~ BIOGRAPHY ~
GEORGE BEATTIE, Esquire, was an early nineteenth-century poet, legal writer, philanthropist, truth-seeker, freethinker and man of superior intellect and spirit who became one of the most well-known, beloved and respected people ever to have graced the community of the Scottish east coast town of Montrose.
His memory and story, for the most part, have strangely been lost somewhere in time and due to an unusual lack of information, as well as the circulation of a substantial amount of misinformation and disinformation down through the years, this is an extremely complex and difficult biography to accurately piece together.
To begin with, there is no mention of George Beattie’s day and month of birth/baptism to be found on his memorial , in the 1863 biography, or anywhere else for that matter, only the year of 1786 (MDCCLXXXVI).
Our extensive research, with invaluable aid from the representatives of the ‘National Archives of Scotland’, regarding this anomaly has, we hope, uncovered the reason for this unusual omission.
Thus, it would seem that it is more than likely, that ‘George Beattie’ was born/baptised on Monday, September the 18th in 1786.
The problem being, is that only the name ‘William’ appears in the Old Parish register entry for the year 1786, rather than ‘George’ :
(Ref. 18/09/1786 Old Parish Records of Births 267/00 0010 0151 ST CYRUS / BEATTIE, WILLIAM / Whitehill / William Beattie and Elizabeth Scott).
* It is, in our opinion, unlikely that George’s mother, Elizabeth Scott, had two separate births in the same year; twins, or that George was born in the first few months of 1786 and NOT registered, therefore, we feel compelled to conclude, as do the representatives of the ‘National Archives of Scotland’, that the name ‘GEORGE’ was either an adopted middle name (after his paternal grandfather) or that ‘WILLIAM' was merely a clerical error made at the time of Parish register entry, being confused with the father's forename.
George’s parents, WILLIAM BEATTIE and ELIZABETH SCOTT lived in a humble croft which nestled at the base of the ‘Hill of Morphie’ in an area known as ‘Whitehill’ on the Kirkside Estate, in the parish of St Cyrus, Kincardineshire.
* St Cyrus was named after Ciric, the Latin name of Giric, Grig or Gregory the Great, son of Dungail, who succeeded to the Pictish throne about A.D. 877, he was also known as Circius, Ciricinn or Crig.
In an adjoining dwelling also lived GEORGE BEATTIE (Senior), the father of William Beattie and grandfather to young George and his siblings.
Unfortunately, at the present time at least, it is unknown whether George was the third eldest of seven children, two of which (Joseph and Elizabeth) having died before 1798, or the second eldest of five children, with ‘David’ possibly having been originally baptised as ‘Joseph’.
In the first case scenario, the names in descending chronology would be as follows :-
JAMES: born/baptised on 10/12/1780 - (O.P.R. ref. 267/00 0010 0133 ST CYRUS);
JOSEPH: born/baptised on 16/05/1784 - (O.P.R. ref. 267/00 0010 0148 ST CYRUS);
GEORGE/WILLIAM: born/baptised on 18/09/1786 - (O.P.R. ref. 267/00 0010 0151 ST CYRUS);1
MARY: born/baptised on 27/02/1789 - (O.P.R. ref. 267/00 0010 0153 ST CYRUS);
CATHERINE: born/baptised on 19/03/1791 - (O.P.R. ref. 267/00 0010 0156 ST CYRUS);
ELIZABETH: born/baptised on 08/05/1794 - (O.P.R. ref. 267/00 0010 0159 ST CYRUS);
DAVID: born between 1791-1798 (Unfortunately no specific date can be traced).
1 *All the surviving Beattie children are listed in a volume of Kirk Session minutes for St Cyrus (ref. CH2/590/1) in a 'List of Inhabitants of the Parish of Ecclesgreig or St Cyrus' on p.29 under 'Whitehill' which was drawn up on the 25th of October 1798.
George Beattie experienced a simple, but very happy childhood. He loved the wonders of nature and wandering the stunningly beautiful hills and braes of his east coastal paradise of St Cyrus with his pet Jackdaw (kae) on his shoulder.
He received a good, but ordinary education at the local school, taught by a Mr. Todd.
In 1797/98, when George was eleven years of age, his father William and older brother James attained positions as ‘Officers of Excise’ in Arbroath (1798-1800), due in part to their obvious intelligence, but due mainly to the influence of and endorsement by the ‘7th Laird of Kirkside’, Joseph Straton, uncle of the future ‘8th Laird of Kirkside’, General Sir Joseph M. Straton, CB (Companion of the Order of the Bath), KCH (Knight Commander of the Royal Guelphic Order of Hanover), FRSE (Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh), etc., the Peninsular and Waterloo hero, whom at that time was known as ‘Colonel Joseph Muter’.
Exactly WHY the ‘Beattie family’ were aided by the ‘Lairds of Kirkside’ is presently unclear.
It is important to note, that General Sir Joseph M. Straton’s surname was originally ‘Muter’, as he was actually the son of the 7th Laird’s sister; but in order to inherit his unmarried uncle’s title and become the ‘8th Laird of Kirkside’ in 1816, his name HAD to be changed to ‘Straton’.
General Sir Joseph M. Straton was the youngest son of William Muter of Annfield (in Fife) & Janet Straton of Kirkside.
* His K.C.H. star was auctioned by ‘Spinks’ in 1998.
In 1800, father and son were re-assigned consecutively to ‘Officers of Excise’ positions in the nearby east coastal towns of Usan (1800-1802) and Montrose (1802-1810), then in 1810 to the ‘Ruthven Printfield Company’ near Perth.
* Ruthvenfield, is a village, in the parish of Tibbermore, Perthshire.
2 *Due to fire, no further records now exist (Ref. RH4\6\1-2).
The Beattie family appear to have left their croft and relocated to Montrose around 1800, possibly following the death of William’s father, George (Senior), at St Cyrus.
* Montrose sits between the mouths of the North Esk and South Esk rivers and is a historic seaport and market town on the Angus coast between Dundee and Aberdeen.*
After an extremely short lived and undesired apprenticeship as a mechanic to a local tradesman, financed by his father, George was sent to Aberdeen to a situation as clerk, but after only six weeks his benevolent employer died bequeathing him the sum of fifty pounds (which would be approximately seven thousand pounds today).
Upon returning to Montrose, young George entered the office of the Procurator Fiscal, Mr. Colin Alison, who also treated him very kindly.
There he received the normal training one would expect and subsequently went on to complete his legal education in Edinburgh, which ultimately resulted in George setting up his own business as a writer, or solicitor, in his home town of Montrose.
He was an intellectual, philanthropic, warm and sincere man of true spirituality and although being a ‘practical’ , but non-churchgoing ‘Christian’ (very possibly of Deistic thought), radical, slightly risqué and occasionally prone to bursts of profanity when frustrated, he became extremely beloved and respected by the great majority of the populace, not only because of his unusual degree of profound kind-heartedness and benevolence in all aspects of life, but also because of his brilliant comedic wit, natural talent for impersonation and love of elaborate practical jokes.
People eagerly sought to be in his company.
With his ever-smiling countenance, George Beattie was considered to be very handsome despite being short of stature and somewhat stout. He had curly black hair and dark blue eyes and would generally be seen wearing a black frock coat, neat fitting ribbed pantaloons and black gaiters. He also wore a gold watch and chain with several seals attached to it.
In his spare time he penned his own unique form of satirical, subversive and humorous poetic verse.
In 1815, when around 28 years old, he wrote a poem which would become his most enduring and renowned, the satirically comic epic 'John o'Arnha' which was first published in a basic short form in a local weekly newspaper, the 'Montrose Review’, before eventually being further enriched and lengthened by almost four times.
In a later, more illustrious printed edition, upon being demanded by its Publisher to provide a ‘Preface’ regarding the epic poem, George Beattie wrote the following extremely insightful words for the purpose :-
‘ Gentle and Courteous Reader,
THE following Tale was originally written from mere frolic. It was first published in 'The Montrose Review', and afterwards in a small Book, which, being low in price, met with ready sale. As my Pegassus, however, was somewhat restiff, and the Rider both awkward and impatient, to save time and trouble, nearly one half of it was composed in plain prose. After this, some sketches were drawn from the scenery, and the Publisher, in his wisdom, had these engraved. I was again commissioned to render the prose into verse, for another edition, which I did, such as it is, with great alacrity. I was told, however, that the Poem behoved to be lengthened, so as the Plates might be placed at proper distances, and not come in contact with each other. With much good nature I again set to work, and dilated as far as leizure and patience would permit: to this extension Mr. Southey, and some other gentlemen, owe the honour of being introduced in the following pages. Having wrought at the instigation of another, without fee and without reward, neither expecting praise, nor dreading censure, I have not that tender and paternal regard for the work, which almost every author has for the offspring of his brain. The public may treat it as they please, without in the least hurting the feelings of the Author. This will appear pretty evident, on reading the work itself. At the same time, although the Publisher has brought it forth in a style much more elegant than it could have any title or pretension to, I should not wish him to be a loser by his folly; which, however, I much dread: at all events he cannot say he has been burdened with payment of 'copyright'. I now see I could have made the Poem more bulky, without being at the trouble of adding more lines to it. This could have been done by dividing it into 'Cantos'. By the modern method of book-making, the termination of one Canto, and the beginning of another, generally swallow up four full pages. Six Cantos, therefore, would have made it twenty-four pages longer, without the addition of a line. Dividing into verses, or sections, and filling up the spaces with numerical letters, is another expedient for extension. The Spenserian stanza has always been considered entitled to this; but it is quite an innovation in 'namby-pamby'. The introduction of episodes, in the shape of songs, sonnets, &c., preceded by blanks, and titled in Saxon letters, is for the same reason resorted to by the "Hireling Harpers" of the present day. Indeed, it is by these means that our modern Bards and Publishers fill their pockets, and gull the public.
After having finished the Tale, in some shape or other, I really was somewhat astonished on being again told by the Publisher that it was necessary to write a 'PREFACE' ; and, moreover, that he "must have it immediately," as he had advertised for publication on a certain day. I had no wish to renew my labours in the vineyard of folly; and, besides, I considered the request to be a most ridiculous one. "This is not the time," said I, "for writing a 'Preface': if you had wished anything of that nature, you should have informed me at the commencement; I never saw the 'Preface' at the end of a book, except when printed in Ireland." Printers, it appears, however, can commence at the beginning, middle, or end, of a work, as it best suits them. "That is of no consequence," said the Publisher, "I have left eight pages at the beginning for the Title and the Preface: the Title takes up two, the remaining six are for the Preface; but if you think you cannot spin as much out of your brain, in the course of an hour or two, as stain these, I can reduce them other two pages, by adding a 'bastard' Title." All this was quite unintelligible to me; and now that I have commenced writing a 'PREFACE' or something else, I really feel at a loss what to state in it, more indeed as to quantity than 'quality'. The six pages, it would appear, must be filled, and no more. I must, therefore, go on; and the Printer must stop at the end of the last page whether a sentence may happen to be concluded or not. If it wants anything, let him fill it up with a blank page, like one of those in "Tristram Shandy."
It will be pretty evident that, in writing this Tale, "Tam o’ Shanter" was kept in view; at the same time I know well it can no more be compared to that inimitable production than Southey’s "Carmen Triumphale" could be to "Homer’s Iliad," or I to Hercules. It ran so much in my head, however, that I was more cramped in avoiding palpable imitation, and involuntary plagiarism, than I was benefited in any other respect, by attempting to adopt it as a model; for, no sooner did I set about brewing my storm, and setting it a blowing, than the original and expressive lines of the immortal Bard came wildering across my brain:
"The wind blew, as ‘twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow’d;
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow’d:
That night a child might understand,
The deil had business on his hand."
When I attempted to moralize on the fleeting nature of pleasure and glory, how quickly these vanish, and are followed by misfortune, stripes, and disgrace, then I was haunted by the four beautiful similies, proving the fact in such an original and striking manner:
"But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow’r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow-falls in the river,
A moment white - then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit - ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow’s lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm."
Show me any thing that can be compared to this in your modern poems!
When the fleshless Harper came into the field, and with his wild music stirred up Witches, Warlocks, Ghosts, Devils, and Demons, to trip it "on the light fantastic toe;" then jingled in my ears the forcible and firmly clenched lines of Burns:
"He screw’d the pipes and gart them skirl,
Till roof and rafters a’ did dirl," &c.
"....Hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle in their heels," &c.
"As Tammie glowr’d, amaz’d and curious,
The mirth an fun grew fast and furious
The piper loud and louder blew;
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reel’d, they set, they cross’d, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit," &c.
Have we any thing like this now-a-days? This most original, comic, and horrific poem, I am aware, is not so much read in the drawing-room as the modish performances of a new race of poets; but it will tickle the risible muscles, and raise the hair on the crowns, of generations yet unborn, when these ephemeral performances will sleep as sound as their authors. The muse of 'humorous poetry' seems to have been entombed with Burns. His predecessors, Ramsay and Fergusson, were also peculiarly in the good graces of that buxom lady. We have nothing now like "Christ’s Kirk on the Green;" "The Monk and the Miller’s Wife;" Fergusson’s "Leith Races," "Hallow Fair;" Burns’ "Tam o’ Shanter," "Death and Doctor Hornbook," "Halloween," or "The Jolly Beggars," the last was fastidiously rejected by Dr Currie, in his edition of Burns’ Poems. I by no means wish to insinuate that these are the best poems of the Bards I have just now mentioned: they are the best of their particular class - the humorous; and I speak chiefly of poems in the Scottish dialect. "The Gentle Shepherd," "The Farmer’s Ingle" "The Cotter’s Saturday Night," and other poems of the same authors, have their peculiar merits and beauties. The incidents and descriptions in these are exquisitely natural, and truly pastoral. Burns and Fergusson, in particular, had the happy knack of leading their readers, in the very best humour, to the "wee bit ingle and clean hearth-stane," "the cosh and cantie housie," of the Scottish peasant, where the inmates are brought before us, and viewed, not through the medium of caricature, or the mist of time, but in a way so simple, natural, and chaste, that they are instantly recognised as real, living, generick characters. Such descriptions must be read with pleasure by every one who is not so miserable as to be refined above enjoying the beauties of nature a disease not uncommon amongst the critics, and those who gratuitously rank themselves in the higher classes of society. The descriptions of our present poets are very different from those I have just mentioned. They usher us into the Gothic Castles and Halls of Barons bold, and to the presence of princely dames, and warriors clothed in steel. These beings may be made to speak and act as best suits the convenience of the author; for as no person living ever had the pleasure of seeing the originals, they cannot, consistently, take upon them to condemn the pictures. Anxious, at all times, to shelter myself under the wings of my betters, I have also presumed to bring forward some characters not known in common life, for which I shall plead no excuse to the gentle and courteous Reader. The Hero himself is drawn from a living original in this neighbourhood, already well known to fame. As to the second personage, the 'Water Kelpie', whose only ambition is, and has been, for centuries past, to wallow in the Ponage Pool, and take the benighted and way-worn traveller off the hands of the treacherous 'Spunkie', to plunge him in a watery grave, good breeding, or court etiquette, could not be expected to emanate from such a quarter. As to the "grewsome" appearance of the Ghosts, poor fellows, no blame attaches to them, it was none of their doings. Let the other characters speak for themselves there is 'one' that I have no great inclination to meddle with at all - "let sleeping dogs lie." As to the Tale itself, I shall "speak lowne," particularly as I am not prepared to say any thing in its favour: if I had been possessed of more leizure, and endowed with more patience, I think it might have been made better. The scenery, however, I mean the natural scenery not as described by me, is certainly not inferior to the "Banks of the Doon" and "Alloway Kirk." The lone and dreary situation of the Old Kirk of Logie, in the vicinity of the dark and gloomy Den of St. Martin, long reported to have been the sinful haunts of "Warlocks grim and wither’d Hags;" and the Ponage Pool, on the North-Esk, at a little distance, the well-known rendezvous of the 'Water Kelpie', are objects of terror to the superstitious, and of more than ordinary interest to those who may at times take delight in amusing their minds with the traditionary legends of this part of the country.
Presuming my allotted space is not yet filled, I take an opportunity to state (although it has little connection with the called-for Preface), that I am extremely partial to the language of Caledonia. From its expressive simplicity it is peculiarly adapted to the pastoral, the natural, and pathetic; and since the year 149O, when Maister William Dunbar, the chief of ancient Scottish poets, wrote "The Twa Mariit Wemen and the Wedo," and "The Mirrie Aventure of twa Quhyte Friers of Berick," and uther ryghte mirrie and wittie tales, down to the death of Burns, it has been constantly and most successfully employed in the humorous and ludicrous. That it is equally well adapted to the martial and heroic, is strikingly illustrated in "Bruce’s Address to his Army," by Burns. Let the 'petit maitre', and the fine lady, who cannot hear a sentence pronounced in Scotch without fainting, remember that this "vulgar jargon" was once the language of heroes; and that those who yet understand it, find it richer, and more expressive, than the English.
As to errors, whether of the pen or the types, let them be pointed out by others.’
At this point it should be noted, that George Beattie made no secret of his disdain for the ‘Lake Poets’; the Poet Laureate of the time Robert Southey in particular, whom he regarded as “a prostitute of his muse”, among other things, going on to state that ‘Lake’ poetry was “a farrago of merghless, foisonless, farrachless nonsense”.
George was obviously disgusted by ‘pretension’ of any kind, on any level.
'John o'Arnha’, was based on a local town officer named John Finlay/Findlay, who was infamous for his boorish arrogance, oak cudgel, multiple marriages to young girls and tall-tales of imagined heroism around the globe, despite the fact that he is said to have never left the vicinity.
Almost three years after George Beattie's death, when the poem was translated into a play and performed by actor/manager Charles Bass with poet James Bowick, at the Bridge Street, Montrose Theatre Royal on Monday the 19th of June in 1826; already being somewhat displeased at the poem in of itself through being aware that he was its inspiration, Finlay/Findlay apparently did not appreciate the further heightened and caustic humour gained at his expense in this particular version and ultimately, went berserk.
Being a local success however, Bass also took the play to the Dundee Theatre Royal later that
year and ﬁnally to Edinburgh's Caledonian Theatre in 1829.
* John Finlay/Findlay died on the 11th of October in 1828, aged 91 years.
The legal business which George had established on the first floor of ‘114-116 High Street ‘ in Montrose, included his younger brother David and was extremely prosperous.
On a light-hearted note, we would like to briefly mention the whimsical fact that George possessed a treasured green parrot named 'Katie'; and whenever the weather permitted, George would put 'Katie' out on the window ledge of his office in her cage, and it is recorded that when people passed by she would repeat (as taught by George) the phrase: "Geordie and his Katie!".
He employed several clerks and was also factor to the Kirkside Estate, now owned by the 8th Laird of Kirkside, General Sir Joseph M. Straton.
George possessed a town house at ‘New Wynd’ in Montrose, where he lived with his family.
Despite a very busy life, George always found time to perform free legal services for the poor and oppressed, along with his usual charitable acts, which endeared him even further to the community.
It should be mentioned, that a picturesque spot near Montrose called the ‘Den of Fullerton’, was generally known at that time as ‘Ananias’.
It was at the ‘Den of Ananias’ that George and five of his like-minded friends would meet on occasional Sundays to discuss their mutual ideas on the evils of organised religion, monarchy and state; a mindset probably resulting from the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and very possibly inspired by the works of Thomas Paine (1737–1809), who was a participant in the American Revolution.
Of the two opposing political parties at the time, the Conservative and the Progressive, George Beattie’s sympathies lay overwhelmingly with ‘Progressivism’, which stood against the greed and selfishness of the privileged classes, as well as the sterile, heartless dogmatism of the ‘Church’. ‘Conservatism’ stood merely for ‘draconian tradition’.
As a result of his passionate beliefs, he became a member of the long established, ‘Montrose Club’.
In 1821, at the age of thirty-five, George Beattie was the most popular soul in Montrose and at the peak of his life when he met Miss William Gibson, the twenty-three year old daughter of one of his socially superior friends, Squire Robert Gibson.
It was love at first sight for George.
Miss William Gibson was a tall, vivacious and pretty young woman, very pale, with light brown hair and hazel eyes.
Her parents, gentleman farmer, Squire Robert Gibson and his wife Isabell (née Mitchell), owned and occupied a large house at the ‘Stone of Morphie’, which is about a mile up from the bridge on the North Esk.
* The 'Stone' from which their home takes its name is an eleven foot un-sculptured and un-inscribed monolith said to commemorate the burial place either of the Danish/Scandinavian general Camus, or that of one of his sons, slain in the
‘Battle of Barry’ in 1010 AD by a ‘Chatti’
Being the factor for the ‘Kirkside Estate’ brought George back to St Cyrus on a regular basis and he became a frequent visitor to the Gibson residence at ‘Stone of Morphie’.
Despite his being of ‘lower’ social status, George felt that it was permissible for him to initiate a relationship with Miss Gibson and despite a short initial period of her playing ‘hard to get’, it quickly became apparent that Miss Gibson held reciprocal feelings, in her own particular way.
Until the spring of 1822, their intimacy delicately grew until it began to bloom at this most appropriate time of year, at which point Miss Gibson was openly courting and inviting the attentions of George by requesting of him, by note, to extend his usual evening strolls from Montrose towards St Cyrus and meet with her either inside the Gibson owned, but then uninhabited, House of Kinnaber or, weather permitting, outside in its beautiful walled garden.
* The House of Kinnaber is a large white house, barely visible from the highway for heavy tree growth.
It is a three storey mansion built in 1680, possibly incorporating an earlier house and altered in 1790, which is close to the ocean about three miles from Montrose on the South bank of the North Esk.
During that summer, supposedly in secret, Miss Gibson would, at least twice weekly, make her way down from ‘Stone of Morphie’ and cross the bridge from the opposite side of the North Esk to meet her lover at their favourite spot in the flourishing walled garden of the House of Kinnaber.
George would walk from Montrose and take the highway going north, passing on his left, the Woods of Charleton and on his right was a tree strewn landscape stretching towards the sand dunes and beach of the North Sea shoreline.
Many promises, vows and affirmations of fidelity, undying love and lifelong happiness were endlessly made by them both and they became unofficially engaged to be married.
However, due to the social barrier which still remained as an obstacle, her parents were apparently not made privy to their plans, but obviously they must have suspected something was developing.
Their personalities and characteristics, although drastically opposite, seemed almost complimentary.
Her idealism, haughtiness and ambition, contrasted with his affability, openheartedness and humility. Basically, where one was weak the other was strong.
In their love, Miss Gibson was demonstrative, sensitive and jealous whereas George was much deeper, more serious and true.
As time passed, their romance and friendship continued to grow.
It was recounted by Beattie that on one occasion whilst he was visiting ‘Stone of Morphie’, when they were alone, Miss Gibson complained about the fact that he had gone to Edinburgh without taking her with him and despite his explanation that it was strictly on business and in unpleasant weather, she not only insisted that they remake their prior vows to each other but, laying her hands in his, requested that he repeat aloud the following solemn oath...
“May I never know peace in this world, or see God in mercy, if I marry another than you; or if ever I go South again without taking you along with me as my wife,”
following this by a similar oath made by herself just before announcing to him the assurance that her parents actually approved and expected their engagement to be married.
Grand plans and beautiful imaginings of eternal bliss increasingly filled their minds and whether at ‘Stone of Morphie’, at Kinnaber or in Montrose, the couple would meet whenever possible... until the spring of 1823.
The course of true love never yet ran smooth and for poor George Beattie; the darkest of clouds hastily approached.
In the spring of 1823 a sudden and fearful "change came o'er the spirit of his dream."
News arrived that a wealthy uncle, William Mitchell, Esquire, who had supposedly been a ‘Governor of Grenada’ who resided in the town of St George, had died leaving a considerable fortune to be divided between William and her mother Isabell.
There is however, NO evidence to be found that he ever held such a prestigious post, but rather, that he was an Agent for the Mount Nesbit Estate (Plantation) and a slave owner in St John, Grenada; possibly being a dealer in slaves also.
(Sourced from the Slave Registers of former British Colonial Dependencies, 1812-1834; Colonial
Papers, volume XXX, nos 42,42.1).
* This fact MUST be clarified;
that FAR from being his ‘ black housekeeper ’, as was apparently believed by
George Beattie, Sarah Bronker/Brounker and William Mitchell
appear in the 1817, 1820 and 1821 Slave Registers. She owned at least
seventeen slaves and he owned over one hundred.
She was bequeathed over three thousand pounds by William Mitchell in his
Will (approximately TWO AND A HALF MILLION POUNDS at the
present time); it being recorded that this sum was OWED to her for repayment
of a LOAN which she had given to him.
She was also bequeathed a further three thousand pounds.
This legacy would prove to be a curse.
It is, we believe, of vital importance as to the ‘understanding’ of the story relayed by A.S. Mt. Cyrus, regarding the intended perception he wished his readers to have of the mindset of Miss Gibson, by emphasizing that there was a superior legal claim to the estate of William Mitchell in existence, namely that of his brother, Mr. James Mitchell of Montrose (actually, St Cyrus).
James Mitchell was the rightful legal heir to William Mitchell’s estate.
Andrew Smith (A.S. Mt. Cyrus M.A.), in all the editions of his 1863 biography of George Beattie, basically states, that ‘correspondence’ had been entered into by Miss Gibson with her uncle William Mitchell, whilst he was abroad, that had ’poisoned his mind with prejudices’ against his brother James, to the extent that, as manipulated, he ultimately changed his Will in favour of his sister and niece.
Supposedly, it was the intention of William Mitchell to return to Scotland where, no doubt, the ‘truth’ would have then been revealed, however, death, unfortunately,
and conveniently, prevented him from doing so.
‘This is the way the curse of gold came, which wrought such mischief. How morally blind they were, to think of a life of happiness after the commission of such crimes. They might, perhaps, hope to drown all recollections of the past in the whirl of fashionable life; but it is impossible to keep up this state of excitement always, and the moment a lull takes place, memory again becomes wakeful and the voice of conscience is heard, like the muttering of distant thunder, warning of coming vengeance.
It is impossible for a person with a character ripened by such crimes to pass through life unpunished.’
* Why the Will was apparently not ‘contested’ by James Mitchell or some form of ’social’ awareness of these particular immoral actions not recorded, is to us, inexplicable. However, it has now been irrefutably proven via the evidence attained by us thus far, that this entire aspect of the story, promulgated by Andrew Smith (A.S. Mt. Cyrus), is pure fiction, as we have discovered through our research that James Mitchell Esq. of St Cyrus (not Montrose) was left five thousand pounds by his brother William, as was his sister, Isabell. Miss Gibson was left thirty-five hundred pounds. Whether any of this money was actually realized remains to be seen, as we now know that many of the plantations (especially sugar), at that time in Grenada, were deeply in debt.
On Sunday, the 4th of May, George nervously visited ‘Stone of Morphie’, where, to his relief, vows of endless love were once again wholeheartedly renewed.
Initially, the Gibson’s had requested of George that he ‘officially’ write to acquire a copy of the uncle’s ‘Will’ for them.
* We also believe that evidence suggests that George Beattie would have remained an acceptable suitor for Miss Gibson, in her parents eyes, had he acquiesced to performing some particular task for them; a task and agenda which he refused to be any part of, believing it to be morally and financially corrupt. He and his acquired knowledge had, from that moment, become a serious threat to their plan, of which, we also believe, William Smart was already involved in... among others, almost certainly all of an equally sinister disposition.
The amount left to Miss Gibson was thought to be about thirty-five hundred pounds, however, by the following Tuesday, the amount had increased to ten thousand pounds after a final reckoning of the estate; this sum would be approximately nine million pounds today.
George was promptly extricated from the scenario and furnished with no further details, other than what was contained in a brief note sent to him by his ‘friend’, Robert Gibson, which contained the very minimum of detail.
For Miss Gibson, no doubt swayed by her mother in particular, the sum was a game changer and her prideful ego took over entirely.
The solemn oaths, the vows, the promises of true love, were all scattered to the winds and Miss Gibson invoked the loss of peace in this world for the sake of paltry lucre and pride.
Her superficial capacity for true love cooled immediately, becoming cold, false and cruel.
She began to shuffle and to prevaricate with the brave, honest, true-hearted man who loved her so well and after several months of treachery and duplicity, finally cast him off after engaging herself, with her mother's encouragement, to a coldly calculating but foppish corn-merchant, William Smart of Cairnbank, the 'playboy' brother of George Smart of Cairnbank).
* Cairnbank was a mansion house and estate near Brechin, formerly known as 'Bothers'.
It was purchased around 1821-22 by the 'Smart' brothers from an Alexander Ritchie.
It is now known as the Templewood Estate due to its former ownership by the Knights Templar.
The 'Smart' brothers obviously relished their newly purchased title and permanently adjoined it to their names.
George Beattie, the poor distracted lover, slow to believe in her utter perfidy and his own ruin, gradually sank under the savage blow which hit him like a thunderbolt. He became deranged with grief and despair.
He made a ‘Will’ and settled all his property among his remaining relatives.
He wrote to the false woman the most heart-broken letters of touching agony, but her heart was stone.
He declared with the most profound crying and tears that without her, life was unbearable and that he could not keep living.
She was deaf alike to the call of honour, to her own solemn imprecation and to the voice of love.
Nothing therefore remained, so thought the wretched man, but to destroy himself and put an end to the existence he found unendurable.
“When hope is killed, a man no longer desires to live. He who would yet live, either has still a ray of sweet hope, or he dreads to die.”
He travelled to Aberdeen, where he would be less known, to secretly purchase a pistol.
After some alleged testing of the weapon on a bothy door at St Cyrus beach and on the South wall/dyke of the Auld Kirkyard, it was found to be wanting, and so a second trip to the ‘Granite City’ to acquire a second pistol was embarked upon.
Despite his overwhelming black depression, as in the case of many reconciled to imminent death, George summoned the strength to smile through his pain, and accepted an invitation to a party at the home of his friend, Mr. William Gordon.
This was to be an event which, ironically, saw George Beattie in the high spirits in which he once had so often been.
On Monday the 29th of September in 1823, George was well-dressed and groomed.
He had put his affairs in order as best he could.
Upon leaving his dwelling in Montrose, George Beattie uttered his final words to his sister Catherine as she informed him of what meal she had planned to make him for dinner that evening :-
“Na, Kate, ye’ll not do that, I’m going to the country, and I’ll maybe no’ be back to dinner, but I can get something if I come… if, I come”
… which he repeated twice.
After looking back several times, he spoke of the likelihood of rain, then he left.
Away wandered the lonely and stricken man by the shore of the bleak and moaning sea.
Having just recently turned 38 years of age, he was never to be seen alive again.
At what exact time on that fateful day George Beattie actually pulled the trigger on himself, will never be known.
What we do know, is that it would turn out to be an appropriately wild and stormy night.
Upon the following day a young herdsman found Beattie lying dead in the Auld Nether Kirkyard of St Cyrus beside the grave of his sister Mary and more than likely, also that of his other lost siblings, Joseph and Elizabeth, to which he had wandered in his agony.
The Old Lower Churchyard of St Cyrus was situated in the West end of a field or haugh belonging to the farm of Scotston of Kirkside. The field was generally in grass, or a least was so on that particular season. The young cattle, in the summer months, pastured it, and were then enclosed nightly in a pen or fold adjoining the Churchyard, its dyke forming part of the enclosure.
William Reith, was herd boy of his father’s cattle that season, and while putting in his cattle, about midday on Tuesday the 30th, saw a person, whom he took for the local minister, Rev. Keith, lying apparently asleep, resting his head and shoulders on the East wall of the graveyard.
Believing it to be the minister, he took no further notice at the time; but on returning to let out his cattle at about two o’clock in the afternoon, he saw the person still lying in the same position.
He then went to examine the matter more carefully, and was horrified in looking over the dyke, to see a large pool of coagulated (lappart) blood lying in the lap, the hat crushed over the eyes, a pistol in the hand with the muzzle resting just inside the mouth on the lip… in short, a dead man.
There was no apparent signs of struggle, except for one loosened gaiter.
The pistol had to have been placed as far back from the mouth as possible, as there were no powder marks on the face ( a fact suspicious in of itself ).
The boy ran home and told his father, who, along with others, hastened to the Churchyard, but by the time they got down, a number of ‘salmon fishers’, who had been taking a stroll in their dinner hour, were in the yard, and had also discovered the dead body.
The first of the squad of fishers who discovered the body was William Balfour, who had been for many years the respected blacksmith and veterinary surgeon at either Langley Park or Bruce Mill, who subsequently wrote a highly graphic letter, detailing the entire circumstances of the discovery so far as he was concerned, to a Mr George Duthie of Dundee.
Another of the fishers identified at the scene was a Mr. James Graham.
Beside George, lay a letter in which, with many heartfelt and solemn words, he explains to his brother David what could be told to justify the awful deed of self-murder :-
you will see me no more in life. My exit can not entail disgrace on you. I hope it will not even do so on my memory.
It will be accounted for on a perusal of the Papers at the “right” end of my desk connected with John Walker’s box, in which you will find several letters. I have tied a string round the box and papers. Take care of them and use them cautiously and discreetly. They are necessary for my justification, if I can be entitled to such. None of you need regret the want of me. You must have observed for some time that I have been totally unfit to attend to business. This has proceeded from (what I consider) wrongs done to me, as will in so far appear from these letters and pages. I entreat you to be of good cheer. I am confident I will be happy. I think I have left Catherine and you what will keep you from want if well guided, which I need not advise you about. You will get on with the business. I think you should collect the accounts. There is a very considerable sum due on the books. If you think it for your interest, you may take any body you choose into partnership with you. You are in possession of my settlement. There is no use for sealing up my repositories or letting any person into my desk but yourself. You need be the least disheartened, for I would only have been a burden
upon you and on myself. You may safely convince my father and mother of this. I need not say more. The papers, letters &c., may be used freely in any way you may think proper in rebutting any charge that may be brought against one who can not answer for himself. You can take advice as to this from any of my friends and acquaintances who are qualified to give it. I am sure they will not refuse their good offices under the circumstances.
May God bless you, and I am, dear David, your loving brother,
The news of the tragic death was brought to the family by the Rev. Dr. Alexander Keith (1791-1880), a ‘Church of Scotland’ minister and friend of George Beattie.
George’s body was taken to Montrose and after several days, was returned for internment at the spot in the South-East corner of the Auld Nether Kirkyard where he had tragically left this world, joining at least one of his siblings, if not three.
Contrary to the belief of some, George Beattie was indeed buried inside the Auld Nether Kirkyard.
At that time, in the ‘Church of Scotland’, those unfortunate souls committing suicide could be denied a Church burial service, but not a burial itself, as the ground was apparently NOT owned by the Church.
* In the year 1823, it was enacted that the body of a suicide should be buried privately between the hours of nine and twelve at night, with no religious ceremony. In 1882, this law was altered by the Internments (felo de se) Act, 1882, where every penalty was removed except that internment could not be solemnised by a burial service, and the body may now be committed to the earth at any time, and with such rites or prayers as those in charge of the funeral think fit or may be able to procure.*
One year later, after the earth had settled, a beautiful monument was erected by his friends.
Of the woman who sent him thus broken-hearted in mad despair to an early grave, he takes leave in some lines of touching intensity of feeling within his final poems, 'The Appeal' and 'Farewell Sonnet', if not sublime, they are at least full of sad and sincere beauty.
Thus came an end to all the bright, golden visions of a courageous, honest and true heart.
Besides the letters from Miss Gibson which Beattie had kept, he left written documents which give a full account of the final tragic chapter in his life called the 'Statement of Facts’ , 'Supplement to Statement of Facts' , 'Additions to Supplement’ and 'The Last'.
The untimely death of George Beattie evoked much intensity of feeling in St Cyrus and Montrose.
There was a volatile mixture of sadness and pity for his fate combined with outrage and indignation directed against those deemed responsible for the tragedy, namely, the Gibson family and William Smart.
As George Beattie was now no longer a possible threat to his mercenary machinations, William Smart, with a clear field and now exhibiting an agenda FAR from his former haste to marry Miss Gibson, repeatedly delayed the event.
Upon their eventual marriage and return from ‘honeymoon’ to Montrose, the pair were stoned and chased from the harbour by an angry mob and forced to seek refuge in the ‘Starr Inn’ of New Wynd.
Mr. and Mrs. William Smart, with their combined fortunes, purchased the most historic house in the town of Montrose, ‘Castlested’ or 'Castlestead', once owned in the fifteenth century by Sir David Wood, the friend and Chancellor of King James V.
It was also subsequently owned by several other wealthy notables, including the Earls of Montrose.
The famed great James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose., was born in it in 1612.
Sadly and ironically, ‘Castlested’ is now the Montrose ‘Job Centre’.
* As a point of interest, William Smart of Cairnbank, was a ‘Land Tax Commissioner of Angus & Kincardineshire’ in 1836.
Now, metaphorically, bearing the ‘mark of Cain’ as it were, Ms. William Gibson (Smart), lived, for seventeen years after George Beattie’s death, a life of cold, loveless, privilege and comfort, with a man she now was painfully aware, never did, nor ever would, love her. As the years passed, her regret and realisation grew.
It was said that Ms. Gibson (Smart) was so afraid of the dark, believing she could see George Beattie’s apparition in it, would not sleep alone if her husband was away, requiring one of the maids to stay with her and a candle always to be kept burning.
The undying devotion she would have received from George Beattie was starkly contrasted with many years of continual neglect by her ‘chosen’ husband, and after a lingering illness for the final two of those years, Ms. William Gibson (Smart) died in her 42nd year on the 22nd of January, 1840 at Castlested, whilst ironically, crying out the name of whom she had become increasingly aware, was her ‘true’ love, the man who had unconditionally given her his heart, George Beattie.
She was the first burial in the then new ‘Rosehill Cemetery’ of Montrose.
Although it was common knowledge, to most people, that William Smart never loved his wife and had only married her to gain her fortune, he ‘acted’ as though he was overwhelmed with grief through various forms of public display.
He wore mourning attire for over a year.
Upon returning from the continent, where he went to ‘deal’ with his ‘sorrow’, he proceeded to pay ‘extreme’ attention to his dead wife’s ageing mother, Isabell Gibson, him being aware of the significant fortune she possessed, especially after the death of her husband.
Ultimately, especially having ‘always’ been in her favour, she died leaving all her property to him.
So, in the end, William Smart of Cairnbank, most likely, inherited the ‘Gibson’ estate in its entirety.
Isabell Gibson, curiously, was not buried with her husband Robert, but rather, with her daughter William, in what would become the ’Smart’ family burial plot in ‘Rosehill Cemetery’ of Montrose.
We do not yet know where Robert Gibson is buried. His daughter Helen (from his first marriage to a Ms. Beattie) and her husband, George Neill are also buried in Rosehill Cemetery, very near the 'Smart' family plot. We would just like to add at this point that Robert Gibson had two children with his first wife (Ms. Beattie); Helen and Williamson, thus being step-siblings to Miss William Gibson, she being the only child of Robert Gibson's marriage to Isabell Mitchell (Gibson).
The accounts of Williamson's death in Jamaica (due to the climate), stated in a letter to George Beattie from Miss Gibson, our research has shown to be a fabrication, the reason for which, thus far, remains unclear.
* Sourced from Robert Gibson’s Last Will & Testament (GIBSON, ROBERT (Reference
SC47/40/7 FORFAR SHERIFF COURT)
He may have succeeded in achieving his goals, but Mr. Smart, the deciding factor in the fate of George Beattie, died at Montrose in 1853, aged 67, a miserable, withered wreck.
Whilst William Smart was living, George Beattie’s ‘Memorandum’ was ‘blocked’ against dissemination or ‘officially suppressed’ in some way, however, at least one ‘copy’ was being circulated and laboriously re-copied repeatedly by hand, but after Mr. Smart’s death, this became no longer necessary and the documents were eventually printed and published by W.P. Nimmo in the A.S. Mt. Cyrus biography of George Beattie in 1863 entitled, “George Beattie of Montrose: a poet, a humourist, and a man of genius”.
* We believe this 'biography' to have been, primarily, an exercise in 'damage control', commissioned by 'remaining influences'. The book served not only to focus blame and vilification mainly on Miss Gibson and promulgate a good deal of misinformation and disinformation, but it also allowed its author Andrew Smith, to indulge his 'true' passions, which were botany and nature. We believe that the book also helped finance his relocation to South Africa. It should be noted, that the third edition had no author attributed to it.
As to the author of the 1863 biography; A.S. Mt. Cyrus, M.A., was a pseudonym for an Andrew Smith of Lauriston Mains, who went to the South African Province of Natal, and eventually died in Queenstown, South Africa in 1898 of heart disease, in his early 70’s.
He was a native of St Cyrus and an avid follower of the works of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Keith, especially his book on ‘Prophecy’.
He was also lifelong friends with Dr. Keith’s sons.
Andrew Smith had three brothers: the Hon. Charles Abercrombie Smith, a Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Cape of Good Hope; the Rev. David Smith and the Rev. Robert Smith of Carsock. He also had a sister who was the wife of the Rev. W. R. Thomson of Balfour.
As for Mt Cyrus, it is another name for the Ecclesgreig Estate which was originally known as the 'Lands of Mount Cyrus' and 'Lands of Criggie'. Ecclesgreig Castle was built in 1844 from the remains of Mount Cyrus or St Cyrus House.
The name was changed to 'Ecclesgreig' (Eglise Grig) by the ancestral owners, the Forsyth-Grants, to avoid confusion with the village of St Cyrus.
What our research has uncovered, as stated earlier, is that George’s father, William and brother, James, left Montrose and relocated to Perthshire, where they continued their careers as ‘Officers of Excise’ at the Ruthven Printfield Company (Cotton Duty).
We have not been able to establish whether William Beattie and his wife, Elizabeth Scott remained together.
We know that James married and eventually relocated to Glasgow.
He fathered two children, William and Elizabeth, named obviously, after his parents.
George Beattie had ultimately died intestate, due to the timing of his death and his Will not having become valid.
His property therefore passed to his elder brother, James; who in point of fact, honoured George’s wishes and passed the house etc., back to David and Catherine.
It appears as though there had been estrangement between George and James, but we have been unable discover if this was the case or not.
It is not clear thus far, what exactly became of George Beattie’s mother, Elizabeth Scott (Beattie), and at what point she herself passed away.
William Beattie died in 1843, aged 80 years.
David Beattie died, after an apparently successful life, in 1848, age unknown.
We have found no records pertaining to James and Catherine Beattie’s dates of death.
We have no clue whether any descendants of George Beattie are still living.
All we actually know for sure is that an ‘anonymous’ donation for 2/6 (two shillings and six pence, usually said as "two and six" or "half a crown”), stated in the ‘Montrose Review’ to be from a “Descendant” was made in 1923 towards a centenary ‘Renovation Fund’ for George’s grave, in order that it may be improved and then maintained in a “creditable condition” henceforth.
* It may be noted, that the fatal flintlock pistol that deprived George Beattie of his life, was last known to be in the possession of a Mr. James Fraser, who owned the “Curiosity Shop” which once occupied No. 123 Nethergate, Dundee.
At the present time, these premises are known as the ‘Cafe Rodi’.
Regarding the accusations of insanity which were, and still are, directed at George Beattie; we are NOW aware that exogenously induced endogenous ‘major depressive disorder’ is NOT in fact insanity, but merely the paradoxical reaction of a sane mind trying to adjust to an insane world.
It can only be speculated upon, that had a greater understanding of his condition and circumstances been prevalent at the time, then maybe his cruel fate could possibly have been altered.
the fact cannot be ignored, that the ‘absence’ of George Beattie was
extremely beneficial, if not vital, to the machinations of certain people.
(Great insight as to this fact may be gained from George Beattie's own words:
"That plots were laid by others to oust me and secure Miss Gibson’s fortune, I know well from the inquiries that were made at myself from a certain quarter. Those who interfered were far too many for me."
We personally believe that our research will reasonably establish that George Beattie was either railroaded into suicide or simply murdered by certain socially powerful individuals in order to shield themselves from the deserved consequences of their 'criminal' and immoral actions which were motivated purely by greed and their lust for power).
Researched by Barry Dominic Graham and John Molloy
From the ‘MONTROSE REVIEW’, October 1823.
“It is with no ordinary feelings of regret that we have to record the death of Mr. George Beattie, writer here, which happened on the 29th ultimo. In his professional capacity, Mr. Beattie was eminent for his integrity, abilities and conciliatory disposition, which made him regard what was just, rather than what was scientific. As a scholar, nay, as a philosopher, his mind was stored with whatever is excellent in literature; and he admired whatever is grand, impressive, and interesting in nature.
He was both a man of observation and reflection; and his remarks were listened to with that degree of attention which a superior judgement always commands. Above all, as a man, as an upright, independent, generous, and sociable man, he was honoured, esteemed, and beloved; nor was this tribute paid to the qualities of his heart in a common or a partial degree, but warmly and generally. His satirical powers (which, keeping a judicious aim, become an active virtue itself), were elucidated in many instances and thrown with subtle keenness against vice, folly, and corruption. In testimony of this, he has left behind him many admired specimens both in prose and verse. The milder effusions of his genius abound in sentiment and pathos, equal at least to many of the more lauded poetical pieces of the day; and had he prosecuted with ardour that gift with which he was favoured, he might have laid claim to a palm which a less qualified muse may now possess. His humour was unbounded, and was of such a nature that it delighted all who had the honour of his acquaintance, without hurting the feelings of any. He was a firm patriot, a universal philanthropist, and a warm friend: noble, generous, honest, modest, unassuming, feeling: he was a man who mixed with opposite parties, and was equally beloved by all. It may be thought by those who shared not the pleasures of his society, that this outline of Mr. Beattie’s character and qualities is a laboured panegyric; and we confess that, of an individual at a distance, we should have suspected so, but to those who knew him, it will appear only an attempt to draw the contour of a picture which every one admired in its natural perfection. As public journalists, we have no right to intrude with our own private feelings, in lamenting the death of this worthy and valuable member of society; but it would have been doing injustice to the public, whose concern is deep upon this occasion, to have said less; and we are assured that none will contradict us when we declare, that no man in this town and neighbourhood was ever more generally beloved in his life, or more universally lamented in his death.”
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