Aberdeen Burghs

Single Member Scottish burgh

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Inverbervie (1754, '84), Kincardine; Aberdeen (1761); Montrose (1768), Brechin (1774), Arbroath (1780), Forfar


10 May 1754David Scott 
20 Apr. 1761David Scott 
9 Jan. 1767Sir John Lindsay vice Scott, deceased 
12 Apr. 1768Thomas Lyon3
  William Maule, Earl of Panmure2
31 Oct. 1774Thomas Lyon 
11 Jan. 1779Adam Drummond vice Lyon, vacated his seat 
2 Oct. 1780Adam Drummond 
26 Apr. 1784Sir David Carnegie 

Main Article

Aberdeen and Montrose were busy trading ports governed by wealthy merchant lairds; Arbroath and Inverbervie specialized in smuggling; and Brechin, the only inland town, manufactured linen. The leading interest was that of the Maules of Panmure, whose candidate, David Scott, was returned unopposed in 1754. In May 1759 Panmure, anxious for army promotion, reminded Newcastle:

I hope the great credit ... I have in the country where I live which secures my own election and in effect commands that of the burghs, which I have laid out to your Grace’s satisfaction and at your desire in the service of the Government, having no less than twice chosen Mr. Scott, does not weaken my pretensions.

Lord Mansfield, Scott’s nephew, concerned at the implied threat, urged Newcastle to do something for Panmure: ‘otherwise we shall certainly lose the election which would hurt me much’. By spring 1760 Scott was afraid that the Maules would abandon him and sponsor their friend Thomas Fotheringham of Powrie. On the accession of George III Panmure placed his interest at the disposal of Bute, to whom Mansfield applied on Scott’s behalf. In the event, Scott was again returned unopposed.1

Panmure next attached himself to Bedford, and in 1766 offered him the nomination for the forthcoming general election. But alarmed by the threat to his county seat from Thomas Lyon and the Strathmores,2 he then decided to reserve the Aberdeen Burghs for himself. In December 1766 the sudden death of David Scott increased Panmure’s difficulties, since he was now obliged to find a stop-gap. Rejecting Bedford’s suggestion of ‘a friend of Sir Lawrence Dundas’, he chose Sir John Lindsay, a nephew of Mansfield.3

At the general election Panmure was opposed by Thomas Lyon, who had purchased the castle at Inverbervie and had gained the support of Lord Arbuthnott. The votes of Aberdeen and Montrose burghs also went to Lyon, who defeated Panmure 3-2. Two years later the rival parties agreed that Panmure should be conceded supremacy in Forfarshire and Lyon in the Burghs; accordingly in 1774 Lyon was returned unopposed.

In December 1778 Lyon retired and brought in Adam Drummond, a partner of Thomas Coutts, the banker. At the general election Drummond was opposed by Sir David Carnegie, presumably with the support of the Maule interest. On this occasion Drummond carried the day, but by 1783 Carnegie had established control of Montrose, Brechin, and Arbroath. To Sir Gilbert Elliot he wrote, 31 Dec.:

In the boroughs I look upon myself as secure, at least as far as such bodies of men can be depended upon ... I have already received declarations in my favour from the three in this county [Montrose, Brechin, and Arbroath]. ... I mean therefore to stick to them as my plight anchor.

Drummond began to cast about for an English seat, and at the general election the opposition to Carnegie came from Hercules Ross, a wealthy new proprietor, who had made a fortune privateering in the West Indies and had purchased in 1783 the estate of Rossie, near Montrose. Carnegie’s three burghs held firm, however, and he carried the election.4

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Add. 32891, f. 21; 32901, f. 288; 33049, f. 308; Mansfield to Bute, 15 Mar. 1761, Bute mss.
  • 3. Bedford mss 53, f. 184; 54, f. 160.
  • 4. Minto mss; Laprade, 124, 128; Letters of Dempster to Fergusson, ed. Fergusson, 128; Pol. State of Scotland 1788, p. 158; Edinburgh Advertiser, 23 Apr. 1784.