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Prestonpans and Vicinity

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proprietor a new mansion house in lieu of the old Tower was erected about 1705.
The estate was heavily burdened with debt when Oswald got it, and what with the building of Preston House, etc., the burdens did not become lighter. Latterly, with debts unpaid, bonds over it, and the interest of the loan money yearly increasing, the poor old estate of Preston got into a sad position.
Some time previous to 1715, Lord Grange arranged with Dr Oswald and took possession of Preston House. He instantly set about redeeming the mortgages, paying off old debts, and repurchasing or reclaiming odd pieces which had been cut from the old baronetcy, and by this means acquired a complete title over the whole estate of Preston in his own right.
This new proprietor of Preston, the Hon. James Erskine of Grange, was brother of the Earl of Mar, and one of the supreme judges. He became Lord Justice Clerk during the reign of Queen Anne, a position, it is said, to which his brother the Earl of Mar helped him.
At this period Lord Grange was considered the leading man in the parish, and the church at Prestonpans becoming vacant, he was the means of securing, in 1724, the appointment for his old schoolmate William Carlyle of Cummertrees, Annandale, who was father to Carlyle of Inveresk.
"The stipend" here during the early years of Carlyle's incumbency was so very small that he was unable to support his family upon it. He complained to his old friend Lord Grange of being in very straitened circumstances, and he, along with Lord Drummore, came down from the bench and pleaded the minister's cause so effectually that he had his stipend raised from £70 to, £140 per annum. Morrison of Prestongrange was patron of the parish at this period, but his estate was under sequestration, and they found little opposition in gaining the augmentation.
Lord Grange was dismissed from the office of Lord Justice Clerk in the beginning of the reign of George I.
He married a daughter of Chiesly of Dairy, who is said to have been a very passionate man and shot a neighbouring proprietor in Edinburgh one day, simply because he opposed him in some trifling matter. Lady Grange is said to have been a lovely woman, but of violent temperament after her father. Lord Grange, it appears, had cruelly wronged his lady love before marriage, and it was only through fear, after she had threatened to murder him, that he fulfilled his promise and married her.

In 1734 he threw up his seat as a judge in the Court of Session in order to oppose Sir Robert Walpole in Parliament. He was elected for the Stirling Burghs, but never shone in the House as a politician.
During his stay in London he formed a suspicious connection with the female keeper of a restaurant, of which her ladyship soon had knowledge. He is said to have tried many things in order to appease her wrath, but failed to do the right thing, and there never more was peace between them.
Independent of Preston House, they had a private dwelling-place in Edinburgh, and the city house was much occupied by her ladyship. It was while she was living there that Lord Grange conceived a diabolical plot with a view to getting her out of the way and silencing her tongue for ever.
Murder was not intended, but banishment was. The plot was to carry her whence she could not return, and leave her where none of her relations might find her. His chief assistants, says Carlyle of Inveresk, in this matter were Lord Lovat, and M'Leod of St Kilda.
Erelong he put his violent and outrageous plot into execution, had her borne direct from his Edinburgh house, carried by way of Stirling, and never halted more than necessary to rest till he had her safely conveyed to the small island of Heoker. After detaining her there for a space of two years, he had her conveyed to the Isle of St Kilda. On the affair getting wind, he afterwards had her removed to Harris, where she died in 1745, before arrangements for obtaining her release and a full inquiry into the case could be completed. " The most extraordinary thing of all, " continues Carlyle, "was that, except in conversation for a few weeks, among the general public nobody took any notice of the outrage. It was generally believed that she was being kept comfortably, though confined, in some castle in the Highlands belonging to Lovat or M'Leod, and not till many years afterwards did it become known that she had been sent to such a horrid place as St Kilda. "
After this, and during the rebellion, Lord Grange kept close to his house at Preston, where he is said to have amused himself by turning his garden into many narrow walks, and by planting trees, forming so many intricate avenues, that although it only extended to some four or five acres altogether it took one about two hours to perambulate the enclosure. The garden here referred to is the one wherein at the present time stands the Market Cross.

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