Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No 2

Sir James Hunter Blair 1741-1787

Grand Treasurer

He was Member of Parliament for Edinburgh from 1780 to 1784 and the Lord Provost of the City in 1784. He was created a baronet in 1786. As Lord Provost, he carried through various reforms, including the beginning of work on rebuilding the University and the construction of the bridge over the Cowgate. 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. Blair was knighted the following year. Burns was cordially received by him when he arrived in Edinburgh. On Blair's death, the poet drafted a somewhat stilted elegy, beginning: 'The lamp of day, with ill-presaging glare', which extols rather laboriously Blair's public virtues. Burns called it 'just mediocre' but Ferguson describes it, justifiably as 'the disastrous Elegy on the Death of Sir James Hunter Blair'. Blair was an enthusiastic Freemason. Hunter Square and Blair Street in Edinburgh are both named after him.