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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 friends.

“Experienced officers 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 upon either.

“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, Haddington.”

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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