« PreviousContinue »
direct line of Coltness, was born so far back as 1744, the year preceding that which wrought his father so much trouble, and when he died in 1839, at the great age of 95, was, as colonel of the Scots Greys, the senior general officer in Her Majesty's service. He is not yet quite forgotten as the inventor of certain improved tactics in cavalry warfare. His cousin, Sir Henry B. Steuart, of Collairnie, Fifeshire, succeeded as fifth Baronet of Coltness, the property itself passing, by purchase, in 1842 to Thomas Houldsworth then M.P. for Nottingham. Mr. Houldsworth died in 1852, when Coltness went first to his eldest brother, William, then to Henry, father of another Henry, at whose death, in 1868, the property passed to its present owner, James Houldsworth, Esq., born 1825. (See W. Promphrey's “Old Lairds of Coltness.” Wishaw, 1879.)
The adjoining property of Allanton (or Allerton), another possession of a still more ancient branch of the house of Steuart, was long the seat of Sir Henry, of the name, celebrated for his skill as an arboriculturist, and as the first who practised on any considerable scale the art of transplanting trees, with a success which even to an experienced planter like Sir Walter Scott appeared almost marvellous. Sir Henry was enabled to cover a whole park at once with groups and single trees, combined with copse and underwood of various sizes, all disposed in exquisite taste. Independent in circumstances, as has been mentioned, and attached by taste and habits to rural pursuits, Sir Henry resided for the most part at Allanton, to which, little distinguished by nature, his wonderful exertions gave within a comparatively short period of time all the beauty that could, according to the usual modes of improvement, have been conferred in the course of forty tedious years. The soil naturally is described as moorish, and the view from the front of the house must, before it was clothed with wood, have consisted of irregular swells and slopes, presenting certainly no striking features either of grandeur or beauty-probably "just not ugly."
Allanton was visited by many intelligent judges disposed to inquire with sufficient minuteness into the reality of the changes effected there, and so far as an opportunity was afforded for knowing, the uniform testimony of those visitors corresponded with the account given by Sir Henry Steuart himself. Rather over sixty years since, or in September, 1823, a committee of gentlemen, supposed to be well acquainted with country matters, was appointed by the Highland Society to inquire into the management of Allanton plantations, particularly with reference to (1) single trees and open groups on lawn which might appear to have suffered from the operation of transplanting ; (2) inclosed groups or masses of wood planted together; and (3) the cost of transplanting. From the facts which they witnessed the committee reported it as their unanimous opinion that the art of transplantation, as practised by Sir Henry Steuart, was calculated to accelerate in an extraordinary degree the power of raising wood, whether for beauty or shelter. The committee consisted of Robert, eighth Lord Belhaven ; Sir Archibald Campbell of Succoth, Sir Walter Scott, George Cranstoun (afterwards Lord Corehouse), and Alexander Young of Harburn. Five years later, or in 1828, Sir Henry published his “Planters' Guide," describing in detail the measures employed by the author to anticipate in such a wonderful manner the march of time, and “ to force, as it were, his woodlands in somewhat the same manner as the domestic gardener forces his fruits, upsetting thereby the old saying, 'Heu! male transfertur senio cum indurnit arbor?” Sir Henry, son of James, tenth baron of Allanton, was created a baronet of the United Kingdom, 1814, with remainder to his son-in-law, Reginald Macdonald of Staffa, who succeeded as second baronet on the death of Sir Henry in March, 1836, and whose son, the present Sir Henry James Seton Steuart, is now the third in descent of the new Allanton creation, and represents, besides the Setons of Touch, hereditary armour-bearers to the Sovereign and squire of the Royal body. The learned author of “The Planters' Guide” was an F.R.S., an LL.D., and well known among scholars for his edition of “ Sallust." He died, as has been just mentioned, in 1836, aged 77. The area of Allanton is put down at 2,673 acres, and the rental at £4,076, fully one-half being for minerals.
But it is now necessary to say something of an earlier member or two of the house of Coltness than any yet noticed. The first of the line was Sir James Steuart, merchant, and Provost of Edinburgh, 1649-50, and who, although a strait and rather intolerant Presbyterian, protested against the execution of Charles I. but presided officially at that of Montrose. He is said by the family genealogist to have treated the illustrious victim with personal courtesy and decorum, rebuking even “the grim Geneva ministers" for their savage rudeness on the scaffold. All this, however, did not save him at the Restoration from being fined and imprisoned as “stiff and pragmatic.” The family genealogist, indeed, admits with a kind of stern satisfaction that it was lucky for the Provost he was confined in Edinburgh Castle when the rash insurrection of Pentland Hill took place. His domestic chaplain, the youthful Hugh M‘Kail, was prominent among the leaders of the outbreak, and being seized armed on his way to Libberton, was subjected to the form of trial then gone through, put to the torture of the “boot," condemned and executed, two grandsons of Provost Steuart attending him to the place of execution at the Cross of Edinburgh, and receiving his Bible from the youthful martyr (he was only 26), a memorial long treasured at Coltness.
When Sir James turned his attention to the Coltness property, within two miles of his elder brother's hereditary lairdship of Allanton, the lands were described as having “a convenient little tower-house, freehold of the Crown and giving a vote at elections.” Obtaining his liberty by paying a fine so heavy as almost to ruin his estate, the old knight paid a brief visit to Coltness during his last illness, when well advanced in years. At Muiryet, a rising ground about two miles east from Allanton, where he had often halted, he is recorded to have turned his horse, looked around, and remarked, “Westsheild, Carnewath Church, and Lanrick, my early home and haunts, farewell! Alertoun, Coltness, and Cambusnethan Church, my later abodes, farewell ! ye witnesses of my best spent time, and of my devotions ! 'Tis long since I bid to the vanities of the world adieu." Sir James died soon after, and was interred with honour as one of the Fathers of the City in Greyfriars' Churchyard.
The eldest son, Sir Thomas, or “Gospel Coltness," as he came to be called, made great additions to the old tower, and otherwise added to the beauty of the grounds; but his zeal as a Covenanter so far imperilled the family estate as to make him flee to Holland, from which country he was permitted to return in poverty (1696) through the good offices of William Penn, who had made his acquaintance at the Hague. A younger brother, James Steuart, more compliant, rose to eminence at the bar, filling, as he did, the post of an Under Secretary of State and of Lord-Advocate from 1693 till his death in 1713. The “Gospel” laird's line failing in the person of Sir Archibald, family genealogist, the honours fell on the lawyer's descendant, James Denham Steuart, of Goodtrees, already referred to as involved in the Jacobite rising of 1745, influenced a good deal, it is believed, by his wife, Lady Frances, a daughter of the Earl of Wemyss, and sister of the attainted Lord Elcho. Sir James was well known in his day as a lawyer and political economist—thought, indeed, by many to have anticipated principles laid down by Adam Smith in the latter department of knowledge. His reputation as one of the founders of the modern science of political economy, symptons of regret for rashness in 1745, as also for his subsequent scheming at the French Court, and the general appreciation of the amiable qualities of Lady Frances and himself in private life, procured for him a free pardon from George III., in 1763, when he returned to Coltness, to live in retirement, after an exile of 18 years. Sir James's works, complete in six vols., were published in 1805 by his son, General Steuart, who also published in 1818, at Greenock, the correspondence between his father and Lady Mary Wortley Montague, whom he had met at Venice in 1758.
A DAUGHTER OF THE HOUSE OF COLTNESS.
LEARNED as Sir James Stewart was in his day, his books, on the whole, now interest readers less than that “Diary" of home and foreign travel left by his sister, wife of Mr. Calderwood of Polton, a gentleman of moderate estate in Mid-Lothian. Her mother was a daughter of Lord-President Dalrymple, created Viscount Stair, so that she was niece of that other daughter of the LordPresident, famous in history and romance as the “Bride of Lammermoor.” Mrs. Calderwood's own sister, Agnes Stewart, was married in 1739 to Henry David, tenth Earl of Buchan, and mother, therefore, of the eccentric Earl David, and his two celebrated brothers, Henry and Lord Erskine. Earl David, the story goes, enlarging on one occassion to the Duchess of Gordon regarding the abilities of his family—“Yes (sharply remarked her Grace), yes, my Lord, I have always heard that the wit came by the mother's side, and was settled on the younger branches." Mrs. Calderwood was also grandmother of Admiral Sir Philip Calderwood Durham, G.C.B., a naval officer who saw much service in his day, and at his death full of years, in April, 1845, was thought to be the last surviving officer, if not the last of all the crew, of the “Royal George," sunk at Spithead in 1782, the year he joined the great but unfortunate ship as one of the four lieutenants saved. But to the “Diary" of Mrs Calderwood, the record of a carriage journey to London, undertaken with her husband in 1756, for the purpose of visiting her brother, the political economist, then taking the waters of Aix-la-Chapelle. Mrs. Calderwood, who appeared to have managed all the business of the road, although never on the Continent, most likely never out of Scotland before, had, as her father's daughter, been brought up in the best of Edinburgh Society, and was in addition naturally of a quick, lively, observing disposition. It is her quaint audacity, her narrow prejudices, national as well as personal, her lofty preference for everything Scottish as against England or the Continent, and her shrewd, sarcastic, self-complacent readiness, which makes her “Diary" one of the most delightful records known of travel or criticism by a lady who had strong “views" about all her experiences and all persons she saw or conversed with.
The route was the familiar east road from Edinburgh to London, by way of Dunbar, Berwick, Durham, York, and Stamford. The couple travelled in their own post-chaise, attended by John Rattray, a steady serving-man, on horseback, with pistols in his holsters and a good broad-sword at his belt. There was also a case of pistols in the carriage, which it has been shrewdly fancied the lady, notwithstanding the mild and elegant countenance hanging on Polton walls, would