Robert Gordon was born in Aberdeen in 1668, the first and only surviving son of advocate Arthur Gordon and his wife Isobel Menzies. His grandfather was Robert Gordon of Straloch, one of the early map-makers of Scotland. After the death of his father, Robert decided upon a career as a merchant and at the age of just 15 he was enrolled as a Burgess of the City of Aberdeen. After graduating in Arts from Marischal College in 1689 he settled in Danzig on the Baltic coast, now Gdansk in Poland. Here he ran a successful business as a merchant for some 30 years. On returning to Aberdeen about 1720, he continued to amass a considerable fortune by trading and money lending. He never married.
With no descendants to consider, he conceived the idea of leaving his money to found a ‘Hospital’, a residential school for the education and accommodation of poor boys. In 1729 he wrote a Deed of Mortification bequeathing his entire estate to a board of Governors with very definite instructions regarding the setting up and running of his school. He chose where he wanted his Hospital to be built, on the site of a former monastery of the Dominicans or Black Friars on Schoolhill in the centre of Aberdeen.
When Robert Gordon died in April 1731 at the age of 63, his body lay in state in Marischal College and he was honoured with a public funeral. He was buried in Drum’s Aisle in the Kirk of St Nicholas. A plain white marble tablet was later erected by the Governors in 1857 praising the merchant “who liberally endowed the Hospital piously designed by him for the maintenance and education of youth”. It is here that Robert Gordon is remembered each year by the laying of a wreath on Founder’s Day.