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

Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
Lord Aberdeen

JOHN CAMPBELL GORDON, P.C., K.T., G.C.V.O., G.C.M.G., first Marquis of Aberdeen and Temair (Viscount Formatime, Lord Haddo, Methlick, Tarves and Kellie, Peerage of Scotland, 1680; Earl of Aberdeen, 1682: Viscount Gordon of Aberdeen, Peerage of the United Kingdom, 1814; Baronet of Nova Scotia, 1642), was born August 3, 1847, at Edinburgh. He studied at Cheam School and the University of St. Andrews, and subsequently at University College, Oxford, where he was graduated in 1872.

Lord Aberdeen succeeded to the title and the family estates In Scotland at the early age of twenty-three, upon the death of his brother George, in 1870. The brief but romantic career of that young man has an aspect of interest for Americans. He was distinguished especially by two characteristics: first, a great fondness for the sea and seafaring life; and secondly, a spirit of great independence combined with high principles.

In the year 1863, while his father was still alive, it was arranged that he should pay a visit to an uncle .( Sir Arthur Gordon) who was at that time Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick. Instead of crossing by one of the regular liners, George, without mentioning the fact to his relatives, shipped on a sailing vessel, the Pomona, as a passenger.

Before the ship had been many days out, one of the crew fell from aloft and fractured his leg. George, who had some knowledge of First Aid, pro-. vided splints for the injured limb, and the man made good progress, but was, of course, unable to work. George accordingly offered his services, which were gladly accepted by the captain, who quickly discovered that his passenger (of whose real name he had no knowledge), who was more than six feet in height and a handsome young fellow, was a decidedly handy man on board.

Meanwhile, the mystery as to how Lord Haddo (as he then was) was crossing the Atlantic was discovered through the investigation of a relative who was an Admiral in the British Navy, and at once the Governor of New Brunswick was informed that his nephew might be expected to arrive on the Pomona. Accordingly, as soon as the ship was in port she was boarded by the Governor’s Aide-de-Camp in uniform, who enquired of the captain if Lord Haddo was on board. "Why, bless you, Sir," said the captain, "I guess we’ve no lords on this vessel. I’ve just one passenger and a fine man he is. He’s busy forward at the windlass just now, but I can send for him if you wish." So a message reached George that he was wanted aft.

The young man was in no hurry to leave his work, but bye-and-bye he proceeded aft, and was at once addressed by the gentleman from Government House, "I think I have the honour of speaking to Lord Haddo?"

"Well, yes, but I ‘m not known on board by my own name. I ‘11 come along with you immediately."

After the visit to his uncle, George had experiences which he greatly enjoyed at a lumber camp during part of the winter; and then, hearing that his father was ill, he hastened home to Scotland. On his father’s death in 1864, he became Earl of Aberdeen. He was a noted rifle shot; and he and his second brother James, a highly gifted young man, were both members of the "Scottish Eight," that won the much coveted "Elcho Challenge Shield" at Wimbleton, in 1866.

George, as might have been expected, was made a good deal of in London society. But this did not satisfy him—quite the reverse: he wanted reality, and the occasion for energy, and especially energy in the direction of self-help and self-reliance; and so, toward the end of 1866 or the beginning of 1867, he left England under an assumed name for America. He made several voyages to and from American ports and also studied at a Navigation College in Boston, where he in due time obtained a captain’s certificate for the American Mercantile Marine.

There can be no doubt that had he been spared to return to Britain he would have possessed a practical knowledge of seafaring life unequalled by any of his fellow peers in Parliament. But, alas, this promising career was cut short: for on January 27, 1870, while acting as chief mate of the Hera on a voyage from Boston to Melbourne, Australia, George was washed overboard and drowned, in a gale so violent that no boat could be launched. It was characteristic that when this fatal accident occurred George was evidently himself taking the lead in the difficult operation in such a storm of furling the jib of the ship.

After this tragic event, it became necessary in order to establish the legal succession to the title and estates to obtain full particulars as to the late Earl’s life during his stay incognito in America. This task was entrusted to Sheriff Harry Smith, a well-known Scottish lawyer. At the conclusion of his investigation, Mr. Smith wrote as follows: "The more that I learn of this young man’s career, the more do I admire him: I have made a microscopic examination of his life from the age of twenty-four to twenty-eight."

The second brother, James, having unhappily been killed by a rifle accident in the year 1868, the younger brother, John Campbell Gordon, became seventh Earl of Aberdeen. Unlike his brother George, Lord Aberdeen did not show any partiality for the sea. His hobby was rather that of railways, and many times did he drive a locomotive on the railways near his home in Scotland. His first speech in the House of Lords, very soon after he became a member, was on railway work, and made an impression because of his personal acquaintance with the subject. A few years later he became Chairman of a Royal Commission to enquire into the subject of railway accidents. He had entered Parliament as a Conservative, but in 1880, he was recognized as a member of the Liberal Party and was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire, an honorary post he has held since that time.

Lord Aberdeen’s first official position was that of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to which he was appointed in 1880, serving until 1885. This appointment was the means of bringing out immediately the social and organized talents and broad-minded disposition of Lady Aberdeen, then only twenty-three years of age. A considerable amount of entertaining had always been recognized as forming a principal part of the duties of the Lord High Commissioner, but these hospitalities had in the main been limited to the members of the Established Church of Scotland Assembly, and their families. But with Lord Aberdeen’s assumption of the office, a change was quickly apparent. There was an immediate re-organization of the social arrangements, and especially an enlargement of the scope of the invitations to the ancient Scottish palace of Holyrood (where the Lord High Commissioner resides during his tenure of office), persons of prominence in any branch of the ecclesiastical or civic life of the community being included; and this extension of the scope of the social duties of the Lord High Commissioner has been maintained ever since; and better still, the official recognition of the sister churches, which was encouraged or inaugurated by Lord Aberdeen, has steadily developed; so that now, for instance, a visit by the Lord High Commissioner to the Assembly of the United Free Church (where His Grace is always sure of a cordial reception) is a recognized observance. Lord Aberdeen again served as Lord High Commissioner in 1915.

In January, 1886, Lord Aberdeen was selected by Mr. Gladstone to fill the position of Lord-Lieutenant (or Viceroy) of Ireland. Our space will not permit any detailed description of this brief but memorable period of office; but it should be recorded that when, owing to the defeat of the first Home Rule Bill and the consequent resignation of Mr. Gladstone ‘s government, in July of the same year, Lord and Lady Aberdeen had to withdraw from Ireland, the farewell demonstration which took place in Dublin was one of extraordinary enthusiasm. It was a manifestation on a vast scale and of impressive intensity of emotions of regret and affection; and of disappointment, but also of hope as to the future. Few, indeed, would have believed that thirty years would revolve before the boon of self-government for Ireland would be within actual reach of attainment.

Soon after their departure from Ireland, Lord and Lady Aberdeen made a tour round the world, visiting India and Australia and returning by the way of the United States, landing at San Francisco and visiting various cities on their way across the continent. After returning to Britain, they resumed their active life, taking part in political and social affairs and also visiting Canada in the years 1890 and 1891, when Lord Aberdeen bought a large ranch in British Columbia and became the pioneer of fruit farming.

In 1893, he visited the World’s Fair at Chicago in connection with the exhibit in the shape of an Irish Village, which was devised and organized by Lady Aberdeen for the benefit of the Irish Home Industries Movement, which had been started by her in 1886. This enterprise proved to be a remarkable success, and after clearing all expenses, including the heavy dues levied by the exposition authorities, there remained a sum of about $100,000 which was devoted to the purpose above mentioned.

In the same year, 1893, Lord Aberdeen was appointed Governor General of Canada, a post he occupied for five years. It was an eventful period full of activity for Lord and Lady Aberdeen. We must not, however, linger to describe any of the leading features of their Canadian experience; but it may be remarked that on each occasion, when subsequently they have visited Canada, they have been received with many warm manifestations of kindly remembrance and appreciation.

After leaving Canada in 1898, Lord Aberdeen was again busy at home until the end of 1905, when he was appointed a second time Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. Lord and Lady Aberdeen took up their official residence in Ireland early in 1906 and continued with little intermission until February, 1915. The whole period was one of great activity for Lord and Lady Aberdeen and some of the principal features thereof will be mentioned in another article, though it may here be remarked that Lord Aberdeen had throughout his tenure of the position a difficult course to steer, owing to the peculiar constitution of the Viceregal office, the occupant of which has to combine the twofold function of the Representative of the Sovereign, and also Chief of the Government Executive, the latter of these functions, of course, bringing him inevitably within reach of political controversy. Judging by the fact that, when it was announced that Lord and Lady Aberdeen were about to resign their position when they had occupied it for about nine years, there was a wide-spread movement to induce them to remain, it may be safely assumed that Lord Aberdeen had succeeded in conducting his line of action, official and otherwise, with zeal and impartiality.

A large part of the years 1915 and 1916, Lord and Lady Aberdeen spent in the United States and Canada, lecturing and securing funds for the support of social work for health and child welfare in Ireland.

Lord Aberdeen has been Honorary Colonel of the Aberdeenshire Artillery Volunteers since 1888; he is a Brigadier General of the Royal Company of Archers; and a Vice-President of the Royal Colonial Institute since 1891. He has been a member of many important Commissions and has received many distinguished honours and the following University degrees: LL.D., University of Aberdeen, 1883; Hon. LL.D., Queen’s University, Ontario, McGill University, Montreal, and from Ottawa, Toronto and Lava Universities, 1894; Hon. D.C.L., Oxford, 1907, University of Bishop ‘s College, Lennoxville, 1895; and Hon. LL.D., Princeton University, 1897. He is a Liberal; a member of numerous societies and associations; President of the International Vigilance Association for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic; and a member of Brook’s, Reform, National Liberal, and other clubs.

Lord Aberdeen’s address is Haddo House, Aberdeen, and House of Cromar, Aberdeenshire. He owns estates comprising about 58,000 acres. One of his chief recreations, aside from field sports, is landscape gardening.

Lord Aberdeen married, November 7, 1877, Hon. Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks, youngest daughter of the late Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, First Baron Tweedmouth. They have had three sons and two daughters: George, Earl of Haddo, born January 20, 1879; educated at Harrow and at Balliol College, Oxford; married, August, 1906, Florence, Mrs. Cockayne. Lord Haddo is a very keen member of the London County Council and has taken a foremost part in the Y. M. C. A. work of providing Recreation Halls for the soldiers from the beginning of the war. Major Lord Dudley Gladstone Gordon, born May 6, 1883; married, 1907, Miss Cecile Drummond, daughter of Mr. George Drummond, senior partner of Drummond ‘s Bank, and has two Sons and a daughter: David, born 1908, Jessamine, born 1910, and Archie born 1913. Lord Dudley Gordon is an engineer by profession and a partner of Messrs. Hall & Co., London. He joined the 9th Battalion Gordon High-landers, known as "The Pioneers," at the outbreak of the war. Lady Marjorie Gordon, born December, 1880; married, July 12, 1904, Rt. Hon. John Sinclair, First Baron Pentland, late Secretary of Scotland and Governor of Madras since 1912. Lord Pentland acted as Aide-de-Camp and Official Secretary to Lord Aberdeen in Ireland in 1886 and in Canada. He sat as Liberal member for Dumbartonshire and Forfarshire in the House of Commons and acted as Parliamentary Secretary to Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman for many years. The war work done in the presidency of Madras under the leadership of Lord and Lady Pentland has been remarkable. A very large fund in money has been raised and much personal work given; and in addition a magnificent hospital ship has been equipped and maintained by the people of Madras, plying between Africa and India, and subsequently between Mesopotamia and India, and rendering a splendid and much needed service. Lord and Lady Pentland have a son and a daughter: Margaret Ishbel, born October, 1906, and John Henry, born June, 1907. Archie Gordon, Lord and Lady Aberdeen’s third son, a young man of great promise and much beloved, died at the age of twenty-five from the effects of a motor accident. Dorothea Mary, their second daughter, died in infancy.

Return to Book 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