Scipio Kennedy’s manumission
(document of freedom) Crown Copyright 2008,
National Archives of Scotland

Marriage of Scipio Kennedy and Margaret Gray.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the
Registrar General for Scotland.

Culzean Castle in the 1700s, as Scipio knew it
Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of Sir John
Soane’s Museum, London.

A Good Footman
There is evidence of enslaved Africans being brought to live in Scotland in the 1700s. There were far more men than women. They were usually chosen by their masters to become special servants, such as page boys or footmen (see the painting of the Glassford family at Glasgow Museums) – and would be good looking and smart.

The life of an enslaved person in Scotland was likely to be better than on the colonial plantations. The men might learn to read. They were expected to become Christians (were recognised as having a soul). In 1725, Scipio Kennedy was given his freedom at Culzean Castle, by Sir John Kennedy. (Culzean is now cared for by the NTS.) But other masters were not so just. Some slaves were trained up until worth a lot of money and then, in an act of great heartlessness, sent back to the colonies to be sold at a profit.

Some of the best documentary evidence of Africans in Scotland is through newspaper adverts about runaway slaves. There were also several court cases; the funds for these were provided by Scottish supporters of Abolition. As well as wealthy benefactors, weavers and miners gave support to particular African men, such as David Spens and Joseph Knight.

No Such Thing as Slavery…
In 1778, after a series of court cases (Joseph Knight versus John Wedderburn), it was ruled that slavery could not exist in Scotland. The Court of Session, Scotland's supreme civil court, upheld the Sheriff of Perth’s judgement that ‘the state of slavery is not recognised by the laws of this kingdom, and is inconsistent with the principles thereof’.

This meant that an enslaved African brought to Scotland from the British colonies (such as from Jamaica), became a free person the moment they touched Scottish soil. Joseph Knight and all other slaves in Scotland were free.

Scipio Kennedy
Scipio Kennedy was taken from his African home when about 6 years old. He was bought by Captain Andrew Douglas. When the Captain’s daughter Jean married John Kennedy, Scipio went to live with them. He lived at Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, from 1710, after Sir John inherited the castle and estate. When aged about 28, he was given his freedom - and chose to remain with the Kennedys as a paid servant. He married a local woman and they had several children. They may well have living descendants. The family probably stayed in the grounds of Culzean. Lady Jean gave Scipio ‘my old servant the sum of ten pounds sterling’ in her will. He died aged about eighty years old and is buried nearby at Kirkoswald. One of his sons, Douglas, and his wife, Jean Ballatine, are also buried there.’

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