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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 277 however, might have taught him to form a different estimate. The fact is, Wesley’s Arminianism and soft persuasive eloquence were ill-suited to the genius of a people stern, fervid, and passionate; and accustomed to regard the doctrines of Calvin as the only doctrines which could teach a man how to be saved. No. CXIII. SIR JAMES GRANT OF GRANT, BART., WITH A VIEW OF HIS REGIMENT, THE STRATHSPEY OR GRANT FENCIBLES. AT a period when many of the extensive Highland proprietors, actuated by a violent frenzy for improvement, were driving whole districts of people from the abodes of their forefathers, and compelling them to seek for that shelter in a foreign land which was denied them in their own-when absenteeism, and the vices of courtly intrigue and fashionable dissipation, had sapped the morality of too many of our landholders, SIR JAMES GRANT escaped the contagion ; and, during a long life, was distinguished for the possession of those virtues which are the surest bulwarks of the peace, happiness, and strength of a country. Possessed of extensive estates, and surrounded by a numerous tenantry, his exertions seemed to be equally devoted to the progressive improvement of the one, and the present comfort and enjoyment of the other. Sir James was born in 1’138, and succeeded to the family estates and title on the death of his father, Ludovic, in 1773. He represented the county of Moray in Parliament so early as 1761, and for several years afterwards. He was also sometime menber for Banff; and, although he made no attempt to figure in the political arena, or to become an intriguing partisan of either party, his zeal for constitutional liberty, in the hour of danger, was neither less prompt nor less efficient than that of some blustering persons, misnamed patriots, who attempted to make their local influence the pedestal of future elevation. On the declaration of war in 1793, Sir James was among the first, if not the very first, to step forward in the service of the country with a regiment of Fencibles, raised almost exclusively among his own tenantry, and with such alacrity, that in less than two months eyen more than the complement of men were assembled at Forres, the head-quarters of the regiment. Almost immediately after the Fencibles were embodied, Sir James raised another corps, called the 97th, or Strathspey Regiment, for more extended service, which consisted of eighteen hundred men. This regiment was embodied in 1794, and immediately marched into England. Of both these regiments Sir James was, of course, appointed ColoneL Next year, the 97th were drafted into other corps-the
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278 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. two flank companies being incorporated with the 42d, then preparing for the West Indies. The Fencibles continued embodied till 1799, and did duty in various parts of Scotland. While stationed at Linlithgow, proposals were made for extending the services of the regiment to England and Ireland ; but, from some misunderstanding on the subject among the men, they would not agree. This attempt on the part of the officers, who acted without duly consulting the soldiers in a matter which concerned them so materially, gave rise to much discontent and distrust in the ranks ; but confidence was soon restored by the presence of Sir James, who hurried to join the regiment as soon as he was aware of the circumstances. In 1795 the Strathspey Fencibles were quartered at Dumfries, where a trifling affair happened, which, as it constitutes the only warlike affray that occurred in Scotland during the whole volunteer and fencible era, is perhaps worth recording. “ On the evening of the 9th June, the civil magistrates of Dumfries applied to the commanding officer of the 1st Fencibles for a party to aid in apprehending some Irish tinkers, who were in a house about a mile and a half distant from the town. On the party’s approaching the house, and requiring admittance, the tinkers fired on them, and wounded Sergeant Beaton very severely in the head and groin ; John Grant, a grenadier, in both legs ; and one Fraser, of the light company, in the arm : the two last were very much hurt, the tinkers’ arms being loaded with rugged slugs and small bullets. The party pushed on to the house ; and, though they suffered so severely, abstained from bayoneting them when they called for mercy. One man, and two women in men’s clothes, were brought in prisoners. Two men, in the darkness of the night, made their escape ; but one of them was apprehended and brought in next morning, and a party went out, upon information, to apprehend the other. Fraser’s arm received the whole charge, which, it is believed, saved his heart. Beaton, it is expected, will soon recover.” So says the chronicle of this event. One of the soldiers, however, afterwards died of his wounds. The leader of the tinkers, named John ONeill, was brought to Edinburgh for trial. He was a Roman Catholic ; and at that time a number of genteel catholic families being resident in Dumfries, they resolved to be at the expense of defending O’Neill, on the ground that he was justifiable in resisting any attempt to enter his own house. With this view, they prevailed on the late Mrs. Riddell of Woodley Park’ to go to Edinburgh and procure counsel. She found no difficulty in obtaining the services of Henry Erskine, without fee or reward ; but, notwithstanding, O’Neill was found guilty and condemned to be hanged. The good offices of Mrs. Riddell, however, did not terminate here. She applied to Charles Fox ; and, through him, obtained a commutation of his sentence. A still more unpleasant affiir occurred in the regiment while at Dumfries only a few days after hhe encounter with the tinkers. One of the men being Mn. Riddell was P great beauty, and a poetess of no inconsiderable note. She wrote a critique on the poem of Bun~s, and materially assisted Dr. Currie in writing the life of the pet.
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