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The Scottish Nation
Nairne


NAIRNE, Baron, a title in the Scottish peerage, conferred in 1681, on Robert Nairne of Strathord, descended from Michael de Narn, witness to a charter of Robert, duke of Albany, to Andrew de Hamylton of the lands of Gallyston, 10th February 1406-7. One family of the name was the Nairnes of Sandford. Alexander Narn of Sandford, comptroller of the household to James II., and a commissioner to treat with the English, 17th April and 5th July 1547, witnessed three charters of that monarch, under the designation of “nostrorum computorum rotulator.” Another branch was that of Mukkersy, to which the noble house of Nairne belonged. John Nairn and Margaret Oliphant his wife, had a charter from George, bishop of Dunkeld, of the lands of Mukkersy, 7th December 1511. He is supposed to have been the ancestor of Thomas Nairn of Mukkersy, who had a charter of the lands of Ochtergaven, now Auchtergaven, in Perthshire, in 1605. His son, Robert Nairn of Mukkersy, advocate, had a charter of the barony of Strathord, 19th July 1621, and died in February 1652. By his wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir John Preston of Pennycuik, lord president of the court of session from 1609 to 1616, he had, with two daughters, four sons, namely, 1st, Robert, first Lord Nairne; 2d, John Nairn of Mukkersy; 3d, Alexander Nairn of Greenyards; and 4th, William Nairn, a captain in the service of King Charles II., killed at the battle of Worcester in 1651.

Robert Nairne of Strathord, the eldest son, was a strenuous royalist during the civil wars. With the earls of Crawford, Marischal, Leven, and other principal royalists, he was taken prisoner, by a detachment sent by General Monk, at Alyth in Forfarshire, 28th August 1651. They were shipped at Broughty Ferry, and sent to the Tower of London, where he remained till the Restoration. He was knighted by Charles II., and appointed one of the judges of the court of justiciary, 11th January 1671. He was created a peer of Scotland, by the title of Lord Nairne, by patent, dated at Whitehall, 27th January 1681, to himself for life, and after his decease, having no sons, to his son-in-law, Lord William Murray, fourth son of the first marquis of Athol, who had married his only daughter, Margaret. He died in 1683.

Lord William Murray, second Lord Nairne, was a naval officer, and showed signal instances of valour. After the Revolution he did not take the oaths to government nor his seat in Parliament. Engaging in the rebellion of 1715, he was taken at Preston, 14th November that year, and being sent prisoner to the Tower of London, was brought to trial, 19th January 1716, when, pleading guilty, he was sentenced to death on 9th February, but respited and afterwards pardoned. An act of parliament was passed in 1716, to enable the king to make provision for Margaret, Lady Nairne, and her children, out of her husband’s forfeited estate. His lordship died in 1725, and she survived till 14th November 1747. They had four sons and eight daughters. The second son, the Hon. Robert Nairne, married Jean Mercer, heiress of the ancient family of Mercer of Aldie, Perthshire. He engaged in the rebellion of 1745, and was killed at the battle of Culloden, 16th April 1746, by which the estate of Aldie was saved from forfeiture. Their eldest son, Colonel William Mercer of Aldie and Meikleour, married Margaret Murray, heiress of Pitkeathly, and died 19th January 1790, leaving three daughters, the eldest of whom, Jane, married George Lord Keith, and had an only child, Margaret Mercer Elphinstone, Baroness Keith of Banheath and Stonehaven-Marischal, and countess of Flahault in France, of whom afterwards.

The eldest son, John, third Lord Nairne, born about 1691, was with his father in the rebellion of 1715. He was lieutenant-colonel of Lord Charles Murray’s regiment, and was taken, on the surrender of the insurgents at Preston, 13th November 1715. He was in consequence forfeited with his father, but in 1738 he obtained an act of parliament, to enable him to sue or maintain any action or suit, and to inherit any real or personal estate that might descend to him. In spite, however, of this partial reversal of the attainder, he took part in the rebellion of 1745, having, with several other Perthshire gentlemen, joined the prince at Blair Athol, on his march to Edinburgh. Previous to the arrival of Charles at the castle of Blair, the marquis of Tullibardine, who, in the absence of his father, the duke of Athol, to whom it belonged, acted as host while the prince remained there, had written to Mrs. Robertson of Lude, a daughter of Lord Nairne, desiring her to repair to the castle, to get it put in proper order, and to do the honours of the house.

From Blair, the prince sent forward Lord Nairne and Lochiel, with 400 men, to take possession of Dunkeld, in which town they proclaimed the Pretender. After remaining two days at the castle of Blair, Charles repaired to the house of Lude, where he spent the night, and next day went to Dunkeld, whence he proceeded to Lord Nairne’s house, where he dined and slept. The following day he entered Perth.

Lord Nairne was at the battle of Preston; and, in command of the Nairn regiment, 200 strong, forming part of the Athol brigade, he marched with the prince into England. He shared in all the dangers of the rebellion, and after the battle of Culloden, escaped to the continent. He was included in the act of attainder, 1746, and died in France, 11th July 1770, aged 79. By his countess, Lady Catherine Murray, third daughter of the first earl of Dunmore, he had eight sons and three daughters. The eldest son, James, died unmarried, John, the second son, succeeded to the representation of the family. Charles, the third son, an officer in the service of the States-general, died in June 1795. Thomas, the fourth son, an officer in Lord John Drummond’s regiment, was taken in October 1745, on board ‘L’Esperance,’ a French vessel, on his passage from France to Scotland, to join the prince. He died at Sancerre in France, 3d April 1777.

John Nairne, the eldest surviving son, entered the army, and rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. But for the attainder, he would have been fourth lord. He had two sons and a daughter. John, the elder son, an officer in the army, died unmarried. William Murray Nairne, the younger son, born in 1757, was assistant inspector-general of barracks in Scotland, and a major-general in the army. The title was restored to him by act of parliament 17th June 1824. He had married in June 1806, Carolina, third daughter of Laurence Oliphant of Gask, a lady whose fine lyrical genius and enthusiastic love of music have caused her name to be enrolled among the most gifted poetesses of Scotland.

Carolina, Lady Nairne, the authoress of the popular songs of ‘The Laird o’Cockpen’ and ‘The Land o’ the Leal,’ was born in the old mansion of Gask, Perthshire, 16th July 1766. So beautiful was she in her youth that she was known in her native district by the poetical designation of ‘The Flower of Strathearn.’ In the ‘Modern Scottish Minstrel,’ by Charles Rogers, LL.D., vol. i., there is a well-written and comprehensive memoir of Lady Nairne, with a selection from her songs and other pieces, some of them published there for the first time. From this memoir we learn that her first composition in Scottish verse was a piece called ‘The Pleuchman,’ which she sent anonymously to the president of an agricultural diner that took place in her youth in the neighbourhood of her father’s house. The production, on being publicly read, was received with warm approbation, and speedily set to music. Her motive in first entering upon the composition of Scottish verse was a very laudable one, namely, the purification of the national minstrelsy from the loose ribaldry which tainted the songs and ballads that then were popular among the peasantry, and in this she was eminently successful. To this early period of her life, says Dr. Rogers, may be ascribed some of her best lyrics. ‘The Laird o’Cockpen,’ and ‘The Land o’ the Leal,’ at the close of the last century, were sung in every district in the kingdom. Dr. Rogers attributes the restoration of her husband’s title in 1824 to George the Fourth having learned during his visit to Scotland in 1822, that the song of ‘The Attainted Scottish Nobles’ was the composition of Lady, then Mrs. Major Nairn. At the request of several ladies, her acquaintances, she contributed various songs to ‘The Scottish Minstrel,’ begun in 1821, and completed in 1824, in six royal 8vo volumes, forming one of the best collections of our Scottish melodies yet published. It was brought out by Mr. Robert Purdie, music-seller, Edinburgh, and edited by R. A. Smith. Her pieces were contributed on the express condition that her name should be kept secret, and it does not appear that either Mr. Purdie or Mr. Smith ever knew it. The signature which she assumed was ‘B.B.,’ and these gentlemen believed that her real name was ‘Mrs. Bogan of Bogan.’ Dr. Rogers says in a note, that a daughter of Baron Hume was one of the ladies who induced Lady Nairne to become a contributor to ‘The Scottish Minstrel.’ Many of the songs were sent to the editor through the medium of Miss Hume, who thus expresses herself in a letter to a friend: – “My father’s admiration of ‘The Land o’ the Leal’ was such that he said no woman but Miss Ferrier was capable of writing it. And when I used to show him song after song in MS., when I was receiving the anonymous verses for the music, and ask his criticism, he said – ‘Your unknown poetess has only one, or rather, two, letters out of taste, viz. choosing ‘B.B.’ for her signature.’ “ Lady Nairne herself never divulged, beyond a small circle of confidential friends, the authorship of any of her verses, even when she saw them attributed to others. Her ladyship died at Gask, 27th October 1845, aged 79. During the last years of her life, she devoted all her energies to the service of religion, and her benevolence, we are told, extended towards the support of every institution likely to promote the temporal comforts or advance the spiritual interests of her countrymen. Her contributions to the public charities sere ample, and from the extreme modesty of her disposition, they were almost always anonymously given. To the Free church and school in the West Port, Edinburgh, she contributed £300, under the strictest injunctions of secrecy, and Dr. Chalmers, in an address delivered at Edinburgh on 29th December 1845, only revealed the fact when her death left him at liberty to do so. Some years after her death, appeared, in an elegant folio volume, ‘Lays from Strathearn; by Carolina, Baroness Nairn. Arranged with Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Pianoforte by Finlay Dun.’ It bears the imprint of London, and has no date.

Lord Nairne, her husband, had died July 9, 1830. Their only son, William, sixth Lord Nairne, born in 1808, was in his 22d year when he succeeded to the title. In the spring of 1837 he was seized with a severe attack of influenza, and for the recovery of his health he went with his mother to the Continent, and died at Brussels, 27th Dec. that year, without issue. The title is claimed by Margaret, Baroness Keith, mentioned on the previous page.

This lady, born in 1788, married in 1817, the count de Flahault de la Billarderie, in France, a general in the army of Napoleon I., and French ambassador at the British court, 1861; issue, 5 daughters. In her youth she was the bosom friend of the lamented Princess Charlotte. She succeeded her father in 1823, as Baroness Keith of Stonehaven-Marischal in the peerage of Ireland, and as Baroness Keith of Banheath in that of the United Kingdom.

_____

A baronetcy was possessed by the family of Nairne of Dunsinnan, Perthshire, the supposed site of a stronghold of Macbeth, 15 miles from Birnam, celebrated by Shakspere:

“Macbeth shall never vanquished be, until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him.”

It was conferred, 31st March 1704, on Sir William Nairne of Dunsinnan, descended from Michael de Nairn, who lived in the reign of Robert III. Sir William Nairne the fifth baronet, a younger son of the second baronet, was a lord of session. Admitted advocate in 1755, he was, in 1758, appointed commissary clerk of Edinburgh, conjunctly with Alexander Nairne, a relative of his own. In 1786 he was promoted to the bench, and took his seat as Lord Dunsinnan. In 1790 he succeeded in the baronetcy, on the death of his nephew. At the same time he bought the estate of Dunsinnan from another nephew, for the sum of £16,000. It comprises almost the entire parish of Collace, and as soon as it came into his hands, he spared no expense in putting it into a state of the highest improvement. He was appointed a lord of justiciary in 1792, and continued to attend the duties of the circuit until 1808, when he resigned, and in 1809 he retired from the bench altogether. He died, at an advanced age, at Dunsinnan house, 25th March 1811. The title became extinct at his death. His sister’s son succeeded to the estate and assumed the name of Nairne.

Lord Dunsinnan was uncle to the famous Catherine Nairne or Ogilvie, whose trial in 1765, for the crimes of murder and incest, occupied public attention very much at the time. She had married, in that year, being then only nineteen, Thomas Ogilvie of Eastmiln, Forfarshire, – a gentleman, as stated at the trial, forth years of age and of a sickly constitution. Three or four days before the marriage, his younger brother, Patrick Ogilvie, a lieutenant in the 89th foot, returned, on account of bad health, from India, and took up his residence at his house. In less than a week after the marriage an improper intimacy is stated to have commences between the brother and Mrs. Ogilvie. Four months afterwards, at his instigation, she poisoned her husband with arsenic, and with her accomplice, was brought to trial, when they were both found guilty, and condemned to be hanged. Patrick Ogilvie was, in spite of every effort made to save him, executed in the Grassmarket of Edinburgh. The interval betwixt his condemnation and execution he almost exclusively devoted to playing on the violin, of which he was very fond. Catherine Nairne escaped from the Tolbooth, the Execution of her sentence had been delayed on account of pregnancy, and, soon after her accouchement, she disguised herself in the clothes of the midwife, Mrs. Shiells, who, for several days, while in attendance on her, had had her head muffled up, under pretence of a violent attack of toothache, and so got out of prison. Her uncle, Mr. Nairne, then an advocate of ten years’ standing, is supposed to have assisted in her escape. It was on Saturday, 15th March 1766, that she contrived to get away from the Tolbooth, and the same night she left the city, in a carriage, accompanied by Mr. Nairne’s clerk, Mr. James Bremner, afterwards solicitor of stamps. This gentleman went with her as far as Dover, on her way to France. Her behaviour on the way was marked by great frivolity, as she was continually putting her head out of the window and laughing immoderately. In the proclamation issued for her apprehension by the magistrates of Edinburgh, she is described as attired in “an officer’s habit, with a hat slouched in the cocks, and a cockade in it;” and “a about twenty-two years of age, middle-=sized, and strong made, has a high nose, black eyebrows, and a pale complexion.” Government offered a reward of £100 for her apprehension, and the city of Edinburgh the same. It is said she afterwards married a Dutch gentleman, by whom she had a numerous family. It was also reported that she had retired to a convent and taken the veil, also that she died in England soon after the beginning of the nineteenth century.


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