Renfrewshire Mures are directly descended from Sir Reginald Mure of Abercorn and Cowdams, who appears to have been chamberlain of Scotland as early as 1329, the first year of the reign of David II. He is supposed to have been the same Reginald whose name appears with that of Gilchrist More in the Ragman Roll, as having sworn fealty to Edward I. in 1296. His paternal inheritance seems to have been Cowdams in Ayrshire, which belonged to him previously to 1326, as an agreement concerning these lands between him and the monks of Paisley is dated in that year.
Mr. Mure of Caldwell is still their feudal superior. Gilchrist More, here mentioned, was Sir Reginald’s son. He received the half of the estate of Caldwell on his marriage with the daughter of Caldwell of that ilk. Johannes Mure, jun. de Cowdams, appears in 1446, as one of the commissioners for fixing the boundaries of the burgh of Prestwick, near Ayr.
Sir Reginald, who was granduncle of the queen, Elizabeth Mure, first wife of Robert I., acquired his extensive estates of Abercorn, &c., in the Lothians and Stirlingshire, by marriage with one of the coheiresses of Sir John Graham of Eskdale and Abercorn. He adhered steadily to the cause of David II. in the Baliol wars with England, and was one of the commissioners appointed in 1340 to treat with the lords Percy, Moubray, and Neville of a truce between the two kingdoms. With one daughter, he had two sons, William, who succeeded to Abercorn, and died without male issue, and Gilchrist More, already mentioned, who carried on the line of the family.
Sir Adam Mure, the fourth in succession from Gilchrist, was knighted by James IV., and is supposed to have been slain at the battle of Flodden. His son, John Mure of Caldwell, on 20th February 1515, took by assault, at the head of his followers, “the castle and palace” of the archbishop of Glasgow, situated near the city, battering the walls in breach ‘with artillery,’ and carrying off a rich booty. He married Lady Janet Stewart, daughter of Matthew earl of Lennox, and grand-aunt of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary, queen of Scots, and died in 1533. His eldest son, John Mure of Caldwell, had, with other children, two sons, John, his heir, and William of Glanderstoun, ancestor of the Mures of Glanderstoun. The granddaughter of the latter was the mother of the Rev. William Carstairs, a divine of great political influence in the reign of William III.
Sir John, the elder son, was knighted by James V. He was slain, 10th September 1570, by the Cunninghames of Cunninghamehead and Raeburne of that ilk, the same who were afterwards principals in the murder of his cousin, Hugh, earl of Eglintoun, in 1585.
His son, Sir Robert Mure of Caldwell, was one of the jury appointed in 1580 to try the Lord Ruthven, high-treasurer of Scotland, for the murder of David Rizzio. He was on terms of great intimacy and confidence with James VI., by whom he was knighted, and to whom he was related through the Lennoxes. Six letters addressed to him by that monarch, preserved at Caldwell, have been inserted in the ‘Selections from the Caldwell Papers,’ printed for the Maitland Club in 3 vols. 4to, in 1854.
About 1610 the lands of Thornton near Kilmarnock, long in possession of the family, were alienated to a cadet, founder of the house of Mure of Thornton, the male line of which becoming extinct in 1701, in the person of Sir Archibald Mure, lord provost of Edinburgh, the estate passed by his heir female to John Cuningham of Caddell, and is now held by his descendant, in feu of the Caldwell family.
William Mure of Caldwell, the fourth in succession to Sir Robert, was a staunch Covenanter. He and a few other west-country gentlemen of similar sentiments, met in arms at Chitterfleet, in the parish of Beith, on 28th November 1666, and having collected a body of horsemen, amounting to about fifty in all, and consisting chiefly of the tenantry of Caldwell and the neighbouring estates, they set out, under Caldwell’s command, to join Colonel Wallace of Achans, who was marching from Galloway in the direction of the Pentlands, by Lesmahago and Lanark. On the way, finding themselves intercepted by the king’s troops, under General Dalzell, they retraced their steps, and dispersed. Caldwell was attainted, fled to Holland, and died in exile.
His estates were bestowed on General Dalzell; and Caldwell’s lady, a daughter of Sir William Cunninghame of Cunninghamehead, was imprisoned, with two of his daughter, in Blackness castle, where she underwent much cruel persecution.
Barbara Mure, the second daughter, lived to obtain, by special act of parliament, 19th July 1690, a full restoration of the family estates. She married John Fairlie of that ilk, but dying without issue, was succeeded, in 1710, by her kinsman, William Mure, fourth laird of Glanderstoun, descended from William, second son of the John Mure who inherited Caldwell in 1539. This William Mure bore his share in the persecution of the times, having been imprisoned and fined, on a charge of nonconformity, in 1683. A Journal of a tour by him through England and the Netherlands in 1696, is printed among the ‘Caldwell Papers.’
Dying without issue, he was succeeded by his nephew, William Mure, eldest son of Mure of Rhoddens in Ireland. His son, William Mure of Caldwell, M.P. for Renfrewshire from 1742 to 1761, was appointed one of the barons of the exchequer in Scotland in the latter year. In 1753 he bought Wester or Little Caldwell from the duke of Hamilton. The portion of the estate the Mures had previously possessed was called Easter Caldwell. Baron Mure was an intimate associate of David Hume the historian, and the author of one of two tracts on speculative points of political economy, printed for private circulation. His correspondence and miscellaneous papers occupy the greater part of two of the three volumes of the ‘Caldwell Papers.’ He was rector of the university of Glasgow in 1764-5, and died in 1776.
His eldest son, Colonel William Mure of Caldwell, was the friend of Sir John Moore, but early left the army. He was rector of the university of Glasgow in 1793-4. He married Anne, eldest daughter of Sir J. Hunter Blair, bart. of Dunskev, with issue, and died February 9, 1831.
Col. Mure’s eldest son, William Mure of Caldwell, D.C.L., born July 9, 1799, was educated at Westminster, and studied at Edinburgh and in Germany, where he imbibed that taste for critical inquiry which made his name extensively known among the scholars of modern Europe. He married in 1825, Laura, 2d daughter of William Markham, Esq. of Becca Hall, Yorkshire, with issue; vice-lieutenant of Renfrewshire and colonel of its militia; was M.P. for that county from 1846 to 1855; lord-rector of Glasgow university in 1847-48; author of ‘Brief Remarks on the Chronology of the Egyptian Dynasties; showing the Fallacy of the System laid down by Messrs. Champollion, in Two Letters on the Museum of Turin,’ London, 1829, 8vo; ‘A Dissertation on the Calendar of the Zodiac of Ancient Egypt,’ Edinburgh, 1832, 8vo; ‘A Tour in Greece,’ 1842; ‘A Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece,’ 5 vols., 8vo. 1850-57; and the compiler of the ‘Caldwell Papers.’ He died at London, April 1, 1860, in his 61st year.
His eldest son, William Mure of Caldwell, lieutenant-colonel Scots fusilier guards, married 3d daughter of 1st Lord Leconfield.
David Mure, born in 1810, 3d son of Col. William Mure, who died in 1831, passed advocate at the Scottish bar in the latter year. In 1853 he was appointed sheriff of Perthshire, and in 1858 solicitor-general for Scotland; lord-advocate in April 1859, and elected M.P. for Buteshire soon after.