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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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became temporary proprietor of the estate—yea, temporary proprietor, because a private arrangement was made with him before taking possession, " that, should a covenanted king surmount the throne, the estate would return to the Hamiltons. " It must have been with his aunts, these sisters of Sir William and Sir Robert, that Dr Oswald made the private arrangement.
" With the death of Sir Robert, who was unmarried, " says Veitch in his "Life of Sir William Hamilton, " "closed the main line of the House of Preston, and the family fell to be represented by Robert Hamilton of Airdrie, who was fifth in the main line from John, second son of Sir Robert Hamilton the seventh of Preston, who died before the year 1522. "
There is evidently a slight mistake here. We find that David, who was married about 1540 to Janet, a daughter of Sir William Bailie of Lamington, was the fifth Hamilton of Preston. His son George, born in 1542, was the sixth of the race, and John his brother, who obtained charters from James VI. for the two villages of Preston and Prestonpans, was the seventh Hamilton in succession at Preston. The only Robert of Preston we know of was the Covenanter. He was the twelfth in succession, and died about two hundred years after the Robert mentioned by Veitch.
We lose the family history of the second, third, and fourth Hamiltons of Preston entirely through the conflagration of 1544; but as David, who was married about 1540, must have been born about 1520 at latest, the Sir Robert referred to by Veitch, who died previous to 1522, would seem rather to have been the fourth in succession, and father to Sir David. If this were so, it would reduce the number of Hamiltons of Preston awanting to only two.
" Dr William Hamilton, " continues Veitch, " Professor of Botany and Anatomy in the University of Glasgow, was a Cadet of the Hamiltons of Airdrie, near Glasgow, who again were a branch of the Hamiltons of Preston and Fingalton, and the tradition was that, since the extinction of the direct male line of that most ancient house, they—that is the Airdrie branch—were entitled, as its representatives, to bear its titles and honours.
" Hitherto, however, no attempt had been made to prove the claim, which was of the less importance as it did not include the lands of Preston, these having been disposed of by their last owners.
"The traditional connection of the Hamiltons of Airdrie with the Hamiltons of Preston was destined to influence the imagination of young William Hamilton, son of Dr William, who latterly became Professor of Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh, and it was left to him, as we shall see, to trace the precise descent and assume the hereditary honours of the historical house of Preston.
"A Dr Robert Hamilton of Airdrie, cousin to William, was at this period the recognised head of the family, and the traditional claim to the Preston baronetcy rested with him, but he had allowed his own estate to get out of his hands. This cousin died in 1799.
" During 1813, young Hamilton, " continues Veitch, " is continually in correspondence from Edinburgh with his mother. In one letter he says, ' I have been working a good deal in the register office and have accumulated a good mass of curious information about the house of Preston. I have found above a score of deeds establishing of Sir William, etc.
" It was as representing his late cousin Robert Hamilton, laird of Airdrie, that Sir William claimed and obtained the family honour of Preston. "
There is a curious story abroad in connection with this claim. It may be right or wrong, we give it as we got it. When Sir William's advocate was in the act of bringing evidence before the " Lords" in order to prove his claim, among many other Christian names of Hamiltons he came on one Methuselah—when " Stop, stop ! " ejaculated the presiding judge, " if you and the court are satisfied that even Methuselah was a Hamilton, I am more than satisfied that this William Hamilton deserves the baronetcy of Preston, " and thus it was decided amid a hearty outburst of laughter.
In order to give the old family name once more a standing at Preston, in 1819 Sir William acquired by purchase the old Tower and garden surrounding it. Sir William enjoyed the honours of the ancient barony of Preston for a good many years. He died on 6th May 1856.
To the long roll of great and patriotic men which this ancient family has given to the history of Scotland, must now be added that of the present representative of the family, General Sir William Stirling Hamilton, Bart., R. A.
He was born in Edinburgh, and educated at the Edinburgh Academy. Prior to the Mutiny he joined the Hon. East India Company Service. Before he had been a year in the army he was placed in command of two field guns on field service with the King of Oude's troops. He volunteered for every expedition against the hill tribes round
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