The memorandum written by my great great grandfather William Robb on 20th June 1880 ends with this sentence:
My mother Margaret Ricketts Monteith was the only daughter of John Monteith and Matilda his wife who was the daughter of Viscount Stormont who was engaged as well as my Father’s father in the affair of Prince Charles attempt to gain the crown 1745/6.
William’s father (my 3 x great grandfather) was Charles Edward Stuart Robb, who was obviously named after the Bonnie Prince himself, thus lending some credibility to the story. Charles’ father was George Robb of Fisherford, in the parish of Auchterless, Aberdeenshire.
As I’ve noted a number of times in this blog, I’ve failed to find any evidence that Margaret Monteith (my 3 x great grandmother) was descended from any of the Viscounts Stormont. Nor have I found any proof that George Robb (my 4 x great grandfather), or indeed any other Robb from Auchterless, was directly involved in the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. None of the muster rolls or other records of Prince Charles’ army mentions anyone who could remotely be one of my ancestors.
However, I recently came across records which might provide some support for William Robb’s claim. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve concluded that the Robbs of Auchterless were tenants of the Laird of Badenscoth. Most, if not all, of the farms or ‘farm towns’ where Robbs can be found in the Old Parish Registers – Logie Newton, Scotackesfoord, Bruckhills, Newbiggin, Redhill, and of course Mains of Badenscoth – were part of the Badenscoth estate. (Although I can’t be certain, it would seem that many of the Robbs who appear in the Auchterless records in the mid- and late 18th century began life at Mains of Badenscoth, possibly as the children of the ‘Alexander Robb senior’ mentioned in many of the records.) In 1753 the Laird of Badenscoth was a witness at the baptism of James, son of Alexander Robb of Scotackesfoord.
The Poll Book of 1696 for the parish of Auchterless values the Badenscoth estate at £770, of which the hundredth part, payable by the tenants, is £7.14.0. The Laird’s name is George Gordon, and the name of his ‘lady’ is Helen Keith. They have a daughter, Jean, and three sons: Alexander, George and William. At this date no Robbs are mentioned as living either at Badenscoth itself or at any of the associated tenant farms, suggesting that they must have come to the area some time between 1696 and 1740, which is the first time that they are mentioned in the parish registers.
Making use of online sources, and with some welcome help from Sarah Gordon, a US historian and descendant of the Aberdeenshire Gordons, I have been able to discover a fair amount about the Gordons of Badenscoth – including details of their support for the Jacobite cause. George Gordon was the son of Patrick Gordon, also of Badenscoth. Patrick was the son of George Gordon of Terpersie, who was the son of William Gordon of Terpersie, who in turn was the son of James Gordon of Lesmoir.
As for the children of George Gordon of Badenscoth, it seems that his eldest son Alexander married someone named Anne but died without issue before 1710. George’s daughter Jean died in Banffshire in 1743. Of his son George we know nothing. It would appear that the other son, William, inherited the title and estate of Badenscoth, though it’s unclear when this happened.
William Gordon of Badenscoth married Mary Baird in 1724. They had three children: Catherine, Jane and James. Although the lairdship passed initially to James, the latter died without issue in 1788, at which point William’s daughters Catherine and Jane became co-heirs.(Incidentally, it seems likely that the laird who witnessed James Robb’s baptism in 1753 was either William or James.)
Catherine married Alexander Forbes, Laird of Blackford, in 1754, while in 1760 Jane married James Leslie, Laird of Rothienorman. The Leslies were another ancient Aberdeenshire family, with strong Jacobite connections. (This was not the first marriage between a Gordon of Badenscoth and a Leslie. Alexander Leslie, 5th laird of Warthill, married Elizabeth Gordon, daughter of the Laird of Badenscoth, though whether this was Patrick or George or another Gordon altogether is unclear.). Apparently James Leslie bought Catherine’s share of the property and thus united the estates of Badenscoth and Rothienorman.
One of the records from which these details about George Gordon are taken is the Jacobite Cess Roll of 1715, which has just become available online at Ancestry. Thus it would appear that George Gordon, Laird of Badenscoth, was directly involved in the first Jacobite Uprising. We also know that in 1691 a Mary Gordon of Badenscoth (George’s daughter? his sister?) married John Gordon, Laird of Glenbuchat or Glenbucket, the famous general who commanded soldiers in the Jacobite army in both 1715 and 1745.
In other words, it appears that the Robbs were tenants of a Jacobite landowner. Given the pressure on tenants to fight alongside their laird, it seems likely that some of my ancestors either volunteered or were corralled into fighting with George Gordon. But perhaps William Robb got his facts wrong and this was in the ’15 and not the ’45? There is certainly more evidence for the involvement of a Viscount Stormont (the 5th of that name, David Murray) in the 1715 Uprising than in 1745.
If anyone reading this has more information about the branch of the Gordon family from which the Gordons of Badenscoth were descended, and about their involvement in the Jacobite cause, I would be pleased to hear from them. I would also be interested to know more about the religious affiliation of these Gordons. Certainly the Gordons of Huntly were Catholic, but I’m unsure about the Lesmoir and Terpersie branches. The Leslies of Warthill were Catholic recusants and certainly involved in the Jacobite cause, but I think the Rothienorman branch were Episcopalian and associated with the church at Meikle Folla, which I’ve mentioned before in relation to my 3 x great uncle, Rev. William Robb.
Via FamilySearch, I’ve just discovered that George Gordon of Badenscoth was born in about 1649 and married Helen Keith in Angus in about 1681. Helen was born in Kirkton Hill, Angus, in about 1661 the daughter of Patrick Keith. George and Helen had these children: Alexander (c. 1682, married Anne Gordon 1708), William (c. 1683, d. 1733), George (c. 1687), John (c. 1691, married Bathia Duff, c. 1739) and Mary (c. 1702). (This confirms that the Mary who married Glenbucket in 1691 could not have been George Gordon’s daughter, but was perhaps his sister.)