Single Member Scottish County

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

Alternated with Clackmannanshire

Number of voters:

26 in 1788


25 Apr. 1754Robert Colville 
5 Apr. 1768Robert Adam16
 John Irwin3
30 Sept. 1780George Graham 

Main Article

In 1754 Sir John Bruce Hope of Kinross had the principal interest in the county, and at the general election his nephew Robert Colvile of Ochiltree was returned unopposed. From 1764 rival interests challenged the Bruce supremacy. John Adam of Maryburgh began to create votes with the intention of standing himself or putting up his brother Robert. General John Irwin, Lord George Sackville’s friend, had acquired the estate of Burleigh, and in 1763 purchased two votes on superiority from Robert Colvile. And in 1766 William Bayne, Sir John Bruce Hope’s nephew, was adopted as candidate on the Bruce interest for the forthcoming general election.

In the absence of Irwin in Gibraltar, Sackville undertook to watch over his Kinross-shire affairs.1 At first Sackville tried an approach to Bayne, and, when that was rebuffed, negotiated for an alliance with the Adam family. They proved more friendly, but were concerned at the small number of votes Irwin could command and urged him to create more. Irwin instructed his agent John Mackenzie of Delvine to make all the votes he could, but Mackenzie wrote to Sackville in July 1766:

It is now too late by the quickest despatch possible to enlarge his own numbers; if all the other gentlemen of the county combine with him against the late creations by Sir J. Bruce for Captain Bayne, he may yet fight a good battle but I expect no otherwise. ... Above three years ago ... I told him the chances and hazards he ran from that quarter if Sir John should be hostile. ... I believe Mr. Bayne’s numbers stand full match for all the others ... the death or absence of a single person may cast the scale.

Sackville now advised Irwin to unite with Adam, and to draw lots to determine which of them should stand on their combined interest.

Robert Adam was willing to allow Irwin to become the candidate, provided that Sackville would return Adam for his pocket borough of East Grinstead. This Sackville was unwilling to do. At the Michaelmas head court in October 1766, when only two freeholders appeared, Allan Ramsay, a Bruce supporter, claimed the casting vote as the senior member, and overruled the attempt of the other freeholder to enrol Irwin’s two voters. A lawsuit followed, and on 10 Feb. 1767 the court of session decided that Irwin’s votes were valid. The expenses of this suit were shared by Irwi