Kirkcowan – What's Going On?


Craighlaw House, Kirkcowan - 1900


Craichlaw was, in its medieval form, a keep, or stone tower. Its earliest known proprietors were the Hamiltons, a family supposedly descended from the Earls of Leicester and related by marriage to the Earls of Moray. A Sir Walter Hamilton swore allegiance to Edward I in 1296 but later became a supporter of Robert the Bruce. At this time he was granted extensive portions of land which included Kirkcowan in the county of Wigtown.


In the 15th century the lands of Craichlaw and title to that place were in the hands of a family Mure.

Whether by marriage connections or because of the sale of the property is not known, but the Dunbars of Mochrum and a family McKie appear to have had interest in or title to Craichlaw for a time.


In the 16th century, Craichlaw became the property of a branch of the Gordon family of Lochinvar. During the two centuries of Gordon occupation and influence, the estate became an impressive one and the keep was enlarged to become known as the only fine house of the parish. The Gordons extended their land holdings to include farms in Kirkinner and Wigtown parishes and the lands of Culvennan, Shennanton, Grange of Bladnoch (Mochrum Park) , and Glaisnick in the area around Kirkcowan.

During the latter part of the 17th century, however, the Gordons of Craichlaw experienced severe persecution in the forms of massive fines, outlawing, and forfeiture of their estate because of the covenanting activities of the laird and his heir James. For some time the family were forced to leave their mansion and to live on lesser properties as a military leader, Major Main, was given title to Craichlaw.

Upon the accession of William and Mary to the throne, the Gordon family had their rights and property restored, but the effect of the severe fines was a lasting one and never allowed them to return to their previous prosperous state.


In the middle of the 18th century, Craichlaw and its barony belonged briefly to a William Wallace.

Then, in 1744, Craichlaw returned to the possession of the family Hamilton.

William Hamilton of Ladyland near Kilbirnie in Ayrshire, after obtaining land in Ireland, purchased the land and barony of Craichlaw and returned to settle in Scotland. AB he died without issue, both the land and the barony passed to his brother Charles, collector of customs and Provost of Irvine in Ayrshire for twelve years. He was eventually succeeded by his son Dr. William Hamilton, an early patron of Burns.

The son of Dr. William Hamilton was a captain in the 10th Hussars and served at Waterloo. He married Anne, daughter of Rev. Dr. A. Stewart , the minister of Kirkcowan’s parish church and a medical doctor. Anne Stewart was a talented and greatly admired Lady Craichlaw.

Craighlaw House, Kirkcowan - 1890s

Their son and heir, also William Hamilton, an advocate, married Margaret—Anne—Mary (known as Anne) Jones of Hinton Charterhouse, Somerset, in 1863. It was due to her enterprise and taste that Craichlaw was enlarged to its present mansion—house proportions in 1866. Craichlaw was again, as it had been in the seventeenth century, central to the life of the Kirkcowan area. The enterprising laird welcomed village folk to curl on the Loch of Craichlaw each winter. He founded the second curling club to be established in Scotland. Whenever the loch at Craichlaw froze hard enough for curling, school at Kirkcowan was abandoned and the locals gathered for the sport.

Staff from the mansion house took hot soup in iron pots tucked into boxes of straw to the frozen lochside to warm the sports participants and spectators.


Craighlaw House, Kirkcowan - 1903

The brothers William and Charles Hamilton, 16th and 2nd of Craichlaw, had a sister Elizabeth who married Patrick Fleming of Borochan, Renfrewshire. The Flemings of Borochan had been, from the time of James I V, famous for their expertise in falconry and had been eventually appointed to the honorary post of Falconer to the King in Scotland.

Captain Malcolm Fleming Hamilton of Craighlaw - 1902
Captain Malcolm Fleming Hamilton
of Craighlaw – 1902

At the coronation of George IV , Malcolm Fleming of Borochan was present, accompanied by his chief falconer, John Andergon who carried a tiercel on his wrist. When William Charles Stewart Hamilton, 5th of Craichlaw, inherited his Fleming cousin’s estate upon the death of the Fleming line, he sold Borochan but brought its major contents to Craichlaw, including an extensive collection of old falcony heirlooms. His son took the names of the last of the Fleming line and became William Malcolm Fleming—Hamilton, 6th of Craichlaw.

The seventh of Craichlaw, Charles Malcolm Fleming—Hamilton died in 1951, aged only 25 years, and Craichlaw passed to his sister, Diana Fleming—Hamilton


The present laird of Craichlaw is the second son of John Gladstone and Diana Fleming—Hamilton, Andrew Malcolm Hamilton Gladstone.

Diana Fleming—Hamilton became the wife of John Gladstone of Capenoch, Dumfriesshire.

The present laird of Craichlaw is the second son of John Gladstone and Diana Fleming—Hamilton, Andrew Malcolm Hamilton Gladstone.

Current estate – Map



“There is a large stone in the shape of a shield at the old house of Craiglaw. It has no less than five shields with arms. The centre one has a lion rampant, with two unicorns on supporters. The shield above it has two boars’ heads at the top, and another at the base, with a fesse, chequy, in the centre between them. The shield at the base of the stone is rather worn, and only shows two stars at the top and one to the left below, the rest being obliterated.

It is clearly, however, the arms of the Baillies, who carried nine stars on their shield, three in three lines. Then at the corners, on the top of the stone, there are two other shields, dexter and sinister, the first being the arms of the Gordons, three boars’ heads; and the other shield, with the arms of the Baillies, with the nine stars complete.

“Such is a rough description of the stone, which we only heard of accidentally. The assumption of the lion rampant, and unicorns as supporters, which latter pertain to royalty, we cannot unravel. The Gordons had no royal blood to entitle them to the unicorns. We find the same arms and supporters, however, over the doorway at Rusco Castle, parish of Anwoth, which estate the Gordons obtained by marriage.”

From “History of the Lands and Their Owners in Galloway” by P. H. McKer1ie, vol. 11, p. 253.