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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Robert Craig, Esq., of Riccarton

This venerable gentleman was in early life, and even in extreme old age, an excellent pedestrian, and exceedingly fond of exercise in the open air. When no longer capable of extended excursions, his walks were limited to Princes Street; and latterly, as increasing infirmities rendered even that effort beyond his strength, he used daily, in good weather, to enjoy the freshening breeze on a seat placed at the door. In the print he is well described, with his long staff and broad-rimmed, low-crowned hat, while his faithful attendant, William Scott, is carefully taking "tent" of his aged master from the dining-room window. Long service, in the case of "Will," as his name was broadly pronounced, had almost set aside the formalities customary betwixt master and servant. Wherever the old man travelled, his trusty valet followed in the rear—the contrast of the two figures attracting no small attention; the one lean and spare, in fashion like some ancient empiric; the other, in portliness of person, approaching to the good-natured rotundity of a London Alderman.

Mr. Craig was lineally descended from the distinguished feudal lawyer of Scotland, Sir Thomas Craig of Riccarton. His father, James Craig, fourth son of the great-grandson of Sir Thomas, was Professor of Civil Law in the University of Edinburgh. His mother was a daughter of Robert Dundas of Arniston, one of the Senators of the College of Justice.

There were two brothers, sons of the Professor. Thomas, the eldest, was usually styled "the Laird." Robert, who studied law, passed Advocate in 1754, and, about the year 1776, was appointed one of the Judges of the Commissary Court, which office he resigned in 1791.

The Laird and his brother were men of primitive habits. From some unaccountable aversion to matrimony, neither of them married; and they both resided in the same house. Notwithstanding the strong prejudice entertained against wedlock, neither the laird nor his brother showed any dislike to children. On the contrary, the boys of the neighbourhood were often regaled in the kitchen with strawberries and other fruits when in season. Their domestic establishment was limited to one female and two men-servants; one of whom, Archibald Brown, butler and factotum, was considered the waiting-man of the Laird ; the other of the Commissary Judge. It does not appear that this retired mode of life resulted from parsimony of disposition. They were very wealthy; and their management of accounts exhibited the utmost liberality. To their domestics they were extremely kind, a new-year's gift of a hundred pounds being no unfrequent addition to the stated salary; and several distant relatives, in circumstances not the most prosperous, were understood to participate largely in their munificence, often receiving sums of double that amount, in such a way as amply testified the disinterested kindness of the donors.

Both brothers were early risers, and it was no uncommon thing for them to walk the length of Dalkeith and back again before the servants were out of bed. As an instance of the active benevolence of the Laird, it is told that one morning meeting a person of abject appearance, with bruised feet and worn-out shoes, he instantly stripped off his own, and, causing him to sit down by the wayside, desired him to try whether they would fit. An exchange having been thus readily effected, the philanthropic Laird of Riccarton, putting on the shoes of the mendicant, proceeded on his walk.

In stature the Laird was somewhat shorter than the Commissary Judge. Totally indifferent to external appearance, almost no persuasion could reconcile him to any innovation in the fashion of his habiliments. Even a change of linen was reluctantly complied with ; and he was often observed greatly to lack some portion of that industry which gave to the stockings of Sir John Cutler so much celebrity for their durability. Those of the Laird were usually retained, without the application of soap or needle, until perfectly useless; then, and then only, consigned to the flames, the old made way for the new, to be in turn subjected to similar treatment. A gentleman passing him one day, charitably slipped a sixpence into his hand. Not at all disconcerted, after examining it for some time, Mr. Craig coolly pocketed the donation.

The death of the elder brother occurred on the 22d January, 1814, in the eighty-fifth year of his age. He succeeded his father in 1782, and had consequently been eighty-two years in possession of the estate. " During the whole course of his life he uniformly supported the character of an upright, honest man. He was a father to his tenants and servants, and a most liberal friend to the poor."

Eobert—the subject of the Print—survived till he attained the advanced age of ninety-three. In his manner and habits he was scarcely less peculiar than the Laird, though somewhat more particular as to his dress. He wore a plain coat, without any collar; a stock in place of a neckcloth ; knee breeches; rough stockings; and shoes ornamented with massy buckles. At an early period of life (and until so annoyed by the boys as he walked in the Meadows, that he judged it prudent to comply with the fashion of the time), he persisted in wearing a hat of a conical shape, with a narrow brim, in form not unlike a helmet. Latterly he adopted the broad-rimmed description represented in the Print. When he had occasion to call any of his domestics, he rang no bell, but invariably made use of a whistle, which he carried in his pocket for the purpose. His indifference to money matters amounted even to carelessness. Pie kept no books with bankers; a drawer, and that by no means well secured, in his own house, being the common depository of his cash.

In politics, Mr. Craig was decidedly liberal. Though an ardent admirer of the British Constitution, yet not insensible to its abuses or defects, he was opposed to the foreign policy of Government at the era of the French Revolution. His opinions on this subject, he embodied in an anonymous pamphlet, entitled "An Inquiry into the Justice and Necessity of the present War with France," 8vo, Edin. 1795, of which a second and improved edition was published the following year. In this essay he contended for the right which every nation had to remodel its own institutions; referring, by way of precedent, to the various revolutions effected in Britain, without producing any attempt at interference on the part of other states. " If we consult the principles of natural law and equity," says the writer, "France must certainly have an equal right with any other European state, to change and to frame her constitution to her own mind. She is as free and independent in this respect as Great Britain, or any other kingdom on the globe; and there does not appear to be any reason why she should be excluded from exercising this right, or why we should pretend to dictate to her with regard to the government she is to live under. When Louis XIV., on the death of James VI., thought proper to proclaim his son King of Great Britain, how did the Parliament here take it? Did they not address the King upon the throne, aud represent it in their address as the highest strain of violence, and the greatest insult that could be offered to the British nation, to presume to declare any person to be their King, or as having a title to be so! What, therefore, should entitle us to take up arms in order to force them to submit to monarchial government ? " Such is the style and spirit of the Inquiry.

Mr. Craig died on the 13th of March, 1823. Pursuant to a deed of entail, Mr. James Gibson, W.S. (now Sir James Gibson-Craig, Bart., of Riccarton and Ingliston), succeeded to the estate, and assumed the name and arms of Craig. The house in Princes Street, No. 91, now occupied as a hotel, was left to Colonel Gibson.

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