Inverness 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

Nairn (1774, ’80); Forres (1761, ’84), Elgin; Fortrose (1768), Ross; Inverness (1774)


9 May 1754John Campbell of Calder 
20 Apr. 1761Sir Alexander Grant 
11 Apr. 1768Hector Munro3
 Sir Alexander Grant2
13 Oct. 1774 Hector Munro 
2 Oct. 1780Sir Hector Munro 
26 Apr. 1784Sir Hector Munro 

Main Article

At the general election of 1754, Nairn was at the command of Hugh Rose of Kilravock; Forres was controlled by Lady Brodie; Fortrose by Kenneth Mackenzie, Lord Fortrose; and in the burgh of Inverness the families of Grant any Macintosh had the chief influence. The sitting Member, Alexander Brodie, Lyon king-at-arms, died a month before Parliament was dissolved; his widow, Lady Brodie, then placed her interest at the disposal of the Duke of Newcastle. At the same time Hugh Rose had made common cause with Lord Fortrose, supporting him in Ross-shire, in exchange for his burgh of Fortrose. This gave Rose command of two burghs, with the casting vote as well, and he also gave the nomination to Newcastle.1 Sir Alexander Grant, a wealthy merchant, was already in the field, but Newcastle offered the seat to his relative, John Campbell: with three burghs at his disposal, he could not fail. Grant’s followers were obliged to content themselves with demonstrations: they occupied the Tolbooth at Nairn and threatened to shoot Hugh Rose. The delegates, meeting at Rose’s house, voted unanimously for Campbell.2

Campbell had no wish to stand again at the election of 1761, since he was in need of Sir Alexander Grant’s assistance in Nairnshire, where his son, Pryse, was a candidate. The only opposition to Grant’s election came from David Brodie, who, during the minority in the family, was trying to retain control of the family burgh of Forres against an attack by Sir Ludovick Grant. By 1760 Sir Alexander Grant had control of Inverness and Nairn; he was still not completely safe, however, since Forres was the returning burgh, and with Fortrose could carry the election. But by the end of the year his position was unassailable. To Sir Robert Gordon he wrote, 29 Dec. 1760:3

As to my little politics, when I ever began to be tired and sick of pursuing them, they took a most favourable turn. Lord Seaforth [Fortrose], of his own free notion, without solicitation, on the very night the King died ... sent an express to me ... to tell me of the event, and that his borough was mine. ... This, you know, was conclusive to me as I always had two other boroughs; and so it rested when Captain Grant came to town, who brought me a message from his brother Sir Ludovick with an apology for past conduct, and an offer of his interest in Forres. To this my reply was ‘Thanks, but that the favour came when I did not stand in need thereof.’

Brodie, unaware of Fortrose’s offer, made frantic appeals to Newcastle, and Bute for assistance. To Bute he wrote, 23 Mar. 1761:4

I was put in nomination for that district of boroughs with the Duke of Argyll’s approbation, and from what he said to me at different times, thought myself happy under his Grace’s patronage, but lately when I waited on his Grace to receive his commands, he told me he was grown old and very infirm, and did not now meddle. ... I can assure your Lordship, notwithstanding all the intrigues and perfidious behaviour of the Grants to wrest Forres out of the hands of the family of Brodie, that town is entirely devoted to my service at this general election.

But he received no encouragement at all, and Grant was unanimously returned.

Early in 1766 Hector Munro, a soldier newly returned from India with a vast fortune, began an assault on Grant’s position. He was helped by a quarrel between Grant and the town council of Nairn over property, which resulted in that burgh abandoning him. But the bitterest struggle raged over Fortrose, which would be the returning burgh; since Grant controlled Inverness and Forres, the casting vote of Fortrose would decide the election. Munro began his attack at Michaelmas 1766, when Grant, who had been provost 1762-5, was voted off the council. Grant at once brought an action in the court of session, alleging that Munro’s majority had been gained by corrupt means: it was still continuing when the election came on in 1768. Grant’s protests were waved aside, and Munro, as the delegate of Fortrose, had the pleasure of giving the casting vote on his own behalf.5 Petitions by Grant, by William Macintosh as provost of Inverness, and by Sir Ludovick Grant as provost of Forres, were withdrawn unheard in 1769.6

Munro’s hold on the Burghs was not challenged thereafter for more than thirty years.

Author: J. A. Cannon


  • 1. Add. 32734, ff. 249, 265.
  • 2. G. Bain, Hist. Nairnshire, 299.
  • 3. HMC Laing, ii. 458 (misdated).
  • 4. Bute mss.
  • 5. Hist. Nairnshire, 333.
  • 6. CJ, xxxii. 43, 50.