Anecdotage of Glasgow
Romantic Story of Governor MacRae, Donor
of King William's Statue
JAMES MACRAE, Esq., Governor of the Presidency of
Madras, in the year 1734 gifted the equestrian statue of King William,
which still stands at the Cross, to the city of Glasgow, of which he was
then a burgess.
The story of the donor, and of the recipients of his
immense fortune, is a most romantic one. It appears that during the
reign of Charles II. there lived in a small
cottage in the town of Ayr a decent washerwoman, whose name was Widow
Macrae, but was commonly called Bell Gardner, her own name. The widow
had a little son Jamie, who, by and by, went to sea, and nothing more
was heard of him in his native place for some forty long years.
Meanwhile he became Governor of the Madras Presidency in 1725, and
amassed a great fortune.
On his return home he sought out his relatives,
namely, a cousin, Bell Gardner, wife of an itinerant fiddler, named Hugh
M’Guire, in whose house his mother had latterly lived and died. M’Guire,
the fiddler, and his wife had four daughters, who, as the prospective
heiresses of their mother’s cousin, were educated and brought out in a
style befitting their position. The eldest (Lizzie or Leezie) became the
wife of William, thirteenth Earl of Glencairn, in
1744; and on the day of her marriage received as tocher the
Barony of Ochiltree, which cost £25,000, as well as diamonds to the
value of £45,000. Her second son, James, fourteenth Earl of Glencairn,
was the patron and friend of Robert Burns.
The second daughter received the estate of Aila, and
was married in 1749 to James Erskine, an advocate, who was raised to the
bench as Lord Alva; the third daughter married James MacRae, a nephew
(or, as some said, a natural son) of the Governor; her dowry being the
estate of Houston in Dumfriesshire; the fourth daughter, who was the
Governor’s favourite, received the estate of Orangefield in Ayrshire,
and was married to Charles Dalrymple, nephew of Charles Dalrymple of
Langlands, and brother of the Rev, Dr. William Dalrymple, formerly
minister of Ayr.