Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Alternated with Cromartyshire

Number of voters:

7 in 17081


28 June 1708HUGH ROSE
29 Sept. 1713JOHN FORBES

Main Article

Three families had traditionally predominated in Nairnshire: Brodie of Brodie, Campbell of Calder (Cawdor) and Rose of Kilravock. A fourth, Forbes of Culloden in neighbouring Inverness-shire, having purchased a large estate in Nairn, had the potential to develop into a major force, but was hampered to some extent by the unpopularity engendered by the statutory exemption from excise duty enjoyed by the laird of Culloden in respect of his distillery at Ferintosh. Although John Forbes had been chosen by the county as a commissioner to the Scottish parliament at a by-election in 1704, his success on that occasion seems to have been owing as much to the support of his colleague Hugh Rose I* as to his own interest. At the same time he did embody the Presbyterian and anti-unionist prejudices of the Nairnshire electors, among whom even the future Jacobite Sir Hugh Campbell of Calder adhered to the Kirk (and prided himself on having relieved persecuted ministers under Charles II). Forbes himself, while lacking the moral strength to resist the temptation of alcohol, nevertheless came of a godly Presbyterian family, and was a grim opponent of Union.2

It was, however, Kilravock rather than Culloden which produced the first Member chosen by the county to the Parliament of Great Britain, in the person of Hugh Rose’s eldest son and namesake. Besides his father’s interest, young Hugh had the advantage of having Campbell of Calder as a maternal uncle. Forbes was prompted by Lord Ross to put forward an alternative candidate, with the incentive of a promise of Brodie’s interest, but refused, despite needing a seat in the Commons himself to advance his own private concerns. For their part, the elderly lairds of Brodie and Calder had retired from public life. Brodie died in 1708 and was succeeded by a cousin, who cut a less imposing figure in local politics. Campbell, a bookish individualist, had long since abandoned any thought of representing his county: a grandson showed some parliamentary ambitions but did not carry them through. The election of Hugh Rose II was, therefore, unopposed. Moreover, it was subscribed by representatives of each of the leading families. A full attendance had been made possible by delaying the election, which would have been ‘made sooner, but the greater part or most of our heritors having vote and election in the neighbouring shires of Ross, Inverness and Moray [Elgin], they could not be got to meet till those elections were over’. Rose himself had been a candidate in one of these elections, and would have to choose between sitting for Nairn or Ross, unless unseated for the latter county on petition. Forbes was confident of filling the gap, but in the event there was no opportunity, the Ross-shire judgment going against Rose. In 1713, however, Rose seems to have stepped aside to allow Forbes’s uncontested and unanimous return.