Carolina, Baroness Nairne - Encyclopedia

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NAIRNE, CAROLINA, BARONESS (1766-1845), Scottish song writer, was born in the "auld hoose" of Gask, Perthshire, on the 16th of August 1766. She was descended from an old family which had settled in Perthshire in the 13th century, and could boast of kinship with the royal race of Scotland. Her father, Laurence Oliphant, was one of the foremost supporters of the Jacobite cause, and she was named Carolina in memory of Prince Charles Edward. In the schoolroom she was known as "pretty Miss Car," and afterwards her striking beauty and pleasing manners earned for her the name of the "Flower of Strathearn." In 1806 she married W. M. Nairne, who became Baron Nairne (see below) in 1824. Following the example set by Burns in the Scots Musical Museum, she undertook to bring out a collection of national airs set to appropriate words. To the collection she contributed a large number of original songs, adopting the signature "B. B." - "Mrs Bogan of Bogan." The music was edited by R. A. Smith, and the collection was published at Edinburgh under the name of the Scottish Minstrel (1821-1824). After her husband's death in 1830 Lady Nairne took up her residence at Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, but she spent much time abroad. She died at Gask on the 26th of October 1845.

Her songs may be classed under three heads: (I) those illustrative of the characters and manners of the old Scottish gentry, such as "The Laird o' Cockpen," "The Fife Laird," and "John Tod"; (2) Jacobite songs, composed for the most part to gratify her kinsman Robertson, the aged chief of Strowan, among the best known of which are perhaps "Wha '11 be King but Charlie?" "Charlie is my darling," "The Hundred Pipers," "He's owre the Hills," and "Bonnie Charlie's noo awa"; and (3) songs not included under the above heads, ranging over a variety of subjects from "Caller Herrin'" to the "Land o' the Leal." For vivacity, genuine pathos and bright wit her songs are surpassed only by those of Burns.

Lady Nairne's husband, William Murray Nairne (1757-1830). He was descended from Sir Robert Nairne of Strathord (c. 1620-1683), a supporter of Charles II., who was created Baron Nairne in 1681. After his death without issue the barony passed to his son-in-law, Lord William Murray (c. 1665-1726), the husband of his only daughter Margaret (1669-1747) and a younger son of John Murray, 1st marquess of Athole. William, who took the name of Nairne and became 2nd Baron Nairne, joined the standard of the Jacobites in 1715; he was taken prisoner at the battle of Preston and was sentenced to death. He was, however, pardoned, but his title was forfeited. His son John (c. 1691-1770), who but for this forfeiture would have been the 3rd Baron Nairne, was also taken prisoner at Preston, but he was soon set at liberty. In the rising of 1745 he was one of the Jacobite leaders, being present at the battles of Prestonpans, of Falkirk and of Culloden, and consequently he was attainted in 1746; but escaped to France. His son John (d. 1782) was the father of William Murray Nairne, who, being restored to the barony of Nairne in 1824, became the 5th baron. The male line became extinct when his son William, the 6th baron (1808-1837), died unmarried. The next heir was a cousin, Margaret, Baroness Keith of Stonehaven Marischal (1788-1867), wife of Auguste Charles Joseph, comte de Flahaut de la Billarderie, but she did not claim the title. In 1874, however, the right of her daughter, the wife of the 4th marquess of Lansdowne, was allowed by the House of Lords.

For Lady Nairne's songs, see Lays from Strathearn, arranged with Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Pianoforte by Finlay Dun (1846); vol. i. of the Modern Scottish Minstrel (1857); Life and Songs of the Baroness Nairne, with a Memoir and Poems of Caroline Oliphant the Younger, edited by Charles Rogers (1869, new ed. 1886). See also T. L. Kington-Oliphant, Jacobite Lairds of Gask (1870).

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