From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

John Graham of Claverhouse (later Viscount Dundee) - 22nd September 1660

 

THE QUHILK DAY JOHN GRAHAM OF CLAVERHOUSE AND DAVID GRAHAM, His BROTHER, WERE ADMITTED BURGESSES AND BRETHREN OF THE GUILD OF DUNDEE, BY REASON OF THEIR FATHER'S PRIVILEGE.

JOHN GRAHAM of Claverhouse and his brother DAVID were the Sons of SIR WILLIAM GRAHAM, of Claverhouse, and of MAGDALEN (not JEAN), daughter of JOHN, first EARL OF NORTHESK. The former has gained an unenviable notoriety as the supporter of Episcopacy and the fierce opponent of the Covenanters; and his name survives in tradition as the "bluidy Claverse." Even at the present day opinion is divided as to his merits, and whilst one party denounces him with every opprobrious epithet, the other describes him as "last of Scots and last of freemen." This is no place for controversy; and the following brief sketch is intended to bring out some portions of his career which have not hitherto been treated by his biographers.


He was born about 1643, and was educated at St Andrews University, where his favourite studies were Mathematics and Gaelic poetry. Immediately upon the completion of his College course he took service in France as a volunteer, and afterwards became a Cornet in the Dutch Guards. It is usually asserted that he remained abroad until 1677, and his admission as a Burgess must therefore have taken place before his departure for the Continent. Shortly after his return he was appointed to the command of a troop of the Cavalry which had been raised for the purpose of enforcing conformity in Scotland to the Episcopalian Ritual. His severity in the execution of the task committed to his charge has been frequently condemned; and it must be admitted that the method which he adopted for dispersing conventicles, though strictly within his commission, had not been attempted before his time. He received a severe check at the hands of the Covenanters at Drumclog (1st June, 1679), but avenged himself upon them three weeks afterwards at Bothwell Bridge. His devotion to the Royalists was highly rewarded. He was made Sheriff of Wigton in 1682, his brother, DAVID, being conjoint Sheriff with him; two years afterwards he was sworn of the Privy Council, made Colonel of a Royal regiment of horse, and was granted the estate of Dudhope and the Constabulary of Dundee, which had fallen into the hands of the LAUDERDALE family. The manner in which he sought to revive the obsolete rights of the Constabulary provoked the resentment of the Provost and Council of Dundee, and continual disputes occurred betwixt them for several years, and were only terminated with the life of CLAVERHOUSE. He claimed to have the right of presiding as, or nominating, the Provost; and in the Council Minutes of 27th March, 1688, there is engrossed a copy of a letter from JAMES VII, directing the Council to receive MAJOR GENERAL JOHN GRAHAM as Provost for that year. In that capacity he officiated for more than one term. So bitter was the strife between the opposing parties that CLAVERHOUSE attacked the town, at the head of a number of his followers, on13th May, 1689, and, finding he could not prevail, he set fire to the suburb of the Hilltown


Against the frequent charge of cruelty on his part, it is only fair to state that, on 10th September, 1684, shortly after he had been made Constable, he reported to the Privy Council that he "found several persons in prison in Dundee for petty thefts, which will be fitter to be punished arbitrarily than by death " thus showing himself an advocate, in this instance, for humane and corrective, rather than retributive, punishment. He was accordingly "empowered to restrict the treatment of these persons and any others that might hereafter commit the like offences, 'to ane arbitrary punishment, such as whipping or banishment, as he shall find cause"' (Domestic Annals of Scotland, Vol. II., p. 461).

The faithful services of CLAVERHOUSE were recognised by JAMES VII. on his accession to the throne, by his promotion to the rank of Major General; and on 12th November, 1688, he was created a Peer of Scotland, with the title of VISCOUNT OF DUNDEE and LORD GRAHAM Of Claverhouse. The crisis of the Revolution had been reached, and DUNDEE adhered to KING JAMES, and endeavoured to persuade him to adopt a courageous policy till the last. After the flight of the KING he promised obedience to the new Government, and came to Scotland hoping to avert what he considered the disastrous settlement of the Crown upon WILLIAM OF ORANGE and MARY. His hopes in this respect were disappointed, and he retired from Edinburgh and took up his residence at Dudhope Castle. On obtaining information that a warrant to apprehend him had been issued, he fled with his Highland followers to Perthshire, and was pursued and defeated by GENERAL MACKAY at the Pass of Killiecrankie, in July, 1689. In this engagement he was mortally wounded by a musket ball, and fell on the field at the moment when the tide of battle was turning, in his favour. He was buried in the Church of Blair in Athol, but no trace of his grave can now be discovered.


The ambition of CLAVERHOUSE, from his youth upwards, was insatiable, and there is one episode in his life which has escaped the notice of historical writers who have dealt with him. His kinsman, WILLIAM, second EARL OF MENTEITH AND AIRTH, had no heir to succeed him, and had the power of appointing a successor. To secure this appointment became the settled purpose of CLAVERHOUSE; and a series of letters written by him to the EARL were recently discovered by Dr WILLIAM FRASER amongst the muniments of the DUKE OF MONTROSE at Buchanan House. They exhibit the writer in quite a new light, and refute the charges of unlettered ignorance which have been brought against him. The EARL OF MENTEITH AND AIRTH wished to settle his title and estates upon HELEN GRAHAM, only child of his uncle, and upon any husband whom she might marry, and CLAVERHOUSE became an ardent suitor for her hand. In one of these letters, written about 1679, he "urges upon the EARL OF MENTEITH the advantage of settling his affairs, establishing his successor in time, for 'it can doe you no prejudice if you com to have any childring of your owen body, and will be much to your quyet and comfort if you have Don; for whoever you mak choyse of will be in place of a sonne.' He instances the wisdom Of JULIUS CAESAR in adopting AUGUSTUS, securing a thankful and useful friend as well as a wise successor; 'neither of which he could have promised himself by having childring, for nobody knows whether they begit wyse men or fooles; besides that, the tays of gratitud and friendship ar stronger in generous mynds then those of natur.' Then he proposes himself as heir, a resolution the EARL seems to have already formed, marshalling with great vigour and regularity several reasons; the kindred name, and the fact that he could, more easily than any other, obtain the EARL'S cousin, which union continued the family in the right line; his toiling for honour, though it had been his 'misfortun to atteen but a small shear,' and the 'francness and easiness' he lives in with all his friends. He ends with this forcible sentence 'But, my Lord, after all this, if these raisons. cannot perswad you that it is your interest to pitch on me, and if you can think on anybody that can be mor proper to restor your family, and contribut mor to your comfort and satisfaction, mak frankly choyse of him, for without that you can never think of geating any thing don for your family; it will be for your honour that the world see you never had thoughts of alienating your family, then they will look no mor upon you as the last of so noble a race, but will consider you raither as the restorer then the ruiner, and your family raither a rysing than falling; which as it will be the joy of our friends and relations, so it will be the confusion of our enimys' (Third Report of Hist. 3188. Commission, P. 402). The plans of the EARL were altered by the elopement of the lady with "an Irish gentleman," and the estate was ultimately settled upon the MARQUESS OF MONTROSE, and the title is still in abeyance.

VISCOUNT DUNDEE married the HON. JEAN COCHRANE, youngest daughter of WILLIAM, FIRST EARL OF DUNDONALD, and had one son, JAMES, second VISCOUNT OF DUNDEE, who died in infancy six months after his father. She afterwards married WILLIAM, third VISCOUNT OF KILSYTH, and was accidentally killed, together with her infant son, whilst residing in a hostelry in Holland, by the joists of the chamber where she was sitting giving way above her. Her body was, embalmed and brought to the family vault at Kilsyth, and the coffin containing the two corpses was discovered in 1795 in perfect preservation. An account of the appearance of these bodies is given in the Edinburgh Courant of 18th May of that year. Several epitaphs upon the VISCOUNTESS, are preserved in a volume within the Advocates' Library. Edinburgh.

DAVID GRAHAM, brother of LORD DUNDEE, succeeded to the title as third VISCOUNT DUNDEE on the death of his infant nephew. He had been with his brother at Killiecrankie, and was outlawed in the following year. After the defeat of the Jacobites there, he retired to the Court of St. Germains, and was invested with the Order of the Thistle by JAMES VII in 1692. As he died without issue in 1700, the representation of the family devolved upon the GRAHAMS of Duntrune. WILLIAM GRAHAM of Duntrune (ob. 1706) did not assume the title, but his son WILLIAM styled himself VISCOUNT OF DUNDEE. He was attainted for his concern in the Rebellion of 1715, and his son JAMES (ob. 1759), who also took the title, was similarly treated for his adherence to the Jacobite cause in 1746. The title is now extinct.
The names of the first VISCOUNT OF DUNDEE and of his wife, LADY JEAN, appear frequently amongst the sponsors entered in the Register of Baptisms of the Parish. The most noteworthy of these entries are the following:
"1685, Nov, 17th John, son of Magister Henrie Scryinsour, Parson of Dundie, and Mrs Jean Alexander. Witnesses: John Graham of Claverhouse and Constable of Dundie, and Ors.',
"1689, May 9th. Jean, daughter of Robt Davidson of Balgay and Eliz. Graham. Witnesses: Jo. Graham, Ld Dundie, his ladie Jean Cochrane, and Ors
On 12th April 1675, "Mr David Graham, brother to the Laird of Claverhouse," is entered as witness to a baptism.

The admission of WALTER GRAHAM of Duntrune is entered under date 20th February, 1650 (vide page 161). The names of the two sons who are here "booked" do not appear in the accepted genealogies of the family, though their existence is proved by contemporary documents. They were both members of the Town Council of Dundee, and JOHN GRAHAM for a long period held the position of a Bailie of the Burgh. The following extract from the Register of Baptisms in Dundee affords information as to both of the brothers:

"1665, Oct. 17. John, son of James Graham, merchant, Dundee, and Agnes Rate, baptised. Wit¬nesses: John Graham of Claverhouse, John Fithie, Bailie Johne Graham, son to the Laird of Duntroon, and Ors."

Both brothers were concerned in the attempt of their kinsman, VISCOUNT DUNDEE, to overthrow the power of WILLIAM III. in Scotland, and the Bailie was deposed from his office and threatened with prosecution, as appears from the following entry in the Council Minutes:
"1689, June 15. The sd day John Graham, late Bailie, his bond conteining aile caur for him for presenting of him to the privie counsell or magistrats of the sd burgh, as they shall be desyred, for his having converse with the viscount of dundie, was put vp in the townes press."

JOHN GRAHAM's daughter, MARJORY, was married to JORN FORRESTER of Millhill, as is shown by the tombstone of the latter (No. 81) in the Howff.