Resources and information on Robert Burns and on Irvine, grouped under the five menus below


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The Club owns much of value and of importance, apart from the manuscripts mentioned on another page, such as the 1781 daybook recording the visits by the young Robert Burns to the local doctor, or the superbly crafted gavel carved by an Irvine artist as his homage to the poet in 1996, the Bicentenary year of Burns' death.

Doctor's Daybook ....... Clockie Brown

The Planter Cup ....... Other Artefacts ...... Our Music Room

Paintings and woodcuts ...... Burns in Edinburgh ...... The 13th Earl of Eglinton

The Sheffield Loving Cup ...... Hugh Macdiarmid's Pipe

This section gives only an indication of the range of the Club's possessions. Only by visiting us, will you be able to really enjoy the items on display, and hear all the stories behind them.

Surgeon Fleeming's Day-Book was a unique find in 1956 (175 years after Burns was in Irvine) by Mr Charles Balcombe, a club member and by profession a pharmaceutical chemist.

Its first entry is dated 1759; it details patients, prescriptions and fees charged. The entries for November 1781 include Robert Burns, lint dresser, Irvine, showing that Surgeon Charles Fleeming (Fleming) had visited the Poet on five occasions in a period of eight days.

It was always known that Robert Burns had been very ill during his stay in Irvine and that his father William had travelled from Lochlie Farm, Tarbolton, to visit him.

Here for the first time was documentary proof of the poet's illness.

The Club also possesses a copy of The Glasgow Mercury Newspaper dated January, 1783. On the front page appears a list of farmers who had gained a premium from the Government which shows that Robert Burns, farmer, Lochlie Farm, Tarbolton, Ayrshire, had been awarded a premium of £3 for growing 3 acres of flax.

click for extra informationIn purchasing this newspaper the club received an unexpected bonus. There is an advert for a concoction called "Maredant's Drops"; it contains a letter from Mr Fleeming, describing how the drops had cured the "most corrosive ulcer I had ever seen, and other sores", and thus authenticating this "recent and most extraordinary Cure".

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This grandfather clock with brass face made by John Brown, Machline (old spelling for Mauchline) for an unknown person William Logan (named on the brass).

John Brown was a contemporary of Robert Burns and appears in the poem "The Libel Summons", a satire about a fictional Court of Equity where a number of the village rakes, including Brown are summoned to answer for their alleged crime of fornication.

In the poem Burns refers to Brown as 'Clockie Brown' no doubt because he was a clockmaker. Burns further indites Brown in his satire "Epitaph For A Wag In Mauchline".

Lament him, Mauchline husbands a',
He aften did assist ye;
For had ye staid hale weeks awa',
Your wives they ne'er had missed ye!

Ye Mauchline bairns, as on ye pass
To school in bands thegither,
O, tread ye lightly on his grass -
Perhaps he was your father!

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The 'Planter' Cup, aka the Maclure Cup, was gifted to the safe-keeping of Irvine Burns Club in 1979 by Mr F D McJannet (minutes, May 1979: "Dr Montgomery gave details of the McClure Cup which Mr McJannet was prepared to present to the Club."). The cup represents both a link to Irvine and a reminder of a period of many attacks on merchant ships, when every successful defence was rewarded with either or both of silver plate and cash.

Capt. David McClure (b. 1768; older family spelling 'Maclure') was a native of Ayr. He was the son of lawyer David McClure whose losses in a bank crash prompted him to make excessive claims against his tenants, including Robert Burns' father at Lochlie, and almost three years of litigation. In 1799, aged 30, he was captain of the American ship "Planter" when the ship was attacked by a privateer, a privately-owned armed vessel commissioned by the French government, during the undeclared war with France 1798-1800, to capture merchant shipping. He successfully fought off the attackers - his letter describing the event is printed below - and a grateful Lloyds of London presented him with the one-gallon cup (along with a pair of one-quart cups). The cup (hallmarked in London in 1796) inscription contains the captain's name, the ship name, and the event date. For reasons which are still a mystery, the captain's name on the Lloyd's list, in the "Times" report, in the "Naval Chronicle 1799" and subsequently in the "History of the Liverpool Privateers" (1897), The Dictionary of American Fighting Ships and a Wikipedia entry, is given as John Watts (after whom a 20th c. US destroyer was named) - why is David Maclure on the cup and John Watts in the printed record?

The cups passed to his spinster sister Anne Maclure of New Harmony(*), Indiana, who, in 1841, sent them back across the Atlantic to her nephew (son of her sister Jane who had married a James McJannet) William McJannet (1806-1891), later to be our 1845 Club President. A banker ("the junior and working partner of our firm") of the British Linen Co., he resided at Longford, the home farm, managed by his father James McJannet (d.1839), of the Eglinton estate; his aunt Helen, lived in Ayr and was blind. Two days after the cups reached Irvine, William's second son was born, so the new arrival was named William David Maclure McJannet "in memory of your generous brother and my brave uncle" and later christened out of the cup. The cup then passed to him (1841-1926), a solicitor, our Club President in 1870, then purchased from him by his brother Archibald Crawford McJannet (1845-1922), a solicitor, our Club President in 1878. It then passed to his son Arnold Franz McJannet (whose mother was German) (1876-1953), a solicitor, our Club President in 1929 and the author of "The Royal Burgh of Irvine" (1938). On his death it passed to his spinster cousin Mary McJannet. On her death in 1976, Douglas & Diane McJannet, having no issue of their own, so being the last of the line, and living in Suffolk, decided that the cup should be kept in the town where so many of the family had enjoyed its possession, and this was arranged through Past President Dr J Montgomery. The two smaller cups passed to his brother William (1878-1952), and their whereabouts are not known. Another connection may exist between W D M McJannet's second wife Jessie Goudie and our 1866 Club President James Goudie, but that has not (yet) been investigated.

We are indebted to Rhona Munro, and her Canadian cousin Andree Rinella (née Stevens), both great-great-grand-daughters of William McJannet (nephew of the captain), pictured here with the cup on their 2013 visit to 'Wellwood'. They supplied a copy of the full account of the action, and we were able to supply them with a copy of a helpful (but with some inaccuracies) family letter of 1942 from A F McJannet in Irvine to his cousin, the grandfather of our visitors, C V Stevens, in Glasgow. Their visit prompted us to document this incredible story (of the privateer attack, below, of the cup's travels, and of the puzzling elements in the story).

One of the three puzzling codas to the event has been mentioned above, that exactly the same story of the 'Planter' action is credited to Captain John Watts, the ship's recorded captain when the ship reached Dover. The second puzzle centres on Whitehaven, where the two lady passengers subsequently visited the parents of "William Aicken [sic] who was killed in the action", though the account does not include him as dead or wounded. The ladies had helped all they could, but he had expired after requesting them to tell his parents that "he died in a good cause". The third puzzle, minor by comparison, regards when the latter part of the letter, detailing the rewards, was written - nowadays, five days would not be long enough for the ship to dock and for the underwriters to inscribe and present the cup, though it is just possible that, in those heady days of many such actions, the reward may have been quickly organised.

* Footnote: David McClure's brother William (1763-1840), after visiting New York in 1782 (aged 19), made his fortune in London, then emigrated to USA in 1796. He has earned his own Wikipedia entry as the 'father of American geology' and as a social experimenter on new types of community life, in 1824 collaborating with British social reformer Robert Owen in the development of the community of New Harmony. One presumes that his emigration prompted that of his brother David and sister Anne. None seem to have had issue, prompting Anne to send the cup to the family in Scotland.

If you have reached this point, without yet reading the account of the action, follow this link to do so now.

'Burns in Edinburgh' by C M Hardie

Burns in Edinburgh, painted by C M HardieWe offer a full description further down this page.
Known throughout the world, the painting titled 'Burns in Edinburgh' is on display to our visitors. Painted in 1887 by Charles M Hardie, A.R.S.A. (1858-1916), it commemorates Burns' stay in Edinburgh, and depicts many of the eminent people whom the poet met in Scotland's capital - in the setting of the drawing room of the Edinburgh home of the Duchess of Gordon. The Club purchased the painting in about 1970 from a Glasgow art dealer. The "Edinburgh Dispatch" of 24 Jan., 1888 commented: "The picture, which took two years to complete, brings vividly before us the crowning recognition of this farmer-poet by the beauty, wealth and learning of the Scottish capital."
Click to enlarge the image
Large postcards (A5) of the painting are available through our Support page

'The Vision' by J E Christie

Also in the Burns Museum is The Vision, by J E Christie, inspired by the poem in which Burns describes seeing his Muse, Coila, the spirit of Kyle, the district in which he was born (click to enlarge the image). Other paintings include portraits of Archibald, 13th Earl of Eglinton (see below for more details), who organised the last medieval tournament held in the British Isles in 1839 at Irvine, of Bailie Fullarton, the character on whom John Galt's novel The Provost was based, and of Provost Paterson, whose sons donated Wellwood (our premises) to the Club.

Angus Scott's Tam O' Shanter paintings

In our entrance hall, there is a set of five large oil paintings of scenes from Tam O Shanter, commissioned by the Club from Angus Scott (1909-2003).

Following his education at Glasgow School Of Art, this Scottish born artist spent most of his life living and working in England, primarily as a prolific illustrator of magazines, newspapers and comics.

His work included sketches for the satirical magazine "Punch", cartoon strips for newspapers and story strips for comic books such as the "Eagle". He also illustrated a series of articles by dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse later published as "Walkies: Dog Care the Woodhouse Way" He published two books on the art of pen and ink drawing.

In 1970, Angus Scott approached Irvine Burns Club with a view to selling some of his work. Impressed by the quality displayed on demonstration slides accompanying the offer, the Directors invited him to visit 'Wellwood' with sketches of a suitable project. This visit resulted in the Directors commissioning the five large paintings on the theme of Tam O' Shanter. They were completed in 1971 and are on permanent display in Wellwood. Two other works, painted as part of the same commission, were bought by Andrew Hood (Club President 1968) for himself and his business partner William Paterson - 'The Cottar's Saturday Night' and 'The Jolly Beggars' respectively.

As well as his commissioned paintings for Irvine Burns Club, prints of other works by Scott were displayed in the premises of the Bank of Scotland in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The Tam O' Shanter wood-carvings

The poem is illustrated in a set of six small panels, carved from oak, on one side of the main staircase. The set, presented on 25 Jan 1951, was a bequest to the Club from Nathan Jeffrey Watson, a Master Jeweller, single - he lived with his brother John at 11 Castle Street, Irvine, and had died in December 1950, aged 68.

Portrait of 13th Earl of Eglinton

The portrait of Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, 1821-1861, is an 1863 copy. The original pre-1850 portrait was by John Graham Gilbert RSA, a renowned Scottish portrait-painter of his day and is in the North Ayrshire Heritage Centre. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has a mezzotint version by "Edward Burton, after the painting by J Graham Gilbert RSA, published 1850", as Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire. The Gallery commentary describes him as a patron of archery, horse racing, curling, bowls and golf - he believed that "free mingling of classes" in physical recreation would "raise the self-respect of the humble" and "fortify them against intemperance and vicious courses". The copy in 'Wellwood', painted after the Earl's death in 1861, formerly embellished the new Irvine Town House of 1862 - its label records: "Presented to the Burgh out of a General Subscription raised as a memorial to his Lordship. 1st Sept 1863. Copy by A Dick after J Graham Gilbert". Though the label describes him in his later dignity as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland 1852 and 1858, the portrait was painted of him as Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire before 1850.

We are indebted to the late Col G P Wood MC DL, of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, for supplementary notes, prepared in Dec. 1999, using records of the Stirlingshire Militia, his own experience as a Deputy Lieutenant, and a life-long interest in military history, and to his daughter, Fiona Lee, for passing them to us. His notes are in a panel below.

In the portrait we see the Earl dressed in the uniform of a Lord Lieutenant (Ld Lt). He held the dignity of Ld Lt of Ayrshire from 1843, and was later appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1852 and again in 1858.

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Bust of Burns by Colin Hunter McQueenTwo of our most recent possessions are by craftsmen of today. Colin Hunter McQueen of Glasgow sculpted the bust of Burns, pictured here - Colin has also enhanced our collection by re-gilding the frames of several of our paintings.

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Gavel carved 1996 by Bill ParkinsonA smaller piece, but much loved by visitors, is a gavel carved by Bill Parkinson of Irvine as his homage to the Bard and a gift to the Club on the occasion of the Bicentenary of the poet's death in 1996. The handle, with mouse running up an ear of corn, is carved from one piece of Beechwood, and the end to be used to tap the table is carved from Australian Red Gum.

click picture to enlarge

One of the more unusual artefacts from the past, also on permanent display, are toddy ladles which once belonged to Robert Burns, and which were shown at the Burns Centenary Exhibition in Glasgow in 1896.

Upstairs in the Concert Room display cases are fine Parian Ware figures of Tam O Shanter, Souter Johnny, and John Anderson (with wife, cat and dog; all in exquisite detail), produced in the second half of the 19th century.

Used in the Annual Celebration, the Loving Cup from Sheffield was given to the Club in 1870 in recognition of its purchase of the house where James Montgomery was born in 1771 and lived until 1776. The journalist, reformer and poet had revisited Irvine at the age of 70. The inscription under its base reads:

Mr John Rhodes
Mr Robert McTear
James Montgomerie

The cup inscription is as shown here (not as in McJannet's "Royal Burgh of Irvine"), including the mis-spelling of the town name. John Rhodes was probably the eldest son of Sheffield Master Cutler Ebenezer Rhodes (1762-1839), a conspicuous member of a debating society named the Society of Friends of Literature. Its meetings were held in a Sheffield pub and, like other such societies, it was later proscribed - regarded as a hotbed of sedition. Ebenezer Rhodes was an intelligent and fluent participant, and something of a poet. James Montgomery was one of its other prominent members. Rhodes made many excursions to the Derbyshire Dales with Montgomery, and published books on scenery, including a four-part work on the Peak District. When his business failed in 1827, his remaining years were made comfortable through the help of his friends, including Montgomery (who subscribed £100 to a fund for his support), in which case the Cup represents a son's appreciation of the help given to his father by a good friend. John Rhodes arranged for Robert McTear to present the Cup on the occasion of a lecture in Irvine by Mr McTear on 4 March 1870, "as a mark of his [Rhodes'] appreciation of the honour done to the Memory of James Montgomery, the Christian Poet, by several Members of the Club who had recently purchased the house in Halfway in which the Poet was born". In Irvine in March 1870 Robert McTear presented the Cup at the end of his lecture on Garibaldi, and John Rhodes and he were entertained to supper in the King's Arms. Rhodes and McTear were entertained to supper in the Kings Arms in 1870 (date unknown). The property transaction mentioned is obscure, for the house was not purchased by the Club, but (in the 1869 minutes) by Maxwell Dick, who would retain a half-interest, and a group of other members. (Robert McTear, the Glasgow auctioneer, was also instrumental in obtaining an honorary member acceptance from Garibaldi in 1869.)

These are only a few of the many artefacts housed on the Club premises for the interest of members and visitors alike.

Hugh Macdiarmid's Pipe

The favourite pipe of renowned Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, given to his friend and fellow poet Henry Mair by his widow Valda, was gifted to Irvine Burns Club in January 2005 - it had, said Henry, "been sitting in a jar in my house for 24 years; now future generations will have it as a reminder of a great man". To raise money for the Children's Hospice, Henry had decided to sell it, and was delighted when the winning bidders, Irvine firm Lindsay Fencing and MSP Tommy Sheridan, in turn donated it to the safe keeping of Irvine Burns Club.

The photo (reproduced by courtesy of the 'Irvine Herald'; photo ref. IH022305) shows the presentation in the Burns Club - click it to enlarge - in the back row are Sam Gaw (Past Pres.), John Inglis (Past Pres.), Henry Mair (International Poetry Competition), Jim Burns (Vice-Pres. at the time) and Hugh Hutchison (Hon. Secretary). At the front are President Willie Boyd and Alan Black of Lindsay Fencing. The pipe sale raised £500 for the Children's Hospice Association.

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John Galt Centenary Dinner 1939

The Library contains a photo of the John Galt Centenary Dinner held in the King's Arms Hotel on 2nd May 1939 - the year was the 100th anniversary of his death in 1839, but the exact date was the anniversary of his birth in 1779. Most of the attenders are named in the accompanying sketch - they include many well-known people of the town of the time.


Upstairs, in the Music Room, you can hear, at different times, the best of opera from post-graduate students, and the most enthusiastic of primary school pupils reciting from the works of Burns. The post-graduate students present a spring concert as part of a programme of music events, while primary and secondary children take part in a children's poetry evening at Irvine's annual Marymass festival.

The International Poetry Competition, organised by Henry Mair, makes use of the room each spring. The room, which seats 100 and has a small kitchen nearby, is sometimes let out to other organisations for similar events.

The Music Room houses a Bechstein rosewood over-size grand piano once owned by Mr. Don Whyte, and lent in 1978 to Irvine Burns Club in memory of his father Dr. Ian Whyte (1901-1960), noted Scottish composer, conductor and pianist and leader of the B.B.C. Scottish Orchestra.
The piano was made in Berlin c.1910 and was purchased by Dr Whyte in 1931.

Installed in his home in Edinburgh and Glasgow, it was played by many celebrities, including Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Arthur Bliss.

The illustration here, of Cutty Sark pulling off the tail of Tam O'Shanter's mare, Maggie, is one of the panels in the Music Room central window. These panels were saved from the now demolished Lauder's Tearooms in Kilmarnock.

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The painting 'Burns in Edinburgh'

A description provided by Past President Bill Cowan

This painting, by Charles Martin Hardie, A.R.S.A., records an incident in the life of Burns when, in 1787, at the height of his popularity, he met the literati in the Scottish capital. The date of the painting is not known, but was not later than 1888.

The various people are shown assembled in the drawing room of the Edinburgh residence of Her Grace, the Duchess of Gordon. The poet is seen in the costume of the time - blue coat with brass buttons, yellow striped vest, buckskin breeches and top boots - in the act of reciting his poem "A Winter Night" (Collected Works, p.258). The description of the painting stated that attitude and expression had both been excellently seized and is a fine tribute to Burns. Hardie obviously went to great research to do this work and used some artistic licence in, for example, portraying the Duchess of Gordon as a slightly younger woman (she was 40 at the time). She is seated resplendent in rose-coloured drapery in a gown of rich brocade, her cheek propped by her hand, intently listening. Over the back of her chair appears the eager out-stretched face of the fair Peggy Chalmers, and the raven-locked Miss Burnett leans upon a harp beside her; while on the right side is the seated figure of the pallid and snow-haired poet, Dr Blacklock, and on the other, the erect, slim, soldierly shape of the Earl of Glencairn.

Nearer the poet, seated at the dark old-fashioned table which occupies the centre of the room, is the portly form of William Fraser Tytler, the defender of Mary, Queen of Scots, and beside him, nursing his attenuated knee, the alert little figure of Lord Monboddo, the eccentric author of the "Origin and Progress of Language", his grotesque face given much as it was drawn by his friend John Brown, the excellent portraitist of the time, of whose art the Society of Antiquaries possesses many fine examples. A little more remote, a little less engrossed, is the critic and rhetorician, Dr Hugh Blair, in wig and clerical bands; and near him Henry Mackenzie, "The Man of Feeling"; William Creech, the publisher; and Alexander Nasmyth, the portrait painter; while to the left, behind the poet, are seated Dr Adam Ferguson; the placid, grey-haired Dowager-Countess of Glencairn; and the meditative Dugald Stewart.

The extreme left corner is occupied by a card table, over which the young keen-faced Harry Erskine bends, directing the attention of the players to the marvellous recital; and this group is balanced on the right by a pair of servants in the Gordon liveries of white and red, set in the soft light of a curtained window, stopping their punch-brewing to listen to the poet; while in the centre of the room the eye is led away through an half-open door, thronged with the heads of eager domestics, into a remote passage, with a vista of staircase window and a gleam of sharp clear daylight.

The Duchess of Gordon invited Burns to several of her dinner-parties; she frequently asked him to recite for her guests; she also once commented that the poet was "the only man whose conversation ever fairly carried her off her feet".
Mrs Margaret ('Peggy') Chalmers first met Burns at Dr Blacklock's in Edinburgh. A relative once wrote: "I have often been told that her gentleness and vivacity had a favourable influence on the manners of Burns."
Miss Elizabeth Burnett was the youngest daughter of Lord Monboddo, whom Burns frequently visited; she was a young lady of exquisite beauty and grace; unfortunately she died of consumption in her 25th year.
Dr Blacklock lost his eyesight through smallpox at six months old. It was on his advice that Burns proceeded to Edinburgh instead of going to the West Indies. One of Burns' best epistles is directed to him.
James, Earl of Glencairn, was the first of the nobility to welcome the poet on his arrival in the capital. Burns named his fourth son after him.
William Tytler, later Lord Woodhouselee, was a sincere admirer of Burns. He collaborated with Johnson in the SMM project. Burns wrote an Address to him (CW276).
James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, was prominent in Masonic circles; see the mention of his daughter above.
Dr Hugh Blair corresponded with Burns.
Henry Mackenzie's praise of Burns served to introduce his poems to the fashionable and higher ranks of society throughout Scotland and England.
William Creech published the Edinburgh edition of Burns' works. He served as Lord Provost of Edinburgh 1811-13.
Alexander Nasmyth painted the only authentic portrait of Burns, one which was engraved by Beugo for the Edinburgh edition.
Dr Adam Ferguson was Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1764. It was at his house that the young Walter Scott saw Burns for the first and only time.
The Countess of Glencairn, the mother of James, the 14th Earl, resided at Coates House in Edinburgh.
Professor Dugald Stewart met Burns at Catrine, when introduced to him there by Henry Mackenzie in 1786.
The Hon. Henry Erskine, a kind and generous man, was a friend and patron of Burns as well as a brother Mason.

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Portrait of the 13th Earl of Eglinton (1863, after the pre-1850 original)

Supplementary notes provided by Lt-Col T Wood

The Earl’s uniform

The uniform of a Lord Lieutenant’s uniform was (and still is) the same as a Major General’s uniform. However, although the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, and other military campaigns were happening when the Earl’s portrait was painted, he wears no medals. This confirms he had no military connections. It was fashionable at the time to wear military uniform at social occasions, as can be seen in the painting downstairs in the Club; it depicts an Edinburgh drawing room full of guests listening to Burns, and Lord Glencairn is shown wearing uniform.

The Earl wears a scarlet coatee, which had long tails at the back, similar to a modern tailcoat. Military fashion follows civilian fashion. As a style, the Victorian coatee with its high collar comes between the Georgian cutaway coat and the later longer length jackets. The buttons are embossed with the Royal crest. The cocked hat has white swan feathers, and is still worn by Guards Major Generals today on ceremonial duties in London. At each end of the hat are crimson and gold bullion tassels. A Scottish Lord Lieutenant has a thistle on his epaulets, and a Lord Lieutenant of Ireland would probably have had a harp on his epaulets, although we cannot see this on the portrait. He wears a decorative gold waist sash with tassel, and also a sword belt with buckle. The sword is “the 1831 pattern scimitar” or Mameluke sword, a copy of an Arab scimitar, with a white ivory handle. This is still carried today by Generals wearing full dress uniform.

The rôle of the Lord Lieutenant and the Militia

Each County had (and still has to this day) one Lord Lieutenant, who was (and is) the monarch’s representative. At the time of this portrait, the monarch was Queen Victoria. When Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, the Earl was therefore the most senior person in Ireland after the Queen. His main rôle would be to take over local administration if the government broke down, and he would be, as now, assisted in his duties by several Deputy Lieutenants (DLs). DLs, and presumably Ldx Lt become ‘inactive’ at the age of 75.

Each Lord Lieutenant was also responsible for raising his county’s Militia by Ballot. Only a certain number of men were required to be attested into the Militia for five years, so the names of the men that were eligible would be drawn. Those men who wished to avoid the commitment, and who could afford to do so, found and paid a substitute to stand in for them if they were balloted. Militia Clubs developed, and if a member’s name was drawn, the club funds paid for a substitute. As an example, the Stirlingshire Militia was only called out for training four times between 1820 and 1831. But they were mobilised at the time of the Crimean War to replace regular garrison regiments.

Militia Acts were passed and dropped as required, the last one being passed in 1852. This Act introduced voluntary enlistment into the Militia, although the Ballot could still be used in the event of an emergency and there continued to be a laid-down quota from each County. At the time of this Act, the Irish Militia were amalgamated with those of Great Britain, and the Militia were renumbered.

The various Volunteer regiments date from 1859, with the rise of military patriotism in Britain, but they have no connection with the Militia.

The civilian Home Office controlled the Militias until the Cardwell army reforms of 1870, when they passed to the War Office. Thereafter, the Ldx Lt ceased to be responsible for the Militia. The Militia came into the Regiments in 1881, and the Militia Battalions of regular regiments served, for example, in the South African War 1899-1902, and served as reinforcing units for the British Expeditionary Force in WW1. The Militia then vanished in 1918.


The 13th Earl is descended from the Earl that raised the Montgomery’s Highlanders (the 77th Regiment) in Stirling in 1757 to fight in the American Wars and the West Indies. The Regiment was recruited from the defeated Jacobite clans, and when it disbanded in Canada in 1763, they were offered a return passage home, or land for themselves in Canada. In the course of a long speech in Parliament in 1766, William Pitt the Elder praised the men of the then new Highland regiments. Paraphrased, he said:

“I sought for merit wherever it was to be found … and found it in the mountains of the North. I drew into your service a hardy and intrepid race of men … they fought with valour and conquered for you in every part of the world.”

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How the 'Planter' resisted attack by a privateer in 1799

Transcribed from "a letter written from Captain David McClure, of the American ship "Planter", dated 15 July 1799" - neither the addressee nor the whereabouts of the original are now known.

In the book "The Liverpool Privateers", the item is headed: "Captain John Watts, in a latter dated off Dover, July 15th, gives the following account".

I sailed from Hampton Roads [Virginia] June 18th, in company with the Ship "Merchant", loaded by J Brown of Richmond, and consigned to Lamb & Younger, London, bound for your place [Liverpool]. We, outsailing her much, lost sight of her the same day. Nothing particular occurred for 24 days, but when in the latitude of 49° 2', and longtitude 17° 30' [the European side of the Atlantic], on the tenth day of July, at two p.m. espied a lofty ship to the southward, in chase of us. By her appearance we were all fully convinced she was an enemy, and being likewise certain we could not outsail her, at four p.m. had all ready for action - down all small sails, up courses, spread boarding nettings, etc. At half past five p.m., we backed our main top sail, and laid by for her, all hands giving her three cheers. She then bore down on our starboard quarter, fired one gun into us, and showed National Colours [the French tricolor, introduced in 1792]. We found her to be a privateer of 22 guns - twelves, nines, and sixes - with small arms in the tops, and full of men. So immediately rounded to, and gave her a broadside, which commenced the action on both sides. The first broadside we received cut away all our halyards, topsheets and braces, and killed three men on the quarter-deck. We kept up a constant fire for two glasses [prob. sand-filled hour-glasses] and a half when he sheered off to repair damages; and in about one glass returned to board us, with his bloody flag hoisted. We were all in readiness to receive him, got our broadsides to bear upon him, and poured in our langrage and grape shots with great success. A heavy fire was kept up on both sides for three glasses this second time; in all the engagement continued firing for five glasses.

At last he found we would not give out, and night coming on, sheered off, and stood to the south-west. His loss, no doubt, was considerable, as the last too glasses we were so nigh each other that our well directed fire must have done great execution.

My brave ship's company acted with a degree of cool and undaunted courage, which, no doubt, does credit to the flag. I cannot help mentioning the good conduct of my passengers during the action:- Mr McKennon and Mr Hodgson with small arms, stood to their quarters with a degree of noble spirit, my two lady passengers, Mrs McDowell and Miss Mary Harley, kept conveying the cartridges from the magazine to the deck and were very attentive to the wounded, both during and after the action, in dressing their wounds and administering every comfort the ship could afford, in which we were in no wise deficient for a merchant ship.

When he sheered off, saw him heaving the dead bodies over-board in abundance. Our ship is damaged in the hull; one twelve pound shot under the starboard cat-head splintered the sides much; one double-headed shot through the long boat sails, rigging, spars, prodigiously injured.

I here give you a list of the killed and wounded:- John Leetch, Samuel Hoffman, Mr Johnston and Mr Chester killed. W McKennon, passenger, Daniel Comb, second mate, P Gordon, seaman, Henry Mason, Ditto, W Bagnalo, Ditto, John Barron, Ditto, Goodwin Hill, Ditto, and John Brown, Ditto, wounded.

The force of the Planter was 12 nine-pounders and 6 six-pounders, 43 men.

Presents given by the under-writers at Lloyds to the Crew of the ship Planter for their gallant defence against a privateer of superior force.

To the Captain, one large silver cup, contains one gallon, two smaller ditto, contains one quart each, with a ladle neatly engraved on the edge with all the trophies of war.

On one side of the cup is a representation of the engagement, and on the other this inscription - "Presented by the Underwriters at Lloyd's to Mr DAVID MACLURE, Master of the American Ship PLANTER, as a Token of their Approbation of his Exemplary Bravery and Perseverance in defending the Said Ship, and Beating off an Enemy of very Superior Force on the 10th of July 1799", and in cash 100 guineas; to the first mate, 50 guineas; second mate, 30 guineas; boatswain, 20 guineas; seamen, 6 guineas; sailors deeply wounded 15 guineas; for sailors' friends that fell in the action, 50 guineas; two lady passengers elegant gold watches; two gentlemen passengers elegant swords.

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