The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: From the Earliest Times to 2004

By Elizabeth Ewan; Sue Innes et al. | Go to book overview

B

BAILLIE, Lady Grisell, n. Hume (or Home), born Redbraes Castle, Berwickshire, 25 Dec. 1665, died Mellerstain 6 Dec. 1746. Poet, household manager. Daughter of Grisell Ker, and Sir Patrick Hume, later Earl of Marchmont.

In 1676, Grisell Hume, aged 11, undertook a dangerous mission when her father's friend, Robert Baillie of Jerviswood, was fined and imprisoned in Edinburgh for rescuing his brother-in-law, the Covenanting Rev. James Kirkton, who was in trouble with the authorities. Anxious to get a message to Robert Baillie, Sir Patrick sent his daughter to Edinburgh Tolbooth, where she delivered his letters to the prisoner and met his son, George Baillie (1664–1738). After Robert Baillie was arrested again in 1683 for complicity in the Rye House Plot, Sir Patrick Hume realised that his own life was in danger and hid in the vaults of Polwarth Church, the troopers having taken possession of his castle of Redbraes. Grisell regularly brought him food, visiting him at midnight with the morsels she had concealed in her lap during her own dinner. When Robert Baillie was executed, Grisell Hume and her family, including her father, fled to Holland and settled in Utrecht, where she met George Baillie again.

After the Revolution of 1688, Grisell Hume was offered and declined a position as maid of honour to Queen Mary II. In love with George Baillie, she knew that she would not see him if she were to settle in London. Instead, she returned to Scotland and married him on 17 September 1692. Attractive, charming and an excellent businesswoman as well as a talented poet, Grisell was his wife for 46 years. They had two daughters and a short-lived son. Living at Mellerstain after her marriage, she put all her father's affairs in order and looked after her brother's interests when he was abroad. Her husband entrusted her with the entire management of his own finances until his death in 1738. After her death in 1746, she was buried at Mellerstain, where her famous household books have been carefully preserved. Noting in meticulous detail her household expenditure from 1692 to 1733, they provide an invaluable source for the social historian. RKM

Mellerstain: The Earl of Haddington's Archives. Kerrigan, C. (1991) An Anthology of Scottish Women's Poetry; Scott-Moncrieff, R. (ed.) (1911) The Household Book of Lady Grisell Baillie 1692–1733; Murray of Stanhope, G., Lady (1821) Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of the Honourable George Baillie and Lady Grisell Baillie of Jerviswood; ODNB (2004); SP; Swain, M. (1970) Historical Needlework

BAILLIE, Lady Grisell, baptised Mellerstain, Berwickshire, 6 June 1822, died St Boswells, 20 Dec. 1891. First deaconess, Church of Scotland. Daughter of Mary Pringle, and George Baillie, 9th Earl of Haddington.

Grisell Baillie grew up at Mellerstain, the Georgian great house near Gordon in the Borders. She was the youngest of 11 children, and the great-great-grand-daughter of another *Lady Grisell Baillie. Although she had many suitors and was known for her beauty, she never married. There were two significant men in her life: her brother, Robert, to whom she was a devoted companion, and Rev. Dr Archibald Charteris who established the order of deaconesses in the Church of Scotland. His vision was to recognise the gifts of women and offer them the opportunity of formal service. Grisell Baillie had covenanted with her brother to share a life of prayer and service, expressed in care for the sick and the children of the parish, raising funds for foreign missions and community improvements such as arranging for better water supplies to the village of St Boswells and for a bridge to be built over the Tweed to shorten the walking distance to church.

Overcoming opposition to this new breed of women within the Church of Scotland, Grisell Baillie undertook the required training and patiently navigated Church bureaucracy until, in 1888, she was 'set apart' (commissioned) in Bowden Church, an occasion which she described as her wedding day' (Magnusson 1987, p. 61), becoming the first deaconess in the Church of Scotland. The Church of Scotland Woman's Guild, also an initiative of Dr Charteris and *Catherine Morice Charteris, was formally launched in 1887 and in 1891 held its first conference. Lady Grisell presided, using the occasion to urge members 'to go and work in the vineyard' (Gordon 1912, p. 358) and to launch a campaign for temperance that would prove far-reaching.

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