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The Stirling's first appear as owners of land in the twelfth century. After possessing land in different counties, they acquired, in the reign of William the Lion, the estate of Cawder, which has continued in the family, without interruption through the 20th century  -- a period of nearly 8 centuries. Few families can boast of an inheritance which has descended through so long a line of ancestors.

The Stirlings of Fairburn are acknowledged by the Lord Lyon in a matriculation of Arms to be direct descendants of Clan MacGregor that took the name Stirling, when they were under the protection of the Stirling family, as an alias during the proscription on their name and kept the name Stirling when the proscription was lifted.

After continuing for ten generations in the direct male line, the Cawder estate, in the sixteenth century, descended to an heiress, who married her kinsman, Sir James Stirling of Keir; and thus the Cawder and Keir families became united; the two estates have ever since been held by the same proprietor.

Keir was first acquired by the Stirling family in the year 1448. Lukas Stirling, who had previously possessed lands in Fife and Strathern, purchased Keir from George Leslie of that ilk, ancestor of the Earls of Rothes. Sir William, the grandson, got Keir erected into a barony by King James III, who afterwards burned the tower. Sir William had been accused of being a party to the assassination of James III, at the battle of Sauchieburn, but without sufficient evidence.

Sir John, the fourth Laird of Keir, added greatly to the family estates between the years 1517 and 1535. He took a prominent part in the public events of the time, and held office of the Sheriff of Perth in 1516. After the death of James IV at Floden, the custody of the young King's person was committed to him. He was forfeited for appearing at the battle of Linlithgow against the King's authority in 1526, but was restored in the following year. He founded a chaplainry in the Cathedral church of Dunblane in 1509.

His son, Sir James, was the husband of the heiress of Cawder. He divorced his wife, but retained her estate, and thus added considerably to the wealth of the family. He was appointed by King James IV, to be one of the judges who tried Morton for the murder of Stewart of Darnley, and pronounced the sentence of death on the regent.

Sir George Stirling, great grandson of Sir James, was intimately connected with his kinsman, the first Marquis of Montrose, and was prosecuted in 1641, by the Committee of Estates, as one of the 'Plotters'. Sir George was with Montrose at the rout of Philiphaugh, the only occasion on which this quiet knight was found associated in arms with his great cavalier chief. After the death of Sir George without surviving issue, the estates of Keir and Cawder were inherited by his cousin Sir Archibald Stirling, Lord Garden, a Lord of Session of some distinction in the reign of Charles II.

James Stirling, grandson of Lord Garden, was a keen Jacobite, and was tried for an alleged conspiracy in favour of the Stuart family in 1708, but acquitted. James Stirling was forfeited in 1715, and deprived of his estates, which were afterward acquired by friends, and restored to his son, from who they have descended to the present representative of the family.

In the course of the long descent of the Keir and Cawder families, there have been no less than fourteen knights, ten of whom were in immediate succession to each other. The honour of knighthood, though personal, has thus the appearance of having been hereditary for many generations in the Keir family. Several branches of the family, such as Ardoch, Glorat, and others, attained hereditary rank of Baronet for special services; but the representatives of the main line have remained untitled, as they began, barons of Cawder and Keir.

Our thanks to Rick Stirling for providing us with this history.



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