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The Scottish Nation

FARQUHAR, a surname derived from the Gaelic word Fearchar, or Ferchard, which appears to have its foundation in Ferg or Fearg (Gaelic, meaning anger of wrath), the root of Fergus, which see. Farquhar is the name of an old family in the county of Ayr, which have enjoyed the lands of Gilmilnescroft, or Guildmedscroft, sometimes written Gilmercroft, in Kyle-Stewart, for many generations, the representative of which, James Gray Farquhar, Esq., eldest son of the heiress of Gilmilnescroft, wife of John Gray, Esq. of Kilmerdenny, descended from the youngest son of Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, ancestor of Lord Gray, succeeded in 1809.


      A branch of the Ayrshire family seems to have settled very early in Aberdeenshire, to which belonged Sir Robert Farquhar, of Lenturk, knight, who was provost of Aberdeen in 1661. His great-great-grandson was the eminent physician, Sir Walter Farquhar, baronet, son of the Rev. Robert Farquhar, for many years minister of Chapel of Garioch. He was born at Peterhead, and was one of a large family, several of whom distinguished themselves, particularly his brother John, who died young, but had acquired a high character as a divine. His sermons, after his death, were edited by Principal Campbell and Professor Gerard of Aberdeen, and have gone through many editions. After studying for the medical profession for four years at the university of King’s college, Old Aberdeen, and taking his degree of M.A., Sir Walter went to the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Afterwards, through the patronage of Lord Howe, he was appointed surgeon in the 19th foot, and attended his lordship when wounded at the siege of Belleisle. The regiment being subsequently ordered to Gibraltar, he obtained leave of absence, and proceeded to France, where he remained for a hear and a half, visiting the hospitals in the provinces and in Paris, and associating with the most eminent men of the period, in the several branches of medicine and surgery. He studied several months under the great Le Cat, at Rouen in Normandy, taking up his abode in the house of that celebrated anatomist, who was the founder and director of the famous hospital there. On his return to Gibraltar, his practice became considerable, but he was obliged, from ill health, to resign his situation there, when he settled in London, and soon after married Mrs. Harvie, the widow of a physician from Jamaica. In a short time his practice became the most extensive of any physician in the metropolis, and on March 1, 1796, he was created a baronet of the United Kingdom. He was the confidential medical adviser of Mr. Pitt and Lord Melville, and he was appointed one of the physicians to the prince of Wales, afterwards George the Fourth, when Regent. In 1813 he gave up general practice, and confined his attendance exclusively to the prince regent and to those families who classed him with their friends. Sir Walter died 26th march 1819, leaving three sons and four daughters.

      His eldest son, Sir Thomas Harvie Farquhar, second baronet, born 27th June 1775, died in January 1836, leaving 3 sons and 3 daughters. The eldest son, Sir Walter Rockcliffe Farquhar, third baronet, born 4th June 1810, married 28th November 1837, the lady Mary Octavia Somerset, youngest daughter of the sixth duke of Beaufort, with issue.


      Sir Robert Townsend Farquhar, the second son of Sir Walter Farquhar, the eminent physician, born October 14, 1776, was for many years commercial resident at Amboyna, and afterwards lieutenant-governor of Pulo-Penang. At the peace of Amiens in 1802, he was appointed commissioner for adjusting the British claims in the Moluccas, and to deliver up those islands to the Batavian republic. In 1812 he was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of the island of Mauritius, and resigned that office in 1823. He was created a baronet 21st August 1821, and assumed the additional name of Townsend by sign manual in 1824. He died 16th March 1830, aged 53. At the time of his death he was M.P. for Hythe, a director of the East India Company, and of the Alliance Insurance Company. In 1807 he published a pamphlet entitled ‘Suggestions for counteracting any injurious effects upon the population of the British West India Colonies from the abolition of the Slave Trade.’

      His son, Sir Walter Minto Townsend Farquhar, second baronet of this branch, born 26th October 1809, married in 1835, the daughter of the seventh Lord Reay, with issue.

FARQUHAR, JOHN, an eccentric and very wealthy individual, in the latter years of his life known as Farquhar of Fonthill, was born at Bilbo, parish of Crimond, Aberdeenshire, in 1751, of poor parents. Early in life he went to India, as a cadet in the Bombay establishment, where he was a chum of the late General Kerr, and soon after his arrival he received, in an engagement, a dangerous wound in the hip, which caused lameness, and affected his health so much that he was recommended to remove to Bengal. He soon quitted the military service, and became a free merchant. Chemistry was his favourite pursuit, and from its practical application the foundation of his immense fortune was laid. There happened to be some defect in the mode of manufacturing gunpowder, in the interior, at Pultah, and Mr. Farquhar being selected by the marquis Cornwallis, then governor-general of India, as a fit person to superintend the manufactory, ultimately became the sole contractor to the Government. In this way, wealth and distinction rapidly poured in upon him, and he attained the particular favour and confidence of the governor Warren Hastings. In Bengal he was always remarkable for the closeness of his application, his unabating perseverance, and extraordinary mental vigour.

      After a number of years he returned to England with a fortune estimated at half a million of money. On landing at Gravesend, it is said that, to save coach hire, he walked to London, and, requiring a few pounds, his first visit was to his banker. Covered with dust and dirt, with clothes not worth a guinea, he presented himself at the counter, and asked to see Mr. Hoare. Believing him to be some poor unimportant personage come to solicit charity, the clerks paid no attention to his request, but allowed him to wait in the cash-office, until Mr. Hoare, accidentally passing through it, after some explanation, recognised his Indian customer, a man whom he expected to see with all a nabob’s pomp. Mr. Farquhar requested £25, and took his leave.

      Having subsequently hired a house in Upper Baker Street, Portman Square, London, his residence became remarkable for its dingy appearance, uncleaned windows, and general neglect. An old woman was his sole attendant, and she was not allowed to enter his own apartment, to which a brush or broom was never applied. His neighbours were not at all acquainted with his character; and there have been instances of some of them offering him money as an object of charity, or as a reduced gentleman. The parsimonious habits, which poverty had compelled him to adopt in early life, never forsook him, even when master of a princely fortune, but adhered to him through life.

      He became a partner in the great agency house in the city, of Basset, Farquhar, and Col, and also purchased the late Mr. Whitbread’s share in the brewery. Part of his wealth was devoted to the purchase of estates, but the great bulk was invested in stock, and allowed to increase on the principle of compound interest. Every half year he regularly drew his dividends, his mercantile profits, and his rents, and purchased in the funds. In this manner his wealth accumulated to an enormous amount. In the summer of 1822 he bought Fonthill Abbey, at the sum of £330,000; and afterwards occasionally resided there, sometimes visited by his relations, till the fall of the tower in December 1825.

      Slovenly in his dress, and disagreeable at his meals, Mr. Farquhar was yet courteous and affable in his manners. He was deeply read in the classics; and though adverse through life to writing and figures, when prevailed upon to pen a letter or a note, his style was found to be at once terse, elegant, and condensed. In the more difficult sciences, as a mathematician, chemist, and mechanic, he greatly excelled. His religious opinions were said to be influenced by an admiration of the purity of the lives and moral principles of the Brahmins. It is stated that he offered to appropriate £100,000 to found a college in Aberdeen on the most enlarged plan of education, with a reservation on points of religion; to which, however, the sanction of parliament could not be procured, and the scheme dropped. He was diminutive in person, and by no means prepossessing in appearance. His wealth, at his death, was computed to amount to a million and a half! Though penurious towards his own comforts, he was liberal and generous to the poor; and many mornings when he had left his house with a crust of bread in his pocket, to save the expense of a penny at an oyster shop, he has given away hundreds of pounds in acts of charity. Mr. Farquhar died suddenly of apoplexy, July 6, 1826. Having left no will, his immense property was divided between seven nephews and nieces, almost all of them belonging to Aberdeenshire.

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