James Clerk Rattray

A lawyer and son of a Doctor, James is distinctive for being of a professional family, rather than the younger son of a laird. As Sheriff of Edinburgh and Trustee of Charlotte Chapel, with his house in prestigious Princes Street, one has the impression he was primarily an urban figure, bearing little resemblance to Scott's ramshackle laird of Tully-Veolan.

David Clerk, 1724-1768, MD, of Edinburgh, Physician to the Royal Infirmary. His father was John Clerk of Listonshields and Spittal, Midlothian. John Clerk m.1720 Margaret Rattray (1702-1744). She was the daughter of Rt Rev Thomas Rattray (James Clerk's great-grandfather), c.1683-1701, 20th laird and Bishop of Brechin and Primus of Scotland, a faithful Jacobite and non-juring Episcopalian and author of important theological works, who married in 1701 Hon. Margaret Galloway daughter of Baron Dunkeld. Their eldest son (James Clerk's great-uncle) the 21st laird, was not out in the '45, despite a personal summons from Prince Charles Edward, but subscribed £50 and sheltered a fugitive Jacobite at Craighall afterwards; he married Marjory Graham of Balgowan (see Margaret Maxtone) and d.1770. Their second son (also James Clerk's great uncle) James Rattray 1707- was Physician to Prince Charles Edward in the '45, saved from the scaffold by the influence of Lord President Forbes. (3)
Helen Duff, daughter and heiress of James Duff, Esq. of Craigston, Aberdeenshire.
In 1793 in George Square. Moved to 53 Princes Street in 1795 and 92 Princes Street in 1805.
He purchased the estate of Bonnington, which he then added to Craighall Rattray which he inherited from his grandmother in 1817 (and assumed the name Rattray), as well as ones from his grandfather.
Political views
Tory. Among his papers there is material relating to measures against sedition during the French Revolutionary War (NAS GB234/GD385).
Religious views
He was the great-grandson of a famous Episcopalian non-juror and liturgist.
Advocate. Sheriff-depute of Edinburgh 1794-1809. Baron of Exchquer 1809.
Wealth at death
Assessed taxes 1811
His house had 33 windows and a rental value of £80. He was not assessed on any other luxuries (perhaps as a public servant he was exempt?)
As Sheriff of Edinburgh he helped establish a paper stamping office in the city (8, 7 Jan 1805), and, with William Forbes' father, the Edinburgh Commissioners of Police (8, 2 May 1805). He was one of the founders of the Committee for the Suppression of Begging, with William Forbes, Daniel Sandford, Thomas Ramsay and Colin Mackenzie (8, 30 January 1813); and the Edinburgh Musical Festival with Archibald Campbell, Daniel Sandford, William Forbes, Walter Scott, William Arbuthnot and John Cay (8, 6 February 1816).
Chapel connection
Trustee of Charlotte Chapel and St John's, and vestry of St John's.
Married on
3 January 1791
Jane Duff
David Kennedy (1792) Midshipman RN drowned 14 Feb 1807 while esaping from HMS Ajax (burned in the Dardanelles); Robert (1795) heir; Jane (1794) m.1844 William Waring Hay-Newton of Newton and dsp 1860.
Related to
Margaret Maxtone: her great uncle John Graham of Balgowan was father of Marjory Graham who married James' great uncle and predecessor at Craighall, James Rattray.
Walter Scott based Tully-Veolan in Waverley on his house Craighall Castle. In 1810, he and his brother-in-law Adam Duff had ledges named after them on the Bell Rock commemorative map in recognition of the work which as Sheriffs they did on the Lighthouse Committee (4). In 1823 he bought the east burying ground with William Forbes and Colin Mackenzie. James' great uncle's wife Marjory Carnegie was second cousin to James Carnegie Arbuthnott of Balnamoon, who after Culloden hid in the hills with, and was often carried by, Mary Carnegie's father George Carnegie.

Window in St John's, shared
with William Hay Newton, who
married his only daughter Jane.


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Peter Beauclerk Dewar, Burke's Landed Gentry of Great Britain: The Kingdom in Scotland 19th edition (Burke's Peerage and Gentry, London 2001) p.1153-5
  4. bellrock.org, accessed 25 May 2011
  5. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, NAS E327/51
  6. Scottish Archives Network Catalogue GB234/GD385 online accessed 25 May 2011.
  7. Inventory NAS SC70/1/47/157
  8. Caledonian Mercury

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