Single Member Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Alternated with Kinross-shire

Number of voters:

25 in 1774, 16 in 1788


10 Apr. 1761James Abercromby 
3 Nov. 1774Ralph Abercromby15
 James Francis Erskine10
10 Apr. 1784Charles Allan Cathcart 
29 Nov. 1788Burnet Abercromby vice Cathcart, deceased 

Main Article

Two family groups contended for the representation of Clackmannanshire. The first included the Abercrombys of Tullibody and Brucefield, their relations the Bruces of Kennet, Sir Lawrence Dundas, and Lord Cathcart. The second comprised the Erskines of Mar, and their kinsmen the Erskines of Grange and of Alva.

In 1761 the Abercromby candidate was returned apparently unopposed. In 1774 James Erskine of Forrest stood against Ralph Abercromby; each side created fictitious votes; and a violent contest ensued, during which the candidates fought a duel.1 The Erskines, advised by James Boswell, planned to secure a majority by objecting to the new votes created by their opponents, but the head court dismissed their protests and Abercromby was returned. A petition was presented, but the election committee which tried the case refused to enter into the question of qualifications; and Abercromby was confirmed in his seat.2

By the time of the next election in 1784 the Abercromby party had disintegrated. The Dundases, Robert Bruce (Lord Kennet, S.C.J.), and Lord Cathcart, belonged to the Fox-North party; while the Abercrombys were attached to Henry Dundas and Pitt. John Robinson wrote in his survey for the general election:3

Whether Sir Thomas Dundas will be able to carry Clackmannan cannot now be said as papers cannot be got at. Mr. [Henry] Dundas says either Colonel Abercromby or Mr. Erskine of Alloa will come in and be pro.

But it was Charles Allan Cathcart who was returned, apparently with the support of Sir Thomas Dundas and the Erskines. On Cathcart’s death in 1788, Lord Cathcart placed his votes at Henry Dundas’s disposal; and Burnet Abercromby was returned unopposed.4

Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest


  • 1. Ld. Dunfermline, Memoir of Sir Ralph Abercromby, 24.
  • 2. Boswell, Private Pprs. x. 47-48, 145-6, 183-92.
  • 3. Laprade, 102.
  • 4. HMC Laing, ii. 528; W. Robertson, Peerage of Scotland 1707-88, pp. 444-67.