Scottish clan profile: Clan Gordon

THE clan Gordon found their origins in the Borders, both in the first notable Gordon, Richard who was formerly of clan Swinton (a borders clan) and was alleged to be grandsired by a famous knight who slew a monster in the Merse in Berwickshire.

Friday, 21st February 2014, 4:37 pm
Huntly Castle. Picture: Creative Commons
Huntly Castle. Picture: Creative Commons

The name ‘Gordon’ itself originating from a place name in the borders meaning ‘hill fort’. Richard was the first Lord of Gordon, a barony in Merse.

Titles: Earl and Marquess of Huntly, Earl of Aberdeen

Clan Motto: Bydand - abiding, steadfast, or a contraction of the Scots phrase ‘Bide and Fecht,’ meaning to stand and fight.

Clan Gordon tartan

Notable Lords: Granville Charles Gomer (current chief and Cock of the North), Adam Gordon, John Gordon of Glenbauchet, Elizabeth Gordon, Lord Byron.

Sub Septs: Aitken, Muir, Adams, Cullen, Duff, Marr and Teal.

Current Base: Aboyne Castle.

Notable Castles: Huntly Castle, Aboyne Castle, Gordon Castle.

Current Clan Chief: Granville Charles Gomer.

Adam Gordon was a key figure in the wars of Scottish independence, fighting first under William Wallace and then under Robert the Bruce. It was whilst fighting for the Bruce however, that he acquired the Lordship of Strathbogie in Banffshire. In 1402 the marriage between Elizabeth Gordon and Alexander Seton produced a son who became the first Earl of Huntly.

Huntly Castle became their base and very soon they began to hold a lot of power in the north eastern Highlands.


In the 15th century, the Gordons became involved in the deadly feud between the king and the Clan Douglas for power. The Gordons supported the King but when Gordon moved his forces south, the Earl of Moray who was an ally of the Douglases devastated the Gordon lands and burned Huntly Castle. However the Gordons returned and soon defeated their enemies.Huntly castle was rebuilt and when the Douglases were finally defeated the power of the Gordons grew unchallenged.

In the 16th century a massive feud erupted between the clan and Clan Forbes which carrried on for several decades. Accusations of treason were levelled along with several attempted assassinations, this culminated in the plundering of the Forbes’ seat of power. Things looked to have died down but the Protestant reformation soon added to the troubles between the two clans as the predominantly Catholic Gordon clan clashed with the Forbes, who were Protestant, once more. It took several Government interventions before the two clans would lay down arms.

During the 18th century the Gordons were staunchly Jacobean, the most famous of the Gordons of this time was John Gordon of Glenbauchet, fondly known as ‘old Glenbucket’ who fought in several of the key battles before being forced to flee to Norway after Culloden.

Robert Gordon University

The Gordons have produced many notable sons and daughters, including Robert Gordon, who’s name still adorns the city of Aberdeen’s main University. The famous poet Lord Byron, and of course Alexander Gordon who created Gordon’s gin which is still enjoyed around the world today.

The Gordon Highlanders are another famous product of the Gordon clan, as is the song the ‘Gay Gordons’.