The 7th (revised 8th ) Marquis of Queensberry of Kinmount House.

Mon, Nov 20th 2023 at 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Past President David Rothwell, introduced his guest Duncan Ford as speaker, who talked about the family of William Archibald Douglas the 7th (revised 8th ) Marquis of Queensberry of Kinmount House.

At the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Lockerbie and District held at the Sure Hotel, Lockerbie on Monday 20 November Past President David Rothwell, introduced his guest Duncan Ford as speaker.  Duncan is the Countryside Ranger at Hoddom and Kinmount estate and is a familiar face to members having spoken to the Club on a number of occasions.

“Kinmount House was built between 1812 – 1815 for Charles Douglas, 5th (revised 6th) Marquis of Queensberry. However, Kinmount is most closely associated with the family of the 7th (revised 8th) Marquis, William Archibald Douglas, who succeeded to the title in 1856. Theirs is a fascinating story marked by adventure and tragedy.

In 1841 William Archibald married Caroline Clayton. The couple eloped to Gretna Green after her father refused to give his consent for the marriage. They had six children: Gertrude, John Sholto, Francis, Archibald, and twins Florence and James.

Tragedy struck on 6 August 1858, when William Archibald was found dead in the grounds of Kinmount, a single gunshot to his left chest. Officially, ruled as an accident. However, it was widely believed in the press to be suicide after losing a £10,000 bet – the equivalent of £1,000,000 today – on the Goodwood Cup.

In 1861, Caroline converted to Catholicism, causing outrage in the Douglas family. Fearing that her mother-in-law planned to take her youngest children from her, she fled with them to Europe, not returning until 1864. She lived at Glen Stuart, near Cummertrees, until her death in February 1904, aged 83.

Like his father, Francis met a tragic end. After leaving Eton in 1865, he spent the summer climbing in the Swiss Alps. On July 14th,1865, he was part of a seven-man team which made the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn. Any jubilation was to be short-lived. During the descent, disaster struck when the rope connecting the climbers snapped. Francis and three others fell 1,400 metres to their deaths. His body was never found. 

Archibald followed a religious path. After being ordained in 1876, he was put in charge of an orphanage, St Vincent’s Home for Boys in Hammersmith. In 1887, he returned to Annan, becoming minister for St Columba’s Church. In 1889, he hired a caravan and spent the summer months touring Scotland, preaching and performing religious rites, a practice he continued for many years. In 1909, he was appointed Pastor at Girvan before becoming chaplain to a religious community near Dover in 1920. He died in February 1938.

In 1864, Gertrude entered the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Hammersmith but left in1870. For many years, she helped her brother run the boys’ home. It was there that she met and married the head baker, Thomas Stock. This caused a sensation at the time, not only because of the class difference, but, also, the age difference: Thomas was 21; Gertrude 40.

1891 brought more family tragedy. James suffered from alcoholism and mental distress. Over the years his behaviour had become increasingly erratic. Returning by boat from a 10-day fishing holiday to Ireland, he started acting very strangely, so much so that the London North Western Railway sent a man to accompany him to Euston station where he booked into a hotel. The following morning, he was found dead, having cut his throat with a razor.

Florence was a journalist, travel-writer and, above all, a political activist. When she died in November 1905, one obituary stated that she had been involved in more causes and crusades than anyone else in Britain. She was a vociferous supporter of women’s rights - especially votes for women and equality in marriage and divorce - and home rule for Ireland. Controversy surrounds an event in March 1893. She claimed that, while walking by the Thames, an attempt was made on her life by two men dressed as women, with strong Irish accents. Police investigations quickly cast doubt on her story. It was believed that she made it up, possibly to discredit the Irish Land League, against whom she had, publicly, taken a dislike.

John Sholto is probably best known for giving his name to the Marquis of Queensberry Rules for boxing. The rules were written by John Graham Chambers and drafted in London in 1865. John Sholto, also, played a key role in bringing about Oscar Wilde’s downfall in 1895. In this, his family sided against him. As such, he was determined that none of his children would inherit the Kinmount Estate and, therefore, in 1896 he sold it to Edward Brook, of Hoddom.”

In giving the vote of thanks Past president Alex Smith thanked Duncan for a most interesting and fascinating talk following which those present showed their appreciation in the usual manner.