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Biggar and the House of Fleming
Chapter V.- Sunnyside and Candy


A LITTLE to the north-east of the town is the elegant mansion of Walter S. Lorrain, Esq. It was formerly called Sunnyside, but its name has recently been changed to Loaningdale. Here James Scott, one of the Biggar poets, was born, about the year 1734. His father, who bore the same name, was by profession a mason. The name of Robert Scott, wright in Sunnyside, appears in the Session Records, under date 11th July 1734, in connection with negotiations for the construction of a new tent, (for the benefit of the work of the Sacrament without doors;’ but this, perhaps, was the poet’s uncle. The parents of Scott contrived to give him a good education. On arriving at manhood, he devoted himself to the medical profession. He entered the army as an assistant-surgeon in 1755, and was stationed with his regiment at Fort George, Fort William, and several other places. In 1762, the Spaniards and the French having sustained a number of severe reverses from the English, thought fit, as a means of retaliation, to invade Portugal, which then was under the special protection of England. A large body of troops was therefore despatched from this country to the aid of the Portuguese, and, among others, the regiment in which young Scott served. Little or no fighting took place, as peace was shortly afterwards proclaimed, and the British troops were ordered home. Scott wrote a poetical epistle regarding this war and the subsequent peace, in which he says,

'Grim war, amid his horrid train,
Now leaves the desolated plain;
And now, by George’s high command,
Again we seek our native strand,
Where, as I can no longer serve,
I have his gracious leave to starve.’

In a note on the last of these couplets he says: (This is almost literally the case. After seven years spent in his country’s service in a useful station for which no provision is made, the author was carried ashore at Portsmouth with a fever upon him, neither quite dead nor alive, where he had the pleasure of lying several hours on the beach, till, with much difficulty, somebody was found that had humanity enough to give him a lodging for three or four times its worth.

There his pay was struck off, and he was left to the care of Providence, who reserved him for—God knows what’ It is understood that Mr Scott settled ultimately as a medical practitioner in a town in England, but found leisure to pay an occasional visit to his relatives and his old scenes at Biggar.

Mr Scott, from his early years, had been a writer of verses. His object, he says, was the amusement of an idle hour, the diversion of a friend, or the gratification of an original propensity. In 1765 a collected edition of his poems was published at London by G. Burnet, in the Strand. In the preface he states that some of his poetical productions had been previously printed in periodical papers and miscellaneous collections, and that he had had the misfortune to be complimented by his country neighbours with the praise of genius. This, he considers, had made a very erroneous and injurious impression on his mind, for he says that ‘ since he had cultivated a more intimate acquaintance with the writings of the poets, he has a thousand times heartily wished the labours of his muse at the devil.’ He declares that, were all his productions in his power, he would without reluctance commit them to the flames; but as this was beyond his reach, he hopes he has sent them forth in their collected form in a state more worthy the acceptance of the intelligent reader. With a true portion of Upper Ward independence, but with a roughness of language scarcely pardonable in a sentimental poet, he adds, ‘If, by ill luck, a critical reader should lay his hands on them, and find his delicacy shocked in the perusal, he is very welcome to throw the book in the fire, and damn the author for a blockhead.’

The author, to judge from his poetical effusions, was certainly not entitled to be characterized as a blockhead. Throughout his whole book he manifests much refined and correct sentiment, a warm appreciation of rural scenery, a high admiration of beauty and virtue, a devoted attachment to friendship and love, and a lively interest in the welfare and freedom of his fellow-men. At the time he wrote, the cultivation of poetry had sunk to a low ebb. The poetic race had become infected with a strained and sickly sentimentalism. They had forsaken the paths of nature, and took delight in nothing but weaving a succession of tawdry garlands for the brows of some feigned goddess, under the name of Melinda, Narcissa, Delia, etc. Our author did not escape the mannerism and defects of his times; but he frequently rises above them, and sings with a true, if not a very exalted note. His descriptive powers were considerable. Take as a specimen an extract from a poem ‘On Solitude,’ written in a beautiful wild glen near Fort Augustus:—

'See, the river winds along
The wild and tufted hills among;

A copy was presented by the author to his nephew, Robert Scott, saddler, Biggar, And is still preserved by one of the members of Mr Scott’s family.

Placid now it Aowb, and deep,
Now it thunders down the steep;
With violence dashed, it foams and roars,
And falling, shakes the lofty shores;
And rocks and billows rave around,
And woods and hills repeat the sound.

His appreciation of the varied aspects of the year is manifested in many of his productions. For instance, he thus refers to spring, and the feelings which it excites, in an Elegy to Narcissa :—

'In pride of youth exults the jovial year,
Again the groves put on their robes of green,
Again the pleasant woodland song we hear,
And Nature in her fairest form is seen.

'Along the banks of the wild warbling stream,
With many an herb adorned, and fragrant flower,
Cheer’d by the setting sun’s inspiring beam,
Oft wandering, I enjoy the peaceful hour.

'The solemn scenes dispose the tranquil breast
To serious musing, and to thought refined;
And contemplation comes, a heavenly guest,
And pours out all her blessings on the mind.’

His patriotism and loyalty found vent in a noble ode to the King on his birthday, 1756. We give one or two stanzas :—

'Industrious Commerce swells her train
With all the treasures which the main
And distant lands can boast;
While glittering gems, and golden ore,
The wealth of every foreign shore,
She pours on Albion’s coast.

'Here gentle love, with roses crowned,
And peace, with olive garlands bound,
Their mingling charms unite;
While art and science, hand in hand,
Conspire to bless the happy land
With honour and delight.

'Fair Liberty, high o’er the rest,
Exalted dwells in every breast,
By Britons still adored;
For her the angry god of war,
Impatient, mounts his iron car,
And waves his flaming sword.

'See there her potent navy ride,
Exulting o’er the foaming tide,
The tyrant’s constant dread.
Soon may her awful thunder roar
O'er faithless Gallia's hostile shore,
Ruin and terror spread.

'Favoured of Heaven, assert the cause
Of Britain, liberty, and laws;
And when with glory crowned,
Bid the fell rage of battle cease,
And, with the bands of love and peace.
Embrace the nations round.

The Scottish language, his native vernacular, was then considered rude and vulgar. It had not yet been raised to classic dignity by the genius of Bums and Scott Hence he sedulously avoids the use of it in any of his productions. Neither his admiration of Scottish damsels, his musings by the ruins of Scotland’s ancient royal halls, his wanderings among the Highland hills, nor his minute disquisitions on the equipments of a Scottish tea-table, could extort from him a word to indicate that he had spent his boyish days amid the hills and plains of Biggar, or was familiar with the streams of the Clyde and Tweed. His book was designed for English readers; and he would, no doubt, consider that Scotch phraseology would be unintelligible, and allusions to the obscure localities of Biggar little attractive to the Southrons. But notwithstanding any little drawback of this kind, Scott is certainly one of Biggar’s chief literary men.

The grounds in this neighbourhood go under the names of Guildie, the Colliehill, the Cuttings, the Scabbed Rigs, and the Borrow Muir. They belonged, and still nearly all belong, to the feuars of Biggar. They are of excellent quality, and produce fine crops of oats, barley, turnips, and potatoes. A little to the east of Loaningdale is Cambus Wallace, formerly 'Thinbush, the pleasant residence of John Paul, Esq. We have then, in succession, Wester Toftcombs, Mid Toftcombs, Easter Toftcombs, Wintermuir, and Candy or Edmonstone.

The estate of Edmonstone was possessed for upwards of four centuries by the Douglases, Earls of Morton and Lords of Dalkeith. The Flemings of Biggar, however, held the superiority of it during that period, which may be taken to indicate that they were the possessors of it prior to the existence of any record in which it is mentioned.

In 1322, William, son and heir of the deceased Haldwine of Edmonstone, resigned the whole lands of Edmonstone, with their pertinents, in the barony of Biggar, to his superior, Gilbert Fleming of Biggar, in order that William, the son and heir of the deceased Sir James Douglas of Laudonia, might be infeft in the same. In 1382, Robert H. granted and confirmed to James Douglas, Lord of Dalkeith, and James, his son, the lands of Edmonstone in the barony of Biggar. On the 15th of July 1476, James Earl of Morton resigned the lands of Edmonstone and Wintermuir into the hands of Robert Lord Fleming, the superior of these lands; and on the 18th of the same month received a new charter of them from Lord Fleming, to be holden for the service of ward and relief, and one suit in the head court at Biggar. A precept of Sasine of these lands was granted, on the 4th of January 1496, by John Lord Fleming to James Douglas, son and apparent heir of John Earl of Morton. In 1543, James Earl of Morton and Lord of Dalkeith granted them to his daughter Elizabeth, and to her husband, James Douglas, nephew of the Earl of Angus. The Earl of Morton dying without male issue, James Douglas, just mentioned, succeeded to his titles and estates. He received a new charter of these estates, and, of course, of ‘ the lands and barony of Edmeston, with the maner, fortilace, mills, fishings, and orchards, parts, pendicles, advowson and endowment of churches and chapels and their pertinents lying within the barony of Biggar and sheriffdom of Lanark.’ This nobleman for some years played a very distinguished part in the public transactions of Scotland. Being bold, crafty, and avaricious, he attached himself to the side of the Reformers, and took part with the Earl of Murray in his opposition to Queen Mary. Attaining at length to be Regent of the Kingdom, with a portion of the wealth which he then acquired, he commenced to build the stately castle of Drochil on the Lyne, but did not live to see it completed. He was beheaded at the Cross of Edinburgh, on the 2d of June 1581, for alleged complicity in the murder of Daroley, by an instrument called ‘The Maiden,9 which he himself had been the means of introducing into Scotland. The estate of Edmonstone continued in the same family to the middle of the seventeenth century, when it and the farm of Wintermuir were purchased by Christopher Baillie of Walston. These possessions then fell into the hands of a family of the name of Brown, about the beginning of last century; and in the hands of this family they still remain, the present proprietor being Laurence Brown, Esq. Some years ago, a very elegant mansion-house, in a castellated form of architecture, after a design by James Gillespie Graham, was erected in a secluded valley on this property. It contained, and perhaps still contains, a collection of the antiquities of the district; but no account of them, so far as we know, has hitherto been published.

On the estate of Edmonstone there was at one time evidently a considerable village, which was generally called Candy. It had its own school, its own mill, its own alehouse, its own tailors, shoemakers, smiths, agricultural labourers, etc. One of its inhabitants, during last century, was Mr John Rob, tailor. He was a good specimen of the shrewd, intelligent, and pious men, who have long abounded in this district. He was a member of Mr Mair’s congregation at Linton, and, afterwards, of Mr Low’s at Biggar. When the controversy regarding the Burgess oath, which split the Seceders into two separate divisions, was still raging, he entered the lists against the famous Antiburgher leader, the Rev. Adam Gib of Edinburgh; and, in 1755, published a pamphlet, in which, in the opinion of some judges, he completely demolished the positions of his doughty and energetic opponent It was entitled, ‘The Rod Retorted, or the Corrector Corrected; containing some remarks upon a pamphlet entitled, “A Rod of Correction, etc., by Mr Adam Gib.” By John Rob, Tailor, Candy.’ Copies of this brochure are now extremely rare. The only one that we have seen is in the library of Adam Sim, Esq., at Coultermains. We cannot forbear quoting one of the first paragraphs of this work, as a specimen of Mr Rob’s style, and the manner in which the controversy was conducted. 4 The first thing that I shall take notice of,’ says Mr Rob, ‘is, that he (Adam Gib) charges me with impertinence and unbecoming behaviour, like an enraged kailwife, as he calls it. I know that my speech is for ordinary high, but I challenge him, or any of the company, to condescend upon any one expression uttered by me unbecoming his character, although even from himself there was not wanting provocation; for I remember, when I met him at Biggar, how he prefaced his discourse. When the man told him I was coming for light in the present case, he proudly answered, “I have no manner of concern with such; let them take the length of the halter; perhaps they may worry in the band.” Now, let any impartial reader judge how cross this spirit is to the very letter of the law,

John Rob had a son named Richard, who was a person of .some humour, and a member of the same church. Being of a social turn of mind, he sometimes rather exceeded in his potations at fairs and on market days, and thus subjected himself to the animadversions of the ‘ unco guid.’ The members of the Burgher session, who were very circumspect in regard to religious opinions, and sharp in their practice, summoned him before them to answer for his irregularities. When Richard appeared, he owned his fault; but he entreated his reverend judges, before pronouncing sentence, to answer the question, ‘Is gluttony a sin ?’ This was at once admitted. ‘Then,' said Richard, ‘whan I was at the Little Wall the ither day, I saw John Young, a member of the session noo present, supping kail oot o’ a calf’s luggy. It was evident that on that occasion he was guilty of an act of gluttony; sae, if ye rebuke me, ye ought to rebuke him also.’ The session were scarcely disposed to acquiesce in Mr Rob’s analogy, or to comply with his demand; so they considered that it would be the best policy to dismiss him at that time with an admonition.

Mr Rob, on one occasion, accompanied Mr Low in his round of visitations to the houses of the members of his congregation in the neighbourhood of Candy. They entered thirteen different dwellings, and in each of them they were presented with spirituous liquors, of which the minister always partook. On parting in the evening, Mr Rob very gravely accosted Mr Low, and said, ‘I noo see wherein the sin o’ drinking consists.1 ‘What is that, Richard?’ said Mr Low. ‘It maun consist, I think, in the paying,’ replied Mr Rob; ‘ for I hae seen ye to-day tak a pairt o’ thirteen drams, and a single word o’ reproof or objection hasna faun frae your lips.’

Mr Rob one day played a sad trick on old Robert Forsyth, the bellman and grave-digger of Biggar. It has ever since been a standing story in the district, and used to be related with admirable drollery by the late James Sinclair, painter, Biggar. The minister of Biggar happening to have some very fine pigs, he promised to make a present of one to his friend the minister of Dolphinton. He therefore ordered Robert Forsyth to put one of them into a pock, and proceed with it to Dolphinton Manse. The obedient sexton did as he was ordered. While trudging on his way, and just as he approached Candy, where at that time a dram was sold, he met Mr Rob. 'Weel, Robert,’ says the farmer, ‘as the day is warm, and as you are doubtless fatigued wi’ your load, ye had better step into Jenny’s and I’ll gie ye a dram.’ To this proposal he readily assented. So the pock was thrown down by the side of the door, and in he went to quench his thirst and rest his limbs. While he was thus refreshing himself, the farmer went to the door, and succeeded, without being noticed, in making a young whelp occupy the place of the pig. At length our worthy resumed his journey to Dolphinton, and, on his arrival at the manse, announced his business with characteristic pomposity and importance. The minister and his domestics came out to view and examine the animal which had been so kindly sent by the reverend incumbent of Biggar; when, on being turned out of the sack, to the utter astonishment of all, it was not a sow, but a young dog. Old Robert ‘ declared, whatever it might be noo, he was sure it was a pig whan he pat it into the pock.’ There was no help for it, but that the unfortunate sexton should again shoulder his load, and, much mortified and vexed, return as heavy as he went. Mr R., who was still purposely loitering about Candy, at length espied Robert coming down the brae very gloomy and disconsolate. What’s the matter wi’ ye noo?’ said Mr R. ‘Will the minister no tak the soo, that ye’re trudging hame wi’t on yer back, as melancholy like as ye had seen the deil?’ 'Lord sauf us,’ quoth Robert, ‘ it’s nae langer a soo, it has turned into a doug; and as I’m a leeving man, I declare, whan I shook it out o’ the pock afore the manse, my very heart played dunt, and I really thought that the deil had entered intill’t as he ance did into the herd o’ swine.’ ‘But Robie, my man,’ said Mr R., 'this is a subject too kittle to be expounded here; we maun gae in again to Jenny’s and hae anither gill.’ While they were in the inn, the pig and the whelp, unknown to the unsuspicious sexton, again exchanged places. Having had a lengthened crack and a taste of the barley bree, they parted, and the sexton with his load made the best of his way to Biggar. He repaired at once to the manse, and told his reverence that by witchcraft or other diabolical means the sow had, during his journey to Dolphinton, become a whelp. 'A whelp!’ exclaimed the minister, 'impossible; but let us see—turn him out; ’ and there now appeared before the dumfoundered beadle the veritable animal, in shape, size, and kind, which had been entrusted to his care when he started from Biggar. 'Why, Robert,’ said the minister, ‘ that is surely the very animal which you put into your bag this morning.’ ‘ Od,’ says Robert, 'it may be ony thing it likes noo, but Til minteen it was a whelp at Dolphin ton.’ 'Did you meet with anybody by the way? ’ inquired the minister, 'or were ye in any house?’ 'To tell the truth,’ said Robert, 'gaed in a few minutes at Candyburn to hae a refreshment wi’ Ritchie Rob.’ 'Ah, Robert, Robert,’ said the minister, 'I see through the whole affair; you have allowed that witty gentleman to play a sad trick upon you, as well as to offer an affront to me. You must never, when employed on important business, be allured into an alehouse again, lest a worse mischief befall you.’

A similar trick is ascribed, in the 'Laird of Logan,’ to Laird Robert-son of Eamock; but persons intimately acquainted with the Biggar worthies to whom I have referred, were in the habit of telling the story in a similar manner thirty or forty years previous to the appearance of that publication.

On the top of the hill above Candybank is a circular entrenchment, generally called a camp. No information regarding it exists, and the probability is, that it was constructed for the purpose of preserving the cattle and sheep during the times of invasion. It was in the course of removing a cairn of stones in this earthen work that the bronze implement, was discovered.


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