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The Scottish Nation

LOCHNAW. The account of the Agnews of Lochnaw in Wigtonshire is introduced here under the name of their estate, as it was inadvertently omitted at its regular place in the first volume of this work.

      The surname of Agnew is understood to be of French origin, a family of the name of Agneau having been, about the end of the tenth century, seated in Normandy, and there is a family tradition, confirmed by some ancient MSS., that the first progenitor in England of the Agnews came over with William the conqueror, although his name is not upon the list of barons. In the 12th century, soon after the subjection of Ireland to the English crown by Earl Strongbow, the famous warrior, Sir John de Courcy, the conqueror of the province of Ulster, was “accompanied, we are told, by Agneau, an Anglo-Norman like himself, who settled at Larne, in the conquered province; and it is well known that the family had very extensive possessions in the county of Antrim, where they were called lords Agnew, or lords of Larne.” (Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol. i. p. 162). In the reign of David II. the first of the Scottish Agnews arrived at his court, and acquired the lands and castle of Lochnaw, then a royal castle, in the Rhinns of Galloway, being at the same time appointed sheriff of the county of Wigeon. He was also made heritable constable of Lochnaw castle.

      The family appear in the 15th century to have held their possessions under the Douglas. Callers (Caledonia, vol. iii. p. 395), says, “Andrew Agnew was the first who obtained, in the capacity of scitifer (shield-bearer, esquire at arms), the good will of the Lady Margaret Stewart, the duchess of Turenne and countess of Douglas, while she enjoyed Galloway as her dower. In 1426 he acquired from William Douglas of Leswalt the heritable office of the castle of Lochnaw,” &c. This Andrew Agnew got several charters from James I., particularly two, dated 31st January 1431, confirming to him and his heirs the office of heritable constable of Lochnaw, with the whole lands and barony of Lochnaw, &c. He afterwards got the office of heritable sheriffship of Wigeon conferred on him and his heirs, by a charter, under the great seal from James II., dated 25th May 1451.

      Patrick Agnew of Lochnaw, his great-great-grandson, lived in the reigns of Queen Mary and James VI. His son, Sir Patrick Agnew, seventh sheriff of Wigeon, was knighted by the latter monarch, and created a baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles I., by patent to him and his heirs male whatever, dated 28th July 1629. In 1633 he represented the county of Wigeon in the Scottish estates. He was a member of the high commission court, established for the introduction of episcopacy in October 1634, and he died in 1661. He had three sons: Andrew, his successor; Patrick of Sheuchan, whose great-granddaughter married John Vans, Esq. of Barnbarroch, now represented by Vans Agnew of Sheuchan and Barnbarroch, Wigtonshire; and James, lieutenant-colonel of Lord Kirkcudbright’s regiment in the reign of Charles the First.

      His eldest son, Sir Andrew, second baronet of Lochnaw, was knighted in his father’s lifetime. He was a member of the Estates for Wigtonshire, and a zealous supporter of the Covenant. In 1656 he was appointed by Cromwell, sheriff of Galloway. After his father’s death, he got, in 1661, all the charters of Lochnaw, with the offices and privileges, which his ancestors had possessed “past all memorie of man,” confirmed and ratified by parliament. In the following year, however, he was fined £6,000 for his compliance under the commonwealth. On enlarging the old castle of Lochnaw, in 1665, he inscribed upon it from the beginning of the 127th Psalm: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vaine that build.” He died in 1671. By his wife, Anne, daughter of Sir Alexander Stewart, created in 1623, earl of Galloway, he had Sir Andrew, third baronet of Lochnaw. In January, 1682, for refusing to take the test oath, and because he would not join in the oppression of the persecuted Presbyterians within his jurisdiction, he was deprived of the sheriffdom of Wigtonshire, so long held by the family, and the office was conferred on the notorious Graham of Claverhouse; the object of the Scottish privy council in doing so, says callers, being that Graham might “shew the Agnews, at the end of 230 years, how to execute the office of sheriff during such times!” And in what manner Claverhouse executed his commission there and elsewhere, is written in blood in the history of the period. Sir Andrew took an active share in the revolution of 1688, and on 4th May 1689, the Convention of Estates returned him to his hereditary office of sheriff of Wigeon, He died in 1698.

      His son, Sir James, who had also actively supported the Revolution, was the fourth baronet. He married Lady Mary Montgomerie, daughter of the third earl of Eglinton, by whom he had twenty-one children, and died in 1723.

      His eldest son, Sir Andrew, the famous lieutenant-general, was fifth baronet. Born in 1687, he was, says Sir Walter Scott, “a soldier of the old military school, severe in discipline, stiff and formal in manners, brave to the last degree, but somewhat of a humorist.” Once on the eve of an engagement he thus laconically addressed his troops: “Weel, lads, ye see these loons on the hill there! If ye dinna kill them, they’ll kill you.” At the battle of Dettingen, June 14, 1743, he was ordered with his regiment, the Scots Fusileers, to guard a pass at the extremity of the British army. One day as his men were preparing for dinner, he was informed of the approach of a body of the enemy’s cavalry. “The loons,” he exclaimed, “will never hae the impudence to attack the Scots Fusileers!” and he ordered his men to take their dinner, saying they would fight all the better for it. As he himself was in the act of picking a bone, a shot struck it out of his hand, upon which declaring that “They were in earnest now,” he rose, and made arrangements for meeting the enemy. Observing the French cuirassiers coming on at a charging pace, and well knowing that the usual mode of resistance to this manoeuvre would be useless, as these troops, which were of the royal household, were mounted on the best horses, and not only provided with iron cuirasses, but had them also buckled on to the saddles, so that the bayonet could make no impression, he ordered his men to open, to allow the cavalry to pass between the platoons, bidding them not fire till “they saw the white of their een,” and to aim at the horses. By this means, on the horses falling, their riders, bound to the saddles, and unable to extricate themselves, were immediately bayonetted, or taken prisoners. After the battle, the king, George II., who commanded in person, observed to Sir Andrew, “I hear you let the French get in amongst us.” “Yes, please your majesty,” replied he, “but they didna win back again.” (Playfair’s Family antiquities – Baronetage of Scotland, p. 153, Note.)

      In 1746, just previous to the battle of Culloden, he bravely defended Blair castle, the seat of the duke of Athol, when blockaded by a rebel force under Lord George Murray, the duke’s brother. The garrison was reduced to great distress from the want of provisions, and if the blockade, which lasted from the 17th March to the 1st of April, had been continued a few days longer they must have surrendered, but, fortunately for them, Lord George Murray was ordered to return immediately to Inverness, in consequence of the expected advance of the duke of Cumberland. Sir Andrew, being shortsighted, could not see that the blockading force had retired, and he would not trust to the eyes of others. He, therefore, remained shut up in the castle, till the earl of Crawford arrived on the 2d April with a detachment of cavalry to his relief. On the garrison being drawn out, Sir Andrew formally received his lordship at the head of it, saying, “My lord, I am very glad to see you, but, by all that’s good, you have been very dilatory, and we can give you nothing to eat.” To this his lordship replied, “I assure you, Sir Andrew, I made all the haste I possibly could; and I hope that you and the officers will do me the honour to partake with me of such fare as I can give you.” In the Scots Magazine for 1808, will be found ‘An Original and Genuine Narrative, now first published, of the Remarkable Blockade and Attack of Blair Castle, written by a Subaltern Officer, who served in the defence.’ This officer, at that time an ensign, was afterwards General Melville. The same year Sir Andrew got the colonelcy of a regiment of marines. On the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions in Scotland in 1747, he received £4,000 as compensation for his sheriffship of Wigtonshire. In 1750 he was appointed governor of Tinmouth castle. He died in 1771, aged 84. Tradition has preserved many characteristic anecdotes of this veteran soldier, and an account of him will be found in Scott’s Tales of a Grandfather, and the commencement of M’Crie’s Memoirs of his great grandson, Sir Andrew Agnew, baronet, the celebrated champion of the Sabbath. He had six sons and eleven daughters.

      His fifth son, Sir Stair Agnew, so called after field-marshal, the earl of Stair, was the sixth baronet. He was born 9th October, 1734, and died June 28, 1809, in his 75th year. He had two sons and three daughters. One of the latter, Isabella, became the wife of Robert Hathorn-Stewart, Esq. of Physgill, with issue. His elder son, Andrew, a lieutenant in the army, married the Hon. Martha de Courcy, eldest daughter of the 26th Lord Kingsale, premier baron of Ireland, and had an only son, Andrew, the subject of the following notice. During a visit which Lieutenant Agnew paid, with his bride, to his paternal home of Lochnaw, he was seized with sudden illness, the result, it is said, of over exertion in hunting, and died on 11th September 1792, in his 26th year, within four months of his marriage.

      His son, Sir Andrew, seventh baronet, was a posthumous child, having been born on 21st March 1793. His birthplace was his maternal grandfather’s seat of Kingsale in Ireland, where he spent his early youth, till he succeeded to his property. He early showed a fondness for music, drawing, and poetry, and was also much attached to the study of architecture and heraldry. When sixteen years of age, he succeeded to the title and estates of his family. In the winters of 1810 and 1811, he attended the classes of moral philosophy under Dr. Thomas Brown, and of chemistry and pharmacy under Dr. Hope, in the university of Edinburgh. In October 1812, he went to Oxford, but though he did not enter as a graduate at any of the colleges there, he had a tutor, and regularly attended the classes. On 11th July 1816, he married Madeline, tenth daughter of Sir David Carnegie of Southesk, baronet, representative of the earls of Southesk, and hereditary cupbearer to the king. This earldom, which was attainted in 1716, was restored to the family in 1855, in the person of Sir David’s son, Sir James Carnegie. (See SOUTHESK, earl of.)

      At Lochnaw he devoted himself for some years to planting and improving his estate, and almost rebuilt Lochnaw castle. He attended all county meetings, and was regular in the observance of his duties as a justice of the peace. In November 1828, he was appointed vice-lieutenant of Wigtonshire.

      In 1830 Sir Andrew was unanimously elected M.P. for the county of Wigeon, and in 1831 and 1832, he was a second and a third time returned for the same county. In the latter year, at the request of the Lord’s Day Society of London, he undertook the leadership of their cause in the House of Commons, and entered actively on measures having in view the sanctification of the Sabbath. On 2d July 1832 he obtained the appointment of a select committee, to inquire into the laws and practices relating to the observance of the Lord’s day, and their report, with the minutes of evidence, was ordered to be printed on 6th August of the same year. On 20th March, 1833, he introduced his Bill for the Better Protection of the Sabbath in England. The prohibitory clauses it contained, against various forms of Sabbath desecration, raised up a fierce storm of opposition both within and without parliament, and on 16th May the bill was lost, on the second reading, by a majority of 79 to 73. On 11th March 1834, he again obtained leave to bring in a bill for the better observance of the Sabbath, which on 30th April was again thrown out on the second reading, by a majority of 161 to 125. In January 1835, he was for the fourth time elected M.P. for Wigtonshire, and in February he published ‘A Letter to the Friends of the Sabbath Cause.’ He also published various tracts, letters, and circulars on the same topic. He was a member of many religious and philanthropic societies, both in England and Scotland, and often presided at their public meetings.

      On 21st April 1836, he introduced another bill for promoting the due observance of the Lord’s day, which on the second reading on 18th May following, was lost by a majority of 32. Encouraged by the marked improvement which had taken place in public feeling in regard to the Sabbath, and by the numerous petitions in its favour presented to parliament, on May 4, 1837 he brought his measure for the fourth time before the House of Commons, when the first reading was carried by a majority of 146. On 7th June the second reading was at last allowed by a majority of 44, which affirmed the principle of the bill. The death of William IV., that month, led to a dissolution of parliament, and the farther progress of the bill was stopped. At the election for the new parliament the same year, he stood for the Wigeon burghs, instead of for the county as before, but was unsuccessful. Throughout his parliamentary career he was a supporter of the principles of reform, although his views on questions of religion, and in particular on that of Sabbath observance, were widely different from those held by the Reform party. His last years were distinguished by his opposition to the running of the railway trains on Sunday on those Scotch lines in which he was a shareholder. He died at Edinburgh, April 12, 1849, of a disease of the heart, after an attack of scarlet fever, aged 56, and was interred in the Grange cemetery, receiving a public funeral. He had thirteen children, ten of whom survived him. The eldest son, Sir Andrew, eighth baronet, born 1818, was educated at Harrow, and for a time was an officer of dragoons. He married in 1846 Lady Louisa Noel, daughter of the first earl of Gainsborough, with issue; a deputy lieutenant of Wigtonshire, 1843, vice-lieutenant, 1852.

      Sir Andrew’s grand-uncle, General Patrick Agnew, served for many years, with much distinction, in India. He was the personal friend of the duke of Wellington, and father of Mrs. Alexander Stuart Menteath, authoress of several pieces of poetry.

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