Archibald Murray Douglas

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Archibald Murray Douglas was born in 1790 and died in 1872.

He was the youngest son of William Douglas (1745-1814) and Elizabeth Graham (d1816). He came from a large family of eleven, seven girls and four boys: Margaret (1770-1818), Anne (1771-1845), Robert, who would become the third of Brigton (1773-1835), Helen (1775-1780), Elizabeth (1776-1848), Sir William (1778-1818), Jane (1782-1846), John Graham (1783-1813), Helen (1787-1816) and Katherine (1789-1827).

Archibald became a Captain in the 52nd Oxfordshire Light Infantry Regiment of Foot. In 1804, Sir John Moore asked for a "youngster of the same breed" as his brother (John). After Archibald finished his education, he entered the army as an ensign, on January 30, 1808. That same year he fought in the Peninsula wars with the 1/52nd (from Aug 1808–Jan 1809). He was promoted to Lieutenant on February 13, 1809. He took part in the retreat to and Battle of Corunna (1808-9). He was also at Walcheren, in 1809. Subsequently, he was with the 2/52nd from March–June 1811; the 1/52nd from July 1811–March 1812 and from November 1813–April 1814. He was promoted to Captain on April 28, 1814.

As well as being at Corunna, he was present at Sabugal, Fuentes d’Onoro. Ciudad Rodrigo, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Tarbes, and Toulouse. He received the MGS medal for Corunna, Fuentes d’Onoro. Ciudad Rodrigo, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse.

The Douglas family of Brigton had suffered a series of crises. Archibald’s father, William Douglas (1745-1814) had invested in the flax mill in Douglastown which had failed as a consequence of the Napoleonic wars. He paid off all of the debtors of the enterprise by selling much of the land of Brigton, so only the house and farm remained. In addition, the family had lost their third son, David, when he was twenty-two. John Graham (b 1783), the fourth son, died in Spain in 1813, in the Peninsula wars. He predeceased his father by a year. Then, William (b. 1778), who had been knighted in the field and must have been a hero in the family, died in France in 1818. Three sons were dead. Only Robert the heir and Archibald remained. Archibald may have lived all his life in the shadow of their memory.

Archibald married on August 5, 1814 to Anne Wedderburn Webster (1791–1822), the daughter of his oldest brother’s wife, Elizabeth. (Robert was seventeen years older than Archibald). This was the same year and just over a month before his father passed away, on September 28, 1814. The Wedderburn money added an injection of much needed equity to the family. Archibald’s first child, a daughter, Elizabeth (Eliza) Frances, was born the following year (May 10, 1815) at the Hague in the Netherlands, just before the Battle of Waterloo (June 18). I can’t find a birth certificate, and it seems that the baby arrived just nine months after the wedding. Archibald retired on half pay the next year, February 25, 1816, and his son, William David (1816–1875), was born on August 7. Archibald’s mother, Elizabeth, also died in November of the same year. Retirement, the birth of his second child and the loss of his mother all occurred within months of each other. His third child, Mary (1818–1913), was born in 1818, and his wife Anne died in July 1822. She was only thirty one. She left Elizabeth 7, William 6, and Mary 4. I expect they were sent to live with their aunts. The story goes that Elizabeth received her education in London. Did she live with her maternal uncle, James Wedderburn Webster?

In 1837, Archibald was featured in New Sporting Magazine (vol. 13) as

“a gentleman... for whose character as a sportsman I had the highest respect, from the unanimous testimony borne to it by the best judges in Scotland, touching the essential properties of a sportsman. It is true, I had previously known and made mention of this gentleman as a horseman and a steeple-chase rider, but the degree of excellence in one and in the other of these pursuits, are not to be named on the same day, neither are they indeed at all a-kin to each other. I allude to Mr Archibald Douglas, better known as “Archy Douglas”—brother to the late Mr Douglas, of Brigton, in Forfarshire, also a sportsman whose decrease took place a short time back. …. Mr Archibald Douglas not having taken up his hunters this winter, I only occasionally saw him in the field in Scotland, but I saw enough of him to convince me, that all I heard of him as a sportsman was true. I put him quite at the top of the tree, believing that he knows the science of hunting as far as it can be known. As a horseman, riding from twelve to thirteen stone, I need say no more of ‘Archy Douglas,’ than to mention a few extraordinary feats performed by him; for from John o’Groats to the Land’s End, his name is up…

This, indeed, is the peculiar feature of his horsemanship over a country; it appears to matter little what sort of a horse he rides, provided he has some “go” in him, for his hand is so good, his seat so strong, his nerve so well-braced, and his temper so fine, that he generally keeps them on their legs. But his feats! Why I think the two following can scarcely be beaten by any man. He rode a steeple-chase with three ribs broken, almost at the start; and getting a fall into a brook, when in his usual place in a run, he suffered his horse to drag him eight yards under water rather than lose his hold of him, by which he might have lost that place. “Who never backward looks, but onward goes.”

He would have been forty seven at the time this was written (and he should have known better).

Archibald became embroiled in two separate and damaging court cases. The first, Wedderburn vs Wedderburn, an infamous and lengthy court case (1831-1857), is described in the Wedderburn book. Archibald’s wife Anne’s family had made a fortune out of sugar-cane farming (and rum and slaves) in Jamaica. Anne’s mother, Elizabeth Read had initially been married to David Wedderburn-Webster (1757-1801) before he died and she married Archibald’s brother, Robert.

In May, 1822, an account was come to, between the executors of John Wedderburn, and Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Murray Douglas and their trustees. By the account and deed of 29th August, I812, the sum of 98911. 17s. 5d. was stated to be due to the daughter Anne; and John Wedderburn covenanted to pay that sum, by instalments, the last of- which was to be paid on
the 1st August, 1816. In August, 1814, a marriage was agreed upon be tween Anne and the plaintiff Archibald Murray Douglas, and marriage articles, dated August 6th, 1814, were executed between these parties and their trustees, who were the plaintiff, Sir James, and a Mr. William Douglas, since deceased; and thereby it was covenanted, that the fund to
which Anne Webster, ‘the intended wife, was entitled, should be as- ['746] signed to the trustees, on the contemplated trusts. The marriage
took effect ; John Wedderburn died, without having fully paid what was due to Mrs. Douglas ; George Hawkins was appointed a trustee in lieu of William Douglas; a settlement was executed pursuant to the articles ; and upon an account stated between the parties, it appeared, that 34561. 15s., remained a balance due to Mrs. Douglas, or her trustees, in respect of the 98911. 17s. 5d. mentioned in the deed of August, 1812; and that sum was paid to the trustees, the plaintiff Sir James Webster Wedderburn and George Hawkins; and thereupon, an indenture, dated 22d of May, 1822, and made between the plaintiffs, Sir James Webster Wedderburn and George Hawkins, of the first part; the plaintiff Archibald Murray Douglas and Anne, then his wife, of the second part; and James Wedderburn, and the defendants, Andrew Colvile and Alexander Seton, of the third part., was executed; and thereby, it was
witnessed, that the trustees and Mr. and Mrs. Douglas released and discharged James Wedderburn, Andrew Colvile and Alexander Seton, and the estate of John Wedderburn deceased, from the 98911. 17s. 5d., which remained due to Mrs. Douglas, as appeared by the deed of 29th of August, 1812; and which was thereby secured to be paid, by five instalments, as therein mentioned, and from all actions and demands in respect thereof, or relating thereto.
This was the last deed executed by any of the parties ; on the occasion of its execution, no reference appears to have been made to the state of the accounts, between the old firm oif Wedderburn, Webster & Co., or the estate of David VVebster and the surviving partners, or the subsequent firms. It
had relation only to the sum of 989ll. 17s. 5d., which, by the deed of ['747] 29th of ‘August, 1812, appeared to be due to Mrs. Douglas, and the eflect of it was, to admit that that sum was paid.
And, on a consideration of all these accounts and documents, I think that the accounts were not, and could not, by any of the parties, be considered as finally wound up and settled. They were all founded on the account of 1st of May, 1809, which was, in part, merely an hypothetical account, founded on a supposition that no more of the debts due to the concern, exclusively of that due from the estate of James Wedderburn, would be received, than was sufficient to pay the debts due from the concern, which it was assumed would all be paid ; and it was necessarily intended to inquire, some time or other, how far this supposition corresponded with the event.
Moreover, the estate was subject, or supposed to be subject, to the payment of two annuities, one of 5001., given by the will to the defendant, Lady Douglas, and the other of 201., payable to a Mrs. Young; and it is necessary to consider, what was done with respect to investments, to answer these annuities, not only, with a view to the liability with which the plaintiff seeks to charge the executors on that account, but also, with a view to the effect of the general transactions between the parties.

The Wedderburns have a remarkable history. David Wedderburn-Webster’s uncle, John Wedderburn (1704-1746), fought at Culloden. He suffered capture, trial and brutal execution at the hands of the English. His sons and brothers fled to Jamaica, where they made their fortune and at one time owned extensive plantations. (Westmoreland was one). David Wedderburn-Webster was a partner in the firm in London that represented the plantations in Jamaica. (The change in name came about as a result of the conditions of inheritance of the Webster fortune.)

David’s first son (and Anne’s brother) was the infamous Sir James Wedderburn Webster Wedderburn, notorious for gambling, running around with Byron, and living up to his reputation as a rake and a fool. Once he depleted his inheritance, he decided to sue the partners of his father’s business, for he believed they had cheated him of his fair share. Archibald joined with James on behalf of his wife Anne. This case tore the family apart. The saying goes that even now members of one side are prepared to be called out by the other side.

The second court case was about the inheritance of Brigton. Archibald’s nephew (brother Robert’s son), William, had taken a common law wife, Ellen Rigge who lived in London. They eventually married in 1863. When he died (in 1869), leaving several children, Ellen claimed the property on their behalf. This claim was contested by Archibald, probably for the sake of his son, William, who had been named as executor and legatee by his cousin, William. This case is known as Douglas vs Douglas.

Archibald attempted to argue that Robert’s son William had surrendered his rights to the property because he had lived much of his time in England. From the judgement, William’s relationship with Ellen Rigge had not been tolerated by the family, and this is probably why he did not spend much time in Scotland. The judgement, which was handed down in 1871, went in favour of William and Ellen Rigge’s children, so Archibald and his son William (Eliza’s brother) had to forfeit any claim on the house.

Elizabeth (Eliza) had already departed for Australia in 1849 on the Fortitude with four children from her first marriage and a baby from her second. Her first husband Alexander Hill had died when he was thirty-three. Her second husband, Alexander Black, from St Andrews, was four years younger than her.

Archibald’s son William (1816–1875), Eliza’s brother, was in the 14th Regiment of Foot from 1834–1858 and ended up as a Lieutenant Colonel, having served in the Crimea (1854-55). He may have been stationed in Jamaica and Ireland, as well. I don’t know if he married.

Archibald did not last long after the final judgement on Douglas vs Douglas. He went to live with his youngest daughter Mary and her husband James Cox in Wales. He was buried at St Brynach’s Church, Llandfrynach, Brecon, Wales. The headstone with cross is dedicated “To the memory of Archibald Murray Douglas Captain HM 52nd Regiment Youngest son of William Douglas esquire of Brigton in the county of Forfar NB who died at Ty Mawr in this parish the 6th Feb 1872, aged 82. He’s outlived Eliza by six years.

Kindly contributed by Jo Robertson



Sources for this article include:

• Oxfordshire Light Infantry Chronicle, 1906, pp.187-9
• The Wedderburn book
• John Stewart, Byron and the Websters, McFarland, 2008.
• Douglas vs Douglas
• Reports of Cases in Chancery, Argued and Determined in the Rolls Court During the Time of Lord Langdale, Master of the Rolls [1836-1839]

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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024