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Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 127 they were assembled round a small hill or knoll 2t the village called HoodshiZl, where the Colonel had caused breakfast to be prepared for them, and where a vast crowd had assembled to witness their departure. Mrs, Montgomerie and her two daughters, the latter of whom were attired in scarlet riding-habits, with Highland bonnets, together with the Colonel and several of the neighbouring gentry, also breakfasted in a tent set apart for them, When breakfast was finished, and the soldiers marshalled in close order, the lady of Coilsfield, ascending a proper eminence on the hill, addressed them in a neat and appropriate speech. She regretted the occurrence of circumstances by which they were called from their homes ; but she hoped that Scotland would never lack the hearty support of her sons when a foreign foe threatened invasion. To ;the women-some of whom were assembled no doubt to take leave of their husbands or lovers-she observed that, however disagreeable parting might be, it was a bereavement which she herself, in common with them all, had to submit to, and which it became them to endure with becoming resolution. Mrs. Montgomerie concluded her address, during which she was repeatedly cheered, by expressing a hope that peace would soon restore their friends. The volunteers, who were in regimentals, and presented a very fine appearance, then deployed in marching order, the villagers following and cheering them for several miles. Immediately after the West Lowland Fencibles had been embodied, Colonel Montgomerie raised another corps for more extended service, called the “ Glasgow Regiment,” which was disbanded in 1795, the men being drafted into other regiments of the line. About this time the Colonel was appointed Lieut.- Governor of Edinburgh Castle, in the room of Lord Elphinston. In 17’96 he was again returned Member of Parliament for the county of Ayr ; but his seat became vacated almost immediately after, having succeeded to the earldom of Eglinton, upon the death of his cousin Archibald,’ t.ho eleventh Earl, on the 30th October of the same year. While limited to the patrimonial revenue of Coilsfield,P the Colonel was doubt, uncornmonly expeditious ; in proof of which it is told that on some particular occasion he had made a coat in one day ; but then his “ steeks” were prodigiously long, and with him fashion was out of the question, abiding 3s he always did by the “good old plan.” The result was, that, while his brethren of the needle were paid eightpence a day, Sannders acknowledged his inferiority by claiming no more than sixpence ! The military ardour of the poet was somewhat evanescent. Whether the duties were too fatiguing, or whether his compatriots had no relish for poetical excitements, we know not ; but true it is that, in the dusk of a summer evening, some few weeks after the departure of the Fencibles, Saunders WBS seen entering the village, leading a goat which he had procured in his travels, and followed by a band of youngsten, who had gone to meet him on his approach. “ Sawney Tait ” lived to a great age ; and retained his spirit and activity to the last. Brother.to Alexauder, the tenth Earl, who was shot in the well-known affair with Mungo Campbell. Their mother was the celebrated Countess of Eglinton, no less famed for her mental accomplishments than her beauty. She w a ~th e patron of Allan Ramsay, who dedicated “The Gentle Shepherd” to her, and a great patroness of literature. * The old family of Coilsfield are still remembered for their homely manner and kind attention to the people in the neighbourhood. During the winter season, it was no uncommon thing to see the old Laird at the loch, surrounded by a number of his elderly tenanta, in keen “curling contest against the Najor, with an equal number of the more youthful villagers. These contests were
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128 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. distinguished for his good taste and public spirit, No one maintained a more liberal establishment. His horses were always of superior mettle, and his carriage the most handsomely mounted in the district ; but, by his succession to the title and estates of Eglinton, a new and more extended field was opened. His predecessors, Earls Alexander and Archibald, had greatly improved their lands especially in the neighbourhood of Kilwinning. ‘‘ They set the example,” says a writer in 1803, “of introducing a new mode of farming-subdividing the land-sheltering it by belts of wooding, and planting the little rising mounts on their vast estates, by which means Ayrshire has become like a garden, and is one of the richest and most fertile counties in Scotland.” Earl Hugh was not behind his predecessors. The first thing which presented itself as an object of improvement was the old Castle ; which had been the family seat for nearly five hundred years. It was no doubt sufficiently strong, but always terminated by a dinner of “beef and greens,” and a suitable quantity of punch, at the expense of the vanquished ; and no penon waa more delighted than the Laird when he happened to dine at the expense of the Major. The Major, like his father, was social in his habits ; and, among those who used to frequent the “big house,” none were more welcome to dinner than the famous John Rankine, the Baron Bailie of Haughmerk-a small estate in the neighbourhood of Tarholton, then the property of one M‘Lure, a merchant in Ayr, but which now belongs to the Duke of Portland. Rankine WBS locally well known for his wit and Bacchanalian propensities ; but he has been rendered niore enduringly celebrated by the epistle of Burns, in which the poet addresses him- The wail 0’ cocks for fun and drinking.” “ 0 rough, rude, ready-witted Rankine, There are many anecdotes told of the Baron Bailie’s “ cracks and cants.” He had always a shilling to spend ; and while he kept the table in a roar, nothing gave him greater pleasure than to see his cronies, one by one, brought under by the stout John Barleycorn. The Bailie always seemed to drink fair; yet very seldom got top-heavy himself. One device by which he occasionally liept the bowl in circulation was a small wooden apparatus, on the principle of the modern “wheel of fortune,” xrliich he called “ whigmaleerie.” Whoever whigmaleerie pointed to was doomed to drink the next glass ; and by this species of “ thimble-rigging ” it may be guessed the Bailie seldom left many sober in the company. As an instance of the good old times, we may mention, by way of gossip, that during Rsnkine’s bailieship of Haughmerk, when the Martinmas rents were paid, his tenants were convened at the house of the miller on his estate, called the Mill-burn Mill, where ale and British spirits had been retailed by each successive miller, from time immemorial, and a good dinner and drink providedthe Bailie acting as croupier. None went from the Mill empty ; and sonie of the older people, who never drank but once a year, had frequently to be taken home in the miller’s cart. The celebrated Laird of Logan was another frequent visitor at Coilsfield j and when there on one occasion with John Hamilton of Bargany, a staunch supporter of the honour and credit of his native district of Carrick, Mossman, a native of Maybole, was brought before Mr. Montgomerie as a Justice of the Peace, on suspicion of having committed an act of theft, Mr. Montgomerie called in the aid of his friends, who were also in the commission of the peace, to investigate the case, when it was resolved that the prisoner ahould be sent to Ayr jail for trial. The Laird of Logan assigned three reasons for concurring in the warrant:-lst, Because the prisoner had been found on the king’s highway without cause : Zd, Because he had I‘ wan’ered in his discoune ;” and, 3d, Because he belonged to Carrick I The last was a fling at Bargany, and had the effect intended of provoking him to a warm defence of his district, Mossman suffered the last penalty of the law, for the trifling theft with which he waa charged, alongst with other two felons, at Ayr, on the 20th May 1785. At the execution of these unfortunate men, the main rope by which they were suspended broke when they were thrown off (it is supposed from having been previoiisly eaturated with vitriol) ; and they remained in a half-hanged state until a new rope was procured, to carry their sentence into execution.
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