Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ary vigour. For all these things large sums were required, but Mr. Case Billingsley and his successors were fruitful in expedients. By establishing syndicates and secret committees, by calls and recalls, by creations and annulments, by processes and devices passing all understanding, money was got and utter collapse prevented.

The pressure of financial difficulties eventually rendered it imperative that the York Buildings Company should part with some of their valuable possessions in Scotland. In 1779, eight estates were sold. Amongst them were Winton, East and West Reston and Panmure. In 1782 a very important cluster was disposed of. It consisted of Kilsyth, Fetteresso, Dunnottar, Belhelvie, and Leuchars. In the year following, the sale of Callendar, Fingask, Clerkhill, and Dowieshill, terminated the connection of the company with Scotland, in so far as the holding of land was concerned. The aggregate result of these sales was £361,000. Shortly after the realisation the common agent of the company in Scotland was Mr. Walter Scott, W.S. He was assisted in his office by his son Walter, who afterwards became Sir Walter and the author of the Waverley Novels, and who in his Tales of a Grandfather does not omit to make mention of the Buildings Company of whose affairs he received thus early a personal knowledge. In the redisposal of the estates there were many episodes well worthy of being remembered. One connected with Stirlingshire may be given. The Earl of Linlithgow was anxious to purchase an estate for the representatives of the old family. When such offers were made in the interests of the old proprietors there was never any competition. In this case it was different. A new purchaser appeared in the field in the person of Mr. William Forbes. He had been a tinsmith in Aberdeen. After he had learned his trade he went to London. He was moderately successful. Seeing that copper was soon to be used for ships' bottoms, he bought all the copper he could lay hold of, and soon sold it to the Admiralty at a handsome profit. The copper sheathing, being fixed with iron nails, was unserviceable. Forbes bought the copper back again. Having shown that if the copper was fixed with copper nails it would answer the purpose and prevent the ravages of the ship worm, he sold it once more to the Admiralty at a handsome profit. Being unknown in Edinburgh when he bought the Callendar estate for £83,000, the agents asked his security. To their amazement he produced from his pocket a Bank of England note for £100,000!

In 1782 the Kilsyth estate was purchased by Mr. Campbell of Shawfield for £22,800. He made a fine thing of it. In the year following he sold it to Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the first baronet, for £41,000. The estate at that time included the East and West Baronies and the lands of Barncloich in the parish of Campsie.

The estate of Kilsyth is a good illustration of the increase that has taken place in the price of land in Scotland. In 1650 the rental of the Kilsyth estate was £300 a year. In 1719 it was £864 as has been seen. In 1727 it was £500. In 1782 it was £1117. In 1795 it was £2234, that is, it had exactly doubled in thirteen years. After other thirteen years it had doubled again. In the year 1880 it was £6783, and in 1890-1, the arable and mineral rental without feus is £16,280.

The estates of Lord Kilsyth in Berwickshire, after being subjects of a litigation in which the company were successful, were finally disposed of in 1809 to Archibald Swinton for £879.

The remaining history of this extraordinary company is easily told. In 1818 they ceased to exist as a Water Company. On the New River Company agreeing to pay the York Buildings Company a perpetual annuity of £250 18s. 6d., the latter bound themselves to stop supplying water. Their estates sold, their mining and forestry difficulties at an end, and their old business abandoned, in 1829 they applied to Parliament and obtained an Act dissolving the Corporation.

“Thus,” writes Dr. Murray, “after an existence of one hundred and fifty years, the company came quietly to an end. It had commenced life modestly, and it expired unnoticed and without regret. The design of purchasing the forfeited estates was a magnificent one, and if wisely carried out might have resulted in much benefit to Scotland, and great profit to the company. It had, however, been originated in a mere 'humour of stock jobbing,' and this taint clung to it ever after. The conduct of the company's business often showed considerable ingenuity, but most of its schemes were wanting in honesty, and it seems strange that one generation after another of directors should all have been inoculated with the evil principles which sprung into life in the Great Bubble year. It over-weighted itself with a capital vastly too large for its requirements, while instead of making calls upon the stock-holders or borrowing upon mortgage, it burdened itself with an enormous annual charge for annuities, and used its capital as a means of gambling, calling it in and re-issuing it as suited financial requirements, and accorded with the state of the money market, and so dealing with it as to convert its own shareholders into creditors. These operations were a source of great loss, as were also its various trading adventures, while the rents obtained from the estates were utterly inadequate to meet the annuities and other annual charges. Death brought relief by the lapse of annuities, and the rise in the value of land ultimately enabled all debts to be discharged. In this respect the company is almost unique in the history of commercial disaster. Without any call upon the stockholders, the whole liabilities, principal and interest, were discharged, and the company passed away in a good old age, if not with honour, at anyrate with the credit of having paid everyone, and something left to divide amongst its members."

When the Kilsyth estates became the property of Sir Archibald Edmonstone, the Edmonstone family had exactly changed places with the Livingston family, for in the early part of the 17th century, 14th October, 1614, an ancestor of Sir Archibald mortgaged his family estate of Duntreath to Sir William Livingston of Kilsyth, the grandfather of the last viscount. “This mortgage," says Mr. Edwin Brockholst Livingston, “was paid off by his successor ; so that the Edmonstones, more fortunate than their old neighbours, not only now possess their own family estates, but also those formerly belonging to the Livingstons of Kilsyth."

CHAPTER XIV.

The Kilsyth Estates—The York Buildings Company—The Edmon

stone Achievement—THE EDMONSTONE FAMILY-Princess
Isobel — Royal Descent - Cadency - Princess Mary - First
Three Edmonstones—The Fourth Sir William-Connection
with Sir William Wallace—The Fifth Sir William-Murder
of Sir James Stewart — Sir JAMES EDMONSTONE — The
Gowrie Conspiracy-Apprehended by Arran-A Deep Plot-
Popular Fury-Settles in Ireland - Duntreath Redeemed–The
Ninth Laird-His Brief but Brilliant Career-Sir Archibald
Edmonstone, the Eleventh Laird-Buys Kilsyth—M.P. for
Dumbartonshire-Sir Charles, Second Baronet-Sir Archibald,
Third Baronet-Contests Stirlingshire-Sir William, Fourth
Baronet-A Brush with Pirates—Visits Lord Byron-Captain
Wild-Sir Archibald, the Fifth Baronet.

The Kilsyth estates were held by the Livingston family for a period of over 300 years. William Livingston, the first proprietor of that name, died in 1459; and as his father fell at the battle of Homildon Hill in 1402, he must have entered on the possession of the Kilsyth property some time before that event, because it was to his father he owed his establishment in Monyabroch parish. After the Rebellion of 1715, Lord Kilsyth had to flee the country. His estates were forfeited, and became the property of the Crown. After being a few years in the hands of the Government, in 1720 they were bought by the York Buildings Company. This corporation were in possession of them till 1782, when

« AnteriorContinuar »