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Thursday, January 31, 1907

A meeting of the Banffshire Field Club was held this evening in the Reading Room of the Town and Country Club Banff. In the absence of the President, Mr. McPherson was called to the chair.

Mr. Walter Gerrard, solicitor, Macduff, was admitted a member of the Club, and Messrs John Malcolm Bulloch, M.A., London; Thomas Barton, Banff; and Henry C. Hossack solicitor, Banff, were nominated for election at their next meeting.

The Chairman then called on Mr. Grant, who read an elaborate paper by Mr. Bulloch on


The Gordon families in Glenlivet and in Mortlach are very difficult to trace. I am inclined to believe that most of them come from Tam Gordon of Ruthven, the brother of the famous “Jock” Gordon of Sourdargue, who were the illegitimate cousins of Elizabeth Gordon, the founder of the ducal house. But whereas the author or authors of the Balbithan MS devoted 40 pages to the descendants of Jock, only two pages and a bit are occupied by the issue of Tam, the MS., retiring defeated in the task with the words: ---

Here I find myself run aground for want of further and better information concerning the family of Davoch (that is Tam’s issue), whose representative this day (1644 or 1730?) is hard to be condescended upon, many of the foresaid families and also their descendants being now extinct and without succession.

So my Reader, I hope will excuse this rude and imperfect draught of the whole, and if any more versant in antiquity and genealogy shall make up my defect, I’ll reckon it good service done to the truth and Sirname of Gordon.

According to the Balbithan MS., Tam Gordon was three times married: (1) – Hay, sister of Sir Thomas Hay of Enzie; ___ Innes, daughter of Sir Walter Innes; the third wife’s name is not given. He had 16 sons, and had succession by four of them. Tam died in Davoch, and was buried in the kirk of Ruthven. His sons as detailed in the Balbithan MS. were:

Patrick Gordon, of Auchinreath, Corridown, and Cottonhill, “which he excambed with the lairdship of Sauchen.” He was the son by the first marriage; and was twice married himself. By his second wife, --- Panton, daughter of the Laird of Pitmedden, he had:

Alexander Gordon of Pethnick and Contly in Stryla, who dwelt in Parkmore in Balvenie. He married – Symmer, daughter of the laird of Badenoch. He dyed in the peace and was interred in the Kirk of Mortleach.” He had five sons.

John Gordon of Invercharrach. He married (1) the heretrix of Invercharrach and the Barron of Carron’s sister; and (2) – Innes, daughter of the Goodman of Drainie. He died in peace. “He was very hospitable and a good hunter.” He had six sons.

John Gordon, by first marriage. On page 67, the Balbithan MS. calls him “Barron of Achnastink”. But does not give him a Christian name, adding that he “dyed without succession.” On page 68, he is called “John Gordon of Achnastink, “ and he is stated to have married and begat:

William Gordon of Achinstink, who married and begat:

Alexander Gordon of Achinstink, who married Isabel Cumming and begat sons who dwelt in Mortlach.

William Gordon of Invercharrach.

Robert Gordon of Pittglassie.

James Gordon of Kinernie.

Alexander Gordon of Parkmore.

These four sons were by the second wife, the Goodman of Drainie’s daughter, and died without issue. They were all located in the parish of Mortlach.

William Gordon of Achinarrow was also by the laird of Drainie’s daughter. He married and begat:

Alaster Gordon of Achinarrow.

John Gordon in Easterkinmaichly.

James Gordon of Craiggon of Delmore.

Alexander Gordon of Bochrome.

James Gordon in Parkbeig.

Alexander, alias Alaster, Gordon in Achorlise.


In the eighteenth century a group of Gordons occupied Achlochran, Achnastank, and Tomnagayloch, in the Glenrinnes portion of the parish of Mortlach. They were cadets of the Beldornie family, which was descended from Adam Gordon, Dean of Caithness, third son of Alexander, 1st Earl of Huntly.

This group is dealt with in an unpublished genealogy compiled by Cosmo Gordon, Liverpool, (my 4th great uncle L.R.D.) in the early years of last century. His work is known as the “Birnie MS.,” and the original is in the possession of the family of More Gordon of Charlton Montrose, represented by the present vicar of Redhill, Surrey. The late Rev. Dr Gordon, Birnie, took a great amount of interest in it, and apparently had a copy of the MS made for him, which is now in the possession of Mrs. A. E. Davidson. She also owns a number of letters dealing with the aid of these I am able to present a fuller account of the group than has yet appeared in print.

The Balbithan MS, stops its account of the Beldornie Gordons about 1631; but according to the Birnie MS John Gordon, III of Beldornie, married a daughter of Gordon of Carinborrow, and had three sons;

(1) John Gordon IV, of Beldornie, who was a Commissioner of Supply for Banffshire in 1685, and whose issue died out, being replaced by Gordon of Tirrisoule, ancestor of the present Wardhouse family.

(2) James Gordon, who lived as Belchairy, and died without issue.

(3) Harry Gordon of Achlorach, with whose issue I am dealing. They represent the old Beldornie stock.


He was the youngest of the three sons of John Gordon of the three sons of John Gordon of Beldornie, and settled in Achlorach in Glenrinnes. He married a daughter of Cumming of Hillside of Balveny, by whom he had two sons:

(1) Harry Gordon, II of Achlochrach.

(2) Thomas Gordon. The Birnie MS., (pg 263) says he lived at Achlochran; but he seems to be identical with Thomas Gordon, who dwelt at Achnastank (p. 276). I treat him separately under Achnstank.

(3) Ann Gordon; married Thomas Grant, and died without issue.


He figured, according to the Birnie MS., at the siege of Edinburgh Castle in 1689. A mutiny had been engineered among the garrison, which was commanded by the Duke of Gordon, and His Grace ordered Francis Gordon of Midstrath “to bring up from the north, out of his own lands, 45 of the best most resolute men he could find to supply the places of those disbanded.” Harry Gordon of Achlochrach was at the head of a party who volunteered their services. The MS goes on to say: --

He was much in the confidence of the Duke, and during the siege was employed on several important occasions. A little before the sitting down of the Convention of Estates, the Duke discovered a new conspiracy in the garrison, which obliged him to require a new oath of the soldiers, and foreseeing that several of them would refuse it, he appointed Harry Gordon to take on some soldiers who had laid down their arms since the Revolution and remained about Edinburgh, selecting from amongst them those for whose fidelity he could answer. Then His Grace dismissed all who refused and turned them out of the garrison, after paying them their arrears.

On April 27, Harry Gordon was sent out for intelligence, and on the 29th he returned bringing with him Lieut. James Hay, John Mackay, and one Launders, an Irishman, after losing another three owing to the darkness of the night, who had also agreed to serve in the garrison.

On May 24, Harry Gordon went out again for intelligence, and returned in safety on the night of the 28th bringing an account that one of the besiegers mortar pieces had split, and that the great leaders in the Revolution, upon the appearance of some Dutch luggers in the Firth, got together horse attendants and arms, with other such vast preparations as if they had been to fly to, or front the Kings host.

On June 12, 1689, after fruitless treaty, the besiegers fired briskly upon all their batteries, and a party of them advanced so near that their officers were heard saying, “Advance, dogs,” and those in the garrison called out to them, “Ye dogs, will ye not obey your officers?” The besiegers made their last great effort this night, rolling up some great packs of wool on the Castle Hill, but were so gallantly fired on by those on duty at the low guard and the portcullis as to oblige them to retire; the men on all their posts kept singing aloud, “When the King shall hae his sin again.” Harry Gordon this night commanded the post in the low half-moon at the south corner; and on the day following a treaty was commenced and the Castle was surrendered after a close siege of three months, the garrison marching out and departing wherever it suited them without any restriction. Harry Gordon then returned home after having exhausted much of his property and to a degree, which his descendants did not recover in the two successive generations.

Harry Gordon, according to the Birnie MS., married his cousin, Janet Grant, daughter of Donald Grant of Glenlochy, “his mother being one of the seven daughters of Cairnburrow, and being all women above the common size were called the “Seven Capons.” The Birnie MS tells this curious story of Glenlochy: --

Donald on returning home from conveying his father-in-law through Glenlivet was drowned in the water of Lochy, about a mile below his own house; and his body not having been found for some time, in the Awin or Livet, and hence the saying of Maggy Mulloch (an idiot all covered over with hair, and on that account believed to be a witch). “Wet and weary, seeking Donald between Dalrady and the Lettach.”

Donald had a feu or wadset of Dalrady, Glenlochy, and Glenbruin, originally from the Earl of Moray as proprietor of the lands of Abernethy; but his cousin, who lived at Inverlochy, turned his widow out under pretence of being heir male to it, and some time afterwards disposed of his interest in it to Freuchy, the laird of Grant. Donald’s widow with her daughter and only child came to the neighbourhood of her cousin Achlochrach, and dwelt in Belandie, until his sons and her daughter were married to each other.

Harry Gordon, II of Achlochrach had two sons and a daughter.

(1) James Gordon, III of Achlochrach

(2) Robert Gordon. He lived in Achlochrach, and married Mrs. Nairn, a widow by whom he had one son and two daughters, who all died unmarried.

a. Robert Gordon, died in Jamica

b. Janet Gordon

c. Mary. The Birnie MS., remarks that :the latter lived a good deal with Wardes’ family.”

(3) Anne Gordon married Robert Duff of Lettach, grandson of John Duff of Clunybeg, the uncle of Alexander Duff of Keithmore, ancestor of Lord Fife.


He married Anne MacWilliam, daughter of David MacWilliam, alias Stewart, the younger of Achmore, and granddaughter of James O’Laggan. The Birnie MS gives some curious information about the MacWilliams, whose history is now being minutely investigated by and industrious London genealogist, Mr. H. Duff Macilliam, of Harrow View.

David was a branch of the Stewarts of Ballechin in Athole, and his grandfather, William (and hence the appellation of “MacWilliam”) left that country in consequence of a feud with some of this neighbours, and exchanged his property there with the Earl of Athole, who was then proprietor of Balveny and Pittvaich, the mill, and some of other lands about that place to be held in feu.

His son David settled in Achmore in Glenrinnes, a farm belonging to the Earl of Huntley, and married a daughter of Grant of Allachie, the sister of Alexander Duff of Keithmore’s wife, the ancestor of Lord Fife, and had one son and one daughter.

David, his son, married Jane, daughter of James O’Laggan, and died while a young man, leaving her a widow with several children. She was prevailed upon to dispose of Pittivaich and the mill to Alexander Duff of Braco, her husband’s cousin, in terms as little creditable to him as disreputable to herself, it being constantly reported in that part of the country that she sat down in the mill dam to stop the mill that he might take infeftment of it, the miller refusing to do it. Be this as it may, her children were reduced to great distress, for which Braco appeared perfectly indifferent, being a man callous to humanity, as well as natural affection, if he could by any means gratify his thirst for the acquirement of lands. The daughter married John Forbes of Keithack, son to Gordon Arthur Forbes, and left several children.

James Gordon, III. Of Achlochrach, by his wife, Anne MacWilliam, had two sons and two daughters:

(1) John Gordon, who went to the Milltown of Laggan.

(2) Anne Gordon’ married John Shand

(3) Janet Gordon died unmarried.

(4) Harry Gordon. He “lived first at Hardhaugh and afterwards at Boat of Bog, the name of the ferry across the Spey near Fochabers, now replace by a bridge. He married Helen Burges, the third daughter of Charles Burges at Clashdow, by Christian Forbes, daughter of John Forbes of Keithack. The Birnie MS calls Helen Burges the “near relation of Harry,” and says that the latter left one son and one daughter. The Mortlach Register, however, shows that another son had been born:

a. Charles Gordon, baptized January 24, 1752: witnesses, Charles Burges in Clashdow and John Forbes In Keithack.

b. Cosmo Gordon: baptized Dec. 28, 1752, before the same witnesses. The Birnie MS deals at great length with him. He was employed early in life in establishing the use of “Cudbear,” invented by his brothers-in-law, George and Cuthbert Gordon, sons of Thomas Gordon of Fotherletter. The Birnie MS says that soon after his marriage (in 1778) he was induced to purchase the office of one of the nineteen Deputy King’s Waiters of the Customs of the Port of London for an annuity of £70 during the life of Kenneth Macpherson, one of th Inquest of the Customs, and also during that of his wife (who was Mrs. Cosmo Gordon’s eldest sister). This annuity be paid for 34 years. Macpherson had got the billet by way of compensation for not having obtained the office of a Searcher in the Port fo London according to a promise made by Lord North to his friends, “James MacPherson, of Ossian notoriety, and to Sir John MacPherson, Governor General of Bengal.”

The emoluments, however were much smaller than Gordon expected, so he “turned his attention to the improvement of the revenue” in order to increase his income. He first suggested to Pitt “a scheme for the improvement of the duties arising from wood, by defining under a specific description each individual article in terms so clear and precise as to render doubt and evasion impossible, which with additional duty advanced that branch of the Customs from an average of £43,000 to the considerably more than half-a-million annually.”

He next suggested to Mr. Pitt the measure of warehousing tobacco. This took place on January 6, 1786, when he was appointed Comptrolling Surveyor of the Warehouse in London, with the promise of being principal surveyor so soon as an arrangement could be made for the retirement of a Mr. Thomas, then an old and infirm officer, which took place the year following. (The “Gentleman’s Magazine” records the fact, Dec 1788.) The measure of warehousing tobacco having proved so beneficial to the Revenue as to cause a greater quantity to pay the duty of fifteen pence a pound than formerly had paid only sixpence and a fraction, Mr. Pitt, with a view of suppressing the frauds committed int eh manufacture of snuff and tobacco, directed him in 1788 to suggest such regulations as appeared to him proper for placing these manufactures under the inspection of the Excise; and the measures which he proposed for that purpose being approved of a Bill was framed in conformity to the, and was passed into an Act of the 29th George III cap. 69. While this Act was passing through the two Houses of Parliament, Cosmo was directed by the two Houses, through Mr. Pitt, to be in constant attendance to explain to himself and the members who supported the measure whatever doubts or objections arose upon any of the clauses, and also to supply Mr. Pitt from time to time with observations upon the various objections made by the evidences brought forward by the opposers of the Bill, and while it was in the House of Commons he was considered to be so much the author of the measure as to be indulged with the kind of privilege which the author of every measure before the House of Commons usually has of sitting in the House below the Bar during the time it may be under discussion. But the most formidable opposition having been made in the House of Lords, where the witnesses are examined on oath, and the Chancellor, Lord Thurlow, upon its introduction being considered as rather unfriendly to it, Cosmo was directed by Mr. Pitt to digest as concisely as he could the purport and intent of the several clauses, with distract and separate heads explanatory of the forces and utility of each of them, and so as to serve as an index to the Bill. The outline of it was given to Lord Hopetoun before it was finished. The Chancellor desired to se it, and, on being informed by whom it was drawn up, appointed Cosmo to attend him next morning with such an Index. He accordingly waited upon Lord Thurlow and put into his hands a complete Index, and discussed with him all the clauses, and he was so far satisfied s not only to say that if the Minister had sent Cosmo to him before the Bill was brought in it should have met with no opposition from him, but he also requested Cosmo to attend him every day in his own chamber at th House of Lords, both before he took his seat on the Wool sack and after he left it. During these interviews he talked freely to Cosmo upon what he thought of the kind of evidence that was brought forward, and upon the whole became a convert to the measure. Cosmo had repeated interview with all the Lords who supported the measure, and even with some of those who opposed it. They admitted that the arguments he had stated in his Index were unanswerable, and consequently, if the measure had not been coupled with an extension of the Excise Law it was otherwise unobjectionable.

In the beginning of the 1801 Administration, after a discussion in Parliament, there was set on foot a scheme for supplying such Associations as had been formed in various parts of England for the relief of the poor with herrings from the Firth of Forth and such other kinds of fish as could be procured in Scotland. Difficulties having arisen in executing such orders as these Association had given, Cosmo was directed on January 23rd to proceed to Edinburgh and to such other places in Scotland as he should find necessary for furthering the views of Administration, and to carry on a correspondence with those in the different parts of England who were desirous of obtaining supplies of fish, as well as to supply the fishcurers with such quantities of salt as they required. Cosmo soon after his arrival at Edinburgh, and when he had taken proper measures for forwarding to England large quantities of herrings from Burntisland and Leith, proceeded along the East Coast as far as Peterhead, with a view of securing a sufficient supply of cod and ling. He reported the proceedings from time to time to the Treasury, and a change of Administration having then taken place by the resignation of Mr. Pitt and the appointment of Mr. Addington to succeed him, Cosmo received the following letter from Mr. Rose before he quitted the Treasury: -- “Sir, -- The whole of your proceedings since you left London on the servide of furthering supplies of herrings, cod, ling, &c., &c., for the several parts of England, and also with salt for the fisheries, meet with the entire approbation of the lords Commissioners of me to acquaint you with. The prices at which you state the mud cod and dried ling may be had of a good quality render it highly probable that the Committees at some of the places at least will avail themselves of a supply of these fish, especially of the former, and you have done perfectly right to make the prices and facility of supply as generally know as you could – I am, &c., GEORGE ROSE, Treasury Clerk -- 12th March 1801.” Cosmo was directed by the Treasury of the new Administration to remain in Scotland and inquire generally into the state of the fisheries in every part of that kingdom, until it should be ascertained whether the productiveness of the ensuing harvest should render it necessary to supply the poor in England any longer with fish. He consequently continued there until September, and on his return to London made his report to the Treasury on the herring fishery; and Mr. Vansittart, the Secretary to the Lords, informed him that he had placed the whole in so clear and striking a light that, he had placed the whole in so clear an striking a light that, if the country should fortunately be at peace, the fishery laws should undergo a complete revision. In 1803 he sent an “account of the Dutch herring fishing,” communicated to him by two Dutchmen to the Highland Society, of which he had become a member on June 29, 1801. Cosmo now resumed the duties of his own office as Principal Surveyor of the Tobacco Warehouse, only, at the desire of the Commissioners of the Customs, employing his spare time in inquiring into the proceedings of the department of Searchers in London, and reporting his opinion thereon. This he executed faithfully, and pointed out that from the very loose system they pursued that the Revenue was exposed to innumerable frauds of great magnitude, particularly in regard to the examination of goods entered for bounty or drawback: that it could not be ascertained by any document or voucher in their office whether any parcel of such goods had actually been examined by any searcher, although debentures were signed and passed for the payment of great sums of money on the faith of their having been examined and shipped for exportation. All that could be seen in their office was a kind of rotation, stating on what duty each searcher was supposed to be employed in attending each day and at what places; but that he was on such duty on that day or that he or any other searcher had seen the goods said to have been shipped from that place on that or any other day could not be traced from any record kept in their office. The Commissioners were much struck with this, and requested Cosmo to lay before them the means of correcting so great an abuse, to which he briefly replied that in his opinion no effectual remedy could be applied unless the number of searchers were increased, and every part of their duty placed upon and entirely new footing. In the meantime the Treasury received in formation of frauds to a great extent through the negligence of the searchers in suffering the books in their office to lie open to every one inclined to look into them, by which the quantities of goods might be altered to suit any fraudulent design. This, as Cosmo had foreseen, was actually done by a person who himself in formed the Treasury of it, upon receiving both an indemnification and a reward. The facts were minutely inquired into by Mr. Swainson, who was then one of the Surveyors General, and the whole found to be done precisely as the informer had stated. While the inquiry was making the Lords of the Treasury were desirous of ascertaining how far it was expedient to extend the Warehousing system to the several out-ports in England, and in December 1804 Cosmo was selected upon the part of the Customs to examine the accommodations which each port possessed for the security of the Revenue. In this service he was engaged nine months, traveling from port to port from south to north and from east to west no less than 2897 miles, and during his absence, without the least solicitation on his part, Mr. Pitt amongst the last papers he signed was Cosmo’s appointment to the Surveyor of the Searchers, then considered to be the best office in the out-door department of the Customs in London. The business of this office, according to the system recommended by Mr. Swainson, and adopted by the Board. Cosmo had the happiness to establish and to carry on to the entire satisfaction of all parties for the space of two years; but at the conclusion of 1806 the Treasury, in pursuance of a report from Mr. Frewin, the Chairman of the Board of Customs, directed that an office conversant in all the parts of the Warehousing business as carried on at the docks in Liverpool might be sent there to place it as far as local circumstances would admit, upon the same footing as London, and to remain in it until such officers as might be appointed were qualified and instructed in that duty. In this the most arduous and difficult service he was ever engaged in Cosmo continued ten months, and even then, when he returned to London, he told the Board that in a few months it would be advisable to inquire how far the officers were adhering to the system that had been laid down for their government. But at this juncture, in consequence of the death of Mr. Onslow, Mr. Swainson, then the Secretary, was appointed Collector of Liverpool, and being a stranger at that place, he requested Cosmo to accompany him for a few weeks on his first appearance there; and, as Mr. Nicholas Saumarez, brother to Admiral Sir John Saumarez, had been appointed the Principal Surveyor of the Warehouses and Surveyor of the Searchers at Liverpool, with the same salary as Cosmo had in London, it was suggested, as Mr. Swainson and he had lived so many years in the strictest habits of intimacy and friendship with each other, how agreeable it would prove to them both for Cosmo to exchange situations with Mr. Samarez, and which being sanctioned by the Treasury, Cosmo removed altogether from London early n 1808, and took upon him the business at Liverpool. In which situation he continued ten years, when by exerting himself in the discharge of it far beyond what one at his time of life ought to have done, his health began to decline so rapidly as to render it prudent for him to retire. “He continued for a year in the same precarious state, until he was relieved by a violent bleeding at the nose; soon after which his health began to improve, and by the mercy of Almighty God he is now writing these memoirs (Birnie MS) in as comfortable state of health as any one can expect to enjoy in the 74th year of his age.”

He was twice married. His first wife, whose name does not appear in the Birnie MS, died Nov. 24th 1796. He then married, January 12, 1808, Mrs. Sarah Butler, widow of Mr. John Butler. He had two sons:

1. Thomas Gordon, by the first wife. The Birnie MS says he “seemed to possess rather more than common abilities, and never was sent to any school except to learn French, having acquired all the knowledge he had under his father. Indeed he was almost self-taught, for he used to say that what one had heard and seen and could not teach himself to do he was not teach himself to do he was not worth being taught it. He prided himself in his penmanship and accuracy in accounts, and at the time of his death he kept as elegant a set of mercantile books as any in London.” He died October 1798, in his 19th year.

2. Robert Henry Butler Gordon, who was third mate in the Albion East Indiaman and died the preceding year at Bencoolan, on his voyage to China, in the 24th year of his age.

Elizabeth Gordon, sister of Cosmo Gordon, married James Logie, who lived and died at the Boat of Bog, and had three sons and a daughter, including:

Alexander Logie, captain, 5th Regiment Bombay Native Infantry. He was the father of William Logie, Lieut.-colonel, 19th Regiment Bengal Native Infantry.