George Gordon, Lord Byron

  (1788 - 1824)


Parents' marriage
George Gordon NoŽl Byron, who was to become the sixth Lord Byron at ten years of age, was the son of a Guards Officer, Captain John ('Mad Jack') Byron, and a Scottish heiress, Catherine Gordon of Gight, who were married on 13th May 1785 in Bath, England, and removed soon after to their estate in Scotland, where Mr Byron proceeded to liquidate his wife's assets to pay his debts.

'Mad Jack' had previously absconded with Amelia, the wife of the Marquess of Carmarthen, whom he had subsequently married in 1779. Their marriage produced three children, of whom only one, Augusta, survived. This was George's half-sister, with whom he was later accused of having a sexual liaison.

A contemporary ballad expresses the general feeling about the marriage:

O whare are ye gaen, bonny Miss Gordon?
O whare are ye gaen, sae bonny an' braw?
Ye've married, ye've married wi' Johnny Byron,
To squander the land o' Gight awa'.

This youth is a rake, frae England he's come;
The Scots dinna ken his extraction awa;
He keeps up his misses, his landlord he duns,
That's first drawen' the lands o' Gight awa
    O whare are ye gaen, etc

The shooten' o' guns, an' rattlin' o' drums,
The bugle in woods, the pipes i' the ha',
The beagles a howlin', the hounds a growlin';
These soundings will soon gar Gight gang awa'.
    O whare are ye gaen, etc3

And the following account details the scale of the spoliation (multiply by 50 to arrive at something approaching 2010 values):

At the time of the marriage, Miss Gordon was possessed of about 3000l in money, two shares of the Aberdeen Banking Company, the estates of Gight and Monkshill, and the superiority of two salmon fishings on Dee. Soon after the arrival of Mr and Mrs Byron Gordon in Scotland, it appeared that Mr Byron had involved himself very deeply in debt, and his creditors commenced legal proceedings for the recovery of their money. The cash in hand was soon paid away, - the bank shares were disposed of at 600l ... - timber on the estate was cut down and sold to the amount of 1500l - the farm at Monkshill and the superiority of the fishings, affording a freehold qualification, were disposed of at 490l; and, in addition to these sales, within a year after the marriage, 8000l was borrowed upon a mortgage on the estate ... In the course of the summer of that year (1786) Mr and Mrs Byron left Gight, and never returned to it; the estate being, in the following year, sold to Lord Haddo for the sum of 17,850l, the whole of which was applied to the payment of Mr Byron's debts, with the exception of 1122l....4 

Catherine Gordon of Gight, Byron's Mother
Catherine Gordon of Gight, Byron's Mother


Abbreviations :

TM: Moore, Thomas, The Life Letters and Journals of Lrd Byron, John Murray, London, 1932.

3. TM, p5

4.TM note p6

The poet biographies, criticism, translations, and textual notes on this site are the copyright of Paul Scott