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DUNDONALD AND ITS EARLS.
Unlike the square divisions or plots into which land is parcelled out in new and thinly-peopled countries, parishes in Scotland-nor is England much different -have been made to assume every variety of odd fantastic shape. In some cases, indeed, they are made up of portions of land quite detached from each other, and not unfrequently in different counties. An explanation of this apparent irregularity both as to shape and size, must be sought for, at least partly, in the conditions under which the land came to be laid out in distinct portions, parishes, or townships. There is first, if any reliance is to be placed on the most recent researches into early land tenures, the village commune, where the inhabitants not only held the soil in common, but frequently stocked and cultivated it in common. Then, when we come down with clearer vision to a point almost touching authentic history, there is possession of the soil by the Crown alone, often gifted with wonderful munificence to relations and followers; but the origin of the possession, not even yet understood with certainty. After this the inquirer gets a more stable footing within the period of documents, or at the very least of assured tradition. Next comes the feudal period, when the baron held land, doing suit and service for the same to the sovereign, and dividing it again among his own retainers on nearly the same condition of mustering under his banner in the field. Running parallel with this feudal tenure, but having interests of its own of a more beneficent character, there was the parish as a diocese or district assigned to a particular Church, and where, in process of time, the teinds in its support could only be collected within strictly defined limits. After this, and as presently existing, the parish boundaries came to be affected by the necessities for local self-government, and the administration of the law relating to parochial relief. All these conditions have helped to make parishes what they are in shape and size. Dundonald, with which we are more immediately concerned, presents an outline so irregular as to
make the “beating of its bounds," were such a ceremony necessary, an undertaking requiring the nicest observation and thorough parochial experience. Its broadest, or northern part, extending from Riccarton to Fullarton, a distance of some seven miles, marked wholly by the course of the Irvine, is touched by no fewer than four parishes-Irvine, Dreghorn, Kilmaurs, and Riccarton, Kilmarnock almost edging in within the last two. Along its eastern side there is Symington and Monkton, but on the west, bending for the most part smoothly inland, there is nothing but the sea or Firth of Clyde for another seven miles from Fullarton to Monkton, which Dundonald overlaps for a short distance on the south. The only break on the westward line may be said to be Troon Point, which with the port lies within Dundonald parish.
Crowning the summit of a pleasant hill west of Dundonald village, the now ruined Castle, so closely identified with the history of the parish, and dating as it does from the thirteenth, or probably the twelfth century, may be said to correspond in time with the arrival of the first Norman Stewarts in Scotland, and was certainly occupied by them long before any succession to the throne had opened up to that high official in the Royal household which gave name to the family. Here, till he was long past middle age, lived Robert II., first of the Royal race, raised to the throne under an Act of Settlement as son of Walter the Stewart and Marjory Bruce, daughter of the great King Robert and half-sister of Bruce's son, David II., who died in February 1371. At Dundonald Robert II. married, under a Papal dispensation, that Elizabeth Mure of Rowallen who had become attached to the Stewart while he was living at the old castle in retirernent during the brief usurpation of Edward Baliol. Here, too, full of years, the first sovereign of the Stuart race died in peace, 1390, having withdrawn from Dunfermline when the power of the Crown was practically wielded by a son, Earl of Fife, in name of the heir, an elder brother, John, known better in history under the more popular title of Robert III. A loose tradition has been handed down that a still earlier castle, on the site, was built of wood by a certain Donald Din or Dun Donald, who acquired great fame in this part of Kyle through discovering a pot of gold as revealed in a dream, like so
many similar stories of sudden riches current in lands far beyond Ayrshire. The present castle, greatly dismantled by the Cochranes to build their new house of Auchans adjoining, still presents, even in ruin, many traces of its ancient grandeur. It is two stories in height, and measures 130 feet by 40 feet. On its western wall traces may still be found of the Stewart armorial bearings, as also of a “keep” or prison, and a wide protecting moat. The fabric, with a few roods of land adjoining, is the last remnant of Ayrshire property possessed by the Cochrane Earls of Dundonald, famous in Renfrewshire before being ennobled as lairds of the Barony of Cochrane, an estate on the west side of Paisley Abbey Parish, now mostly included within the lands owned by G. L. Houstoun, Esq. of Johnstone.
In addition to Cochrane, the Sir William of the day (1640) possessed the Ayrshire lands of Dundonald and Auchans, and, in consideration of his loyalty and munificence to the Crown during the civil war, was in 1647 created a Peer as Lord Cochrane of Dundonald. The higher title of Earl of Dundonald, with that of Baron of Paisley and Ochiltree, was conferred in 1669 by Charles II. A few years before this date Earl William had, for 160,000 pounds Scots, acquired the rich lordship of Paisley from the Earl of Angus, trustee for James, second Earl of Abercorn, who in 1621, fell heir as grandson of the Commendator, Claud Hamilton, "grey Paisley's haughty Lord.” Earl William resided at the Place of Paisley, and from memorial stones still to be seen there, would appear, in or about 1675, to have made important additions to the original fabric. In 1658 he disposed of the superiorities of the burgh to the Bailies and community, and gave them power at the same time to elect their own magistrates, up to that date nominated by himself, in terms of clauses contained in the charter of 1488 granted to Abbot Shaw, by which Paisley was erected into a free burgh of barony. A charter was obtained for the burgh from Charles II. in 1665. The Earl died in Paisley, 1686, and was buried at Dundonald, leaving, by his wife Euphame, daughter of Scott of Ardross, Fifeshire, one son, known early in life as Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree, much mixed up with the Presbyterian plots of his day, and uncle of John, second Earl, whose father William had predeceased the first Earl. The daughter, Lady Grizel Cochrane,
became first wife of George, tenth Lord Ross of Hawkhead, Renfrewshire, a family connection to be renewed in after years by the marriage of the Hon. Thomas Cochrane, second son of the present Earl, with Lady Gertrude, eldest daughter of George Frederick Boyle, present and sixth Earl of Glasgow.
Among later members of the family who greatly distinguished themselves were William, seventh Earl, sprung from the Cochranes of Kilmaronock, Dumbartonshire, killed in 1758 when engaged in the siege of Louisbourg; Thomas, of the house of Ochiltree, eighth Earl, engaged in the fight at Prestonpans, and who left at death eleven sons, by his wife Jane, eldest daughter of Archibald Stuart of Torrance. Charles, third son, was killed while serving in America under Sir Henry Clinton; James, fifth son, was vicar of Mansfield, and author of various treatises in theology and chemistry; Basil, also an author, purchased the barony of Auchterarder, Perthshire; while Sir Alexander was a prominent naval officer in his day, and wrote several esteemed books of travel. Archibald, ninth Earl, is now less known for his numerous scientific treatises than as the father of the great Thomas, Lord Cochrane, tenth Earl of Dundonald.
Born in 1775, Lord Cochrane entered the navy when only ten years of age, and while but a youth was promoted by admiral Keith, for exceptionally courageous services, to the command of a sloop of fourteen guns, in which many daring and successful feats were undertaken against Spanish ships of war. Early in 1806, when commanding the Pallas frigate, of 32 guns, he ascended the Gironde, 20 miles above the Cordovan shoals, and boldly cut out a frigate lying under the protection of two heavy batteries. But the crowning achievement of this period (1809) of Lord Cochrane's life, was his attack on the French fleet then being blockaded by Admiral Gambier in the Basque Roads. Here he personally conducted the explosion ship with such terrific results to the enemy that popular enthusiasm was no more than satisfied when he was created a Knight of the Bath. Lord Cochrane had been previously twice returned to Parliament- first for Honiton, and in 1807 for Westminster. Opposing as a Radical Percival's Tory Ministry; and disliked otherwise in Parliament through a misunderstanding of certain charges he had brought against
Admiral Gambier, advantage was taken to try, fine, and imprison the gallant officer on a charge, erroneously made, as was afterwards proved, of being mixed up with certain Stock Exchange transactions connected with a false report of Napoleon's defeat by the allies. Lord Cochrane was also deprived of his honours and dismissed the service. Returned again for Westminster, he found it hopeless at the time either to serve his constituents or vindicate himself as he wished, and an offer therefore was gladly accepted to command the Chilian fleet on the coast of South America. The new flag under which he served once more triumphed over Spain, and towards the close of the war of Independence Lord Cochrane passed, with increased honour, into the service of Brazil. In 1830, when the Whigs got into power, and a year before succeeding his father in the Earldom, Lord Cochrane, then looked upon as the victim of party spite, was restored to his rank in the British navy. Years brought additional honours to the harshly used officer, being made a Vice-Admiral in 1847, Commander on the North American and West Indian stations 1848–54, and Rear-Admiral of the United Kingdom 1854. Thomas, tenth Earl of Dundonald, died October 31, 1860, leaving by his wife—daughter of Thomas Barnes, Essex-four sons and a daughter. A nephew, Captain J. D. Cochrane, was well known in his day as an eccentric pedestrian traveller over most of the continent of Europe and Siberian Tartary.
The eldest son of Admiral Dundonald, Thomas Barnes, Lord Cochrane, present Earl, born 1814, succeeded on the death of his father, and by marriage (1847) with Louisa Harriet, daughter of W. A. Mackinnon of Mackinnon, his issue two sons and four daughters, the eldest being Douglas Mackinnon, Lord Cochrane, born October, 1852, and married (1858) Winifred, only surviving daughter of Robert Bamford Hesketh, Gwyrch Castle, Denbigh, with issue one daughter, Grizel Winifred Louise, born May, 1880. A second son, the Hon. Thomas Horatio Arthur, late Lieutenant of Scots Guards, born and April, 1857, married and December, 1880, Lady Gertrude Boyle, daughter of George Frederick, 6th and present Earl of Glasgow, with issue Louisa Gertrude, born 8th January, 1882, and Thomas George Frederick, born 19th March, 1883. The Hon. Mr. Cochrane, with Lady Gertrude and family,