Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lawrie, William

LAWRIE, WILLIAM (d. 1700?), tutor of Blackwood, was of the family of Lawrie of Auchenheath, in the parish of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire. He married Marion Weir, heiress of Blackwood and widow of Lieutenant-colonel James Ballantyne, a son of the laird of Corehouse. By her Lawrie had a son, George, who was heir to his mother's estates, and assumed the surname of Weir. Lawrie was tutor successively to his son, who died in April 1680 (General Retour, Nos. 6295, 7618, and Lindsay, Retours, 1724), and to his grandson, afterwards Sir George Weir of Blackwood. He thus acquired the title by which he was commonly known—tutor or laird of Blackwood.

Besides managing his son's estate, Lawrie, in March 1670, was appointed factor on the extensive estates of James Douglas, second marquis of Douglas [q. v.], and gained complete control over his weak-minded master. He was credited with causing the breach between Douglas and his first wife, Lady Barbara Erskine, who died in 1690, and allusion is made to his share in the quarrel in the familiar ballad on the subject beginning

O waly, waly up the bank

(Mackay, Ballads of Scotland, pp. 189-94).

Lawrie was reputed to be a man of piety, and showed a kindly feeling towards the persecuted covenanters. His friendly attitude to them after the engagement at Pentland (28 Nov. 1666) led to his imprisonment in Edinburgh Castle, but he was soon released. Some time after Bothwell Bridge (22 June 1679), however, he permitted some covenanter tenants of his to remain on his lands without denouncing them to the authorities. He was therefore arrested again, was tried, and was condemned to be beheaded at the Cross of Edinburgh on the last day of February 1683. Many landowners in the district had been guilty of like offences, and his fate created widespread uneasiness. Lawrie petitioned humbly for his life, and the Marquis of Douglas obtained a respite of the sentence, on the special ground that no other living person knew anything about the state of his affairs. Lawrie remained in prison until the revolution in 1688, when he was set at liberty (Wodbow, Hist. Burns edition, ii. 26, 29, 88, iii. 449–52). Lord Fountainhall, who was an occupant of the judicial bench during this period, describes Lawrie as 'a man of but an indifferent character.' and believes his transactions with the covenanters 'were dictated by worldly policy, not by sympathy with their principles and aims.' (Decisions, i. 190, 213, 215).

Lawrie took an active part in the raising of Lord Angus's Cameronian regiment, afterwards the 25th infantry, which was enrolled in one day, and bravely defended Dunkeld in 1689 against the highland army.

Meanwhile Lawrie had resumed his control of the Marquis of Douglas's property, and was fast bringing it to ruin. But when he ventured to meddle with his master's second wife, Lady Mary Kerr, she turned the tables upon him, and after much difficulty secured the appointment of a commission of her husband's friends to investigate his management of the estates. They convinced the marquis that Lawrie had abused his position. He accordingly dismissed Lawrie in 1699, and clamoured for his prosecution. Lawrie was then an old man, and probably died soon afterwards.

[Fraser's Douglas Book, ii. 450–8, iii. 344, iv. 273–88; Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, by Irving and Murray, ii. 208.]

H. P.