JOHN INGLIS OF AUCHINDINNY, WRITER TO THE SIGNET
JOHN INGLIS, the first laird of Auchindinny, was born in 1663, and was apprenticed to Archibald Nisbet of Carphin,1 a W.S. in Edinburgh, and one of his father’s neighbours in Lanarkshire. On January 3, 1689 he was admitted a notary public, and on August 7, 1691 a Writer to the Signet. He seems to have worked in partnership with his former master until the latter’s death in July 1695.
On his father’s death in 1685 he succeeded to Langbyres under burden of three bonds amounting to 1100 merks, one being in favour of Archibald Nisbet, and in January 1688 Mr. John Kincaid of Crossbasket, advocate, who then held the bonds, obtained a decree adjudicating the lands, but four years later John Inglis was able to clear off the encumbrances and regain possession.
His first wife, whom he married on November 9, 1688 according to the Episcopal form, ‘by warrant of my Lo: Edir to Mr. John M’Queen,’ was Helen, daughter of Alexander Hay, king’s bowyer (bowmaker), and Bethia Law, his wife. John Inglis and Helen Hay had two children—(1) Bethia, born December 1690, died February 1692; and (2) Margaret, born January 22, 1693, died the following October. Mrs. Inghis died in November 1694, and was buried in ‘Fowls’ tom’ at Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh.
Next year John Inglis married Katharine, younger daughter of Archibald Nisbet, and by her had nine children, eight
‘ For the Nisbets, see Chapter xvii.
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of whom grew up. John, the second boy, who was born on November 20, 1698, died on February 7, 1705.
The early years of John Inglis’s professional career were eventful. In 1695 he was one of the defenders in an action brought by William Morison of Prestongrange,1 who alleged that the cabinets of his sister, Lady Dirleton, had been broken open during her sickness and her papers abstracted, and that he had reason to suspect Mr. Robert Bennet, advocate, John Inglis, W.S., and others. Apparently the defenders cleared themselves from the imputation, for Mr. Inglis was subsequently agent for Dirleton,2 and Mr. Bennet became Dean of Faculty.
In 1696 the keepers and commissioners of the W.S. Society gave him a ‘publict rebuke’for subscribing letters for ‘young men that keepcd ane wryter’s chamber, that hade noe master since the deceise of William Dykes who wes ther master.’ 3
On April 12, 1697 he was found to have made ‘ane transaction with Sir Alexander Anstruther, ane of the Clerks of the Bills, for the half of his place, and received from the said Sir Alexander ane deputation for the exercise of the said office.’ 4 This transaction was considered to be ‘very prejudicial1 to the rest of the bretheren,’ and Inglis was warned that if he persisted in it he would be deprived of his office as a Writer to the Signet.
An echo of this ancient scandal was heard more than twenty years later, when Sir Alexander Anstruther wrote to John Inglis: ‘I understand there is a Report in Town industriously handed about by my Enemies, as if, within these few Months, I had made a Transaction with you to get back the hail of my Office, which I had formerly sold you, and to effectuate the same I had feigned myself sick, of purpose to
1 Morison’s Dictioiiary, p. 2413. 2Scots Courani, August 2, 1710
3 History of the W.S. Society, p. 344.
4 lb., p. 346; Fountainhall’s Decisions, i. 772.
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fright you to a Compliance in the most disadvantageous Terms.’ He accordingly asked John Inglis to write a denial of the story, which the latter did in unqualified terms, and the two letters were published in the Scots Courant 1 ‘for satisfying the World.’
At another meeting of the W.S. Society in 1697, John Inglis was found to have ‘raised unwarrantable letters against James Boswall, glazier,’ and for this offence, and also for using opprobrious language against Mr. James Anderson, procurator fiscall,’ he was fined £10 Scots.2
In spite of these misdemeanors, which he seems to have outgrown, his business prospered, and he quite realised the motto which he adopted when he became a notary public— ‘meliora spero.’ The public records show that he had a large practice before the courts, and was factor on many estates; and like other successful lawyers he added to his profits by discounting bills and lending money on bonds and heritable securities. His credit must have been above reproach, not a single protest being recorded against any bill of his.
Among his most notable clients were, John, Earl of Rothes, Vice-Admiral of Scotland, Archibald, first Earl of Rosebery, who borrowed 5000 merks, ‘money of North Britain formerly called Scotland,’ 3 the Earl Marischal, Sir Alexander Brand of Brandsfield, and the Cockburns of Langton, Heritable Ushers of the White Rod, whose embarrassed affairs must have been a perennial source of fees.4 At the Union lie was appointed Clerk to the Commissioners of the Equivalent.
He quickly made a fortune, as fortunes were reckoned in those days of scarcity. He cleared the encumbrances off Langbyres; he bought Auchindinny; he had a town house, first in Bell’s Wynd, and afterwards in Niddry’s Wynd; he owned two ‘writing Chambers’ at the Cross; he brought up
1 March 26, 1720. 2 History of tile W.S. Society, pp. 346, 356.
‘3 Register of Deeds (Dalrymple), January 4, 1709.
4 Edinburgh Courant, May 28, 1707; Edinburgh Gazette, June 3, 1707.
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and provided for eight children; and at his death he left an additional £1000 sterling. He also acquired in 1695 the farm of Overpollmuckshead, or Monkshead, at Douglas in Lanarkshire, by adjudication from a defaulting debtor of his father’s.
He was appointed a Comnmissioner of Supply for the shire of Edinburgh in 1704, and for Lanarkshire in 1706. On April 6, 1703 he was admitted a burgess and guild brother of Edinburgh in right of his first father-in-law, Alexander Hay, amid he had many friends among the leading merchants.
Perhaps the most prominent was George Watson (ob. 1723), one of Edinburgh’s ‘founders and benefactors,’ who ‘mortified’ the bulk of his fortune, £12,000 sterling, to found a hospital ‘for entertaining and educating of the male children and grandchildren of decayed merchants in Edinburgh.’ The settlement was drawn up in the office of John Inghis,1 who was himself appointed a trustee in conjunction with John Osburn, merchant, afterwards Lord Provost, and the SolicitorCeneral, Charles Binning of Pilmuir, whose daughter afterwards married Inglis’s son David. The trustees drew up a scheme of management, and bought ground at Lauriston, on which they started to erect a building capable of accommodating eighty children, but as it was not finished till 1741, John Inglis did not live to see it.
Bell’s Wynd, where John Jnglis lived from 1692 to 1698, was on the south side of the High Street, about half-way between Parliament Square and the Tron Church. It dated from the fifteenth century, and is said to have been named after John Bell, a brewer, who had property at the foot: the whole wynd has now been cleared away.
The house was sold to Inglis and his first wife by Archibald Nisbet of Carphin, and had belonged to the latter’s father, ,James Nisbet of Ladytoun.2 It stood on the east side of the
1 George Watson’s Hospital, Statutes, 1740 (Adv. Lib. Pamphlets
2 Edinburgh Protocols, 2 Home, p. 74.
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wynd, and consisted of two rooms and a kitchen, ‘ entering by ane iron ravel stair.’ Inglis continued to own it for twenty years after he moved to Niddry’s Wynd.
Niddry’s Wynd, where the Inglises lived for many years, ran down from the High Street to the Cowgate, below the Tron Church, and a few yards further west than the present Niddry Street. It also dated back to the fifteenth century, when the salt market used to be held there. It had long been an aristocratic street, and as late as 1699 Lord Chancellor the Earl of Marchmont had his ‘lodging’ there.1
About half-way down on the east side was the house of Lord Justice-Clerk Erskine of Grange, who was married to Rachael Chiesley, daughter of John Chiesley of Dalry who assassinated Lord President Lockhart in 1689. She was a passionate and intemperate woman, and after more than twenty years of married life they separated. She took lodgings close by, and her husband, being afraid of her betraying his Jacobite intrigues, arranged for her to be kidnapped. In 1732 she was seized in Niddry’s Wynd, and carried off to the Western Isles, where she was kept a prisoner till her death seventeen years later.
Almost opposite stood one of the most magnificent houses in old Edinburgh, forming a quadrangle round a paved court. It was built by Nicol Edward or Udward, who became Provost in 1592, and it was here that King James VI. with his queen and their suite took refuge in January 1591,2 when the Earl of Bothwell was setting law and order at defiance. In the seventeenth century it was the home of the Lockharts of Carnwath. Lord President Lockhart was murdered before John Inglis came to live in the wynd, and the house was then occupied by George Lockhart,3 his eldest son, the Jacobite politician and historian.
1 Edinburgh Gazetle, March 23, 1699.
2 Moysie’s Memoirs (Bannatyne Club), p. 89.
3 Caledonian Mercury, December 20, 1731 ; Edinburgh Conrani, November 17, 1746
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St. Mary’s Chapel stood on the east side of Niddry’s Wynd, below the Erskines’ house. It was built in 1505 by Elizabeth, Countess of Ross, but was bought in 1618 for a hall by the Corporations of Wrights and Masons, who were thenceforth known as ‘The United Incorporation of Mary’s Chapel.’ In the early eighteenth century it was the resort of fashionable Edinburgh for concerts, lectures, public meetings, and masonic gatherings.
The Inglises’ house is described in the titles 1 as
‘the fourth story above the shops or cellars of that great stone tenement of land called Smith’s Land lying near the foot of Niddry’s Wynd on the west side thereof, consisting of seven fire-rooms off one floor as the same are already placed therein, having two doors entering thereto from the scale stairs of the said new tenement or building, having five windows fronting to the said wynd with one small closet window angularly to the said wynd, together with three garrets, two whereof with fires, with an entry to the said three garrets from the said scale stairs, with an cellar lying next to the west gavel on the north jarmm with a coal fauld.’
The tenement was called ‘Smith’s Land,’ after Mr. James Smith of Whitehill, who about 1690 had pulled down four old blocks of buildings and erected this new ‘land’ on the site. It apparently contained seven houses, and the one in question was originally sold in 1692 for 4600 merks to Mr. David Graham of Keillour, conjunct Clerk of the Bills. Graham sold it two years later to his colleague, Sir Alexander Anstrutber of Newark, and the price rose to 5000 merks, which was also the sum paid by John Inglis in 1698, when he bought the house.
The wynd was demolished in 1785, when the South Bridge was built, and all that now remains of it is St. Cecilia’s Hall, which was built in 1762 as a concert hall by Robert Mylne, the famous architect, who took as his model the Teatro Farnese at Parma. Smith’s Land stood directly opposite.
After 1707 the Inghis family lived at Auchindinny in the
1 Ednburgh Title Deeds (City Chambers),—Box ‘South Bridge I.,’ No. 7.
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summer, but they kept on the house in Niddry’s Wynd as a winter residence.
John I nghis’s business premises were two ‘writing-chambers’ on the first story above the street in Fairholme’s Land, a block standing on the north side of the High Street opposite the Mercat Cross and immediately below Adair’s Close. He was already tenant in 1700, when he bought the offices from Thomas Fairholme at a price of 2800 merks.1 The Royal Exchange was built on the site.
As his sons grew up John Inglis took three of them into his office to be trained in business. Archibald and Patrick are described in deeds as ‘wryters in Edinburgh’ when fifteen and sixteen years old respectively. Archibald was admitted an advocate a month after he came of age, and in the following year was appointed Principal Clerk to the High Court of Admiralty. Patrick was discounting bills and acting as a notary public when he was eighteen; and George, the youngest son, began at sixteen to engross deeds in his father’s office, and was also enrolled a notary at eighteen. Both Patrick and George in their applications for enrolment are described as ‘aged twenty one years or thereby.’
David and John do not seem to have worked in the office. David was admitted a burgess of Edinburgh on August 28, 1723, when he was just twenty-one, and became a clothier and linen merchant; while John emigrated as a youth to the West Indies, and afterwards settled at Philadelphia. Separate chapters will be devoted to the sons and to the two married daughters—Anne and Katharine.
John Inglis died on January 31, 1731, in his sixty-eighth year. He had granted bonds of provision in favour of his daughters, 2 lO,OOO merks to Eupham, 9000 to Anne, and
1 Burgh Court Books, November 5, 1702.
Register of Deeds (Dalrymple), February 10, 1732; Burgh Registry of Deeds, December 22, 1726.
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8000 to Katharine, and had provided for three of his Sons out of his lands and houses, reserving his Own liferent. Archibald got Auchindiiny under burden of his mother’s annuity of £600 Scots, Patrick was given Langbyres and Monkshead, and George the house in Niddry’s Wynd and the writing chambers at the Cross.
By his last will, dated April 1, 1728,1 John Inglis appointed his eldest Son to be his executor, and left him the residue of his personal estate. He declared:
‘I have already given to David and John Inglis, my other two sons, such a portion of bairns’ pairt of geir as my estate can bear and allow of, but in regaird I have at several times lent and advanced to the said David certain sums for carrying on his trade upon his bond or bill granted to me for the same, and considering how hard it is for honest trades to get their credit kept, Therefor for the said David his further management, I will and appoint the said Mr. Ard., my sone and exer, to retire and deliver to him any bonds or tickets lie has granted to me or shall grant to me.’
In a codicil he said:
‘Considering that I have legat and left to the above Mr. Ard. Inghis my eldest son the haul insight and plenishing of my house of Auchindinny that shall be there the tyme of my decease, and considering that that part of the said plenishing of bed cloaths either of wollen or linnen, with sheets, naprie and table linnen, was mostly or all made up by the frugality and vertue of Katherin Nisbet my spouse, and that upon my death it were hard to deprive her of the use and benefite thereof, I therefore dispone the same to my said spouse to be used and disposed of by her at her pleasure, declaring that the hangings of the roumes of the sd house of Auchindinny, made either of woolen or linnen, are noways disponed to my said spouse, but shall belong to my said son.’
With regard to his funeral the will says
I desire my children and friends after my death interr my body decently in the Greyfriar Churchyaird in Edinr near my other relations
1 Edinbargh Testament February 14, 1745.
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lying there, without any pomp or show, and that no more of my friends or acquaintance be troubled to attend my funeral than such as can be accommodated by a dozen of coaches at most.’
He was accordingly buried beside his first wife in ground facing Hay’s ground and ‘Fowls’ tom’ on the west side of the churchyard. His widow survived for seven years, and died in August 1738 at the age of sixty-seven. She and Eupham, their eldest daughter, who died a month before her, were also buried at Greyfriars.