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Lord Panmure


The Hon. William Ramsay, second son of the eighth Earl of Dalhousie, was born in 1771. He succeeded to the estate of Panmure in 1782, on the death of his maternal uncle, when he assumed the name of Maule. The title of the "Generous Sportsman" he acquired on account of his liberality of disposition, and his fondness for the sports of the turf. He appears at one time to have been a keen participator in the royal recreation of cock-fighting, which, in his earlier years, was a favourite source of amusement.

The public or political life of the noble Baron has not been marked by any thing very striking. In 1789 he purchased a cornetcy in the 11th dragoons, and shortly afterwards raised an independent company of foot, which, however, was disbanded in 1791. He was first elected member of Parliament for the county of Forfar in 1796, which he continued to represent until within these few years. In Parliament he adopted, and consistently maintained, the principles of Fox. In 1831, a short time after the accession of the "Whigs to power, the title of Panmure was revived in his person, as the reward of long and stedfast adherence to his principles.

The chief residence of his family is the ancient Castle of Brechin, in Forfarshire, celebrated for its noble defence of twenty days, under the gallant Sir Thomas Maule, against the army of Edward I. It is situated in a "romantic manner on a high and abrupt bank, or rather precipice, overhanging the river, South Esk, which forms a deep pool beneath." Part of the old walls are still standing, but the Castle was rebuilt about the beginning of the seventeenth century by Patrick, first Earl of Panmure. The title and estates were forfeited by James, the fourth Earl, who took part in the rebellion of 1715. The representation of the family devolved on his nephew, "William, who was created an Irish Peer by the title of Earl Panmure, with remainder to his brother John. By him the forfeited family estates were reacquired and strictly entailed. Earl "William died without issue in 1782, when the estate devolved, as heir of entail, upon his grand-nephew.

Of the "Generous Sportsman," there are many amusing anecdotes told. The Highland Chairmen of Edinburgh, some thirty years ago, were proverbial for their insatiable love of money. The excessive "greed" of these worthies happening to become the subject of conversation among a few gentlemen on one occasion, his lordship (then Mr. Maule) took up a bet in favour of the character of our northern countrymen, respecting the possibility of satisfying them by liberal remuneration. The wager being accepted, Mr. Maule threw himself into a sedan, and gave orders to be conveyed a short distance down the Canongate, for which, on alighting, he bestowed the handsome reward of one guinea, quite confident thereby of giving satisfaction. It was impossible for Donald altogether to suppress the smile which played upon his countenance, as he turned over the "yellow Geordie" in his hand: "But could her honour no shuist gi'e the ither sixpence to get a gill?" His lordship good humouredly supplied the "ither sixpence" in expectation of gaining his bet; but another demand, on the part of Donald's companion, for "three bawbees of odd shange to puy snuff," put him out of all temper, and thoroughly convinced him of the impossibility of satisfying a Highland chairman.

"Walking through his plantations one day, his lordship was attracted by the sound of some one felling a tree. "What are you about there?" said, he to a young man whom he caught in the act of levelling a stately "monarch of the wood," with a cart and horse at no great distance, ready to carry away the booty. "Do ye no see what I'm about?" answered the fellow with the utmost assurance: "nae doubt ye'll be some o' the understrappers frae the big house!" Amused at the surpassing non-chalance of the rustic, "What if Maule were to come upon you?" said his lordship, with difficulty maintaining a sufficient gravity of countenance. "Hout, man, he wadna say a word—there's no a better hearted gentleman in a' the country; but as I'm in a hurry, I wish you would lend me a hand, man." To this Panmure good-humouredly agreed; and when the tree had been securely placed on the cart, the jolly peasant proposed rewarding his assistant with a dram in a neighbouring alehouse. To this his lordship would not accede, but invited the youth to call next day at the Castle, where, by asking for Jamie the footman, he would be sure to find him, and be treated to a glass out of his own bottle. The countryman called according to promise ; but his confusion and astonishment may be guessed, when, instead of meeting Jamie the footman, he was ushered, with great ceremonj', into the presence of Lord Panmnre and a company of gentlemen. "My man," said his lordship, walking up to him, "next time you go to cut wood, I would advise you first to ask Maule's permission." With this gentle reprimand he dismissed the terrified depredator, though not without having given instructions that he should be well entertained in the hall.

In imitation of some of our Scottish Kings, Maule occasionally amused himself by visiting his tenantry in the character of a mendicant, so disguised that it was impossible they could recognise him. He thus became minutely acquainted witli the character and habits of a class of people in whom he was deeply interested. Entering a hamlet, in the course of his excursions, on the borders of Forfarshire, one very cold and wet evening, he sought shelter in the house of an old woman, who was busy at her wheel, for the spinning-jenny had not then entirely expelled that useful instrument of industry from the cottage ingle. With the accustomed hospitality of our rural population, the "Gaberlunzie-man" was welcomed to a share of the hearth ; but he was no sooner seated than he began to grumble at the small fire that burned slowly in the half-empty grate. The woman assured him there was no more fuel in the house; and as she marvelled at the impertinent manner of the sturdy-looking beggar, her terror and amazement may be conceived, when starting to his feet, and exclaiming—" I'll soon make a fire," he laid hold of the wheel ; and, in spite of threats, remonstrauces, and the personal opposition which a sense of wrong inspired her with strength and courage to offer, first the rock, with the "wee pickle tow"—next the wheel—and, lastly, the whole body of the frame—at once her pride and her means of livelihood— were crackling in the flames, and spreading a light and a warmth unknown to the cottage. Having thoroughly warmed himself, and when the rage and imprecations of the old woman were nearly spent with their own violence, Maule took his departure, hut not without leaving a benison, in the shape of a well-filled purse, which amply reconciled her to the destruction of her property.

The liberality of his disposition frequently relieved the "Generous Sportsman" from many an awkward scrape. On one occasion he and two or three others happened to dine at an inn in Perth, and as usual sallied out after nightfall in quest of adventures. The street-lamps having attracted their notice, they began smashing them with sticks, till in a short time the whole city was in total darkness. Next morning, on learning that the Magistrates were met in full conclave to discuss the serious outrage that had been committed overnight, Maule very calmly repaired to the Council Chamber, and addressing the Lord Provost, said, "My Lord, having just recently come to visit your city, I was quite ashamed last night to see the shabby-looking lamps in your streets, which are quite a disgrace to so fine a town, I therefore demolished the whole, with the view of presenting, at my own expense, a new and handsome set of lamps." The astonished Magistrates of course accepted the apology.

His excesses in this way, more characteristic of a love of fun, than of any ignoble quality of the mind, are not the only instances of that liberality for which the Generous Sportsman was distinguished. Others more akin to native goodness of heart deserve to be recorded. "We allude, in particular, to the sum of .£50 annually given by his lordship (then Mr. Maule) to the widow of Burns, and which was continued until the eldest son of the Poet, by his exertions in India, was enabled to provide for his mother; when, with a laudable spirit of independence, the farther aid of their benefactor was respectfully declined.

To this genuine display of generosity, which at once testified his respect for the Bard, and his sympathy for the widow and her children, it remains, in justice to his lordship, to be added, that advancing years have not tended to contract, but rather to widen the channel of his munificence. As an instance, Lord Panmure laid before the Council of Brechin, in 1838, plans for enlarging the building of the Public Schools, and for erecting a hall, with library, apparatus-room, etc., for the Mechanics' Institution, above the schools, his lordship at the same time offering to be at the sole expense.

An unquestionable proof of the estimation in which Lord Panmure was held in his neighbourhood, particularly by his tenantry, is the fact, that the latter have erected a handsome column in honour of his lordship, as a lasting memorial of their respect for him as a landlord. On the completion of the monument in 1839, his lordship presented each of the subscribers with a portrait of himself.

Lord Panmure married 1st December, 1794, Petricia Heron Gordon, daughter of Gilbert Gordon, Esq., of Halleaths, near Lochmaben, by whom he had nine children. This lady died on the 11th of May, 1821; and his lordship, in 1822, married, secondly, Miss Elizabeth Barton, but by her he had no issue.


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