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The Scottish Nation
Moncreiff


MONCREIFF, the surname of an old family, originally of Perthshire, the progenitor of which in Scotland is stated to have been a Mortimer, of Anglo-Norman lineage, who assumed the name of Moncreiff on obtaining the lands of Moncreiff in that county. Ramerus de Moncreiff, who lived in the beginning of the 12th century, was keeper of the wardrobe to Alexander I. In the Ragman Roll, among those who swore fealty to Edward I. in 1296, is mentioned Johannes de Moncrief, chevalier. A charter of the barony of Moncreiff was granted in 1495 to Sir John Moncreiff, whose great-grandson, Sir John Moncreiff of Moncreiff, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, with remainder to his heirs-male whatsoever, 22d April 1626. This baronetcy is thus one of the oldest in Scotland, the order of knight baronet projected by James VI. In 1621, being instituted by Charles I. on 28th May 1625.

The first baronet died in 1630. The second baronet, the eldest son of this gentleman, being embarrassed in his affairs, was compelled, in 1633, to sell the estate of Moncreiff to a younger cadet of the family, Thomas Moncreiffe, Esq., one of the clerks of the Exchequer, who was created a baronet in 1685. Sir John died, unmarried, in 1675, when the title devolved upon his brother, Sir David, third baronet, on whose death, also unmarried, his younger brother, Sir James Moncreiff, became fourth baronet. With him the direct line of the first baronet expired, and the baronetcy reverted to his heir-at-law, Sir John Moncreiff of Tippermalloch, fifth baronet, an eminent physician, descended directly from Hugh Moncreiff, a brother of the first baronet. Sir John married Nicholas, daughter of Moncreiff of Easter Moncreiff, and died about 1710.

His only son, Sir Hugh, sixth baronet, died, unmarried, in 1644, when he bequeathed the estate of Tippermalloch to his nephew, Mr. George Moncreiff, the son of his sister. The title devolved on his kinsman, the Rev. Sir William Moncreiff, minister of Blackford, in Perthshire, seventh baronet, descended from Archibald Moncreiff, uncle of the first baronet. Sir William was eldest son of the Rev. Archibald Moncreiff, by Catherine, eldest daughter of John Halliday, Esq. of Tulliebole, Kinross-shire. By his wife, Catherine, eldest daughter of Robert Wellwood, Esq. of Garvock, he had six sons and one daughter, and died 9th December 1767.

His eldest son, the Rev. Sir Henry Wellwood Moncreiff, D.D., eighth baronet, a distinguished divine of the Church of Scotland, was born at Blackford manse in February 1750. He received his early education at the parish school of his native place, and being destined for the ministry, he was sent to the university of Glasgow, where, after the usual course of preliminary study, he entered the divinity hall. On his father’s death, which took place during his attendance at college, he was fixed upon as his successor in the parish of Blackford, but as he was then too young to be ordained, an assistant was appointed in the meantime, and the young baronet removed to the university of Edinburgh, to complete his theological studies. In 1771 he was licensed to preach the gospel, and August 15th that year, was ordained minister of the church and parish of Blackford. In October 1775 he was translated to St. Cuthbert’s parish, Edinburgh, one of the most populous and important charges in the metropolis. Here he soon became distinguished for his devoted zeal and fidelity in the discharge of his ministerial duties, for the mildness and benevolence of his disposition, and for his great personal worth, as well as for his genius and eloquence as a preacher. Taking from the first an active share in the business of the church courts, in opposition to the moderate, then the dominant party, he soon became the leader of the evangelical section of the church; and in 1785 he was unanimously elected moderator of the General Assembly.

In 1784, he had been appointed collector of the fund for the widows and children of the clergy, and filled that important situation till his death, receiving annually, for the long period of forty-three years, the thanks of the Assembly, for the able, faithful, and affectionate manner in which he discharged the duties of the office. He was also one of the original members of the society of the sons of the clergy, and by his influence and exertions contributed greatly to its success. He died, after a lingering illness, August 9, 1827, in the 78th year of his age and 56th of his ministry.

His funeral sermon was preached by Dr. Andrew Thomson, minister of St. George’s, Edinburgh, and afterwards published. In the following eloquent passages, Dr. Thomson has faithfully described his public and private character: -- “It was in early life that he began to take an active part in the government of our national church. The principles of ecclesiastical polity which he adopted, as soon as he entered on his public career, he adopted from full and firm conviction, and he maintained and cherished, and avowed them to the very last. They were the very same principles for which our forefathers had contended so nobly, which they at length succeeded in establishing, and which they bequeathed as a sacred and blood-bought legacy to their descendants. But though that circumstance gave a deep and solemn interest to them in his regard, he was attached to them on more rational and enlightened grounds. He viewed them as founded on the word of God, as essential to the rights and liberties of the Christian people, as identified with the prosperity of genuine religion, and with the real welfare and efficiency of the Establishment; and, therefore, he embraced every opportunity of inculcating and upholding them; resisted all the attempts that were made to discredit them in theory, or to violate them in practice, rejoined when they obtained even a partial triumph over the opposition they had to encounter, and clung to them, and struggled for them, long after they were borne down by a system of force and oppression, and when, instead of the numerous and determined host that fought by his side in happier times, few and feeble, comparatively, were those who seconded his manly efforts, and held fast their own confidence; but he lived to see a better spirit returning. This revival cheered and consoled him. Fervently did he long and pray for its continuance and its spread. Nor did he neglect to employ his influence, in order to introduce pastors who would give themselves conscientiously to their Master’s work, preaching to their flocks the truth as it is in Jesus, watching for souls as those that must give an account, and faithfully and fearlessly performing all the duties incumbent on them, both as ministers and as rulers in the church.

“He stood forth from among his contemporaries, confessedly pre-eminent in strength of personal and social character. There was a magnanimity in his modes of thinking and of acting, which was as evident to the eye of observation as were the lineaments of his face and the dignity of his gait. His great and primary distinction was a clear, profound, and powerful understanding, which spurned from it all trifles, and advanced to the decision it was to give with unhesitating promptitude and determined firmness. Those who knew him best can best give witness how faithfully and habitually he embodied his knowledge, and his principles, and his hopes, as a Christian, into his life and deportment, his daily walk and conversation; how tenderly he cared for the fatherless and the widow that were so often committed to his charge; how active and assiduous he was in helping forward deserving youth, in giving counsel and aid to the many who had recourse to him in their difficulties, and in doing good to all his brethren, with unaffected kindness, as he had opportunity; how patient and resigned amidst the severest bereavements (and of these he experienced not a few) with which Providence can visit the children of mortality; how fervent in his devotions and prayers; how diligent in his study of the sacred volume, from which he drew all his religious opinions; how correct and dignified in the whole of his personal demeanour; how engaging in the lighter play, as well as in the graver exercise of his social affections; and how ready, amidst all the attainments he had made, and all the honour he had received from men, to acknowledge the inadequacy of his services, and the sinfulness and imperfection that mingled in all his doings, and still to betake himself to the blood of sprinkling and the finished work of the Messiah, as all his refuge and as all his hope.” – Sir Henry was the author of –

Sermons. Edinburgh, 1806, 8vo.

A Sermon preached at the funeral of the Rev. Andrew Hunter, D.D. Edinburgh, 1809, 8vo.

Discourses on the Evidences of the Jewish and Christian Revelations, with notes and illustrations. Edin. 1815.

Account of the Life and writings of John Erskine, D.D., one of the ministers of Edinburgh. Edin. 1818.

He also wrote a small work on the Constitution of the Church of Scotland.

His Sermons were collectively published in 3 vols. 8vo, with a short Memoir of the Author by his son, Lord Moncreiff, Edin. 1829-31.

Sir Henry married in 1773, his cousin, Susan, daughter of Mr. James Robertson Barclay of Keavil, Fifeshire, writer to the signet, by whom he had five sons and two daughters. The eldest son, William Wellwood Moncreiff, LL.D., became king’s advocate in the admiralty court of Malta, where the husband of his eldest sister, Sir John Stoddart, presided as chief justice, and died, unmarried, September 5, 1813.

His second son, James Wellwood Moncreiff, afterwards a lord of session, under the title of Lord Moncreiff, succeeded as the ninth baronet. Born 13th September 1776, he completed his education at Oxford, and was admitted an advocate at the Scottish bar, 26th January 1799. On 7th February 1807 he was appointed sheriff of Clackmannan and Kinross. He rapidly attained to great distinction in his profession, though some of the greatest jurists that Scotland has produced, were then members of the bar, taking rank with Clerk and Cranstoun, with Cockburn and Jeffrey. In 1826, he was chosen dean of faculty, as successor to Cranstoun. In the following year, when the murderer Burke and his associate Hare were tried for that series of murders which has made the name of the former a synonym in our language for sudden and violent death, he and the leading advocates of the Scotch bar generously undertook their defence, from the fear lest their poverty and the instinctive horror felt for the criminals might leave them without the assistance of counsel.

He was elevated to the bench, and took his seat as Lord Moncreiff, 24th June 1829. He was, at the same time, appointed a lord of justiciary. As a judge he fully sustained his reputation as an advocate. In the court of session his judgments were distinguished for learning and sagacity, and in the justiciary court he was most remarkable for his dispassionate weighing of evidence, his sound appreciation of the rules of law, and the impressive solemnity of his charges on great occasions.

In 1832 he was called to give evidence before a select committee of the house of commons appointed to inquire into the origin and exercise of church patronage in Scotland. The questions he had to answer reached to the very foundations of the ecclesiastical polity of the Presbyterian church, and his evidence was remarkable for its fullness, clearness, and knowledge of the subjects under inquiry. For extensive and sound legal knowledge, for acuteness, combined with an ever healthy and reliable judgment, and for indefatigable industry, few of his contemporaries at the bar or on the bench, and there were many able men among them, were superior to him.

Sir James Moncreiff died 30th April 1851, aged 75. He had married in 1808, Ann, daughter of Captain George Robertson, R.N., and by this lady, who died in 1843, he had five sons and three daughters, Elizabeth, Louisa Ann, and Catherine Mary.

The eldest son, the Rev. Sir Henry Wellwood Moncreiff, B.A., tenth baronet, born in 1809, was ordained minister of the parish of East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, in 1836, and at the disruption, in 1843, he joined the Free Church. He was afterwards translated to St. Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh. He married in 1838, Alexina-Mary, daughter of George Bell, Esq., of that city. He is one of the two principal clerks of the General Assembly of the Free church of Scotland, the Rev. Patrick Clason, D.D., Buccleuch church, being the other; and on the death, in 1861, of Dr. James Robertson, professor of divinity and church history in the university of Edinburgh, he was appointed his successor as secretary to her majesty’s sole and only master printers in Scotland.

It is a remarkable circumstance in the history of this branch of the family of Moncreiff that the preset baronet is the 7th in lineal succession who have been ministers in the Church of Scotland.

The 2d son, James Moncreiff, born in 1811, educated at High School and university of Edinburgh, passed advocate in 1833; became solicitor-general of Scotland in February 1850, and lord-advocate in April 1851; continued in the latter office till March 1852; and from December 1832 till February 1858; elected M.P. for Leith in 1851, and several times rechosen; elected dean of faculty of advocates in 1858; LL.D. (Edin.) 1858; re-appointed lord advocate in June 1859; M.P. for Edinburgh in 1859; a deputy lieutenant for Mid Lothian, and lieutenant-colonel of Edinburgh Volunteers; married in 1834, Isabella, only daughter of Robert Bell, Esq.; with issue.

The 3d son, William, born in 1813, married in 1860, Susan Ballantyne, youngest daughter of J. Dykes-Ballantyne dykes, Esq. of Dwenby Hall, Cumberland.

The 4th son, the Rev. George Robertson Moncreiff, A.B., born in 1817, of Baliol college, Oxford.

The 5th son, Thomas, was born Oct. 5, 1821.

_____

The family of Moncreiffe of Moncreiffe, a younger branch of the original family of the name, also possesses a baronetcy of Nova Scotia, created 30th November 1685, with remainder to the heirs-male whatsoever of the first baronet, Sir Thomas Moncreiffe, clerk of the exchequer and treasury. This gentleman, having acquired great wealth, purchased, as already stated, the estate of Moncreiffe, the ancient inheritance of his ancestors, from his cousin, Sir John Moncreiff, the second baronet of the older branch. He married a lady of the house of Hamilton, who bequeathed to the parish of Dunbarny, Perthshire, in which the estate of Moncreiffe is situated, two silver communion cups, bearing the inscription: “Dam. Betha, Hamilton, spouse to Sir Thomas Moncreiffe of that ilk, left in legacy those two cups to the church of Dunbarny. Anno Domini, 1703.” She also bequeathed to the same parish a large silver baptismal plate or font. Sir David died without issue, when the title and estate devolved upon his nephew, Sir Thomas Moncreiffe, the second baronet, who, by his wife, Margaret, daughter of David Smythe, Esq. of Methven, had two sons and three daughters. David Stuart Moncreiffe of Moredun, the second son, having passed advocate, was early promoted to the office of king’s remembrancer in the Scottish exchequer court, and was afterwards appointed one of the barons of the exchequer in Scotland.

Sir Thomas Moncreiffe, the fifth baronet, the nephew of this gentleman, married Lady Elizabeth Ramsay, daughter of the earl of Dalhousie, and by her had one son, the sixth baronet. The match is said not to have been a happy one, and as it was mainly brought about by Baron Moncreiffe, he deemed himself bound to take the lady’s part, and at his death he left her the estate of Moredun in the parish of Liberton, near Edinburgh. It afterwards became the property of David Anderson, Esq. she died 3d June, 1848, from injuries sustained by her dress accidentally catching fire.

Sir Thomas, 7th baronet of this branch, born Jan. 9, 1822, succeeded on the death of his father, Nov. 20, 1830. He married, May 2, 1843, Lady Louisa Hay, eldest daughter of the earl of Kinnoul; issue, 3 sons and 8 daughters. Robert Drummond Moncreiffe, his eldest surviving son, born Nov. 3, 1855.

The Moncreiffe family possesses the patronage of two bursaries in the university of St. Andrews. The view from the beautiful hill of Moncreiff, within two miles of Perth, whence they derive their name, was called by Pennant “the glory of Scotland.” In Scott’s ‘Fair Maid of Perth’ there is a most graphic description of it.


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