GUNSGREEN House is getting ready to pay tribute to a man who was once part of the furniture of the famous mansion as a former employee of notorious smugglers John and David Nisbet.
In June 1736, exactly 275 years ago next month, Alexander Dow was born near Comrie in Perthshire and by the early 1750s he was busy working for the Nisbet brothers in Berwickshire.
And his close relationship with the family was emphasised in the fact that in 1757, whilst on board the state licensed pirate ship the King of Prussia, at the age of just 21, he made out his will in which he left everything to his “beloved friend David Nisbet.”
Eleven years later, having travelled to the East, become a Colonel in the East India Company in Calcutta and edited the ‘History of Hindostan’, the first English language history of India, Dow returned to London and staged a play at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, produced by David Garrick. He also became a close friend of David Hume.
After returning to India briefly, he was back in London again in 1772, when he had his portrait painted by Joshua Reynolds and arranged to have another play performed.
Alexander Dow died in India, aged just 43 in 1779. He had never made another will, so his wealth – some £10,000 (perhaps as much as £1m in today’s terms) – should have come to David Nisbet.
To mark the anniversary of his birth and and his close links to Gunsgreen House, an afternoon event is being held on Sunday, June 19, from 2pm-6pm. Derek Janes will describe the Colonel’s career and his close connections with the Nisbet Brothers; Anne Buddle, of the National Galleries of Scotland will talk about Scots in India in the Eighteenth Century and there will be readings from Dow’s works and from articles about him. Afterwards Derek will give a guided tour of Gunsgreen.