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,
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.