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The Scottish Nation

FAIRLEY, the surname of an old family in Ayrshire, now extinct, descended from Robert de Ross, a branch of the Rosses of Tarbet in Cunningham, mentioned in the Ragman Roll as proprietors of the lands of Fairley, whence they took their name. [See Remarks on Ragman Roll, Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol. ii. p. 29.] In 1335, William de Fairley was included in a list of twenty Scotsmen who received letters of pardon from Edward the Third, for all the crimes they had committed in war with England. [Rot. Scot. vol. i. p. 381.]

      About the year 1540 there was a John Fairley of Fairley, who is supposed to have been succeeded by David Fairley of that ilk. The latter had three daughters, coheiresses, the eldest of whom, Margaret, married Sir Robert Crawford, eldest son of William Crawford of Drumsoy, and her husband, by some family arrangement, succeeded to the whole property, and became Fairley of that ilk.

      The family continued in possession of the estate till the beginning of the eighteenth century, when it was sold to David, earl of Glasgow. Fairley castle, a square tower, situated on the coast of the parish of Largs, and built in 1521, is remarkable as the scene of the ballad of ‘Hardyknute.’ It commands one of the finest views on the Firth of Clyde, but is now in ruins.


      The Fairlies of Bruntsfield in the vicinity of Edinburgh (a cadet of the Fairlies of Braid in the same neighbourhood), stated by Nisbet (System of Heraldry, vol. i. p. 295) to have been descended from a natural son of King Robert the Second, on the extinction of the original family of Fairley in Ayrshire, assumed the title of that ilk, or chief of the name, although they appear to have been a different family altogether. The first of this family was John Fairlie, burgess in Edinburgh, who received, by charter dated 2d July 1603, from Alexander Lauder of Halton, the lands of Bruntsfield, originally Brownsfield, from Richard Brown of Burrowmuir, to whom they at one time belonged. This John Fairlie died before the 24th February 1607.

      His son, William Fairlie, had the honour of knighthood conferred on him soon after succeeding to the estate of Bruntsfield, which he disposed of to his son, William Fairlie, in his lifetime, and died before the last day of March 1626.

      The son of this William, also William Fairlie of Bruntsfield, acquired the lands of little Dreghorn in Ayrshire, by purchase from the family of Fullarton, and in 1689 was appointed one of the commissioners for ordering out the militia. In Law’s Memorial occurs the following note: “Rowallan, elder and younger, and Bruntsfield does retire and darn (that is, hide themselves) for a time,” suspected of being concerned in the Bothwell Brig insurrection in 1679. He was apprehended in London in June of that year, but does not appear to have been long detained in prison. He died before 22d May 1696.

      His son, William, on succeeding to the estates, dropped the designation of Bruntsfield, and assumed that of Fairlie, the name now given to the lands of Little Dreghorn, which had been acquired by his father.

      William, his son by his first wife, Catherine, daughter of Thomas Brisbane of that ilk, had a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Margaret. His second wife, by whom he had a daughter who died in infancy, was Elizabeth Craufurd, second daughter of John Craufurd of Craufurdland, who survived him more than sixty years, and remarried, in 1744, John Howieson of Braehead, in the county of Edinburgh. [See CRAWFORD.]

      Alexander Fairlie, the son, a gentleman of considerable talent, took a lead in most matters relating to the county of Ayr in his time, and was a great promoter of agricultural improvement. He died, unmarried, at an advanced age, in the year 1803, and was succeeded by his sister, Margaret Fairlie of Fairlie, who had married William Cuningham, afterwards of Auchenskeith, served heir, in 1778 to the deceased Sir David Cuningham of Robertland, baronet, when he assumed the title, and became the seventh baronet of that family. He died in 1781, and was succeeded by his son, Sir William Cuningham, who assumed the additional name of Fairlie, the conjoined name being now that of the family. [See CUNINGHAM.]

      Sir Charles Cuningham-Fairlie, born 22d September, 1780, succeeded his brother as 8th baronet, Feb. 28, 1852, and died June 1, 1859; succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Percy Arthur, 9th baronet, born in 1815.

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