CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 1160
TitleGordons of Buthlaw and Cairness: estate and family papers
Date1642 - 1984
Extent19 archive boxes, 40 volumes and 2 large boxes (4.18 linear metres)
Creator NameGordon families of Buthlaw and Cairness (fl 17th c - 20th c)
Thomas Gordon (1788 - 1841) Major General, soldier, historian and philhellene
Administrative HistoryThe Gordons of Buthlaw were descended from a cadet of the family of James Gordon, the first laird of Lesmoir and from Thomas Gordon of Broadland. Intermarriage with the family of Barclay of Peterhead when two brothers, John and Thomas Gordon, married two sisters, Mary and Jean Barclay, the daughters of John Barclay and Anne Gordon, their husbands’ aunt, led to legal complications in the inheritance of property both in Scotland and in Jamaica, where both families were in business. After the death of Thomas Gordon (1788-1841), 8th laird of Buthlaw and 2nd of Cairness, whose personal papers and correspondence are listed separately (MS 1160/19-27), the estate of Cairness and property in Jamaica passed to his son James Wilkinson Gordon and his descendants, while the lands of Buthlaw were inherited by descendants of the aunts of Thomas Gordon. Genealogical information regarding the family is to be found in the works of W. Temple, 'The Thanage of Fermartyn' and J. M. Bulloch, 'The House of Gordon' and also in Dr. Bulloch’s extensive collection of Gordoniana housed in one of the University Library’s special local collections, which was drawn upon by Edward Gordon of Cairnfield for his manuscript ‘Book of the Gordons’ (MS 1165, Sect ix, 121-150) which also contains a genealogical table.

Cairness House, a French neo-classical mansion situated in Lonmay, near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire was built in the 1790s. It was designed by the architect James Playfair for Charles Gordon of Buthlaw and completed by Sir John Soane following the premature death of Playfair in 1794.
Custodial HistoryMS 1160/25: Transferred to Special Collections in July 1986 from the Librarian's office.
SourceThe Gordon of Cairness papers were deposited on indefinite loan in 1969 by Miss Marjory Violet Gordon. On her death (1989) the papers became the property of the Aberdeen University Library.
DescriptionThis collection of family and estate papers and correspondence concerns the affairs of the Gordons of Buthlaw, Newtyle and Cairness in north-eastern Aberdeenshire, from the middle of the 17th century until the death of Charles Thomas Gordon, fourth laird of Cairness, in 1938. MS 1160/1-18, MS 1160/29-30: These items cover the period 1642-1938 and consist of estate and family papers, accounts, correspondence, legal documents, a selection of rough plans, rentals, account books, ledgers, volumes of estate memoranda or genealogical notes, game books and letter books.

Family and estate papers concerning the affairs of the Gordons of Buthlaw, Newtyle and Cairness, Aberdeenshire, dating from the mid-seventeenth century until the death of Charles Thomas Gordon, 4th laird of Cairness, in 1938. The collection comprises estate and family papers, accounts, correspondence, legal documents, plans, rentals, account books, ledgers, volumes of estate memoranda or genealogical notes, game books and letter books. Accounts, plans and correspondence relating to the building, furnishing and decoration of Cairness House, 1773 - 1890, include 'Designs for Cairness', by J. Playfair, 1790 - 1793, and additional loose plans, sketches and drawings of Cairness House and grounds by Playfair and others, 1790 and n.d.. Papers relating to the Loch of Strathbeg, 1862 - 1929, are of interest for the insight which they provide into the running and administration of the Victorian shooting estate. They contain details of fishing and other game rights in and around the loch, together with records relating to water management, observation of wildfowl and game, and details of trout caught, game shot, etc. Papers relating to the establishment of a light railway between Fraserburgh and the fishing village of St. Combs, c 1858 - 1911 and 1918 - 1937, contain general information on the expansion of the railway network in North East Scotland at this time, and details of its effect on the inhabitants and the development of the village of St Combs.

A large portion of the collection comprises personal papers of Thomas Gordon (1788 - 1841), relating principally to his involvement in the Greek cause. These include nearly 800 letters in English, French, Greek and Italian, and papers relating to the publication of his 'History of the Greek Revolution', 2 vols. (London and Edinburgh, 1832). Principal correspondents represented in his papers include Captain Edward Blaquiere, London and Greece; John Bowring, MP, London; Mary Burnett, Aberdeen and Crathes; General Count H. F[rederic] du Bourg [Dubourg-Butler], Paris; Colonel Charles Fabvier, Greece; Charles Gibbon, Aberdeen; William H. Humphreys, officer, Greece and England; Dr Koutzofskis, Paris; Alexandros Mavrokordatos [Mavrocordato], Greece; Rev. James Robertson, Cairness, Zante and Greece; Henry Robertson, merchant, Greece. There are also collections of transcriptions made in the eighteenth century from manuscript or printed sources, by, or for, John Gordon (1715 - 1755), 6th laird of Buthlaw, Professor of Civil Law at Edinburgh University, author and antiquarian, who was also probably responsible for the collection of a number of printed items relating to national, local or legal affairs.

A further small, but significant, section of the collection contains records relating to the Gordon and Barclay estates in Jamaica, in particular, their estate of Georgia, 1727 - 1899. This includes correspondence dealing with legal, administrative, business, financial, and trading matters, including accounts, reports on crops, lists of slaves, general news of events and weather, and some 1789 Jamaican publications. There are also 19th century estate plans and a diary kept by Charles T. Gordon, when visiting his estate in 1887.
AccrualsNone expected.
ArrangementMS 1160/1-18, MS 1160/29-30: Items in each section have generally been arranged chronologically; in the case of certain collections of 19th and 20th century vouchers, accounts and rentals, however, individual items have not always been given separate sub-numbers and are not described in detail, being left in the order in which they were deposited. Papers relating to the Loch of Strathbeg (MS 1160/11) and to the establishment of a light railway between Fraserburgh and the fishing village of St. Combs (MS 1160/12) have been given special sections in view of their possible interest to specialists. Papers and letters concerning affairs in Jamaica and the estate of Georgia there acquired by the family have also been dealt with separately (MS 1160/5-7). Unimportant papers found enclosed in modern account, game or letter books (MS 1160/14-15) have been given appropriate reference numbers and filed together at the end of their separate sections, but no detailed descriptions have been thought necessary.

The material listed under MS 1160/25 (Material relating to the life and career of Thomas Gordon, including medals and portraits) was originally catalogued as MS 1160/29. As part of a cataloguing project funded by the Bodossaki Foundation in 1995, some sections of the collection were re-listed and given new reference numbers.

MS 1160/30 (Diary kept by C. T. Gordon during visits to his Georgia estate in 1887) has been re-listed as MS 1160/7/22.

With particular relevance to MS 1160/20 (Correspondence and papers of Thomas Gordon), suggested dates are placed in square brackets. Many of the documents written by Greek correspondents or in Greece use ‘old style’ dating (i.e. the Julian calendar which was at the time twelve days behind the Gregorian one current in Western Europe). British correspondents tended to use new style in most cases, whereas Greek, and most French or Italian, correspondents, used either both styles or old style dating. However, these were in each case checked against internal evidence and the dates adjusted accordingly. All documents have been dated and arranged according to the new style; the date appearing in the original, if different, has been placed in square brackets. Some documents containing more than one discrete letters are inserted in the list in chronological sequence; as a result their respective reference numbers appear to be out of order.

Personal names are given in full on first appearance; thereafter they are reduced to initials and surname. In the few instances where forenames appear on their own and were impossible to identify, the name has been placed in single quotation marks. Names are written in the form they appear in the text (or the most common form if there are variants), though Greek names appearing in transliteration have been usually rendered phonetically (Spaniolakis rather than Spaniolacki etc.). Square brackets are used for the standardized form of the name, if different, and also for uncertain readings. Place-names are presented in the form in which they were known at the time (Tripolitsa rather than Tripoli, Constantinople rather than Istanbul etc.) with the modern name in square brackets at first appearance. The Greek version, transliterated phonetically as far as it was possible, has been preferred for Greek toponyms in most cases (Crete rather than Candia, Nafplio rather than Napoli di Romania or Nauplie etc.), with the exception of still current well-established anglicized versions (Athens rather than Athina etc.).
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsSome items are restricted or closed so please check individual catalogue entries.
LanguageEnglish, French, Greek and Italian
Physical DescriptionMS 1160/1-18, MS 1160/29-30: The bound volumes and the majority of the manuscripts and accounts are in good condition but some of the 17th and 18th century items have been damaged by damp or are otherwise in need of repair. There are also collections of transcriptions (MS 1160/18) made in the 18th century from manuscript or printed sources by, or for, John Gordon (1715-1775), 6th laird of Buthlaw, professor of civil law at Edinburgh University, author and antiquarian, who was also probably responsible for the collection of a number of printed items (MS 1160/17) relating to national, local or legal affairs, some of which require repair.
Related MaterialSee also MS 3193 This collection supplements, and in some instances, duplicates, the Gordon family papers deposited in MS 1160. It records the role of Edmonds and Ledingham, solicitors, Aberdeen, who acted as factors for the Cairness estate, particularly whilst the family were away from their North East estate.
Papers of several other branches of the Gordon family in Aberdeenshire are deposited in the University.
Correspondence of Thomas Gordon (1788-1841), c 1827 - 1840, is deposited in the British School at Athens (list available at National Register of Archives, ref. NRA 21070 Finlay)
Publication NoteEstate and Family Papers of Gordon of Buthlaw and Cairness, 1642-1938. Northern Scotland, Volume 2, No. 2 (1976-77), p.184-87.
The Papers of Thomas Gordon of Cairness (1788-1841). Northern Scotland, Volume 14 (1994), pp.109-12.

Colin A. McLaren and Margaret A. Stephen, 'Estate and Family Papers of Gordon of Buthlaw and Cairness, 1642-1938 (MS 1160)', Reports and surveys of archives in northern Scotland, 'Northern Scotland', 2 (1976-1977), 184-187.

Aglai Kasdagli, 'Exploring the papers of the Scottish Philhellene, Thomas Gordon (1788 - 1841)' Cambridge Papers on Modern Greek, 3 (Kampos, 1995)

Aglai Kasdagli, 'Antapokriseis apo ti Gramvousa. Selides apo to archeio tou Thomas Gordon. Reports from Gramboussa: pages from Thomas Gordon's archives', Kretologica Grammata, 13, (1997)
Related RecordMS 3193
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