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Culzean Castle: An African Scot

Scipio Kennedy from 'Guinea' lived at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, from 1710 – first as a slave and then as a paid servant. He married a local woman and they had several children. He may well have descendants. He died aged about 80 years old and is buried in Ayrshire.

Early life

Scipio was taken from his home in Africa when he was about six years old. He was going to be sent to the West Indies but was bought by Captain Andrew Douglas. In 1705, his daughter Jean married John Kennedy and Scipio was 'was presented' to them. Scipio moved to Culzean Castle when Sir John inherited the estate.

Freedom and marriage

In 1725, Scipio was given his freedom. He was then around 28 years old. According to the manumission (document of freedom), he had received 'clothing, maintenance and education with more than ordinary kindness' and, as would be expected of him, he’d become a Christian.

Scipio chose to remain with the Kennedy family and, in 1728, married Margaret Gray. They had at least eight children. Their children were given Scottish first names and used their father's slave-surname of Kennedy. The two sons were called Douglas and John Kennedy.

A home in Ayrshire

On an estate map created in the 1750s, there is an area designated 'Scipio's' – it shows evidence of buildings surrounded by some land. It would seem that Scipio Kennedy and his family had their own home in the grounds of Culzean.

The will

In Lady Jean's will, dated 1751, she left her estate to her second surviving son. (Her eldest inherited Culzean.) She gave £40 sterling to her eldest son and 20 guineas to each daughter. Her three grandchildren shared £40 between them. Finally, Lady Jean gave 'to Scipio Kennedy my old servant the sum of ten pounds sterling.' Clearly Scipio was seen as a special person.

Scipio's grave

When Scipio died, on 24 June 1774, he was buried in Kirkoswald churchyard, a few miles from Culzean. His son Douglas erected a gravestone – and later, Douglas and his wife, Jean Ballantine, were also buried there.

Click here to find out more about Scipio Kennedy

Click here to find out more about Culzean