DRUMMOND, George Harley (1783-1855), of Great Stanmore, Mdx. and Drumtochty Castle, Kincardine.
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Family and Education
b. 23 Nov. 1783, 1st s. of George Drummond, banker, of Great Stanmore by Martha, da. and coh. of Hon. Thomas Harley*. educ. Harrow 1798-1800; ?Glasgow Univ. m. 9 Feb. 1801, Margaret, da. of Alexander Munro, merchant, of Glasgow, Renfrew, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1789.
Capt. Kincardine vol. inf. 1806, lt.-col. commdt. (militia) 1808.
Drummond, great-grandson of Andrew Drummond, the founder of the family banking house at Charing Cross, was orphaned at the age of five and taken in by his uncle John, who became a partner in the business the same year. His father’s extravagance had accumulated debts amounting to £141,000, of which half was owed to the bank. The debt was cleared during Drummond’s minority and in 1793 he was bequeathed valuable London property by his paternal grandmother; but, like his father, he was a reckless spendthrift, with a particular penchant for heavy gambling. Such was his irresponsibility that when he came of age in 1804 his more sober relatives refused to admit him as a partner in the bank and merely allowed him a share in the profits, worth about £2,000 a year, which supplemented an annual income from landed property estimated in 1807 at over £6,000. His marriage, at the age of 17, was a hasty and unfortunate one. In 1804 John Ramsay of Ochtertyre cited the behaviour of the young couple as a frightening example of ‘the degeneracy of families and the abusure of enormous wealth’:
What would excellent Andrew Drummond or his son ... have said, had they seen their heir taking the field ten days ago to crusade against the muirfowl? ... he had 35 horses in his train, the vanguard of which contained a pack of dogs and a covey of puppies in a carriage, going to be broke in ... I presume the young man may plead as Adam did ‘The woman thou gavest to be with me etc.’ ... I fancy she is what may be called a hallucate [hare-brained] lady. It is however a proof [of] original genius in giddy, profuse times, when one takes a flight much above the sons and daughters of folly ... Andrew Drummond ... thought he had done a great deal in planting a colony of Drummonds round Charing Cross, and putting them in a way of making great fortunes. Could he witness the puerile extravagances now going on, he would exclaim ‘All is vanity!’1
Drummond, having bought the Drumtochty property where he built a neo-Gothic castle at a cost of £30,000, had his eyes on the Kincardineshire seat. In April 1806 he made a bid for Lord Grenville’s support at the next election, but found him already pledged to a Foxite candidate. His connexions gave him a foot in both Scottish political camps: in 1805 Henry Erskine, lord advocate to the ‘Talents’, had married his wife’s sister; and he was distantly related to Lord Melville. While Erskine did nothing to advance his claims, Melville warmly espoused his cause. The elections of 1806 and 1807, in which the Foxite William Adam was returned, came too early for Drummond, who was not yet himself enrolled and whose eventual success depended on the admission to the roll of a number of parchment votes created from superiorities purchased at an alleged cost of at least £6,000. He continued to cultivate the constituency and built up a solid power base at successive head courts, though his own title was only recognized, after reference to the court of session, in 1810. According to one of Adam’s supporters, when Drummond canvassed in 1811 he complained to Sir Alexander Ramsay, the leading resident proprietor, of having been
ill used by Mr Perceval, and [he] said to Sir A. he was determined to oppose him and be of the Prince’s party ... To others Mr D. gives out he is an independent man, and determined to be of no party.2
Adam’s decision to sell his Mearns property and retire from Parliament, and a subsequent split in the ‘independent’ interest gave Drummond his chance. He came in quietly at the by-election of February 1812 and retained the seat without difficulty at the next two general elections.
He divided with government on the sinecure bill, 4 May, and against a remodelling of administration, 21 May, and voted against Catholic relief, 22 June 1812, as he did subsequently on 2 Mar. and 24 May 1813 and 9 May 1817. The Liverpool ministry listed him among their friends and he voted with them on the civil list, 8 May; the Regent’s expenditure, 31 May 1815; the army estimates, 6 and 8 Mar. 1816; Admiralty economies, 25 Feb.; the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817; the censure of the Scottish law officers, 10 Feb.; the employment of domestic spies, 5 Mar. 1818; Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819. He voted against government on the property tax, 18 Mar. 1816; the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817, and the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818. He was clearly an indifferent attender and is not known to have spoken in the House.
Drummond did not seek re-election in 1820, when the consequences of his unabated wild expenditure (he was said to have lost £20,000 to his crony Beau Brummell in one session at White’s) caught up with him. Drumtochty was sold for £40,000 in 1822. He deserted his wife and children for his mistress, the wife of a naval officer to whom he left the remnants of his estate, eventually went bankrupt and fled to Ireland to escape his creditors.3 He died in Dublin, 21 Mar. 1855.