Sir Thomas Dundas of Kerse

(1st Baron Dundas)

1741 - 1820

Thomas Dundas (1764)
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Thomas Dundas (1764)

Politician, merchant and naval officer. The son of Sir Lawrence Dundas (1712-81), who had amassed a considerable fortune and was descended from the Fingask branch of the Dundas family. Dundas was educated at Eton and the University of St. Andrews. Between 1763 and 1768 he served as Member of Parliament for Richmond (Yorkshire), where the family were later to become based, and then for Stirlingshire between 1768 and 1794. That same year he was created Baron Dundas of Aske.

He inherited the estates of Kerse, near Falkirk, through which his father had built the Forth and Clyde Canal. Dundas commissioned William Symington (1763 - 1831) to build a tug for his canal, which became the world's first steam-powered boat. Called the 'Charlotte Dundas', after Dundas' daughter, the tug underwent successful trials on the canal between 1802 and 1804, showing itself capable of towing heavy barges. Unfortunately its opponents were concerned that the tug would damage the canal banks and the project was abandoned.

Dundas also served as Vice-Admiral of Orkney and Shetland. His son and successor, Laurence, was created Earl of Zetland in 1838 and his grandson, another Laurence, became the Marquess of Zetland (1892). Today, the Marquesses of Zetland remain based at Aske Hall, Dundas' home in Yorkshire.

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