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The Scottish Nation

BRISBANE, or BIRSBANE, a surname belonging to an ancient family which appear to have possessed Bishoptoun in Renfrewshire, holding of the lordship of Erskine, with lands in the counties of Stirling and Ayr, long prior to the date of any charters they have preserved, and now represented by the line of Brisbane of Brisbane in Ayrshire, and Mackerstoun in Roxburghshire. One of the earliest of the family known in history is supposed to have been William Brisbane, who, in 1332, was chancellor of Scotland [Hailes’ Annals.] In Brisbane house in the parish of Largs, Ayrshire, is preserved an old oaken chair, with the date 1357 and the arms are three cushions or woolsacks, which should seem to have been adopted from the office of chancellor. But if Crawford be correct in his History of Renfrewshire, where he mentions Bishoptoun as ‘the ancient inheritance of the Brisbanes, the chief of that name,’ in his reference to ‘Allanus de Brysbane, filius Whelhelmi de Brysbane,’ who obtained, shortly after 1334, from Donald earl of Lennox, a grant of the lands of Macherach and Holmedalmartyne in Stirlingshire, there were Brisbanes of Brisbane even before the time of this chancellor. Thomas and Alexander Brisbane, brothers, are witnesses to a charter, granted 9th September 1361, by Thomas earl of Mar, and confirmed by King David the Second. Thomas Brisbane is witness to a charter by Robert duke of Albany, dated at Perth, 22d September 1409. Previous to that year the family had acquired the ten pound land of Killincraig and Gogo in the parish of Largs. To these, several other lands that belonged to the archbishop of Glasgow and the abbey of Paisley, were afterwards added, and in 1595 the estate of Largs was erected into the barony of Gogoside, and the town into a burgh of barony called the Newton of Gogo. In 1650, this barony, with the lands of Noddesdale and others, was erected into the barony of Noddesdale. Soon after, having acquired the property of Over Kelsoland, which had for a long period belonged to the family of Kelso, the whole estate was, in 1695, by a crown charter erected into the barony of Brisbane, which thenceforth became the usual territorial designation of the family.

      Matthew Brisbane of Bishoptoun, the fifth proprietor of Bishoptoun in a direct descent, fell at Flodden, 9th September 1513, and was succeeded by his brother, John Brisbane, whose son, also named John, was slain at the battle of Pinkie, 10th September 1547. His son John Brisbane of Bishoptoun, on November 9, 1555, with Thomas Brisbane his servant, William Brisbane, servant of Lord Sempill, and six others, found John Lord Erskine, his superior in the lands of Bishoptoun, as surety or bail for their appearance, to take their trial at the next assizes at Renfrew, for ‘hamesucken at the monastery of Paisley,” and mutilating John Hamilton of his arm. Robert Brisbane of Bishoptoun married, in 1562, Janette, daughter of James Stewart of Ardgowan and Blackhall, a neighbouring family, descended from King Robert the Third, and died in 1610. His elder son, John Brisbane of Bishoptoun, who succeeded him, and died in 1635, married, first Anna, daughter of the laird of Blair, and, secondly, a daughter of Lord Sempill. His eldest son, John Brisbane of Brisbane, had a son, John, who died before his father, without male issue, on which he entered into a contract of marriage, 26th June 1657, between Elizabeth, his eldest daughter and his nephew James Shaw of the Shaws of Ballygellie in Ireland, by which the estate was settled on the heirs male of that marriage, James Shaw assuming the name and arms of Brisbane. On the death of his father-in-law, Mr. Shaw accordingly became James Brisbane of Brisbane, In 1671 he acquired the lands of Over Kelsoland, already mentioned, now forming part of the estate of Brisbane, and about the same period he disposed of the estate of Bishoptoun to different people, to be held in feu of himself and his heirs. There is a letter of remission to this James Brisbane, from James the Seventh of Scotland, dated 26th February, 1686, for fines imposed on him for any irregularity committed by his wife in attending conventicles. He had issue John, his heir, two other sons, and a daughter.

      John Brisbane of Brisbane, the eldest son, married Margaret, daughter of Sir Archibald Stewart of Blackhall, and had two sons and four daughters. James, his heir and successor, died without issue. Thomas, his second son, married, in 1715, Isabel, daughter of Sir Thomas Nicolson of Ladykirk, by whom he had two sons, of whom John, the second son, entered the navy, and distinguished himself in the American war. He attained the rank of admiral, and died in 1807. He married a daughter of Admiral Young, and, besides daughters, had several sons. John Douglas, the eldest, was drowned on board of one of the French prizes, after Rodney’s action in 1782. Thomas-Stewart Brisbane rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army, and was killed at St. Domingo, in 1795, while commanding a corps with great distinction. A third son, William Henry Brisbane, a naval captain, was poisoned by the French prisoners at Gibraltar in 1796. A fourth son, Sir Charles Brisbane, entered the navy under the auspices of his father, with whom he served in Sir George Rodney’s fleet, and was wounded in the memorable engagement of the 12th April 1782. He served with distinction under Hood and Nelson in 1794-5. He was made lieutenant in 1793, commander in 1795, and post-captain in 1796. On his own responsibility, having a squadron under his command sent to reconnoitre the Dutch island of Curaçao in the West Indies, and to ascertain the disposition of the inhabitants, he assaulted it, and carried it by coup de main, on the 1st January 1807, being himself the first to scale the walls of Fort Amsterdam. For this gallant exploit he received the gold medal, and was knighted. He was nominated knight of the Bath in 1815, and advanced to the rank of rear-admiral in 1819. This gallant officer died in 1829, leaving by his wife, daughter of Sir James Patey, two sons, one in the army and another in the navy, besides two daughters. Sir James Brisbane, youngest son of Admiral John Brisbane above-mentioned, was also a gallant naval officer who attained the rank of admiral. By his wife, only daughter of John Ventham, Esq. he left one son, James Stewart, a commander R.N., and two daughters. Admiral John Brisbane had also six daughters, five of whom were married. The third, Mary, was the mother of Lord Corehouse, and of the wives of Dugald Stewart and Cunninghame of Lainshaw, and of Count Purgstall in Styria. The fourth, Helen, became the lady of Sir Charles Douglas, a distinguished admiral.

      Thomas, eldest son of Thomas, the second son of John Brisbane of Brisbane, and elder brother of Admiral John, above mentioned, succeeded his uncle James in the family estates, and was served heir to him on the 15th September, 1770. He married Eleanora, daughter of Sir Michael Bruce of Stenhouse, baronet, and had, with a daughter, Mary, two sons, viz., Thomas, his successor, and Michael, who went out to India, and died there in the service of the Honourable East India Company.

      Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, a general in the army, succeeded his father on his death in 1812, and in 1819 he married Anna Maria, only daughter of Sir Henry Hay Makdougall, baronet of Makerstoun, Roxburghshire, a kinsman of Sir Walter Scott, and representative of one of the most ancient families in Scotland, and on his death he succeeded, in right of his wife, to his extensive and valuable domains, when he assumed the name of Makdougall before his own, being authorized by sign manual, dated 14th August 1826. This distinguished officer and astronomer entered the army as an ensign in 1790, when he joined the 38th regiment in Ireland, where he remained till the breaking out of the war in 1793, when he was promoted to a captaincy in the 53d. In the spring of that year he proceeded with his regiment to Flanders, and was present with it in all the duke of York’s campaigns, at the storming of the French entrenched camp at Famars, the sieges of Valenciennes, Dunkirk, Nieuport, Nimeguen, and the sorties from that fortress; also, in the actions of Aswin, Fremont, Chateau-Cambresis, &c., and in that of Tournay, where he was wounded, as well as in the affairs of Boxtel, Buren, Culemburg, and Gilder-Matrin. In the spring of 1795, he returned to England with his regiment, in which he obtained a majority by purchase, and embarked in the expedition under Sir Ralph Abercrombie for the West Indies. In 1796 he served at the reduction of St. Lucia, the siege and sortie of Mornoe-Fortune, and the affairs of Chabot, Castries, and Bigie; also in the reduction of the island of St. Vincent, and in the whole of the Caraib war. In 1797 he was at the taking of the island of Trinidad, and commanded his regiment at the siege of Porto Rico. In 1800 he became, by purchase, lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, and in 1801 he joined it in Jamaica, and commanded it till its return to England in 1805. On its being ordered to India, he, under medical advice, as labouring under a severe liver complaint, and being unable to effect an exchange into the guards or cavalry, was compelled for a time to retire on half pay. After serving two years as adjutant general in the Kent district, he embarked for the Peninsula in 1812, and thenceforth he commanded a brigade in the duke of Wellington’s army, taking part in almost all the battles fought in Spain, the Pyrenees, and the south of France. He wears a cross and one clasp for Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes, and Toulouse, where he was again wounded. In 1813 he received the thanks of parliament for his gallant conduct in the field of Orthes. The next year he went with the detachment of the Peninsular army that was ordered to North America, and commanded a brigade at the affairs of Plattsburgh, Richlieu, &c. In 1815 he obtained the grand cross of the Bath, while still serving in America. On the return of the Emperor Napoleon from Elba in March of that year, Sir Thomas was recalled, and after the battle of Waterloo joined the army in Paris with twelve brigades, comprising nearly ten thousand men, which, on being reviewed, drew from the duke of Wellington the exclamation, “Had I had these regiments at Waterloo, I should not have wanted the Prussians.” Sir Thomas Brisbane remained in France during the whole period that the Allies occupied the French soil, and in the interim was unanimously elected corresponding member of the Institute of France. In 1829 he was appointed to the staff in Ireland, and he commanded the Munster district until the end of that year, when he was appointed governor of New South Wales; on this occasion he was presented with the freedom of the city of Cork. In 1824 he received the degree of doctor of laws from the university of Edinburgh. At the close of 1825 he returned from New South Wales, and in the following year he was appointed by the duke of York colonel of the 34th regiment. In 1828 he was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Astronomical Society, for the services he had rendered to science, and for having founded an observatory in New South Wales, which has since been adopted by the government, and is now in active operation. In 1831 he became a knight grand cross of the Guelphs of Hanover. In 1832 he received the honorary degree of doctor of civil law from the university of Oxford, and the same year was elected president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In 1833 he received the degree of A.M. at Cambridge, when he was nominated president of the British Association for the following year. In 1836 Sir Thomas was created a baronet of the United Kingdom, and in 1837 he received the grand cross of the order of the Bath. In 1841 he became a general in the army. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Sir Thomas has a son, Thomas Australia Brisbane, born in 1824, and two daughters.

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