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Bannatyne, William Macleod (DNB00)


BANNATYNE, Sir WILLIAM MACLEOD (1743–1833), Scotch judge, was the son of Roderick Macleod, writer to the signet, and was born 26 Jan. 1743–4. Admitted a member of the Faculty of Advocates in 1765, he soon acquired, by the help of his father and his gift of clear perspicuous statement, a good position at the bar. Through his mother he succeeded to the estate of Kames, in Bute, when he assumed the name of Bannatyne; but his careless and expensive habits rendered it necessary for him in a few years to part with the property. In 1799 he was promoted to the bench, with the title of Lord Bannatyne. In this position his upright and impartial conduct and sound legal acquirements secured him general respect, although his judgments—clear and precise as they were when he stated them—became strangely intricate and involved when they were put by him in writing. On his retirement from the bench, in 1823, he received the honour of knighthood. He died at Whiteford House, Ayr, 30 Nov. 1833.

Sir William Macleod Bannatyne was one of the projectors of the Edinburgh periodicals, the ‘Mirror’ and ‘Lounger,’ edited by Henry Mackenzie, with whom, and with Blair, Cullen, Erskine, and Craig, he lived on terms of intimate friendship. Much of his spare time was spent in the gratification of his literary tastes, and his papers in the ‘Mirror’ and ‘Lounger’ display much genial wit and sprightliness. He was one of the originators of the Highland Society in 1784, and he was an original member of the Bannatyne Club, which, at its institution, was limited to thirty-one members. For some years he remained the sole survivor of the old literary society of Edinburgh, whose mild splendours were eclipsed by the brilliant achievements of the succeeding generation with whom he mingled during the latter period of his life. He was among the last of the Scotch gentlemen who combined in their manners dignity and grace with a homely simplicity now for ever lost, and could make use of the graphic and strong vernacular Scotch in the pure and beautiful form in which, for many years after the union, it continued to be the current speech of the Scotch upper classes.

[Kay's Series of Original Portraits and Caricature Etchings, edition of 1877, ii. 370–71; Gent. Mag. New Series, i. 105.]

T. F. H.