James M M'Bain.

Eminent Arbroathians: being sketches historical, genealogical, and biographical, 1178-1894 online

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he was promoted to be Commander.

In that year Fox Maule's death brought the Earldom of
Dalhousie to his father, and with it brought the title of Lord
Ramsay and the prospect of succession to the Earldom to
himself. Lord Ramsay acted as equery to the Duke of Edinburgh,
and in that capacity he attended His Royal Highness on his


visit to St Petersburg on the occasion of his marriage to the
Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna.

His early training for a naval life was scarcely such as to
fit Lord Ramsay for the position to which he had now the
reasonable prospect of being called in the ordinary course of
events. With that good sense which throughout his life was a
distinguishing feature in his character, he set himself to make
up for his want of such an education as was needful for one
in the sphere which he might one day occupy. With this view
he entered as a student at Oxford, where, under the guidance
of Dr Jowett, he worked hard to overcome the difficulties which
lay in his path, and in this he was eminently successful.
In 1876, he was selected by the Prince of Wales to
superintend the training of his two sons, Prince Albert Victor
and Prince George, and during the two and a half years of
their apprenticeship he was a great favourite, not only with
these two cadets, but with all on board the Britannia.
He married in 1877 Lady Ida Louisa Bennet, daughter
of the sixth Earl of Tankerville, by whom he had five sons
Arthur George Maule, Patrick William Maule, Alexander Robert
Maule, Ronald Edward Maule, and Charles Fox Maule.

The son of a staunch Tory, Lord Ramsay did not blindly
adopt the political opinions of his father ; but, after careful
study and honest conviction, he gave his adherence to the
Liberal party, and he very soon showed a considerable aptitude
for political affairs.

His first public appearance as a politician was at the
bye-election at Liverpool in the beginning of 1880, where he
appeared as the Liberal candidate. It was considered very
plucky for so young a politician to attempt to storm this Tory
stronghold. The contest was a keen one, and Lord Ramsay


entered the fight with characteristic vigour and thoroughness.
As a canvasser, Lady Ramsay proved a valuable helper to her
husband, and her presence along with him on the platform or
wherever he appeared in public added a charm and grace to
his meetings, which, along with his own frank and genial manner,
enabled him to win his way to the hearts of many of the
constituency. While success did not attend this effort, the result,
under the circumstances, was considered eminently satisfactory,
the successful candidate having obtained the seat only by a
comparatively small majority. Such a favourable impression had
Lord Ramsay made upon the constituency, that at the general
election, which followed in April of the same year, he was
returned unopposed as one of the members for Liverpool.

In July following his father died, so that his career as a
Commoner was cut short, but even in the limited period which
intervened between his entry to, and his exit from, the lower
house he showed such a grasp of the leading questions of the
day that his removal to the Upper Chamber was an acknowledged
loss to the House of Commons. In the House of Lords as the
Earl of Dalhousie, he continued to show his sympathy for the
people, and in many ways he gave evidence that, if spared for a
a few years, he was destined to play a conspicuous part in the
conduct of national affairs.

The same thoroughness and enthusiasm which he brought
to bear on his naval studies when a boy, and which then enabled
him to outstrip his competitors, entered into the study of the
various questions of public utility which now demanded his
attention. Take, for example, the way in which he entered on his
duties as chairman of the Trawling Commission. He visited the
fishermen in their homes, took tea with them, and thus talking
familiarly at their own firesides, set them at their ease, and so


drew them out to state their grievances in their own simple
way. He accompanied them to sea in their boats, as he did
also the trawlers in their craft, so that he might have a
practical knowledge of both sides of the question. In like
manner, when he took up the measure for legalisation of marriage
with a deceased wife's sister, he put himself into communication
with the most eminent European scholars, Bible revisers and
commentators, and with Greek and Hebrew professors, so as to
obtain their opinion of the scriptural aspect of the question. So
in every difficult subject on which he was required to form a
judgment he approached its consideration with the same careful

The same conscientious thoroughness with which Lord Dal-
housie entered on all his other duties was equally conspicuous
in his endeavours to discharge his obligations as a landlord.
The business of landowning was new to him, but he set about
the administration of the affairs of his estates with the same
earnest spirit which he invariably brought to bear on all his
undertakings. He had many difficulties to contend with. We
have already seen that the management of the estates during the
many years they were in the hands of William Maule was of
such a sort as to make the work of his successors anything but
easy, and while the two immediate predecessors of Earl John
did something to improve matters, their efforts fell far
short of the accomplishment of the requirements of the case.
Speaking at a banquet given to his tenantry at Edzell Castle
in November 1882, Lord Dalhousie made pointed reference to
the difficulties he had to encounter. One or two sentences may
suffice. " I have not been," he said, " brought up to the busi-
ness of landowning, and I have sometimes felt that I have taken
command of a ship, so to say, in rather a gale of wind. . . .


It \vould be a small pleasure to me to work my estate with the
sole object of getting money out of it ; any Edinburgh lawyer
could do it a great deal better more satisfactory to himself
than I should." Again, " It is uphill work trying to bring
round an estate that has been allowed to run down, and that is
also heavily burdened with debt I might say up to the lips in
debt. I daresay that many of you gentlemen, who no doubt
take a look sometimes at the Forfar Valuation Roll, think I
must be a precious rich fellow. Would you like to know
exactly how much I have pocketed out of the estates during the
last two years ? Well, I will tell you. Not a single shilling.
More than that, rather less than that. Not only have I been
living on capital myself, but I have been borrowing money in
order that the necessary improvements on the estate should go
on." Thus cheerily did he meet his difficulties.

But these improvements were carried out in no perfunctory
manner. He went as systematically to this work as was his
custom in all his undertakings. He visited every farm, large
and small, conversed with the farmer and the cottar, thus making
himself thoroughly acquainted with the requirements of every
individual case. So building and draining and dyking and planting
went steadily on ; the ploughman, no less than the tenant farmer,
having his housing improved. Alongside of this came a hand-
some reduction of rents and a revaluation of his numerous farms,
not by professional valuators from a distance, but by local
practical men, in the choice of whom the tenants had a voice.

As an indication of his sincerity in this work, it was esti-
mated at his death that in the short period during which he
held the estates over and above the money represented by
abatements and reductions of rents he had spent ; 150,000 on
new buildings and other improvements.


Inheriting a good constitution, Lord Dalhousie had been
able to perform a large amount of work, but latterly an attack
of insomnia told on his health and gave fair warning that he
must seek, in a cessation of his political and other labours and
in a change of scene, a renewal of his former vigour. With
this end in view, and accompanied by the Countess, he made a
voyage to America. On their homeward journey they had
reached Havre in November, 1887. Here Lady Dalhousie, who
had been ill for only a very brief period, died suddenly. The
shock thus caused to his Lordship's already weakened system
was too much for him, and within twenty-four hours thereafter
he too breathed his last. This tragic event sent a thrill of
profound sorrow throughout Forfarshire, where it was looked
upon as one of the most pathetic events which had occurred in
the history of the county for many years.

The deep devotion of the beautiful Countess to her hus-
band, the keen interest she manifested in all his undertakings,
either for the good of his country or for the benefit of his
tenantry, and the untiring help she gave him in his various
undertakings, all tended to endear her to those who had the
privilege of knowing her. By this sad event their eldest son
Arthur George Maule then in his ninth year, became fourteenth
Earl of Dalhousie.

In the death of John, Earl of Dalhousie, the loss to the
country of one who during his comparatively short life had
given such promise of great usefulness, and who as a landlord
had shown above so many others of his class a full apprehen-
sion of the duties of a landed aristocracy, was keenly felt.

The earnest, conscientious devotion to every duty of life,
either national or territorial, which he was called on by Provi-
dence to undertake, and the painstaking thoroughness which he



brought to bear on the discharge of these duties, added to the
unselfishness and generosity that permeated all his actions, won
for him the esteem of his Sovereign and the gratitude and
affection of his tenantry and friends, among whom he is
deservedly remembered as " the Good Earl." His life was a
short one, but he did not live in vain. He lived neither for
himself nor for his own pleasure, but in his devotion
to duty, he showed that he had the stuff in him of which
heroes are made, and as an enduring legacy he has left a noble
and a bright example to his descendants.


f Xocblanfcs

nearly two hundred years from the beginning of the
sixteenth century the name of Pierson was a familiar
one in Arbroath. From time to time many members
of the family filled one or other of the most 'important posts
in the community. Even at that early date the Persons,
Pearsons, Piersonnes, or Piersons for the name is variously
spelt could claim to be of ancient Scottish lineage.
Frequent mention is made of them in the public records.
The earliest notice we have of the family is to be found in
the Ragman Roll under date 28th August, 1296, when Wautier
Pieresonne (del count de Berewyk) signs as land-owner in
Berwickshire. It may, therefore, be inferred that the Piersons
took rank as a Scottish family of distinction in, if not much
earlier than, the thirteenth century.

In the reign of Edward II. of England, we find a notice
of a safe conduct granted by that monarch and signed by the
King at Westminster on nth June, 1369, to David Perisone
" meracator de Scotia," permitting him to pass through England,
" cum quatuor sociis equitibus." Six others named in the same
document have passes granted them for two mounted companions
each. The safe conduct provides against the export of bows


and arrows to the prejudice of England. About the same
period, David Piersone and his brothers, Alexander and
John, held office as comptrollers of customs in North Berwick,
Dumfries, and Haddington, respectively.

On 27th June, 1396, "The King" (Richard II.) commands
" his cousin, Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, to order the
release of the Scots merchants and their goods, lately wrecked
"in a ship of Henry Pierson's on the coast of Werkworth last
Lent, and said to be in his (the Earl's) custody, that the truce
be not broken." In 1425, John de Perison, the then head of the
family, was servitor to King James I. of Scotland, and twenty-five
years later, Thomas, his eldest son, appears as a land-owner in
Forfarshire, holding lands at Blackness, Eister Lifif, now forming
part of the west end of Dundee.

But it was not till the beginning of the sixteenth century
that the Piersons took up their abode in Arbroath. In 1503-4,
an illustrious Berwickshire man, George Hepburn, third son of
the second Lord Hales, became Abbot of Arbroath a post
which he held till his death, which took place on the field of
Flodden ten years thereafter. Abbot George, as was natural, did
not forget his Berwickshire friends, and so we find at least one
of them, in the person of Thomas Pierson, holding an important
appointment under the new Abbot of Arbroath. A couple of
years after his election to the Abbacy, Hepburn granted a
charter in favour of " Thomas Piersone, servitor to George,
Abbas de Arbroath, of ly rude, with pertinents in ly Almory
de Arbroath." Besides this, the chartulary of the Abbey
contains several other charters granting lands to the same
Thomas Pierson and his successors.

This Thomas married, as his second wife, his cousin,
Mariota, daughter and co-heiress (with her sister Sybilla) of


Thomas of Blackness, and in some of the grants of the Abbey
lands during Hepburn's abbacy the name of Thomas Pierson's
wife appears conjoined with his own. On the I3th October,
1 508, " Thomas and Mariota Persoun " obtained a grant of the
lands of Keptie, on a portion of which the Railway Station is
now built. This, with other grants, formed the nucleus of the
estate afterwards known as Lochlands, from which, as laird,
David Pierson, the author of " The Varieties," took his de-
signation. Thomas, who lost his second wife and married a third,
Margareta Schort, died somewhere about 1524. He left four
sons by his first wife and one by his third. The eldest of the
four was John, who became a monk of Arbroath, his name
appearing as a witness to charters granting Abbey lands during
the abbacy of David Beaton. The second, Walter, was the
ancestor of the Pearsons of Kippenross, Dunblane. Thomas,
the third son, was the ancestor of the Pearsons of Clow ; and
David, the fourth son, the ancestor of the Pearsons of Pierson's
Baithe, Dunfermline. The Arbroath branch was continued in
the person of Adam, son of Thomas, by his third wife.

Adam Pierson inherited the Abbey lands of Keptie and
others. He married in 1529 Elizabeth Fethe, who deduced from
Duncan de Fethyn, witness to a charter of Arbroath Abbey,
1254. Their second son, James for the eldest, Bernard, died
when quite young inherited the Abbey lands of Keptie, Smithy
Croft, and Lamblaw Croft, which included Lochlands as part of
Cairnie. The third son was David Pierson of Barngreen, a man
who took a leading part in the conduct of the affairs of the
town. We find him as a magistrate sitting in judgment on 2nd
September, 1564, along with Bailie William Scott, when " Willyam
Cry.sty is amerciat for braking the comon statute, selling his aill
derrer na iiid the pynt, and dowm gyffyn thairupon." Whether,


after the Court had skailled, the bailie and the brewer had
adjourned to test the quality of the ale, or whether Bailie Scott
had been attempting to carry out his own and his brother
magistrate's sentence by confiscating the liquor, is not stated,
but evidently a row had ensued, in which the brewer a second
time that day had had the worst of it, for it is further recorded
that, " The qlk day Willyeam Crysty maid the aith in judgment
that he dreids bodelye harm of Willyeam Scott, bailyie and
desyrit law bowrowis of hym ; and David Pierson, bailyie, stud
gude for his coleig, that the same Willyeam Crysty suld sustan
na harm be the said Willyeam Scott."

By the way, this Crysty, the brewer, appears to have been
rather thin-skinned, for shortly after this he again applies for
the protection of the court, on a complaint that one George
Bowar " hes doun wrang in myssaying of him," and the court
ordaining " that the said George sail pass to the mercat cross
and ask the said Wlm forgyfanis for amendis ; and gif he duis
siklyk in tym to cum to the said Wlm or ony uder honest
man, he shall be banist the town."

In 1578, David Pierson had confirmation by King James V.
at Stirling, of a charter granted by Sir John Hamilton, the last
of the Abbots of Arbroath, of the Abbey lands of Barngreen.
Besides fulfilling the duties of local magistrate, he was
entrusted with more important functions. In 1574, he represented
Arbroath at the Convention of Burghs held at Stirling, and
again at Edinburgh in October, 1581. But a higher
honour still was conferred upon him when in 1579 he
was elected to represent Arbroath in Parliament. David
Pierson was the first representative of Arbroath in the
Scottish Parliament. This was brought about by the outlawry
of Sir John Hamilton in that year, through which the abbacy


and lordship of Arbroath became vacant, and consequently fell
into the hands of the King, who accordingly became the
immediate superior of the burgh. The King, being the feudal
superior or lord of regality, it became the privilege of the
burgh to send a representative to Parliament, and the choice
fell on David Pierson, a leading citizen. He died before
1599, leaving behind him three sons, Thomas, Archibald, and
George, each of whom, following the example of their father,
took an active and important part in the management of the
affairs of the town.

Thomas succeeded to the lands of Barngreen on the death
of his father. He also acquired from his uncle, James, the lands
of Lochlands including Keptie. He was infeft in these lands
towards the end of the i6th century, which infeftment was
ratified by Act of Scottish Parliament on nth August, 1607.
In this infeftment he is designated and infeft as follows,
." Thomas Pierson of Lochlands, of his lands of Lochlands, with
the tiend sheaves thereof included, and the loch belonging there-
to : the lands of Barngreen, with the tiends and pertinents
thereof lying within the regality of Aberbrothock and sheriffdom
of Forfar, and of his house and tenement lying within the
burgh of Aberbrothock." The loch here referred to does not
now exist. The older inhabitants may remember it under the
name of the Blind Loch, and recall the days when they
enjoyed the exhilarating exercise of skating on its frozen surface.

Like his father, Thomas Pierson represented Arbroath at
the Convention of Burghs, first at Aberdeen in 1590, then at
Montrose in 1591, and again at Edinburgh in 1592. At the
Convention held at Arbroath in 1612, he was chosen as its
moderator or president. He was also the commissioner from
Arbroath at the Kirkcaldy Convention in 1614.


But that which will connect his name with the history
of the town in all time coining will be the important part he
took in obtaining for Arbroath its charter as a Royal Burgh.
Arbroath had long existed as a burgh of regality, and as such
had enjoyed various privileges, but it was not till 1399 that it
could boast of being ranked among the Royal Burghs of Scot-
land, and as such to possess the powers and privileges which
this new charter conferred. In conducting the negotiations which
led up to this Thomas Pierson of Lochlands took the leading
part. His brother, Archibald, represented Arbroath at the Perth
Convention in 1582. George, the third son of David of Barn-
green, was the first Treasurer of the town after its creation as
Royal Burgh.

This Thomas Pierson and his wife had a family of four
sons and two daughters, of whom David Pierson, author of
" The Varieties," was the oldest. The second son became
minister of Forfar, and married Elizabeth Maule, and so became
allied to the ancient family of the Maules of Panmure. Another
son became, and long held the post of, Town Clerk of Arbroath.
The eldest daughter, Janet, married John Ouchterlony of the
Guynd, from whom descended the John Ouchterlony who wrote
" The Account of the Shire of Forfar." The youngest daughter,
Isobel, married her cousin, Archibald Pierson of Chapelton,
Sheriff-Depute of Forfar.

On the death of Thomas Pierson he was succeeded as
Laird of Lochlands by his son, David Pierson. As might be
expected, the son of so distinguished a father had the advantage
of the best education which the country could afford. On the
completion of his elementary studies he was sent to the L^ni-
versity. After taking his degree he added considerably to his
knowledge of men and things by foreign travel. He also be-


came acquainted with many distinguished men of his time. He
was on terms of intimacy with William Drummond of Haw-
thornden ; Arthur Johnstone, the king's physician, and other
eminent men of the day. David Pierson was a man of sterling
honesty and uprightness of character. While he appears to have
taken considerably less interest in local affairs than his immediate
ancestors, he gave great attention to questions of general interest.
In 1635 he published a book under the title of "Varieties,"
which, so far as is known, is the oldest book in existence from
the pen of an Arbroathian.

David Pierson's " Varieties " is, in many ways, a remarkable
volume. The full title of the book is " Varieties : or a Surveigh
of Rare and Excellent Matters, necessary and delectable for all
sorts of persons ; Wherein the principall Heads of diverse sciences
are illustrated ; Rare secrets of Naturall Things Unfoulded, &c."
" By David Pierson of Loughlands in Scotland, gentleman."
It was printed in London in 1635 by Richard Badger for
Thomas Alchorn " and are to be sold at his shop, in Paul's
Church-yard, at the Signe of the green Dragon," saith the title
page. The subject-matter of the volume is " digested into five
bookes," and its character certainly justifies the title " Varieties."
The first book deals with " the matter and nature of the
Heaven, Sunne, Moone, Starres, Ayre, Sea, and Earth." The
second book contains " A Discourse of Meteors, as of Comets,
falling Starrs, and other fiery impressions ; of Winde, Clouds,
Thunder, Haile, Snow, Raine, Deaw, Earth-quakes," &c. The
third book treats of " Armies and Battels, Combats and Duels,
Death and Burials, Laughing and Mourning, and Mentall Reser-
vation." The fourth book is taken up with " Treatises on
Curiosities, Divine Philosophy or Man's felicity, the Consonancie
and agreement betwixt Ancient Philosophers and Christian


Professors, and on Sleepe and Dreams." The fifth book deals
with the " Numbers Three and Seven, Miracles and Prodigies,
Salamandra or the Philosopher's Stone, the World, and Meta-
physicks." The sun, moon, and stars, the earth, and all that it
contains, and, in fact, all that it does not contain, are Pierson's
subjects. All phenomena natural, miraculous or prodigous, are
discussed with an erudite sincerity which makes the numerous
absurdities in the volume appear all the more absurd to the
reader who peruses it under the new light which the centuries
have thrown upon nature's secrets since Pierson wrote in 1635.
In reading Pierson's volume, it is necessary to keep in
remembrance one or two red-letter dates in the history of
scientific discovery in order to judge the book fairly. Copernicus
published his great work, De Revolutionibus Orbium, in 1542,
and Kepler's famous Three Laws were being discussed by
scientific men a good many years before Pierson wrote. Bacon
was dead nine years before Pierson's volume appeared, and in
his travels on the continent our townsman might have had
Descartes for a companion ; for during the years he was gathering
material for his " Varieties " in France, Italy, and other countries,
Descartes, too, was wandering over Europe, bringing to maturity
his great " Discourse on Method." Pierson does not seem to
have known anything either of Kepler or his Laws, and though
Galileo was a prisoner of the Inquisition from 1632 till his death
in 1642, the author of "Varieties," writing in the very year of
Galileo's trial and condemnation by the Roman Catholic Church
for demonstrating the movement of our earth, never mentions
him. Pierson does not seem to have regarded any writer as an
authority who had not been dead and buried for more than a
century. He does venture to mention Copernicus, but it is only
to ridicule his "franticke and strange" notions, and to set him

Online LibraryJames M M'BainEminent Arbroathians: being sketches historical, genealogical, and biographical, 1178-1894 → online text (page 11 of 34)