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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. No. CCXIV, THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL OF EGLINTON, WHEN MAJOR OF LORD FREDERICK CAMPBELL’S REGIMENT OF FENCIBLES. 185 HUGHM ONTWMERIEtw, elfth Earl of Eglinton, was the eldest son of Alexander Montgomerie of Coilsfield.’ He was born about the year 1740, and entered the army so early as 1755, as an ensign in Lieutenant-General Skelton’s Regiment of Foot. He served in America during the greater part of the Seven Years’ War, where he acquired the reputatioh of a brave soldier, and was fourteen years Captain of a company of the First or Royal Regiment of Foot.’ At the breaking out of hostilities with France, in 1778, he was appointed Major in Lord Frederick Campbell’s Regiment of Fencibles? which was raised in the counties of Argyle, Bute, Dumbarton, Renfrew, Lanark, and Ayr, and of which Lord Frederick was Colonel. In 1780, at the general election, the Major was chosen Member of Parliament for the county of Ayr, in opposition to Sir Adam Fergusson of IGlkerran, 1 A branch of the house of Eglinton, descended from Alexander, the sixth Earl, better known by the expressive appellation of Graysteel. He was of the Seton family (one of the most ancient and widely connected in Scotland), but in consequence of his mother Mafgaret being the heiress of line of the Montgomeries, Earl Hugh (whom he succeeded) executed an entail in his favour ; and, having taken the name of Montgomerie, he was (through the influence of hi8 uncle, the Earl of Dunfermline, who was Lord Chancellor, and of Lord Binning, afterwards Earl of Melrose and Haddington), allowed the earldom by James the First. In the civil wars he supported the popular party, but was greatly opposed to the execution of Charles the First, He died 7th January 1661, aged seventy-three. The subject of this menioir was descended from Colonel James Montgomerie, fourth son of Earl Alexander. 9 His lordship told mauy interesting anecdotes of the American campaign-among others, the following of Sir Ralph Ahercromby. That celebrated commander was leading an assault, at which his lordship was present, upon an American fort, when, as they approached, the enemy suddenly opened a tremendous fire on the assailants, who, for a moment were confounded, and stood still. Sir Ralph marched on unmoved ; but not hearing the tramp of the column behind, he turned round as the smoke of the stunning volley was clearing away, aud pointing to the fort with his sword, exclaimed-“ What ! am I to take the place myself?” The response was a hearty cheer, and a furious rush updn the enemy, by which the fort was carried. At the same onset the gallant commander was followed by a tall captain and a short lieutenant, both of the name of M‘Donald. The former waa unfortunately shot in the breast ; and he reeled back upon the latter to measure himself with the earth, and finish his career of glory. The brave lieutenant, who had not observed the fatal cause of this retrograde movement, and fearing the courage of his clansman had given way, seized him by the coat, and in a half whisper cried in his em-“ Remember your name is M‘Donald.” This regiment was raised under the joint influence of the Argyle and Eglinton families, the latter having the nomination of officers for two companies-of one of which the last Earl of Glencairn (on whose death Burns wrote the “ Bard‘s Lament ”) was appointed Captain.
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126 BI 0 GRAPH I CA L S KET C HE S. who had sat in the former Parliament.’ He was again returned for the same county in 1784, but “vacated his seat in 1789, by accephg the office of Inspector of Military Roads ; the duties of which he performed for some years with assiduity, travelling on foot over extensive tracts of rugged ground in the Highlands, for the purpose of ascertaining the proper courses for the roads, to the great advantage of the public, by rendering the lines shorter, and avoiding the expense of several bridges deemed necessary under the former plans.” On the declaration of war by the French Convention against Great Britain and Holland, in 1793, seven regiments of Fencibles were ordered to be raised in Scotland for the internal defence of the country. One of these, the West Lowland Fencibles, being under the immediate patronage of the Eglinton and Coilsfield families, Major Montgomerie was appointed Colonel, Glasgow was fixed as the head-quarters of this regiment. The Colonel lost no time in beating up for recruits throughout the west country, and especially in Ayrshire, where he was eminently successful. At the village of Tarbolton alone, in the immediate neighbourhood of his paternal seat of Coilsfield, a company of volunteers were soon congregated ; and the circumstance of their departure for head-quarters is still remembered as a day of note in the annals of the village.8 In the morning On this occasion an expedient was resorted to by the candidates, in order to prevent their friends among the freeholders, who might have troublesome creditors, from being laid hold of at the critical moment of election. The advertisement, which appeared in the newspapers of the day, ia as follows :-“In order to prevent vexations diligences being used against individuals in the shire of Ayr, by attacking the electors of either party, at the eve of the Michaelmas Head Court, or upon the day of election, in hopes of that critical period to recover payment, Sir Adam Fergusson and Major Montgomerie, the two candidates, hare agreed that, in the event of any of the friends of either party being attacked, a real voter present, in the interest of the opposite party, shall retire out of Court ; which renders it vain for any person to think they shall have a better chance of recovering payment, by using rash means, at this particular time.” a Douglas’s Peerage, by Wood. Among others who “followed to the field” was an eccentric personage of the name of Tait. He was a tailor, and in stature somewhat beneath the military standard ; but he was a poet, and zealous in the cause of loyalty, He had sung the deeds of the Montgomeries in many a couplet ; and, having animated the villagers with his loyal strains, resolsed, like a second Tyrtsus, to encourage his companions at arms to victory by the fire and vigour of his verses. It is said he could not write, nevertheless he actually published a small volume of poems. These have long ago sunk into oblivion. He was a bachelor ; and, like a true son of genius, occupied an attic of very small dimensions. At the “June fair,” when the village waa crowded, Saunders, by a tolerated infringement of the excise laws, annually converted hi8 “ poet’s corner” into a temple for the worship of Bacchus, and became publican in a small way. He was himself the presiding genius, and his apartment was always well frequented, especially by the younger portion of the country people, who were amused with his oddities. He sang with peculiar animation ; and failed not to give due recitative effect to the more lengthy productions of his muse :-it might he in celebration of a honspiel, in which the curlers of Tarbolton had been victorious over those of the parish of Stair-of a love-match-or such other local matter calculated to interest his rustic hearers ; by whom his poems were highly applauded 89 being “unco wee1 put thegither.” One in particular, on In. Alexander of Ballochmyle, ww much talked of, probably from the circumstance of the lady having condeacended to patronise the village laureate, by requesting his attendance at Ballochmyle, where he recited the piece-was rewarded-and afterwards continued to be a privileged frequenter of the hall. He was, no Still I ‘ Sawney Tait the tailor ” is well remembered. Some of his songs obtained a temporary popularity. Poor Smmders, unluckily, waa more in repute for his songs than his needle.
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