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The Scottish Nation
Dalyell, Dalziel, or Dalzell

DALYELL, Dalziel, or Dalzell, an ancient and local surname taken from the barony of Dalziel in Lanarkshire, now the name of a parish there. The name is supposed to mean “the white dale” or meadow (Dal-gheal, Gaelic,) from the whitish scurf on the surface of the clay soil, or large white gowan which covered the ground before it was improved by cultivation. This is a more likely derivation than the one given by tradition, as follows: The armorial bearing of the family of Dalzell was anciently a man hanging on a gibbet, a device which Nisbet says was intended to perpetuate the memory of a dangerous exploit of one of their progenitors, in taking down from a gibbet the body of a favourite kinsman of King Kenneth the Second who had been hanged by his enemies. For, as the story goes, the king being exceedingly grieved that the body of his friend should be allowed to hang there, proffered a great reward to any of his subjects who would venture to cut it down, but no one would undertake that hazardous enterprise, until a brave gentleman of the court said to the king, Dal zell, which in the old Scottish language signifies “I dare,” His posterity, in consequence, took the word Dalzell for their surname, with the signification thereof, “I dare,” for their motto. [Nisbet’s System of Heraldry, vol. i. page 332.] In the old Scottish language, however, if by that is meant the Celtic, there are no words approaching to Dalyell, either in sound or spelling. It is not improbable, however, that the legend had some foundation, the authentic record of which is lost.

      Thomas de Dalziel is mentioned in the Ragman Roll, as one of the great barons that swore fealty to King Edward the First in 1296. He was afterwards one of the patriots who joined King Robert the Bruce.

      Sir Robert de Dalzell, knight, his successor, continued faithful to King David Bruce, during his captivity in England, and from that monarch he got the serjeantship of Lanark, and, with other lands, the barony of Selkirk. The charter of the latter rant is dated 15th May 1365. He was one of the Scottish barons who, in 1379, became surety to Hakon the Sixth, king of Norway, that Henry Sinclair, earl of Orkney, should faithfully govern the Orkney islands, and in 1380 he was sent over to Norway by the earl. He died the same year immediately on his return home.

      The next mentioned is Sir William de Dalyell, a brave and humorous knight, who lost an eye at the battle of Otterburn in 1388. He accompanied Sir David Lindsay of Glenesk, afterwards earl of Crawford, to the famous tournament on London bridge in 1390, in which Lindsay was the victor, and is celebrated for the ready reply he made to an English knight, who, jealous of the honour of his countrymen, admitted that there were brave men in Scotland, but they were, he said, the issue of the illicit intercourse of the English with the Scottish ladies during the time that the former overrun their kingdom; to which Sir William replied that if the allegation were true, it was no less certain that a proportional degeneracy had taken place among the English warriors, who were the offspring of valets, cooks, and father-confessors, whom the English ladies had admitted to their arms during the absence of their rightful lords in Scotland. This reply was reported to the English sovereign, who applauded the spirit and humour shown in it, and, immediately after, Sir Piers Courtenay, a gallant English knight, appeared, attended by a numerous retinue, and bearing a falcon embroidered on his sleeve, with a scroll having the following motto, in token of defiance:

                        “I beir ane falcone, fairest of flicht;
                        Qwha so pinches at her, his deth is dicht
                        In graith.”

Sir William Dalyell assumed a similar dress, with the badge of a magpie, and this device:

                        “I beir ane pi, pykkand at ane pese;
                        Quha so pykks at her, I sal pyk at his nese,
                        In faith.”

The challenge was understood and accepted. In the first course the Scottish knight twice lost his helmet, but he succeeded in wounding the English champion, and the contest terminated in a ludicrous demand of Dalyell, that, as by the laws of tournament the champions ought to be perfectly equal, Courtenay, of course, should have one of his eyes put out to render him equal to himself. He recovered the estate of his ancestors, which had been forfeited in the reign of David the Second (See CARNWATH, earl of), and had two sons, George and John.

      George, the elder, obtained, on the resignation of James Sandilands, brother-in-law of King Robert the Third, a charter of the barony of Dalyell in the county of Lanark, to him and the heirs male of his body, whom failing to the heirs male of his father, Sir William de Dalyell, 5th July 1395. He predeceased his father before 1400.

      Sir John de Dalyell, the younger son, had a letter of safe conduct to pass into England with four other knights and sixty horse in their train, to treat about national business, 24th July 1392. [Faedera, iii. iv. 81.] From him was descended Robert Dalyell of that ilk, who was killed at Dumfries in a skirmish between Lords Maxwell and Crichton 30th July 1508. The second after him was Sir Robert Dalyell of Dalyell, who firmly adhered to Queen Mary in all her troubles, and was engaged on her side at the battle of Langside. He was the father of another Robert, who married Janet, daughter of Gavin Hamilton of Raploch, commendator of Kilwinning, and by her had a son, the first earl of Carnwath. See CARNWATH, earl of.


      The family of Dalyell of Binns in Linlithgowshire, which possesses a baronetcy, is one of the oldest cadets of the name. Thomas Dalyell of Binns (born in 1571, died in 1642), a lineal descendant of the Lanarkshire Dalyells, who became earls of Carnwath, by his wife, Janet, eldest daughter of Edward Bruce, the first Lord Kinlos, had, with two daughters, a son, Thomas, the celebrated General Dalyell, of whom a memoir is given below. By his wife, a daughter of Ker of Cavers, General Dalyell had a son, Thomas Dalyell of Binns, a captain in the army, who immediately after his father’s death was created, by James the Seventh, a baronet of Nova Scotia, by patent dated 7th November 1685, to himself and his heirs of entail succeeding to the estate of Binns, in consideration of the “innumerable, faithful, and eminent services of General Dalyell to Charles the First and Second, and, notwithstanding all losses and injuries sustained, that his fidelity remained unshaken; and further, considering that Captain Thomas Dalyell, his eldest son, has on all occasions testified the like alacrity in promoting our service, &c.” By his wife, Catherine, daughter of Sir William Drummond of Riccarton, he had a son, Thomas, and two daughters.

      The son, Sir Thomas Dalyell, the second baronet, died unmarried. The elder daughter, Magdalen, had married in 1688, James Menteith of Auldcathy, heir-male and representative of the ancient family of Menteith earls of Menteith (see MENTEITH, surname of), and had by him seven sons and three daughters. The eldest son, James Menteith, succeeded his uncle Sir Thomas Dalyell, as the third baronet of Binns, on which he assumed the additional name of Dalyell. He also succeeded as heir-male to James Menteith of Milnhall, to whom he was retoured, 29th December 1728. He served in the army during the reigns of George the First and Second, and died 28th February 1747. He had three sons and a daughter. James, the second son, a captain in the first regiment of foot, and aide-de-camp to Lord Amherst, was killed in an engagement at a place since called Bloody Bridge, near Fort Detroit, in America, in 1763; and Thomas, the youngest, an officer in the navy, died in consequence of a wound on board the Valiant, in 1765. The daughter, Magdalen, married Robert Stewart, Esq. of Binny, and their son, Captain John Stewart, in command of the Wyndham East Indiaman, particularly distinguished himself when twice taken by the French in 1810.

      The eldest son, Sir Robert Dalyell, the fourth baronet, served in the army during his earlier years, on the continent of Europe. He married, 22d September 1773, Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Nicol Graham, Esq. of Gartmore, by Lady Margaret Cunningham, eldest daughter of the twelfth earl of Glencairn, by whom he had five sons and six daughters.

      Sir James, the eldest son, on the death of his father, 10th October 1791, succeeded as the fifth baronet. He was born on 7th July 1774, and entering the army, was in the expedition to Flanders commanded by the duke of York in 1793. He died unmarried in 1841, when his brother, Sir John Graham-Dalyell, became the sixth baronet. Of this gentleman, who was the eighteenth in descent fro Walter earl of Menteith, third son of Walter, lord high steward of Scotland, and the author of several works on antiquities, science, and history, a memoir is given below. Robert, the third son of Sir Robert Dalyell, a general in the army, died in 1849. He was at one period captain of the 43d foot, and served in India, at the siege of Copenhagen, on the retreat through Spain with Sir John Moore, &c., and was wounded at the battle of Pombal, as also at that of Setubal in Portugal. Thomas, the fourth son, served with much approbation under Sir Alexander Cochrane, and other distinguished persons, but lost his health in the West Indies, and died young.

      On the death of Sir John Graham Dalzell, the sixth baronet, in 1851, he was succeeded by his next surviving brother, Sir William Cunningham-Cavendish-Dalyell, fifth and youngest son of Sir Robert, the fourth baronet. Born in 1784, he entered the navy in 1793, and in 1800 he was mate of the Seine at the capture of the French frigate La Vengeance. He was subsequently frequently noticed in the official despatches for services with the Antelope and the Rattler in the Channel and North Seas. In 1805 he was very severely wounded din an attempt to cut out the Vimerieux from St. Valery. He was taken prisoner by the French, and remained some time in captivity in France. He became a commander in 1814, and in 1820 married a daughter of Antony Teiriera Sampayo, Esq. of Peterborough House, Fulham, by whom he had issue. In 1852 he was appointed a deputy-lieutenant of Linlithgowshire, and is in receipt of a pension for the wounds which he received during the war.

DALYELL, SIR THOMAS, of Binns, in West Lothian, an eminent Cavalier officer, was born there about 1599. He was the son of Thomas Dalyell of Binns, by his wife the Hon. Janet Bruce, daughter of the first Lord Bruce of Kinloss. He early entered the army, and on the breaking out of the civil wars he fought bravely for the king. He had at one time the command of the town and garrison of Carrickfergus, where he was taken prisoner by the rebels. After the execution of Charles the First, he never shaved his beard, which grew white and bushy, and descended almost to his girdle. He adhered to the fortunes of Charles the Second with the utmost fidelity, and at the battle of Worcester, in 1651, he had the rank of major-general, but being again taken prisoner, he was committed to the Tower, his estates forfeited, and himself excepted from the general act of indemnity. Having succeeded in escaping from the Tower, he seems to have gone abroad. In 1654 he landed with some royalists in the north of Scotland, and, supported by a small party, took possession of the castle of Skelko. He assisted in the exertions then made for the restoration of Charles, who soon after sent him the following testimony of his approbation:

      “Tom Dalyell,

      “Though I need say nothing to you by this honest bearer, Captain Mewes, who can well tell you all I would have said, yett I am willing to give it you under my owne hand, that I am very much pleased to heare how constant you are in your affection to me, and in your endeavours to advance my service. We have all a harde work to do: yett I doubt not God will carry us through it: and you can never doubt that I will forgett the good part you have acted; which, trust me, shall be rewarded, whenever it shall be in the power of your affectionat frind.

      “Colen, 30 Dec. 1654.                       Charles R.”

      When the affairs of Charles became desperate in Scotland, Dalyell, provided with several strong recommendations from that prince, for eminent courage and fidelity, went to Russia, and entered the Muscovite service, when the Czar, Alexis Michaelowitch, made him a general. He displayed much bravery in the wars with the Turks and Tartars, and after some years’ active employment, he requested permission to return to Scotland, whereupon the Czar ordered a flattering testimony of his services to pass under the great seal of Russia.

      In 1665 he returned to Scotland, and in the year following, Charles the Second appointed him commander-in-chief of his forces in that kingdom. He was also created a privy councillor, and afterwards elected a member of parliament for the county of Linlithgow. On the 28th of November 1666, he suppressed the rising at Pentlant, and his memory is still execrated for his cruel persecution of the Covenanters.

      In the same year he raised a regiment of foot, but its place in the military lists is not now known. He was not at Bothwell Bridge; his commission as commander-in-chief in Scotland having been intermitted mor a fortnight in June 1679, and bestowed on the duke of Monmouth; in consequence of which General Dalyell resigned all his employments, but was immediately restored to them, and received an ample pension besides. He had received the gift of the forfeited estate of Muir of Caldwell, in lieu of large sums which he had expended for the king. At the Revolution, all the forfeited estates were restored to their right owners, and the General’s family never obtained any indemnification for a claim exceeding one hundred thousand pounds against Government, except an inconsiderable pension. [Playfair’s British Family Antiquity, 8th vol. app. p. ccxxxi. Note.]

      In 1681 he raised the regiment which has since so often distinguished itself under the name of the Scots Greys. It was formerly the custom for the younger sons of reputable families to serve in that regiment as volunteers, whence the opinion long prevailed that at one time the whole regiment consisted of gentlemen only. The letters of service for raising the Greys are dated the 25th November 1681. He generally went to London once or twice a-year to kiss the king’s hand, and the eccentricity of his dress and appearance drew crowds after him, whenever he was observed on the streets. “As he was a man of humour, he would always thank them for their civilities, when he left them at the door to go in to the king; and would let them know exactly at what hour he intended to come out again and return to his lodgings. When the king walked in the park, attended by some of his courtiers, and Dalyell in his company, the same crowds would always be after him, showing their admiration at his beard and dress, so that the king could hardly pass on for the crowd; upon which his majesty bid the devil take Dalyell, for bringing such a rabble of boys together, to have their guts squeezed out, whilst they gaped at his long beard and antic habit; requesting him at the same time (as Dalyell used to express it) to shave and dress like other Christians, to keep the poor bairns out of danger. All this could never prevail upon him to part with his beard; but yet, in compliance to his majesty, he went once to court in the very height of fashion; but as soon as the king and those about him had laughed sufficiently at the strange figure he made, he reassumed his usual habit, to the great joy of the boys, who had not discovered him in his fashionable dress.” [Memoirs of Captain Creichton, by Swift.]

      On the accession of James the Seventh, he received a commendation and approval, under the great seal, of his conduct in Scotland, and a new and enlarged commission to be commander-in-chief. An historian of that period observes that “after he had procured himself a lasting name in the wars, he fixed his old age at Binns, (his paternal inheritance) adorned by his excellence with avenues, large parks, and fine gardens, and pleased himself with the culture of curious flowers and plants.” This fierce and unrelenting persecutor, who, as Bishop Burnet says, “acted the Muscovite too grossly,” died about Michaelmas 1685. His private eccentricities furnished a subject for the sarcastic pen of Dean Swift in his “Memoirs of Captain Creighton’ above quoted, while his public history forms an important element in the narrative of the troublous times of the Church of Scotland.

DALZELL, ANDREW, M.A. and F.R.S., an eminent scholar, the son of a wright or carpenter, in the parish of Kirkliston, Linlithgowshire, was born there in 1742. After receiving the elementary part of his education at the village school, he went to the university of Edinburgh, with a view of studying for the ministry, but though he delivered the prescribed course of lectures in the divinity hall, to the satisfaction of Professor Hamilton, then in the theological chair, it does not appear that he was ever licensed. Having been appointed tutor to Lord Maitland, afterwards earl of Lauderdale, he travelled with him to Paris, and shortly after his return he was, in 1779, through the interest of his pupil’s father, elected by the town council, professor of Greek in the university of Edinburgh, that chair being vacant by the death of Professor Robert Hunter. In the university of Edinburgh classical literature had, for a long period, been in a great measure neglected. The great fame of Professor Moor, of the college of Glasgow, with the excellent editions of the Greek classics, then issuing from the press of the Foulises, had given that city a higher reputation for Greek learning than Edinburgh had for many years possessed. The enthusiasm and ability of Professor Dalzell, however, imparted a new impetus to the study of the most polished language of antiquity, and the various improvements which he introduced in his system of tuition, tended in an eminent degree to restore the character of the university, and to attract to his classes students from many distant quarters. The elementary class-books he compiled were so well adapted to the object for which they were designed that they soon found their way into many of the chief towns of England, and with certain modifications and improvements, are still generally in use. He also delivered a course of lectures to his students on the literature, philosophy, history, the eloquence, the poetry, the fine arts, and the antiquities of the Greeks, which were published, after his death, in two volumes, by his son.

      In 1783, when the Royal Society of Edinburgh was instituted, Professor Dalzell was prevailed upon to undertake the duties of secretary to its literary class, and he contributed various able essays, and other interesting communications to the Society’s Transactions. He had for some time been associated with Dr. James Robertson, professor of Oriental languages, as conjunct secretary and librarian of the university, and on the death of that gentleman in 1795, he was appointed keeper of the college library, having as his assistant Mr. Duke Gordon, who had been a candidate with him for the Greek chair, and on whose death, in 1802, he did ample justice to his memory in an interesting memoir of his life contributed to the Scots Magazine.

      In 1789, Professor Dalzell succeeded his father-in-law, the Rev. Dr. John Drysdale of Kirkliston, as principal clerk to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, being the first layman who ever held that appointment. The contest was a keen one, his opponent being Dr. Carlyle of Inveresk, who was supported by the moderate party, while Mr. Dalzell was the candidate of the popular or evangelical section of the Assembly. When the votes were taken, there appeared to be a majority of three in favour of Dr. Carlyle (145 to 142), but on a scrutiny the election was found to be in Professor Dalzell’s favour. On this occasion Kay of Edinburgh published a full-length portrait of the professor, one of his most finished sketches, under the title of “the successful candidate.”

      After a lingering illness, Professor Dalzell died on the 8th December 1806. He left several children. One of his sons, John Dalzell, born in 1796, passed advocate in 1818, and died in 1823. The professor’s personal appearance was prepossessing. He had a fair complexion, mild aspect, blue eyes, full of vigorous expression; and plump features, without heaviness or grossness, while his address was graceful and impressive. His works consist principally of collections from Greek authors, with short Latin notes. Subjoined is a list of them:

      Description of the Plain of Troy; with a map of that region, delineated from actual survey. Translated from the original French of M. Chevalier, (not published,) with notes and illustrations. Edin. 1791, 4to.

      Sermons by the late Rev. John Drysdale, D.D., Edin.; to which is prefixed, An Account of the Author’s Life and Character. 1793, 2 vols. 8vo.

      Analecta Graeca Minora, in usum Tironum accommodata, cum Notis Philologicis. 8vo.

      Of certain Analogies observed by the Greeks in the use of their Letters, and particularly of the letter SIGMA. Trans. R. Soc. Edin. ii. part. ii. 3. 1790.

      Substance of Lectures on the Ancient Greeks. 2 vols, 8vo. Edin. 1821. Posthumous. Edited by his son, John Dalzell.

DALYELL, SIR JOHN GRAHAM, the sixth baronet of Binns, editor of various works illustrative of the poetry, history, and antiquities of Scotland, was born in 1776. He was the second son of Sir Robert Dalyell, the fourth baronet, and was educated for the bar. He passed advocate in the year 1797. Having little practice, he devoted himself to literary pursuits, and turning his attention to the collection of manuscripts preserved in the Advocates’ library, Edinburgh, he commenced an industrious career of editing and publishing old journals and neglected historical tracts, with the view of rescuing such useful and authentic materials for illustrating our national history and antiquities from oblivion, and was thus one of the first of that valuable class of literary labourers in the department of research which the nineteenth century has so abundantly produced. His first publication, entitled ‘Fragments of Scottish History,’ contained, among other matters of interest, the characteristic ‘Diary of Robert Birrell, burgess of Edinburgh from 1532 to 1608.’ In the preface to his second work, a collection of ‘Scottish Poems of the Sixteenth Century,’ published in 1801, he stated that, in the course of his preparatory researches, he had examined “about seven hundred volumes of manuscripts.” In 1809 he issued a small work with the title of ‘A Tract chiefly relative to Monastic Antiquities,’ the first of four or five thin octavos, in which he called attention to those ecclesiastical records of Scotland, so many of which have since been printed by the Bannatyne, Maitland, and Spalding Clubs. The chartularies which occupied his pen were those of the bishoprics of Aberdeen and Moray, the abbey of Cambuskenneth, the chapel royal of Stirling, and the preceptory of St. Anthony of Leith. His edition of the Scottish Chronicle of Lindsay of Pitscottie is still considered the best, though it is probably destined to be superseded by the ore complete one of this most pleasing of Scottish annalists which Lord Lindsay has undertaken.

      IN 1836, he received the honour of knighthood under the great seal, for his attainments in literature, and on 1st February 1841, on the death of his elder brother, he succeeded to the baronetcy and family estate. He was for many years one of the vice-presidents of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in the affairs of which he long took an active interest. He was also president of the Society for Promoting Useful Arts in Scotland, vice-president of the African Institute of Paris, and for several years he represented the fourth district of the city in the town council of Edinburgh. He did not confine his attention to antiquities and history. He was distinguished also by his acquaintance with mechanical science, and still more by his knowledge of natural history. Of the zeal with which he prosecuted this last pursuit he has left a signal monument in his ‘Rare and Remarkable Animals of Scotland,’ a handsome work in two costly quartos. He was also conversant with the art of music, of which he was particularly fond, and in one of his later works, the ‘Musical Memoirs of Scotland,’ he has condensed the result of his researches on this favourite subject, during a long literary life. The volume is illustrated by many curious engravings, and its pages preserve a few of those social anecdotes which its author was accustomed to relate with characteristic vivacity.

      The number and extent of Sir John Graham Dalyell’s works will appear surprising when it is considered that his habits of composition were most fastidious. Some of his manuscripts he copied four or five times over before he would commit them to the printer’s hands. The selection and editing of old manuscripts for the purpose of being printed, and of rare works for republication, form, even in practised hands, by no means so easy a labour as those not accustomed to such employment may be inclined to suppose. Sound judgment, and research of no ordinary kind, with a knowledge of old writings and authors, and a practical acquaintance with what is precisely wanted to supply materials for history, or for the illustration and elucidation of antiquities, are essentially requisite for such a department of literature, which is one of the most important, though it be one of the least pretending, that can be named; and in these respects Sir John Graham Dalyell showed himself every way qualified for the task which he had chosen for himself, as a lifelong occupation. He died unmarried, on the 7th June 1851, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Sir William Cunningham-Cavendish Dalyell, commander, R.N., of the Royal Hospital, Greenwich, as already stated.

      Sir John Graham Dalyell’s publications are:

      Fragments of Scottish History. Edin. 1798, 4to.

      Scottish Poems of the Sixteenth Century. 2 vols. 8vo. Edin. 1801. With a Glossary.

      Tracts on the Natural History of Animals and Vegetables. Translated from the original Italian of Spallanzani, with Physiological illustrations. Edin. 1803, 2 vols, 8vo.

      Illustrations of Scottish History, preserved from Manuscripts of the sixteenth century. Edinburgh, 1806, 8vo.

      Journal of Richard Bannatyne, Secretary to John Knox; with a Preface and short Introduction. Edinburgh, 1806, 8vo. The volume contains also, Letters from Secretary Maitland and the earl of Morton, 1572. An Account of the death of the earl of Huntly, 1576. Confession of the earl of Morton, 1581; and Mutual aggressions by the contending factions, 1570.

      A Tract chiefly relative to Monastic Antiquities, with some account of a recent search for the Remains of the Scottish kings interred in the Abbey of Dunfermline. Edinburgh, 1809, 8vo.

      Some account of an ancient manuscript of Martial’s Epigrams, illustrated by an Engraving, and occasional anecdotes of the manners of the Romans. Edin. 1811, 8vo. Only thirty copies of this work were printed, six of them on vellum.

      Observations on some interesting phenomena in Animal Physiology, exhibited by several species of Planariae. Edin. 1814, 8vo.

      Remarks on the Antiquities, illustrated by the Chartularies of the Episcopal see of Aberdeen. Edin. 1820, 8vo.

      A Brief Analysis of the Ancient Records of the Bishopric of Moray. Edin. 1826, 8vo.

      A Brief Analysis of the Chartularies of the Abbey of Cambuskenneth, chapel royal of Stirling, and Preceptory of St. Anthony at Leith. Edin. 1828, 8vo.

      Chronicle of Lindsay of Pitscottie. 2 vols. 8vo. 1814.

      Enquiry into the remote causes of cholera. A pamphlet, anonymous. Edinburgh, 1832.

      The Darker Superstitions of Scotland, illustrated from history and practice. Edin. 1834, 8vo. This work embodies the fruit of much patient study in scarce and little read publications, and affords many curious glimpses of the popular mythology of the North.

      Rare and Remarkable Animals of Scotland, represented in more than a hundred plates, drawn from living subjects. 2 vols. 4to, London, 1847-8.

      Musical Memoirs of Scotland, with Historical Annotations, and numerous illustrative plates. Edin. 1849, 4to.

      The Powers of the Creator displayed in the Creation; or Observations of line amidst the various forms of the humbler tribes of animated nature, with practical comments and Illustrations. 1 vol. London, 1851, 4to. A second volume left in manuscript, was edited by the Rev. Dr. Fleming of the New College, Edinburgh, with a memoir and portrait.

      He was also the author of various articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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