McGorrie LamontS oF Inverchaolain & Knockdow
Knockdow House was the home of the above cadet branch of the Lamont Clan for just over 200 unbroken years.
The McGorrie Lamonts were the predominant family in this area for over five centuries. They have been styled as “of Inverchaolain” during the 15th & 16th centuries. Then during the 17th century the McGorrie Lamonts were listed as “of both Inverchaolain and Knockdow”. And latterly they were simply known as “of Knockdow”.
The Lamonts of Knockdow descended from Godfrey (Gorrie) Lamont who is believed to have been the grandson Lamont Clan Chief John III. The first record we find of Godfrey was on the Feast of John Baptist 24 June 1431, when McEwan of Otter sealed a charter at Inverchaolain, doubtless on the “knoll of worship” by the heather-thatched Kirk. This is the sole record of the eponymous, “Goire an tighearn ruadh”, that is Godfrey, the red Baron, from whom is derived the patronymic of “McGorrie.” The original McGorrie home shifted locations from Inverchaolain to Knockdow during the 18th century under Colin Lamont, XII of Knockdow who acquired Kilmichael. The fortunes of the family and what became known as the Knockdow Estate benefited greatly at this time from the success of one of the illegitimate children of James Lamont XIV of Knockdow. His first born, John Lamon, was conceived out of wedlock and as such couldn’t inherit. He was sent out to seek his fortune as a young man in the West Indies. And seek his fortune he did with great success. On his death John Lamont left the bulk of his fortune to his half-brother Alexander’s, only child, James, Later Sir James Lamont Bt., explorer; adventurer and politician. Sir James had three children, Norman, Alexander and Augusta.
Alexander was a military man, serving with the Gordon Highlanders. He fell at Dargai during the Tirah campaign of 1897, the only officer to do so. His loss was deeply felt. He is remembered on the Family Memorial, a pink granite obelisk set above a deep pool on the Ardyne burn, here on the estate. His elder brother, Sir Norman Lamont 2nd Bt., XV11 and last Lamont Laird of Knockdow, is remembered also, as he too died far from his native shores. Gored by a bull on his Trinidadian estate, Palmiste, he passed away on the 2nd September 1949. It is fitting that his sister and last of the Lamont’s, Augusta is buried next to her father beneath the same monument.
On Augusta’s passing in 1958, the estate passed through a number of hands, until being acquired by the current owners in 2010. During the intervening period The Knockdow mansion house had remained largely empty. Divorced from its contents controversially, the house was largely a bare shell. However the previous owners had the foresight to keep the house wind and watertight, so the fabric, a testament to its various builders over the years, was largely intact.
Over the last five years an extensive process of sympathetic restoration and modernisation has taken place. The natural charm and four centuries of history have been preserved, whilst still allowing for the comfort and luxury guests expect in the 21st C.
The estate of Kilmichael was acquired in 1753 by Colin Lamont and became the seat of the Lamont family until 1958. Prior to this the family seat, the Lairds House, was opposite the present location of Inverchaolain Parish Church.
The name Knockdow was not used for the new mansion until the second quarter of the 19th century. The original house on this site was built before 1765. The Greenock mason, John Menelaws, 'mason at Kirkmichael in northether Coull' was responsible for the central five-bay block. The bow-fronted side wings were added in 1817 and heightened in 1884. The two-storeyed library and stair-tower were added in 1856. The roof of the tower has a crenellated parapet added in 1919. George Mackie Watson, an Edinburgh architect (1859-1948), extended the east façade, to the right, in 1919-21. He also completely remodelled the interior of the house most strikingly, adding the domed cupola. Central Heating and Electrical Power were added to parts of the building at this time.
There are numerous drawings and plans around the house showing at various points through the ages Italian "sunken gardens” and oriental inspired “pheasantries”. The built environment for a family such as the Lamonts of Knockdow seems to have been indulgent passion if not a whimsical acknowledgement of the latest fashions.