplished.” He then requested him to repeat Knox’s message, which he did, adding that he had been earnest with God for him, and was sorry for that which should befall his body, for the love he bare to him, but was assured there was mercy for his soul. To this he answered, “I hope in God that, after men shall think I am past and gone, I shall give you a token of the assurance of that mercy to my soul, according to the speech of that man of God.” It was about four o’clock in the afternoon that he was thrust off the ladder, the sun being then west, according to Calderwood’s minute description, about the north-west corner of the steeple of St. Giles’. “As he was hanging, his face was set towards the east; but within a short space, turned about to the west, against the sun, and so remained; at which time Mr. David marked him, when all supposed he was dead, to lift up his hands, which were bound before him, and to lay them down again softly; which moved him with exclamation to glorify God before all the people.” [Calderwood’s History of the Church of Scotland, vol. iii. p. 284.] His head, after being cut off, was fixed upon the highest spike in the gate of the castle of Edinburgh, which he had, with the greatest courage and fidelity, defended to the last.


KIRKCALDY, viscount of, a secondary title of the earl of Leven and Melville. See that title.

Kirkcaldy of Grange
By Louis A Barbé (1897) (pdf)

Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus