The churchyard at Kirkoswald near Ayr in Scotland is famous as the burial place of several characters connected with Robert Burns. One gravestone, very much like all the rest, was erected by Douglas Kennedy in memory of his father Scipio Kennedy who died June 24 1774 aged 80 years. Scipio was a former African slave who made good.
In the 18th century it was fashionable to employ black servants and as early as 1702 a Captain Douglas of Mains in Dumbartonshire brought a young boy from Guinea in West Africa as a slave. He named the boy Scipio and when the Captain’s daughter married John Kennedy of Culzean Castle in 1705, Scipio became their servant. They obviously thought a lot about the boy and he was given the surname of Kennedy. The Kennedy’s subsequently became Earl’s of Cassillis
After 20 years with the family Scipio signed a legal contract to continue service with the family for a further 19 years for twelve Scottish pounds yearly, plus ‘a share of the drinks money’ ?
One argument against slavery was that it was offensive to Christian teaching. However it was also thought that as African tribes were not Christian, then slavery was beneficial to ensure Christian teaching. Thus Scipio was converted to Christianity in Scotland and so became a free man. He married a local girl, Margaret Gray and they and their family took the Kennedy surname. They were given a home and a plot of land on the Culzean estate and Scipio remained in the employ of the Earl until his death in 1774.
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Photo taken in South Ayrshire, UK
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