Rae, David (DNB00)

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RAE, Sir DAVID, Lord Eskgrove (1724?–1804), lord justice clerk, son of David Rae of St. Andrews, an episcopalian minister, by his wife Agnes, daughter of Sir David Forbes of Newhall, was educated at the grammar school of Haddington, and at the university of Edinburgh, where he attended the law lectures of Professor John Erskine (1695–1768) [q. v.] He was admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates on 11 Dec. 1751, and quickly acquired a considerable practice. In 1753 he was retained in an appeal to the House of Lords, which brought him up to London, where he became acquainted with Lord Hardwicke and his son Charles Yorke. He was appointed one of the commissioners for collecting evidence in the Douglas case, and in that capacity accompanied James Burnett (afterwards Lord Monboddo) [q. v.] to France in September 1764. He was the leading advocate in the Scottish court of exchequer for many years. He succeeded Alexander Boswell, lord Auchinleck [q. v.], as an ordinary lord of session on 14 Nov. 1782, and thereupon assumed the title of Lord Eskgrove, a name derived from a small estate which he possessed near Inveresk. On 20 April 1785 he was appointed a lord of justiciary, in the room of Robert Bruce of Kennet. Rae was one of the judges who tried William Brodie (d. 1788) [q. v.] for robbing the General Excise Office in August 1788, the Rev. Thomas Fyshe Palmer [q. v.] for seditious practices in September 1793, William Skirving and Maurice Margarot for sedition in January 1794, Joseph Gerrald for sedition in March 1794, and Robert Watt and David Downie for high treason in September 1794. He was promoted to the post of lord justice clerk on 1 June 1799, in the place of Robert Macqueen, lord Braxfield [q. v.], and was created a baronet on 27 June 1804. He died at Eskgrove on 23 Oct. 1804, in the eightieth year of his age, and was buried in Inveresk churchyard.

Cockburn declares that no more ludicrous personage than Rae could exist. Every one, he says, used to be telling stories of him, ‘yet never once did he do or say anything which had the slightest claim to be remembered for any intrinsic merit. The value of all his words and actions consisted in their absurdity’ (Cockburn, Memorials of his Time, 1856, pp. 118–19). According to the same authority, ‘in the trial of Glengarry for murder in a duel, a lady of great beauty was called as a witness. She came into court veiled; but, before administering the oath, Eskgrove gave her this exposition of her duty: “Young woman! you will now consider yourself as in the presence of Almighty God and of this High Court. Lift up your veil; throw off all modesty, and look me in the face”’ (ib. p. 122). Brougham seems to have taken a special delight in tormenting him. But, in spite of his ludicrous appearance and his many eccentricities of manner, Rae was a man of the greatest integrity, and one of the ablest Scottish lawyers of the day. With Ilay, Campbell, and others, Rae collected the ‘Decisions of the Court of Session from the end of the year 1756 to the end of the year 1760,’ Edinburgh, 1765, fol.

He married, on 14 Oct. 1761, Margaret (d. 1770), youngest daughter of John Stuart of Blairhall, Perthshire, by whom he had two sons—(1) David, who succeeded as the second baronet, but died without male issue on 22 May 1815; and (2) William (1769–1842) [q. v.]—and one daughter, Margaret, who married, on 3 Jan. 1804, Captain Thomas Phipps Howard of the 23rd light dragoons. Rae's portrait, by Raeburn, hangs in Parliament House, Edinburgh. An etching of Rae, by Kay, will be found in the first volume of ‘Original Portraits’ (No. 140).

[Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, 1832, pp. 535–6; Kay's Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, 1877, i. 350–352, ii. 250; Henry Cockburn's Journal, 1874, i. 241–2; Georgian Era, 1833, ii. 287–8; Douglas's Baronage of Scotland, 1798, p. 244; Debrett's Baronetage, 1835, p. 315; Scots Mag. 1761 p. 558, 1765 p. 502, 1767 p. 389, 1769 p. 223, 1770 p. 343, 1804 pp. 78, 887, 1815 p. 559; Notes and Queries, 8th ser. vi. 188, 231, 358, ix. 136–7.]

G. F. R. B.