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Lord Balmuto, of the Court of Session


Claud Irvine Boswell, Lord Balmuto, was born in 1742. His father, John Boswell of Balmuto, dying when he was a mere infant, the care of his education devolved on his mother, a woman of uncommon mental energy and exemplary piety. (His lordship's father, a writer in Edinburgh, the purchaser of Balmuto, was a younger brother of Lord Auchinleck, the grandfather of Sir Alexander Boswell. She placed him in his seventh year with Mr. Barclay, at Dalkeith, then a celebrated master, under whose superintendence Henry Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, was at the time acquiring the rudiments of learning; and an intimacy was formed between the two schoolboys, which continued till the death of Lord Melville in May, 1811.

Mr. Boswell finished his education at Edinburgh College, and passed advocate on the 2d of August, 1766. Some years afterwards he went abroad for six months, visiting the Court of Versailles, etc. In 1780, he was appointed Sheriff-Depute of Fife and Kinross, and filled that responsible situation during the trying period of 1793-4-5. In 1798, he was raised to the bench, where he continued to sit till January, 1822, when he resigned in favour of William Erskine, Lord Kinedder.

In March of the same year, his friend and kinsman, Sir Alexander Boswell, of Auchinleck, was mortally wounded in a duel with James Stuart, Esq. younger of Dunearn, about a mile from Balmuto; and having been carried there to die, Lord Balmuto received a shock from which he never fully recovered. His lordship died on the 22nd of July, 1824, in the 83rd year of his age, and in the full exercise of that benevolence for which he was remarkable. He had that day been out on horseback for many hours. He married, in 1783, Miss Anne Irvine, who, by the death of her brother and grandfather, became heiress of Kincoussie. She still survives.

Lord Balmuto left one son and two daughters.

His lordship and Lord Hermand were amongst the last specimens of the Scottish judge of the last century. The former, a robust and athletic man, was, during the period he held the situation of Sheriff of Fife, the terror of that usually unmanageable set of persons—the Fife boatmen. He was fond of alluding to his inferior office when holding a higher one, and not unfrequently prefaced his decisions by saying, "When I was Shirra' of Fife"—a peculiarity noticed in the celebrated " Diamond-Beetle Case." He spoke with a strong Scotch accent. He was fond of his joke, and sometimes indulged in it even on the bench. On one occasion a young counsel was addressing him on some not very important point that had arisen in the division of a common, or commonty (according to law phraseology), when, having made some bold averment, Balmuto exclaimed, "That's a lee, Jemmie." "My lord!" ejaculated the amazed barrister. "Aye, aye, Jemmie; I see by yer face you're leeing." "Indeed, my lord, I am not." "Dinna tell me that; it's no in yer memorial (brief)—awa' wi' ye;" and, overcome with astonishment and vexation, the discomfitted barrister left the bar. Balmuto thereupon chuckled with infinite delight; and, beckoning to the clerk who attended on the occasion, he said, "Are ye no Kabbie H------'s man?" "Yes, my lord." "Wasna Jemmie------leeing?" "Oh no, my lord." "Ye're quite sure?" "Oh, yes." "Then just write out what you want, and I'll sign it; my faith, but I made Jemmie stare." So the decision was dictated by the clerk, and duly signed by the judge, who left the bench highly diverted with the /'right he had given his young friend.


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