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The Scottish Nation

RAE, a surname, conjectured to be the same as Reay, a parish on the north coast of the counties of Caithness and Sutherland. The name, says a writer in the ‘New Statistical Account of Scotland,’ is supposed to be a corruption of Mein Reidh, or Miora, two Gaelic terms signifying smooth and plain. The most probable derivation, however, is, that Reay is a corruption of Urray, the name of a British hero, who inhabited the castle called, to this day, Knock Urray. The ancient orthography of the parish was Re or Rae.

David Rae, an eminent Scottish lawyer and judge, by the title of Lord Eskgrove, was created a baronet of the United Kingdom on 27th June, 1804. He was the son of the Rev. David Rae, an Episcopal clergyman at one period in St. Andrews, and afterwards in Edinburgh, by his wife Agnes, a daughter of Sir David Forbes of Newhall, baronet, a lord of session, under the title of Lord Newhall, brother of the celebrated Duncan Forbes of Culloden, lord president of the court of session. Born in 1729, Lord Eskgrove acquired his classical education at the university of Edinburgh, where he studied for the bar, and on 11th December 1751 was admitted a member of the faculty of advocates. He very early obtained considerable practice, and when the celebrated Douglas cause was before the court he was appointed one of the commissioners for collecting evidence in France, and in that capacity accompanied Lords Monboddo and Gardenstone, then advocates, to Paris, in September 1764. He was elevated to the bench, on the death of Lord Auchinleck, 14th November 1782, and succeeded Lord Kennet, as a lord of justiciary, 20th August, 1785. His judicial title of Lord Eskgrove was assumed from the name of a small estate which he possessed near Inveresk, in the neighbourhood of Musselburgh. On the death of Lord Braxfield in 1799, he was appointed lord-justice-clerk, 1st June that year. That high office he filled with ability and integrity of character, but only enjoyed his baronetcy four months, as he died 23d October 1804, in his 80th year. He had married, in 1761, Margaret, daughter of Dugald Stewart, Esq. of Blairhall, a near relative of the earl of Bute and of Lady Ann Stewart, daughter of Francis, earl of Moray, and had two sons and a daughter.

The elder son, David, second baronet, entered early into the army, and was at one time lieutenant-colonel of the Middlesex militia. He married the daughter of Oliver Colt, Esq. of Auldhame, and had four daughters. Dying without male issue, he was succeeded by his brother, the Right Hon. Sir William Rae of St. Catherines, third and last baronet of this family. Sir William was a school-fellow and fellow-student of Sir Walter Scott at the High school and university of Edinburgh, and an intimate friend of his through life. He was called to the bar in 1791, and for many years was sheriff of Mid Lothian. On the promotion of Lord Meadowbank to the bench in 1819, he was appointed lord-advocate for Scotland, an office which he held during all the subsequent Tory ministries. On the accession of Earl Grey’s ministry in 1830, he retired with his colleagues, but again became lord-advocate during the brief administration of Sir Robert Peel in 1834 and 1835, and in 1841 was reappointed. He was M.P. for the Crail burghs in Fife, from 1820 to 1826; for Harwich, from 1827 to 1830; for Portarlington, in 1831; for Buteshire, in 1831, and he again represented that county from 1833 till his death. He was also a member of the privy council. He died at his seat of St. Catherines, about 3 miles from Edinburgh, 19th October 1842. Notwithstanding the long period during which he held the office of lord-advocate, he always declined a seat on the bench, to which he had the first claim, as he did not consider himself sufficiently qualified, as a practicing lawyer, for the judicial office. He married Marr, daughter of Colonel Charles Stuart, but by her had no issue, and on his death the baronetcy became extinct.

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