Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. V


Restalrig.] CAPTAIN MACRAE.? ?39 frewshire Sketches, styles ? a Goth who committed a most barbarous deed by demolishing the great and splendid castle (of Houston) in 1780, and applied the stones to the building of a new village for lappet weavers.? During his occupation of Marionville, his tastes and family being gay and fashionable, the house was the scene of constant festivities and private theatricals, of which, many such notices appear in the papers of the time, like the following from the Advertiser of April, I 7 89 :- ?On Tuesday last, the tragedy of Yen12 Presmed was performed before a genteel and select company at Mr. Macrae?s Private Theatre at Marionville. The following were the principal Dram&> Persane :- Priuli . . . . Mrs. Hunter. Pierre . . . . Captain Mackewan. Jaffier . . , . Mr. Macrae. Renault . . . Mr. Welwood. Bedamar , . . Mr. Dowling. Duke of Venice . . Mr. Justice. Belvidera . . . Mrs. Macrae. Mrs. Macrae and Captain Mackewan, in particular, performed in a style ol superior excellence.? The play gave very great satisfaction. Captain Macrae, in addition to being a man of fortune, was well-connected, and was a cousin of that good Earl of Glencairn who was the friend and patron of Buyns, while through his mother he was nearly related to Viscount Fermoy and the famous Sir Boyle Roche. He was a man of a generous and warm disposition, but possessed a somewhat lofty and imperious sense of what he deemed due to the position of a gentleman; and being yet young, he was about to return to the army when the catastrophe occurred which caused his ruin. All allowed him to be a delightful companion, yet liable to be transported beyond the bounds of reason at times by trivial matters. ? Thus,? says Chambers, ? a messenger of the law having arrested the Rev. Mr. Cunningham, a brother of the Earl of Glencairn, far debt, as he was passing with a party from the drawing-room to the dining-room of Drumsheugh House, Macrae threw the man over the stairs. He was prompted to this act by indignation at the affront which he conceived his cousin, as a gentleman, had received from a common man. But soon after, when it was represented to him that every other means of inducing Mr. Cunningham to settle his debt had failed, and when he learned that the messenger had suffered severe injury, he went to him, made him a hearty apology, and agreed to pay 300 guineas by way of compensation.? His wife was Maria Cecilia le Maitre, daughter of the Baroness Nolken, wife of the Swedish ambassador. While resident occasionally with her cousin in Paris M.adame de la Briche, the private theatricals they saw at her magnificent house in the Marais led to the reproduction of them at Marionville. There the husband and wife both took character parts, and Sir David Kinloch and the Mr. Justice already mentioned were among their best male performers ; and often Mrs. Macrae herselc The chief lady was Mrs. Carruthers, of Dormont, in Dumfries-shire, a daughter of Paul Sandby, the eminent artist, and founder of the English school of water-colour painting, who died in 1809. Marionville was quite the centre of fashionable society ; but, manners apart-alternately stately and rough-how strange to-day seems what was fashionable then in Edinburgh ! the ladies with head-dresses so enormous that at times they had to sit on the carriage floor ; the gentlemen with bright coloured coats, with tails that reached to their heels, breeches so tight that to get them on or off was a vast toil; waistcoats six inches long; large frilled shirts and stiff cravats ; a watch in each fob, with a bunch of seals, and wigs with great side curls, exactly as Kay shows Macrae when in the act of levelling a pistol. In the visiting circle at Marionville were Sir George Ramsay, Bart., of Banff House, and hiq lady, whose maiden name was Eleanor Fraser, and they and the Macraes seem to have been very intimate and warmly attached friends, till a quarrel arose between the two husbands about a rather trivial cause. On the evening of the 7th April, 1790, Captain Macrae was handing a lady out of the box-lobby of the old theatre, and endeavoured to get a sedan for $er conveyance home. Seeing two chairmen approach with one, he asked if it was disengaged, and both replied distinctly in the affirmative. Macrae wasabout to hand the lady into it, a footman came forward in a violent manner, and seizing one of the poles insisted that it was engaged for his mistress, though the latter had gone home some time before ; but the man, who was partly intoxicated, knew not that she had done so. Macrae, irritated by the valet?s manner, gave him a rap over the knuckles with his cane, to make hini quit his hold of the pole ; on this the valet called him a scoundrel, and struck him on the breast. On being struck over the head, the man became more noisy and abusive ; Macrae proceeded to chastise him, on which several bystanders took part with the valet ; a general brawl seemed about to ensue; another chair was got for the terrified lady, and she was carried away. The details of this brawl are given in the ? Life of Peter Bumef ? As -
Volume 5 Page 139
  Enlarge Enlarge  
140 OLD ANI) NEW EDINBURGH. [Restalrig. a Negro,? published at Paisley so lately as 1841. Peter was a livery servant in Edinburgh at the time. Learning that the valet was one of Lady Ramsay?s, Macrae came to town next day to explain, and met Sir George in the street. The latter, laughing, said that the man, being his lady?s footman, prevented him being concerned in the matter. Macrae, still anxious to apologise to Lady Ramsay, proceeded in quest of her to her house in St. Andrew Square, but found her sitting for her dropped, or Merry discharged ; but Ramsay seemed disinclined to move in the matter, and a long and eventually angry correspondence on the subject ensued, and is given at length in the Scots and other Edinburgh magazines of the day j till, in the end, at Bayle?s Tavern a hostile meeting was proposed by Captain Amory, a friend of Macrae?s, and pretty rough epithets were exchanged. Duly attended by seconds, the parties met at Ward?s Inn, on the borders of Musselburgh Links, HAWKHILL. portrait in the studio of the then young artist, Henry Raeburn; before him, it is said that he impulsively went on his knee when asking pardon for having chastised her servant, and then the matter seemed to end with Macrae ; but it was not so. Soon after he received an anonymous letter, stating that there was a strong feeling against him among the Knights of the Shoulder-Knot ; one hundred and seven had resolved to have revenge upon him for the insult he had put upon their fraternity; while James Merry, the valet, whose bruises had been declared slight by Dr. Benjamin Bell, instituted legal proceedings against him. Exasperated by all this, Macrae wrote to Sir George, insisting that the prosecution should be on the 14th of -4pril. Sir George Ramsay was accompanied by Sir William Maxwell, Macrae by Captains Amory and Haig. Benjamin Bell, the surgeon, was also one of the party, which had separate rooms. A compromise seemed impossible -as Sir George would not turn off the valet, arid Macrae would not apologise-they walked to the beach, and took their places in the usual manner, fourteen paces apart. On the word being given, both fired at the same moment. Sir George took a steady aim at Macrae, whose coat collar was grazed by the bullet. Macrae afterwards solemnly asserted that he meant to have fired in the air ; but, on finding Sir George intent on slaying him, he altered his reso
Volume 5 Page 140
  Enlarge Enlarge     Pictures Pictures