The family take their name from the land they acquired, which is now part of the parish of Kyle in Ayrshire. The name itself could be derived from several different sources. Many writers believe it stems from ‘dal-a-chrumpuill’, the Gaelic for ‘dale of the crooked pool’, although this may be unlikely, as Gaelic never prevailed in the district. The more romantic derivation is ‘dal-ry-mole’, denoting the ‘valley of the slaughter of kings’. There is a tradition that before the Christian era, two kings, Fergus and Coilus, fought in the valley and were slain. However, the most likely derivation is from the old Saxon ‘dahl hrympel’, and the land does have a very rumpled or puckered appearance. The first documentary evidence of a person bearing the name is obtained from a charter of Robert II in May 1371, confirming Kennedy of Dunmore (ancestor of the present Marquess of Ailsa) in part of the barony. Three generations of Dalrymples are mentioned in the charter. In 1377 the same John Kennedy obtained another charter for the remaining lands in the barony. In 1540, William de Dalrymple acquired the lands of Stair-Montgomery in Ayrshire on his marriage to Agnes Kennedy, granddaughter of Malcolm de Carrick de Stair, and thus became the first Dalrymple of Stair. The family seem to have been in the forefront of the Protestant Reformation, and fought at Langside against Mary, Queen of Scots in 1568. James Dalrymple of Stair, born in May 1619, was to be one of the most eminent lawyers and statesmen of his day, eventually being raised to the peerage as Viscount Stair. At the age of fourteen he went to Glasgow University and in 1637 received the degree of Master of Arts. The following year he commanded a company of foot in the Earl of Glencairn’s regiment. In 1641, while still in uniform, he became the Professor of Philosophy at Glasgow, a post he resigned in 1647. In 1648 he was called to the Scottish Bar, becoming an advocate. He was secretary to the commissioners, and sent to Breda to invite Charles II to return to Scotland and assume his  father’s throne. While there, he was appointed a parliamentary commissioner for the administration of justice in Scotland, an appointment approved by that most talented of administrators, Oliver Cromwell. At the Restoration, Dalrymple was made one of the Lords of Session by Charles II, and knighted. In 1671 he became Lord President of the Court of Session, the highest judicial post in Scotland. His political skills failed him, however, when he offended the Duke of York, later James VII, and he deemed it expedient to resign his high office and flee to the Netherlands. He returned with William of Orange and was reappointed Lord President and created Viscount Stair in 1690. He died in 1695 in his seventy-sixth year. Stair’s work on Scots law, Institutions of the Law of Scotland, became the cornerstone of modern Scottish civil law, and the work of the great Lord President is still frequently referred to in cases before the courts of the present day. The sec-ond Viscount was also a lawyer who was later to become Lord Advocate and first Earl of Stair. The second Earl was an army officer of considerable skill who was aide-de-camp to, and campaigned with, the Duke of Marlborough in the early years of the eight- eenth century. He attained the rank of field marshal, and became ambassador to the court of Louis XIV of France.The thirteenth Earl was captain general of the Royal Company of Archers (the monarch’s bodyguard in Scotland), and Gold Stick-in-Waiting to HM the Queen. The present Earl suceeded to the title in 1996.

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