man who consecrates his hours
By vigorous effort and an honest aim,
At once he draws the sting of life and death;
He walks with nature, and his paths are peace."
An adventurous spirit is characteristic of a Scotsman. The Celts and the Cymbri celebrated liberty in their songs, but were unable to cope with those who pressed upon their soil. The lowland Scots, like their adventurous ancestors of Scandinavia, bid defiance to the invader, and maintained their independence. Galgacus resisted and drove back the Roman legions. Kenneth Macalpine checked the inferior races, and, rendering them obedient to his rule, established the permanent supremacy of the Scottish sceptre. The valiant Wallace restored the national liberties by the arms of a few vigorous compatriots, and a band of unskilled but resolute followers. Robert Bruce established his sovereignty by the force of a determined will, and by inspiring his troops with a share of his own courage.
Scottish national enterprise has in recent times been represented by such men as William Paterson, who projected the Darien scheme, and founded the Bank of England; James Bruce, who discovered the sources of the Nile; Mungo Park, the African explorer ; and the illustrious David Livingstone. "You are no doubt proud of your son," said the author of this work to the aged mother of the last-named traveller. "I am thankful for him," said the venerable matron.
The congratulatory odes addressed to King James on his accession to the English throne were legion. They were composed in Latin, English, and the Scottish vernacular. A panegyric in Latin hexameters particularly attracted the attention of the monarch. He was alike gratified by its complimentary character, and by the elegant language in which the compliments were conveyed. He invited the author to his court. His name was Robert Aytoun, the younger son of a Fife laird, who had prosecuted classical study at St. Andrews, and had lately returned from following literary pursuits in France. Aytoun presented an agreeable exterior, and his manners were courtly. The king was much attracted towards him, and at once attached him to the court. He appointed him private secretary to the Queen, and afterwards bestowed upon him a succession of honourable and lucrative offices. He was nominated a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Master of Bequests, and Master of Ceremonies. He received the honour of knighthood, and was raised to the dignity of a Privy Councillor. When James published his "Apology for the Oath of Allegiance," which he dedicated to Rodolph II., Emperor of Germany, and to the other princes of the German states, Sir Robert Aytoun was entrusted with the duty of bearing copies of the royal work to those illustrious personages. On the decease of his royal patron, Aytoun found another friend in his successor. He was continued in all his offices, and was appointed Private Secretary to Queen Henrietta Maria. On the death of Sir Julius Caesar, in 1636, he was appointed by his royal mistress to the Mastership of St. Catherine. He attained other honours and emoluments. Having amassed a considerable fortune, he purchased an estate in Perthshire. He died in March, 1638, and was interred in Westminster Abbey, where a handsome monument, with an encomiastic Latin elegy has been erected to his memory.
Sir Robert Aytoun was an elegant writer of English verse. He composed numerous short poems, songs, and sonnets. These he presented to his friends, without being careful to retain copies. They were, after his death, partially collected by his ingenious friend, Sir James Balfour. Two MS. collections of his verses are extant, one being in the library of the British Museum, and the other in the possession of the present writer.
Early in the last century, Mrs. Douglas, widow of Mr. Archibald Douglas, minister of Saltoun, rented a small cottage in the burgh of Pittenweem, on the south coast of Fifeshire. Her only son engaged in trade, and when he attained manhood became a shopkeeper, or general merchant. But the sphere of business at Pittenweem was too limited for his energies, and in the hope of improving his circumstances he removed to London, where he opened the British Coffee-house in Cockspur Street. His family consisted of a son and daughter. The daughter assisted in the house; the son studied at Oxford and took orders in the Church. In his twenty-third year the youth was appointed Chaplain of the 3rd Foot Guards, whom he attended in Flanders; he afterwards obtained a curacy in the neighbourhood of Oxford. Many of the nobility frequented the coffee-house of Cockspur Street. Miss Douglas, who was now the landlady, was respected for her intelligence and her extreme attention to the comfort of her patrons. One day the Earl of Bath, who was an occasional visitor, remarked to Miss Douglas that he was much' concerned about securing a proper travelling companion for his son. The landlady modestly suggested her brother, and the Earl said he would inquire about his qualifications. A favourable account was obtained, and the young clergyman was offered by Lord Bath the appointment of companion to his son, Lord Pulteney. Mr. John Douglas performed the duties assigned him so satisfactorily, that Lord Bath became his personal friend. Through his lordship's influence he procured a succession of ecclesiastical appointments, and at length attained the mitre. Dr. Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, son of the Scottish coffee-house keeper, is known as one of the most learned and accomplished prelates of the Church of England. His lordship died in May, 1807.
In the summer of 1759, John Home, author of "Douglas," was spending some weeks at the Moffat mineral Springs. In his peregrinations he met a Highland schoolmaster who had accompanied a pupil to the Wells. Home was much pleased by the intelligence of his northern acquaintance. His regard was increased when he found that his new friend cherished poetical tastes, and had produced some respectable verses. The conversation turned on the poetry of the Highlands—Home expressing the opinion that the Gaels had always been an unlettered people. The Highlander dissented, and quoted some fragments of Highland minstrelsy which he said were translations from Celtic originals. Home was much interested, and requested his new acquaintance to supply him with some translations in MS., that he might show them to his literary friends in the capital. The translator complied. The Edinburgh savans were delighted and surprised, and Home was entreated not to lose sight of the ingenious Highlander.
Mr. James Macpherson now presented himself in the capital, and was introduced by Home to the literary circles. Dr. Blair especially interested himself in promoting the work of translation. Fragments of Gaelic poetry collected by Macpherson were published under his auspices in 1760. Soon after a literary dinner was held at Edinburgh, to which Macpherson was invited. Subscriptions were laid on the table to enable him to proceed on a tour through the Highlands to collect all the fragments of ancient poetry which might be procured. The result of these researches was published in two quarto volumes. Thus were the poems of Ossian given to the world.
The discussion which arose as to the genuineness of these Ossianic poems was unprecedented. Persons of the greatest ability and learning were arrayed on both sides, and much angry feeling was expended on the part of the combatants. Meanwhile, the ingenious schoolmaster who had published them was not forgotten. He was appointed private secretary to Captain Johnston, governor of Pensacola; an office from the duties of which he soon retired with a handsome pension. He established his residence in London, and devoted himself to literary pursuits. Two pamphlets from his pen in support of the Government, and against the claims of the American Colonies, were conducive to his further success. He was constituted agent to the Nabob of Arcot. In 1780 he entered Parliament as member for Camel-ford. His death took place in his mansion of Belleville, Inverness-shire, in 1796, and his remains were interred in Westminster Abbey. Macpherson attained great opulence, and purchased a handsome estate
The city of St. Andrews has long been celebrated for its educational advantages. About the year 1768 a hairdresser of the place sent his son to the university, in the hope that he might be induced to study for the Church. The youth evinced an abundant aptitude for learning, but was withal wilful and headstrong. He quarrelled with a companion, and challenged him to mortal combat. The juvenile duellists borrowed two old firelocks, and therewith proceeded to a sequestered spot to justify their mutual honour. The seconds arranged that the party who should first fire should be chosen by lot. The priority fell to Mr. Bell, who discharged his weapon but missed his antagonist. Realizing what might be the consequences of the encounter, the seconds interfered, and further conflict was prevented. The affair, however, became known, and Bell, who possessed an extraordinary spirit of adventure, abandoned his college studies, and proceeded to Virginia. There he attracted the notice of a planter, w7ho, perceiving his scholarship, placed two sons under his care, and gave him permission to travel with them to Scotland. Bell returned to his native city. The intervals in which he was not engaged with his American pupils he devoted to the study of medicine, which he prosecuted so successfully as to qualify himself for a degree. He next thought of taking orders in the Church of England, as affording a wider field for preferment than the Church of his native country. Through the influence of Mr. Dempster, Member of Parliament, he was appointed chaplain to Fort St. George, Madras; he accordingly proceeded to India.
At Madras, Dr. Bell originated the Monitorial method of instruction which has become associated with his name. The development and extension of his system, together with the acquisition of money, became henceforth the main object of his life. His latter years were spent in England. He became founder of an educational institution in his native city, towards the erection and endowment of which, and the support of some kindred institutions, he bequeathed his fortune of £120,000. Dr. Bell died in 1832.
In the closing year of the last century, a young Scotsman who had taught the parochial schools of Dunino and Kettle, in Fifeshire, proceeded to North America in the hope of procuring educational employment. He reached Kingston, Canada West, where he discovered that certain hopes of preferment which he had cherished could not be realized. Without a single acquaintance to recommend his efforts, he opened a school. The venture was only partially successful. He taught at Kingston about four years, when he took orders in the Episcopal Church. He now accepted the mission at Cornwall, where he founded an academy which he successfully conducted for nine years. In 1812 he received a clerical appointment at Toronto, where he likewise planted a seminary.
From the outset of his American career, Mr. John Strachan, the Fifeshire schoolmaster, had formed the conception of a Canadian university. Aided by many of his former pupils, now in situations of influence, he continued to advocate his scheme till 1827, when King's College, Toronto, was founded by royal charter. Religious differences prevailed, which led to the retirement of the founder from the institution. In 1851 he founded a new college at Toronto in connection with the Church of England. In 1839 he became Bishop of Toronto. Bishop Strachan still lives; he has attained his ninety-third year.
Lord Gardenstone, a judge of the Court of Session, was a promoter of learning. He occupied a residence in the parish of Fordoun, Kincardineshire. The village schoolmaster, a young man lately appointed, was represented to him as a learned person, but as possessing an eccentricity which bordered on derangement. Gardenstone wished much to see him, but hesitated to make the acquaintance of one who might prove troublesome. Walking one afternoon in a beautiful glen in the neighbourhood of his residence, he observed a young man writing with a pencil. He drew near to the stranger, who seemed in a profound reverie. Having indicated his presence, his lordship proceeded to hail the stranger with a kindly greeting. The stranger, awakened from his fantasy, respectfully saluted his lordship, and announced himself as the village schoolmaster. Lord Gardenstone was much pleased wdth the appearance and manner of his new acquaintance. After a short walk with him he invited him to spend an evening at Gardenstone. When Lord Gardenstone had received several visits from his new friend without detecting any oddity, or other token of mental aberration, he ventured to inform him of the popular belief. The schoolmaster proceeded to explain that he was in the habit of composing poetry in the glen where his lordship had met him, and that he frequently repeated his compositions aloud. Besides, when meditating on his verses, he had repeatedly found himself to have been so engaged as to be unconscious of surrounding objects. This must have originated the report of his insanity. His explanation was most satisfactory to the benevolent judge, who resolved forthwith to befriend one whose talents so evidently entitled him to preferment. His lordship introduced the poet to Lord Monboddo, who was equally attracted by his ingenuity and learning.
In a few years, Mr. James Beattie, schoolmaster of Fordoun, was, under the strong recommendation of the Lords Gardenstone and Monboddo, promoted to a professorship in Marischal College, Aberdeen. Few Scottish professors have been more distinguished than the ingenious author of "The Minstrel."
It was a subject of deep concern to the Bev. David Wilkie, minister of Cults, that his son, who bore his own Christian name, was so neglectful of his lessons. Three schools had been tried—Pitlessie, Kettle, and the Academy of Cupar; but David was incorrigibly bent on ignoring scholastic knowledge. The walls, the kitchen pavement, the uncarpeted floors of his father's manse, and other places, bore evidence of his propensity to indulge in what seemed a perpetual pastime. Figures of men and brutes in all descriptions of attitude were scrawled, daubed, and delineated everywhere. Even in church, when his father was preaching, would the young rogue, unmindful of the sacredness of the place, be depicting on the blank leaves of his Psalm-book the more remarkable faces in the flock. Every sleeper was sure to find a place in his portfolio.
The case was hopeless. The youth could never become a scholar. He might be a painter. He was recommended as a pupil in the Trustees' Academy at Edinburgh. The application for his admission was rejected. George Thomson, the Trustees' secretary, and the promoter of genius in the person of Robert Burns, saw no genius in young David Wilkie. He pronounced an opinion that the lad was incapable of receiving instruction even in the most ordinary branches of his art. This was very discouraging to the worthy parson of Cults. His son was evidently unfitted for the pulpit, and by one who ruled the Scottish world of art the boy's best drawings were pronounced worthless.
The sequel may be related in a few sentences. Private influence overcame the hostile adjudication of the Trustees' secretary. Young Wilkie became a pupil in the Trustees' Academy, and obtained a prize. At the age of twenty he proceeded to London, and painted vigorously for his support. His paintings soon became known, and brought him fame and emolument. He became, in the words of Hay-den, "the Raffaele of domestic art." He was at length elected a Royal Academician, and received the honour of knighthood. The name of Sir David Wilkie is familiar to every Scotsman. This distinguished painter died in 1841, in his fifty-fifth year.
John Campbell, son of the minister of Cupar, refused to study for the Church. Having obtained some acquaintance with the classics at St. Andrews University, he proceeded to London. He became a parliamentary reporter, and theatrical critic to the Morning Chronicle. Having saved a little money, he entered one of the Inns of Court, and was called to the bar. He became king's counsel. He entered Parliament, was chosen Solicitor-General, and afterwards Attorney-General. The adventurous student of St. Andrews, who turned his back on the humbler aspirations of his forefathers, was raised to the peerage, and became Lord Chancellor. Lord Campbell died in 1861.
When Robert Burns visited Ellisland, a young man, employed as a farm labourer in the neighbourhood, procured books from the poet's library. The youth's taste for learning increased; he sought employment in a joiner's workshop, and having saved a little money from his earnings, went to college. He studied medicine, and practised as a surgeon, first in Paisley and afterwards in Glasgow. This individual was Dr. Robert Watt, author of the "Bibliotheca Britannica," the most remarkable work of the kind which has appeared in any country or age. Dr. Watt died at Glasgow in 1819, at the age of forty-five.
We now present some illustrations of Scottish enterprise not generally known. About the year 1684, an agricultural labourer, named Macrae, died at Ochiltree, Ayrshire. He left a widow and two children— a boy and girl. The widow removed to a suburb of the town of Ayr, where she obtained employment as a washerwoman. The son, James Macrae, was sometime a message-boy, and afterwards a cowherd. During his evening hours he received lessons in reading and other elementary branches from Hugh M'Guire, a maker of spinning-wheels, but who was better known as fiddler at the district merry-makings. This boy possessed a restless spirit, and was always getting into scrapes. At length he disappeared. He had run off to sea. Forty years passed. In 1731, James Macrae, Esq., late Governor of Madras, arrived in the town of Ayr, and proceeded to make inquiry about Mrs. Macrae, the poor washerwoman, and the fiddler M'Guire. The former had long been dead, but M'Guire had married the widow's daughter, and four handsome girls had been born to them. Governor Macrae announced himself as M'Guire's old prodigal, now his brother-in-law, and the uncle of his daughters. He handed a sum of money to the fiddler, and promised to attend to the education of his girls. The fiddler procured a loaf of sugar and a bottle of brandy, and scooping a hole into the loaf, and pouring in brandy, he and his helpmate supped the sweetened liquor. Thus they felicitated themselves on their unexpected good fortune.
The career of James Macrae, up to the period of his reappearance at Ayr, must he sketched. After a short seafaring career, he enlisted as a soldier, and was sent to India. By his good conduct he obtained a commission, and in due time obtained a field officer's rank. He was subsequently employed in the commissariat. Being in the service of the East India Company, he was sent by the Directors on a special mission to an English settlement on the west coast of Sumatra. There his services proved efficient, and he was appointed by the Directors to the governorship of Fort St. David. On the 18th January, 1725, he became Governor of Madras. He returned to Britain in 1731, with a fortune of one hundred thousand pounds.
Governor Macrae now devoted himself to the welfare of his sister's family. He presented her husband with a farm, and sent the daughters to an approved place of education. They were educated in all the accomplishments of the time, and brought out in the first society. In 1744 the eldest married William, thirteenth Earl of Glencairn. On this occasion Governor Macrae presented his niece with the barony of Ochiltree, which he had purchased for £25,000. He bestowed on her diamonds to the value of £45,000. The Governor's second niece married Mr. James Erskine, advocate, afterwards
Lord Alva. She received the estate of Alva as her dower. The third daughter married her cousin, an illegitimate son of the Governor, and received the barony of Houston. Her husband is, as Captain Macrae, represented in "Kay's Edinburgh Portraits." He was a notorious duellist, and, having shot Sir George Ramsay in "an affair of honour," escaped from the country. The youngest niece succeeded to her uncle's estate of Orangefield, and married Mr. Charles Dalrymple, Sheriff Clerk of Ayr.
Two public acts of Governor Macrae evince his patriotism. He erected an equestrian statue of William III. at the Cross of Glasgow, at the cost of £3,000; and lent to the corporation of that city the sum of £5,000, to pay the amount levied upon them by Prince Charles Edward in 1745. He died about the year 1746, and was interred in the churchyard of Prestwick.
James, Earl of Glencairn, the Governor's grand-nephew, was one of the first and most attached patrons of Robert Burns. The Earl died in 1791, when the great poet lamented his departure in a touching ode. These are the concluding verses:—
bridegroom may forget the bride
Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
The monarch may forget the crown
That on his head an hour has been;
mither may forget the bairn
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee :
But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
And a' that thou hast done for me.".
The loftiest mountain of the Ochils is Ben Cleugh. In the clefts of its elevated summit falcons were wont to build. In a sporting expedition in quest of those royal birds, James YI. met William Alexander, the young laird of Menstry, who had already made the tour of Europe, and acquired reputation both as a scholar and poet. He was a sprightly youth, and possessed elegant manners. The king invited him to Stirling Castle. His Majesty and young Alexander became fast friends. Alexander obtained honours and immunities from his royal patron. Having filled the minor offices of state, he obtained higher posts. He was ultimately created Earl of Stirling, and had conferred on him, for colonizing purposes, the territories of Canada and Nova Scotia, with the right of creating baronets. No subject obtained such privileges before or since. The Earl died at London in 1640, and was interred, with much pomp, in the High Church of Stirling.
Robert Menteith, minister of Duddingston, professed Arminian doctrines, and gave occasion for scandal in his private life. He resigned his charge, and, proceeding to France, sought and obtained admission into the Catholic Church. He attached himself to the service of M. de la Porte, Grand Prior of France, and afterwards obtained the friendship of Cardinal de Eetz, who bestowed upon him a canonry in Notre Dame. He cultivated the society of men of letters, and obtained a high position among the literati of Paris. Having been requested to name the Scottish family to which he belonged, he ingeniously styled himself one of the Menteiths of Salmonet, his father having been a salmon fisher at Stirling. Menteith is author of a posthumous work, entitled " Histoire des Troubles de la Grande Bretagne depuis l'an 1633 jusqu'en 1649. Paris, 1661. An English translation of this work was published in 1735 by Captain James Ogilvie.
About the year 1570 the elders of the parish church of Stirling discovered that a bodle had been removed from the collecting-plate. Inquiry was instituted, and the offender proved to be a small boy, the son of a respectable "baxter" or baker in the place. The young delinquent acknowledged his misdemeanour, and was so ashamed of what he had done that he suddenly left the place. His parents made every inquiry after him, but failed to obtain any information of his movements. After a time they concluded that he had perished.
One Sunday in the spring of 1603, a military officer presented himself at a meeting of the Stirling' kirk-session. He had come, he said, to offer some reparation for an offence which he had committed many years before, and which had weighed heavily on his conscience. He had taken a bodle from the collection-plate at the church door, and he now proposed by way of reparation to erect a manse for the first minister. His name was Colonel Edmond.
The history of his career the colonel afterwards related. He was so stung with the disgrace he had brought upon his parents by his act of plunder, that he resolved to absent himself from his country till he should be able to wipe out his offence by some deed of liberality. Soon after leaving Stirling he had worked his passage to the Continent in a trading vessel. He afterwards joined the army of Maurice, Prince of Orange. By his prudent behaviour he rose in the service. He had attained a colonelcy, and was enabled to retire from military service with a handsome fortune.
The colonel had the satisfaction to find both his parents alive after his long absence. He endowed them liberally, and proceeded to live under their roof. Whatever honours were offered him, he insisted that these should be shared by them. He presented a pair of colours to the corporation, which were used upwards of a century. When his parents were both dead, he formed a matrimonial connection. His family consisted of two daughters, one of whom married Sir Thomas Livingston, of Jerviswood, a cadet of the noble families of Callendar, Linlithgow, and Kilsyth. The eldest son of the marriage was commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland, and was afterwards created Viscount Teviot.
When Colonel Edmond was still in the service of the Prince of Orange, a native of Scotland, desirous of obtaining his favour, made up to him in presence of some of his brother officers, and saying he had just come from Scotland, added, "Your cousin, my Lord-, is very well, and your cousin Sir John."
"Get you gone, you sycophant," said the colonel; "I have no relations either lords or knights. My father is an honest baker in the town of Stirling."
About the close of the Rebellion of 1745-6, a Highland regiment was stationed in the town of Elgin. A private soldier of the regiment, named Anderson, married one Marjery Gilzean, a native of the place. The young woman's friends were much opposed to the match, and when it took place they deserted her. She left Elgin with her husband for some other military station, but returned to her native place about a year after, a widow, and with a little son in her arms. She was entirely destitute, and sought refuge for herself and her infant in the sacristy of the cathedral. An old font in the corner of the apartment was the child's bed. Marjery received with thankfulness the gifts of the benevolent, and devoted herself, with unceasing solicitude, to the care of her infant.
The boy, whose name was Andrew Anderson, having attained a suitable age, was received as pauper pupil in the grammar school. In lieu of his services in lighting the fires and sweeping out the rooms, he received his education. He was afterwards apprenticed to an uncle on the father's side, a stay-maker, at St. Andrews Llanbride, the adjoining parish. Being harshly treated by this relative, he escaped from his service, and found his way to Leith. There he procured employment as clerk in the workshop of a merchant tailor. Having been sent with a suit of clothes to the residence of a military officer, that gentleman was struck by his intelligent aspect, and inquired as to his prospects. Finding that he had no definite views, the officer advised him to enlist in his own regiment, promising in that event to take him into his service. Anderson took the officer's counsel, and proceeded to India as a recruit.
In 1811 an elderly gentleman arrived at the Gordon Arms Hotel, Elgin. Next morning he proceeded to the cathedral ruins. He asked the sexton whether he knew where a poor woman, Marjery Gilzean, was interred? "Na, I dinna ken," replied the gravedigger; "she was a puir worthless craitur, naebody kens where she was buriet." "Unfortunate I know she was," said the gentleman, "but I never heard that she was worthless." The stranger was her son—now Lieutenant-General Anderson. Possessing the faculty of readily acquiring languages, he had obtained employment as an interpreter. He received a commission, and rose step by step to the rank of a general officer. At the taking of Seringa-patam in 1799 he greatly distinguished himself.
Having retired from the army, General Anderson settled in the neighbourhood of Elgin, his winters being spent in London. He died at London on the 16th September, 1824. By a trust disposition executed in November, 1815, he assigned the whole of his heritable and moveable property to certain gentlemen in Elgin, for the purpose of founding and endowing an hospital in that town for indigent men and women, and likewise for establishing a School of Industry for the maintenance and education of male and female children of the labouring classes. Consequent on the provisions of the testamentary deed, an elegant building has been constructed at Elgin, in which three hundred persons, old and young, are now reaping the benefit of the General's munificence.
The palace of James V. in the castle of Stirling has its principal windows protected by interlaced iron gratings. These were executed at the instance of the Queen Dowager, Mary of Guise, owing to the unsettled condition of the country after the death of her royal husband, James V. The artificer was one Callander, a blacksmith of the town. He and his successors were constituted blacksmiths to the Royal Family; but beyond this nominal distinction they seem for several generations to have received no recompence for their services. There is a story that the son of Callander who constructed the gratings of the castle proceeded to London after the accession of James VI. to the English throne, and obtaining the royal mandate for payment of his account, presented it to the English treasury, and so obtained payment in sterling instead of Scottish money, whereby he was enriched This tradition seems to be fabulous, for many years after, John Callander of Stirling is found making application to the Privy Council for payment of charges for work executed at Stirling and Edinburgh castles, of which "he had never yet received payment of a sixpence." The Privy Council ordered him to be paid £6,567 17s. 2d., Scots money. This sum he made loan of on a wadset, or mortgage, to the proprietor of the estate of Craigforth. As the mortgage was not redeemed by the proprietor, John Callander afterwards took possession of the property. His grandson, John Callander of Craigforth, was an eminent scholar and ingenious antiquary. Two granddaughters of this gentleman obtained important marriages. One became the wife of Tom Sheridan; the other married Sir James Graham of Netherby, the late distinguished statesman.
In the middle of the last century there flourished in "the East Neuk" of Fife a retired general and county gentleman, who was the greatest man of his time in one department—that of card-playing. General Scott of Balcomie, for such were his name and title, received challenges to play from all parts of the kingdom. When his competitors were rich, he would have hazarded his own estates against theirs. He always came off winner. He amassed an immense fortune, and got possession of estates in various parts of the kingdom.
The facility with which young noblemen hazarded their fortunes led the General to conceive a strong aversion to their order. He executed a singular will. His family consisted of three daughters, and he divided his wealth among them equally, with the provision that should any of them marry a person of noble rank, she should lose her portion. This stipulation was cancelled by Act of Parliament, and the ladies were left a free choice of partners. They all became allied to persons of noble rank. Henrietta, the eldest, married the Marquis of Titchfield, subsequently fourth Duke of Portland. She brought her husband a fortune of £300,000. Lucy, the second daughter, married Francis, Earl of Moray. Joan, the youngest, became wife of Mr. Canning, the distinguished statesman, and on his decease was, in acknowledgment of his services, created a viscountess.
William Forbes, a tinsmith's apprentice in Aberdeen, and a native of the place, proceeded to London in the hope of bettering his circumstances. In the metropolis he worked at his trade for some years, and with his savings began a little business on his own account. He was a very sagacious person, and those who came in contact with him liked his conversation and manners. Admiral Byron, grandfather of Lord Byron, the celebrated poet, was one of his customers. The Admiral chanced to remark to him that he had obtained private information that the Admiralty had resolved to sheathe the bottoms of ships of war with copper, instead of continuing the old method of coal-tarring. The information did not pass unheeded by the acute Aberdonian. He immediately purchased all the copper which could be found. When the order was publicly given for the coppering of the ships, the naval authorities were compelled to apply to him for metal. Subsequently he obtained the exclusive privilege of coppering the vessels of the navy. In the course of twenty years he realized a large fortune. In 1786, when the fine estate of Callander, in Stirlingshire, was exposed for sale, William Forbes became the purchaser. He now retired from business, and took up his abode in the ancient demesne of the Earls of Callander. He became a zealous agriculturist, and one of the most enterprising county gentlemen of his neighbourhood. He died on the 21st June, 1815, and was succeeded in his princely possessions by his eldest son, the late William Forbes, Esq., who was long parliamentary representative of the county of Stirling.
An Argyleshire tailor, named Campbell, opened a shop in London. The Duke of Argyle, his hereditary chief, had promised to do him any service which lay in his power. On the death of George I., which took place abroad, the Duke received early intelligence of the event, which he concealed several hours from the public, but communicated at once to his clansman. The tailor, on the Duke's security, obtained money, and at once bought up all the fine black cloth in the city. The public, therefore, came to him for mourning, and he supplied them on his own terms. He realized a splendid fortune, with which he built Argyle Square, so named by him in honour of his patron.
A sister of the celebrated Dr. Cullen was waiting-maid to the Duchess of Hamilton.. She married the Duke's valet, whose name was Macall. Both were favourites of the family, and the Duke and Duchess resolved to establish them comfortably in life. They selected the business of hotel-keeping, and the Duke secured them premises in an eligible locality of the metropolis. The name of Macall was deemed unsuitable for a London landlord, and by the Duke's suggestion it was changed to Almack. So originated Almack's Hotel, so long the resort of fashionable life in London.
Rose, the usher of the National Assembly, and a principal actor in the first French Revolution, was a native of Scotland. By his prudent behaviour he attained an influence among many leading persons in France. Mirabeau entertained a high opinion of him, and on his death-bed appointed him to negotiate his affairs. He warned Louis XVI. of the danger which threatened him; he sheltered many leading persons during the Reign of Terror, and with his own hand arrested Robespierre. Rose held office in the Council of the Ancients, and afterwards was attached to the Chamber of Beers. He died at Paris, in March, 1841, in his eighty-fourth year.
Alexander Selkirk, the prototype of Robinson Crusoe, may be included in the list of Scottish adventurers. He was the son of a respectable shoemaker at Largo, Fifeshire. In his youth he was remarkable not more for his roving disposition than for an ungovernable temper, which led him into frequent scrapes. In his nineteenth year he was brought before the kirk-session for "indecent behaviour in church." Two years after, he was again cited before that tribunal, on account of promoting a disturbance at home. His brother Andrew had brought into the house "a can full of salt water," which Alexander, on coming in, drank off through mistake. On this his brother smiled, when the future navigator beat the offender with his staff. He further challenged him to "a combat of neiffells." Alexander acknowledged his perversity, and submitted to a public rebuke.
The spirit of enterprise which is so largely inherent in the Scottish mind, and which, under the regulation of sound judgment and correct principle, leads to success and honour, is, when unrestrained by proper safeguards, repellent and dangerous. The murders perpetrated by Burke and Hare, in order to obtain the reward of providing bodies to the dissecting-room, exceeded in number and deliberate heartlessness those which have been committed in the other divisions of the empire. Angria, the noted pirate of Indian seas, was born in Dundee.. An anecdote, illustrative of his generosity to a townsman, may be admissible.
In the year 1750, a vessel commanded by one Captain Crichton, of Dundee, was captured by Angria, When he had boarded his prize, Angria proceeded to address the master of the captured ship in the Scottish accent. These questions were put and answers given:—
Pirate. Where do you come from?
Captain. From Dundee.
P. Ay, from Dundee. Where does the Cross of Dundee stand?
C. Near the west end of the large square, opposite the new Town House.
P. How many steps are in it?
C. Six; and all go round about it.
P. Quite right. Where stands Monk's holm?
C. On the south side of the Nethergate, and east from the hospital, opposite to Girzy Gourlay's stable.
P. Right again. Where stands the Machlin Tower?
C. Just at the west end of the broad of the Murraygate, on the north side, where they have lately erected a public well, to be called the Dog Well, from Archibald Doig, a merchant, who has been at the expense of erecting a dog upon the top of it cut out of solid stone.
P. I am much obliged for the information, being news to me. But pray where stands St. Paul's?
C. On the south side of Murraygate, immediately opposite the Machlin Tower.
P. Do you know St. Roche?
C. We call it Semmirookie. It is at the east end of Cowgate, on the north side, near the Den burn.
Angria was moved to tears on recalling scenes familiar to him at a period when he did not contemplate a course of crime. He shook hands with Captain Crichton, and said feelingly, "You have your liberty and your ship."
The history of Scottish smuggling, which yet remains to be written, would reveal many remarkable illustrations of ingenuity and enterprise, which, employed in honourable merchandise, would have doubtless conduced to distinction and affluence. The desire of vending contraband liquor was deeply inherent in the national mind. The stalwart yeoman abandoned the tillage of his fields to engage in secretly converting his barley into whisky. The peasant derived better remuneration by watching the still than in following the plough. The country laird loved whisky which tasted of the peat reek. Its manufacture by his tenants enabled them to pay better rents. Thus encouraged, the smuggling system, demoralizing as it was, long lingered in highland and also in some of the lowland districts.
One smuggling story we are enabled to relate. It is a narrative of probably the last adventure of the kind connected with Scotland. In boldness of conception and skill of execution it is unique. In relating it we would emphatically express our detestation of the proceedings which it involves. The particulars were communicated to us by one who became intimately conversant with the circumstances.
William IV. rejoiced in the society of a Scottish gentleman connected with his household. The gentleman was frequently honoured with a place at the royal table. The king drank Hollands gin. The
Scotsman informed his Majesty that he knew how the best description of that liquor could be procured. He afterwards produced a specimen of the gin, which he recommended. It was cordially approved by the king, who requested his courtier to procure a supply for the royal table.
The Scotsman did not communicate with Holland, but proceeded to a well-known seaport on the east coast of Scotland. An agency was there constituted to procure the liquor from a distillery in a central district, then celebrated for the manufacture of a species of gin. On being received from the distillery, the liquor was deposited in a cellar, when a process of preparation for its shipment was secretly enacted.
That process must be described. The liquor was placed in bottles manufactured to the Holland pattern. The corking was an important affair. A slit was cut in the lower part of each cork, so that the motion of the liquor might not reveal its existence in the packing-cases. These cases consisted of casks, which were either old or made to assume the aspect of antiquity. Both ends of the casks were stowed with portions of old iron, the bottles were carefully packed in the centre, while labels marked "old iron" were attached on the outside.
The casks were deposited during the night in the reception-yard of the London packet, and were uniformly shipped without any information concerning the sender. Each cask was inscribed with a fictitious name, and addressed to a particular office near the landing wharf. At this office a person waited for the reception of the casks, and paid the dues of transmission. Should an exciseman accompany the deliverer, the person in charge was authorized to refuse the goods, and protest his ignorance of any individual hearing the name attached to the casks. But no detection was ever made. From the place of consignment in the city, the bottles were conveyed under a different packing to the royal cellars. The profits of these strange transactions were very considerable. The utmost value of the liquor was nine shillings per gallon. The king was charged thirty shillings, the difference of one guinea being divided between the adventurous courtier at the palace and his active abettor at the northern port.