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Ferniehirst Castle
Chapter VIII - Border Families, Houses & Names

Throughout the period of the Border wars, forays and feuds (roughly from 1300 to 1600) the leading family on the Eastern March (now Berwickshire) were the Homes, and it is fair to say they, still are. The first recorded member of the family is Aldon of Home, steward of the Earls of Dunbar in the late 12th century. He is mentioned in a number of charters together with his son Gilbert of Home, who granted some land to the monks of Kelso to settle an existing property dispute — this however flared up repeatedly in successive generations. A great-grandson (probably) of Gilbert of Home was the first to be called "Lord of Home" but this, at the time, meant no more than "laird"; the first to receive a peerage as a "Lord of Parliament" was Sir Alexander Home in 1473. He took part in the lynching of Robert Cochrane and other royal favourites at Lauder Brig in 1483; a few years later his grandson, the second Lord Home, was one of the leaders of the rising against James III and thereafter a close associate of James lV. The third Lord Home, his son, led the Borderers in the successful part of the battle of Flodden and brought the remnants of the Scottish army back to Edinburgh. He was beheaded for treason in 1516, having fallen foul of the Duke of Albany whom he had invited over from France to take over as Regent, and was eventually succeeded by his brother George as fourth Lord Home (the first three were all called Alexander, like the present Lord and 14th Earl — the Christian name of George, presumably because of its English connotations, is extremely rare among the Scottish aristocracy).

George’s grandson (again Alexander) was the sixth Lord and first Earl; like Robert Cart (Somerset), Robert Kerr (Ancram) and many others, he followed James VI & I to England. After the death of the second Earl the title passed to descendants of John Home, brother of the second Lord. The present Lord Home, as 14th Earl. was the last peer to hold the office of Prime Minister, for a few days in 1963, the previous last having been the Marquess of Salisbury in the early years of this century; however, by that time, it was no longer possible for a Prime Minister to sit in the Lords as the job now involved frequent statements and speeches in the Commons, He therefore renounced his peerage and contested a by-election which conveniently happened to be pending in Kinross & West Perthshire. In his year as Prime Minister he did much to restore Conservative morale, which had fallen to a very low ebb, and narrowly lost the General Election on the day when Khrushchev was dismissed from office by the Soviet Politburo and when China exploded her first nuclear device. (Had these events occurred a few hours earlier, in time to be known to the British public, the voters’ "safety reflex" would probably have kept Sir Alec Douglas-Home in office.) The Tories seemed to be on their way back when Sir Alec was suddenly replaced as party leader the fight went out of them and they only returned to office in 1970. Sir Alec then served with distinction as Foreign Secretary, the post which he had held before the Premiership he later returned to the Upper House as Lord Home of the Hirsel since, under the law which allowed him to "disclaim" his earldom in 1963, he could not "reclaim" it on retiring from "active" politics. He was created a Knight of the Thistle in 1962.

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