Dalyell, Thomas (DNB00)

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DALYELL or DALZELL, THOMAS (1599?–1685), of Binns, general, was descended from a family which possessed the barony of Dalyell as early as the thirteenth century, and, having acquired the property of Carnwath about the end of the sixteenth century, was ennobled in the person of Sir Robert Dalyell, who was created Lord Dalyell 18 Sept. 1628, and Earl of Carnwath in 1639. The general's father, Thomas Dalyell, who acquired the property of Binns, Linlithgowshire, in 1629, was a second cousin of the first Earl of Carnwath, and his mother, Janet Bruce, was the daughter of the first Lord Bruce of Kinloss. He was born about 1599, and seems to have taken part in the Rochelle expedition in 1628 as captain in the Earl of Morton's regiment (State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1628–9, p. 323). In 1640 he was serving under Major Robert Monro at Aberdeen, and on 3 July was sent with fifty-eight musketeers to protect two Scottish barques which had been driven into the cove by a ship of war (Spalding, Memorials, i. 296). He accompanied Monro in his expedition to Ireland 8 April 1642, having obtained a commission as colonel to command 2,500 men (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. ii. appendix, p. 236). For a considerable time he was in command at Carrickfergus, and on 1 Aug. 1649 received from Sir George Monro, who had succeeded his father, Robert Monro, as general, the management of the customs there (ib. 236). On the capitulation of Carrickfergus he obtained from Sir Charles Coote a free pass, dated 15 Aug. 1650, to go out of Ireland whither he pleased (ib. 236), but on 4 June had, with other prominent royalists, been banished the kingdom of Scotland on pain of death (Nicolls, Diary, 14; Balfour, Annals, iv. 42). He therefore remained some time in Ireland, and on 30 Dec. 1650 appealed against the order of banishment made in his absence and without hearing his defence (Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. vi., pt. ii., p. 638). On 6 May following he was appointed by the king a general major of foot, and fought on 3 Sept. at Worcester, where his brigade, which had possessed themselves of St. Johns, without any great resistance laid down their arms and craved quarter (Boscobel Tracts, p. 34). Dalyell was taken prisoner, and on 16 Sept. committed to the Tower (State Papers, Dom. Ser., 1651, p. 432), five shillings a week being allowed for his maintenance (ib. 1651–2, p. 96). He escaped in the following May, and, although a committee was appointed 1 June to examine into the manner of his escape (ib. 1651–2, p. 272), and an order made to search for him (ib. 566), got clear off to the continent. In March 1654 he appeared off the northern coasts of Scotland, and assisted in the rebellion in the highlands in that year, being lieutenant-general of infantry under Middleton (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ii. 305). He was specially excluded from Cromwell's act of grace, and on 4 May a reward of 200l. and a free pardon was offered by General Monck to any one who should deliver him, or any one of certain other prominent rebels, up to the English garrison dead or alive (Cal. Clarendon State Papers, ii. 365; Thurloe State Papers, ii. 261). He reached the continent again in safety, and there received from Charles a special letter of thanks dated Cologne 30 Dec. 1654. The royalist cause being for the time hopeless, Dalyell determined to enter foreign service, and received from Charles II, 17 Aug. 1655, a letter of recommendation to the King of Poland, another to Prince Radzivill, and also a general pass and recommendation (all printed in the Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. ii. 235, from the originals at Binns). On the strength of these strong recommendations he was made a lieutenant-general by the Tsar Alexis, who had special use for the services of him and other Scotch officers, in introducing a more regular system of discipline into his army. After taking part in the wars against the Poles, Dalyell obtained the rank of full general, in which capacity he served in several campaigns against the Tartars and Turks. In 1665, at the request of Charles II, who was in need of his services in Scotland, he obtained permission from the czar to return ‘to his country,’ with a patent testifying that he was ‘a man of virtue and honour, and of great experience in military affairs’ (ib. 236). On 19 July 1666 he was appointed commander-in-chief in Scotland (ib. 237), with the special purpose of curbing the covenanters. A commission was also given him to raise a troop of horse in the regiment of which Lieutenant-general Drummond was colonel (ib. 236), and another making him colonel of ten companies of a regiment of foot (ib. 236). On 28 Nov. he dispersed the covenanters at Rullion Green in the Pentlands, taking many prisoners with him to Edinburgh. His forces were then ordered to lie in the west, ‘ where,’ says Burnet, ‘Dalyell acted the Muscovite too grossly. He threatened to spit men and to roast them, and he killed some in cold blood, or rather in hot blood, for he was then drunk when he ordered one to be hanged because he would not tell where his father was for whom he was in search. When he heard of any that did not go to church, he did not trouble himself to put a fine upon him, but he set as many soldiers upon him as should eat him up in a night. By this means all people were struck with such a terror that they came regularly to church. And the clergy were so delighted with it that they used to speak of that time as the poets do of the golden age’ (Burnet, Own Time, ed. 1838, p. 161). Although such statements are often exaggerated, it must be borne in mind that Burnet was not biassed in favour of the covenanters. There can be no doubt that Dalyell had recourse to harsh methods of punishment, learnt when serving the czar. The peremptory fierceness of his manner and his violent threats were, however, frequently sufficiently effectual without resort to extreme measures. He was a plain, blunt soldier, desirous chiefly to perform his duty to his sovereign as efficiently as possible; and had no doubts of the justice of persecuting those who did not conform to the religion of all good royalists. ‘He was bred up very hardy from his youth,’ says Captain Creichton, ‘both in diet and clothing; he never wore a peruke, nor did he shave his beard since the murder of king Charles I. In my time his head was bald, which he covered only with a beaver hat, the brim of which was not above three inches broad. His beard was white and bushy, and yet reaching down almost to his girdle. He usually went to London once or twice a year, and then only to kiss the king's hand, who had a great esteem for his worth and valour’ (‘Memoirs of Captain John Creichton’ in Swift's Works, ed. Scott, vol. xii). The eccentric appearance of Dalyell no doubt excited the imaginations of the peasantry. He was reputed by them to be a wizard, in league with the satanic powers, and therefore bulletproof, the bullets having been seen plainly on several occasions to recoil from his person when discharged against him.

Relentless though Dalyell was against persistent nonconformists, his better feelings were easily touched through his royalist sentiments. When Captain John Paton of Meadowbank was about to be examined before the privy council, a soldier taunted him with being a rebel. ‘Sir,’ retorted Paton, ‘I have done more for the king perhaps than you have done—I fought for him at Worcester.’ ‘Yes, John, you are right—that is true,’ said Dalyell; and, striking the soldier with his cane, added, ‘I will teach you, sirrah, other manners than to abuse a prisoner such as this.’ A less pleasing illustration of Dalyell's choleric temper, manifested, however, under strong provocation, is given by Fountainhall. The covenanter Garnock having ‘at a committee of council railed on General Dalyell, calling him a Muscovian beast, who used to roast men, the general struck him with the pommel of his shable on the face till the blood sprung’ (Historical Notices, 332). Another act of severity recorded by Fountainhall was doubtless attributable to his sensitive regard for royalty. During the Duke of York's visit to Edinburgh in 1681 a sentinel was found asleep at the gates of the abbey of Holyrood when the Duke of York passed, upon which Dalyell immediately condemned him to be shot, his life only being spared through the intervention of the duke (Historical Observes, 28).

Dalyell, after the action of Rullion Green, was created a privy councillor, being sworn 3 Jan. 1667. He also obtained various forfeited estates, including those of Mure of Caldwell, which remained in the possession of the Dalyells till after the revolution. From 1678 till his death he represented his native county of Linlithgow in parliament. His self-esteem was deeply wounded by the apparent slight put upon his services through the appointment of the Duke of Monmouth as commander-in-chief in June 1679, and, having refused to serve under him, he was not present at the battle of Bothwell Bridge. Charles II, who always regarded his eccentricities with good-humoured indulgence, and usually addressed him familiarly as ‘Tom Dalyell,’ salved, however, his wounded feelings by issuing a new commission reappointing him commander-in-chief, with the practical control of the forces, the appointment of the Duke of Monmouth, who was styled lord-general by the privy council, remaining chiefly nominal. With this commission Dalyell arrived shortly after the close of the battle, and at once took prompt measures for the apprehension of the fugitives. On account of representations made to the king of the necessity of more stringent measures against the covenanters, Dalyell was on 6 Nov. declared commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland, ‘and only to be accountable and judgeable by his majesty himself, for he would not accept otherwise’ (Fountainhall, Historical Notices, 243). He was also appointed a commissioner of justiciary, with the advice of nine others, to execute justice on such as had been at Bothwell Bridge (ib. 264). On Christmas day, 1680, learning that the students of Edinburgh University intended to burn an effigy of the pope, Dalyell marched his troops from Leith to the Canongate, but failed to prevent them carrying out their programme. Nor, although several students were captured and threatened with torture, and a reward offered for the leaders, was information obtained sufficient for the conviction of any one. On 25 Oct. 1681 Dalyell received a commission to enrol the celebrated regiment of the Scots Greys (Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. ii. 237), so called originally not from the colour of their horses but of the men's long overcoats. They were armed with sword, pistol, and musket, for service on horseback or on foot, and consisted of six companies of fifty-nine each, including officers. In a document (printed in the Miscellany of the Maitland Club) signed by Charles II at Windsor 16 June 1684, a list is given of the Scottish forces under Dalyell irrespective of the militia. With these thoroughly disciplined troops he easily restrained any serious manifestation of the covenanting spirit; although, of course, the influence of his rigour on covenanting convictions was utterly fruitless. As he grew older Dalyell became more testy. In Napier's ‘Life of Graham of Claverhouse,’ several amusing instances are given of the slights to which that ambitious officer had to submit from Dalyell. Latterly his duties were comparatively light, and he is said to have spent much of his time at his paternal estate of Binns, which he adorned with ‘avenues, large parks, and fine gardens, pleasing himself with the culture of curious plants and flowers.’ On the accession of James II in 1685 he received commendation and approval under the great seal of his conduct in Scotland, and an enlarged commission as commander-in-chief. Captain Creighton states that the catholic faith of James would probably have placed Dalyell in a perplexing dilemma had he lived. He died suddenly of an apoplexy at his town house in the Canongate, on Sunday evening 23 Aug. 1685. He was buried probably in Abercorn Church, near Binns, on 1 Sept., and ‘got,’ says Fountainhall, ‘a very splendid buriall after the military forme, being attended by the standing forces, horse and foot, present at Edinburgh, and six pieces of cannon drawn his herse, with his led horse and general's baton, &c.’ (Historical Observes, 215). ‘Some,’ adds Fountainhall, ‘were observing that few of our generall persons in Scotland had come to their grave without some tach or note of disgrace which Dalyell had not incurred’ (ib. 236).

Dalyell is said to have married a daughter of Ker of Cavers, and by her had an only son, Captain Thomas Dalyell, who was, in recognition of his father's services, created on 7 November 1685 a baronet of Nova Scotia. The patent of baronetcy is unique, inasmuch as it gives the dignity to heirs female and of entail succeeding to the estate of Binns. Thus, as the second baronet died unmarried, the baronetcy descended to James Menteith of Auldcathy, son of the second baronet's sister, who assumed the additional name of Dalyell. Four sons and three daughters are mentioned in the general's entail on 3 Aug. 1682. The second son, also named Thomas, a colonel of foot, who was engaged at the battle of the Boyne, settled in Ireland, and acquired by grant from Queen Anne the estate of Ticknevin, in the county of Kildare, but this branch became extinct in 1756, when the property in Ireland came to the descendants of John, the third son, another colonel of foot, who commanded the 21st fusiliers at the battle of Blenheim, and was killed while leading the first charge on the village of Blenheim. He was the progenitor of the Dalyells of Lingo in Fife. The fourth son, Captain Charles Dalyell, took part in the Darien expedition, and died there, leaving his brother John his heir. Dalyell's town house in Edinburgh was situated off the Canongate, on the north side opposite John Street, but was removed within the present century (Wilson, Memorials of Edinburgh, 290–1). As would appear from the picture of him in full uniform with his general's baton, painted probably in 1675 by Reilly for the Duke of Rothes, and now in Leslie House, Fifeshire, he in his later years shaved his beard. A picture in which he has the beard, and regarded as the original by Paton, from which the Vanderbanc print was done, is in the possession of Sir Robert Dalyell, K.C.I.E., of the India Council. There are also two paintings of the general at Binns, one probably a copy of the Reilly. A pair of very heavy cavalier boots, and an enormous double-handed sword, reputed to have been the general's, are now preserved at Lingo, Fifeshire.

[Report on the Muniments of Sir Robert Osborne Dalyell, baronet of Binns, Hist. MSS. Comm. 9th Rep. pt. ii. 230–8; Captain Creighton's Memoirs in Swift's Works; Thurloe State Papers, ii.; State Papers, Dom. Ser., 1654–67; Wodrow's Sufferings of the Church of Scotland; Fountainhall's Historical Notices: ib. Observes; Nicolls's Diary; Burnet's Own Time; Balfour's Annals; Acts of the Parliament of Scotland; Douglas's Baronage of Scotland; Grainger's Biog. Hist. of England, 4th ed. iii. 380–1; Letters to the Duke of Lauderdale, 1666–80; Add. MSS. 23125–6–8, 23135, 23246–7, published in Lauderdale Papers (Camden Soc.); Letters to Charles II, Add. MS. 28747; information from Sir Robert Dalyell, K.C.I.E.; Foster's Members of Parliament in Scotland, 1882.]

T. F. H.