Column: Earl of Airlie would have been interesting neighbor for region

Editor's note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run "Isn't That Something" columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and...

Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared April 1, 2006.

WORTHINGTON - It would have been interesting through the passing decades.

Oh, I think it would have been fun - to have a family from British nobility living among us.

If someone said, “Put up your dukes,” Nobles County would have had its own great Duke to send into the ring.

This nearly happened.


Kinbrae, which first was named Airlie, was the first depot on the railroad planned from Heron Lake to the Black Hills. It was 1879; in 1876, Gen. Custer said there was gold in those hills. Many people wanted to go, but there was no railroad.

This is where the British noble family comes in. David Graham Drummond, head of clan Ogilvy and 10th Earl of Airlie, had become president of the Dundee Land & Improvement Co. This was the Dundee in Scotland. The Scottish company bought a large tract in northeast Nobles County.

David - Lord Ogilvy - had great plans for the Kinbrae site. Oh, a three-story hotel, bigger than anything at Worthington. A grain elevator. Broad, paved streets. Shade trees. Lord Ogilvy sent a Yale professor, among several others, to visit Kinbrae and to write a report. It was thought the Lord and his Lady might come to Kinbrae, maybe build a manor house along the shore of Clear Lake.

I judge David Ogilvy was a good guy. He was so popular with the company that, after they had named the Nobles County depot Airlie, they named another depot Airlie in Pipestone County. One Airlie had to have its name changed.

Alas. As the Scottish poet wrote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men. …” David Ogilvy was 53 years old when the plan for Nobles County was unveiled. Fewer than 24 months later, he was dead.

The noble title, the castle in Scotland, the Dundee land company - everything - was willed to new, 11th Earl of Airlie, David William Stanley Ogilvy. (All the Ogilvys are first-named David.)

The problem was, at this time it was England that had an army in Afghanistan fighting for freedom and all such. David William Stanley was an officer in service of her majesty, Queen Victoria, and David William Stanley was not able to pick up the reins of the Dundee Land & Improvement Co.

The whole plan fell through. The new Lord David Ogilvy never got to Nobles County.


He was a great guy in his turn. From Afghanistan, Britain sent an army to South Africa. David William Stanley was a lieutenant colonel, 44 years old. He was killed June 11, 1900, leading his regiment in a charge at the Battle of Diamond Hill in which he succeeded in saving the British artillery. He fought in that battle along with Winston Churchill.

Back home, they mourned and they built a towering red brick monument to the colonel’s memory. It stands at Airlie still.

If we had the Ogilvys in Nobles County today, the current lord is David George Patrick Coke Ogilvy, 13th Earl of Airlie, born March 9, 1926. (Of course I don’t know why they named him Coke and not Pepsi.)

If he were living among us, if he had a manor house here - Now this is true. These are stories he could tell.

His wife, the Countess, DCVO, is one of two Ladies of Queen Elizabeth’s Bedchamber.

Lady of the Bedchamber.

David George, who has a seat in the House of Lords, is one from The Queen’s Bodyguard for Scotland, Royal Company of Archers, President of the Council and Silver Stick for Scotland.

Isn’t that something?


The whole family history is like this. The Ogilvys did (and do) live at Airlie Castle. In 1639, while the first Earl was gone to fight for King Charles I, the Campbell clan sent its army to take Airlie castle. The countess was warned. She was in her ninth month of pregnancy. She gathered up her small children and walked 40 miles to Dundee, where she gave birth to a new daughter.

The Campbell clan burned out the castle. It was said the Earl was left “without even a rooster to crow the day.”

There is a ballad from that time. I’ll bet we would have learned the words:

“The Burning of the Bonnie House of Airlie.”

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