Letter, 1798 AUG 16

Letter from William Grant to his son, Lewis Grant, 16 August 1798
Transcription by Hugh Campbell, 31 May 2003
Last modified 13 Aug 2006

Carron 16th August 1798
My Dear Lewes
Yours for favour of Mr Leith came
to hand the 19th of May last, it made use all very happy
I have not seen Mr Leith. I am told that he intends to
see use here or he leaves Scotland. I wrote you lately.
The times hard credite low, and the
Banks dos not give out their money with the same
ease as formerly; No demand for sheep and very few sold
last spring; Cattle as yet equally dull [?] market
the prices very low such as they were about 20 years
ago. Farmers very much pinched for Money. Meall at
16/- the [gstone] oat meall the last crop reather [defik]
and it was more so in the south of this country than with
us. The harvest appears to be late and we have had a
cold spring and summer.
General Grant Belendallach commands
at Newcastle and is not expected further north this summer
Elchies and Arndilly is at home William Grant Esq [1]
M__ F__ Kings Bench walk London, purchased the
lands of Beldorney Deveron side parish of Glass and
Cabrach rents F200 stirling he is just now appointed a
Welsh Judge by which his seat in the House of Commons
for Shaftsbury is vacant & it is thought that he will be
ellected Member of Parliament for Banff County which
will be vacant by Sir James Grant of Grants [2] having got
a place in the Customs it is likewise thought Lord Fifes

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son Col Peter Duff Sir George Abercrombee [3] of Berkenbogg
and Arndilly is to be candidates for the County of Banff
how it may go is hard to say it is said that Mr Grant has the County
Mrs Grant of Carron [4] has got unto
herself a husband about 20 years of age a native of Ireland
her Son Joseph is in this neighbourhood for some days past
and I suppose that his mother has given him a full discharge
from her presence Some weeks ago, I had a letter from
your Uncle James dated New York 2d Aprile last, he was then
[wile?] says that he had not seen you I wrote him and I asked
the favour of him to write to you; how happened it that
you did not call for him I had no letters from your brother
of late nor have I had any letters from your cousines
at Antigua of late I asked of them to write to you when I wrote to
[?] Alex Grant at Saint Johns last Your Aunt Penuel
Mrs Major Grant[5] was well lately at Newton Place, Newton Vale
near London. As was your Aunt Jean Mrs Audland her husband
a blacksmith at Milnethrope Westmoreland near Kendale
England has two sons one a blacksmith the other a white
smith with two daughters they are the proper people for
your country Mrs Smith going one in her usuall way
alwise asking, and never has I suppose asking from every
one at the House in Forres every day with your sisters and
alwise gets a bite of bread, I am of opinion that neither of them gos to
school but when they please and I am not able to give them
any aid to dignify but she thinks otherwise and that I ought
to do what my ablitys will not admite of nor could it use
had she never so much.
Elchees and I has as yet agreed middling
well, I asked a lease and he to repair the House. He offers
to grant me a lease at the same rent that I have at present
and repair the House, I having seven and a half percent

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for the money laid out. I told him that did not suit me
as I though the farm was already [rack?] rented; Had there been
a quick market for cattle and sheep by which I could have
brought my effects to a good sale which might have en
abled me to pay the money that I am due or near so: were it
not for these reasons I do believe that I might have taken my
my live of him and his [partial line missing] hesitation
but as I was certain, if it was once known
to give up this farm [?] it might harress [on?]
calling for there own at a time when I could [??]
good vent for my stocks was the cattle and sheep [??]
off at high prices, I would endeavour to pay [??]
prevail with others to give more time but [??]
[??] this without looking round for a while [??]
[??] I can meet with more favoura [??]
[??] wise a cheaper farm which is [??]
[??] oblige me to struggle a while long [??]
at Carron as I am not able to do better —
John Clerk got the [??] eldest daughter with child
married her a poor marriage hor him she’s not worth
Elchies had a daughter last Years has got a son
the third just now. Ms Cameron Ms Donaldson that you knew
is come from Banff to lay in at the Bushe and has a job at one
nothing but grandure — James Thomson the Minister of Aberlour [6]
his son is comeing north with a London wife, it is said that he was
nixt year to settle at Bolloneybay with the Wife said to be one
of the London ladys. All other friends are well —
Your Mother alwise in bad health and her
sisters at Forres and wile I am alwise distressed with the
[niles?] so pain in the lower part of my belly —
I see by the newspapers that the Ship Alexandria of
London Capt Shaw a [lillerMark?] mount of 20 guns has taken a
cruise and was in [??] of Antigua with one I hope a [??]
Sow with offer of love from all sister Mother I am your affectionate father
Wm Grant


* * *



A lot of the entries in here come from the book “Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen” originally edited by Robert Chambers and then the new edition along with the supplemental volume says by the Rev. Thos. Thomson.  It was published by Blackie and Son of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London in 1856. Would also like to recognise the work of Jeanette Simpson who has worked very hard to type all this in for us.

GRANT, SIR WILLIAM.-This able lawyer was a descendant of the Grants of Beldornie, a sept of the parent clan. His father, originally a farmer, was afterwards appointed collector of customs in the Isle of Man, an office which he held till his death. His son William, the subject of this notice, was born at Elchies, in Morayshire, in 1754, and was educated at the grammar-school of Elgin, along with his younger brother, who afterwards became collector at Martinico. William did not forget, when he had attained distinction, the place in which he had been trained, so that, thirty years afterwards, when the school was to be rebuilt, he was one of its earliest contributors. His education was completed at the old college of Aberdeen. In the choice of a profession, which was that of law, he was directed by the advice of his uncle, a merchant, who had been so successful in England, that he was enabled to purchase the estate of Elchies, on which he had been born. After the usual course of study at Aberdeen had been finished, William Grant went to London, and was entered at Lincoln’s Inn. At the age of twenty-five, although he had not yet been called to the English bar, he was considered competent for colonial practice, and was appointed attorney-general of Canada. In this new office his professional talents soon brought him into universal esteem. He also showed that he understood the adage of tam Marti quam Mercurio; for on Quebec being besieged by the American army under Montgomery, the attorney-general became a bold and active captain of volunteers, and continued to perform military duty until the siege was ended.

After this he continued to discharge his civil duties for several years; but finding the position of Canada too critical, as well as colonial practice too limited for his aspirations, he resigned his office of attorney-general; and on returning to London, he entered with full ardour upon a more favourable arena in the courts of Westminster, after having been commissioned in 1787 to practise as an English barrister. His commencement, however, was so unpropitious as to bring all his energy and resolution into full exercise, and nerve them with double vigour; for however eminent he had been at the bar of Quebec, he found himself an utter stranger in London, while his shy retiring habits gave little promise that such a difficulty would be easily obviated. Fortunately, one of those incidents occurred by which the reserve of modest merit is often broken through, and the possessor dragged out to the sphere which he ought to occupy. Mr. Grant, after having gone the circuit year after year without obtaining a single brief, happened at length to be retained in some appeals from the Court of Session in Scotland to the House of Lords. He discharged his duty so ably on this occasion, and evinced such legal talent and force of reasoning, as to extort the highest approbation from the stern Lord Chancellor Thurlow, a man by no means profuse in compliments. He eagerly asked the name of the speaker; and having learned it, he said to a friend, “Be not surprised if that young man should one day occupy this seat.” It is thought that Grant might ultimately have fulfilled this prediction had he been willing to encounter the responsible duties of the chancellorship. Thurlow’s approbation did not end in empty compliment; he interested himself in the fortunes of the talented but unbefriended stranger, and in consequence of his advice, Grant left the practice of common law for that of equity, as being better fitted for his studies and habits.

From this period his career was one of honour and success, and his first step was a seat in parliament, having been returned for Shaftesbury at the general election in 1790. On entering the House he made no attempt to attract notice as a political orator; his forte rather lay in private consultations and committees, where his sagacity, good sense, and extensive knowledge, were seen and appreciated by the most eminent of his colleagues. Of these especially was Mr. Pitt, of whom he was a firm and effective supporter. On one occasion, in the year 1791, his colonial experience was of great service to the premier. The subject before the House for discussion was a new code of laws for the province of Canada, and on this question he enforced the proposal of Pitt with such incontrovertible arguments, drawn from his own knowledge and practice as attorney-general of the colony, that even Fox was gratified, and all but convinced. Another occasion on which Grant signalized himself in the House of Commons occurred in the following year, when he defended the measures of the ministry upon the subject of the Russian armament. At the beginning of 1794 he was returned to parliament by the borough of Westminster, and at the same time appointed solicitor- general to the Queen, and in 1796 he was chosen knight in parliament for the county of Banff. In 1798 he was appointed chief-justice of Chester, and in the year following he was made solicitor-general, on which occasion he received the usual honour of knighthood. In 1801 he was honoured with his last and highest promotion of master of the rolls. This steady rise was owing, not to his support of the predominant party in the state, but the high character which he established for himself as lawyer and judge, in which all parties coincided. He continued to represent the county of Banff until 1812, when the Parliament was dissolved, and to fill the office of master of the rolls till 1817, at which period, he was anxious to retire from public life before age had unfitted him for its duties, or impaired his intellectual vigour. On the 24th December, therefore, he fulfilled this resolution of self-denial by tendering his resignation of the mastership, on which occasion he received, among other well-deserved eulogiums, the following from the bar of the court, through Sir Arthur Pigott, the speaker appointed for the occasion -“The promptitude and wisdom of your decisions have been as highly conducive to the benefit of the suitors, as they have been eminently promotive of the general administration of equity. In the performance of your important and arduous duties, you have exhibited an uninterrupted equanimity, and displayed a temper never disturbed, and a patience never wearied; you have evinced an uniform and impartial attention to those engaged in the discharge of their professional duties here, and who have had the opportunity, and enjoyed the advantage of observing that conduct in the dispensation of justice, which has been conspicuously calculated to excite emulation, and to form an illustrious example for imitation.”

During the sixteen years of life that were still continued to him, Sir William Grant abstained from public affairs, devoting himself wholly to intellectual recreations, and the society of congenial company, in the neighbourhood of Walthamstow, and during the two last years of his life at Barton House, Dawlish, the residence of his sister, the widow of Admiral Schanck. He was never married. His death occurred on the 25th of May, 1832, when he had reached the age of seventy-eight years.



XII. Laird of Freuchie, commonly called “THE GOOD SIR JAMES” (1773-1811). He was remarkable, not only for his justice and benevolence, but for his patriotic spirit. Residing as he did, like his father, mainly at Castle Grant, he was brought more into touch with his people, and was able to take more direct and personal interest in all that concerned their welfare. Shaw, who must have known him well, speaks of him in the highest terms. “He was affable and courteous in his deportment; distinguished for his charity, hospitality, and beneficence ; of a generosity that anticipated the wishes of his friends and exceeded the expectations of strangers; and of exemplary attention to all the offices of religion. He was dignified without pride; affible without meanness; and courteous without deceit. At different periods he represented the Counties of Moray and Banff in Parliament. In 1793 he levied the first Regiment of Fencibles Infantry, and in the year following the 97th Regiment of the Line.” General Stewart of Garth is equally laudatory. Sir James married, in 1763, Jane Duff, only child of Alexander Duff of Hatton, by Lady Anne Duff, eldest daughter of William, first Earl of Fife, by whom he had seven sons and six daughters. He died on the 18th February, 1811, and was succeeded by his son.


Grantown was founded in 1765 by James – known as ‘the good Sir James’ (from 1773, Sir James Grant of Grant) the village being marked out in lots on a barren moor. He was affectionately known as ‘the good Sir James’ after he responded to a severe crop failure and famine in the late 1700’s by selling his fine Edinburgh townhouse to buy and distribute grain among the starving of Strathspey. More than any other person, he brought Strathspey into the modern world during the half century or so in which he administered and guided it from Castle Grant, 1763 – 1811. He promoted the greatest improvement in living conditions there has ever been in that part of the Highlands. At that time, much of the old natural Scots Pine forests, which had covered Strathspey from time immemorial, had disappeared. Sir James cleared, drained, and planted much of the derelict land adjacent to the town and it is recorded that the plants used in these early plantations were raised from seed gathered in the natural Scots Pine forests of Abernethy, and are therefore lineal descendants of the old Strathspey strain. The family today, over 230 years later, continues to be a large woodland owner.


The Good Sir James, referred to above, was the epitome of a Highland Chief, who vastly improved his clanspeople’s lives, fed them in time of famine, and provided employment to enable them to avoid the waves of emigration which so hurt the Highlands from time to time.


Robinson, Sir George Abercrombie (1758-1832) Knight Chairman of East India Co
1794-96: letters to Lord Cornwallis
Public Record Office
Reference : PRO30/11
NRA 8658 Cornwallis
1745-1959: family and personal corresp and papers
British Library, Oriental and India Office Collections
Reference : MSS Eur F 142
NRA 27534 Robinson



The favourite song of “Roy’s Wife of Aldivalloch” (the only one she was ever known to compose), was written by a Mrs Grant of Carron, whose maiden name was Grant, born, near Aberlour, about 1745. Mr Grant of Carron, whose wife she became about 1763, was her cousin. After his death she married, a second time, an Irish physician practising at Bath, of the name of Murray, and died in that city in 1814.


Parish of Aberlour.
(County of Banff.)
By the Rev. Mr James Thomson
The Statistical Account for Scotland,
1791-1799 Volume XVI Banffshire, Moray & Nairnshire.
Pages 1-7.


1 Response to “Letter, 1798 AUG 16”

  1. 1 Paul Pace
    July 10, 2013 at 9:29 am

    The Edinburgh Magazine for February 1798 recorded an Alexander Grant’s death writing “Deaths [late 1797] …Lately, on his passage home from St Domingo, Captain Alexander Grant, of the 66th regiment, and son of Robert Grant, Esq. of Auchterblair.” Capt. Grant had previously served in the 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch) during the American Revolution before joining the 66th Foot. Now does he fit into the Auchterblair story. Paul

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