Sir William Don (1825 - 1862)   ~  Incidents and Events in a Professional Life

The Eglinton Tiournament

During 28-30th August 1839, William Don participated in the famed Eglinton Tournament in the guise of a page to the hostess, Lady Montgomerie.  Formulated from the romanticised Middle Ages of Sir Walter Scott's (1771-1832) 'Ivanhoe', William's participation in the pageant sparked a burgeoning career in the theatre.

Eglinton is best remembered for the lavish, if ill-fated Eglinton Tournament, a tournament+ organised in 1839 by the 13th Earl. The expense and extent of the preparations became news across Scotland, and the railway line was even opened in advance of its official opening to ferry guests to Eglinton. Although high summer, in typical Scottish style torrential rain washed the proceedings out, despite the participants, in full period dress, gamely attempting to participate in events such as jousting+.

Amongst the participants was the future Napoleon III of France of whom a story is recorded, namely that upon throwing a stone into the Lugton Water a bell shape came to the surface and remained there for some time. He saw this as a good omen for his future.

The Eglinton Tournament Bridge with the procession. Irvine, Ayrshire. 1839. From an account of the tournament at Eglinton, revised and corrected by several of the knights : with a biographical notice of the Eglinton family to which is prefixed a sketch of chivalry and of the most remarkable Scottish tournaments by James Aikman.  Pub. Edinburgh : H. Paton, Carver and Gilder.

Writing from London on November 15, 1849, Lockhart announces an accident:—

“At Dunbar I was all but killed; a tough sandwich stuck in my throat as I was hurrying into the carriage, and the train moved — I unable to speak! But a young passenger thrust himself half out of the window, and roared to stop in such a voice that he was obeyed, and a glass of water by-and-by relieved me. I really suppose that I suffered as much as Mrs. Manning” (the murderess), of whose exit I had just been reading full details in the Scotsman.

My helpful neighbour turned out to be Sir William Don, and he and I were good friends long before London. . . . I shall always feel an interest in his fate, for he truly saved my life.

. . . God bless you, my dearest. It did me good to see you and Hope so comfortable and happy.”

Diary of J L Lockhart

Newton Don
Between 1817 and 1820 the architect Sir Robert Smirke made considerable alterations to the eighteenth-century house of Newton Don, for which Robert Adam had prepared the original plans. The work was carried out for Sir Alexander Don, owner of the estate from 1815.

The three-storeyed house was designed in a neoclassical style, with few external decorations or embellishments.  The house, which overlooks the Eden Water, stands in an early nineteenth-century designed landscape, which includes large swathes of lawn, and areas of planned woodland.

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