Archibald Angus Kennedy, Marquess of Ailsa, became clan chief in 1994.
Clan Kennedy Plant Badge
When the wearing of tartan was outlawed after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, clansmen wore their clan’s plant badge as an act of defiance and identification.
Dunure Castle dates from the 13th century and is the ancestral home of the Kennedys of Carrick. Culzean Castle is the former home of the Marquis of Ailsa and former seat of the Kennedy clan. The present Culzean Castle was designed by Robert Adam and built on the site of the former Kennedy family home between 1777 and 1792 and was given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945.
Maybole Castle dates back to the 16th century and was the winter residence for the Kennedy the Earls of Cassillis.
The Kennedys dominated the district of Carrick in Ayrshire for centuries and are thought to be descended from a branch of the Celtic lords of Galloway. Their scale and influence was celebrated in a local rhyme:
‘Twixt Wigtown and the town of Ayr,
Portpatrick and the Cruives of Cree,
No man may think for to bide there
Unless he court with Kennedy.
The rhyme first appears in Andrew Symson’s A Large Description of Galloway and the Parishes in it, compiled in 1684. The cruives were fishtraps on the River Cree.
Illustration by R.R. Maclan
It was James IV who created the third Lord Kennedy the Earl of Cassillis in 1509. Kennedy took his men to Flodden in 1513. He was killed, as was the king and the flower of the Scottish court, and his body was brought back to Maybole for burial in the Old College in the Kirkport. His great grandson, Gilbert, the fourth Earl of Cassillis, was host to Mary Queen of Scots when she visited Carrick in 1563. And his daughter Jane Kennedy tied the handkerchief round the Queen's eyes before she knelt to be beheaded at Fotheringay on the Wednesday morning of February 8, 1587.
The young Mary, Queen of Scots, as Dauphine of France
But it is the “grave and solemn” sixth Earl who has the surest place in Scottish folklore. He was a staunch Presbyterian and a Covenanter who married Lady Jean Hamilton, daughter of the first Earl of Haddington. She is the heroine of the Ballad of Johnny Faa, or The Gypsy Laddie.
Lady Jean Hamilton
The ballad is also known as The Gypsy Rover or the Raggle-Taggle Gypsies, and versions have been collected in every part of the English speaking world, all following the same story. Lady Jean eloped with her gypsy lover, her husband and his men caught up with the party and Johnny Faa and 15 of his followers were hung in front of Lady Jean, who was incarcerated for the rest of her life.
The story of Lady Jean Hamilton, Johnny Faa and the sixth Earl is told in the Galloglas DVD, Clan Kennedy. The Kennedy story is filled with romance, intrigue and murder. Filmed on location, Clan Kennedy is a must for every Kennedy to own. This DVD is not yet available; if you would like to be informed of the release date please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Scots Kennedys should not be confused with the Irish Kennedys, mainly from County Wexford and ancestors to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America. But there are Kennedys in Ulster who are of Scottish origin and mostly from Galloway and Ayr, less than 20 miles across the Irish Sea. Scottish Kennedys were part of the Ulster plantations when King James VI of Scotland and I of England transported Scots and English Protestants to “pacify and civilise rebellious Irish.” Many Scots went south and mingled with the Irish clan. The Scottish Chief of Clan Kennedy therefore recognises all Kennedys as part of the clan.