Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Montgomerie, Hugh (1739-1819)

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MONTGOMERIE, HUGH, twelfth Earl of Eglinton (1739–1819), son of Alexander Montgomerie of Coilsfield, Ayrshire the 'Castle of Montgomerie' celebrated by Burns descended from Colonel James Montgomerie, fourth son of Alexander, sixth earl of Eglinton [q. v.], was born on 29 Nov. 1739. His mother was Lillias (d. 1783), daughter of Sir Robert Montgomery, eleventh baronet of Skelmorlie [q. v.] Entering the army in 1756, he served in the American war as captain in the 78th foot, and afterwards as captain in the first royals. On the outbreak of the French war in 1788 he was appointed major in the Argyll or Western fencibles, raised jointly by the Argyll and Eglinton families, with Lord Frederick Campbell as colonel. In 1780, and again in 1784, he was elected to parliament as member for Ayrshire. If we may trust the testimony of Burns, in his 'Earnest Cry and Prayer,' Montgomerie's oratorical power was less conspicuous than his courage: —

I ken, if that your sword were wanted,
Ye'd lend a hand;
But when there's ought to say anent it,
Ye're at a stand.

In 1783 Montgomerie succeeded his brother in the estate of Skelmorlie, and his father in that of Coilsfield. In 1789 he resigned his seat in the commons on being appointed inspector of military roads in Scotland. During his term of office he was instrumental in greatly extending and improving the roads in the highlands. On the declaration of war by France in 1793 he was appointed colonel of the West Lowland fencibles, raised by the eleventh Earl of Eglinton in Ayrshire. Soon afterwards he himself raised the regiment of the line called the Glasgow regiment, which was disbanded in 1795. During the crisis he was also appointed governor of Edinburgh in room of Lord Livingstone. In 1796 he was again returned member for Ayr, but on 30 Oct. he succeeded to the earldom of Eglinton on the death of Archibald, eleventh earl [q. v.] Part of the estates devolved on the eleventh earl's eldest and only surviving daughter, Lady Mary Montgomerie; but as she married Archibald, lord Montgomerie, eldest son of the twelfth earl, the lineal and male branches were ultimately united, and the whole estates were again joined with the earldom.

In 1798 Eglinton was elected a representative peer of Scotland, and he was reelected in 1802. On 15 Feb. 1806 he was created a peer of the United Kingdom, by the title of Baron Ardrossan of Ardrossan, Ayrshire. He was also made a knight of the Thistle, and appointed lord-lieutenant of Ayrshire, and one of the state councillors to the prince regent. He died 15 Dec. 1819.

By his cousin Eleonora, daughter of Robert Hamilton of Bourtreehill, Ayrshire, he had three sons and three daughters : Archibald, lord Montgomerie, who became a major-general, and died on 4 Jan. 1814 at Alicante in Spain; Roger, who was a lieutenant in the royal navy, and died at Port Royal in Jamaica in January 1799; Alexander; Jane, married to Edward Archibald Hamilton of Blackhouse; Lillias, married first to Robert Dundas Macqueen of Braxfield, and secondly to Richard Alexander Oswald of Auchincruive the 'wealthy young Richard' of Burns's 'Election Day;' and Mary, who died young. He was succeeded in the earldom by his grandson, Archibald William Montgomerie [q.v.]

Soon after his accession to the earldom, Eglinton began to rebuild, as the principal residence of the family, the castle of Eglinton, one of the finest examples of modern castellated architecture. Besides continuing the agricultural improvements on his estates begun by his predecessors, he also, in July 1806, commenced on a great scale a harbour or Ardrossan, with the view of making this town the port of Glasgow, with which it was to be connected by the Glasgow, Paisley, and Johnstone Canal. After 100,000l. had been expended on the harbour and canal, the work was suspended, on account of the great excess of expenditure over the estimates; it was found that to complete it would require an additional 300,000l. The canal was only completed between Glasgow and Johnstone, but the harbour of Ardrossan, on a greatly reduced scale, though amply sufficient for the wants of the port, was ultimately finished by the thirteenth earl at a cost in all of about 200,000l.

Eglinton possessed many of the characteristics of the ancient feudal baron; and if both in his private life and his schemes for the welfare of the community he manifested an excessive bias towards magnificence, his enterprise and public spirit deserve the highest praise. He had also cultivated tastes, being specially fond of music, and, besides performing on the violoncello, was the composer of a number of popular airs, including 'Lady Montgomerie's Lament' and 'Ayrshire Lasses.' His portrait, by Raeburn, in the costume of the west lowland fencibles, is in the County Buildings, Ayr.

[Works of Burns; Paterson's Hist, of Ayr; Sir William Fraser's Earls of Eglinton; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 509-10.]

T. F. H.