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CALDER, an ancient surname assumed from the lands of Calder, now Cawdor, in Nairnshire, but derived originally from the French name of de Cadella, from which the name of Cadell takes its rise, Hugo de Cadella being a thane of Calder in the reign of King Malcolm Canmore, in whose restoration he was very instrumental, and in consequence was liberally rewarded by that monarch. His son, Gilbertus de Cadella, in 1104, obtained from King Edgar a grant of the lands of Calder, &c. in the county of Nairn. His son, Alexander, who succeeded him, discovered a conspiracy of the Macdonalds, Murrays, and Cumings, to assassinate King Alexander the First at Bell-Edgar in his expedition to the north, for which good service, that monarch, on his return, confirmed to him the thanedom of Calder, in 1112. For three generations nothing more appears on record concerning the family of Calder, except that in the year 1230, Helen, a daughter of the family, was married to Schaw Macintosh of Macintosh. In 1295 Donald, thane of Calder, was one of the inquest on the extent of Kilravock and Easter Geddes, in the parish of Nairn, the property of his neighbour, Hugh Rose of Kilravock. His supposed son, William, had a charter of the Thanage from Robert I., 1310. He had a son, William, mentioned in his father’s lifetime, 1350. The next ascertained thane of Calder was Andrew. Boece relates that one Thomas, a valiant knight, supposed to be thane of Calder, was killed fighting on the side of the Comyn faction against the regent, Andrew de Moravia, before 1338, Robert Cumyn and William Cumyn being slain at the same time; but this seems an invention of his own, as no such event is known in history. Local tradition avers that the thane Andrew was murdered by Sir Alexander Rait of that ilk, and the lands of Rait being forfeited, were given to the thane of Calder’s heir, in consideration of his father’s murder. His son, Donald, succeeded him. Donald’s son, William, succeeded in 1442. In 1454 he is designated by the king, James II., as his loved familiar squire, dilectus familiaris scutifer. With Thomas Carmichael, canon of Moray, he held the joint office of Crown chamberlain beyond Spey. He was the original builder of the castle of Cawdor. Tradition mentions another son, Hutcheon or Hugh, who in 1452 attended Alexander earl of Huntly, the king’s lieutenant, in his expedition against the earls of Crawford and Douglas, then in rebellion, and Huntly having routed the forced of these two earls at the battle of Brechin, Hutcheon, being too eager in his pursuit, was taken prisoner by the enemy, and brought to Finhaven, whither Crawford had retired; but he being alarmed while at supper with the news of Huntly’s approach, fled with such precipitation that Hutcheon and several other prisoners made their escape. Hutcheon carried off the silver cup out of which Crawford drank, and presented it to Huntly at Brechin as a sure evidence of Crawford’s flight, for which service, says the History of the family of Gordon incorrectly, Huntly, upon his return home, gave him the lands of Asswanly, and George duke of Gordon gave to his successor a massy silver cup gilded, whereon the history of the transaction was engraved. From this Hutcheon was supposed to have descended the family of Calder, baronet of Muirtown (see following article); but in a note appended by the late Admiral Sir Robert Calder, baronet, to a copy of ‘Nisbet’s Heraldry’ in the Advocates’ library, the appendix to which contains an account of the family of Calder, it is stated that “the Calders of Asswanly are not descended from Hutcheon, second son of Donald thane of Calder, nor has the grant of the lands of Asswanly any reference to the battle of Brechin, which was fought on the 18th May 1452, twelve years subsequent to the date of the grant of the foresaid lands of Asswanly, as appears by a charter of confirmation from the king, dated at Edinburgh 8th July 1450, of the grant of the lands of Asswanly, by Sir Alexander Setonne to Hugh Calder, son and heir of Alexander Calder, and to his spouse Elizabeth Gordonne, dated at Elgin, the last day of August 1440.” This note is dated Edinburgh, 29th September 1802, and the original charter was stated to be in the possession of the said Rear-admiral Sir Robert Calder.

      William, thane of Calder, in his father’s lifetime, under the name of William de Calder, was a witness in a charter of confirmation granted by Alexander earl of Ross to Sir Walter Innes, of the lands of Aberkerder, dated 22d February 1438. He went with William earl of Douglas, to the Jubilee at Rome in 1450. [Abercromby’s Martial Achievements, vol. ii. p. 348, in which he is styled the lord Calder.] In 1467 Thane William attended parliament as proxy of the earl of Ross, and died in 1468. He had a brother, Alexander, who, or another brother whose name has not been transmitted to us, went, with several other Scots gentlemen, to assist Charles VII. of France against the English, and from him is descended the family of De la Campagna in Toulouse. William’s son, William, thane of Calder, is mentioned among the barons present in parliament in 1469 and 1471, and in the former year he served upon the assize which convicted Alexander Boyd of high treason. The thanedom and other lands belonging to William were erected into a fee barony in his favour in the year 1476, and declared to lie within the shire of Nairn, although they are situated in different shires. He died about 1503. William, his eldest son, being lame and inclining to enter the church, renounced his right to the estate, upon 29th April 1488, which his father entailed on his second son, John, and his heirs. In virtue thereof, John was infeft in the year 1493, and the father, then aged, gave up the estate to him. He married, in 1492, Isabella, daughter of Hugh Rose of Kilravock, and died in 1498. Two daughters, Janet and Murriel, were born after his death. Janet died while yet a mere child, and Murriel succeeded to the estate, in virtue of the above-mentioned entail.

      Archibald earl of Argyle, and Hugh rose of Kilravock, uncle to the young heiress, were appointed tutors dative to her by King James the Fourth in 1494, and Campbell of Innerliver was sent to Kilravock in 1499, with sixty men, to convey her to Inverary, to be educated in the family of Argyle. But on their way thither with the infant heiress, they were pursued by Alexander and Hugh Calder, her uncles, at the head of a considerable force. They overtook the party of Campbell in Strathnairn, on which the latter sent her forward with one of his sons and a few men, and the rest kept the Calders in check, till he was sure that his young charge was safe and at a considerable distance. He then, after some loss of both sides, followed and conducted her to Inverary, where she was educated, and in 1510, she married Sir John Campbell, 3d son of the 2d earl of Argyle, and ancestor of the earls of Cawdor. [See CAWDOR, earl of.] The thanes of Calder, as constables of the king’s house, resided in the castle of Nairn, and had a country-seat at what is now called Old Calder, vestiges whereof still remain. But by a royal license, dated 6th August 1454, they built the present tower of Calder, now Cawdor.


The founder of the Calders of Muirtoune, Robert Calder, was infeft in the lands of Asswanly, as above mentioned, in 1440. He had two sons; the younger, James Calder, settled at Elgin, and had a son who appears to have been in business there from 1607 to 1636. His son, Thomas Calder, purchased in 1639 the lands of Sheriffmiln, near Elgin. He was provost of Elgin in 1665, and in 1669 completed the building of a noble mansion there. His eldest son, James Calder, laird of Muirtoune, was created a baronet of Scotland and Nova Scotia, 5th November, 1686. By his wife, Grizzel, daughter of Sir Robert Innes, Baronet, of Innes, he had a son, Thomas, the second baronet, and several other children. His grandson, Sir James Calder, the third baronet, married Alice, daughter of Admiral Robert Hughes, by whom he had two sons, and a daughter, the latter married to Admiral Roddam of Roddam, county of Northumberland. He was succeeded by his elder son, Sir Henry, a major-general in the army, whose son, Sir Henry Roddam Calder, is the fifth baronet. Sir Robert Calder, the second son, and uncle of the latter, was the distinguished admiral, a notice of whom follows.

CALDER, SIR ROBERT, BART., vice-admiral of the blue, second son of Sir Thomas Calder of Muirtoune, was born in the family mansion, county of Elgin, July 2, 1745. At the age of fourteen he entered as a midshipman on board of a man-of-war. In 1766 he accompanied the Hon, George Faulkener, as lieutenant of the Essex, to the West Indies. Some years after he obtained the rank, first of master and commander, and then of post-captain of the navy. During the American war he was employed in the Channel fleet. In 1782 he commanded the Diana, which was engaged as a repeating frigate to Rear-admiral Kempenfelt, who was lost in the Royal George, in Spithead Roads, on the 29th August of that year. At the commencement of the war with France, he was appointed first captain to his brother-in-law, Admiral Roddam, whose flag was then flying on board the Barfleur. He afterwards commanded the Theseus of 74 guns, which formed part of Lord Howe’s fleet in 1794; but having been despatched with rear-admiral Montague’s squadron, to protect a valuable convoy destined for the colonies, he did not participate in the brilliant victory of the 1st of June.

      In 1796 he was appointed by Sir John Jervis, afterwards earl St. Vincent, captain of the fleet under his command, and accordingly served in that capacity of board the Victory, off Cadiz, with a squadron of fifteen sail of the line and seven frigates. For his conduct in the battle off Cape St. Vincent, Captain Calder, who was sent home with the despatches, was knighted, and on 22d August 1798, was created a baronet of Great Britain.

      On the 14th February 1799, he obtained his flag as rear-admiral by seniority, and April 23, 1804, he was advanced to the rank of vice-admiral of the white. While employed in this latter capacity, he was selected, in 1805, by Admiral Cornwallis, then commanding the Channel fleet, to blockade the harbours of Ferrol and Corunna. The force intrusted to him on this occasion proved very inadequate to the service. He, however, retained his station, notwithstanding the manoeuvres of the Brest fleet; and on being joined by rear-admiral Stirling, with five sail of the line from before Rochefort, together with a frigate and a lugger, he proceeded to sea for the express purpose of intercepting the French and Spanish squadrons from the West Indies under Admiral Villeneuve. They soon after, near Cape Finisterre, descried the combined fleet, consisting of twenty sail of the line, five frigates, and two brigs; while the English force amounted to no more than fifteen ships, two frigates, a cutter, and a lugger. In the action which ensued, and which continued for four hours, two sail of the enemy’s line, the Rafael of 84, and the Firme of 74 guns, were captures; while Sir Robert did not lose a single sail of his own.

      His success on this occasion obtained the full approbation of his commander-in-chief, who soon after despatched him, with a considerable squadron, to cruize off Cadiz in order to watch the motions of the enemy; but, in the days when Lord Nelson’s splendid exploits led those in power to expect great things from our commanders at sea, so incomplete a victory even over a superior fleet, did not satisfy parties at home; and Sir Robert immediately demanded a court-martial for the purpose of explaining his conduct. The court found that, in spite of his inferior force, he had not done his utmost to renew the engagement, and to take and destroy every ship of the enemy, and accordingly adjudged him to be severely reprimanded. This sentence was as harsh as it was unreasonable and unmerited, and accordingly it was condemned by the nation in general, and the admiralty soon after appointed Sir Robert port-admiral at Portsmouth. The hardship of his case was brought under the notice of parliament by the duke of Norfolk and the earl of Romney. Sir Robert Calder died at Holt, in Hampshire, August 31, 1818. He had married, in May 1779, Amelia, only daughter of John Mitchell, Esq. of Bayfield Hall, Norfolk, by whom he had no issue, and his baronetcy accordingly became extinct.

The name Calder from the Dictionary of National Biography

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