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Rob Roy MacGregor Campbell
The '45
Extracts of Statistics from the Annexed Estates for Western Strathearn (1755-56)
The Reports of the Annexed Estates (1755-69)
A Tour of Scotland - Thomas Pennant (1769)
Seismic Activity (1789)
Account of 1791-99 vol-11 - Comrie, County of Perth
Archibald MacNab (1734-1816)
Henry Dundas (1742-1811)
Sir David Baird of Seringapatam (1757-1829)
Companion and Useful Guide to the Beauties of Scotland – Sarah Murray (1799)
Roman Camp, Dalginross – October (1800)
Flash from the Caledonian Mercury – September (1814)
I've a Boat to Catch (1818)
A Picture of Strathearn - John Brown (1823)
St Fillan’s Highland Society (1827)
Letters from the Distant Past (1831 - 1859)
Comrie, St Fillans and Monivard (1837)
Statistical Account: Parish of Comrie (1838)
The Glen Lednock Census (1841)
The Queen’s Visit (1842)
The Road to Comrie (1857)
For the Sake of Nelly Fergus (1860)
From an Unknown Guidebook-circa (1892)
Comrie (1895)
Tales of Derring Do
Soldier, Soldier, won’t you marry me wi’…
The Adventures of Paddy or Highland Peter
Ghoulie Tales
A Serious Business
Mail Order Bride
The Man with the Powerful Voice
Double Entry bookkeeping
Hey, Gie’s ma Haun…or Murder Most Foul
Kate Mackenzie's Terrible Deeds
Watty and Meg Drummond
The Fencibles
Deacon Reid
Amazing Grace
The Day of the Penny Wedding
The MacArthur's were there before the Hills
The Beggar's Badge
A Pane by any other name can be a Pain!
The Powder Keg
The Coo didnae hae ony Teeth!
The Green Lady of Glen Lednock
The Queen of Tynasithe
The Great Wall of Comrie
Whisky, You're the Devil
A Wee Rumble
A Whale of a Time
An Encounter of the Third Kind
Another Debate
Bosom Pals
Getting Stoned in Comrie
Hanging about Comrie
It's Whisky in the Jar
Picking Other Folks' Brains
Porridge for Breakfast
Tarred and Buttered
Temperance
The Convert
The Debate
The Schism
The Levitation
The Twa' Brithers
There’s a Hare in my Soup
Yer bum's oot the Window

18th & 19th Century

Henry Dundas – 1742-1811

KING HARRY THE NINTH OR THE UNCROWNED KING OF SCOTLAND.

From Tom A’ Chasteil and looking towards the north-west one sees Dunmore Hill, an eminence that provides a panoramic view of Comrie, Highland and Lower Strathearn, Glen Lednock and Glen Artney. At its summit stands the 72 foot obelisk commemorating the life of Henry Dundas, Baron Dunira, and Viscount Melville.

Henry Dundas, a scion of the landed class, was born on April 28th, in 1742 in Edinburgh, into a family of well known lawyers who for generations came from Arniston in West Lothian - it was said they could trace their genealogy back to the time of the Norman Conquest. Later his family was allied with William Wallace and the Bruces and was well rewarded for their services to the latter. Amongst his forebears was Sir William Dundas who was killed at Flodden along with 10,000 Flowers of Scotland. Sometime during the fourteenth century the family acquired the barony of Fingask some fifteen miles from Comrie which was eventually passed to James, the eldest son of a second wife. He was the eleventh Laird. From this line this branch of the family through their descendants became connected to the House of Zetland. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, during the sixteenth century a similar process occurred when the family, through marriage, became connected to the Oliphants. Sir George Dundas, seventeenth Laird, married twice. His second wife was the daughter of Lord Oliphant. Her eldest son bought the estate at Arniston, some fourteen miles south of Edinburgh on the Carlisle road in 1571. The estate is situated on a pleasant stretch of the river known as the South Esk.

Robert Dundas, the fourth Laird of Arniston was born in 1685 and through the political connections of the family, and the ever existent nepotism of the time, rose to be Solicitor-General for Scotland in 1717, and Lord Advocate in 1720. In 1725 Walpole dismissed him as he had opposed the government imposition of a Malt Tax. This allowed him to step into, and become, one of the leaders of the Scots Opposition to the government. He possessed great influence both in Scotland and in Westminster. Sadly though, tragedy struck him when his wife and three of his four children died of smallpox.

He remarried in June 1734 and his second wife, Anne Gordon, daughter of Sir William Gordon. By 1737 Robert had mended his fences with Walpole who made him a judge of the Court of Session in 1737 - he eventually became President of that august body (somehow or other I have an image of Uriah Heap!). On April 28th, 1742, Anne presented her husband with a son, Henry. He was born in to a position of privilege, where deprivation was unknown. In manhood, he would develop nepotism to a rare art form.

Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville


His career was spectacular, and included holding various high governmental positions including Secretary for State of the Home Department, President of the India Board of Control and Secretary for State for War, Treasurer of the Navy and First Lord of the Admiralty. His name is well remembered throughout the globe in such places as Canada when one considers Melville Sound, Island and Harbour in the far North, and Dundas County in Ontario.

When the Drummond lands were forfeit to the crown after the ’45 for supporting the last Stuart Kings (Bonnie Prince Charlie and his daddy, James, in particular), the Drummonds appointed from their exile in France, and after the dust had settled a bit, Lord Melville to claim back their possessions. He was a notable lawyer whose palm crossed many others with “siller” and when the estates were returned to them he was given, as his fee for services rendered, a portion of their lands called Duneira (fort of the West ford). He was known as the “Uncrowned King of Scotland” or “King Harry the Ninth” and served under Pitt. He was charged with malfeasance, but got off by pulling in favours from his friends, although it ruined his career and he retired to this estate.

Unknown to most was the recording in the church in Comrie that mentions he was named as the father to an illegitimate child. After its entry, the records were expunged, and he did not have to sit in the “cutty” stool, or confess before the congregation!

He died in 1811 of “an ossification of the heart, although others said he died from “a severe attack of bronchitis.” Glowing words were said about him throughout the country. The Caledonian Mercury in their edition dated May 30, 1811, under the heading “Death of Lord Melville” provides the following: ‘It is with much concern we announce the death of Lord Viscount Melville, who died suddenly, at the house of the Lord Chief Baron Dundas, his son-in-law, having come to town, for the purpose of attending the funeral of the late Lord President Blair. He went to bed, to all appearance, we understand, in his usual state of health, on Tuesday night, and was found dead next morning.

His Lordship was upwards of 70 years of age. He entered Advocate in 1763, and his first promotion was to be one of the Assessors of this city. He was afterwards an Advocate Depute and Solicitor General; and in 1775, on Sir James Montgomery being made Lord Chief Baron, he succeeded in as Lord Advocate, which place he occupied till 1783. He was elected a member of the county of Edinburgh in 1774, in which he continued for several sessions of Parliament, and resigned it in favour of the present Lord Chief Baron; when he represented the city of Edinburgh till 1808, in which year he was advanced to the Peerage.

His Lordship was appointed Treasurer of the Navy in the year 1782, under the late Marquis of Lansdown, then Earl of Shelborne, in which office he continued until the dissolution of that Administration. In December1783, when Mr Pitt became Prime Minister, on the overthrow of the Coalition, he was again appointed to the same situation, which he held till the resignation of Mr Pitt in 1801, along with the office of President of the Board of Controul (Control) and principal Secretary of State. The last public situation which he held was that of First Lord of the Admiralty, in which he was affable in his manners and easy of access, and on this account gave general satisfaction to those who had business to transact at his office. While Treasurer of the Navy, he devised several improvements in the details of the office, which have been found of great service; and in particular, his regulation in regard to the payment of seaman’s wages have contributed much to the comfort of these brave men.

In 1803, he was created Viscount Melville and Baron Dunira; he was a Privy Councillor, Lord Privy Seal, Governor of the Bank of Scotland, &c. His Lordship was the youngest son of the Right Hon. Robert Dundas, Lord President of the Court of Session, by Miss Gordon, daughter of Sir William Gordon of Gordonstoun, Bart. He was twice married, first, to Miss Rannie, daughter of Captain Rannie of Melville, by whom he had one son, Robert, now Viscount Melville) now President of the Board of Controul (sic Control), and M.P. for the county of Edinburgh, who married Miss Saunders, and has children; and three daughters, the eldest of whom was married to Mr. Drummond, and afterwards to Mr. Strange, both bankers in London; the second married her cousin, the present Lord Chief Baron; and the third is married to the Hon. George Abercromby. The two youngest daughters have families.

A separation having taken place between his Lordship and his wife, he married again Lady Jane Hope, daughter of the late and sister of the present Earl of Hopeton, but has left no issue from this marriage,

His Lordship was a tall and well made man, an acute argumentative, and ready speaker; in private society, a most agreeable companion; and greatly beloved by the numerous circle of his friends.

The death of Lord Melville occasions a vacancy for the county of Edinburgh.”

Many owed him much by way of his patronage and influence and within the year they all had a whip round. There was enough money that they were able to pay for a substantial obelisk which was placed on Dunmore Hill overlooking Strathearn. It was a bit like the pay out for executives in both the RBS and HBOS!

Again, the Edinburgh Caledonian Mercury filled copy space in their issue dated May 23, 1812. The article is viz: “Lord Melville’s Monument – Some of the private friends of the late Viscount Melville, in Perthshire, having entered into a subscription to raise a monument to his memory, Wednesday 6th of May was appointed for laying the foundation stone of that structure.

On the morning of the day fixed, the office-bearers and several respectable members of St Michael’s Lodge, at Crieff, joined by some brethren from other lodges, assembled at the village of Comrie, in order to meet Sir Patrick Murray of Ochtertyre, the Provincial Grand Master. The lodge having been opened with the usual solemnities, the Grand Master, the office bearers, and members of the lodge, and the brethren from other lodges, arrayed in the various insignia of the order, walked in procession from Comrie to the hill of Dunmore, which lies about one mile distant. The procession was followed by a great concourse of spectators, who pressed forward to witness so interesting an occurrence.

About two o’clock, the grand master reached the site of the obelisk, and proceeded to lay the foundation stone with the usual solemnities. The Chaplain (Rev. Mr. McIsaac) pronounced a prayer on the occasion; after which, a bottle, filled with various coins and medals of the present reign, was deposited under the stone, with the ceremonies customary on such occasions.

An entertainment suited to the place being given to the brethren, and many of the spectators, several appropriate toasts were drunk. When the memory of Lord Melville, was drunk, Sir Patrick Murray addressed the meeting in an eloquent speech to the following effect, namely – “That they were then assembled to lay the foundation stone of a monument, in honour of one of the most illustrious statesmen which Scotland had ever produced, one of the most eminent benefactors, and one of the finest defenders of his country in times of peculiar peril – a man, whose signal services, and whose useful arrangements in many departments of the state, would perpetuate his name with distinguished luster for future ages; that this monument was to be erected on this spot which that illustrious patriot often trod, in a situation commanding a view of his residence of Duneira, which he had selected as his favourite retreat from business; and also, of the adjoining country, which had been the scene of his humanity and beneficence in private life.”

The procession having returned to Comrie, a dinner was given to all the members of the lodge, and too many strangers, by the Grand Master, at which he expressed his regret that he could not preside. After dinner, many loyal and patriotic toasts were drunk. The healths of Lord and Lady Melville, of Dowager Lady Melville, were drunk with great applause. The health of Sir Patrick Murray, the intimate friend of Lord Melville and one of the original promoters of the monument, was drunk by three times three, with loud applause, and the evening was spent with great conviviality. (This was before the laws of drinking and driving came into being. I also wonder if there will be similar offerings to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair when they depart this mortal coil!)

The situation chosen for the monument is very appropriate and magnificent, being the rock to the northward of Comrie, which overhangs the celebrated cascade on the water of Lednaig, and being elevated above the plain about 500 feet, it is seen from Lochearnhead, from Crieff, and from the adjacent country; and is visible, also, from the lower part of Strathearn, the Hill of Moncrieff, and the Sidlaw Hills. The form of the monument, which is designed by Mr. Gillespie, is that of an obelisk, and its height is 72 feet. The stone employed is a most beautiful granite, which, when wrought assumes the colour approaching pure white. The beauty of this monument, joined, to the bold and picturesque scenery around, will mark it out as a most conspicuous object to arrest the traveller’s attention. The obelisk will be completed by the 1st of October.

The inscription on the obelisk reads: “Erected Ad 1812, to the memory of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, Baron Dunira, etc., by his personal friends in the County of Perth, in grateful recollection of his public services and of his private virtues. Died 29th May, 1811, Aged 69.” He was buried in Lasswade Parish Church, near Roslin, in Midlothian,

The monument enjoys one of the finest views in Britain! It was said that the steeple jack who repaired the top of the monument after a lightning strike, when it lost thirteen feet, could see Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh almost 60 miles away!

Melville Monument on Dunmore, Comrie


Note: Om a visit to the Law Court in Edinburgh three years ago I took a photograph of the marble figure on the marble plinth of Lord Melville in his toga. No sooner than I had done that a wee man appeared from nowhere – I am sure he was disguised as a piece of the wall, and in the broadest Edinburgh accent, told me in no uncertain terms, and loudly, “Hey, you’re no allowed tae tak photographs o’ that!” I was sure I was going to be arrested, and me the innocent tourist!