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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: Robert Halliday

Eighteenth President

Robert Halliday was the son of Robert Halliday and born about 1770 in Ayrshire, Scotland. He died on the 8th April, 1840, at his residence in New York City in the seventy-first year of his age.

When a mere youth of fourteen years of age he had the misfortune to lose his father, and was left in charge of a small estate which he managed for many years for the benefit of younger brothers and sisters.

In 1790 Mr. Halliday went to live in Birmingham, England, where he remained six years. Here he laid the foundation of his business training and career, and after securing a contract to represent two important Birmingham steel manufacturing firms in the United States, he sailed for this country in 1796. His success was marked from the start, and his services proved of such value that William Cairns, the senior partner of one of the firms, gave him his eldest daughter in marriage. Later he himself became a member of this firm, then styled “Cairns Freres, Halliday & Carmichael.’’

Mr. Halliday soon acquired a considerable fortune in business and built himself a fine residence, bounded by Greenwich, Washington, Banks and Bethune Streets in New York City, which before the river front was filled in had a clear view of the North River, with a private bulk-head, bath house, lawns and shrubbery, and an office in the yard, where his accounts were kept.

His importations embraced the entire line of Birmingham steel manufactured articles, and were of great bulk and value.

On the 10th February, 1801, he filed his intention to become a citizen of the United States in the Special District Court of the United States for Pennsylvania District at Philadelphia.

In a letter dated the 6th August, 1822, Mrs. Harriet Douglas Cruger presented him with a magnificent two-handled loving-cup of crystal set in a silver frame with silver thistles and engraved with the arms of Scotland, and he also received two massive amphorashaped silver pitchers with the word “Gratitude" engraved thereon, from Mrs. Fanny Munroe, wife of a nephew of President Munroe. His ward was married to Major-General Alexander Macomb in the parlor of his residence, No. 99 Bank Street, and the young bride presented him with a watch 011 which was engraved “To Robert Halliday, Esq., with the wish that it may be worn for the sake of the donor, Harriet B. Macomb, 1826.”

Mr. Halliday took an active part in charitable and social affairs and was identified with many of the earlier institutions and societies of this city. He is said to have been six feet three inches in height, weighing two hundred and forty pounds, and to have possessed unusual strength. He was of athletic mould and tastes, delighting in the Scotch game of curling, and was wont to travel to Montreal to visit his married daughter, who lived in that city, and incidentally play his favorite game on the ice of the St. Lawrence River. On several occasions he captured with his own hands thieves and lawbreakers, and it is said that once returning from a Saint Andrew’s dinner he was followed by a footpad, whom he seized and took to the gaol himself.

Mr. Halliday appears to have been a man of many accomplishments, playing the violin, well versed in polite literature, and with a wonderful memory for Scottish verse, which he was wont to quote by the page. James Montgomery, the “Christian” Poet, who was born in 1771 at Irvine, Ayrshire, where his father was a Moravian preacher, and who died at Sheffield, England, in 1854, was a boyhood and lifelong friend of Mr. Halliday and sent him many autograph verses.

He possessed a choice library of books, which is still in existence, and contains over fifty handsomely bound volumes of classic poetry.

Mr. Halliday also wrote in a pleasing style, and an article by him entitled the “Metropolitan Pulpit” which appeared in the Christian Intelligence in 1837, is admirable in matter and expression.

When the family relics and silver were lost at sea, he is said to have designed the beautiful urns, waiters, tea sets, etc., which are still preserved among his descendants.

At his death he was a director of the Greenwich Insurance Company ; President of the Northern Dispensary; Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Eighth Presbyterian Church at Greenwich Village, New York, and an influential member of the American Society for Meliorating the Condition of the Jews, all of which institutions passed fitting resolutions deploring his decease. He was also an Honorary Member of the Baltimore St. Andrew’s Society, having been elected on the 14th May, 1807.

He was elected a member of Saint Andrew’s Society of the State-of New York on the 9th February, 1797; served as a Manager, 1S14-1815; as Second Vice-President, 1815-1816; as First Vice-President, 1816-1821, and finally as President, 1823-1828.

He married about 1805 at Torr Estate, Castle Douglas, Mary Cairns, daughter of William Cairns of Torr and Shirland, and had issue, all born in New York City: (1) Mary Ann, born 22d September, 1806; (2) Josephine, born 28th May, 1809; (3) Agnes, born 1st February, 1811; (4) Edward C., born 31st January, 1817; (5) Isabella, born 30th December, 181S; (6) Robert, born 9th September, 1823.

His portrait is reproduced from a pen and ink sketch of a bas-relief made by the Scottish sculptor, Tams, the creator of the groups “Auld Lang Syne” and “Old Mortality,” when Mr. Halliday was President of Saint Andrew’s Society. This bas-relief is now in the possession of his daughter-in-law, Mrs. Edward C. Halliday, of Washington, D. C.

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