The Kennedy - de Carrick Connection

Some notes from secondary sources

Iain Kennedy

December 25th, 2006

Copyright © 2007 Iain Kennedy

The thorny question of how the Kennedy and de Carrick lines are connected was discussed at some length by two prominent Ayrshire historians, James Paterson and J. Kevan MacDowall. The following are some excerpts from these two key works. When I get some more time I will delve more into the primary sources behind them.

Update December 24th, 2006. Paterson (see below) quotes from the following source which I have now read at the National Library and here summarise. The numbered footnotes are mine.

Some account of the Ancient Earldom of Carric by Andrew Carrick Esq MD (To which are prefixed notices of the Earldom after it came into the families of de Bruce and Stewart)

by James Maidment Esq Advocate 1857 (based on notes by Andrew Carrick dated 1809).

The notes are accompanied by a covering letter to George Chalmers (of 'Caledonia' fame) written from Clifton on the 8th June 1809.


... Almost everything I know of the matter indeed independent of Fordun is derived from Nesbit (1) and Douglas (2) two very inaccurate and credulous authors. But I think it not improbable that some farther information might be obtained from a careful inspection of Lord Cassilis's charters, of the chartularies of Crossraguell and Maybole, if extant, and of the title deeds of many of the Ayrshire estates which may possibly fall into your hands in the course of your present enquiries (3).

NB the copy of Nesbit from which I quote is that lately printed at Edinburgh by [Blackwood, in 1804]. I have not seen Douglas these 20 years. This is a wretched market for books of that description.

(1) Carrick calls this source Nesbit throughout except once where he spells it Nisbet. It appears to be a reference to Alexander Nisbet (1657-1725)'s System of Heraldry. Originally published in Nisbet's lifetime it was reprinted by A. Lawrie & Co in Edinburgh in 1804 and then by Blackwood in 1816. The Blackwood reference above was in square brackets in the original and appears to be a later error possibly by Maidment.

(2) Douglas is only rarely mentioned, presumably he is referring to Sir Robert Douglas' Peerage of which the 1st Edition was published in 1764.

(3) Carrick's entire research then has eschewed primary sources.

Carrick's main article occupies 30 pages of which he devotes 10 pages to the Kennedy - de Carrick connection. Here I summarise his key paragraphs; note that large sections consist of quotes from Nisbet with his commentary below. Nisbet appears within double quote marks; my remarks are in square brackets; the rest is Carrick. The name Kennedy first appears on page 31:

'... which grant King Alexander III confirms and it was afterwards confirmed or rather renewed by King Robert II to the family of Kennedy

Gilbert de Carrick son of Rolland de Carrick "submits a difference between him and the nuns of North Berwick in 1285 to Robert Bruce Earl Carrick to which Gilbert de Carrick's seal is appended having the very same shield of arms which the family of Cassillis carry at this day; which shows they had the double tressure flory and counter flory with fleursdelis to their arms long before they matched with the royal family"*

*where is this charter and seal [asks Carrick]? has the seal the 3 crosses which constitute the distinction between the arms of Carrick and those of Kennedy? if it has not, we should have in this a cogent proof of the falsity of the pretended change of sirname from Carrick into Kennedy.$

$the original is at Panmure [this appears to be an editor's later note]. it has been printed amongst the North Berwic [sic] charters and the arms of Gilbert are a cheveron between 3 cross crosslets fiches.

"King Robert I grants a remisison to Sir Gilbert Carrick son of the above Sir Duncan for surrendering the castle of Loch Doon to the English and restores to him the government of the same with the lands thereunto belonging which still continue part of the Earl of Cassillis's property"

"at this time or a little before" says Nesbit, "they begun to take the surname of Kennedy as 'caput progeniei', several charters have Carrick in the bosom and Kennedy in the margin" yet Nesbit adds "they had taken the name of Kennedy long before; for John Kennedy chancellor to King John Baliol is mentioned in Prynne's history and Dominus Alexander Kennedy and several others of that name in page 652".

The memoirs in Nesbit presuming the change of surname then goes on to tell us that Sir John Kennedy son of the above Sir Gilbert Carrick is one of the commissioners mentioned in Rymer at the treaty of Newcastle for releasing King David II in 1354, ...

It is somewhat surprising that Nesbit after the account has had given of these affairs in v i p158 should have inserted the forgoing memoirs without any comment or attempt to reconcile the contradiction. On p158 he tells us that the first of the name of Kennedy was "Kenneth, an Irish Scot or Highlander. He then goes on to mention Henry Kennedy who assisted Gilbert Lord of Galloway in his wars", and other Kennedys from the Ragman Roll as above. He afterwards informs us "that in the reign of King David II John Kennedy of Dunure got several lands from that king as 'per rotula davidis II' and likewise that he added to his patrimonial inheritance the barony of Cassillis by his wife Mary".

Here is at once the clue to the mystery; and why Nesbit should have let it slip through his fingers it does not seem difficult to guess. Nesbit was not only credulous but interested and venal. These genealogical historians are the most docile creatures imaginable; always ready to countenance the most barefaced fiction sooner than incur the smallest risk of losing a noble patron.

His first report of this affair (p158) was probably his real sentiments; then 2nd appendix p36 appears to have been handed to him by some of the Cassillis family and was inserted without any correction or animadversion whatsover.

Out of all this however the necessary deduction seems to be that Sir Gilbert Carrick the same who was captured with King David II at Durham left no son and that his daughter and heiress Mary was married to John Kennedy.

"he added to his patrimonial inheritance the barony of Cassillis by Mary his wife". Nesbit indeed does not actually say she was the daughter of Sir Gilbert Carrick but taking the dates and circumstances together it is impossible not to infer that she was so.*

* it would however be satisfactory to ascertain from written documents that the barony of Cassilis was actually the patrimonial estate of Sir Gilbert Carrick.

Upon this supposition all is clear and easy. The patrimonial inheritance of Nicolaus and Rolland Carrick, the caput progeniei, the bailliary of Carrick, the addition of the cross crosslets to the arms of Carrick, all glide most smoothly into the family of Kennedy without the smallest necessity for a change of surname; whereas without this supposition all is confusion contradiction and absurdity.

Had this transaction happened some centuries later he would probably have adopted the name of Carrick in place of his own. The practice however of adopting the names of heiresses was not introduced so early. But in process of time it was judged desirable to indulge the idea of a change of surname, without forfeiting the claim of male representation; to which pretension the accidental resemblance of the name Kennedy to two or three Irish vocables signifying head of a house happened luckily to supply something like a colourable sanction.

From the renewal of earl Nigel's charter by King Robert III to Sir James Kennedy no inference of the identity of the surnames of Kennedy and Carrick can fairly be drawn; but directly the contrary. Had there been no break in the male succession of the family of Carrick but only a change in name there could have been no room nor necessity for this 2nd confirmation of the charter, King Alexander's confirmation of it to Roland Carrick being sufficient for his latest hiers-male.

... there was to be sure something unnatural and contradictory in pretending to constitute any but a Carrick the chieftain of the surname of Carrick but such trifling inconsistencies in favour of a king's son-in-law are easily overlooked.

Another circumstance to be adverted to is the observation of Nesbit or rather of the memorialist above mentioned that in the time of King David II the name of Carrick began to be changed to Kennedy and that accordingly there are charters of this period with "Carrick in the bosom and Kennedy on the margin". But who does not at once perceive in this the hand of the interpolator? In the course of a century or so from the marriage with Mary of Cassillis when it became desirable that the fiction of the change of surname should pass current such little artifices as this, I mean the marginal annotation would very naturally be resorted to, in an age, by the bye, pregnant with forgeries. Had matters been reversed, had we had these charters with Kennedy in the bosom but Carrick in the margin then inded there would have been a something greater show of probability for the change in position but there is no such thing.

The similarity of the armorial bearings of the two families has been considered as a proof of their identity but this like those above noticed will vanish upon investigation. The arms of the earls of Carrick are argent, a cheveron gules which seems indeed to have been the bearing of the whole house of Fergus; for we have in Nesbit (pt iv p14) the seal of Rolland l of Galloway with the very same shield of arms. The bearings of the Kennedy earl of Cassillis is argent, a cheveron gules, between 3 cross crosslet fitchet sables and these within a double tressure flory counter- flory with fleur-de-lis since the marriage of James Kennedy with Mary daughter of King Robert III.

From hence it is probable almost to certainty that the original bearing of the Kennedys was the 3 cross crosslets which upon the marriage to the king's daughter were added as augmentation to the paternal coat of Carrick.

Andrew Carrick then sums up his case:

To conclude in whatever way we view it the inconsistency and absurdity of the supposition of a change of surname are too palpable to bear a moment's reflection. The difficulties it involves are insurmountable and we can only class this foolish story with the innumerable legends and fictions which obscure and disgrace our early history.

... I should have passed the idle assertions of Nesbit and Douglas and others interested in silence had not such a truly respectable author as Lord Hailes (1) without due reflection adopted the conceit.

The arguments I have adduced to disprove it appear to me conclusive; yet I can truly aver, that if I have taken up a wrong opinion on the subject no person could be more happy than myself to see it corrected.

(1) Lord Hailes (David Dalrymple) qv - possibly the Annals of Scotland (1776-9), tbc - IK

History of the county of Ayr: with a genealogical account of the families of Ayrshire, Vol. II, James Paterson, 1852

Paterson has extensive notes on many of the Kennedy families, under the appropriate parish entry. The following selection is taken from the entry for Kirkoswald.

'Strange enough there is an incomplete charter by Robert II to Gilberto de Carryk de omnibus suis terris in bk 3 no 8 of the crown records and must have been in the early part of that monarch's reign much about the same time that John Kennedy obtained his. This Gilbert de Carrick coexistent with John Kennedy of Dunure must have been one of the direct representatives of the de Carrick family.

The author then quotes from the 'Historical Account of the Noble Family of Kennedy' (anon. 1849 Edinburgh)

"there is not in the charter chest of the Marquis of Ailsa any original grant of the barony of Dunure whereby it might be seen how that estate came into the family... about 1290 a charter was granted by Malcolm earl of Lennox in favour of Gilbert de Carrick of the lands of Bukmonyn-Kennedy, Cromicaine and Blairfode in the earldom of Lennox (*on 28 oct 1393 Duncan Earl of Lennox confirms a grant by Sir Gilbert Kennedy of Dunure in favour of John Kennedy son of Fergus Kennedy of the lands of Buckmonyn in the earldom of Lennox. The presumption here is that Sir Gilbert Kennedy of Dunure had succeeded Sir Gilbert de Carrick as heir to these lands when he granted them to John Kennedy son of Fergus Kennedy.) This Gilbert de Carrick was one of the prisoners taken at the battle of Durham in 1346. [Paterson disputes this: the editor must be wrong, he writes; supposing him to be only 21 in 1290 when he succeeded his father sir gilbert he would have been 75 at the battle of durham! in short there is no evidence that this Kennedy was related to the de Carricks save the lands he possessed and some similarities in the family arms]

The earliest charter in Lord Ailsa's charter chest is 18 jan 1357 by David II confirming for John de Kennedy all the lands acquired by him. This is the first time the name of Kennedy appears in the title deeds. It has been supposed that this John de Kennedy who in another charter about the same period is called 'of Dunure' changed the name from Carrick to Kennedy."


The author [Paterson] relates who he stumbled across a pamphlet 'An historical sketch of the very ancient family and sirname of Carrick printed privately in 1824 by Andrew Carrick Esq from an MS of Andrew Carrick of Kildees both descendants of the Carricks of Moredon, a branch of the original de Carricks. Dr Carrick does not give his authorities in detail but he states that much interesting information was obtained on the subject from George William Johnstone Esq MD of Lochhouse a descendant of the family on the mothers side and Robert Riddel of Glenriddle Esq a well known antiquary. In this pamphlet it is unhestitatingly stated that Sir John Kennedy married Mary Carrick daughter or grandaughter of Sir Gilbert Carrick who had no surviving male issue. This marriage took place it is said about 1350. Here we have the true source of the very intimate connection between the Kennedies and the de Carricks. John Kennedy married Mary de Carrick the heiress of Sir Gilbert de Carrick and assumed the arms and position of the de Carricks. By this marriage also from the connection of the de Carricks with the Royal House of Stewart he was entitled to be called by Robert II 'dilectus consanguineus noster'.

Carrick Gallovidian, J. Kevan MacDowall FSA Scot (1947).

This gentleman has impressive credentials listed on the flypage - Fellow Soc Antiquaries in Scotland; President Galloway Assoc. of Glasgow; Convener, Place-names committee of Council of the Saint Andrew Society Glasgow; Member, Glasgow Ayrshire Soc; Rep for Ayrshire on Council of Burns Federation; President Mauchline Burns Club; Hon Sec Scottish Burns Club. We will draw our own conclusions however on the scholarliness of his research.

The book includes a number of pedigree charts of the Kennedy families of Ayrshire, plus 10 pages of discussion of the Kennedy clan. It has an extensive bibliography of 57 printed resources.

Here I will just quote mainly from what he says about the de Carricks, more on another page sometime. Bear with the author, a MacDowall, as he slips in an unusually high number of MacDowall name-dropping references!

'John Kennedy of Dunure d 1385 was a descendant of this Henry Cinnidh (chart B) he married Mary MacDowall de Carrick in c 1340 the heiress of the home or Galloway branch of the MacDowall lords of Galloway.This Mary was the representative of the 3rd senior branch of the family of the ancient Gallovidian lords, the other 2 having gone far beyond the confines of Galloway. Through these lines ending in females the old name of MacDowall that of the chief family of the black Gaels of Galloway had becaome lost in those of their husbands.

The scion of the family was Fergus MacDowall lord of Galloway b 1096 ...

Between 5th Jul 1175 when Henry Cinnidh or Cinneadais was slain by Roland MacDowall and 1340 it has not been posible for the author to trace the exact genealogy of the Kennedy family. He has however been able to extract from various records the following names representing persons presumably descended of or related in some manner to Henry Cinnidh; viz in 1230 there was a Marcow MacKennedy a steward and judge in Carrick under Duncan MacDowall 1st Earl of Carrick. In 1250 there was also a Marthou MacKenede (probably same as Marcow MacKennedy) a witness to the charter of St Cuthbert of Maybole. In 1266 there was a Fergus MacKenede an attorney in Ayr. In 1272 canon Alexander Kennedy in Glasgow, presumably the Sir Alexander Kennedy canon of Glasgow referred to along with Sir Hugh Kennedy of Kirkintilloch in the Ragman's roll. In 1280 a Fergus Kennedy was a stewart and judge in a court at Lenzie under Comyn (possibly the Fergus MacKennedy attorney in Ayr 1266 who had dropped the Mac after the death of his father). In 1296 records refer to a Sir Hugh Kennedy of Kirkintilloch ; in a charter granted 1345 by King David II there is a reference to a John MacKennedy de Muntercasduff. From various references and facts this person is thought by the author and also by the late 4th Marquis of Ailsa to have been the person later known as John Kennedy of Dunure. In 1385 records refer to a Gilbert Kennedy.

... these facts as to earlier Kennedys than John Kennedy of Dunure should dispose of finally the apparently groundless claim that the name Kennedy signified chief of the clan.

On 29th Nov 1371 he [JK of Dunure] founded a chapel near Maybole and endowed it 'to celebrate masses for himself, Mary his wife and their children'. The eldest son of John and his wife Mary MacDowall was named Gilbert. He in 1385 consented to a grant by his father John of certain lands to the burgh of Ayr. John's wife was referred to as Mary (MacDowall) de Carrick.

The author has dealt in some detail with this John Kennedy de Dunure because the Scots Peerage ed Sir James Balfour Paul Lord Lyon refers to these facts and John's wife, "Mary de Carrick". The writer however states "who she (Mary) was is not certain" and he proceeds to make various conjectures.

Earlier in this article the lady referred to has been identified as the daughter of Gilbert MacDowall de Carrick who was taken prisoner at the battle of Durham in 1346 and who was the gggs of Fergus mac Dubh Ghael, lord of Galloway.

Fergus lord of Galloway

Gilbert MacDowall d 1185

Roland MacDowall de Carrick

Gilbert MacDowall

Gilbert MacDowall de Carrick

Mary MacDowall de Carrick = John Kennedy of Dunure desc of Henry Kennedy brother of William the Lion'

Further remarks on Henry Cinnidh/Kennedy added 25th December 2006:

Note that above, to save library time, I skipped the equally pressing matter of the references to the early 'Henry Cinnidh' or Henry Kennedy. It would seem that some believe this gentleman was brother to William the Lion, however to date I can find no convincing evidence of this. I have consulted 'William the Lion : Kingship and culture 1143-1214' by D.D.R. Owen and William's entry in the Oxford National Dictionary of Biography and both are adamant that William was one of three sons of Henry Earl of Northumberland and Ann de Warenne, those sons in order being Malcolm, William and David. There were also three daughters Ada, Margaret and Maud or Matilda.