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Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland
Made by Walter MacFarlane in 3 volumes


The parts of the Macfarlane Collection of Manuscripts relating to Scotland that I now edit are usually called topographical, but Macfarlane himself called them geographical, and their character may be regarded as justifying Macfarlane’^ designation. The Accounts of the parishes and districts of Scotland, as given in this volume of the Manuscript, are to an unusual extent of such a nature as to yield material for the compilation of maps, and they differ in this respect from ordinary topographical accounts, which are more concerned with descriptions of special places or objects than with the relation of these to each other in respect of distance or direction by the compass. Indeed, it is rare to find Accounts of localities which are made so much as these are from a geographer’s point of view. They sometimes consist almost entirely of statements of the distances of places from each other to the north, south, east, or west. The bendings of a stream are often given with the length of the bend in this or that direction, and with the distance of the change in its course from towns, villages, churches, residences or hills.

Though this may be regarded as a distinguishing feature of the Accounts in this Collection, especially, perhaps, of those in the first volume, they also contain much ordinary topographical description. For example, when a residence is mentioned we may learn who owned it and whether it was in a state of ruin or the reverse, and when a village or town is mentioned we may be told of the names and times of markets held there, whether it did or did not contain a tolbooth, and whether its church was slated or thatched.

It may be an advantage to repeat here the short biographical notices of Macfarlane that Mr. Clark gave in the Genealogical Collections. The first notice of him is taken from The Chiefs of Colquhoun and their Country, vol. ii. pp. 99-100, by Sir William Fraser, K.C.B., and is as follows: —

Walter Macfarlane, one of the most laborious and accurate antiquaries of his age, was the son and successor of this John by his wife Helen, daughter of Robert, second Viscount of Arbuthnot. He transcribed with his own hand many old cartularies and muniments deposited in private charter-chests. He was very liberal in allowing access to his valuable collections and transcripts, which are still consulted and often quoted by authors, being regarded as of high authority. To his industry we owe the existence of the Levenax Cartulary, the original of which is now lost. He married Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of Alexander, sixth Earl of Kellie. Little is known of his history, which appears to have been chiefly that of a student, without any remarkable incidents to record. In Anderson's Diplomata Scotice, published at Edinburgh in the year 1739, the learned editors, Mr. Anderson and Mr. Thomas Ruddiman, in an acknowledgment of their obligations to those who contributed the original charters engraved in that great work, notice in favourable terms the assistance given them by the Laird of Macfarlane: “In this list of most noble and most eminent men deserves in particular to be inscribed by us a most accomplished young man, Walter Macfarlane of that ilk, Chief of the Macfarlanes, one of the most ancient of the clans, who, as he is conspicuous for the utmost urbanity, and for his acquaintance with all the more elegant, and especially the antiquarian departments of literature, most readily devoted much labour and industry in explaining to us the names of men and places.” The eulogium pronounced upon him by Smollett is elsewhere quoted. He died, without issue, at his town house in the Canongate of Edinburgh, on 5th June 1767. After his death his valuable collections were purchased by the Faculty of Advocates, Edinburgh. His portrait, an excellent original painting, which exhibits a remarkably intelligent, manly, and open countenance, occupies a place on the walls of the Museum of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, to whom it was gifted in 1786 by his nephew, Walter Macfarlane. This portrait was engraved for the late Mr. W. B. D. D. Turnbull, for the purpose of being introduced into his “Monasticon of Scotland,” a work which was never completed.’

The next notice is from the Cash Book of the late William Macfarlane of Portsburgh, W.S., who died 13th July, 1831, and it runs as follows, under date 1785:—

Walter Macfarlane of Macfarlane, (20th) of Arrochar, was the second but eldest surviving son of John Macfarlane (19th) of Arrochar and Lady Helen, daughter of the 2nd Viscount Arbuthnot. He succeeded his father 13th May 1705. He married, 21st April 1760, Lady Elizabeth Erskine, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Kelly, by whom he had no issue. He died in his house in the Canongate, Edinburgh, on the 5th, and was buried in the Grayfriars, Edinburgh, betwixt the two west pillars of the New Kirk, on the 8th of June 1767. He was succeeded by his brother, Dr. William Macfarlane, as 21st of Arrochar, who sold the estate in March 1784 after having been five hundred and fifty-nine years in the family.

The Collection of Manuscripts formed by Macfarlane was purchased by the Faculty of Advocates in 1785 from his niece, Miss Janet Macfarlane, for the sum of J?21. It consists of:—

1. The Genealogical Collections. 2 vols. These have been printed by the Scottish History Society — Mr. J. T. Clark being the editor.

2. The Geographical Collections. 3 volumes, of which this is the first.

3. Collections Relative to Several Scottish Families. 2 vols.

4. Index to the Register of the Great Seal to 176%. 5 vols.

5. Diplomatum regiorum quae in publicis archivis extant Abbreviationes. 10 vols.

6. Several volumes of transcripts of charters, including the charters of Melrose, Balmerinoch, and other religious houses.

You can download these volumes below...

Volume I  |  Volume II  |  Volume III

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