Moray Family History Sharing
Sir Robert Gordon,
“The Wizard of Gordonstoun”
In this time of Harry Potter, when all wizards are warm and fuzzy, we tend to forget that there was a time when wizards, warlocks, and witches were not only feared but, when caught, they were put to death. Who’d wanna kill Harry? Our ancestors! And they would have had a party afterwards. So much for warm and fuzzy!
One such wizard who managed to skip ‘the party’ was Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun. A young Sir Robert had been sent abroad to Italy’s Padua University to get his education. It is said that he was so zealous in the pursuit of knowledge that he agreed to ‘give himself away’ in this endeavor, believing that this meant that his body would be used for medical research when he was dead. Didn’t anybody school this guy in the reading of ‘The Fine Print’ on any contract? Apparently not! It’s not known when Sir Robert realized that he had traded his soul for knowledge……… but we knew it from the start of this story, huh?
The Gordon family were not very popular in The Laich of Moray, having come from the East of Scotland:
“The gowd, the Gordon,
and the hoodie craw
Are the three worst ills
That Moray e’er saw”.
(gowd = weeds)
Sir Robert did little to endear himself to the superstitious local populace as he leaned toward inventing stuff and conducted research in chemistry and mathematics. Surely this was witchcraft and the practice of The Black Arts. “He was obviously in communion with the devil”:
“Oh wha hasna heard o’
that man of renown
The Wizard, Sir Robert of Gordonstoun?
The wisest o’ warlocks.
The Morayshire chief.
The despot o’ Duffus
and friend o’ the de’il”.
Sir Robert built a tower on his estate….. ‘The Round Square” which also didn’t please the locals. They knew that this was an attempt to trick the devil when he came for Sir Robert’s soul and none of them wanted to be around when this happened….. as surely it must. It was believed that the devil would snatch Sir Robert’s soul in the corner of his residence and that’s why he built his ‘square in the round’. Clever fellow? Heed the rest of the story.
A ‘stylized’ painting of The Wizard of Gordonstoun
It came to pass that Sir Robert had a premonition that the devil would come for him at the end of forty days and forty nights…. at midnight. Hedging his bets once again, Sir Robert invited the Minister of Duffus to ‘sit with him’ so that ‘his holy presence’ might forestall the devil’s intentions. Just to keep this story moving, the devil did show up and the Minister ordered him to leave…. but the devil persisted and looked like he was going to hang around until midnight to collect his debt. The Minister felt that his protection might not be enough and advised Sir Robert to get the hell out of Dodge…. in a manner of speaking….. and get himself to the Kirk of Birnie….. the nearest Holy Ground!
Sir Robert mounted his horse and set off toward Birnie Kirk but even as he did, he could hear hoof beats coming up behind him along with the baying of perusing dogs. Sir Robert rode faster. Just as he had almost reached the churchyard at Birnie, one of the dogs bite into his horses’ leg, causing the animal to rear……… throwing Sir Robert over the churchyard wall……. where he landed on his neck... and broke it! Sir Robert was dead but he had cheated the devil out of his soul as he had died on consecrated ground.
Bummer for the devil.
Gordon D. Duffus