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The History of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire Hunt 1775-1910
Chapter I.
Early records, Sir William Augustus Cunynghame of Livingstone, the Committee of Management


1762-1806.

IT is difficult to assign a definite date to the commencement of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire, or Stirling and Linlithgowshire, Hunt. In the year 1762 part of the county of Mid-Lothian, which, on the west, adjoins Linlithgowshire, was hunted by the Edinburgh Hunt, and while it is possible that, in it, the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire may have had its origin, - the sportsmen of the time going gradually farther afield for the purpose of hunting, and discovering out westward in the shires of Linlithgow and Stirling a country well adapted to the chase of the fox,—it is also possible that both Hunts may have been in existence then, the former overtaking Mid-Lothian, and the latter the two counties from which it derives its title. But however this may have been, it would seem that Sir William Augustus Cunynghame, fourth Baronet of Livingstone and Milncraig, was master of the Hunt which forms the subject of this history, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

Sir David Cunynghame the third Baronet "died suddenly of the gout in his stomach at his house of Livingstone," on the 10th of October 1767, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir William. He, Sir William, "was many years Member for Linlithgowshire, and has long held several respectable offices in the public service. In 1778, he was appointed Captain in the Duke of Buceleuch's Southern Regiment of Fencibles; and having in 1.779 received the appointment of Comptroller of the Board of Green Cloth, which vacated his seat in Parliament, he was again re-elected. During the late Administration in 1.806 he was appointed Receiver-General of the land rents of Scotland. He married first, on the 21st of October 1768, Frances, daughter and heiress of the late Sir Robert Myrton Of Gogar, Bart., in Mid-Lothian, by whom, who died at Livingstone House the 14th of November 1771," he had three sons. Sir William married to his second wife on the 27th of June 1785 at Marybone, London, Mary only daughter and sole heiress of Robert Udney of Udney in Aberdeenshire, Esq.," by whom he had four sons and a daughter.

Sir William was thus by birth and through his first marriage closely connected with the counties of Linlithgow and Mid-Lothian, and in succeeding to the family estate of Livingstone in 1767, he was no doubt placed in such a position as to be able to gratify any love of the chase which he possessed. That he preferred hunting to other forms of sport is probable, for a few years after his succession he built kennels near Livingstone, evidently with the view of having hounds within easy reach of his home; while, when the Caledonian Hunt was instituted in 1777, he was one of its twelve original members. And it may be observed that the fact of his having held "several respectable offices in the public service," and having been more than once a Member of Parliament, was not inconsistent with his occupying the position of a master of fox-hounds; for in those days a country was not hunted in such a regular and business-like manner as it is now, and hounds were taken into the field more or less as it suited the convenience of the master and members, —the fixtures not usually being publicly advertised, but merely intimated privately to those concerned.

Livingstone House or Place where Sir William lived, stood inside the remains of the Peel of Livingstone, an old fortified camp which was situated a little to the north-east of Livingstone village. Sir Robert Sibbald relates that the late Baron Patrick Murray planted a curious Garden within the Peel, in which he trained up many curious Flowers and Herbs. . . . He inclosed large Parks, Orchards, and Avenues, which were inviron'd with a Stone Dyke, by Mr John Elis, Advocat, his brother-in-law, and planted with many thickets of Oaks and Firrs, and other Barren Trees: the Nephew by his Brother John Murray, did build a neat House within the Peel, which is now the Seat of Sir James Cuningham." Within a couple of miles of its site lie the farms of Lethem and the Craigs, which seem to have belonged to the Houstoun family until 1774. In that year, however, Sir William purchased them from Mr Sharrp, and upon the former, on the west side of the road leading from Uphall to Midcalder, built the kennels before referred to. This building still stands, and although now occupied only as a dwelling - house and offices, it is to this day known as "the Doghouses," and in it a room is pointed out as being that in which the huntsman used to dine. Here it was, the story goes, that the kennelman or feeder returning home from Midcalder one night the worse of liquor, and entering one of the lodging rooms of the pack, was set upon and totally devoured, nothing but his boots and one or two fragments of his clothes being found on the following morning. But the kennelman's life was not the only sacrifice on this occasion, for the Hunt lost a considerable number of hounds, all those which were concerned in this unfortunate affair having been immediately destroyed.'

Among Sir Williamn Cunynghame's friends or companions were Colonel Gillon of Wallhouse, grandfather of the late Colonel Gillon, who was a member of the Hunt until the year 1821, and Mr Shairp of Houstoun, whose family has already been mentioned as contributing much support towards the hunting of the country; while the diary of Mr William Ramsay of Bainton shows that his son, Mr George Ramsay, upon whom the mastership devolved at a later period, knew Sir William, and visited him at Livingstone. In this journal Mr Ramsay makes frequent mention of his son's being "a-hunting," and under date the 13th of March 1790, alludes to the hounds being at Barnton.

1790, March 13th.—Fox-hunting in the neighbourhood. A great number of gentlemen come here before dinner with George, take a little cold beef, etc., and return to the sport.

Seven years afterwards the hounds were established in kennels at Linlithgow. This change of kennel, coupled with a reference' to the existence a little later of a committee of management, is almost conclusive evidence that the control had now (1797) passed into other hands; and as Sir William Cunynghame's name does not appear in any of the subsequent records of the Hunt, notwithstanding his survival for a period of over thirty years, this will be a convenient opportunity to take leave of him and his time, in regard to which such scanty information exists. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it may be assumed that his reign—which, if it began about the year 1775, as seems probable, had lasted over twenty years—had been productive of sport, and that he had been a good master. That he was at least both hospitable and popular may be gathered from the fact that the descendant of one of his servants, Thomas Bishop, late grieve to Mr Stoddart of Howden, remembers having heard from his father that in his, Sir William's, time there were often as many as from twenty to thirty carriages at Livingstone House on a Sunday afternoon. Sir William died at his house in London on the 17th of January 1828. A newspaper of the day bears that few men were more distinguished than he was for elegance of manners, high breeding, and upright and honourable feeling," and that " he was one of the few survivors of the old days of Scottish fashion, universally known, and highly esteemed."

It is most likely that the committee of management before referred to had been appointed soon after the retirement of Sir William Cunynghame; and it may be mentioned that, as the members of the Hunt from time to time elected a master or manager to take charge of the establishment and the hunting of the country, so also did they annually choose a preses and councillors to arrange meetings for the transaction of business, and gatherings of a social nature. Thus it is evident that at this period the Hunt was to some extent a hunt club, and to such having been the case may be attributed its survival of the sale of the hounds and the temporary abandonment of the establishment early in the following century, a matter which will be further alluded to at a later stage.

Linlithgow had probably been chosen by the committee as being, on the whole, the most suitable position for the new kennels, although those at Lethem must have been much more conveniently situated for the hunting of Mid-Lothian which, from an advertisement for lost hounds, seems to have continued to be overtaken in conjunction with the counties of Linlithgow and Stirling. This advertisement, which appeared in 'The Edinburgh Advertiser,' newspaper, of the 27th of January 1797, mentions Richard Forrester, who was the huntsman at that time, and probably had been so for a number of years previously. It is not known when he was born, but he married first, on the 20th of March 1780, an Elizabeth Forrester, probably a kinswoman, by whom he had two Sons and two daughters; and second, on the 7th of December 1789, an Ann Smith, by whom he had two sons and three daughters. The Sporting Magazine, which describes him as being about the year 1805 "a pottering, slow, thistle-whipping chap," refers to him as old Dick Forrester, and although it is possible that the adjective may have been used in the friendly or familiar sense, the above particulars concerning him rather point to his having been, if not actually advanced in years, at least past the prune of life. If it be assumed that he was then (1805) fifty-five years of age, and that he was thirty at the time when his miniature as huntsman was painted,—the face in the miniature is that of quite a young man,—it follows that be was huntsman in 1780. But it is not likely that this or indeed any portrait of him would be painted in the first season, or even the first few seasons in which he held the huntsman's place, and it may therefore be assumed that he was in the service of the Hunt some years earlier— possibly from the beginning of Sir William Cunynghame's mastership. The miniature, besides being evidence of the fact that the white collar formed part of the uniform of the Hunt at an early date, shows that Forrester wore the Caledonian Hunt badge. It is thought that the Caledonian Hunt never, except perhaps at its commencement,' had any regular hunting establishment, and that such of its members as hunted with recognised packs, or kept hounds privately, brought these to the meetings fixed from time to time. It is more than likely therefore that Forrester and the hounds had attended several of these meetings, either during the mastership of Sir William Cunynghame, or during the rule of the committee of management, and that for this reason he had been presented with the badge, which he afterwards wore as a mark of distinction.

In addition to being huntsman, Forrester, from the date at which the hounds came to be kennelled at Linlithgow, was landlord or tenant of the Hunt Inn there. But as he could not well have attended to the business of the inn, and at the same time have done his duty towards the Hunt, it may be concluded that his wife, who carried oil concern after his death, practically undertook the entire charge of it. He had under him, as whipper-in, a lad named Andrew Richardson, who is described as "dashing" and "straightforward," and from whom, no doubt, he received much help both in and out of the kennel. In the field, during the latter days of his career, he, although somewhat slow, was generally "there or thereabouts" at the close of the run, especially when mounted on his old ball-faced gelding by Dux, one of a race of stayers for which no day was too long and of which there were then several in the Hunt.

When Forrester passed away in or about the year 1805, the huntsman's place was filled by Robert Burton, who is stated to have been imported from some popular Yorkshire Hunt. The Records of the Fife Fox-Hounds' mention a Robert Burton as having been huntsman to the Fife Hounds in 1803, and it is more than likely that he and Forrester's successor were one and the same, a season in Yorkshire having elapsed between his leaving Fife and coming to the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire country. Burton is alluded to as "a very dashing impertinent fellow —a divil to ride and a divil to swear," and it is said that he did not care how he damaged the horses he rode, so long as he got to his hounds. Many a roll he got, too, "for he had raw ones to make, and raw enough they were in bodily estate' from the severe effects of their "prenticeship" under him.' During his first season he received an allowance from the Hunt for the maintenance of the hounds, horses, &c., which, the accounts for the year 1806 indicate, amounted to a considerable sum. These accounts were kept by Mr John Boyd, solicitor, Linlithgow, who for some years before and many years afterwards, acted as secretary and treasurer of the hunt. In them, minutes, a minute book, and other vouchers are constantly referred to, and if these had been forthcoming much interesting information might have been obtained. In themselves, however, they are sufficient to show that it was the members of the Hunt who defrayed the expenses of the establishment without the aid or backing of a master, a circumstance which makes it clear that the committee of management was still in existence. And that the expenditure was seriously considered by those who had to bear it is evident from the fact that special authority was annually given by the members to Mr Louis H. Ferrier, younger of Belsyde, one of their number, to audit the statements of the treasurer's intromissions with the funds, which, after being carefully examined, were formally docqueted and signed by him.

With the dawn of the 19th century the hunt rapidly gained popularity, for the majority of the landowners in the country, although comparatively few of them actually took part in the chase, were encouraging the sport for the sake of their friends, and in so doing, were setting an example which could hardly fail to be followed by others. So, it may be conceived, many who were possessed of a desire to hunt were led to gratify it, and many more who at first may have been disposed to regard the sport with disfavour, were induced to adopt a tolerant and even a kindly attitude towards it. In course of time, no doubt, such of the farmers as could afford to keep a horse suitable for the purpose indulged in a day with the hounds, while the arrival, passing, or departure of the pack with its followers would then, as now, be a matter of interest and excitement to the villagers and country folk. Thus the Hunt had its bearing on the social life of the district, and having given birth to one form of social gathering—for some years past it had been customary for the members to dine together periodically at the Hunt Inn, Linlithgow —it was not long in producing another, the Hunt ball, which, as time went by, came to be a more or less regular, and probably a very popular event.

But the days of the committee of management were now drawing to an end and, in the year 1806, a change took place under which the control again passed into the hands of an individual.


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