Dysart Burghs


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Kinghorn (1715, '41), Dysart (1722, '47), Kirkcaldy (1727), Burntisland (1734), all in Fife

Number of voters:



17 Feb. 1715WILLIAM KERR
14 Apr. 1722JAMES ST. CLAIR
  Double return. ST. CLAIR declared elected, 27 Oct. 1722
12 Sept. 1727JAMES ST. CLAIR
 James St. Clair
12 Feb. 1746OSWALD re-elected after appointment to office
23 July 1747JAMES ST. CLAIR

Main Article

At George I’s accession the chief interests in Dysart Burghs were those of the Earl of Rothes, a Squadrone Whig, and James St. Clair, also a Whig but of the rival Argyll faction. In 1715 William Kerr, the brother of the leader of the Squadrone, the Duke of Roxburghe, was returned unopposed in the Rothes interest.

In 1722 there was a double return, Thomas Leslie being returned by his father, Lord Rothes, as sheriff, and St. Clair by the returning officer. The Commons awarded the seat to St. Clair,1 who held it till 1734, when he lost it to Leslie.

In 1738 another candidate took the field, James Oswald, whose father had bought Dunnikier, three miles from Kirkcaldy, where he had built up a strong interest by acquiring a twenty-year lease of the burgh’s common lands and advancing considerable sums for the reconstruction of the harbour.2 In 1741 Leslie withdrew, leaving Oswald to be returned unopposed.

In 1747 Oswald, who was standing for Fifeshire, and St. Clair, who was standing for Sutherland, agreed to treat Dysart Burghs as a second string. Should one of them fail for his county he would fall back on Dysart: if both succeeded the seat would be filled either by a relation of Oswald’s or by St. Clair’s nephew, Sir Henry Erskine.3 Oswald was successful, but St. Clair failed, taking the Dysart seat.

Author: J. M. Simpson


  • 1. CJ, xx. 33, 48-49.
  • 2. Kirkcaldy Burgh Recs. 219 et seq., 246.
  • 3. Oswald to Geo. Grenville, 1 Aug. 1747, Grenville mss; Argyll to Pelham, 30 July 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.