Nairne, William (DNB00)

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NAIRNE, Sir WILLIAM, Lord Dunsinane (1731?–1811), Scottish judge, born about 1731, the younger son of Sir William Nairne, bart., of Dunsinane, Perthshire, by his wife, Emelia Graham of Fintry, Forfarshire, was admitted an advocate on 11 March 1755, and in 1758 was appointed joint commissary clerk of Edinburgh with Alexander Nairne. He was uncle to the notorious Katharine Nairne or Ogilvie, whose trial for murder and incest attracted great attention in August 1765. He is supposed to have connived at her subsequent escape from the Tolbooth. He succeeded Robert Bruce of Kennet as an ordinary lord of session, and took his seat on the bench, with the title of Lord Dunsinane, on 9 March 1786. He succeeded to the baronetcy on the death of his nephew William, the fourth baronet, in January 1790, and at the same time purchased the estate of Dunsinane from another nephew for 16,000l. On the resignation of John Campbell of Stonefield, Nairne was appointed a lord of justiciary, 24 Dec. 1792. He resigned his seat in the court of justiciary in 1808, and his seat in the court of session in 1809. He died at Dunsinane House on 23 March 1811.

Nairne was unmarried. The baronetcy became extinct upon his death, while his estates devolved upon his nephew, John Mellis, who subsequently assumed the surname of Nairne.

Nairne was not a rich man; and in order to clear off the purchase money of Dunsinane he had to adopt the most rigid economy. To save the expense of entertaining visitors, he is said to have kept only one bed at Dunsinane, and upon one occasion, after trying every expedient to get rid of his friend George Dempster, he exclaimed in despair, ‘George, if you stay, you will go to bed at ten and rise at three, and then I shall get the bed after you’ (Kay, i. 217–18).

Two etchings of Nairne will be found in Kay's ‘Original Portraits’ (Nos. xci. and ccc.) His ‘Disputatio Juridica ad tit. 4 Lib. xx. Pand. Qui potiores in pignore vel hypotheca habeantur,’ &c., was published in 1755, Edinburgh, 4to. He assisted in the collection of the ‘Decisions of the Court of Session from the end of the year 1756 to the end of the year 1760,’ Edinburgh, 1765, fol.

[Kay's Series of Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, 1877, i. 217–19, 307, 392, ii. opp. 380; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, 1832, p. 538; Anderson's Scottish Nation, 1863, iii. 236–7; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, 1881, p. 381; Adam's Political State of Scotland, 1887, p. 262; Burke's Extinct Baronetage, 1844, p. 634; Burke's Landed Gentry, 1879. ii. 1151; Scots Mag. xx. 613, lii. 51, lxxiii. 320; Edinburgh Star, 2 April 1811; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

G. F. R. B.