POLLOCK, Sir Robert, 1st Bt. (c.1665-1735), of Pollock, Renfrew.
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Family and Education
b. c.1665, 1st s. of Robert Pollock of Pollock by his 2nd w. Jean, da. of Cornelius Crawford of Jordanhill, Renfrew. educ. Glasgow 1679. m. (1) contract 25/30 Jan. 1686, Annabella (d. by 1691), da. of Sir George Maxwell, MP [S], of Nether Pollock, Renfrew, sis. of Sir John Maxwell, 1st Bt., Ld. Pollock SCJ, wid. of John Cathcart of Carleton, Ayr, s.p.; (2) Annabella (d. by 1742), da. of Walter Stewart, MP [S], of Pardovan, Linlithgow, 4s. d.v.p. 3da. suc. fa. 1673; cr. Bt. 30 Nov. 1703.1
Lt. indep. tp. horse 1689; capt. 7 Drag. by Apr. 1690; maj. of ft. Ld. Murray’s regt. 1694–8; half-pay 1698; maj. of drag. 1st Earl of Hyndford’s regt. (later 2nd Earl’s) 1703–10, lt.-col. 1710–13; brevet lt.-col. 1706, col. 1712; half-pay 1713–15; gov. Fort William 1715–25.2
MP [S] Renfrewshire 1700–7.
Even his ‘near kinsman and personal friend’ George Lockhart* recognized that Pollock was in essence ‘a true staunch Whig’. He was certainly a staunch Presbyterian, an elder of the Kirk and a friend and correspondent of Robert Wodrow. Marital connexions reinforced the influence of upbringing in this regard: his first wife was the sister of the austerely devout lord of session Lord Pollock, a ‘fast and useful friend’ to the Presbyterian interest, and one whose household was renowned for ‘good order . . . and regular and unaffected family worship’; his second wife was the daughter of Provost Walter Stewart of Linlithgow, a frequent writer on theological matters. Little is known of Pollock himself prior to the Revolution, other than a tantalizing reference which suggests that he may have been visited in 1685 by the Cameronian James Renwick. But after the Prince of Orange’s landing he received a commission in the independent troop of horse raised in Perthshire. Unfortunately, he and his commanding officer were taken prisoner by Dundee at Perth in May 1689, and held, probably on the Isle of Mull, until the following November, when, after lengthy negotiations, they were exchanged for the Jacobite Robertson of Strowan.3
By the time of his entry into the Scottish parliament, at a by-election for Renfrewshire in 1700, Pollock had seen his regiment disbanded and had himself been placed on half-pay. He had also subscribed some £500 to the Company of Scotland, an investment which had disappeared as a result of the Darien disaster. This by itself might have accounted for his firm alignment with opposition in all the major divisions in 1700–1. He had also signed the petition calling for the summoning of the parliament. After Queen Anne’s accession, however, he seems to have emerged from this Country phase. It may be that he should be counted among the so-called ‘honest men’ who had joined the opposition only over the Darien issue. At any rate, he remained with the rump of members attending the parliament after the opposition secession in 1702, and in the general election in the autumn stood in Renfrewshire with support from Lord Pollock and against the cavalier interest favoured by the Duke of Hamilton. A new commission as major in the regiment of the Earl of Hyndford, followed by the grant of a baronetcy, tied him more closely to the Court, and to the Queensberry interest in particular. As a Hanoverian he opposed the Duke of Hamilton’s motion for postponing a decision on the succession, declining to join those disaffected Queensberryites who cynically supported this manoeuvre. The Jacobite agent Scot regarded him in 1706 as ‘entirely courtier’ and ‘Whiggishly inclined’, though he added a barely credible qualification, allegedly on the testimony of William Cochrane*, who claimed that Pollock ‘has often, with great asseverations, said to him, that when the king [Pretender] comes, he shall have him and his troop’. In the Union parliament Pollock voted solidly for the Court, and was subsequently returned on the Court slate to the first Parliament of Great Britain.4
Pollock is not known to have spoken in his first Parliament, though he was appointed to several committees of Scottish interest. He failed to find a seat in 1708, canvassing in Renfrewshire and standing unsuccessfully for Linlithgow Burghs, where he may well have enjoyed the backing not only of his father-in-law Provost Stewart but also of the 1st Earl of Hyndford, whose son (then styled Lord Carmichael) was Pollock’s regimental colonel. In 1710 he found himself unopposed in Renfrewshire, and was chosen unanimously. Oddly, he was described in the analysis of the new Scottish Members compiled by Richard Dongworth, chaplain to the Duchess of Buccleuch, as an episcopal Tory. This might be put down as a simple error, were it not for the fact that Pollock was also marked as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’, and subsequently appeared in the lists of ‘Tory patriots’ opposed in 1711 to the continuance of the war, and the ‘worthy patriots’, who in the first session of this Parliament exposed the mismanagements of the previous ministry. Pollock did have some personal contacts on the ‘Tory’ side in Scottish politics – Bishop Nicolson encountered him in December 1710 at the Earl of Eglintoun’s, the hereditary sheriff of Renfrewshire, in the company of Lord Seafield, among others – but it seems improbable that Pollock really did follow a Tory line in this session; indeed, the evidence of the division on the Kinross-shire election dispute, in which he voted for Mungo Graham*, would suggest the opposite. One explanation for the misreading of his political position may be that his previous connexion with the Court was thought to have carried over into a new ministry. At any rate, things were clearer in the next session. Pollock voted on 7 Dec. 1711 in favour of the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion, and (prompted by Wodrow) on 7 Feb. 1712 against the Scottish toleration bill. On 10 Apr. he told in favour of Sir John Anstruther, 1st Bt.*, over the controverted election for Anstruther Easter Burghs. In 1713 he shared his compatriots’ resentment at the equalization of the malt duty in England and Scotland, and on 23 May (by which time he had once again been placed on half-pay) joined other Scots MPs in calling for a joint meeting of the Scottish representatives in each House to discuss a motion for repeal of the Union. He extended this opposition to the ratification of the treaty of commerce with France, voting against the bill confirming the 8th and 9th articles on 4 and 18 June. One published list of the latter division classified him as a Whig.5
After Pollock’s re-election in 1713, unopposed again despite an early hint of a rival candidacy, commentators were more certain what to make of him. In Lord Polwarth’s list of the Scottish Members he appeared as a Hanoverian (i.e. Whig), and the Scottish journalist George Ridpath commended his zeal for the Protestant succession. The compiler of the Worsley list also put him down as a Whig, an assessment borne out by the one recorded vote that may be attributed to him for this Parliament, on 12 May 1714 in support of extending the schism bill to cover Catholic education.6
He retained his parliamentary seat until 1722, when, as a consequence of voting consistently with the administration, he found that he had lost the support of ‘some of those who formerly were his friends’ and was narrowly defeated. He was said to have put up for Renfrewshire once more in 1727, but without success. He died on 22 Aug. 1735, being succeeded by his grandson, upon whose death in 1785 the baronetcy became extinct.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Scot. Rec. Soc. vii. 477; Hist. Scot. Parl. 567.
- 2. Reg. PC Scotland, 1691, pp. 198–9; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 324; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 476.
- 3. Lockhart Pprs. i. 463; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto 5, f. 61; 6, f. 270; Wodrow Corresp. ed. McCrie, i. 195, 203–5; Wodrow, Analecta, ii. 63; iii. 203; Hist. Scot. Parl. 482, 670–1; Reg. PC Scotland, 1685–6, p. 431; 1686–9, pp. 468, 474; 1689, pp. 32, 180–1, 300, 456–7, 523, 539, 551, 586; 1690, pp. 50, 233; APS, ix. app. 19.
- 4. Info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; Darien Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, xc), 372; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 173; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/4921, J. Brisbane to Hamilton, 6 July 1702; HMC Hamilton, ii. 156; NLS, ms 14498, f. 82; Boyer, Anne Annals, iii. app. 43; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 13; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 331.
- 5. SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/150/3, John Grahame to Montrose, 28 Feb. 1708; Edinburgh Courant, 26–28 May 1708; Scots Courant, 23–25 Oct. 1710; SHR, lx. 65; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 243, 357; Nicolson Diaries ed. Jones and Holmes, 525; Montrose mss GD220/5/808/18a–b, Graham to Montrose, 13 Feb. 1711; Wodrow Corresp. 195; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Duff House (Montcoffer) mss 3175/2380, ‘Resolution of the Commons to Call a Meeting of the Lords’,  May 1713; Parlty. Hist. i. 69.
- 6. Scots Courant, 2–5 Oct. 1713; Wodrow Corresp. i. 492; Huntington Lib. ms HM44710, f. 2.
- 7. HMC 3rd Rep. 380; Advocates’ mss, Dundas of Dundas pprs. 80.7.1, ff. 15–16; Wodrow, Analecta, iii. 431, 435.