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Kay's Originals Vol. 1


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 41 NO. xv. THE THREE CAPTAINS OF THE CITY GUARD. GEORGE PITCAIRN. GEORGE ROBERTSON. ROBERT PILLANS. THESE three persons were all, as announced in the title, Captains of the Old Edinburgh City Guard. This appointment was not generally held by military men, and it was frequently conferred upon decayed burgesses, whose character recommended them tq the patronage of the Magistrates, and whose circumstances rendered this tolerably lucrative situation (which was ad vitum aut cukam) ah object of some moment. CAPTAIN PITCAIRN had originally been a cloth-merchant in the city, and had more than once served in the Magistracy. Having subsequently become embarrassed in his circumstances, he was appointed, on a vacancy occurring, to the Captaincy of the City Guard ; but, engaging some time afterwards in no very creditable speculation,’ he lost both his situation and his character. He was the author of a ‘I Treatise on the Fisheries,” Edin., 12m0, for which the Trustees of the Society for the extending the Fisheries awarded him a gold medal. He died at Edinburgh on the 17th September 1791. ROBERTSON, the second figure in the Print, had been an officer in the Dutch service previous to his appointment to a command in the City Guard, and was selected for the latter office with the view of improving the discipline and general military character of the corps. Of his private history nothing is known, nor was his professional career as a civic soldier, which was very brief, distinguished by any remarkable event. He died in Edinburgh in the year 1787, and was succeeded by another military veteran, Captain Gordon. PILLANS, the third figure, was originally a brewer in the vicinity of the city, and was for some time one of the resident bailies of the then suburban districts of Potterrow and Portsburgh. It is alleged that the gallant Captain was fully as dexterous at handling a bottle as a sword ; and a certain rotundity observable in 1 T ~wLas importing bad half-pence from England,-a species of traffic which was, about the latter end of the last century, carried to a great extent in this country. Whole barrels, and these in immense numbers, were brought down to Scotland, chiefly from Birmingham, and obtained for a considerable time a ready circulation ; no one ever thinking of questioning either the weight or quality of the copper coin tendered to them. The value, as subsequently sscertained by the Magistrates, was Q
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42 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. the accompanying likeness of him would, indeed, seem to favour the insinuation He died in 1788, when he was succeeded by Captain Chrietie, formerly a sergeant in the South Fencible Regiment. This Print is entitled ‘( Three Captains of Pilate’s Guard,” in allusion to a popular fiction, that the city of Edinburgh had a town-guard before the birth of our Saviour ; and that three of that body had joined the Roman troops after the invasion of Britain by Julius Czesar, and were actually present with Pilate’s troops at the Crucifixion. No. XVI. PROVOST DAVID STEUART BAILIE AND JOHN LOTHIAN. CONTRASTh, i s presumed, was the reason of these two respectable citizens being classed together in this etchingl-the Provost being a very handsome man, and the Bailie the reverse. The latter, from his great stoop and rotundity of shoulder, acquired from his brother bailies the sobriquet of The Loupin-on-Stane.” PROVOST STEUART, a younger son of the family of Dalguise, carried on business as a banker in Edinburgh, in partnership with Robert Allan, Esq., under the firm of Allan and Steuart. He was, in 1778, elected one of the Merchant Councillors, and, in 1779, third Bailie. In 1780 local politics ran high : the re-election of Sir Laurence Dundas, Bart.,’ the former member for the city of Edinburgh, was opposed by William Miller, Esquire, younger of Barskimming,’ and the latter was returned to Parliament ; but upon a petition, by his opponent, to the House of Commons, his election was (1 6th March 178 1) set aside, and Sir Laurence declared sitting member. in this contest the Whig interest was zealously supported by Mr. Steuart, who, upon the resignation of that seven of these half-pence were only equal to me sterling penny of George 111. At length the Magist,rates of Edinburgh took cognisance of the affair, and ordered the alarm to be sounded by tuck of drum (29th April 1767). The consequence of this proceeding was, that the shopkeepers immediately began to weigh all half-pence that were offered them, refusing those that were not standard weight. This caution descended even to the old women who kept stands upon the street, every one of whom provided themselves with scales.and weights for the same purpose. Sir Laurence Dundas, though of an ancient family, was the architect of his own fortune, and amassed vast wealth as Commissary-general of the army in Flanders. He was the second son of Thomaa Dundas, one of the bailies of Edinburgh, who fell into difficulties which occasioned his bankruptcy. Sir Laurence had himself been for some time behind the counter-a circumstance which, coming to the Royal ear, prevented him, it was rumoured, from obtaining a coronet, the great object of his ambition. His son Thomas was more auccessfu1, 88, upon the 13th of Augudt 1794, he was raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Dundas of Aske, in Yorkshire. Afterwards Sir William Miller, Bart., and one of the senators of the College of Justice.
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