Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Allardice, Robert Barclay

ALLARDICE, ROBERT BARCLAY (1779–1854), pedestrian, generally known as Captain Barclay, was the son of Robert Barclay, representative of the family of Barclays of Ury, who took the name of Allardice upon his marriage to Sarah Ann Allardice in 1776. The marriage was dissolved in 1793; Mrs. Allardice married John Nudd in 1795, and died in July 1833. Robert was born in August 1779, succeeded to the family estate after his father's death in 1797; went into the 23rd regiment in 1805, and served in the Walcheren expedition in 1809 as aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Huntly. He devoted himself to agriculture and improved the local breed of cattle. He married Mary Dalgarno in 1819; and their only child Margaret married S. Ritchie in 1840, and settled in America. After his mother's death, Captain Barclay claimed the earldom of Airth on the ground of his descent from William, Earl of Monteith, (d. 1694). The case was heard before the House of Lords in 1839; and in 1840 Captain Barclay claimed also the earldoms of Strathern and Monteith, but proceedings were ultimately dropped. In 1842 he published a short account of an agricultural tour made in the United States in the preceding spring. He died 8 May 1854, from paralysis, having been injured three days previously by a kick from a horse. Captain Barclay is known by his extraordinary pedestrian performances. His most noted feat was walking one mile in each of 1,000 successive hours. This feat was performed at Newmarket from 1 June to 12 July 1809. His average time of walking the mile varied from 14 min. 54 sec. in the first week to 21 min. 4 sec. in the last, and his weight was reduced from 13 st. 4 lb. to 11 stone. Though he had not trained himself regularly, he was so little exhausted that he started for the Walcheren expedition on 17 July in perfect health. He had previously accomplished many remarkable feats. In 1801 he had gone 110 miles in 19 hours 27 min. in a muddy park; in the some year he did 90 miles in 20 hours 22 min. 4 sec.; in 1802 he walked 64 miles in 10 hours; in 1805 he repeated this feat, and on another occasion walked 72 miles between breakfast and dinner; in 1806 he walked 100 miles over bad roads in 19 hours; and in 1807 78 miles on hilly road in 14 hours; in 1808 he started at 5 a.m., walked 30 miles grouse-shooting, dined at 5, walked 60 miles to his house at Ury in 11 hours, after attending to business walked 16 miles to Laurence Kirk, danced at a ball, returned to Ury by 7 a.m., and spent the next day partridge-shooting, having travelled 130 miles and been without sleep for two nights and three days. In 1810–11 he rode twice a week 51 miles to hunt, and after hunting returned the same night. A year later he went 33 miles out and home three times a week for the same purpose. At the age of 20 he could lift half a ton, and lifted a man weighing 18 stone, standing upon his right hand and steadied by his left, from the floor to a table. Barclay's strength was inherited. His ancestor, the first Barclay of Ury, was one of the strongest men in the kingdom, and his sword, too heavy for ordinary men, was preserved in the family; his grandfather (great-grandson of this first Barclay and grandson of the apologist) was known as ‘the strong;’ and his father was a ‘noted pedestrian,’ who walked from Ury to London (510 miles) in 10 days, and had also walked 210 miles in three days, and 81 miles in about 16 hours. He was six feet high, and remarkably handsome. A portrait of Captain Barclay is given in ‘Pedestrianism,’ with a minute account of his athletic feats.

[Pedestrianism, by the author of the History of Aberdeen (W. Thom), 1813; Gent. Mag. (new series), vol. xlii.; History of the Earldoms of Strathern, Monteith, and Airth, by Sir Harris Nicolas, 1842.]

L. S.