Single Member Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

52 in 1788


25 Apr. 1754Sir james Carnegie
21 Apr. 1761Sir James Carnegie
7 June 1765Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine vice Carnegie, deceased
9 Apr. 1768Robert Rickart Hepburn
27 Oct. 1774Lord Adam Gordon
28 Sept. 1780Lord Adam Gordon
16 Apr. 1784Lord Adam Gordon
19 June 1788Robert Barclay Allardice vice Gordon, vacated his seat

Main Article

The principal aristocratic families of Kincardineshire—Earl Marischall, Lord Falconer of Halkertoun, and Viscount Arbuthnott—were Jacobite in sympathy, and for a considerable part of this period their interest was dormant. The representation was controlled by a group of ancient families: the Ramsays of Balmain, the Burnetts, and the Carnegies of Pitarrow. Sir James Carnegie had a comparatively minor interest in Kincardineshire, and depended mainly on the support of his mother’s relations the Burnetts.1 In 1753 Henry Pelham and the Duke of Argyll, consulting together on the Scottish elections, noted that Carnegie ‘was supported by the Jacobite interest’ and might be opposed by another Whig, who was eventually named as Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine.2 But no contest is recorded.

Carnegie was returned unopposed in 1761, and on his death in 1765 was succeeded by Ramsay Irvine. From about 1766 however a new interest obtruded itself into the family politics of Kincardineshire. David Graeme was anxious to secure a seat for his brother-in-law Robert Rickart Hepburn, who, though a Lothian man, had inherited from his mother the estate of Rickarton, near Stonehaven. Graeme secured for Hepburn the support of Lord Findlater, who, aiming at ‘a lasting establishment’ for the new candidate, wrote to Charles Jenkinson on 12 Feb. 1767:3

We have going on in this country a competition between Colonel Hepburn ... and another gentleman. Your friend Mr. Mackenzie [James Stuart Mackenzie], though he does not put his name into the election, intimates to me his inclination to Colonel Hepburn. The Duke of Queensberry takes the lead in the election and I am persuaded, without using their names, that several of your friends ... wish success to Colonel Hepburn. I think we shall carry it, but we want to beat out all opposition now and forever.

Hepburn was supported by Administration and the Bute connexion, and Ramsay Irvine withdrew.

When Graeme fell from power in 1773, Hepburn’s chances of re-election became remote. Ramsay Irvine, a somewhat unpopular figure, did not stand at the general election of 1774, but sponsored the candidature of his close friend Lord Adam Gordon, an Aberdeenshire man, for whom Ramsay Irvine provided a qualification in Kincardineshire.4 Gordon held the seat unchallenged until he left Parliament in 1788.

By the end of this period the Falconer and Arbuthnott interests had somewhat revived. The Carnegie interest could muster only some four votes and was no longer supported by the Burnett family. The majority of independent freeholders were attached by kinship or friendship to Francis Garden, Lord Gardenstone, S.C.J., who had become the leading figure in the county. Alexander Burnett of Strahan, sheriff of the county from 1779 and nephew and heir of Sir Alexander Ramsay Irvine, was a leading member of ‘The Independent Friends of the Revolution’, a Scottish organization connected with the Portland Whigs. William Adam, a leading member of the Opposition, had some personal following; but in 1788 Government and the Gardenstone interest had sufficient influence to secure the unopposed return of Robert Barclay Allardice of Urie.5

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Sir W. Fraser, Hist. of the Carnegies, i. 208.
  • 2. Newcastle (Clumber) mss; Add. 32995, f. 190.
  • 3. Add. 38205, ff. 138, 139, 142.
  • 4. Laprade, 6, 19; Add. 39190, f. 199.
  • 5. Pol. State of Scotland 1788, pp. 183-90.