Note: This article was updated on 5th November 2012 with information concerning a protrait of James McAdam. See endnote 17.
the death of his eldest Ward the Laird of Waterhead, John McAdam
threw off the mask and it appeared he was the real purchaser of
all the Barony and a deal of the rich estate. He had made people
under his power buy the lands, which he as Trustee could not legally
do and then made believe to buy all of them.1
This charge, that John McAdam of Craigengillan had ignobly engineered
the sale of the barony of Waterhead by James McAdam, in order
that he could in time acquire it himself, is the grievance that
lies at the heart of Georgina Keith McAdam' s family memoir, written
89 years after the event. According to her 'History of the Waterhead
McAdams and the McAdams of Craigengillan' (1854), the shame was
that 'All the gentility, the interest and everything that pertained
to birth and breeding remained with the impoverished part of the
Family - and immense wealth and coarse vice on the side of the
newly risen people.' 2
Georgina Keith McAdam (1789-1869) was the third daughter and
sixth child of John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836).3
At the time of her birth the family lived at the estate of Sauchrie,
in the Carrick Hills of the parish of Maybole, in the vicinity
of Ayr. Her father was an active Ayrshire landowner, occupying
himself in public affairs and with his business interests, both
as associate of Keith Stewart of Glasserton and as manager, and
later proprietor, of the tar kilns at Muirkirk. The tar kiln adventure
proved to be costly, leading, after a protracted rear-guard action,
to the sale of Sauchrie and the removal of the family to England
when Georgina was ten.
Georgina never married. She was handicapped from the age of seven,
'when she had fallen asleep, after playing in a hayfield, on damp
ground, the result of which was a rheumatic fever and deafness,
which trial she bore with great skill and patience, never appearing
as tho' she were deaf and shewing interest in all that was going
on.' This account is from 'Aunt George' , an affectionate memoir
by Elizabeth Steuart, whose grandmother Gloriana (Grizzelle) was
sister of John Loudon McAdam.4
Georgina, she recorded, accompanied her father on his many trips
around the country, even in temporary residences away from home
… where the uncertain temper of the beautiful wife made
absences very agreeable.' So Georgina, spending so much time at
her father's side, became the repository of the family story,
and of the allegedly unworthy part played in it by John McAdam
of Craigengillan. But family stories are apt to be shaped and
polished over the years, subject to embellishment and lapses of
memory. Do contemporary records support or refute the version
recorded by Aunt George?
Georgina McAdam's great-grandfather, James McAdam of Waterhead,
married late in life, in 1715, and by 1720 had three children,
James, John, and Janet.5
In 1720 he set down in a legal document his wishes for the disposition
of his lands upon his death, and upon the deaths of his heirs
The principal parts of his estate comprised Waterhead in Kirkcudbrightshire,
and houses in the town of Dalmellington:
All and Haill my four merk half merk Land of Waterhead comprehending
the Lands of upper Knockingurroch, with the two Bows Wintertoun
muir of Waterhead and the two Brownhills the one merk Land of
Craignure and half merk Land of Gallowayside alias Galloway rig
with the several houses Biggings yards Orchards, Fishings, parts,
pendicles and pertinents of the said Lands, all lying within the
parish of Carsefairn and Stewartry of Kirkcudbright with the Tiends
parsonage and vicarage of the said Lands And Sick Like All and
Haill my Tenement of Land and houses high and laigh, back and
fore with the office houses and others thereto belonging, with
the yard parts, pendicles and pertinents of the same lying within
the Town of Dalmellington and bounded in manner mentioned in my
rights and Infeftments thereof, and lying within Kingskyle and
Sheriffdom of Air.7
His son James was to be first in line of succession, followed
by the heirs' procreate of his body' , 'whilks failing' his son
John and his heirs likewise; then any other son he might yet produce,
and the heirs of that son; next his daughter Janet and her heirs;
then any other daughter, and her heirs. His children were only
infants in 1720, and the survival of any one to maturity and procreation
not assured, so it was prudent to name further heirs in the will
to prevent any dispute following his death. Georgina McAdam stressed
the distance of the relationship of the Waterhead McAdams to the
Craigengillans, saying that the latter 'lived in a very small
hovel of a house until the days of my Great Grandfather - being
always proud of claiming descent from the Barons of Waterhead
as a younger branch.' Whether this was an accurate depiction of
the relationship, or a distancing introduced in the light of later
history, it was to the sons of the deceased Quintin McAdam of
Craigengillan that James McAdam turned, and not any closer kin.
Next in line, following any as yet unborn daughter he might have
and her heirs, was John McAdam, eldest son of Quintin McAdam,
and his heirs, then his brothers in turn and their heirs: John,
James, William, Alexander, David, and the youngest, Quintin.8
At the last, all other heirs failing, the estate would fall to
'Robert McAdam in Nether Smeiton (possibly his brother) and his
Heirs and Assignies whatsomever' . In the event of the estate
falling to a female heir there was a special provision to perpetuate
the name of McAdam:
that the oldest of all Heirs female or daughters succeeding to
the saids Lands and Estate by the provisions and destinations
above written shall always succeed without division and the Husband
to whom she shall be married the time of her Succession shall
either be of the name of McAdam or assume the same in all time
thereafter and bear the arms of McAdam of Waterhead of Geuch,
and that the Husband to whom the said oldest daughter succeeding
shall be married after her said Succession shall be of the very
name of McAdam and bear the arms of McAdam of Waterhead of Geuch
otherways that the said daughter and her said husband contravening
and not observing the foresaid Provision and the descendants of
her Body shall throw [through?] their said contravention ipso
facto loss and amitt the benefits of the said Succession provided
as above without and necessity of declarator to follow thereupon
and that the said Lands and Estate shall immediately thereafter
fall and devolve to the next Heir succeeding.9
Waterhead's second son, John, did not survive him, but he had
two others, Gilbert and William. Gilbert inherited his mother's
Reid property, ' saddled with a sum of money to William.' 10
In the story according to Georgina, James McAdam was much taken
with the young Craigengillan; he had him at Waterhead assisting
in the management of the property, and introduced him to good
company. James McAdam the elder died during or before 1729, when
it is recorded that his son James was confirmed as his heir.11
He left the young John McAdam sole factor to his estate and guardian
or tutor to his sons, thus 'by giving him considerable command
of money, laid the foundation of his large fortune.' He brought
his wards up well and did not cheat them in any way. But he used
'their spare money to establish and monopolise the cattle trade
from the south of Scotland to England.' In the memoir Craigengillan
is portrayed as a shrewd but hard man of business, who lent money
and 'was never known to spare a debtor. from the widow with her
cot and kail yard to his own nephew the Laird of Camlarg.'
According to Georgina's account, when he was seventeen James
McAdam (1716/1717-1770), Craigengillan's eldest ward and laird
of Waterhead, married eighteen-year-old Susannah Cochrane, granddaughter
of Sir John Cochrane of Ochiltree.12
While acknowledging that this was a very good match, 'there was
fortune as well as birth' , Georgina described it as the 'first
cloven-footed trick [Craigengillan] played my Grandfather' . Marriage
made him of age for selling land,' and Waterhead began to go.'
However the marriage actually took place about ten years later,
Whether or not there was some advantage to Craigengillan in the
match, James McAdam, then in his late twenties, was responsible
for his own actions.
In 1748 James sold the house and estate of Glaisnock in the parish
of Cumnock to John Stevenson, doctor of medicine in Edinburgh,
for £1,666 13s. 4d.14
In the account for payment of the sum, there is a deduction of
£21 0s. 0d. (20 guineas) 'for the Doctor' s attendance
on Mr McAdams family' . Glaisnock was not part of his father's
entailed estate, and might have been deduced to have been all
or part of the fortune brought by his wife. However John Loudon
McAdam wrote in 1832: 'The house you enquire for was Glaisnoch
near Cumnock; it was my father' s property, but my Grandfather
Cochrane hired it and lived in it when my mother Susannah was
Susannah McAdam sold the furniture of the house of Glaisnock to
Stevenson for £48 6s. 6d., the final payment for
which was made in March 1750. Stevenson received a payment of
£44 8s. 10d. for the rent of the 'house of Glaisnock
and Lands possest by James McAdam' for the year to Martinmas (11th
November) 1749. Glaisnock thus appears to have been their home,
which they continued to occupy for a year after the sale. It was
a substantial house. In 1753, the earliest year for which window
tax records are available, it had 27 windows. In the same year
William Wallace's Cairnhill in the parish of Craigie had 28 windows,
and Sir John Cunningham's Caprington in Riccarton parish had 32.16
The account for the furniture lists 'the parlour' with a big mahogany
table and a dozen chairs; 'the little Room' , which apart from
a bureau and six painted linen chairs had a bed 'with its appurtenances'
; 'the Family Bed Chamber' , with 'beds' and six leather-bottomed
chairs; 'the Blue room' , with 'The Bed courtains & hangings'
; a 'Closet' , with another bed and cover; a kitchen, a nursery,
'Closs beds' for servants in the garret, and outbuildings which
included mangers and stalls. Only rooms with furniture sold to
Stevenson appear in the account, so the list may be incomplete.
According to the 'stated account' of the sale of Glaisnock, there
was a balance of £25 5s. 0d. which Stevenson was
to retain until all accounts between the parties were settled
by a 'Decreet of Arbitrall to be pronounced by John Macadam of
Craigengillan concerning their mutual Claims against one another.'
One can only speculate about the part that Craigengillan played
in the sale of this property and in the investment of the sum
McAdam of Waterhead (1716/1717-1770) - for source and colour image see note 17
With the income from Waterhead alone at £400 a year, property
in Dalmellington besides, and the capital from the sale of Glaisnock,
James and Susannah were in possession of a small fortune. Waterhead
consisted principally of high moorland, lying to the north-east
of the road between Dalmellington and Carsphairn. Today much of
the land is employed in forestry, with wind farms appearing on
the hilltops. In the eighteenth century it was open moorland.
Excepting the plain on which the church is situated, and a few
more very small spots on the banks of the rivers, the country
is all hilly. The high hills are all green - the lower ones generally
covered with heath, and interspersed with large flats of moss.18
Sheep and black cattle were the mainstay of farming here. In
similar parishes of Ayrshire in 1793, Fullarton found substantial
numbers of sheep in particular: Straiton 2,000 cows and 20,000
sheep; Dalmellington 800 cows and 8,000 sheep; New Cumnock 1,000
cows and 20,000 sheep; Muirkirk 14,000 sheep.19
There was no doubt about the importance of sheep in Carsefairn:
Though agriculture is yet in a rude state, this is by no means
the case with respect to the management of sheep and black cattle.
In this, perhaps, the farmers in this parish are inferior to none
in any part of Galloway. Few of them have less than 2000 sheep;
and they are attentive to every method of improving them, and
guarding them against the various accidents to which they are
House, from an old postcard
(reproduced with the permission of the
Trustees of the National Library of Scotland)
Susannah bore at least ten children: James in 1746,
followed by eight daughters, and John Loudon, the youngest. Having
left Glaisnock, they were living in Ochiltree House (above) in
1753 and in another house nearby until 1755, when they took a
house in Ayr.21
John Loudon McAdam was born there in 1756. In 1758 they moved
into Lagwyne (below), the new house James had built on his Waterhead
estate, and maintained both it and the house in Ayr until 1760.
For the following two years they were solely at Lagwyne. Over
the same period Lagwyne was reduced in scale: a house initially
of 13 windows, by 1760 it possessed no more than 8. This may have
indicated that their circumstances were straitened to some degree.
Then in December 1762 came the fire which destroyed Lagwyne, fortunately
without loss of life. One contemporary account of this event records
that it was 'a prodigious loss to the worthy gentleman, particularly
as his bills and rights of his estate are all destroyed.' 22
The documents may have included bonds or other financial instruments
without which the money they represented was irrecoverable. There
is a possibility too that, notwithstanding the evidence of retrenchment
in his accommodation, James McAdam was careless with money. A
niece of his wife's wrote shortly after his death that 'He was
generally thought an Extravagant Man.' 23
Whatever the cause, by 1763 their circumstances necessitated the
sale of Waterhead.
ruins of Lagwine, March 2006. photo David Courtney McClure
Both John Dalrymple of Stair and Sir Adam Fergusson of Kilkerran
were interested in the estate, and John McAdam of Craigengillan,
who was party to the negotiations, favoured the former. John Hamilton
had spoken to James McAdam and wrote to Dalrymple in May 1763:
In Concequence of my Letter I send you the answer from Waterhead.
I was at Air lately and made Enquiry and I am told tis a very
fine Estate and the sheep the Largest in That Country. Craigangilland
was lately here he seems to wish you to have it preferable to
Sir Adam Fergusson who is in Inclination for it. to enquire after
it get intelligence of its value & Extent and the best way
is to Strike it off at a Blow. Waterhead is one that will do best
when the fit is on him. Sir Adam not a very bold Rival. I don'
t know but it may be worth about £11000. however you know
best what to Choose if you incline I should do anything further.
I' ll either send or ship down to Craigangilland get Waterhead
there and try their Lowest Demands. 25
At the end of June Hamilton wrote again to Dalrymple.26
McAdam had been at Bargeny, where after 'much conversation he
offerd his Estate at Eleven Thousand' , he to remain as tenant
himself at £400 a year. Hamilton had said that the highest
price he could advise Dalrymple to pay was £10,500, and
he thought that McAdam might settle at £10,800. Hamilton's
enquiries had satisfied him that it was well worth the rent of
£400. In the previous letter he had commented that 'Waterhead
is one that will do best when the fit is on him' This time he
wrote that ' he is keen at present to sell & he is not always
of one mind.' James McAdam appears as a man under stress: the
loss of Lagwyne, his poor health (as it appeared from other letters,
below), his many daughters requiring 'fortunes' , and his debts
(revealed in a later letter) all contributed to his predicament.
Two weeks later John McAdam of Craigengillan wrote to Dalrymple.
His brothers Quintin and James both assured him that the estate
could easily be let to separate tenants at £400 yearly.
Waterhead was still intent on renting the estate himself after
its sale, but with his poor health, this represented a risk. Hamilton
of Bargeny had told him that he might die, and Craigengillan did
not rate his prospects: 'indeed [I] do not think his life a good
one' . However, Craigengillan concluded, if he finds the Gout
getting much more the better of his constitution' Waterhead would
sell his flocks and sublet the farms. In a postscript, John McAdam
expressed his pleasure at the prospect of his new neighbour: 'I
will be happy to have you in my Neighbourhood we will march several
The next letter was to John Dalrymple from James McAdam himself,
writing from Craigengillan's house at Barbeth (also Berbeth; a
house whose 33 windows in 1763 and 40 in 1764 indicated something
much more substantial than Waterhead' s Lagwyne).27
Since this is the only letter of his that the author has found,
it is included here in full.
To John Dalrymple Esq of Stair at Culhorn
by Stranraer [from] James McAdam, Barbeth, 14/9/1763.
Your letters to Craigingillan of 7 Augt and 4 Curt he has Shewin
me. As to the first, When I went to Edin[bu]r[gh] which was 11
Augt I caused an Inventory of the writis of the Lands I have sold
you be made out. That with the writis themselves was put into
Mr Cha Brouns hands That he might Shew them to Lord Auchinleck
who was there in Town. Mr Broun seemd them to think the progress
he sais with the addition of Two dispositions that were burnt,
would make out a proper progress. These two dispositions are by
this time supplyd, as I have letters from the Gentleman telling
me they are willing to sign them as soon as they were sent to
Its probable Lord Auchenleck & Mr David Dalrymple may not
meet early enough in Nov[embe]r to Look over the progress before
the 22d & if Mr Broun thinks there is any think Doubtfull
about it that these Gentlemen cannot have time to over take, I
shall willingly pay the half of a consultation to Pitfour for
[ru-wing?] the progress. As I am purswaded Mr Broun will never
advise laying out money when it may be avoided. Your second letter
is as to the Jointures. I cannot yet say any thing positive as
to them nor do I think it will be necessary for you to call up
your money for discharging them at this time. I shall let you
know at least three months before any demand is made upon you
for that purpose & I am Respectfully Sir your most obd &
most humble Srt.
[signed] James McAdam
Waterhead was responding to letters that Dalrymple had written
not to himself, but to Craigengillan. The sale to Dalrymple was
agreed at least in principal by this time, and some of the burnt
papers essential to the process were being replaced. In July 1765
John Hamilton of Bargeny wrote to Dalrymple.28
He included a copy of 'Mr McAdam' s signed proposals to make out
the Disposition by.' McAdam had agreed to 'wait on' Dalrymple
at Culhorn immediately 'to Sign & Deliver' . Hamilton had
been informed privately by Craigengillan that James McAdam was
' under several Hornings & Captions' (he was being pursued
by creditors), and thought that had it not been for that he would
have stuck at £11,000. So Waterhead was sold for a sum close
to but less than £11,000.
No further correspondence relating to the sale of Waterhead to
John Dalrymple of Stair has been found. In December 1769 however,
by which time Dalrymple had succeeded as 5th earl of Stair, Craigengillan
was writing to him again. 'I have the honour of your Lordship's
of the 8th acceptance of Provost Ferguson share of our bank which
is a twelfth part of the whole' . The earl of Stair was about
become a partner in the banking company John Macadam & Co,
which had been founded in 1763.29
Craigengillan also included a bill for the supply of stots (bullocks)
from Kintyre and Arran.
James McAdam and his family moved to Whitefoord Castle in the
parish of Straiton, where he spent the few remaining years of
During this period he lost his eldest son, James, who died c.1767.31
According to his younger brother John Loudon, James was a lieutenant
in the 25th regiment at Gibraltar. He proposed a match to his
captains daughter, but his disapproving father summoned him home.
'My brother never did any good after he left the Army and died
in London when I was very young about the year 1763 or 64' .32
John Loudon' s daughter understood that he 'spent a great deal
of money' .33
Cochrane's account of the year is probably more reliable than
McAdam's. In this period too his eldest daughter, Margaret, married
William Logan of Camlarg, in the parish of Dalmellington, a nephew
of John McAdam of Craigengillan. Unlike James McAdam but like
his uncle, Logan was an active commissioner of supply and roads
trustee. James McAdam died on 20th August 1770.34
'I was also at my Uncle McAdam's sometime, who then resided at
Whitefoord … [He] was very ill of the Gout, which ended
in a Dropsy and at last cut him off about three months ago.' 35
The surviving son, John Loudon, was sent to his uncle William
in New York, and the family left Whitefoord: 'Mr McAdam dead and
his family removed' .36
Whitefoord Castle remained uninhabited until 1775, when it was
occupied by a Miss McAdam (presumably the eldest then unmarried,
accompanied by some or all of her single sisters). They were in
a much reduced portion however, with only 9 windows.37
The widow, Susannah McAdam, 'Mrs McAdam of Waterhead' , was in
1771 occupying a house of 8 windows in Ayr.38
If there was a conspiracy between John Dalrymple (later 5th earl
of Stair) and John McAdam of Craigengillan to allow Craigengillan
to become the ultimate purchaser of Waterhead while appearing
to act honourably as trustee to James McAdam, they were in no
indecent haste to complete the business after McAdam's death.
In 1775 a boundary dispute arose concerning the earl's lands of
Lagwine (Waterhead) and Craigengillan's lands of Holm and Greenhead.
Depositions of witnesses were taken at Carsphairn on 1st June
1775, following which Craigengillan's brother Quintin wrote to
the earl from Ayr on 9th June confirming that the boundary was
If it was the intention of the parties that Craigengillan would
acquire Waterhead from the earl, would he not have chosen to adjust
the boundaries when both properties belonged to him?
The first mention of the transfer of the ownership of Waterhead
is found in a letter from Craigengillan to the earl written from
Berbeth on 23rd August 1777. 'If your Lordship is of the mind
in selling the lands of Waterhead have given my Brother Quintin
McAdam powers to buy it, not for the bargain I expect, but affection
of the old Land.' 40
This theme, that his desire to acquire Waterhead was on account
of a family attachment to the land rather than commercial considerations
recurs in the correspondence. McAdam' s letters are unusual: in
a conversational style he discusses his motives and intentions,
and comments upon other matters such as the failure of the Douglas
and Heron bank and the proper management of sheep on moorland
such as his and the Waterhead lands in Carsphairn. He was unable
to go to Culhorn himself, 'being lowered with a sort of gravell
is only an unease when I travel much.' 41
He was able to assure Stair of his financial worth: 'I have ten
thousand pound of Heritable Bonds which I do not incline to dispose
on, unles the Douglas Co. force the sale of some lands near this,
in that case I can get more money for them when I please. I have
as much of personal security & mark of it in hands of such
as would distress them if caled up immediately.' He proposed to
pay in three instalments, one third at Martinmas 1777, the other
two thirds at the same quarter day in 1778 and 1779. Although
it would make him 'easie' to pay it all sooner, he wanted to have
money ready in case sales took place, occasioned by the bank failure.
Douglas, Heron and Company (the 'Ayr Bank'), a joint stock bank
formed in November 1769, with numerous subscribers or shareholders,
and with a paid-up capital of £96,000, closed its doors
on 25 June 1772.42
The subscribers' liability amounted to more than £2,000
for each £500 share they held, and many lost their estates
in the years following the collapse. According to Ward, 'among
Ayrshire lairds totally or partially ruined were Patrick Douglas
of Cumnock, Hugh Logan of Logan, Robert Kennedy of Pinmore, Archibald
Craufurd of Ardmillan, Sir John Whitefoord of Ballochmyle and
Blairquhan, John Christian of Kinning Park, George McCrae of Pitcon,
and David McLure of Shawood.' 43,
According to a 1770 list of the 'Proprietors of Stock' in the
company, William Logan of Camlarg was one of its directors, and
he too, a nephew of Craigengillan and son-in-law of Waterhead,
He had borrowed money from Craigengillan to improve his small
estate, A letter to the latter from David Limond in 1773 reveals
his unsentimental attitude to his nephew. Limond wrote, ' spoke
to Mr Fergusson about your multure Process against Camlarg, which
he promisses to push on. I wish he may be as good as his Word,
& shall not fail to dunn him as much as in my power.' 46
Although these were Limond's words, he was confident of the temper
of the man to whom he addressed them. Logan lost his estate, 'ruined
by his merciless uncle' . Georgina McAdam, whose comment this
was, described the situation thus:
While John McAdam was making money on all hands came the disastrous
failure of the Ayr Bank - it was entirely set going by the landed
proprietors of the Counties round - and the effect was far worse
than the present state of Ireland with the encumbered estates.
Estates changed hands for nothing! They were engulfed and
wherever our Ralph Nickleby held the smallest mortgage he squeezed
the last drop of blood out of the victim, between himself and
the bankruptcy, Barbeth - where his granddaughter Mrs McAdam Cathcart
now lives - became his, Camlarg and many large estates. Uncle
Gilbert's estate went at last with this shock and meantime Mammon
was silently acquiring Waterhead.47
Craigengillan was not one of the original subscribers to the
Ayr Bank, which purchased John Macadam & Co. in 1771. He showed
no personal concern about the collapse in this correspondence,
so it is probable that he did not become a shareholder as a consequence
of the sale of his banking venture. But his brothers 'David McAdam
in Bennan' and 'Quintin McAdam in Barbeth' were both original
The failure ' gives me much grief for the sake of two Brothers
a nephew and many more of my acquaintances not well abell to bear
On account of his health, Craigengillan was unable to travel
to Culhorn himself. 'I do very well at home' , he wrote in September
1777, ' Ryding & jolting in a chaise as many of our roads
is bad is not agreeable.' 50
'Brother Quintin' had returned having offered £12,000 for
Waterhead on his behalf. John McAdam proposed to pay this in one
instalment of £5,000 and two of £3,500, though if
the earl insisted he could pay it sooner. He wishes 'to have the
power of a little money' in case any other lands became available.
And he would not give more for Waterhead:
these lands lying so high are very precarious in storm far from
any relife when snow is ly long had I not some low grounds nearer
them than any els would not give so much that with the affection
I have for these lands being so long in the property of my friends
I owne induces me.51
Although there might be a glut of land on the market on account
of the disposals by lairds bankrupted or financially distressed
by the bank failure, the earl was holding out for much more than
the £10,800 or so he had paid for Waterhead. It does not
suggest that his original acquisition was a matter of convenience
to oblige John McAdam. And Craigengillan was prepared to pay the
earl's price, 'with the affection I have for these lands' , despite
his desire to have money available to snap up some bargains.
Quintin returned from another visit to Culhorn with the news
that the earl was determined to have £12,500 or to keep
Waterhead in his own hands. Craigengillan thought that this was
a price that no 'mortal' other than himself would give for moorland
that would not benefit from any kind of improvement. The return
from substantial tenants would not warrant such a price. Nonetheless
he would pay it:
for the sake of antiquity I have had a desire for those lands
ever since sold therefor will come over the point of intrest to
some inclination and give your Lordship' s price of Twelve thousand
five hundred. I had the offer of them for £10000 when your
[Lordship bought] them had not money, indeed worth no more, or
yet, should be.52
He had further proposals on payment. He would prefer entry and
hence payment of the first instalment to be at Whitsunday 1778,
but would accept Martinmas 1777 if the earl insisted upon it.53
He proposed to pay £2,500 at entry and £4,000 a year
later, paying interest at 5 percent. He hoped to defer the balance
of £6,500 for several years at 4½ percent because
he had 'distant views of some lands in the Neighbourhood' . He
could borrow the whole sum elsewhere but would rather 'be owing
to your Lordship as most of the welthy.'
He finally accepted entry at Martinmas with £12,500 payable
then: £2,500 cash, £4,000 by a bond payable on 22
November 1778, and a bond for £6,000 payable on 22 November
After some remarks on the cattle trade and on losses incurred
by Lord Galloway 'by Logans drove being overdriven afterwards
frighted & greatly abused severalls dead' , he thanked the
earl for his concern:
Im greatly oblidged for your care for my health we have plenty
of the Virginia Strawberry and will aply to your Lordship for
setts of these at Castle Kennedy. I am just now using Casteel
Soap and lime water since have not the smalest distres while I
stay at home at moderat exercise only when am jolted in a chaise
on bad roads or on a horse.
His plan for Waterhead was to let it to good tenants:
I have always been sensible of your Lordship' s good will and
am shure you are in earnest as to my succeeding at the bargain
my scheme shall be to have knowing tenants which is more &
better than high rent, if bad tenants that do not exactly understand
the manadgement of sheep it would soon be ruined there is not
a shilling made by them all since Waterhead set it owing to want
of skill & hog sence. If I had said so much before the saill
your Lordship would have suspected me.
So Waterhead came into the possession of John McAdam of Craigengillan.
The central charge made by Georgina Keith McAdam, that the first
purchase was a sham, and that he was able to reveal himself as
the real purchaser after the death of James McAdam, seems to be
unfounded. First, he had to pay a substantial margin over the
original price to induce the earl of Stair to part with the estate.
Secondly, the transaction did not take place until seven years
after the death. Craigengillan did however have a hand in the
disposals of Glaisnock and Waterhead, and in the case of the latter
he leaked information about James' financial condition which may
have been to his disadvantage in negotiating the price. It is
also true that his wealth was increasing considerably at a time
when many faced ruin. By his own account he passed up the opportunity
of buying Waterhead directly from James McAdam for £10,000
in 1770 because he had not the money, rather than for any feeling
of decency, while in 1777 he was able to boast of the money at
his command and of his hopes for acquiring other land where the
bank collapse forced disposal. Over this period too he engaged
in rebuilding Berbeth, known later as Craigengillan, albeit 'in
an unadventurous Georgian manner.' 55
The number of windows dropped from 40 to 9 in 1770-1772, rose
to 19 in 1773-4 and then 51 in 1776, which was the number still
in 1798, when, taking the number of windows as an index of size,
it was the 17th largest house in Ayrshire.56
Georgina's description of his character was probably justified.
His expressions of grief for the misfortunes of others were no
more than that. The banking crisis created an opportunity which
he wished to exploit. He was not generous to his nephew, whose
estate he gained. But where one might say that he was hard-hearted
- 'never known to spare a debtor' - another would say that he
was simply a good man of business, and because of that he prospered.
The hurt was long nursed by the descendants of James McAdam.
He may have sold Waterhead but to his son and heir John
Loudon McAdam, if we hear him speaking through the memoir of his
daughter and companion Georgina, it was a loss that was
felt all the more keenly because the ultimate beneficiary was
an inferior McAdam.
Keith McAdam[GKMcA], 'The History of the Waterhead McAdams and
the McAdams of Craigengillan' (unpublished manuscript, 1854).
There is a transcription in the McAdam box in the Cathcartston
Centre in Dalmellington, though by whom it was made is not recorded.
her account, in the 1790s the gentility and good breeding lay
with John Loudon McAdam, and the great wealth and coarse vice
with Quintin McAdam of Craigengillan.
that he is properly John Loudon McAdam, and not 'John Loudoun
Macadam' , as he appears in a recently-published four-page pamphlet,
The river ayr way: Muirkirk Village audio tour guide (East
Ayrshire Council, ).
Steuart, 'Aunt George' (unpublished manuscript, undated); in
the McAdam box, Cathcartston Centre, Dalmellington.
year of his marriage is given by Burke' s The Landed Gentry
vol. II (6th ed, 1879), 1010-1011. The old parish records
for Sorn record the marriage of James McAdam to Margaret Reid
on 15th September 1715.
Archives of Scotland [NAS], Craigengillan Muniments, GD231/3/3,
Writs of Lands of Waterhead with superiority of Craignaw etc.
1744-1764 [bundle of 6 documents including] 'Regr. Disposition
of the Lands of Waterhead & others By James McAdam of Waterhead
To His Children and others within mentd. Dated 28th
December 1720 And Reg. 26th January 1764.'
same disposition also dealt with a smaller portion of his property,
his 'two merk Land of Over and Nether Smietons and ane merk
Land of Strahannay with the haill parts pendicles and pertinents
thereof also lying within the said parish of Carsefairn and
Stewartry of Kirkcudbright with the Tiends parsonage and vicarage'
. The entail in this instance omitted the Craigengillan brothers,
so that Robert McAdam followed James McAdam's children.
Waterhead of Geuch' : modern maps show Waterhead lying on the
Water of Deugh.
a list of 'McAdam wills and sasine records' compiled by Hugh
Adamson and others at the Carsphairn Heritage Centre and found
at www.mcadamshistory.com/estates.htm on 16th August 2006.
to GKMcA her grandfather died at the age of 48. This would put
his year of birth at 1721/1722. However, both he and his younger
siblings John and Janet had been born by 1720, the year of their
father James McAdam's disposition, so that the three were born
between 1715 (the date of the marriage) and 1720. Thus 1716/1717
is a reasonable estimate of the date of birth of the younger
James McAdam. If GMcA was correct in asserting that James married
at the age of 17, then the marriage took place in 1733/1734.
wills and sasine records' has this entry: ' 1745, James McAdam
of Waterhead married Susan Cochrane, son James born 1746, registered
GD253/140/9, Messrs D. & L.H. Campbell W.S., John Stevenson
and James McAdam, 1749-1759 (6 documents).
letter written by John Loudon McAdam to his daughter Nancy Sanders
is quoted at length by Roy Devereux [Mrs Pember, a great great
granddaughter of J.L. McAdam] in John Loudon McAdam: Chapters
in the History of Highways (London, 1936), 26-27.
Window Tax records [WTR], E326/1/11, May 1753-May 1759.
Devereux, John Loudon McAdam. No source was given for
the portrait. However the following information was received from David Bragdon on 10th October 2012: 'The portrait was painted in 1764 by Sir George Chalmers. It sold this evening at auction in the United States for $200.' Subsequently, on 20th October 2012, Michael P Marsille added this: 'Coincidentally I recently purchased the very portrait of Mr McAdam which you have reproduced from Devereux's book. It was painted by Sir George Chalmers in 1764 and has the McAdam coat of arms in the upper right (though the varnish is quite dark).' The image below of the portrait is taken from the suctioneer's website.
the account for 'Carsefairn' by Rev. Samuel Smith, The Statistical
Account of Scotland (1791-1799), Vol. VII, 513.
Fullarton, A General View of the Agriculture of the County
of Ayr (1793), reprinted with commentary in Ayrshire
in the Age of Improvement, ed. David [Courtney] McClure
'Carsefairn' , 516.
dated 27th December 1762 to James Boswell from his tutor William
McQuhae, cited in Frederick A. Pottle, ed., Boswell's London
Journal, 1762-1763 (Yale, 1950), editor's note to entry
for 14-15th September 1762.
A. Cochrane, Castle Carron, to her brother [name unknown], 1st
December 1770, Shaw Kennedy MSS., cited by Robert Harry Spiro
Jr., 'John Loudon McAdam: Colossus of Roads' (unpublished PhD
thesis, Edinburgh U., 1950). McAdam actually had 7 unmarried
sisters at the time. The letter is also cited by Devereux, John
Loudon McAdam, 26.
modern spelling is 'Bargany.'
GD135/2755/27, 'To the Honble John Dalrymple of Stair Esq at
Culhorn [from] John Hamilton Bargeny 23d May 1763.'
GD135/2755/28, John Hamilton, Bargeny 28th June 1763 [to John
WTR, E326/1/12, May 1759-May 1764 (May-November 1763 wanting).
GD135/2755/29, John Hamilton, Bargeny, 14th July 1765 to John
Dalrymple of Stair.
Checkland, Scottish Banking: A History, 1695-1973 (Glasgow,
1975), 116, 127.
Cochrane, letter, 1st December 1770. 'His eldest son James died
about three years ago at London' .
Loudon McAdam, letter, 1832. A. Cochrane's estimate for the
year of death of c.1767 is perhaps the more reliable being contemporary.
Magazine, XXXII (1770), 458.
Cochrane, letter, 1st December 1770.
WTR, E326/1/13, May 1764-April 1773.
WTR, E326/1/14, April 1773-April 1782.
WTR, E326/1/134, March 1748-April 1797 (with exceptions).
GD135/1655/1, Extract of the depositions of witnesses taken
at Carsphairn June 1st 1775. GD135/1655/2, letter to the earl
of Stair at Culhorn from Quintin McAdam, Ayr June 9th 1775.
GD135/247/2, John McAdam of Craigengillan, Berbeth 23rd August
1777, to the earl of Stair at Culhorn.
generally, pain or difficulty in passing urine.
Brady, 'So Fast to Ruin: The personal element in the collapse
of Douglas, Heron and Company' in Ayrshire Collections, vol.
11 (AANHS, 1976), also published separately as a pamphlet.
Ward, 'Ayrshire Landed Estates in the Nineteenth Century' in
Ayrshire Collections, vol. 8 (AANHS, 1969).
Lapraik's poem on the crash appeared in The Contemporaries
of Burns by James Paterson (Edinburgh, 1840) and was reprinted
in Ayrshire Notes 27 (Ayr, 2004), 20-21.
of the Proprietors of Stock in the Banking Society under the
Firm of Messrs. Douglas, Heron, and Co. (Edinburgh, 1770).
The copy in the Alexander Wood Memorial Library (North Ayrshire
Libraries) includes hand-written additions. James McAdam of
Waterhead is included in this list with the word 'dead' against
his name. His £500 subscription would have been due to
be repaid after his death, and his heirs would not have been
liable for the losses following the banks collapse.
GD231/5/1, David Limond, Ayr, 28th January 1773 to John McAdam
Esquire of Craigengillan.
'History' . Ralph Nickleby, the uncle of Charles Dickens' eponymous
hero Nicholas Nickleby, was a mean-spirited, cruel moneylender.
'Uncle Gilbert' was Gilbert McAdam of Merkland, brother of James
McAdam. 'Gilbert lost the last penny in the Ayr Bank - and died
of the Proprietors of Stock.
GD135/2547/8, John McAdam of Craigengillan, Berbeth, 31st October
1777, to the earl of Stair at Culhorn.
GD135/2547/3. John McAdam of Craigengillan, Berbeth, 11th September
1777, to the earl of Stair at Culhorn.
low lands were required for accommodating the sheep when the
weather was particularly bad.
GD135/2547/5, John McAdam of Craigengillan, Berbeth, 26th September
1777, to the earl of Stair at Culhorn.
and in other letters he had Martinmas as 22nd November rather
than 11th, adding back the 11 days (3rd-13th) dropped in September
1752 in consequence of the adoption of the Gregorian calendar.
The old style Julian day of 11th November would have
fallen on the new style Gregorian 22nd November.
GD135/2547/6-7, John McAdam of Craigengillan, Berbeth, 9th and
21st October 1777, to the earl of Stair at Culhorn.
Close, Ayrshire and Arran: an illustrated architectural guide
(RIAS, 1992), 162.
WTR as above and E326/1/16, April 1789-April 1798 (with exceptions).