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Life Jottings of an Old Edinburgh Citizen
Chapter Thirty-Seven


ON the resignation of Lord Moncreiff of the office of Lord Justice-Clerk, in the autumn of 1888, Lord Salisbury did me the honour of nominating me to the Sovereign for the vacant office. No appointment could have been more congenial to me. Although the Lord Just ce-General is of course senior to him in rank, the Lord Justice-Clerk of Scotland is practically the head of the judicial criminal admin stration .to whom all official communications from the Secretary for Scotland come, in regard to petitions for reprieve or commutation of sentence. My experience at the Bar, having been very largely in criminal practice, for many years as a defending counsel and later as public prosecutor, I could feel assured that in the criminal department I could give efficient service. As regards the civil department of the work as President of the Second Division I could not feel confident, but rather the reverse. I cannot express my feelings better than in the language of Lord Cockburn on the occasion of his elevation to the Bench. His words in his Journal are: "In the management of facts and trials, and the conduct of whatever depends upon mere science and practical business or rational equity, I may do well enough; but I tremble for myself in causes of pure or technical law, especially touching real property."

Such were my feelings, but I had a comfort that he had not when he wrote these words. His responsibilities had to be faced sitting alone, as long as he was in the Outer House, while to me there w as the knowledge that I would have kind ly help from others. For which I have ever been grateful.

At the time when I took my seat, the kind letters I received from the colleagues whom I was about to join came as a great encouragement, and the sheaf of congratulations I received from friends I still preserve, n the spirit of the words:

"Doubled the pleasure which friendship doth divde." I rejoice to feel that on looking back on a quarter of a century, I have never had the misfortune to fall into a quarrel wiith colleague or brother advocate, but rather they have shown to me a kind consideration and friendliness which call for and have my deep gratitude. May it be so to the last, I humbly pray.

During my experience of the Bench in the High Court of Justiciary, it fell to me to preside at the trial of Alfred John Monson for murder, the longest and the most protracted inquiry since I joined the profession. I went through nine, days of anxiety, such as I have never experienced before or since. The case was one which so bristled with points, that one had to watch its course from moment to moment, and to take scrupulous care lest the jury should be misled by feelings roused by the disclosure of the evil character of the accused. So dominant was the anxiety, that morning after morning I awoke long before my usual time, and lay in a dull perspiration, turning things over and over, endeavouring to weigh them and determine their weight in the balance. Never before had I gone through an experience the least like it, and I am well pleased that I have never had a similar experience since. It was all the more trying because I felt quite unable to form a determined opinion in my own mind. The way never seemed to me clear. In the end I was able to feel that I had done my best to put the case in a fair light before the jury, and can freely say that the verdict they returned was that which in all the circumstances was the safe one. I have more than once been comforted by the assurance of judges, including some of other parts of the United Kingdom, that .in their opinion the Jury were led to the proper conclusion. This trial was, in my judgment, the most severe strain I have ever undergone, and not one or two nights of quiet repose were sufficient to restore mind and body. 1 was thankful—the case finishing on a Friday—for three days of complete rest before returning to the daily round. I cannot but be grateful for the freedom during many years from any similar experience.

In the same year in which I left Parliament to join the Bench, I was appointed as the first Volunteer Brigadier to command a Brigade consisting of the three battalions of my own Queen's Brigade, and the 5 th,6th,and 8th Volunteer battalions of the Royal Scots, these forming the Forth Brigade, which some ill-informed gentleman at a desk in the War Office wrote "Fourth"!* I had never supposed it possible that I should get my head into a military cocked hat, but so it was, my friend Lord Wolseley kindly writing to me to say, that he never had greater satisfaction than in appending t is signature to my appointment, he being Adjutant-General at the time. During my service as Brigaoier-General I took the Brigade up to Aldershot, where, first under Sir Evelyn Wood, and afterward s under H. R. H. the Duke of Connaught, something was learned of manoeuvres on a large scale. Latterly, when the Boer War took place, my Brigade was ordered out, as already mentioned, for a month of training as on mobilisation. For the first days of the camp I had to be judicial in the forenoon, and martial in the afternoon. It was toga in the morning and arrived in the afternoon. For once I became a paid soldier of the Queen, drawing my Brigadier-General's pay and allowances and my salary as a judge at the same time, which was probably a unique experience. This was the first occasion oil which the petrol motor vehicle was used in military work, converting our mails daily, which weighed 4 cwt., and doing regular service to and from the railway station, four miles distant. Now the power vehicle dominates in transport.

Somewhat later, when the motor vehicle had become a practical factor in road transit, I was appointed honorary Colonel of the Motor Volunteer Corps, which afterwards constituted the Army Motor Reserve^ a corps which, while its efficiency and usefulness were proved and admitted, was disbanded without reason stated, except that the money was wanted for something else.

I would say a word or two here upon Edinburgh's share in patriotic action at the time of the war. From the Forth Brigade there went out three bodies of Volunteers to serve with the Royal Scots, and my mounted contingent supplied out of its 130 men no fewer than thirty-three officers to the fighting force. I had a very good report, both officially and privately, of the efficient service of these contingents. I saw my lads off from the station when they marched to join the r train on each occasion,and sent them away with a hearty handshake. I shall never forget Mrs. Forbes Mackay at the Caledonian Station, coming up to me with an expression of mingled pride and emotion, and telling me that in the train just about to start were three sons going out to serve their country. I 465 2 g thought of the old mothers of Sparta, and shared her feelings.

Queer things happened at that time. Many men besides those sent out to the Royal Scots went from Edinburgh to London and joined the Imperial Yeomanry and the C.l.V., and of these several who had been retained by the Army surgeons in Edinburgh were passed by the surgeons in London, with the result that the rejection in Edinburgh brought about their receding five shillings a day of pay, whereas had they been passed in Scotland they would have drawn two shillings only! One of them was the best athlete almost n Edinburgh, and was rejected because, as I have heard, he had a gap where one tooth should have been. He s said to have pathetically remonstrated by saying: "I didn't suppose I was expected to eat the Boers," Probably he felt consoled when he found that the absence of the tooth led to three shillings a day extra pay.

At the close of the war I resigned my position in the Volunteer Force, having had fifty years of service, and being at an age when I had no reasonable claim for an extension of my command. As the change was then in contemplation by which the Volunteer Force was disbanded, my retirement must have been a convenience to the military authorities.

On the establishment of the Territorial Army, I had the honour of being appointed Chairman of the Edinburgh Territorial Association, which under the War Office controls the financial administration of the territorial forces in its district, and I held the office for some years, but found it desirable to withdraw from the position, In consequence of having to undertake another public duty, to which I shall refer later.


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