Welcome to the Major A. A. Gordon Society
The nickname "Major Gordon" originates from the following conversation he had with Princess Marie-José of Belgium in Hardelot, France, on 19 July 1918:
"Major Gordon", the Princess said, "no wonder my rabbit will not obey you. Her name is 'Marshal Soult' and not 'Soult'; therefore, she does not know you are calling to her;
Founded in 2019, the Major A. A. Gordon Society is the world's prominent international non-profit society that preserves the historical legacy of Major A. A. Gordon and his family.
The Major A. A. Gordon Society publishes a monthly newsletter with research articles, recent discoveries, news, events and recent acquisitions. The newsletter is free of charge and can be subscribed to by a simple email. Subscribers can also request previous newsletters in a PDF file.
Walk with us, through the life of a legend
1867 - 1873
Archibald Alexander Gordon was born at Haymont House in Bridge of Allan, Scotland, on 3 September 1867. His father was the Medicine Doctor William Eagleson Gordon, who recently came from Strabane, Ireland and had married the widow Emily Maryann Freer (maiden name Dick). Archibald's mother had recently returned with her son George Freer Jr. from the West Indies after the sudden death of her husband, George Freer. Archibald was the second born and younger brother of William Eagleson Gordon, born on 4 May 1866.
George Freer Jr (standing left), Archibald Alexander Gordon (middle) and William Eagleson Gordon Jr. (right)
Homehill at Bridge of Allan, circa 1933
Archibald A. Gordon, circa 1880
Archibald A. Gordon and his wife Maude.
Captain Archibald A. Gordon in his 9th Royal Scots uniform. 1901
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.
King Albert I of Belgium
Major Gordon is wearing his British Army uniform with his Belgian Royal Brassard.1916
Williams commenwealth grave in Etaples Military Cemetery.
Edmund and his older brother William who later died of his wounds in the Battle of Loos.
William Eagleson Gordon, oldest brother of Major Gordon.
Ronald Eagleson Gordon, cousin of Major Gordon.
The tombstone for Major Gordon and his wife in Logie Cemetery, Stirlingshire
Lord and Lady Abercromby
William Eagleson Gordon MD and his wife held a close friendship with Lord and Lady Abercromby, owners of Airthrey Castle in Bridge of Allan. Lady Abercromby was in the service of Queen Victoria and was later a Lady of the Bedchamber to the Queen from April 1874 until March 1885. Every time she returned to Airthrey Castle, she brought little vegetables filled with a harmless liquid for the Gordon children.
Sir James Young Simpson
William Eagleson Gordon MD build the house 'Homehill' in Bridge of Allan and after the family had settled, he invited his friend and doctor James Young Simpson to stay with them for a while. Simpson entertained the children with hard physical exercises, which gave them much fun.
1874 - 1895
Major-General Charles George Gordon, aka Chinese Gordon
When Archibald's father unexpectedly died in 1873 at 51, Emily Gordon decided to move the family for a year stay in Switzerland. While at Lausanne, Archibald and his brother William met with Major-General Charles George Gordon during his vacation at the Hotel du Faucon in Lausanne in March 1880. Here Gordon teaches Sunday school and told many stories of his adventures to the children at Lake Geneve.
After Archibald returned to Scotland, he studied at Edinburgh Collegiate and University and graduated as a Chartered Accountant. However, he found himself inexperienced and was given a large sum by a relative to make a world journey. His brother William was given a commission in the Gordon Highlanders and was based in Ceylon. Archibald travelled towards India, Ceylon, China and Japan until he reached San Francisco. He explored many American and Canadian cities by train until he arrived in New York.
General William Tecumseh Sherman
While in New York, Archibald was introduced by a friend to General Tecumseh Sherman. While at a dinner for the Grand Army, Sherman asked Archibald about his family. Archibald said that his older brother had been given a commission in the Gordon Highlanders, and his younger brother Robert Aaron Gordon, born on February 7, 1871, was studying for the entrance exam. Sherman showed a keen interest in the conversation.
Windsor Castle estate at Jamaica
During his world tour, Archibald had unpatiently waited to explore the West Indies to meet with his uncles and nephews on his mother's side. In New York, he embarked on a ship that brought him to Jamaica, where his maternal grandfather, Archibald Dick, had owned the Windsor Castle estate in the Blue Mountains. After the slave abolition in 1834, Archibald Dick returned to Scotland, where he died in poverty. After speaking with local authorities, who tried encouraging him to look for the property, Archibald left with a guide and carriage. On his journey, he met an old enslaved person who had worked for his grandfather, who brought him to the ruins of Windsor Castle. In his memoirs of 1939, Major Gordon gave an emotional statement of this account.
SS City of Paris Disaster
After visiting Jamaica, Archibald returned to New York and embarked on the SS City of Paris to get home. On 25 March 1890, while at sea, the propellor shaft of one of the engines broke down, causing the other one to accelerate and ultimately break off, piercing the ship's hull. Luckily the subdivision of the ship was successful, and the boat did not sink. However, she was now a wreck on the ocean. The captain ordered his second-in-command to take a whaleboat with a crew to maintain the Atlantic transportation route. On the morning of the third day, smoke appeared on the horizon. The SS Adriatic had stumbled on the whaleboat and was heading full speed towards the SS City of Paris. Archibald later returned safely to Britain.
Marriage with a girl from Ulster
After Archibald returned to Scotland, he decided not to practice the profession of Chartered Accountant and applied for a job at the Wimborne Estates at Canford, Dorset. During his two-year stay, he met the twin daughter Lizzie Maude Smith. The couple found themselves engaged not long after and got married in 1892. Maude gave birth to the twin William Hyde Eagleson Gordon and Archibald George Ramsay Gordon a year later. The childbirth broke her body, and by the end of the year, Archibald Gordon Jr. died tragically in his infancy. Afterwards, Archibald moved his family to his mother's home in Edinburgh.
1895 - 1906
Honorary Secretary of the Franco-Scottish Society
While back in Edinburgh, Archibald was offered the job of honorary secretary of the newly established Franco-Scottish Society. He accepted and held the position until 1906. After the French Branch visited Edinburgh, Archibald was decorated with the French Legion of Honour.
Member of the Royal Company of Archers
In 1896, Archibald became a member of the Scottish elite unit, the Royal Company of Archers, the bodyguard for the British monarch during his stay in Scotland. On 25 March 1896, Archibald received his third son, Edmund Robert Adam Gordon.
Co-founder of the 9th Volunteer Battalion Highlander, Royal Scots
On August 6, 1900, Archibald received his commission as a Captain in the newly formed 9th Volunteer Battalion Highlander, Royal Scots. During the Second Boer War outbreak, he disparately wanted to join the forces as his two brothers were already serving in South Africa. Priorly, his brother William had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in the Battle of Dwarsvalei on 11 July 1900. On 7 January 1905, Archibald was promoted to Major. He resigned from his commission a year later.
Establishment of the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane
During his time in the 9th Royal Scots, Archibald had the pleasure to meet General Sir Archibald Hunter DSO, who pursued him to participate in the National Scottish Memorial for Queen Victoria. Archibald agreed and worked on the project until 1906. Two years later, he and his brother William attended the opening ceremony for the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane. Edward VII decorated Archibald with the Member of the Royal Victorian Order, 4th Class.
1906 - 1914
Private Secretary to the 4th Duke of Wellington
After Archibald took part in the organisation of the Institute of International Law conference, Sir Donald Mackenzie Wallace, a former guest of Archibald, was tasked to find a suitable secretary for the 4th Duke of Wellington. Sir Wallace asked Archibald permission for his name to go forward. After agreeing, Archibald received an invitation from the Duke to stay some days with him and his family at his estate Ewhurst Park. Afterwards, Archibald received the position and needed to pick up his duties at Apsley House in London by February 1906. Here he mainly participated in the social duties of the Duke and Duchess and curated the Duke's museum and the Waterloo Gallery.
Meeting with Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
When Edward VII died on May 6, 1910, many European monarchs and state officials came to London to attend the ceremony. Every house in London - including Apsley House - opened its door to the guests. The selection of each guest was made by lottery, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was allotted Apsley House. The Duke of Wellington and his wife left Apsley House for the Guards Club and left Major Gordon in charge of the household. After the Archduke's arrival, Major Gordon took him to his bedroom, which was packed with Madam Abel Chatenay roses. Franz Ferdinand, a great flower admirer - asked his servant Prince Karl Kinsky van Wchinitz to go and ask for the name of the rose. After being informed, the Archduke wrote a telegram for his wife, the Duchess of Hohenberg, Sophie Chotek, explaining he had seen the best-smelling and most beautiful rose. After the funeral procession of Edward VII, Franz Ferdinand left Apsley House quickly and halted Major Gordon in the entrance hall. Here he presented him with a golden cigarette case with the monogram of his uncle, the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and shook his hand. Major Gordon then turned to Prins van Wchinitz and asked him if the Archduke would be pleased to receive some plants of the roses he had admired. The prince returned quickly and said yes. Major Gordon asked his boss for the favour, and a dozen plants were sent to the Archduke's main house in Austria. Later, Major Gordon received a letter from the Archduke expressing his gratitude.
Saving the Belgian Waterloo Monument
In 1913, representatives of the Belgian government came to Apsley House to discuss a serious matter with the Duke of Wellington. A contract builder had plans to build apartments in the surrounding areas of the Waterloo Monument. The historical grounds would be desecrated unless the government or the Duke could purchase the building rights. A strong working committee was organised to collect a sum of £10.000 for which Archibald held the position of honorary secretary.
1914 - 1922
Organiser of the Belgian Relief Fund
On the First World War outbreak, the Belgian aristocrat Count de Lalaing contacted Archibald and asked him if he would be willing to organise a fund for the Belgian refugees. Archibald applied, and soon after, he set up the funding in the Alexandra Hotel, Hyde Park Corner, with twenty young ladies who acted as clerks. Afterwards, Archibald travelled to Antwerp to hand over the funds to the Belgian government and was frequently summoned by King Albert I of Belgium. While making his trips to Antwerp, Archibald met with the Russian prince Koudacheff who asked for his help in getting some 4.000 Russian refugees from Zeebrugge back to Russia. Archibald wrote to the Admiralty, who later applied the request, picked up all Russian refugees, and gave them safe passage to Russia. For this, Archibald received a golden blue enamelled cigarette case with the Russian crest in diamonds from Tsar Nicolas II. The transitional government later decorated him with the Order of Saint Anne, 2nd Class, in 1917.
Siege of Antwerp
When the Admiralty decided not to risk another ship crossing the channel, Archibald's mission for the Belgian Relief Fund ended. However, in Antwerp, he met with Colonel - later General - Jack Seely (later Lord Mottistone), who asked him to become his Orderly Officer. Archibald agreed and was given his former rank of Major back. From this point on, Archibald will be mentioned as Major Gordon. He and Colonel Seely surveyed the British frontlines and reported to the British headquarters of General Rawlinson and the Belgian headquarters of General Deguise. Later on, Major Gordon was tasked to evacuate the hospitals in the city with London omnibuses. He led the column under heavy bombardment earning him the title 'Scottish hero of Antwerp bombardment' in the Edinburgh Evening gazette. When the British government approved a large evacuation
, Major Gordon and Colonel led the British Marines over the pontoon bridge to Sint Niklaas, Sint Gilles Waas, Bruges and Ostend.
Belgian King's Messenger
After his return to England, Major Gordon was asked by the Belgian military household of King Albert to conduct a task for the King in London and then travel to La Panne, where the King and Queen of the Belgians resided. While at La Panne, Major Gordon was asked if he could undertake the duties of the Belgian King's Messenger. Major Gordon proudly accepted and participated in the war in the establishment of the Queen's hospital L'ocean, the protection of war graves, the guidance of many prominent persons such as Lord Curzon, Mrs Asquith - Wife of Prime Minister H. H. Asquith -, Eugéne Ysaÿe and his fellow bandmembers, his boss, the Duke of Wellington, etc. Held a close relationship with Prince Leopold, Prince Charles and Princess Marie José of Belgium. Funded the building of a protestant chapel for the British soldiers in La Panne and did many more.
The tragic death of his oldest son William
William "Bill" Hyde Eagleson Gordon studied at Haileybury College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and enlisted in the army with the Gordon Highlanders in 1914 as a Temporary-Lieutenant. He landed in France on 5 May 1915 and served as a lieutenant in the 8th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. On 27 September 1915, William became mortally wounded during the Battle of Loos and suffered from a head wound. He succumbed to his injuries on September 30, 1915, in Etaples Military Hospital at the age of 22. He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in Pas-de-Calais, grave I.B.17. Lieutenant William Hyde E. Gordon is mentioned on the Sidney Sussex College – Ante Chapel Memorial and the Haileybury College memorial.
1922 - 1939
Returning to his hometown, Bridge of Allan
Major Gordon's wife, who had been suffering severe health problems throughout the years, was advised to leave London for the fresh air of the countryside. Major Gordon reluctantly resigned as private secretary to the Duke of Wellington and found a new home at Stow-on-the-Wold. Unfortunately, the high altitude was not good for Maude. After a brief holiday in Major Gordon's hometown, they saw that the climate was perfect for Maude and Major Gordon bought the home Jessemine a year later. In the following years, he and his wife lived happily until Maude passed on July 13, 1929.
The tragic death of his youngest son Edmund
During the First World War, Edmund received a commission as a temporary Lieutenant in the 7th Seaforth Highlanders. He arrived simultaneously with his brother in France and survived the Battle of Loos but was later diagnosed with jaundice and neurasthenia. Edmund recovered from his illness and later returned to the front. On 25 August 1917, Major Gordon was informed that Edmund was wounded and suffered from a leg wound and a severe hand wound. He was hospitalised in the General Hospital N°8 at Rouen and later taken to a hospital in Brighton, where Major Gordon visited him. Over time, Edmund's condition worsened, and he had to undergo several operations, resulting in the amputation of some of his fingers and a part of his hand. Edmund returned afterwards to the front and survived the war but struggled with severe health issues for the remainder of his life. In 1926 he married his wife Vivienne Robert in Kensington, and the couple got their firstborn, Peter. Peter Gordon tragically died in his infancy. Edmund's condition worsened, and he was now diagnosed with Tuberculosis. He died of this disease on 5 October 1932 and was buried next to his son at North Sheen Cemetery in Kew, London. He is mentioned on the Haileybury College memorial.
The Hellenic Travellers Club cruises
After his son's death, Major Gordon joined the Hellenic Travellers Club to make his first visit to the Holy Land. During his first cruise, he visited many ancient archaeological and Holy places. In Palestine, he found out about the discovery of the mosaics at Lake Galilee near Tabgha. In 1939, Major Gordon returned after fifty years to the West Indies and was instantly recognised by family members while dissembarking at Trinidad.
Saving the mosaics of the Church of the Multiplication.
When Major Gordon returned to Tabgha, he was asked by Father Tapper to proceed with the funding of a roof over the mosaics. Major Gordon collected £400 and was given the article "a Scotsman builds a chapel in Galilea". In 1937 he translated Alfons M. Scheider's book and published it with the title "Church of the Multiplying of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, Lake of Galilee, and its Mosaics".
Writing 'Culled from a Diary'
While he made his travellers with the Hellenic Travellers Club, Major Gordon made many new friends who insisted that he would write his memoirs. In 1939 he - reluctantly - agreed and was assisted by the British writer Anna Masterton Buchan. The book was published in 1941 by Oliver & Boyd.
1940 - 1949
The tragic death of his older brother William
On the evening of 4 November 1940, a German enemy aeroplane threw several bombs on Piccadilly Square. One hit the top floor of the In&Out Club, where Major Gordon's brother William resided. The young servants rushed out of the basement, freed the heavily wounded, and pinned William together with Major A. Crozier. Major Crozier died not long after in hospital. William survived, but his condition worsened until he succumbed to his wounds on March 10, 1941. He is buried at St. Alban's Churchyard in Hindhead. William's medals were donated by his daughter Valerie to the Gordon Highlanders museum in Aberdeen.
Preserving the legacy
In the final years of his life, Major Gordon held a close relationship with his cousin Colonel Ronald Eagleson Gordon, who, after a lifetime on the African and Asian continent, resided back in England. They corresponded by letters and shared many stories about the family. Later, Major Gordon decided to bequeath his family heirlooms to Ronald, while his home Jessamine and other belongings went to his nephew General Cameron Gordon Graham Nicholson. His brother Brigadier Reginald Arran Graham Nicholson later donated some of his family's history to the Imperial War Museum in London. Ronald made sure that the lore of Major Gordon's family was passed down to his son Cyril Vivian Eagleson Gordon MC & Bar, who passed it down to his sons. Ronald Eagleson Gordon is considered the forefather of the Major A. A. Gordon Society.