Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Elliot, Gilbert (1693-1766)

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ELLIOT, Sir GILBERT, Lord Minto (1693–1766), Scotch judge, only son of Gilbert Elliot, lord Minto (1651–1718), by Jean Carre of Cavers, his second wife, was born in 1693 or 1694. He studied law and was admitted advocate on 26 July 1715. On his father's death in 1718 he succeeded him as second baronet. In 1722 he was elected M.P. for Roxburghshire. He represented that county till 1726, when he was raised to the bench, on the death of Sir Francis Grant of Cullen. Following his father's example, he assumed the courtesy title of Lord Minto. He was named a lord of justiciary on 13 Sept. 1733 in succession to Sir William Calderwood of Polton, and succeeded Charles Erskine of Tinwald as justice clerk on 3 May 1763. He held both these offices at the time of his death, which took place somewhat suddenly at Minto on 16 April 1766.

Elliot was not specially eminent as a judge, but he was widely known and had great influence in his own day. He was an accomplished man, extremely well versed in Italian literature, and an excellent musician. He is said to have first introduced the German flute to Scotland, a doubtful statement also made about his son Gilbert. He was an eager agriculturist, and was one of the members of an Edinburgh 'committee of taste for the improvement of the town.' He was instrumental in introducing many improvements into the county of Roxburgh, and the noble trees that still shade the glens at Minto were planted by him. He was an eager supporter of the Hanoverian succession. During the rising of 1745 a party of the highlanders on the march to England suddenly appeared before the house. His daughter Jean (1727?-1805, authoress of the 'Flowers of the Forest') with great presence of mind rushed to meet the visitors and treated them as welcome guests, while Elliot betook himself in all haste to some near craigs, where he lay concealed among the brushwood. The rebels, satisfied with their hospitable reception, departed without inquiring too carefully after Elliot, who used to say that 'he owed his life' on this occasion to his daughter, a reflection which is somewhat of an unfounded libel on the highlanders.

Elliot married Helen Stewart of Allanbank, by whom he had a large family of sons and daughters. Of these several attained distinction. Gilbert [q. v.] and Jane [q. v.] were eminent in literature. John [q. v.] was the sailor who destroyed Thurot's expedition (28 Feb. 1760). Andrew was the last English governor of New York. He used to tell a story, slight in itself, but characteristic of the time and of his father. Andrew when a boy objected to the boiled mutton which seems to have been the eternal Scotch dinner dish of the period. The judge heard the complaint almost with horror, and ordered the servant to give the lad boiled mutton for breakfast, dinner, and supper till he learned to like it.

[Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, p. 500; Lady Minto's Life and Letters of First Earl of Minto (1874), vol. i., Introduction; Anderson's Scottish Nation, ii. 132; Foster's Collectanea Genealogica; Members of Parliament, Scotland; Scots Mag. April 1766, p. 223.]

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