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History of Montrose
Chapter XIII. - Town Houses of the Neighbouring Country Gentry, &c.

MISS Sinclair, in her travels in Shetland, makes the remark, “That the neighbouring gentry had town-houses, though only a few miles from Lerwick and the same also applied to our good town in 1746. One reason for this, besides the desire for society, was the bad state of the roads in the country at that time in winter, when the wheels of the carriages would have gone up to the naves in the mud.

The Duke of Montrose's castle stood where Mr. George Smart’s house now is, at the back of Peel’s Monument, and the last remains of it were pulled down within the memory of many of the present inhabitants, and the houses of the gentry clustered around it. That antiquated building that belonged to William Dorward, Esq. (whose father, an old man who wore a broad bonnet, and sold sticks in a small shop opposite, bought from William Hendry, Captain Bryden’s father-in-law, for 500 guineas), is supposed to have been built by the Dun family for their town-house, and General Erskine, from his library window, could spy with his glass the library of the house of Dun. The walls were three feet thick. It has a large garden behind reaching down to the back sands. The laird of Dun had also another house, which occupied the site behind Lyall <fc Fell’s sKop,' where there was formerly a house with a flat roof, with a parapet or balcony in front. At the back of this house was the Laird's.

The kitchen, low down, had a strong, vaulted roof of stone, with a huge grate, which would have roasted an ox. It was seen when the house was taken down some years ago. The laird was fined by the Magistrates for firing a gun out of the window. Two old ladies—the Misses Strachan of Balgavies—lived in Mr. Dorward’s house, which was afterwards the town residence of the Youngs of Auldbar, the last of whom drowned himself when a bridegroom, and the bride had a package delivered to her, containing a mortcloth with satin figures of death-heads and cross-bones, by mistake, it having been intended for John Brand, treasurer of St. Peter’s Chapel, her name also beginning with B. She fell into a swoon on opening the box. Mr. Dorward’s house has the year 1679 upon it. Down a close, directly opposite, was the jointure house of Mrs Scott of Benholm, the mother of Mrs Carnegie of Charlton, who was sister to Mrs Doctor Hunter. The doctor lived long in it, and was always to be seen at a certain hour in the afternoon taking his walk to the bridgp. He wore a queue-wig. Down the next close but one from Mr. Dorward’s, lived Mrs. Scott of Rossie, in the house now belonging to Bailie Greig. Further on we come to that baronial residence, built by John Ochterlony, Esq., banker in Ayr, and laird of East and West Kintroekat. His mother was Ann Skinner, sister to Commissary Ogilvy’s mother. One of the Misses Ochterlony1 was a famous landscape painter, and a brother held a high rank in the Russian army. This house now belongs to A. Buraes, Esq. The laird of Craigo’s aunt lived in the next house north, down an entry at the end of George Croom’s shop, and his sisters next to their aunt, in a house with a green gate and pillars, and also trees in front at regular distances. The pillars are yet to be seen at Mrs. Provost Paton’s house at the Mali. Lady Carnegie, of Southesk, lived in Dr. Steele’s house. Provost Doig at one time occupied the same, and his daughter was married to Sir David Carnegie, Baronet of Southesk. Next comes the property that once belonged to the Coutts’ family, and now to Dr. Watson. Mr. Coutts, founder of the Strand Bank, who left a fortune of two millions, was brought up here. He married an actress, who, after his death, was married to the Duke of St. Albans. Provost Christie’s house was where Mr. Lackie lives. He wore his robes of office or regalia when he went to the council-house, and carried a long staff, which he held in the middle; and when the Councillors saw him they said, “ There’s the Provost,” and away they went and took their seats at the board. Crossing pver through the Town-Ball, we come to a close past Mr. Guthrie’s shop, where the town-house of Dr. Young of Balmanno was, where Mrs. Lyall now resides. The house that was removed to make room for the National Bank belonged to Mr. Robert Benny of Borrowfield, and the Duke of Cumberland once slept in it. The house north of the National Bank’s new building was a dwelling-house of no mean importance in days gone by. First the family residence of the Camegies of Craigo, next of the Scotts of Criggie, and latterly of the Carnegies of Balnamoon. It is still an excellent house, with very superior accommodation, far outstripping, in that department, houses of more modem erection. It now belongs to Mr. John Dow, stationer, and is rented by Mr. M‘Call as the Royal Hotel The house at the top of Bridge Street, belonging to the Misses Benny, was built by Ambassador Straton’s father, who sold it to their father in 1770. It is a very large and substantial house, and has all the appearance of a baronial residence, being spacious and lofty in its apartments, and having a very broad staircase, a garden and trees, and ample space around it. It is built of double brick from Old Montrose, and the wood is all foreign. When an alteration was made sometime ago, the workmen had great difficulty in taking down the old work. The town-house of Mr. Stephen of Letham was where Mrs. Dickson lives, opposite Peel’s Monument His wife was the heiress of Arbekie,, and their daughter Mrs. Strachan of Tarrie—a very eccentric character. The next house on the other side of the close was bought by Dr. Ross from a Mr. Thomson, a country gentleman; and Miss Ross, who was married to Dr. Ogilvie of Parkconnon, was bom on the day that her father died. Mrs. Captain Scott lived in that house with the trees, fronting Bridge Street, next to Mr. R. Smart’s; and the Misses Straton in the one next to it, belonging to Mr. James Ross, writer. Lady Jane Skinner lived in strict seclusion on the west side2 of the High Street, down ablose, at the head of which was a small low-roofed house, on the top of which the boys would have got by going up Bailie Low's stair. She would allow nobody to go in at the door—every thing, such as bread, &c., being handed in at the window, at the side of the door. There was only one man—James Brodie, the Provost’s man, who would have come with the papers—that she asked in once, and he would hardly go; but he could tell her about the news of the town, and on this account was favoured. One day he said he would not be fond of such neighbours as she kept about her. “Oh! what do you mean, James?” "Oh, the rat on the top of the table!” It was a tame rat, and as harmless as possible: she would have stroked it down, and it would have got its meat off the table. She had a great collection of books, many of them deistical Bailie Robert Beattie's property was that house opposite the Town Hall, now belonging to Mr. D. Bums, wright. Discovered from a deed of disposition, 14th July, 1733.

Major Turnbull lived in that house where Mitchell’s Buildings are now, that Mr Mudie afterwards inhabited,—a very gloomy retired house it was, with a gate and a paved court inside, on the site of which Dr. Johnston’s now stands. It was sold to Henry Lawrie, and purchased from him by Mr Mitchell. This was at the time when so many of the gentry resided in Montrose, and when it was the custom for them to have card clubs and assemblies, and the sedan chairs were to be seen going and coming in all directions, and no doubt the time also to which Dean Ramsay’s stories refer. Sometimes the ladies would have gone. on foot, and on such occasions, they had a woman going before to show the way with a large three-cornered lantern. These parties would sometimes have sat very late. Mr. Gardiner, the father of Colonel Gardiner, who lived in Academy Square, had often parties at his house, and one night, a Mrs Milne, on her way down to conduct the parties home, had to pass through the church-yard. It was a fine quiet, night, but very late, and when she had got to the steps in the churchyard, and was musing away, up starts a woman suddenly with a lighted candle in her hand, at which she started in a fright. That night she was conducting Mr George Milne home, and he said that he had had a good night at the cards, and slipped half a guinea into her hand. This he would have done at any time, for he was very rich and generous. Some one was praising Mr Gardiner to his wife for his kindly disposition, when she replied, “He’s a causeway doo but a hoose deevil!” Another woman would have been seen sitting among the tomb-stones spinning her wheel, and watching her clothes through the night; her name was Annie Blaikie. “The assemblies were set agoing solely by the county gentlemen, and were intended entirely for the amusement of them, their wives and daughters. For many years they shone as the genteelest and most select assemblies of the sort in the country so select indeed, that when Miss Erskine of Dun was present at one, and saw Miss Airth, a tenant’s daughter there, she rose and went out. Her father had the farm of Mains of Dun, and afterwards lived in the links.

Captain George Mill married the heiress of Glenbervie. His brother, Captain David, the founder of the Mill family of Old Montrose, accumulated vast wealth, and left 50,000 to the town of Montrose ; but the case got into the Court of Chancery, and never got out again, the town having neglected at the proper time “to make appearance.” This is noticed in the Montrose Review of 6th June, 1828.

Another brother was John Mill of Feam and Noranside. Mr David Mill resided in London, but when he visited Montrose, he lived with his aunt, Miss Mary Mill, in the house belonging to Mr Hendry, where Mr Murray the draper’s shop now is, and it had an outside stair. Bailie Napier lived next house south of Miss Mill’s. The Misses Lesslie that waited on the assemblies, lived in the same house. One of these ladies having to wait at the plate of St. Peter’s Chapel, stood with her hands behind her back, and when any one passed without giving anything, she would say, “Ow, naething ava the day.” Lady Bamsay of Fasque and Balmain, lived in that large building now belonging to the Gordon family, which the late Mr William Gordon bought from Sir Alexander Ramsay for a thousand pounds—a good bargain certainly. Mr'Carnegie, the laird of Craigo, built that large house now belonging to Dr Anderson, at the head of Lower Craigo Street, for a town-house, and many a coach drove up to it, and many a ball was held. Straight opposite, where Mr William Ross’s house is now, stood a very old house, with a dovecote, this was the Duke of Cumberland’s barracks, and the officers took possession of the house of Kinnaber. It is said that the Duke waited on the south side of the Ferry, intending to bum the town, having been told it was a nest of rebels; but a deputation from the citizens waited upon him, professing their loyalty, on account of which he spared it, saying that he did not think Montrose contained so many loyal subjects. When his soldiers were in the town, the poor town’s people, when they had made ready their dinner, did not know if they would get leave to eat it, as the soldiers might have come in and helped themselves, and they durst not say a word—it was dangerous to say what side they were on. They made a great search for the sacramental plate, in draw-wells and every place, and after all, it was concealed below the bed on which one of the officers slept. That house was where Mrs Hughes’s is now, at the comer of Seagate, outside of which, where-there were pillars, sat the wives and span. The house belonged at that time to an elder of the name of Knowles.

The Rutland Cavalry were, about the year 94, stationed in Montrose, and had often quarrels with the inhabitants, to whom, especially to the lasses, they were not over civil; on which account the Volunteers took their part against the Cavalry, and a fray was the consequence. John Herd and other carters stoned the Cavalry, who drove furiously about, brandishing their drawn swords, till the Lord Lieutenant of the county, Lord Adam Gordon, had to be sent for, and his Deputy, Mr Brodie, came, and the Cavalry were dismissed from the town that night.

The following story I had from an old man, James Gouck, still alive; and as it shows the proper respect due to one in authority, it is worthy of being mentioned. A soldier had deserted his regiment, the 42nd, at Aberdeen, and was to be lodged in the jail of Montrose ; and when John Tawse, the town’s-officer, had him at the top of the stair, and with the key in his hand, the deserter made an attempt to take the key from him; but Tawse, holding the key as far behind his back as he could reach, and the man with the other, held him there till he got assistance, and the man lodged in jail. A watch being set on the outside, James Gouck was walking sentry, when the lasses asked him what was ado, “Ou dinna speak to sodgers,” said James. After a while, Colonel Gardiner was passing, and said to James, “Well, my man, are you standing sentry here?”  “Yes, Colonel,” said he, “but I’m at a loss how to salute you—whether to present or carry arms.” “Oh,” said the Colonel, “it does not matter much; but as you are a young soldier, I may just say, that after nunset it is present arms. But, my man, you must be very cold in such a night as this—I’ll give you off my greatcoat.” “Oh no, sir, that will never do—I’ll manage very well—besides it is too long.” “Why, for that matter, tuck it up this way and hold it up, with your hand on the gun by your side.” So James had no help but take the coat; but when his sergeant, David Muckart, saw him with it, he made him exchange it for his, and put on the Colonel’s coat himself, and walked about very proudly with it.

In the time of the French war, about 1809 and following years, there was a constant drilling of recruits in the links, which was almost covered with them, all in companies, the Montrose Volunteers, and other companies, who afterwards joined the local militia. It was a very gay sight to us boys, and when their armour glittered in the sun, as Sir Walter Scott says—

“’Twere worth ten years of peaceful life
One glance at their array.”

There was always an awkward squad at the chapel dyke, out of which, at least one man never got, for he did not know his right foot from his left, and they had to put a mark with chalk upon his right foot, because when the sergeant called out right, left, he always put out the left foot for the right. Bill Huskins was fugleman, and was very quick in his antic movements, and a first-class hand at making the bugle sound in the street, beginning at the New Wynd. And then the tattoo at eight at night, the fifes playing and drums beating, and John Bait beating the bass drum, made things very lively, and we were very sorry when the soldiers left the town. Lord Cathcart, who wanted an arm, and other Generals, would have come and reviewed them at times.

We have now, in peaceful times, another set of Volunteers in their place. They are very diligent at ball-practice, and the Gatherings in summer are great affairs, and attract the best marksmen from all parts of the country, to witness the shooting and the games. The first Gathering took place in I860; and the Forfar and Kincardineshire Volunteers are drilled some weeks previous to the Gathering, which generally takes place in August.

The Estates immediately north of Montrose, and at the distance of an easy walk from it, are those of Borrowfield and Newmanswalls. The Borrowfield property belonged to the Graham family previous to the year 1408, when it was sold to Mr. Alexander Gardyne by Sir William Graham. The Gardyne family retained possession of the property until the year 1615, when it was sold by another Alexander Gardyne to Hercules Tailzeour, or, as afterwards spelt, Tailyour. The Tailyours continued in possession till 1806, when Elizabeth Jane Tailyour, heiress of Borrowfield, and wife of Robert Benny died, leaving the property to her eldest son, Alexander, with directions,to assume the surname of Benny Tailyour.

The Newmanswalls property formed part of the ancient hospital grounds of l^ontrose, and was possessed by the Panter Family, by right of a crown charter, from about the year 1410 until 1636, when it was sold to the Sootts of Logie. About the year 1780, Robert Mill of Hatton, nephew of James Scott of Logie, succeeded to the property, and assumed the name of Scott of Logie. His daughter, Margaret Scott, who was married to Brigadier General Sir John Hope, next inherited the property, and sold it in 1809 to Alexander Benny Tailyour, Esq. of Borrowfield, whose son, Colonel Benny Tailyour, is the present proprietor of Borrowfield and Newmanswalls.

Both of these estates have been very much improved within the memory of many of the present inhabitants of Montrose. A good deal of what is now strong corn land on Borrowfield was full of bogs at the back of Newmanswalls, while what was gravel pits and rugged waste land on Newmanswalls, next to the road as you enter the town from the north, is now all under cultivation.

Farther on to the north is Charleton, formerly the property of the Carnegies of Pitarrow, and now of Mr. Gordon. Towards the west, and overlooking Montrose, is the House of Rosemount, beautifully embowered among trees, the property of Duncan Inverarity, Esq. At the entrance to the garden is yet to be seen a relic of the Cattesou wreck, consisting of an ornamental part of the frigate that accompanied the fleet. On the road to Brechin is the estate of Langley Park, which belongs to Captain Cruickshank; next is the estate of Dun, the property of William Kennedy Erskine, Esq.

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