When Tom Johnston’s book, Our Scots Noble Families, first appeared in 1909 it caused a sensation. The man who was later to become wartime Scottish Secretary of State and first chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro Board revealed how many Scots landed families inherited privileges through lands taken by force or fraud.
“The title-deeds are rapine, murder, massacre, cheating or Court harlotry,” wrote Johnston.
“They (Scotland’s landowning elite) scorned any principle of morality; they gambled and murdered and robbed and foisted numerous illegitimate lusts on the granaries of the common people.”
Johnston claims that the Dukes of Hamilton, Scotland’s premier peerage, owe their wealth to mining royalties to which they had no entitlement.
The Gordons of Barra, who evicted islanders in the potato famine of 1851 when the kelp industry failed and tried to offer the island to the government as a penal settlement, excited Johnston’s wrath. “The first Barra Gordon appears to have been one of the most inhuman rascals that even Scottish Land history takes cognisance of. Beside him Nero was an innocent babe.” Their namesakes in the North East were a “nest of public robbers.”
And the Sutherlands, whose annual revenue from land in the north of Scotland and elsewhere even in 1874 was some £141,000, had a history of “cruel murders and blatant thievings”.
Despite being banned by some booksellers, Our Scots Noble Families sold 120,000 copies.
GORDON MCARTHUR: 5.0 out of 5 stars – Five Stars
Beldorney: 5.0 out of 5 stars – A different view of the aristocracy.
A good read.
Catriona Grigg: 5.0 out of 5 stars – why am I not surprised
Interesting reading for anyone wondering about Scottish history. They seem all to have started on the road to nobility by stealing land from rivals and the people. Remember Burns song which includes ‘ a parcel o’ rogues in a nation’?