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Clan Gordon

Also known as the House of Gordon

☀☀☀ Officially registered clan, with Clan Chief, registered with the Lord Lyon Court.

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  • Crest/Badge Issuant from a crest coronet Or a stag's head (affrontée) Proper attired with ten tines Or
  • Gaelic Name: Gordanach (Singular), Na Gordanaich (Collective).
  • Motto: Bydand - abiding, steadfast
  • Slogan An Gordonach
  • War cry A Gordon! A Gordon!
  • Origin of Tartan:
  • Name Variations:
  • Region Highland
  • Seat: Aboyne Castle
  • Clan Chief: The Most Hon. Granville Charles Gordon The 13th Marquess of Huntly


Above - Gordon from R R McIan's THE CLANS of the Scottish Highlands


Origins of the name

There are various theories regarding the origins of this clan. It is widely believed that it was originally from Normandy, where their ancestors are said to have had large possessions. They settled in the South of Scotland in the 12th Century.

There is a Manor called Gourdon in Normandy which is believed to be where the first settlers came from. They settled in Berwickshire in the 12th Century.

Another theory is that the name comes from the district where they settled, which incorporated a fortified hill, gor-dun, which is Celtic for 'great hill fort'.

Chalmers - author of "Caledonia" wrote :

"The progenitor of the Gordons came from England. ... soon after the commencement of the twelth century, and obtained the lands of Gordon in Berwickshire. and obtained the lands of Gordon in Berwickshire, where he settled with his followers." Chalmers bases this claim on the discovery of the first charter in which in which he found the name mentioned.

The heraldic claims the origin to be a Norman knight who gored down a hideous boar, and thence derived, by royal command, both the name and the boars heads as the armorial insignia of himself and successors.

Historical references

Richard of Gordon, previously of Swinton, allegedly the grandson of a famous knight who slew a monstrous animal in the Merse during the time of King Malcolm III of Scotland. Richard was Lord of the Barony of Gordon in the Merse (Richard de Gordon).

The Gordons fought at the Battle of the Western Isles in 1505.

Feud with Clan Forbes During the 15th and 16th centuries the Clan was engaged in a long running feud against Clan Forbes. The feud reached a climax in the 1520s with murders committed by both sides occurring constantly. One of the most prominent of those killed by the Forbes action was Seton of Meldrum who was a close connection of the chief of the Gordons, the Earl of Huntly. The Earl of Huntly soon became involved in a plot aimed at the Master of Forbes (son of John, the 6th Lord Forbes), who was implicated in the Seton murder.

In 1522 Alexander Gordon (the Countess of Sutherland’s eldest son) overthrew John Mackay of Strathnaver at Lairg, and forced him to submit himself to the Countess’s husband, Adam Gordon; "unto whom John Mackay gave his band of manrent and service". []

In 1526 the title of Earl of Sutherland and chieftainship of the Clan Sutherland passed by right of marriage to Adam Gordon who was a younger son of the chief of Clan Gordon.

In 1536 Chief of Gordons, the Earl of Huntly accused the Master of Forbes of conspiring to assassinate King James V of Scotland while visiting Aberdeen by shooting at him with a cannon. The Master of Forbes was tried and executed, but within days his sentence was revoked and the Clan Forbes family restored to favour. The damage to relations between the Clan Forbes and Clan Gordon was irreparable, resulting in attacks by each family and their supporters being made throughout the remainder of the century.

During the Anglo-Scottish Wars the Clan Gordon, under George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly defeated an English army at the Battle of Haddon Rig in 1542.

During the Anglo-Scottish Wars the Clan Gordon fought in the Scottish army which was defeated at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.

On the 13th of December 1545 at Dingwall, the Earl of Sutherland entered into a bond of manrent with John Mackenzie of Kintail for mutual defence against all enemies, reserving their allegiance to Queen Mary Stuart.

In 1562 whilst on a visit to Inverness the Princess, later Mary Queen of Scots, was refused admission into Inverness Castle by the governor of the Castle who was a Gordon. The Clan Munro and Clan Fraser supporting Mary seized Inverness Castle for her. Mary then hanged the Gordon who had refused her admission.

The Battle of Corrichie took place around Meikle Tap in 1562, between George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly and James Stuart, the new Earl of Moray (half-brother to Mary Queen of Scots). Gordon was killed and his son, Sir John, and other members of his family were later executed at Aberdeen. Some sources suggest Sir John was killed in the Battle

By1571 the feud had gained support from other clans. The Clan Leslie, Clan Irvine and Clan Seton who had their own feuds with the Forbeses joined forces with Clan Gordon. Opponents of the Gordons (Clan Keith, Clan Fraser and Clan Crichton) joined forces with Clan Forbes. The culmination of the feud was 2 battles in 1571; The Battle of Tillieangus and the Battle of Craibstone. 6th Lord Forbes’s youngest son known as Black Arthur Forbes was killed at Tillieangus. Legend has it that “he stooped down to quench his thirst and one of the Gordons gave him his death blow through an open joint in his armour”.

Castle Druminnor, the Lord Forbes’s seat in 1571, was plundered and sacked and in the same month the Gordons followed this up with a massacre of 27 Forbeses of Towie at Corgarff. Two acts of Parliament forced the clans to lay down their arms.

At the Battle of Glenlivet in 1594 the Earl of Argyll’s forces made up of Clan Campbell, Clan Stewart of Atholl, Clan Forbes and the Chattan Confederation of Clan MacKintosh were defeated by the Earl of Huntly’s forces which consisted of Clan Gordon, Clan Comyn/Cumming and Clan Cameron.

Gordon People

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References, Sources and Further Reading