Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, William (1614-1679)

GORDON, WILLIAM (1614–1679), of Earlston, covenanter, the second son of Alexander Gordon of Earlston (1587-1654) [q. v.] and Elizabeth Gordon, his wife, was born in 1614. He studied for the ministry of the church of Scotland, and graduated as master of arts. On the outbreak of the civil war in 1639 he accepted a command under General Alexander Leslie, and was present in the following year at the taking of Newcastle. After his elder brother's death he returned home to assist his now disabled father, and served on the committee for war of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, from whom he presented a petition to parliament in 1648. During the Commonwealth he took part in Glencairn's insurrection in Scotland in 1653 on behalf of Charles II; but, disgusted by the animosities which prevailed in Glencairn's army, he withdrew, and, taking advantage of an act of indemnity issued by Cromwell in 1654, surrendered and returned home. That he lived quietly under Cromwell's administration is shown by his appointment on two commissions in 1656 and 1659 for raising taxation in his stewartry.

Gordon was a man of eminent piety. His tenants were bound by their leases to observe family worship and other duties of religion. He went at their head to church every Sabbath day. His skill in solving cases of conscience is remarked by Wodrow in his 'Analecta.'

Along with his presbyterian brethren Gordon hailed with delight the restoration of Charles II. Owing to his strict adherence to his religious principles he was exempted from the act of indemmty granted by Charles in 1662 until he should pay a fine of 3,500l.; while about the same time he and a number more were pursued by James, earl of Queensberry, to pay their shares of the damage sustained by that earl in a raid which they had made in 1650 upon his castle of Drumlanrig. In 1663 Gordon was required by the commissioners of the privy council then in the district, as patron of the church of Dalry, to present an episcopal curate to the charge, and their letter was sent by the hand of the curate himself. Gordon, in a letter which Wodrow has printed in his 'History' (ed. Burns, i. 369), declined to force any one upon the people contrary to their wishes. He was forthwith cited before the privy council, and banished the kingdom, never to return under pain of death. A month was allowed him to make his preparations, during which he was ordained to live peaceably and orderly under a penalty of 10,000l., or enter himself in prison. He went to London, but after the Pentland rising, of which he had disapproved, was suppressed, he was permitted to return home. His house at Earlston was frequently made a barrack for the troops employed in hunting down the covenanters, and he himself had to construct a secret and safe hiding-place in the depths of the forest of Aird.

Gordon fully approved the rising which ended in the battle of Bothwell Bridge on 22 June 1679. He was hindered from being present at the fight, but, coming up after it was over, fell into the hands of a detachment of dragoons, who demanded his surrender. He hesitated for a moment, and was immediately shot dead. His body was secured, and buried by his sister-in-law, the wife of Sir John Harper of Cambusnethan, in Glassford churchyard, Lanarkshire, where a plain pillar was erected to mark the spot of interment. This monument has since been restored with an inscription. He was some time after death cited before the privy council, and sentence of forfeiture and death was passed upon him.

Gordon was survived by his widow, Mary Hope, second daughter of Sir John Hope, lord Craighall, who with great difficulty succeeded in retaining her life-rent right in the estates. They were married on 26 Oct. 1648, and had issue thirteen children, most of whom died young, only three sons and one daughter reaching maturity. The sons were (1) Alexander Gordon of Earlston [q. v.]; (2) Sir William Gordon of Afton, who was a lieutenant-colonel under the Duke of Marlborough, and for his services at the revolution was created a baronet of Nova Scotia on 9 July 1706; (3) John, a surgeon in the army. The daughter, Margaret, married in 1682 James Holborn of Menstrie, Clackmannanshire.

[McKerlie's Hist. of the Lands and their Owners in Galloway, iii. 415–18; Wodrow's Church History, ed. Burns, i. 369–412, ii. passim, iii. 180; Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland, vols. vi. and vii.]

H. P.