Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington The Carfraes of Yester
THE Carfraes were a very
old and respectable family in East Lothian; they were widely connected
with many other Haddingtonshire folk. Thomas Carfrae, tenant of Waldean,
in the parish of Garvald, was the last of them as farmers, and when he
died in 1820 the family had been tenants on the Marquis of Tweeddale’s
estate for upwards of two hundred years.
The Park farm of Yester,
which is now joined with Quarryford, was the original farm they held,
and where the old stock was bred. A branch of the family were tenants of
Camiehaugh, a farm now joined with Long Yester, and occupied by Mr
Douglas Murray. Some old trees still mark the site of the old homestead,
but not one stone of it remains. Captain John Carfrae was a celebrated
member of the Carniehaugh family. A notice of his death, which describes
the character of the man, will be found in the Farmers' Magazine, Vol.
I. (1800), page 119, and is as follows:—
“Died at Carniehaugh,
near Gifford, East Lothian, Captain John Carfrae, of the Breadalbane
Fencibles, and farmer there. Captain Carfrae had at an early period of
his life entered into the military line, and served in Germany during
the Seven Years* War. He was the intimate friend of General Harris, the
conqueror of Seringapatam, with whom he acted as an officer in the 5 th
Regiment of Foot, then commanded by Lord Percy. He afterwards devoted
his attention to rural affairs, till the year 1778, when he accepted of
a commission in the regiment raised by the Duke of Hamilton, and
commanded by General Francis M'Lean.
“At the peace of 1783 he
returned to his farm, which during his absence had been managed by his
being much wanted when the fencible regiments were raised in 1794, he
was prevailed upon to accept a company in the 3d battalion of Lord
Breadalbane’s regiment In Ireland the service was too severe for his
constitution, which laid him under the necessity of visiting his native
land, in hopes that a change of air might be useful; but, alas ! it was
too late. Captain Carfrae possessed all the social qualities in an
eminent degree, and was greatly beloved and esteemed by his numerous
friends. He was a good neighbour, an excellent companion, charitable to
the poor, and much respected by all who had the pleasure of being
intimately acquainted with him.”
Captain Carfrae, under
the authority of the government and the Duke of Hamilton, issued an
address to all brave and gallant Scotsmen, and especially to his
countrymen of East Lothian, in the following terms. It is headed with
the royal arms, printed in large type, and in excellent style.
“All brave and gallant
Scotsmen, who prefer the life of a gentleman to the drudgery of servile
and mechanic employment; who are ambitious of the honour and rewards
which are to be reaped in the service of the best of kings, and which
always attend great and glorious actions; all those whose generous
spirits soaring above the narrow scene of private life, wish to be
recorded in the annals of their country, as the glorious defenders of
the constitutional rights of Great Britain, against ungrateful,
revolted, and rebellious America, are hereby invited and requested to
enter as Volunteers in his Majesty's Regiment of Foot, now raising by
his Grace the Duke of Hamilton, Brandon, and Chastleherault, and in
Captain John Carfrae's company, where, besides his Majesty's and Duke
Hamilton's bounty, they will receive the genteelest treatment and best
encouragement from Captain Carfrae, and may be assured that he will
always exert himself to procure them that reward and promotion in the
regiment which he is confident their merit and services will deserve.
Captain Carfrae entertains the most sanguine hopes that when his brave
East Lothian friends consider that his Grace the Duke of Hamilton—the
first subject of this kingdom, the Lord of three mighty and potent
Dukedoms, possessed of an opulent and princely estate, despising the
luxury of ease and affluence—has generously resolved to serve his king
and country in the rank of Captain in this regiment, they will feel
their minds inspired with the same desire of military glory and the good
of their country, and will be engaged to imitate so noble, so
extraordinary an example.
“Captain Carfrae says
nothing here of himself. He has long served his king and country in the
character of a soldier, and hopes his conduct has brought no dishonour
“He leaves his past
services to speak for themselves ; but he here assures his countrymen of
East Lothian who incline to inlist with him, that they may entirely
depend upon his constant esteem, assistance, and protection.
“God Save the King.
“Captain Carfrae is to be
found at Carniehaugh, or at John Carfrae's (his Cousin), Merchant,
It is not known if
Captain Carfrae was very successful in enlisting many recruits among his
“brave East Lothian friends,” or if the Duke of Hamilton's regiment or
the American War were popular. Certainly the address is a good specimen
of flowery, patriotic, recruiting language, holding out sanguine hopes
of “military glory,” in place of the narrow scenes of private life. It
is certain, however, that not a few of brave Scotsmen and East Lothian
men fell in the actions of the American War. The American War was begun
15th November 1774, the action of Bunker’s Hill was fought 7th June
1775, the Americans declared their independence 4th July 1776, and peace
was proclaimed 20th January 1783.
Captain Carfrae, after
the peace of 1783, having seen much service in his day, “turned his
sword into a ploughshare,” and settled down for a time in his old days
to farm Carniehaugh. In 1794, however, he went with a fencible regiment
to Ireland, but soon left from bad health. His hospitality and the good
cheer of his house were unbounded. A story is told of the Gifford
carrier going to Carniehaugh one day with a large cask of whisky in his
cart A gentleman in passing him remarked that it would surely serve the
Captain a long time. “Lang time!” the carrier replied, “it’ll no serve
him a month.* Sometimes yet the “debris” of “Old Camie’s magnums” are
found Tound the site of the house and steading of Carniehaugh.
Travellers, gipsies, and beggars were always sure of a supper and
night’s quarters at Carniehaugh. Beggars used to say, when they were
refused quarters at some other farm-house, “Never mind, we are in fine
time for Car-nie yet.” It will thus be seen that Captain Carfrae was a
celebrated man in his day, and his name deserves to be handed down to
the present generation of East Lothian men.
Besides the Carfraes of
the Park (the original stock), and the Carniehaugh family, there were
the Carfraes of West Garleton, of Coates, of Wanside, of Waldean, and of
Hoprig, in Berwickshire.
Dr Patrick Carfrae,
minister of Morham, afterwards of Dunbar, was one of the old Park
family. He was a much esteemed and respected clergyman. His son, General
Carfrae of Bowerhouses, distinguished himself much in India as an
excellent officer. He was the last of the name in East Lothian.
John Carfrae, Esq.,of
Craigend,long an eminent coach-builder in Canongate, Edinburgh, was one
of the Park family, and died at a ripe old age. His son Thomas was an
artist of no little note during the time of Graham and Raeburn. Some
excellent portraits of his are still to be met with in the houses of old
East Lothian families.
Thomas Carfrae, tenant of
Waldean, was also one of the last of the Park family. He died in 1820,
much esteemed by all his friends and acquaintances, and with him ceased
the occupancy of land by the Carfraes, as tenants on the Marquis of
Tweeddale’s estate, which had subsisted for from two to three hundred
years. As a member of the old East Lothian Yeomanry Cavalry, a story is
recorded of him. His troop was called out to muster at Haddington in
January 1820, during a severe snowstorm, to march to Glasgow, under the
command of Colonel Maitland of Maitlandfield and Pogbie (Captain Walker
of Tanderlane being senior captain). He was so anxious to be present to
do his duty that he rose from a sick-bed, and with a night-cap under his
helmet rode to Haddington, and appeared at the muster. Colonel Maitland
excused him, and sent him home. He died shortly after.
Happily the Radical War
was soon put down, and the services of the East Lothian Yeomanry were
not required. They marched, however, as far as Airdrie.
Very many old names of
tenant-farmers in East Lothian are now wholly or nearly extinct. There
are now no Carfraes, Bairnsfathers, Yules, Walkers, Dudgeons, Kerrs,
Browns, Crawfords, Forrests, Bogues, Hepburns, Rennies, Camegies, &c.,
all topping and active men in their day and generation.
Such is the fate of
individuals, families, kingdoms, and nations—nothing but change.
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