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The Bailie’s Great Adventure
Or
Grant vs Fife

Council

Members

The Town Council of Elgin consisted of 17 men:

  Provost  
  4 Bailies  
  Dean of Guild  
  Treasurer  
  7 Merchant Councillors  
  Convener of the Incorporated Trades  
  2 Trades' Councillors  

and, at the time of the 1820 election, was made up as follows:

  Sir Archibald Dunbar of Northfield, Provost Grant
  Francis Taylor, Bailie Grant
  Robert Joss, Bailie Grant
  Alexander Innes, Bailie Fife, Neutral (32)
  Joseph Collie Joss, Bailie Grant
  William Gauldie, Dean of Guild Grant
  John Russell, Treasure Grant
  Peter Nicholson, Merchant Councillor Fife
  Robert Dick, Merchant Councillor Grant, then Fife
  James Murray, Merchant Councillor Fife
  Charles Fowler, Merchant Councillor Fife
  Lewis Anderson, Merchant Councillor Fife
  Colonel Francis William Grant MP, Merchant Councillor Grant
  Peter Brown, Merchant Councillor Grant
  Alexander Dick, Convener Fife
  James Culbard, Trades Councillor Fife
  Alexander McIver, Trades Councillor Fife

Voting

Had all Councillors been able to attend a properly constituted meeting of the Town Council, the vote would have been 9 - 8 in favour of the ‘Grant’ party; the Council, therefore, would have cast Elgin’s vote in favour of Archibald Farquharson of Finzean, and the election at Cullen would have been ‘won’ 3 - 2 in favour of that candidate.

Alexander Innes, although a supporter of the ‘Fife’ cause was neutral, and could not vote. (32) Colonel Grant was absent, possibly somewhere in Italy, so was unable to attend to vote.

If a legitimate meeting had been called and a valid vote taken place, the result would still have been in favour of the nomination by the Earl of Seafield, at 8 - 7 in Farquharson’s favour.

To gain a result in favour of General Alexander Duff, the Earl of Fife’s brother and his nomination that party had to either to persuade one ‘Grant’ supporter to switch their allegiance or talk two ‘Grant’ supporters into not voting at the meeting.

They seemed not to be able to do the former so, in the period leading up to the meeting, two Councillors who, at that time, would have voted in favour of the Earl of Seafield’s candidate, were spirited away from Elgin: Robert Dick, and Francis Taylor.

Summary

Elgin sent two representatives to the meeting of the Burghs at Cullen; Sir Archibald Dunbar, to represent the Grant cause; and, Major A F Tayler of Monaughty, for the Fife party.

Neither nominated person was accepted at the meeting; Elgin, therefore, had no vote in the election. The votes being tied two-two, Cullen had the casting vote and Archibald Farquharson of Finzean, representing the Grant party was elected Member of Parliament for the Elgin Burghs.

Meetings

A number of meetings of the Town Council of Elgin were held during the period 11th to 30th March, all of which were probably improperly constituted.

11th March 1820, 12 to 1 o'clock

The Fife councillors called at the dwelling house of the Provost, Sir Archibald Dunbar. They required him, as Provost, to call a meeting of the Town Council for 2 o'clock that day. The meeting held for the purpose of appointing a day for the election of the delegate.

They declared if Sir Archibald failed to call such meeting, they themselves could call the meeting and proceed with the business ordered by the precept.

Sir Archibald stated he was not possessed of the precept and no legal meeting could be held without it and he did decline to call the meeting. The precept had not been served upon him. He had been away from home at that time and the duty of calling the meeting fell upon the magistrate upon whom the precept had been served. That magistrate had, that morning, been forcibly carried off and thereby prevented from calling the meeting.

The Fife councillors claimed Sir Archibald knew the precept had been served upon Francis Taylor on Thursday last. Further, he knew it had been immediately endorsed by Taylor and transmitted to the Town Clerk. It was the duty of Sir Archibald as Provost to call the meeting, regardless of whether there had been an alleged abduction.

11th March 1820, 2 to 3 o'clock

The Fife councillors intimated to the constituent members a meeting of the Town Council was to be held at 4 o'clock within the ordinary council room of Elgin for the purpose of appointing a day for the election of the delegate. They required the attendance of each member of the council, certifying if they failed their absence would be considered wilful and designed in order to prevent the business of the meeting. The Fife councillors intended to proceed with the meeting in terms of the command contained in the precept.

James Dick, Deacon of the Incorporation of Blacksmiths of Elgin in the company of James Cattanach, Cartwright, and Hugh Rose delivered copies of this requisition. For Colonel Francis Grant of Grant, he left a copy with a servant at Grant Lodge. For Sir Archibald Dunbar, he left a copy with his housekeeper within his dwelling house. He personally gave a copy to Alexander Innes. For John Russel, he left a copy in his shop. For Robert Dick, he left a copy at his shop with his daughter. For Joseph Collie, he left a copy with his housekeeper within his dwelling house. For William Gauldie, he left a copy with his shopkeeper within his shop. For Robert Joss, he left a copy with his housekeeper within his dwelling house. For Francis Taylor, he left a copy with his shopkeeper within his shop.

Alexander Falconer, Deacon of the Incorporation of Weavers of Elgin in the company of Alexander Simpson, Shoemaker in Elgin, and William Miller, Tailor, delivered a copy of this requisition to the wife of Peter Brown within his dwelling house at Linkwood.

 

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