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on the lid was delivered up and handed to the Sheriff of Ayr, who, in his turn, handed it to the representatives of the deceased. In the previous chapter a monument to the memory of this remarkable personage is referred to ; but now that mention of his grave is being made, a brief sketch of his life may be appropriately introduced, for its incidents are not only singular, but go a great way to prove that truth in many instances is stranger than fiction. The date of his birth is unknown, but it is generally supposed that he was born about the close of the reign of merry King Charles, and that he was the son of a poor widow who resided in a thatched cottage in the vicinity of Ayr, and earned for herself and boy a miserable subsistence by washing and doing other odd work for her well-to-do neighbours. The pittance thus earned was occasionally increased by odd coppers which her son picked up by looking after cattle, running errands, and such like. While thus employed, and while knocking about in an Arablike condition, he became acquainted with a Hugh M'Quire,” a jobbing carpenter, and an accomplished player on the fiddle, whose musical talent was highly appreciated by the “homest men and bonnie lasses” of the district, for to the strains of his instrument they delighted to whirl on the light fantastic toe. This man took a fancy to the boy, and, although poor, put him to school and acted the part of a father towards him for some considerable time. This guardianship would have continued had the protegé not been caught in the pardonable offence of pilfering apples from an orchard and severely punished by the authorities. The disgrace being more than his proud spirit could bear, he no sooner obtained liberty than he stowed himself away on board an outward bound ship, and for forty years never set foot in “the auld toon,” nor, it is believed, held any communication with his friends. The events of his seafaring life must for ever remain unknown, for nothing can be ascertained about him until thirty years after he had so suddenly and mysteriously disappeared from his native place. Then he is referred to in the records of the Madras Government as Captain Macrae, and from this it is surmised that he had risen to be master of a vessel engaged in the trade of that country and had sailed between China, Sumatra, and Pegu. However, by some means he got into the good graces of the government of his adopted country and was sent to the West Coast of Sumatra to reform abuses which prevailed in an English settlement. This he did to such good purpose that he effected a saving of £25,000 a year, and rendered services by executing reforms which promised to greatly increase the amount. For this display of business tact he was appointed Governor of Port St David, and shortly afterwards (1724) second member of Council at Fort George. On the 18th January, 1725, the washerwoman's fatherless boy took his seat as Governor of the Madras Presidency, which was at that time, and for half a century afterwards, the chief British settlement in India. The proceeding is thus recorded :— “Monday, 18th January, 1725.-The President, James Macrae, Esq., opened this consultation by telling the Board that as this was the first time of their meeting since his taking the chair, he thought it would not be improper to acquaint them with his resolutions, of which the principal was that he would prosecute the Company's interest to the utmost, and endeavour to remove the abuses that had crept into the management of their affairs. He added that he was determined not to interrupt in any manner the commerce of the place ; but that all the inhabitants, both whites and blacks, the free merchants as well as the Company's servants, should have free liberty of trade, and that he should expect the same freedom from interruption in whatever he should undertake ; that he would endeavour to be as agreeable to the gentlemen as any of his predecessors, but that he was determined to maintain the privileges and immunities belonging to the President; and he concluded by saying that he expected a ready assistance from them in the pursuit of the above resolutions, which was accordingly promised.” During his tenure of office the trade of the place prospered beyond all precedence, nothing being too insignificant or too arduous for his attention. In 1731, having amassed a vast
* Next to nothing is known of this individual. Mr. John Shaw, attorney of the High Court of Justiciary, Madras, considers him to have been the husband of Isabella Gairdner, a daughter of Macrae's mother's brother; while Mr J. Talboys Wheeler, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the College of Madras, distinctly states, in his “Annals of James Macrae,” that he was the husband of Macrae's sister. Another writer—the late Dr. Norman M'Leod—states that he was his stepfather; but the popular opinion is that he was no relation whatever. However, it is a matter of little importance
fortune, Governor Macrae sailed for England, and upon his arrival in Ayr sought out his benefactor, “Fiddler MʻQuire,” and from him learned that his mother had been dead for a considerable time. The fiddler and his family were in very poor circumstances, and to relieve his immediate necessities his old protegé gave him £100. The joy of the musician and his better half was unbounded, and to celebrate the event she purchased many delicacies, amongst which was a loaf of sugar and a bottle of brandy. When the banquet was spread, the solid mass of sugar was scooped out and the hollow filled with the generous liquor, which they supped with
spoons until they became “ owre a' the ills o life victorious," and soothingly sank on the floor into the arms of Morpheus.
Having no heirs, and being grateful for the kindness bestowed upon him when a boy, Macrae resolved to elevate the fiddler and his family. With this object in view he purchased Drundow, a small estate in the parish of Stair, and presented it to his early benefactor, and afterwards sent his family—a son and three daughters—to the best boarding school he could find. In 1733 he was admitted a burgess of Ayr, and is styled in the records—“ James Macrae, late Governor of Madras.” In 1734 he presented the city of Glasgow with the handsome equestrian statue of King William which still adorns its Cross. It is well worth the attention of the visitor, for on its pedestal a long Latin inscription will be found which concludes thus—“ POSUIT CIVIS STENNUUS ET FIDUS JACOBUS MACRAE, COLLONIÆ MADARASSIANAE EXPRAEFECTUS. M.D.CCXXXV." This statue cost £3000, which says much for the Governor's admiration of “ William of Immortal Memory.” It may be also stated that the two old guns which protrude their rusty muzzles out of the causeway at its base blazed at the Battle of the Boyne, and were handled with deadly effect by the “ Protestant Boys." In 1736 the old veteran purchased the estate of Orangefield, and in 1739 that of Ochiltree. The latter cost £25,000. The same year he purchased and conveyed to James MʻQuire, the fiddler's son, the barony of Houlston, on the condition
* I am inclined to think, from the time Macrae had been away, that the individual on whom he showered his wealth was a son of the violinist, for it is probable that his old friend had paid the debt of nature before his return, or he must have married a young woman very late in life.
that he ever afterwards assumed the name Macrae. The fiddler's three daughters were considered handsome. Elizabeth, the eldest, was married to William, thirteenth Earl of Glencairn, and received from the Governor as dowry the estate of Ochiltree and £45,000. The old gentleman took a deep interest in this match, but being seized with a severe illness before its consummation he sent for his medical adviser and inquired if he could keep him alive until the nuptials were performed. The doctor replying that he could not promise, Macrae raised himself in bed and exclaimed passionately—“Then d
you and all your drugs !" He did live, however, for the marriage took place in 1744, and he did not die until 1750.
This marriage did not prove happy, for it turned out that the Earl admired his wife's wealth more than her
and it is supposed that the twittings he received from his equals about her humble birth heightened the dislike. Upon one occasion Lord Cassillis made some taunting allusions to his wife's origin, and concluded by remarking that he wondered that he so far forgot himself and his rank as to marry a fiddler's daughter. Without the least show of anger at the insult, the Earl coolly said—“ Yes, my lord ; and one of my father-in-law's favourite tunes was “The Gipsies cam' to Lord Cassillis' yett.'” The repartee was pointed, for it will be observed that it referred to a frail but famous Countess of Cassillis who eloped with a gipsy named Johnny Faa. It is said that the Earl purchased the estate of Kilmarnock with his wife's dowry, and formed the fine street bearing his.
James, the second son of the above marriage, became fourteenth Earl of Glencairn in 1775, and died unmarried in 1791. It was he who befriended the poet Burns, and it was. on his death that the bard wrote the celebrated lament which concludes with the pathetic lines:
“ Thou found'st me, like the morning sun,
That melts the fogs in limpid air ;
Became alike thy fostering care.
"Oh! why has worth so short a date?
While villains ripen grey with time ;
Must thou, the noble, generous, great,
Fall in bold manhood's hardy prime !
A day to me so full of woe ;
Which laid my benefactor low !
Was made his wedded wife yestreen ;
That on his head an hour has been ;
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee ;
And a' that thou hast done for me !"
Margaret, the second daughter of “Fiddler M'Quire,” married in 1749 James Erskine of Barjarg, advocate. He was elevated to the bench as one of the Lords of Session in 1761, and took the title of Lord Tinwald. His wife's dowry was expended in the purchase of the estate of Alva. Macrae M'Quire, the third daughter, was married to Charles Dalrymple, Sheriff-Clerk of Ayrshire, and received from the Governor as dowry the estate of Orangefield and a handsome sum of
money. At the death of the fiddler's son, the estate of Houlston devolved upon
his son, “ Captain” John Macrae. He walked not in the footsteps of his father, for he was known in fashionable circles as a libertine, bully, and professional duellist; and had ultimately to fly the country for the killing of Sir George Ramsay of Edinburgh in the settlement of an affair of honour. A story is told which aptly illustrates the character of the man. A servant having committed a mistake, in an outburst of passion he struck him a violent blow in the face. “ Were you my equal,” said the menial indignantly, “I'd make you smart for that.” “Would you ?" replied Macrae with a scornful sneer. “I would," answered the
Oh, very well, if it's boxing you mean I'll give it to you to your heart's content; but remember, you mustn't hit me on the face." This was agreed to, and both retired to a secluded part of the garden, where they fought with much bitterness; but the bully, finding that he had for once met his match, and was likely to get himself severely punished, cried “Hold!" and declared himself satisfied with what he had