This name may be of territorial origin, being derived from the Scots word for a small stream. As a place name, it is found throughout Scotland; for example, in East and West Calder near Edinburgh, and Calderwood near Glasgow. Anderson asserts that the name came to prominence in Scotland through a French knight, Hugo de Cadella, who was created Thane of Calder, later to be known as Cawdor, in Nairnshire. Black lists Hugh de Kaledouer as a witness to a charter of land near Montrose around 1178. However the name arose, the Calders were great nobles with considerable lands around Inverness from the fourteenth century onwards. The substantial tower which still stands at the heart of the fine Cawdor Castle was built by the Calders around 1454. They inter-married with other local families, particularly the powerful Rose family, Barons of Kilravock. Their ascendency came to an end when Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, was, along with Hugh Rose of Kilravock, appointed guardian to the infant female heir of the Calder family. Campbell determined to remove the child to Inverary to be educated as part of his family. He was opposed by her uncles, Alexander and Hugh Calder, who pursued the child and her Campbell escort into Strathnairn, but after considerable loss of life, she was safely delivered to Inverary. She was brought up as a Campbell and married Sir John Campbell, son of the Earl of Argyll. Muriel, the last of the Calders, died around 1575 but her descendant, John Campbell of Cawdor, was raised to the peerage as Lord Cawdor in 1796, and his son was created first Earl Cawdor in 1827. The present Earl Cawdor still lives in Cawdor Castle, seat of his Calder ancestors. The name of Calder did not disappear, however, and the Calders of Asswanly received lands near Elgin in 1440. This family obtained a baronetcy of Nova Scotia in 1686. The most notable member of this branch of the family was Admiral Sir Robert Calder who saw substantial service during the Napoleonic Wars. Sir James Calder was an advisor to the Ministry of Supply during the Second World War. Calders are still to be found around Inverness; for example, Douglas Calder, sometime President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, was appointed director of planning for the newly created Highland Region in 1974.

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