Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Sir James Hunter Blair and family by David Allan 1785

Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet FRSE (February 1741 – 1 July 1787) was a Scottish banker, landowner and politician.


The grave of James Hunter Blair, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Edinburgh

Born John Hunter in Ayr, the son of a merchant,[1] John Hunter of Mainholm and Millquarter and his wife, Anne Cunninghame.

In 1756 he was apprenticed to Messrs Coutts, bankers in Edinburgh and in 1763 became a partner in the banking company of Sir William Forbes, and acquired the estate of Robertland. After his marrying Jean Blair, the daughter and heiress of John Blair of Dunskey in Wigtownshire in 1770, the family name became Hunter Blair when she inherited her father's estate in 1777.

Hunter Blair was Member of Parliament for Edinburgh from 1780 to 1784 and Lord Provost of Edinburgh from 1784 to 1786. As Lord Provost, he carried through various reforms, including the beginning of work on rebuilding the University and the construction of South Bridge, over the Cowgate.[2] The foundation stone of this bridge was laid by Lord Haddo, as Grand Master Mason of Scotland in 1785, after Parliament had passed an Act giving permission for the plans to be executed. This connection gives rise to the names Hunter Square and Blair Street immediately west of South Bridge. By negotiation his Edinburgh seat as MP was passed to Sir Adam Fergusson, 3rd Baronet of Kilkerran, in the election of August 1784.[3]

In November 1783 Blair was a founder member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.[4] His Edinburgh home was on George Street, then a new Georgian townhouse in the centre of Edinburgh's First New Town.[5] His country house was Dunskey House in Ayrshire.

Blair was created a baronet of Dunskey in the County of Wigtown on 27 June 1786.[6]

Hunter Blair cordially received Robert Burns when the poet first arrived in Edinburgh. On his death, Burns drafted an elegy, beginning: "he lamp of day, with ill-presaging glare", which extols rather laboriously Blair's public virtues. Burns called it "just mediocre",[2] but Ferguson describes it as "the disastrous Elegy on the Death of Sir James Hunter Blair".

Hunter Blair was an enthusiastic Freemason. Hunter Square and Blair Street in Edinburgh are both named after him.

Blair died in Harrogate in England, but he is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh.[4]


Due to his standing in Edinburgh at the time of the creation of South Bridge in the 1780s, both Blair Street and Hunter Square, at the north end of the bridge are named after him.[1]


He married the rich Jane (or Jean) Blair of Dunskey in 1770 and thereafter adopted the name James Hunter Blair.

They had 14 children including Sir David Hunter Blair, 3rd Baronet FRSE (1778–1857).


There were 10 sons and four daughters of the marriage.[7] The sons, excluding four who died young, were:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland: The Caledonian Society of Scotland
  2. ^ a b Henderson 1886.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1784
  6. ^ "No. 12758". The London Gazette. 10 June 1786. p. 253.
  7. ^ "Hunter Blair, James (1741–87), of Dunskey, Wigtown, History of Parliament Online". Retrieved 16 April 2015.
  8. ^ a b William White (1862). Notes & Queries. Oxford University Press. p. 414.
  9. ^ Charles Rogers (1871). Monuments and monumental inscriptions in Scotland. p. 38.
  10. ^ John Burke (1837). A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry; Or, Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland Etc. - London, Henry Colburn 1837–1838. Henry Colburn. p. 457.

 Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1886). "Blair, James Hunter". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 5. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 162.

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir Lawrence Dundas
Member of Parliament for Edinburgh
Succeeded by
Sir Adam Fergusson
Baronetage of Great Britain
New title Baronet
(of Dunskey)
Succeeded by
John Hunter Blair