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Lord Bannatyne, of the Court of Session


Sir William Bannatyne, the son of Roderick Macleod, "W.S., was born on the 2Gth of January 1743, O.S., and admitted a member of the faculty of advocates in 1765. His father's professional avocations procured him the important advantage of obtaining considerable practice upon his first entry to the bar. Through his mother, he succeeded to the valuable property of Karnes, in the island of Bute, assuming at the same time the name of Bannatyne; but, being of a gay and easy disposition, he had not been many years in possession, when he found himself under the necessity of parting with bis estate, which was purchased by James Hamilton, W.S.

On the death of Lord Swinton, in 1799, Sir William was promoted to the bench, when be assumed the title of Lord Bannatyne. His conduct as a judge was upright and impartial; and most assuredly the "old compend" of Scots law, as it used to be termed, of "Show me the man, and I'll show you the law," found no favour in his eyes. On his retirement in 1823, he had the honour of knighthood conferred on him.

Sir William, in early life, was one of the society of gentlemen in Edinburgh who projected and published the once celebrated periodical works, entitled the "Mirror" and "Lounger." He was an intimate friend of Henry M'Kenzie, Lords Craig and Cullen, and other distinguished literary characters of that period. He was greatly attached to literature ; and those hours he could spare from his laborious duties as a judge were devoted to studies more congenial to his disposition.

It is singular that, although as a speaker he was perspicuous and distinct, his judicial remarks, when put in writing by himself, were exceedingly involved and confused. Parenthesis within parenthesis was perpetual, and his sentences never seemed to have any termination. With all this, however, be it remarked, his decisions were sound, and his legal opinions had always due weight with his brethren.

The Highland Society was originated by him and some other patriotic gentlemen; and, till the day of his death, he asked every exertion to promote the laudable objects it had in view. He was an original member of the Banuatyne Club, which, at its institution, was limited to thirty-one; though now, in consequence of its success, it extends to one hundred associates. At the sale of his valuable library —which was especially rich in historical, genealogical, and antiquarian works—a set of the Bannatyne Publications was purchased for Sir John Hay, Bart., of Smithfield and Hayston (25th April 1834) for one hundred and sixty-eight pounds, sterling. It wanted, however, one or two of the "Garlands."

Those who remember the ci-devant judge—and there are many— will concur in our statement, that he retained to the last hour of his earthly existence the bearing and manners of the old Scottish gentleman—a race, we regret to say, almost extinct. To a cultivated mind was united that simplicity and ease of address which rendered his society peculiarly attractive. He was learned without pedantry, dignified without pride, beneficent without ostentation, and joyous without frivolity. In his youth he must have been handsome, as even the infirmities of age were unable entirely to efface the remains of manly beauty.

Sir William resided, during his latter years, in Whitefoord House, Canongate, where he died on the 80th of October, 1883, in the ninety-first year of his age. Whan an advocate, he lived for many years in Craig's Close, fourth story, first stair, left hand. The house was his own property; and it continued in his possession until his death. It is now occupied by the printing establishment of Messrs. Thomas Allan & Co., proprietors of the Caledonian Mercury.


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