Noble Family

The Noble Family at Ardkinglas

The Nobles are an ancient Scottish family of Dumbarton and Lanark and have been established there since the fifteenth century. They descend from Robert Noble of Ferme who was Baillie of Dumbarton in 1449.

Sir Andrew Noble was born in 1831 in Greenock. In 1854 he married Margery Campbell daughter of Archibald Campbell of Quebec and had two daughters and four sons. He was a gunnery expert and left the army to join Armstrongs when they opened their Ordnance factory at Elswick to produce the new Armstrong gun. He was to become Lord Armstrong’s right-hand man, rising to Chairman in 1900. He bought Ardkinglas in 1905 and enjoyed holidays on the estate until he died in 1915 aged 84. Margery Noble lived to 101. Dunderave castle was part of the estate at that time and was restored by Lorimer in 1916 for Andrew & Margery’s eldest daughter Lilias.

After Sir Andrew died in 1915 his fourth son John Henry Brunel Noble inherited. He became 1st Baronet of Ardkinglas. He had a wonderful collection of silver and was regarded as a connoisseur whose opinion was well respected. When he died in 1938 his two younger sons, John and Michael ran the Estate together. John and his wife Elizabeth moved into Ardkinglas as their permanent home and brought up their children Sarah, Johnny and Christina there. Their introduction of contemporary paintings and furnishings combined with their informal hospitality to a wide range of friends and visitors instilled the house with a particular atmosphere which remains a vital ingredient in the house’s character. John worked at Bletchley during the war and was away from Ardkinglas for four years. Elizabeth provided accommodation in the house for a large number of evacuees from Glasgow. After the war, as well as running his part of the Estate, John was active in promoting the arts in Scotland becoming Chairman of both the Scottish Crafts Centre and the Edinburgh Tapestry Company as well as serving on the BBC music committee in Glasgow. He arranged ‘musical weekends’ at Ardkinglas, with professional musicians. After his death a prize for singers at RSAMD was established in his memory. Elizabeth devoted extraordinary energy to caring for her family and friends and to maintaining the house. From early in the mornings she spent many hours in the large kitchen and working in the gardens.

In 1966 the estate was divided with the Strone Estate being run by Michael and the rest by his brother from Ardkinglas. Michael became MP for Argyllshire in 1958 and in 1962 became secretary of State for Scotland. John and Michael’s younger sister Anastasia lived at Ardkinglas for most of her life and became an internationally renowned breeder of Scottish deerhounds. John Noble died unexpectedly at the early age of 60 in 1972 and his only son Simon John (Johnny) inherited Ardkinglas.

Johnny did national service with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders after which he joined the merchant bank S. G. Warburg. He then worked in a Yugoslavian wine firm before starting his own company in London, French & Foreign Wines, which continued after 1972 when he started spending part of his time running the estate. When he inherited Ardkinglas it was making a loss, saddled with heavy death duties and a large work force. Areas of hill ground were sold and various ventures started but it was growing oysters that proved successful and so Loch Fyne Oysters was born. Johnny welcomed many business associates, as well as friends, to Ardkinglas. He read avidly on historical, biographical and culinary subjects, played curling, was a good shot, and loved his arboretum. Building on the remains of his grandfather’s collection of silver he added many fine pieces of old Scottish silver. Johnny died suddenly in February 2002 aged 65 and leaves 2 sisters Sarah and Christina and 6 nieces and nephews. His eldest nephew David Sumsion inherited Ardkinglas.