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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Colquhoun Grant, Esq., Writer to the Signet


Colquhoun Grant and Mr. Watson of Glenturkie were inseparable companions. Both gentlemen were in the habit of dining daily together in the house of Mr. Thomas Sommers, vintner, Jackson's Close. There they were furnished with a plain warm dinner at the moderate charge of "twa placks a-piece;" and so very frugal were they, that half a bottle of claret betwixt them—and no more—was their stated allowance. In those days there were no pint bottles, consequently they were under the necessity of corking up the remaining portion of the liquor for next day's repast. These were what they called their "business dejunes." Their dinners in the country were of a different description; and the glass was permitted to circulate freely.

Colquhoun Grant, whose father possessed the farm of Burnside, on the estate of Castle Grant, in Inverness-shire, was in his early years, a devoted adherent of the house of Stuart. He joined the army of the Chevalier on its way towards the Lowlands; and, on approaching Edinburgh, was one of those detached to force an entrance into the city. He is generally supposed to have been the " Highland recruit," by whom, as is told in our notice of Lord Gardenstone, that gentleman and another volunteer were taken prisoners at Musselburgh Bridge, where they had gone into a well-known haunt to regale themselves with sherry and oysters. The party, which consisted of nine hundred men, advanced before daylight, and arrived undiscovered at the Nether Bow. They had with them several barrels of gunpowder, for the purpose of blowing up the gate, but were saved this alternative by a carriage passing out the moment of their arrival, when the Highlanders, rushing in, seized the sentinels, and at once obtained possession of the town. It is told of Colquhoun Grant, as an instance of the spirit by which he was animated, that he pursued some of the guard to the very walls of the Castle, where they had just time to close the outer gate, into which he struck his dirk, leaving it there as a mark of triumph and defiance. The dirk and other relics of Colquhoun Grant are still preserved by his nephew, Captain Gregory Grant, R.N., who is now in possession of Burnside.

At the affair of Prestonpans, Mr. Grant distinguished himself. Followed by a small party of about twenty-eight Highlanders, armed with the broadsword only, ho routed a body of dragoons, and took two pieces of ordnance. For this single instance of intrepidity, as well as for his former conduct, he was publicly thanked by the Prince, at the first levee held at Holyrood House, who at the same time presented him with a small profile cast of himself, as a mark of personal esteem, and to denote the high opinion entertained of his gallant conduct.

We have seen this interesting relic of the young Chevalier. It was then in the hands of Lieut.-General Ainslie—author of an elaborate and beautiful work on the French coins of English sovereigns—to whom it was presented by his friend Donald Maclean, Esq., W.S., formerly of Drirnniu, and son-in-law to the subject of our sketch. The grandfather of Mr. Maclean was also "out in the forty-five," and fell, along with two of his sons, at the battle of Culloden, where he headed five hundred of the clan. In connection with Mr. Maclean's father, who likewise fought at Culloden, and was wounded by a ball in the neck, an anecdote is told of William the Fourth. The latter was a midshipman on board the Hebe frigate, commanded by Captain Hawkins. Being on the coast, he landed with a pleasure party near to where Mr. Maclean resided, by whom they were hospitably received. William, who was young, and of a flippant manner, exclaimed—"You are all rebels here!" Maclean replied,—"No, please your Royal Highness; I did fight for our rightful Prince; but as that family of Stuarts, who sat upon the throne, is gone, and George the Third, your Royal father, is now the nearest heir, I can safely declare that the King has not more loyal subjects than the Jacobites of Scotland." Captain Hawkins observed, "I am aware that this fact is known to your Royal father, who is fully sensible that he has not more devoted or loyal subjects than the old Jacobites of Scotland, who fought against him! " The same spirit of gallant loyalty which animated the Macleans in the cause of Prince Charles Edward, in 1745, was manifested, though on a different field, and in another manner, by Mr. Donald Maclean in 1794. We allude to the democratic riots in the Theatre during that year, some notice of which occurs in vol. i. p. 239. It appears that the success of the loyalists on these occasions was mainly owing to the resolute conduct of Mr. Maclean, who had only been settled in Edinburgh a short time previous. The disturbances were principally instigated by American and Irish students; a party of whom, on the first night of the affair, remained covered in the pit during the performance of the King's anthem. Mr. Maclean, who was seated in the boxes, leaped down into the pit, and going up to the party, politely requested them as gentlemen to conform to the usual mark of respect shown to his Majesty. "By------, we won't!" was the ungracious reply. The blood of Maclean boiled with indignation.

"By------you will!" he exclaimed, at the same moment dealing the democrat a blow that levelled him with the floor. The row instantly became general; but by the prowess of Maclean and several other spirited gentlemen the loyalists were soon victorious. Mr. Maclean, who is a thorough Highlander, and a Jacobite in sentiment, has been for many years Solicitor of the Court of Exchequer; and, having been long in extensive business, may be said in a great measure to have repaired the broken fortunes of his family. He now possesses an estate in Argyleshire.

Mr. Grant, who was a very handsome, well-made man, was selected as one of the Prince's life-guards, commanded by Lord Elcho. The dress of the guards was blue, faced with red, and scarlet waistcoats, with gold lace. The equipment and appearance of this body are alluded to in a letter from Derby, where the Pretender's army arrived on the 4th December, 1745, on their intended march to London, but from which a counter-movement in the direction of Scotland was commenced next morning. The letter is by an eye-witness, who says:— "On "Wednesday, about eleven o'clock, two of the Rebels' vanguard entered this town, inquiring for the Magistrates, and demanding billets for nine hundred men or more. A short while after, the vanguard rode into the town, consisting of about thirty men, clothed in blue, faced with red, and scarlet waistcoats, with gold lace ; and, being likely men, made a good appearance. They were drawn up in the market-place, and sat on horseback two or three hours. At the same time the bells were rung, and several bonfires made, to prevent any resentment from them that might ensue on our showing a dislike to their coming among us. About three afternoon, Lord Elcho, with the life-guards, and many of their chiefs, arrived on horseback, to the number of about a hundred and fifty, most of them clothed as above. These made a fine show, being the flower of the army. Soon after, their main body marched into town, in tolerable order, six or eight abreast, with about eight standards, most of them white flags and a red cross, their bagpipes playing as they marched.....Their Prince did not arrive till the dusk of the evening. He walked on foot, attended by a great body of his men, who conducted him to his lodgings, the Lord Exeter's, where he had guards all around the house. Every house almost by this time was pretty well filled; but they continued driving in till ten or eleven at night, and we thought we never should have seen the last of them. The Dukes of Athol and Perth, the Lords Pitsligo, Nairn, Elcho, and George Murray, old Gordon of Glenbucket, and their other chiefs and great officers, Lady Ogilvie, and Lady Murray, were lodged at the best gentlemen's houses. Many common ordinary houses, both public and private, had forty or fifty men each, and some gentlemen near a hundred. At their com-in» in they were generally treated with bread, cheese, beer, and ale, whilst all hands were aloft getting their suppers ready. After supper, being weary with their long march, they went to rest, most upon straw, others in beds."

Mr. Grant continued with the Prince's army till its overthrow at Culloden, when he fled to his native hills, where, for a time, he found shelter. As the search for those who "had been out" became less vigorous, he ventured to take up his residence at his father's house, where he once very narrowly escaped apprehension. One of the ploughmen, being in the field, observed a party of military at a short distance; but, conscious that he was seen by them, he was at a loss how to get intelligence conveyed to the house; for, had either he or his boy left the plough and gone home, the circumstance would have excited the suspicion of the soldiers. He therefore adopted the expedient of driving home, with oxen and plough, as if his work had been completed, and instantly gave notice of the danger. Colquhoun made his escape to a neighbouring hill, where, concealed in a hollow, he safely witnessed the arrival and departure of his foes. When all danger had at last happily passed away, Mr. Grant settled in Edinburgh as a Writer to the Signet, and succeeded well in business. He knew not only how to make money, but how to take care of it, and ultimately amassed a very considerable fortune. As illustrative of his character and the general wariness of his habits of business, we quote the following story from the Edinburgh Literary Journal:

"Mr. Ross of Pitcalnie, representative of the ancient and noble family of Ross, had like Colquhoun Grant, been out in the forty-five, and consequently lived on terms of intimate friendship with that gentleman. Pitcalnie, however, had rather devoted himself to the dissipation than the acquisition of a fortune; and, while Mr. Grant lived as a wealthy writer, he enjoyed little better than the character of a broken laird. This unfortunate Jacobite was one day in great distress for want of the sum of forty pounds, which he could not prevail upon any of his friends to lend him, all of them being aware of his execrable character as a debtor. At length he informed some of his companions that he believed he should get what he wanted from Colquhoun Grant, and he instantly proposed to make the attempt. All who heard him scoffed at the idea of his squeezing a subsidy from so close-fisted a man; and some even offered to lay bets against its possibility. Mr. Eoss accepted the bets, and lost no time in applying to his old brother-in-arms, whom he found immured in his chambers, half-a-dozen flights of steps up Gavinloch's Land, in the Lawnmarket. The conversation commenced with the regular commonplaces ; and, for a long time, Pitcalnie gave no hint that he was suing in forma pauperis. At length he slightly hinted the necessity under which he lay for a trifle of money, and made bold to ask if Mr. Grant could help him in a professional way. ' What a pity, Pitcalnie,' replied the writer, ' you did not apply yesterday! I sent all the loose money I had to the bank just this forenoon. It is for the present quite beyond redemption.' 'Oh, no matter,' said Pitcalnie,'and continued the conversation as if no such request had been preferred. By and by, and after some more topics of an ordinary sort had been discussed, he at length introduced the old subject of the forty-five, upon which both were alike well prepared to speak. A thousand delightful recollections then rushed upon the minds of the two friends, and, in the rising tide of ancient feeling, all distinction of borrower or lender was soon lost. Pitcalnie watched the time when Grant was fully mellowed by the conversation to bring in a few compliments upon his (Grant's) own particular achievements. He expatiated upon the bravery which his friend had shown at Preston, where he was the first man to go up to the cannon; on which account he made out that the whole victory, so influential to the Prince's affairs, was owing to no other than Colquhoun Grant, now Writer to the Signet, Gavinloch's Land, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. He also adverted to the boldness Mr. Grant had displayed in chasing a band of recreant dragoons from the field of battle up to the very gates of Edinburgh Castle; and farther, upon the dexterity which he subsequently displayed in making his escape from the town. 'Bide a wee,' said Mr. Grant, at this stage of the conversation, 'till I gang ben the house.' He immediately returned with the sum Pitcalnie wanted, which he said he now recollected having left over for some time in the shuttle of his private desk. Pitcalnie took the money, continued the conversation for some time longer, and then took an opportunity of departing. When he came back to his friends, every one eagerly asked —'What success?' 'Why, there's the money,' said he. 'Where are my bets?' 'Incredible!' every one exclaimed. 'How, in the name of wonder, did you get it out of him? Did you cast glamour in his een?' Pitcalnie explained the plan he had taken with his friend, adding, with an expressive wink, 'This forty's made out o' the battle of Preston; but stay a wee, lads, I've Falkirk i' my pouch yet—by my faith I wadna gi'e it for auchty.' "

Mr. Grant used to pride himself on the purity and facility with which he could read and speak the English language. How far he was justified in so doing may be inferred from the following anecdote :—He had occasion to be in London as agent in an appeal before the House of Lords; and an opportunity occurring for the public display of his elocution and correctness of pronunciation, in consequence of a certain paper requiring to be read, Mr. Grant craved and obtained permission to relieve the Clerk of his usual duty. He commenced with great confidence, quite satisfied of the impression he would make upon the Peers assembled. His amazement and vexation may be imagined when the Chancellor (Thurlow), after endeavouring in vain to comprehend what he was uttering, exclaimed—"Mr. Col-co-hon, I will thank you to give that paper to the Clerk, as I do not understand Welsh." The discomfited writer was thunderstruck—he could hardly believe his own ears ; but, alas! there was no remedy. He reluctantly surrendered the paper to the Clerk; and his feelings of mortification were not a little increased as he observed the opposite agent (who had come from Edinburgh with him) endeavouring with difficulty to suppress a strong inclination to laugh.

Mr. Grant died at Edinburgh on the 2nd December, 1792. He had several children, mostly daughters, whom he left well-provided for, and who were all respectably married. The estates of Kincaird and Petnacree, in Perthshire, which he had purchased were left to his son, Lieutenant Charles Grant, who, after his unfortunate duel in 1789, retired from the army, and became melancholy and unhappy.

Having sat for his likeness, two excellent miniature portraits of Mr. Colquhoun Grant were executed by Kay—one of which is possessed by Mr. Maclean, and the other by the publisher of this work.


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