DUNDAS, Thomas (c.1708-86), of Fingask and Carronhall, Stirling.
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Family and Education
b. c.1708, 1st s. of Thomas Dundas of Fingask and bro. of Sir Lawrence Dundas. educ. ?Edinburgh h.s. m. (i) 1737, Anne, da. of James Graham of Airth, judge of the Scottish court of Admiralty, s.p.; (2) 1744, Lady Janet Maitland, da. of Charles, 6th Earl of Lauderdale [S], 2s. 5da. suc. fa. 1762.
Burgess of Edinburgh 1734; dep. Lyon king of arms 1744-54; commr. of police Dec. 1770.
His father, merchant and bailie of Edinburgh, kept a woollen-draper’s shop in the Luckenbooths, where Thomas and his brother Lawrence began their business careers selling cloth and stockings. Bailie Dundas was the representative of the family of Fingask, whose Perthshire lands had been alienated in the seventeenth century. He purchased estates in Stirlingshire, which in 1730 were by charter erected into a barony under the name of Fingask.1 Thereafter the bailie’s fortunes suffered a reverse but were restored in part through the successful financial career of Lawrence, on whose advice Thomas left the business to act as his brother’s agent. Appointed deputy Lord Lyon in 1744, married to an earl’s daughter, the proprietor of Carronhall estate (purchased in 1749), Thomas increased his pretensions. It was probably at his instigation that his father in 1757 instituted proceedings before the court of session challenging the title of George Dundas of Dundas to be served heir as chief of the ‘name’. During the hearing it was stated that Thomas the younger of Fingask was ‘well known to have made an idol of this headship of the family’ and that while he was deputy Lyon king of arms he had fraudulently entered the arms of Dundas of Dundas in the Lyon books under his own family name.2 The Fingask claim was dismissed in 1758 and Thomas later applied in 1769 to the Lyon office to have his arms differenced from those of Dundas of Dundas.
I began life by marrying early. My parents could not spare me a separate subsistence for my family. I followed business and was happy and independent by your mother’s frugal attention to our situation. Your uncle my brother’s engagements with public business involved my time and engaged my attention too much for my own situation. From 1744 to 1761 I was his agent and correspondent. After he had acquired his large fortune I was made to believe my family would benefit. I had at his desire given up my own business in town and retired to the country.
In 1768 Thomas was returned, apparently unopposed, on his brother’s interest for Orkney and Shetland. He supported Administration until, on his appointment in December 1770 as a commissioner of police,4 he vacated his seat in favour of his son.
Although the place had been obtained by Sir Lawrence’s influence, Thomas did not think that he had been sufficiently rewarded for his services. ‘My greatest error’, he wrote in 1777, ‘has been trusting so long to my brother’s affection and promises. I am deceived and my credit has suffered by his conduct.’5
In financial difficulties in 1773, he sold one of his estates (Letham) to Lawrence, and from 1777 he repeatedly asked his son Thomas to leave the army and come home to supervise the family affairs, which were in disorder, the lands encumbered by debts, and the colliery on the estate mismanaged. Thomas assisted him to a considerable extent but declined to give up his military career, and his father’s financial position continued to deteriorate. A sick and fretful old man when his son left for Nova Scotia in 1785, he died during his absence on 16 Apr. 1786. ‘I fear’ wrote his son, ‘his life has been a very distressing scene since I left the country.’6