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20 Sept. 2000 - Stirling, Scotland - The Word "Keir" is described as "a chain of rude forts, that run along the north face of the Strath or Valley of Monteath." These "forts" have been in ruin for many centuries. The Stirling Family of Keir have used this name since 1448 when Lukas of Strivelyng, Ratherne, Boquhaumbry purchased the lands at the beginning of the 15th Century.

In the Statistical Account for LeCropt Parish in 1796 the Reverend Dr. Robertson describes the estate of Keir like this - "These (Keir) forts are at present in ruins, and are discernible to strangers only by knolls of green surface covering a great heap of loose stones; but well known to the inhabitants of the country, who carry away the stones for building enclosures and houses. One of these forts was situated at the place of Keir. There are also Keirs at Achinsalt, at Borland, at Balinackader, at Tar, and in many other places of that direction, all similar to one another in respect of situation, construction, prospect and materials; which is strong presumption at least, in not a clear proof, that their use was the same." (Statistical Account of LeCropt Parish, 1796.

Unlike you and I who built forts out of sticks and trees when a child, the Keir Estate was just a "wee" bit larger. The name Keir is not unique to this Branch of the Stirling Family - except that for 570 plus years the Stirlings of Keir owned the land in this part of Scotland.

Today we will overview The Keir line, giving a little information about each segment of this long line of Stirling family members. In coming days we'll explore each person in more detail and have more information about the Keir Estate, it's current situation, and photos, prints and other artwork of the lands. If you have information about the Keir Stirlings, please feel free to contribute, comment and ask questions.

The Rise of the Stirling Family prior to the purchase of Keir will be covered in the next installment, when we look into the life, times and ancestry of Lukas of Strivelyng, the first Laird of Keir. From Lukas The Keir estate, which is just west of Bridge of Allan, and Southwest of Dunblane near the M9 highway, has been passed down from Family member to family member until it was sold in the late 1970's to His Excellency Sayed Mohammed Mahdi Al-Tajir, who until 1981 was a principal advisor to Sheik Rashid, the Ruler of the Country of Dubai in the Middle East. Mahdi Tajir is reputed to be one of the richest men in the world, his rise to fortune began in the 1960's when oil was discovered in commercial properties in Dubai. It was Mahdi Tajir who negotiated the contracts with the oil companies, and handled all principal contracts in Dubai for over 20 years.

The Stirlings of Keir - The First Laird of Keir - Lukas of Strivelyng Seal of Lukas de Strivelyn(Seal of Lukas de Strivelyng, First of Keir, 1448)

Lukas of Strivelyng, son of William, acquired the half the lands of Keir between 1395 and 1415. We'll discuss this first Laird of Keir in detail in the next segment.

Sir William de Strivelyng of Ratherne - Son of Lukas

It was Lukas's son William who began the real rise of this branch of the Stirling family. He added to the lands of Keir the area known as Haldane, then acquired from Lady Janet Kinross of Kippencross the lands of Lubnoch. He also purchased or got Charters and Title to the lands of Schanraw, Garnotore and Lytel and Mikle Kinibuck from Alexander de Kinbuck in 1468, and later still the lands of Glassingall.

In 1996 during a visit to Stirling I asked several people how large the lands of Stirling of Keir were. At the time I was in a car traveling from Stirling to Edinburgh to visit the genealogical library near the Royal Mile and Edinburgh castle. We were a little over 20 miles from Stirling at that point, and the driver calmly pointed out the window to the south of the freeway, and said "Well Lad, the lands you see out there are Keir Lands." In total there have been various estimates, but a conservative guess is in excess of 500,000 acres of land. We'll get into more detail about the Keir lands when we talk about their various neighbors to the North, South, East and West in a later installment.

William was married to a powerfully connected member of Scottish Nobility, Majorie Cunninghame. He died in 1471 and was succeeded by his eldest son, also named William.

Sir William Striveling of Kere, Knight - Supporter of King James IV

Seal of Sir William Striveling of Kere
Seal of William Striveling of Kere - 1492

William had the Keir estate erected into a barony in 1473. In 1488 he sided with Prince James (King James IV) against his father King James III. David M. Stirling, a noted Stirling genealogist in Dunipace, Scotland described the situation at that time in this manner - "The Keir was burnt on James III's orders while he was still alive. This would account for the hostility William Stirling showed towards King James III and why he, with Hugh Borthwick, Shaw of Sauchie and Gray of Kyneff chose to stab the King to death."

Mr. Stirling continues - "Go to page 23 (in the book "The Stirlings of Keir") and you will find an account of a charter passed by the Great Seal narrating that the old writs and evidents (the former Estate Charters) pertaining to the lands of Keir had been burned with the Place and Tower of Kere on the orders of James III, whilst last at Stirling. As far as I am aware, a butchered King would be unable to speak and issue orders so it follows that the Place and Tower of Keir, and the charters were burned before the Battle of Sauchieburn. James Shaw of Sauchie and Patrick Gray of Kynef were close friends and allies of William Stirling of Keir, who was knighted by James IV, shortly after his accession to the throne, and when a new Charter of Barony erection was granted. Hugh Borthwick (his real name was Bean) was an apostate monk, who according to James Grant, Scottish Historian, was rewarded by the grant of an annual rent from a tenement in Stirling for his part in the deed."

Many thanks to David for this additional information.

All of Sir William's Charters and family papers were burned in the fire, leaving a black hole for researchers to struggle with later.

When the prince gained the throne in 1489 as James IV, he knighted William, granted him new titles and charters and gave him 1,000 pounds - a very large fortune at the time "for the bying of his place." With this money William began building the nucleus of the present Keir House. William died in 1503, and was succeeded by his son John.

Sir John Stirling of Keir, Knight

Seal of Sir John Stirling, 4th of Keir

Seal of Sir John Stirling, Fourth of Keir 1502

John, like his father was active in political affairs. He took the side of James IV's widow against some of the nobility that had risen up against her and her son the future King James V. In 1526 John was indicted for treason, and his lands were forfeited to the brother of the Earl of Angus. There were later restored.

Between 1527 and 1535 Sir John added more than 30 properties to his estates, including Kippendavie which is still under Stirling Family guidance and control to this day. He also added the lands of Blackford, which established the huge estate and sent the lands past the town of Dunblane and beyond Blackford.

Perhaps Sir John's methods of growth were somewhat suspect - In 1539 he was killed at Stirling Bridge in revenge for his assassination of Buchanan of Leny and for having stripped Buchanan's daughters of their inheritance. Thus ended one of the most controversial and colorful periods of this families history. His Son James succeeded him. We'll spend more time looking into Sir John's methods and manners. Some say he was a tyrant, murderer and scoundrel, others say he is merely an example of a large land owner during a time when lawlessness and greed ruled the countryside.

We'll have more on Sir John in a later installment.

Sir James Stirling of Keir

Seal of Sir James Stirling 5th of Keir
Seal of Sir James Stirling 1579
``Jacobi Strivelin - Militus de Keir"
translation: ``James Stirling - Knight of Keir"

In 1534 Sir James married the heiress of Cadder Janet Stirling. Books and refutations to those books have been written about this event in Stirling Family and Scottish History, as Janet Stirling was the heir of the Cadder line of the Stirling Family, an area situated a little south and west towards Glasgow from Keir. This was not a love match - some say it was Sir John's doing, marrying his son to gain control of the Cadder lands. We'll spend more time on this subject later.

At the end of the day Sir James or Sir John had the marriage annulled and their son John Stirling of Bankeir declared illegitimate. Janet had fallen in love with a tailor and signed away her birthright and lands to Sir James.

In 1542 James married Jean Chisholm, the illegitimate daughter of the Bishop of Dunblane, William Chisholm. He was also known as "The Robber Bishop of Dunblane." Sir James acquired much more land from William Chisholm when the old Cathedral lands were sold or given away at the Reformation. On 15 September 1579 Sir James disponed the barony of Keir to his son Archibald. This charter was approved by King James VI. on the following day.

Sir Archibald Stirling of Keir and Cawder, Knight

In 1594 Archibald gave his 4th son, also named Archibald the estate of Kippendavie to begin the line of Stirlings of Kippendavie. It is interesting to note that during this time period this area was considered part of the Highlands, for in 1587 the Lairds of Keir and Kippenross were included in the list of Highland Landlords who where "broken Men", IE where outlaws presently dwell. So at least during this time in history, the Stirlings of Keir were thought to be part of the Highland branches in Scotland.

In 1601 Sir Archibald was commissioned by King James VI "Admiral Depute of the West Seas and Lochs, at the float and tak (take) of the herring in the year 1601"

In 1593 Archibald's son and then Heir James, was killed in a fight in Dunblane with William Sinclair over who owned the lands of Auchinbie, which is now part of the lands of Kippendavie. Later in revenge Sinclair and his three sons were killed in Bridge of Allan and the Stirlings were confirmed in ownership.

Sir Archibald died 17 May 1630 and was succeeded by his grandson, the only Surviving Son of -

Sir James Stirling, Friar of Keir, Knight son of Sir Archibald Stirling of Keir and Cawder Knight (Did not inherit Keir, his son did)

James was educated at the University of Glasgow. He was knighted sometime after 30th April 1607. He was married to Anna, the eldest daughter of Sir George Home of Wedderburn. In 1606 as part of his marriage contact to Anna his father Archibald settled the lands of Keir and Cadder on him, and the heir-males of his marriage.

James predeceased his father before 7 June 1614, so the lands passed on to his only surviving son George upon the death of Sir Archibald Stirling in 1630

Sir George Stirling of Keir and Cawder, Knight


(Sir George Stirling - 1638)

George Stirling was educated at the University of Glasgow and matriculated in the spring of 1630 "G. Sterling primogenitus D. de Keir." (List of Incorporated members of Glasgow University.) He was knighted at Holyrood House in Edinburgh on 2nd June 1632 The Lord Lyon records office has the date 1662, but this appear to be an error.

He married four times - First to Dame Margaret Ross, daughter of Lord James Ross & Dame Margaret Scot. The young Mrs. George Stirling tragically died after giving birth to a daughter also named Margaret at the tender age of seventeen. The child died less than three months after her mother.

Next Sir George married Margaret Napier the daughter of Archibald First Lord Napier by Margaret Graham, the sister of the great Marquis of Montrose in 1637.

He married thirdly Anna Nicolson the second daughter of Sir Thomas Nicolson of Carnock in 1654.

Finally in 1666, Sir George married for the fourth time to Lady Margaret Livingston, the eldest daughter of Alexander Livingston, the 2nd Earl of Linlithgow & Lady Mary Douglas. Mary's father was the 10th Earl of Douglas, named William. George died less than a year later in June 1667, after which Lady Margaret Livingston-Stirling married George's cousin-once removed, Sir John Stirling of Keir

So the direct line of descent of the Stirlings of Keir ended with Sir George who had only a daughter Margaret by his first marriage. She died as an infant on 11 May 1633.

Sir George was succeeded by his Cousin Sir Archibald Stirling, Knight, Lord Garden

See the Stirlings of Keir

Sir Archibald of Garden was educated at the University of Glasgow, where he graduated in the spring of 1643. He studied Law, and entered early into public life. He traveled to France from October 1643 till the end of 1644 and his account books are preserved in the archives at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

Archibald was very active in Scotland's affairs during his lifetime. He was Lord of the Articles in 1661 and 1663. In 1661 he was nominated one of the Senators of the College of Justice (Acts of Parliament vii, 124) when he assumed the title of Lord Garden (ibid.).

He married Elizabeth Murray, the daughter of Sir Patrick Murray of Elibank, Knight, and Dame Elizabeth Dundas in 1637. He later married Mause Murray, the daughter of Sir James Murray of Kilbaberton and Dame Katherine Weir, then Lady Elibank in 1646.

Archibald enjoyed the estate of Keir only a very short 9 months, as he died in April 1668. He was succeeded by his son John born at Ochiltrie on 13 April 1638 by his first marriage to Elizabeth Murray.

Sir John Stirling of Keir & Cawder, Knight

There is a great deal of information about Sir John and his sons. Of particular interest to Clan Stirling Online will be his son William of Northside whose line of the family continues today through James Sterling of Cornwall Connecticut, and Sir James Stirling of Keir, who married Marion Stuart, had 21 children and actively sought to restore the Stuarts to the throne.

Sir John was head of Keir from 1668 until his death in 1684. He was followed by his second son John.

Sir John Stirling of Keir & Cawder

John was born on 26 October 1677. He inherited the lands of Keir at the tender age of "eight years and five months or thereby" He died in October 1693 at the age of fifteen, and was buried on the 20th of October 1693 in the family aisle at the Dunblane Cathedral. He was succeeded by his younger brother, James.

Sir James Stirling of Keir & Cawder- The Jacobite Period

Sir James was born on 1st November 1679, and was served heir-male to his immediate brother John in the Barony of Keir on 1st May 1694 at the age of 15.

The Stirlings of Keir were ardent Jacobites and in 1708 James Stirling of Keir was imprisoned in London's Newgate Jail for his part to restore the Stuarts (his in-laws) to the throne. James also fought at the battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715, which was fought on lands owned to this day by the Stirlings of Kippendavie. The Keir lands were forfeit for his part in the activities, but were purchased back by friends for his son. Nevertheless James once again fought in the battle of the '45 with Bonnie Prince Charlie.

He was married on 24th February 1704 in Cardonald to Marion Stuart, the eldest daughter of Alexander Stuart, Lord Blantyre and Anne Hamilton, his second wife. Anne was the daughter of Sir Robert Hamilton, Lord Pressman.

James & Marion had an amazing 14 sons and 8 ((eight) daughters, a total of 22 children!

1745 - Bonnie Prince Charlie & Migration To America

James and his sons and grandsons were active in the 45. At the Mitchell library in Glasgow the receipts for the construction of their uniforms can be reviewed. After the battle The Stirlings tried to escape via boat to Holland, but were captured and sent to Dumbarton Castle as prisoners. They escaped when James's daughter Margaret wound a rope around her waist during a visit and gave it to them. Because of the situation in Scotland several of his sons fled to Jamaica to seek fame and fortune in the sugar cane and rum industry.



Jamaica - Sojourners in The Sun

To support the house and estates of Keir and to give opportunity for James's 21 children, many of them came to this island. Eventually four sugar plantations were purchased or begun by the family, the largest being Hampen in Trelawny Parish. The plantations were in production for over 100 years, before being sold in the mid 19th century by Sir William Stirling-Maxwell the then proprietor of Keir.

There is a great deal of information on James and this time period, we'll explore it in more detail later.

James died on 25 February 1749, and was succeeded at Keir by his eldest Son John.

John Stirling of Keir And Cawder

John was born at Erskine on 18th November 1704. He died unmarried in Edinburgh on 7th July 1757 at the age of 54. He was succeeded at Keir by his brother Archibald.

Archibald Stirling of Keir & Cawder

Archibald was born at Keir on the 4th of September 1710. He went to Jamaica early in life and made enough money to return to Scotland. There are many letters, account books, charters and other documents about his life at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. He died without an heir on 3rd November 1783, and was succeeded by his brother William. We'll have more on Archibald in a later installment.

William Stirling of Keir & Cawder - 12th & Last Son of Sir James to Inherit Keir

William was born at Cawder on 5th June 1725, the last son of Sir James Stirling of Keir & Cawder to inherit the estates of Keir. He was the 12th son of James, and inherited only because his eleven older brothers all failed to provide an heir.

He married 1st Helen Gray, the 2nd daughter of John, Lord Gray in 1765. She died at Cawder in 1776. Next he married Jean Stuart, the youngest daughter of Sir John Stuart of Castlemilk, Baronet and Dame Helen Orr.

William Stirling died suddenly at Keir on the 22nd of May 1793 while walking in the grounds with his son Archibald. He was succeeded by his eldest son by his first marriage James Stirling.

James Stirling of Keir & Cawder

James was born at Cawder on the 8th of October 1766 He was active in the military and fought in Sicily. He died unmarried on 26th July 1831, at the age of sixty-four, and was succeeded by his brother Archibald. A large marble bust of James can be seen inside the Parish Kirk of LeCropt, just across from the Keir estate.

Archibald Stirling of Keir and Cawder

Archibald was born on the 2nd of August 1769 at Cawder. He was a planter in Jamaica for over 25 years on his fathers Hampden estates and Frontier. After his return he married Elizabeth Maxwell, the 2nd daughter of Sir John Maxwell of Pollock, Bart in 1815. She died at the age of 29 on the 5th of September 1822.

He greatly changed the look and use of the lands of Keir and Cawder during his lifetime. We'll spend more time with Archibald in a later segment.

He died on 9th April 1847 and was succeeded by his eldest son -

Sir William Stirling-Maxwell

Sir William was born in 1818 at Kenmure. He graduated BA from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1839 and got his MA degree there in 1843. In 1852 he sold the estate of Hampden in Jamaica. He made considerable alterations to the lands and house of Keir. The improvements were done between the years 1852 and 1857. He is the author of a number of works and was a collector of many fine pieces of art, particularly Velazquez and other Spanish Artists.

Sir William was a member of Parliament for Perthshire form 1852-1868, and from 1874 until his death in 1878. On his death his son John Stirling became the 9th Baronet of Pollock. In recent years his daughter donated the Pollock house near Glasgow to Glasgow Corporation to house the world famous Burrell Collection.

The 19th Century at Keir -General Archibald Stirling of Keir

Sir William's second son Archibald inherited the estate of Keir and achieved the rank of General in the Army. During the 19th Century Keir house had been extensively rebuilt and added to by Sir William. Stirling-Maxwell.

20th Century - Sir William Stirling of Keir

General Archibald Stirling of Keir was succeeded by his son Colonel William Stirling. His brother David was the famous "Phantom Major of World War II, and founder of the Long Range Desert Groups known as the SAS regiment. He was not the only David Stirling who fought the Germans in World War II. David M. Stirling's uncle, David Stirling, now deceased, was a Squadron Leader in London. According to his nephew this David, who was the Commandant of the RAF School of Photography, got many phone calls directed to the OTHER David Stirling, the founder of the SAS during the course of the war.




In 1934 the Stirlings of Keir house was once again Catholic, and donated much of the funds required to build the Catholic church in Claredon Place, Dunblane. Most of the interior wood for this church came from Keir Lands.



A group photo taken at the private chapel at Keir, Dunblane, at the christening of the infant son and heir of Mr. And Mrs. William Stirling of Keir. Left to right are: Rev. Father J. B. Rowland, S.J., the Hon. Mrs. Stirling of Keir, Mrs. William Stirling and baby, Mrs J. H. F. McEwen and Captain McEwen M.P., godfather. The baby was christened Archibald Hugh Stirling. Mr. William Stirling, the father, is at present on active service abroad. (1941)

The Current Laird of Ancient Keir


The Present Laird of Keir

Sadly in 1975 the late Colonel William Stirling of Keir sold Keir House and 180 acres of the park to Mahdi al-Tajir who in the 1980's was the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Court of St. James. Mr. al-Tajir also bought from Colonel Stirling a further 35,000 acres some miles away from Keir which now forms the water source for Highland Spring, the bottled water company which Mr. al-Tajir started and still owns.The land which forms the Barony of Keir and 2000 acres of arable land surrounding the house are still owned by the present laird Archie Stirling of Keir.

Although Colonel William Stirling sold most of the great old master paintings in the family collection, those by El Greco, Goya, Murillo, Zurburan etc. and the house itself, a lot of the remaining pictures and chattels had been placed in large stores on the estate by Colonel Stirling's wife Susan who had refused to move out of the house when she discovered it had been sold, a fact she did not find out about until a year after the event. After this discovery she partitioned off 12 rooms inside the main house where she remained until she died in 1983. With great generosity when he discovered the circumstances of the sale, Mahdi al Tajir did not seek to evict Mrs. Stirling but carried on making his own alterations and refurbishment's to the major part of the house to which he had access without in any way impinging on Mrs. Stirling.

Although it was in many ways tragic that the late Colonel Stirling sold the house it was not simply as a result of foolish expenditure but rather due to an inability to understand cash flow. During his stewardship the family owned considerable estates in Tanzania which were later appropriated by the Tanzanian government, they also had oil drilling companies (KCA Drilling etc), started the Abu Dhabi National Drilling Company, owned oil concessions in the Middle East, had international civil engineering companies which built roads, railways and dams all over the world but principally in East Africa, South Africa, Thailand, Egypt and North Africa. Unfortunately great ideas require great cash flow and many of the sales that took place were to raise funds to placate the banks.

Archie Stirling of Keir now lives at Ochtertyre, a substantial house on the edge of the remaining land which is still farmed and run as an estate. In 1995 Christie's, on the instructions of the present laird, held a large sale at a site near Keir to dispose of those items which had been held in store for 20 years and which were beginning to deteriorate through lack of use and the problems arising from long term storage. Included were many items which simply could not be accommodated at Ochtertyre, a house of some twenty five rooms as opposed to the hundred plus rooms of Keir.

Next Installment-

Lukas, The First Laird, And A Look At The Arguments About His Ancestry

In the next installment we'll take a closer look at this first Laird of Keir, and explore his parentage. There are several arguments and lines that have been proposed, shot down and discussed for well over 300 years. Thanks to technology, the Internet, and the historical collection of Trustee Bob McCutcheon we can shed some light on the earliest progenitors of the Stirling Family.

If you have more information about the Keir Stirlings, questions, or suggestions, comments, please feel free to contact me at
mcej@clanstirling.org.