Andrew Leith-Hay and Mary Margaret Clark

September 21, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 10.59.30 pmThe below 1862 obituary on Sir Andrew provides another version on his life. In the family book some 100 years afterwards some of Andrew’s shortcomings obviously receive  more space than the glowing account at the time of his passing or in the literature of his time where a positive write up would have of course been the expected norm.  His financial weaknesses obviously being highlighted as one of his vices in the latter day account.  Besides his London residence being emptied of items to even his servants quarters owing to his debts at the time, there is, however, very little other material of substance or gossip that would have scandalised him further at the time. He appears throughout his life to have been a devoted husband to his wife Mary and father to his children. His marriage appeared a happy one and it is hard to find any hint of a Wellingtonesque ladies man or beau in him during his heyday.

Andrews financial weaknesses also make him appear more human and therefore a much more interesting subject to delve into. He may have been rightly criticised for being an infernal aristocrat or toff during his day by his detractors. He was certainly proud of his heritage which also gave him a leg up in life yet this is not to say his birthright provided him an easy path. He was a talented individual, which is attested by his soldiering career, literary work and latter relative political longevity as the member for Elgin Burghs.  In hindsight his debts brought him into trouble in 1838 and it is in this year he was also briefly locked up due to his insolvency and on being bailed out he made a brief escape for the continent for some respite. Andrew was also saved by the fortunate circumstance of being recipient of the inheritance of his estate and this being able to sustain him through the long term owing to his luck of winning the Y-DNA lottery at the time of his birth.

and from the excerpt underneath.

Obituary from the Elgin Courant  Fri, Oct 17, 1862.

The Late Sir Andrew Leith-Hay of Rannes

All our old readers in the district shoe have taken an interest in political affairs for the past thirty years will be sorry to hear that Sir Andrew Leith- Hay is no more. On Tuesday week, he was at a county meeting held in Aberdeen, in the enjoyment of his usual health and even on Monday last he was out on his pony after mid-day, and was dead before four o’clock on the same afternoon, the cause of his sudden death it is believed, being constipation of the bowels.

An interesting volume might be written on the life of Sir Andrew Leith Hay, who was a gallant soldier, and fought many battles in his youth, and whose name, after the year 1832, became a household word in this and many adjacent counties. The deceased gentleman was born in Aberdeen in 1785, and has consequently died at the advanced age of seventy-seven. He was the son of General Alexander Leith-Hay of Rannes, and could boast of an ancient pedigree, down even, it is said, to the reign of King Robert Bruce. Being thus the son of a soldier, and being himself of an enterprising spirit, Leith-Hay, the subject of our memoir, entered the army in early life, and was appointed aide-de-camp to General Leith, his uncle, in 1808, when he was twenty-three years of age. This was at the beginning of the Peninsular war, and the young soldier had to direct his steps to Spain, and live in camps with the British army, then beginning to drive the French out of that country.

Nature seemed to have intended Leith Hay for an aide-de-camp ; young, daring, quick in discernment, and prompt in action, he discharged his duties in a manner at once honourable to himself, and most advantageously to his country. While doing this, he noted down and deeply impressed upon his memory the sciences of battle -fields, meanwhile sketching the romantic scenery of Spain ; and in 1832 he published two volumes of the Peninsular war, pleasantly written, and containing much interesting information. He was present at the terrible retreat of Sir John Moore on Corunna, when the British army marched day after day, ankle deep in mud, until the last the fearful embarkation took place, which left so many gallant British soldiers dead upon the shore, and among the rest their gallant General, one of the very best that Britain had in the war, and over whose grave the generous Soult raised a monument. Leith Hay was also at the sanguinary battle of Talavera, also at Busaco, famous in song, Salamanca, Vittoria, and San Sebastian. While in the discharge of his duty near Toledo he was taken prisoner and brought before General Soult, who offered a soldiers liberty in such circumstances on his giving his parole of honour. This he refused to do, which was rather unaccountable conduct, and the consequence was, as might have been expected, that he was rather harshly treated.

By an exchange of prisoners being made he was, however, soon relieved. He subsequently received the honour of Knighthood for his services, and a short time after the Peninsular war, accompanied his uncle, Gen. Sir James Leith, to Jaimaica, and there acted as a Military Secretary, and Quartermaster Adjutant-General. He returned home in 1830, after twenty-two years of a military life.

At this time politics ran high in France and Britain. Barricades had been erected on the streets of Paris, and a citizen King, Louis Philippe, placed upon the throne in room of a Bourbon. In England Parliamentary Reform had begun to occupy  a large share of public attention, and we may suppose that, when Leith Hay was preparing his sketches of the Peninsular war for the press, he was also devoting his attention to politics, for in 1832, when the Reform Bill was passed, he came out as the Liberal candidate for the Elgin District of Burghs. He was not at home when canvassing began, but his friends were active : even some ladies in our little city were then most active for the Liberal candidate. He was opposed by by Mr holt M’Kenzie, who was son of the “Man of Feeling.”  He was a formidable opponent- and excellent speaker, an admirable canvasser, ready to please every one. He was suspected to be a Conservative, from the principles of the noble family that sent him forwards, but ultimately turned out a Radical.

Mr Morison, now laird of Bognie, was another candidate , professing moderately Liberal principles. All three addressed the public, all three canvassed with might and main, and Elgin was agitated from the Witches’ Pot to the Hangman Ford. When the polling day came, and the result was known over the District of Burghs, 350 had voted for Sir Andrew, 227 for M’Kenzie, and 122 for Morrison. The rejoicing was unbounded. The successful candidate was carried through the town in a chair, the trades were out, flags were flying : it was a jubilee in Elgin, for the Liberal party had gained a great triumph.

Sir Andrew did not lose his popularity  in the district by his conduct in the House of Commons. He was looked upon as a model member, paying great attention to local affairs, and always ready to assist young men who applied to him for situations. In 1834 he did much to get the Lossiemouth Harbour Bill passed, also, among other things, a Prison and Town House Bill for Forres and Elgin. In 1835 Parliament was dissolved, and there another contest for the Elgin Burghs. Sir Andrew was now opposed by Brodie of Brodie, who had great local influence, and whose character inspired confidence – giving him many friends and supporters. The great excitement of 1832 had died away, but the contest was keen. Sir Andrew polled 384, and Mr Brodie 264, this giving the successful candidate a majority of 120. In 1841 another Parliamentary election came round, and Sir Andrew this time found an opponent in Mr Duff of Haddo, in Banffshire. Mr Duff appeared as a Conservative, and had the whole influence of the Conservative families in the district. The contest was keen and close, for Sir Andrew maintained his seat only by a majority of 14, the numbers being 311 and 297.

The next Parliamentary Election occurred in 1847, and Sir Andrew had again, as in 1832, two opponents, the Hon. George Skene of Duff, and Mr Bannerman of Crimongate, now Sir Alexander Bannerman. The Liberal Party being thus split, the odds against Sir Andrew were now too powerful, for Mr Skene Duff polled 242 votes, while Sir Andrew polled 147, and Mr Bannerman 192, Sir Andrew thus losing hie seat by a majority of 95 votes.

These may be called the electioneering battles that Sir Andrew fought in his latter days. He was not long in Parliament after his first election till Lord Melbourne appointed him Clerk of the Ordnance, an office that brought him a considerable income, and which he filled during the years of 1834 an 1835. At a subsequent period he was also appointed to the Governorship of Bermuda, but did not go on to fill the situation. We may add that Sir Andrew contested the city of Aberdeen in 1852, and was unsuccessful.

The political career of the deceased was, in many respects, a brilliant one, for he was three times returned Member of Parliament for the Elgin Burghs in keenly contested elections. He was worthy of the honour of the constituency conferred upon him, for no Member of Parliament could have been more attentive to the welfare of the district he represented. Sir Andrew’s heart was in the right place, and his hand was ever ready to do a “good turn” to a deserving man. This made him more than respected, he was even beloved both by electors and non-electors, who were all proud of having such a representative in the House of Commons. He had no dislikes, partialities, or petty jealousies about him as a public servant, but had a generous nature, combined with a kindness, affability, and dignity of conduct that made his political opponents  respect him almost as highly as his supporters.  He was the same to both, often shaking those who opposed him heartily by the hand and saying, “I hope you will live to vote against me a second time.”

Though it be now fifteen years since he ceased to be our representative in Parliament, he never forgot Elgin, and up to his dying day, he was ready to “help and Elgin loon.” as he said, when it was in his power. As a member of Parliament, Sir Andrew stood high in the estimation of his fellow members in Scotland. When they resolved to banquet Lord Jeffrey, on the occasion of his being raised to the Bench, they unanimously chose Sir Andrew Leith Hay as Chairman – a circumstance which was justly considered a great compliment to the member of the Eligin Burghs.

But, we must say a word on the literary talents of the late Sir Andrew Leith Hay. Besides his work on the Peninsular War already noticed, he published a volume entitled, “The Castellated Architecture of Aberdeenshire,” in which he shows much antiquarian learning regarding his native county. He dressed up the dry bones of archaeology in a pleasant style, the natural liveliness and rich honour of the man always looking through the writer. Sir Andrew was an excellent public speaker, and admirably adapted for winning over public meetings to his opinions, and enlisting support in contested elections. He was ready, witty, and terse in his language, and, when he found amongst his most noisy opponents, those who were under personal obligations to him, he sometimes repaid their ingratitude with a withering remark, but accompanied with a smile.  He was Liberal in his political opinions, but strongly denied being a Radical. He often said her would never desert the cause of the people, and he made good his words, both in and out of Parliament. In the House of Commons, he was not month the class of speakers that are indebted to courtesy for a hearing, but was, on the contrary, listened to with attention and respect, and, on questions pertaining to the army, he was looked upon as an authority, whose opinion deserved grave consideration.

As County Gentleman, Sir Andrew was highly respected. He took a deep interest in all that pertained to Aberdeenshire. He was  Convenor of the County of Aberdeen, and devoted much time and attention to the county. He held this office till death, which will be deeply regretted, we are sure, by those among whom he laboured in setting the business of one of the largest counties in Scotland.

Sir Andrew married, in 1816, a daughter of the late William Clark, Esq. Of Buckland House, devon, and has survived her about three years. One of his sons died some months ago, at Haghland Farm, in the neighbourhood of Elgin. The eldest son, Colonel Leith Hay, succeeds to the property and honours of the family. Some of our readers will remember that we had occasion to mention honourably this gallant officer during the Crimean and Indian Wars, in both of which he distinguished himself.  Like his now deceased father, he gained laurels in battle-fields. May he be as highly respected and esteemed in public and social life the qualities of head and heart that made us all admire Sir Andrew Leith Hay of Rannes.