Portrait of Lady Emily Gordon Cathcart, dated 1876 by unknown artist

Lady Emily Eliza Steele Gordon Cathcart (née Pringle) was born in 1845. Her father was John Robert Pringle.[1] Her first marriage was to Captain John Gordon in 1865.[2] The natural son of Colonel John Gordon “the richest commoner in the northern kingdom”[3] he had inherited his father’s extensive assets, valued at £2–3 million in 1858, on the lower estimate equivalent to about £200 million as at 2019.[a] The estate included Cluny Castle Cluny Castle was originally built in about 1604 as a Z-plan castle replacing either a house or small peel tower. Sited in the parish of Cluny, it is south of Monymusk and north of Sauchen in Aberdeenshire, north-east Scotland. , North and South Uist, Benbecula and Barra.[5]

When Captain Gordon died without legitimate issue in 1878, Emily Gordon inherited the estates. Her second husband was Sir Reginald Archibald Edward Cathcart (d. 1916) whom she married in late 1880 at St George’s Hanover Square, London.[1] He was the sixth baronet of Cathcart, succeeding to the title in 1878. The Cathcart family seat was Killochan Castle near Girvan in Ayrshire, but the couple lived mainly in Titness Park, Sunninghill, Berkshire.[5][6][7]

Known for her stance against Catholicism, she played a leading role in the Highland Clearances as she continued the clearances initiated by her father-in-law.[8] Many crofters on her lands were re-settled to the North West territories of Regina and Wapella in Canada, possibly due to the shares she held in the Canadian Pacific Railway.[1]

In 1891 Lady Cathcart commissioned Old Tom Morris to design a golf course at Askernish on South Uist. She included a clause in the crofters tenancy agreements retaining the right to allow golf to be played on the land.[9]

Lady Cathcart never lived in the highlands and is thought to have visited only once;[2] she took ten Vatersay crofters to court in 1908 after they refused to vacate their cottages. They were sentenced to serve two months imprisonment but released two weeks early.[10]

She died on 8 August 1932 at Margate in Kent.[11] Her will included instructions for a Long Island, United States emigration fund to be set up but this was never undertaken as the trustees refused to carry it out for fear of repercussions.[1]



Gilchrist, J. (2008, July 3). Land and freedom. The Scotsman.
Harper, M. (2006). Enigmas in Hebridean Emigration: Crofter Colonists in Western Canada. In P. Buckner & R. Douglas Francis (Eds.), Canada and the British World: Culture, Migration, and Identity. UBC Press.
Harper, M. (2006). Gordon Cathcart, Emily Eliza Steele, Lady. In E. Ewan, S. Innes, & S. Reynolds (Eds.), The biographical dictionary of Scottish women from the earliest times to 2004 (pp. 139–140). Edinburgh University Press.
MeasuringWorth. (2020). Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a UK Pound Amount, 1270 to Present.
Not attributed. (1923). Parishes: Sunninghill. In P. H. Ditchfield & W. Page (Eds.), A History of the County of Berkshire (Vol. 3, pp. 134–136).
Owen, D. (2009, June 28). The missing links. The Observer.
Staff writer. (1858, July 23). The richest commoner in Scotland. The Times.
Staff writer. (1932, August 9). Death of Lady Emily Cathcart. Nottingham Evening Post, 5.
Staff writer. (2008, July 18). The Heb Ridean Princes. Daily Mail (London).
University of Aberdeen. (n.d.). Gordon of Cluny: the working life of an Aberdeenshire Castle.


  1. Using the retail price index.[4]