Monday, 23 March 2009


A very pleasant walk from our base at Dunira takes one to a prominent monument on the hill behind Comrie. Here it is midst the Forestry plantation which now surrounds it. (Ordnance Survey Reference NN7623.)

The inscription reads:


Died 29th May 1811

Aged 69

Upon reading some background about this chap, the building of this monument (erected in 1812) seems quite extraordinary! First there is the man, then there is the story, late in his life, of his disgrace by impeachment.

He was a Scottish lawyer and politician who lived from 1742-1811. From 1794 to 1801 he was War Secretary under Pitt, his great friend. In 1802 he was elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom as Viscount Melville and Baron Dunira. From 1784–1800 he was treasurer of the British navy. In 1804 he was First Lord of the Admiralty (for one year). Apparently he was of indispensable value to Pitt, and became his right-hand man as well as his friend and drinking companion.

However it seems he was "at it". Suspicion had arisen as to the financial management of the Admiralty, of which Dundas had been treasurer between 1782 [sic] and 1800. In 1802 a commission of inquiry was appointed to look into the "malversation" (which means misconduct in public office; corrupt administration) by Lord Melville.

A Google Book Search found this book in the Bodlean Library, Oxford. Lord Melville was impeached and this is the story. There is a Preface which doesn't mince words, followed by a full report:

The Trial, by Impeachment, of Henry Lord Viscount Melville, for High Crimes and Misdemeanors before the House of Peers in Westminster Hall, between the 29th April and the 17th May, 1806.

To which is prefixed A SKETCH of the Life and Politcal Character of his Lordship [etc etc etc], London, 1806.

Preface opens with: "In this volume the public is presented with the progress and result of an important enquiry into the conduct of a nobleman, who having held the most dignified offices of the state, was impeached by the House of Commons, for corruption in the administration of the public money."

It goes on: "At the period when... auditing the public accounts of the appears, that the sum of these accounts, unexamined and unexplained, composes an amount more enormous than the whole national debt ... [where] upwards of 150 millions sterling were circulated under the administration of Lord Melville....".

- Does all of this ring a bell?!!!! -

It makes interesting reading:

"When, in 1804, Mr. Pitt was called to the helm, his faithful friend and assistant, Lord Melville, received the important appointment of first lord of the admiralty; a post which, however, he was not long to hold. From his first entrance into public life, he had enjoyed without interruption the smiles of fortune, but now a political cloud, in the shape of the Tenth Report of the Commissioners of the Naval Enquiry, intervened, to throw a gloom over his future prospects.

This commission for the enquiry into abuses in the naval department of the public service, had been instituted at the instigation of his lordship's immediate predecessor, the Earl of St Vincent. It was composed of five gentlemen ... who found it necessary to call upon Lord Melville and the Paymaster of the Navy, Mr. Trotter, for information relative to various sums of money, of the application of which, during the treasurership of the former [Lord Melville] they could find no account....."

He was acquitted but was found to be negligent.

* * * * * *

In 1802 (following the erection of a statue to Pitt (by subscription) friends of Mr Dundas in Edinburgh raised £3,000 by subscription for the purpose of erecting a statue in his honour "and which sum was placed at interest to accumulate till his demise."

I thought that might be what funded this obelisk, but I now think it must be for the one erected in Edinburgh which I just happen to have referred to here (in another post) which refers to Jamie Stoddart's Clerk-Maxwell statue unveiling in George Street, Edinburgh in November 2008.
That is Viscount Melville on the plinth in St Andrew's Square in the background of the photo.



[1] There is a second post on this topic adjacent to this i.e. scroll up.

[2] The letter "BT" or "bt" in the inscription (after Baron Dunira) bothers me. I don't think I am seeing that correctly. Could it be "&c"?

[3] Thank you for comments! I do read (and post) them!


Vagabonde said...

Your pictures are so clear, especially the plaque of Lord Melville - I wonder what type of camera you use. I have a new digital Nikon D40, but I am not confident with it yet. We are flying to Long Beach, California tomorrow to visit our eldest daughter there and for my birthday. I'll take some pictures of the beach, the berthed Queen Mary and the lagoons in Venice Beach. Some of your pictures of the lake are truly beautiful. Now I have to buy a map of Scotland to see where all your pretty pictures are located! Greetings

BJM said...

I use a Nikon D40 too!