Stewarton & District Historical Society       Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation :  SC011194.

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26th January 2024

Earl of Eglinton (and his Murder)

Most people assume that the Cuninghames were the only family who were major landowners in the Stewarton area, but they would be wrong. The Montgomeries can trace their roots back to Roger de Montgomerie, who came over with William the Conqueror in 1066. For his services to Duke William he was given lands at Arundel Castle in Sussex, then made 'Keeper of the Welsh marches', hence the name Montgomeryshire. From there they moved to Scotland and were granted the lands of Eaglesham (the village by the Church = Eglise ham) and then they moved down into Ayrshire. They acquired several titles, ending up as Earls of Eglinton  and Winton, Barons of Ardrossan.

Eglinton Castle

The Stewarton connection comes with the Montgomeries (there are 13 different spellings of the name in the family records) acquiring the lands of Lainshaw in the Middle Ages. A long running feud between the Cuninghames and the Montgomeries came to a head on April 19th., 1586, when Hugh, 4th Earl of Eglinton, was travelling from his castle at Eglinton to Stirling, where the court was sitting at that time.

The Earl stopped at Lainshaw to dine with his relative, Neil Montgomerie (whose wife was a Cuninghame of Aiket - they were not always fighting!) but when he left he met with a band of Cuninghames as he was about to ford the River Annick (rumoured to be around thirty four men) and he was killed. It is claimed that he was shot by John Cuninghame of Clonbeith while the rest fled back to Eglinton and gathered a larger force under the command of the Earl's brother. They returned to Stewarton and 'killed every Cuninghame without distinction they could come by' according to the Eglinton muniments. We do know that the following were killed - Sir Robert Montgomerie of Skelmorlie, John Maxwell of Stainley, a Cuninghame ally, and Alexander Cuninghame of Montgreenan, commendator of Kilwinning Abbey.

Lainshaw Castle

The Earl of Glencair n's brother, Cuninghame of Aiket was also shot, but Robertland and Corsehill escaped, the former to Denmark - a wise move, although Robertland Castle was destroyed, leaving only a few stones remaining to-day. Clonbeith is believed to  have killed himself, while Lady Montgomerie, who legend had it had signalled from the battlements with a cloth to the Montomeries that the Earl was leaving Lainshaw, was forced to go into hiding,  perhaps to Ireland.

In more recent times, the Eglinton family have been of more benefit to the Stewarton area, as they were deeply involved in the Agricultural Revolution and its improvements.

In 1771 the Earl proposed many changes, including the following;-

'To enclose and subdivide properly with ditches and quickset dykes -

Milntoun; Milnlands; Murehouse; Gatehead; East and West Murelands; Corsehouse; Annanhill and Knockentiber. To complete enclosures  already begun and to subdivide Windyedge; Thornhill; Greenhills and Fordalhills with ditches and quickset dykes.'

E - Eglinton.

Ian’s A-Z