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Edmonstone (Strathblane)

Archibald Edmonstone (1754-1821), laird of Spittal in the parish of Strathblane (Stirling), was the older brother of Charles Edmonstone (who had a timber estate on Mibiri Creek, on the river Demerary) and of Jean Edmonstone, who married Archibald Lapslie or Lapsley (who had a timber estate on Hobbabba Creek, also on the Demerary).

Four of Archibald Edmonstone’s six sons were active in Demerara and he, or his son of the same name, formed Archibald Edmonstone & Co in which Lapslie was a partner.

Archibald (1786-1837), the eldest son of the above Archibald Edmonstone, had taken over the Hobbabba Creek estate from his uncle (Archibald Lapslie) before 1820, when he was visited by Charles Waterton. Waterton described the killing of a large anaconda:

In 1820, on my way to the interior of Guiana, I accompanied Mr. President Rough to the hospitable house of Archibald Edmonstone, Esq., in Hobbabba Creek, which falls into the river Demerara. We had just sat down to breakfast. I was in the act of apologising for appearing barefoot, and in a check shirt, alleging, by way of excuse, that we were now in the forest, when a negro came running up from the swamp, and informed us that a large snake had just seized a tame Muscovy duck. My lance, which was an old bayonet on the end of a long stick, being luckily in a corner of the room, I laid hold of it in passing, and immediately ran down to the morass. The president and his son followed; and I think that Mr. Edmonstone and his late lamented brother joined them.

Charles Waterton, Essays on natural history, chiefly ornithology (1838)

Archibald Edmonstone later returned to Scotland and died in Stirling in 1837. Two of his brothers, George (1795-1818) and Charles (1793-1822), died in Demerara. The fourth of the Edmonstone brothers, Robert (1791-1834), was a merchant in Georgetown, in partnership with a Mr Macdonald. In 1821 a Mr Edmonstone, along with a Mr Simson, arrived in Quebec from Demerara. This might have been a fifth brother, William (1794-1875), described as ‘sometime of Canada’.

The fullest records are of Robert. One visitor in 1821, bearing a letter of introduction from John Gladstone, described him as a ‘gentlemanly Scotchman’:

He received me courteously and ‘hoped to see me occasionally’, a hope I did not share, knowing the fate of introductory letters in general. [JJC Memoirs Vol. 2 p. 124]

One of his slaves was trained in taxidermy by Charles Waterton:

Mr. Robert Edmonstone . . . had a fine mulatto capable of learning anything. He requested me to teach him the art. I did so. He was docile and active, and was with me all the time in the forest. I left him there to keep up this new art of preserving birds and to communicate it to others. [Charles Waterton, Wanderings in South America, p158]

After the rising of slaves in 1823, Robert gave evidence against the missionary Rev John Smith and was used by the court as ‘a translator of negro dialect’. [Joshua Bryant, Account of the insurrection of the negro slaves in the colony of Demerara, p61]

Robert died in Edinburgh in 1834. At emancipation in that year, Robert Edmonstone and Archibald Lapslie, as partners in Archibald Edmonstone & Co, claimed compensation of £6734 5s. 7d. for the 127 slaves on their estate on Waratilla Creek.

 

Source used throughout: John Guthrie Smith, The parish of Strathblane, (Glasgow, 1886)