Excerpts from Patrick Gordon's Diary



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Excerpts from Patrick Gordon's Diary

The following three excerpts from Patrick Gordon's diary consider:

  1. Patrick Gordon’s departure from Aberdeen in 1651;
  2. His meeting with fellow Scots in Poznan in 1654; and
  3. His engagement in Polish service in 1659.


…I was taken from schoole; and, staying at home, did wait upon my father.

Haveing thus, by the most loveing care of my deare parents, attained to as much learning as the ordinary countrey schools affoords, and being unwilling, because of my dissenting in religion, to go to the university in Scotland, I resolved, partly to dissolve the bonds of a youthfull affection, wherein I was entangled, by banishing my self from the object; partly to obtaine my liberty, which I fondly conceited to be restrained, by the carefull inspection of my loveing parents; but, most of all, my patrimony being but small, as being the yonger son of a yonger brother of a yonger house; I resolved, I say, to go to some forreigne countrey, not careing much on what pretence, or to which countrey I should go, seing I had no knowne ffriend in any forreigne place.

Being thus resolved, there wanted nothing but to have the leave and furtherance of my parents, which I obtained by the intercession of my unkle, and haveing notice of a ship at Aberdeen bound shortly for Dantzick, I made a progresse into the countrey amongst my ffriends and tooke my leave of them….


…The gentleman who brought me along had his house or lodging in the Jewes street, where I dined with him; and after dinner he took me along to a Skotsman called James Lindesay, to whom I had a recommendatory letter. At first he was imperiously inquisitive of my parents, education, travells and intentions. I answered to all his demands with an observant ingenuity. One passage I can not forgett, which was this. When upon his enquiry I had told him what my parents names were, he said in a disdainfull manner: “Gordon and Ogilvie! these ar two great clannes, sure you must be a gentleman!” To which, albeit I knew it to [be] spoken in derision, I answered nothing, but that I hoped I was not the worse for that. However, afterwards he was kind enough to me. Here I was perswaded by my countreymen to stay and wait some good occasion or other of prosecuteing my jorney.

During my abode in this place I was kindly entertained by my countreymen, to witt, Robert Ferquhar, James Ferguson, James Lindesay, James White, James Watson and others. I was afterwards by their recommendation entertained in the suit of a yong nobleman called Oppalinsky, who was according to the custome of the Polonian nobility going to visitt forreigne countreyes. At my departure my kind countreymen furnished me with money and other necessaries very liberally, so that I was better stocked now as I had been since I cam from my parents….


… being a sojor of fortune and a stranger to both nations, my interest was nothing in the one or other, whereby I should be oblidged to serve or suffer more for the one or the other. Only religion made me encline more to the Polls as the other. So that by all meanes, so farr as my honour could permitt, I behoved to seek my advanc[e]ment and strive to make some fortune, w-ch as the case stood now with the Sweds was very unlikely, yea, impossible to do amongst them.

For they had now the Roman Emperour, the Kings of Denmark and Polland, the Moskovite and Elector of Brandeburg in their topp, any whereof was almost able to cope with them; and now nothing was to be exspected in Prussia but to suffer hunger and all the calamities and necessityes incident to besieged and blocquired places. The pay being so small, as it was impossible to subsist with it, the service so heavy, and the rewards, when the peace should be made, not like to be great, seing by all probability, haveing so many enemyes in their topp, they were at the best to be no gainers by the warr.

It is true that the good discipline amongst them, the respect given to all according to their charge, with their justice in preferring men of meritt are great incitements for aspireing minds to embrace and stay in that service and comport with the difficulties thereof.

On the contrar I had observed so much both befor and now, that strangers in Polland lived very well, and a man of good government could be soone in a possibility of makeing a fortune. And albeit the pride of the generality of the Polls would not suffer them to give such due respect to strangers as was requisite, yet the nobility and the more civilized were not deficient in any thing of that nature. And truly it is in vaine for a stranger to think that he can be in equall esteeme with the natives of alike quality and condition, unlesse the republick stand very much in need of military persons, or that his services have been very eminent. And even then for the most part the respect is more formall as materiall, and continueth but so long as your employment is active, or you enter into competition with any. And it is well knowne that every one is good to their owne, and no reason but that a native ceteris paribus should be advanced befor an alien.

Indeed in such places where their chieffe profession is military, and the natives not much enclined thereto, as in Holland, strangers are much looked upon and have been often preferred befor the natives, of purpose to oblidge and encourage them. Yet even there of late wee have seen high military charges put by strangers of better and greater and bestowed on natives of lesser meritt.

It were tedious to cite presidents, only this I must relate. When Gustav Adolph, King of Sweden, invaded Germany, most of his chieffest and best officers, as is well knowne, were Scottishmen, to whose great and active valour he owed the best part of the good fortune he had there. Yet afterwards, when his Sweds by experience had attained to a reasonable knowledge in the warrs, many of these cavaliers, being disoblidged, quitted the service, and very few of so great a number at the peace receaved rewards suitable to their services.

But to returne, I did see the Polls strongly confederated, levying a considerable force of stranger regiments, viz. 22, and shortly lyke to be, with Gods grace, in a capacity to regaine their owne. And being now offered a stepp of preferment with ane advantagious place, and being knowne to so great a person, who had the ruling of all military and a great influence on the politick affaires also, I promised to my self a bettering of my fortune, intending to use all endeavours, and by industry, diligence and good behaviour draw from every one a good opinion; assureing my self that my religion, knowledge in the languages, especially the Latine, and being knowne to be a gentleman, would be no small helps in such a countrey and among such people, where learning, nobility and vertue make way to the most eminent honours and fortunes.

Haveing given my word to serve, the field marshall caused bring me into his chamber befor day and asked me himself if I would accept of the regiment quarterm-rs place. I answering “yes”, he told me he was to have a regiment of dragownes shortly, to the which I should be reg. quarterm-r. In the meane tyme I should stay by his lyfe-company, and he would see me accommodated. So ordering to give me a hundred reichs dollers to mount me, he tooke me by the hand and dismissed me.

The treasurer giveing me a note to one Mr. Cuthbert, a Scotsman and borne in Aberdeen, I went and immediately receaved the money, wherewith I bought such things as I stood in most need of, as linnens, clocke, pistoll, sword, boots, shooes and other necessaryes….