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Scipio Kennedy and Culzean

Scipio was an infant when he was taken from Guinea. He was bound for the West Indies but was bought and redeemed by Captain Andrew Douglas of Mains, Dumbartonshire. (There is no record of where this took place.) He lived in Captain Douglas' home for about three years. Captain Douglas had a daughter, Jean, who married John Kennedy on 28 March 1705. Scipio was probably Jean's page since, following her marriage, he remained with her.

Jean and her husband lived in Edinburgh at first, and then in Maybole (capital of Carrick, a few miles from Culzean) until John Kennedy inherited his boyhood home of Cullean Castle (Culzean Castle) upon the death of his father in 1710. He then became Sir John Kennedy of Cullean, and his wife, Lady Jean Kennedy.

Scipio Kennedy was provided with an education and also baptised. He was given his freedom in 1725. This was unusual, particularly in the early 1700s. Within the manumission (document of freedom), Scipio stated that he 'might have of freedom by ye law, on account of embracing ye religion of ye country…' By becoming a Christian, Scipio had to be given his freedom since, in the Christian faith, all people were equal. In Scottish law, slavery did not exist anyway – but people still kept slaves. Sir John and Lady Jean gave Scipio his dignity, acknowledging him as a free man, and also placed him on a secure footing (should they pre-decease him, Scipio could not be enslaved by anyone else). He had the option to leave the Kennedy household but chose to remain as a paid servant. He also could now marry.

Lady Jean Kennedy had 20 children - her first was born on 26 November 1706. Most of her children died - only seven reached adulthood and two of these died when in their twenties. Her three surviving sons each inherited Culzean; three daughters married.

Scipio remained Lady Jean's special servant. She remembered him in her will, leaving almost as much to him as she did to each of her grandchildren.

On an estate map, created in the 1750s by John Foulis, within the grounds of Culzean Castle, there is an area and building marked "Scipio's". It would seem that he was given a house and some land by the family. The area of land is about the same size, and in about the same place, as the present walled garden (which was created in 1786) – though a more recent study of the Foulis plan suggests that the cottage may have been nearer to the present Camellia House. Scipio died in 1774.

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

1710 - 1742 Sir John Kennedy of Cullean (& Lady Jean d. 1767)
1742 - 1744 Sir John Kennedy
1744 - 1775 Sir Thomas Kennedy – became 9th Earl of Cassillis in 1759
1775 – 1792 Lord David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis

The estate map was created by John Foulis, factor to Lady Susanna Kennedy, wife of the Earl of Eglinton and sister of Sir John Kennedy.

John, Thomas and David were the 3 surviving sons of Sir John and Lady Jean.

*Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John Soane’s Museum, London.