Ailsa Muniments - Family papers of the Earls of Cassillis

Written by Iain Kennedy

Version 1 written September 22nd, 2007; update (2) from the Calendar of State Papers for Ireland 5th October 2007

Copyright © Iain Kennedy 2007

The largest collection of papers relating to the Earls of Cassillis (later Marquesses of Ailsa) are held at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh under collection 'GD25'. The others are briefly described in Moss p271 although since he wrote in 2002, the Culzean estate papers have been transferred from Maybole Castle to the Ayrshire Archives.

The amount of material in GD25 is staggering. The contents are partially indexed and catalogued in 5 large bound volumnes at NAS; they can also be searched online at the currently rather slow and temperamental NAS search engine. Once you have identified an entry of interest you would then need to visit in person, hire a researcher or, most expensively, pay for a reproduction.

Unfortunately much is still not catalogued. As an example I yesterday studied two bundles of papers as follows

GD25/9/29/2 Genealogy &c

GD25/9/44/4 Marriage contracts

GD25/9/29/2 Genealogy &c

This is a fascinating collection of charts and correspondence relating of course to the genealogy of the Kennedys of Cassillis. Much represents attempts by the former Earl to write up and flesh out his family tree, also there is correspondence from others, some supplying information and others asking for it.

I note with interest the early insistence of the Earls* that we should interpret the etymology of the Kennedy name as relating to Cinaed (Anglicized as Kenneth). This insistence continues up to today in the Kennedy Society of North America which has Ailsa as patron. I have discussed this etymology elsewhere at much length. Note that there is no mention at all in this bundle of the Irish origin of the name or discussion of commonality in its derivation.

*not all documents have an author's name on them.

Two typed up family tree charts appear to have been drawn up during the time of Archibald, 11th Earl since they terminate with him. As he only held his title for two years we can date this chart quite accurately to 1792-1794. These charts are entitled:

'Table of the pedigree of the family of Cassillis

and also of the families of Kennedys of Culzean and Kilhenzie as descended from the family of Cassillis

with reference to the proofs by which the propinquity of each is established'.

A subtitle note also states:

'NB that part of the table marked with a single line, is what was produced and proven in the competition as to the honours and estate of Cassillis, between the Earl of March, now Duke of Queensberry, and Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean, afterwards Earl of Cassillis. And that part marked with double lines, shews the descent of Archibald, the present Earl of Cassillis, from the family of Culzean; and proved to the Inquest on his Service, as nearest heir male of Tailzie and Provision to David the last Earl of Cassillis.'

Although pleased at first to find these charts, disappointment set in for two reasons. Firstly it appears that the family weren't that interested in all the branches of their tree but mainly how the title has been maintained. Secondly the tree is not a pure family tree but rather a hybrid that combines biological and titular descent.

As a result, the chart is not particularly enlightening, if you have already studied the parish registers, peerages and the Kennedy family histories I describe in the main project bibliography. However I have typed up part of the notes from the boxes in the tree; reproducing the tree itself would just be confusing for the reasons described above. The tree splits into three main branches; from the left we have Cassillis, Culzean and Kilhenzie. To save a little space I use the shorthand '1E' to represent the first Earl of Cassillis and so on.


David 1E proved by Royal charters, history of peerages &c

Gilbert 2E proved by a retour 22nd July 1629

Gilbert 3E proved by the retour 22nd July 1629

Gilbert 4E eldest son died 1576 retour as heir of 3E his father 16th October 1562

John 5E died 1615 no issue

Gilbert 2nd son died before his brother Earl John, had issue,

John 6E died 1668 1. retour as heir male of Earl John his uncle 21st January 1623; 2. retour as heir male of Earl Gilbert his grandfather 25th January 1623

John 7E d 1702 retour as heir male of his father 22nd September 1668

John Lord Kennedy died before his father in 1700 1. marriage settlement between John Lord Kennedy and Earl John his father and Elizabeth Lady Kennedy 5th September 1698 2. charter thereupon 11 November 1698

John 8e died 1759 retour as heir of John Lord Kennedy his father 22nd February 1704 no issue

Culzean branch:

Sir Thomas Kennedy 2nd son infeossment of the lands of Culzean given by Gilbert 4E in person, Thomae Kennedy suo fratri 14th September 1569. 2nd charter by John 5E to Sir Thomas designed dilectum nostrum patruum 23 August 1597 3rd charter of confirmation thereof by King James VI 26th August 1597 died 1605 had issue,

James Kennedy eldest son precept for infeossing him in the lands of Culzean as heir to his father Sir Thomas 5th September 1606 died without issue

Alexander afterwards Sir Alexander Kennedy of Culzean 2nd son 1. contract between James and Alexander Kennedy his brother 12th June 1622; 2. charter by James to Alexander his brother 30th July 1622 died 1655 had issue,

John Kennedy of Culzean retour as heir of Sir Alexander his father 8th February 1656 died 1665

Sir Archibald of Culzean, Baronet retour as heir of John Kennedy his father 17th April 1672 died 1710

Sir John Kennedy of Culzean, Baronet retour as heir of Sir Archibald his father 12 Mar 1711 died 1742

To be continued ...

A second item of great interest is a history of the family 'Clan Kennedy and its Chiefs '- with neither author not date on it. But it contains this fascinating gem, in which extract the bold and italic font is added by me for emphasis:

'In a letter to Dionise Campbll Dean of Limerick to Elizabeth's minister Sir Robert Cecil d 1602?? (see Calendar of State papers relating to Ireland (1602-3) -> vol 1600-01 Mar 1601 p256) as to using the Scots Irish to subdue the rebels, the Kennedys are mentioned as good for this purpose being a warlike nation, tall horseman, good horses, dwelling in the Glens of Antrim and descended from the ancient Irish. They are described as looking on the Earl of Cassillis as their chief.'

The italicised section is scored out in pencil and marked in margin 'take in exact quotation as in Mr MacPhails letter'??

This contemporary note of Kennedys in the Glens of Antrim is an interesting lead for me to follow up. However, some slight doubt as to the overall accuracy is raised by the idea that this group were simultaneously descended from the ancient Irish but looking to Cassillis as chief. It is most likely, without having looked into this fully, that the 'ancient Irish' quote is speculation and the rest is more accurate, however this remains to be established.

Update 24.9.07

I have now examined the original quote from the Calendar of State Papers for Ireland 1600-1601. The whole letter was too long to type up in its entirety but here is the opening section and the Kennedy quote, from pp255-7;

'#124 Dionise Campbell, Dean of Limerick, to Sir Robert Cecil.

Has set down his opinion as to the entertaining of Scots for the service of Ireland. ...

The nations chiefly to be solicited to this service, in my weak judgment, would be mixed of the English, such as, besides other honourable respect, have been graciously obliged to Her Majesty's royal bounty in the time of their exile and greatest troubles, would in all likelihood be most sincerely affected, namely the Douglases and Hamiltons, who are best able to serve with horse, pike and shot.


The service thus undertaken, there is good hope to divide Tyrone's forces, and to win the frontiers. O'Dogherty depending naturally upon the house of Argyle, and the McSorleys brought up in the island of Arran under the Hamiltons, where they have their most inward and faithfull followers and fosterers, and Randal, surnamed Arranagh, from the same. For any other course that may be taken with them, I fear, under reformation, that they will rather turn it to serve their advantages, as formerly they have done, than the furtherance of Her Majesty's service; and, if they may be brought to any sincere dealing, I think it must be by the Hamiltons, who also may draw in the Kennedys (whereof the Earl of Cassillis [1] is chief, son-in-law to the Lord Hamilton), a warlike nation bordering upon the sea coast over against Knockfergus and the Glynns. These Kennedys, being many and [having] great horses, are tall horsemen, well appointed, and descended of ancient Irishry, collaterally with the Earl of Thomond, as both of them do acknowledge. All those nations, being zealously affected to the Gospel, will, without all question, deal sincerely, the rather for that religion is become the quarrel, and the ministers of those countries in the west, being moved by good instruments, will always stir them forward, the rather for that day they are noted to be most forward in their calling.

March 1601'

Although at first glance this might sound like it is referring to Kennedys living on the Irish coast as opposed to living in Scotland opposite those places, it seems hard to believe a 'nation' of Kennedys were in Antrim. Compare this letter from 1600 in the previous volume of State Papers, whose anonymous author may be the same writer as above:

Apr 24, 1600

A discource on the entertainment of Scots in Ireland, addressed to Sir Robert Cecil, and annotated by him

Her majesty may stand assured of their good and faithful service. There are means of making a faction amongst the rebels in Ulster.

'Choice is carefully to be made of such nations both of the English and civil Irish Scots as are known to be honourable and religiously affected; the pretence for rebellion being now the setting up of their supposed Catholic faith.'

The leaders must be men of approved honesty well-beloved of their followers and able to rule and command them. Some stand well affected because of favours vouchsafed to them or to their kinsfolk. Or for private causes thirst to be revenged on Tyrone or other rebels. The number of Scots may be so proportioned and mixed with English forces to be placed in Ulster, that all fear of any inconvenience may be removed, and nothing in the former resolutions for planting of garrisons be altered.

The particular names of the English Scots are the Stuarts of the west of Scotland, and the Hamiltons. ... The Hamiltons may afford good means and men for all manner of Irish service, having for their friends the Cunninghams, Kennedys, and many others 'inhabiting that sea coast of the English parts from whence the rebel may be most annoyed'.

(Calendar of Irish State Papers IX pp117-8)

The second interesting find was a letter from the Earl in 1932 sent from Musselbrough (where my parents lived when they first married!), discussing a copy a relative had just sent him of Moody's article 'Kennedys of Orkney and Caithness'. Cassillis had highlighted the following passage for comment (the bold font is mine):

'Kennedys of Lochtoune

With Lord Robert Stewart or with officials high in his service came Kennedys of a different family to Orkney; the Loghtoun or Lochtoune Kennedys. The first of whom we are certain is the Oliver Kennedy who added to his signature 'of Lochtoune' as already stated [in 14 may 1585]. In the Ordnance Gazeteer of Scotland the placename Lochton is given as an estate with a mansion in the parish of Longforgan East, Perthshire. I have not yet had time to make full inquiry so as to ascertain whether this was the home whence came the Orkney Kennedys of Lochtoune and if so, the origin of the Lochtoune family. I have a note of a Kennedy from Carrick or Galloway early in the 16th Century removing to Argyll and that the Kennedys of Athole in Perthshire are a branch of that family who settled in the parish of Dull in 1600'

In his letter of reply to David Hunter Blair who had sent him the article, Cassillis commented thus:

'The story of how the Kennedys or MacUlrigs settled in Lochaber after the battle of Flodden which I heard from the late Lord Kennedy, or how again descendants of theirs settled in Loch Rannoch which I heard from the late Mrs Kennedy Fraser are too long to tell here.'

I couldn't make out every single word of his handwriting, hopefully when my copy I have ordered arrives I can confirm the above typed text. Both the suggestions in the above are new to me; that the arrival in Lochaber dates back to the time of Flodden, and that there is a story about Rannoch known to Kennedy-Fraser. She, if I read her name correctly, was the daughter of the famous Perth vocalist David Kennedy, who with his family toured the world singing, finally dying on tour in Ontario. His daughter Margaret, later styled Kennedy-Fraser, wrote and recorded many Scottish Gaelic songs. Their traceable family tree goes back to the town of Perth but in their own history book, they tell of how they came from Foss. And it is Foss, as I have discovered recently and described elsewhere, which is central at least to the myth and legend of the Perthshire Kennedys, if not the true history. It may prove that the story Kennedy-Fraser told Cassillis was just a recount of the already known tale of Ulrich Kennedy coming to the fertile valleys of Foss, in which case there is a certain irony as this tale gives a completely different account from the established one about the Lochaber stage of the migration. Watch this space!