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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Alexander Osborne, Esq., of the Edinburgh Royal Volunteers


Mr. Osborne was right-hand man of the grenadier company of the First Regiment of the Royal Edinburgh Volunteers. His personal appearance must be familiar in the recollection of many of our readers. It was not merely his great height, although he was probably the tallest man of his day in Edinburgh, but his general bulk, which rendered him so very remarkable. His legs, in particular, during his best days, were nearly as large in circumference as the body of an ordinary person. He was a very good-natured and well-iuformed man. Shortly after the Volunteers had been embodied, Lord Melville introduced his huge countiyman, dressed in full regimentals, to his Majesty George III. On witnessing such an herculean specimen of his loyal defenders in the north, the King's curiosity was excited, and he inquired—"Are all the Edinburgh Volunteers like you? " Osborne, mistaking the jocular construction of the question, and supposing his Majesty meant as regarded their status in society, replied—"They are so, an' it please your Majesty." The King exclaimed—" Astonishing! "

Mr. Osborne was frequently annoyed by his friends taking advantage of his good nature, and playing off their jests at the expense of his portly figure. One day at dinner, the lady of the house asked him if he would choose to take a pigeon ? He answered—" Half a one, if you please." Bailie Creech, who was present, immediately cried— "Give him a whole one; lialf a one will not be a seed in his teeth."

In his youth, Mr. Osborne is said to have had a prodigious appetite; so much so, as to have devoured not less than nine pounds of beefsteaks at a meal. He was no epicure, however; and in later times ate sparingly in company, either because he really was easity satisfied, or more probably to avoid the observations which to a certainty would have been made upon his eating. On one occasion, the lady of a house where he was dining, helped him to an enormous slice of beef, with these words—"Mr. Osborne, the muckle ox should get the muckle winlan"—an observation which, like every other of a similar import, he felt acutely.

On another occasion, he happened to change his shoes in the passage of a house where he was dining. Mr. Creech, of facetious memory, having followed shortly after, and recognizing the shoes, brought one of them in his hand into the drawing-room, and presenting it to another of the guests, Mr. John Buchan, Writer to the Signet, who was of very diminutive stature, said to him—"Hae, Johnny, there's a cradle for you to sleep in."

The personal history of Mr. Osborne affords few particulars either peculiar or interesting. His father, Alexander Osborne, Esq., Comptroller of Customs at Aberdeen, and who died there in 1785, was a gentleman of even greater dimensions than his son.

After having filled an inferior appointment for some years at one of the outports, Mr. Osborne obtained the office of Inspector-General and Solicitor of Customs. He was subsequently appointed one of the Commissioners of the Board ; and, latterly, on the reduction made in that establishment, retired upon a superannuated allowance.

Mr. Osborne was never married; and, being of frugal habits, he amassed a considerable fortune, and made several landed purchases. Besides a pretty extensive tract of land in Orkney, he was proprietor of a small estate in Ayrshire. Gogar Bank, a few miles west of Edinburgh, belonged to him, where ho had a summer house, and a very extensive and excellent garden. Here he often contemplated building a handsome villa, but the design was never carried into execution.

Mr. Osborne died only a few years ago, at the advanced age of seventy-four; and it is understood the bulk of his property was bequeathed to a gentleman of the west country. He lived at one time in Richmond Street; but latterly, and for a considerable number of years, in York Place.


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