The Curious Case of the Earl of Perth

George Essex Montifex Drummond was born on 3 September 1856 and was the only son of George Henry Charles Francis Malcolm Drummond, and grandson of George Drummond, Earl of Perth and Earl of Melfort (1807-1902). At his father's tragic death by suicide in a Gloucester hotel in October 1681, he became heir to his grandfather in two Earldoms and a sizeable estate when just five years of age, however, from a young age his relationship with that overbearing, suppressive grandfather became fraught with difficulties. By April 1880, he had eloped with his grandmother's maid, Eliza Sheldon Masters, and in an article which appeared in the American Press on 17th of that month, his behaviour was said to have been on account of his having developed “democratic tendencies”. The article further stated: “George Essex Montifex, Lord Drummond, grandson and heir-apparent of the Earl of Perth, has gone back to Scotland. Seven or eight years ago, when he was only 16 years of age, he married his grandmother’s maid, a buxom girl several years older than himself, and ran away with her to this country. He landed in New York without means, and hired himself as shipping clerk to a down-town firm. He was wayward, and by his own foolishness got out of his position. He left the city and settled at Brookhaven, a fishing village on the south shore of Long Island. He lived there in a picturesue old farmhouse, supporting himself and his wife very comfortably by fishing and shooting. He remained in Brookhaven several years. He lost utterly all his English and aristocratic characteristics, and in appearance and manners, and language was like the fishermen who surrounded him. He was tall and athletic, and might be seen any summer evening after fishing hours slouching about his dooryard, wearing a blue flannel shirt, a high pair of rubber boots, and a battered old souwester. His neighbours knew him as George, and the young generation found him a boon companion. About two years ago a son and heir was born to him. Last year he quit his fishing, and bringing his wife and child to this city, hired himself out as a porter to a dry goods house. When the young lord was a shipping clerk in the city he was visited by Lord Walter Campbell, son of the Duke of Argyll, and brother of the Marquis of Lorne, who was a member of a New York business house at the time, and who unsuccessfully tried to pursuade the runaway to give up his wife and return to his people. It is understood a reconciliation has been effected between the old earl and his grandson.[1]

The "Reconciliation" alluded to was never to happen though, as every demand placed on him by his family included the stipulation that he must leave his wife and in return they would set him up either in his own plantation in Florida or a fully stocked cattle ranch in Texas. He refused all offers, and remained steadfast to his wife. Of his last years, there is the following glimpse from an old friend’s testimony; “before his death, despite Mr. Ullman’s interest in him, he was often in absolute want. For a time he was ticket-chopper on the elevated railroad at South Ferry. Before his death he made a Will devising to his daughter all the property to which he was entitled.”[2] He died at New York of consumption on Thursday 6 August 1887, at which point the descendants in the male line of John, 1st Earl of Melfort (1650-1715) extinguished. His wife surviving him, she married secondly, to Henry Masters, an Iron Moulder, and died some fifty-one years later at Brooklyn, New York, on 19 April 1939 [3]. 

Their only child was a daughter, Mary Harriet Geraldine Drummond, of whom little is known other than that she worked as a telephone receptionist. Despite significant interest in her, the press were never able to track down her whereabouts.


For further information see Red Book of Scotland, Drummond of Perth.





[1] Dundee Courier. 16th April 1880, edition.

[2] St. James’s Gazette. 26th January 1897, edition.

[3] Daily Mirror. 19th April 1939, edition.