Background and early life
Robert Scott was born on 17 January 1738, the son of Dr John Scott and his wife Magdalene Moncrieff. Both his father and his paternal grandfather were doctors of medicine. Magdalene was heiress to the estate of her father, David Moncrieff. Robert had one elder brother, who died in childhood, and four sisters.
Robert’s mother Magdalene died when he was a baby. His father remarried and had six further children.
After Robert inherited his late mother’s estate he adopted the family surname Moncrieff, becoming Robert Scott Moncrieff.
Career to 1783
Robert Scott Moncrieff was a merchant in Edinburgh.
In 1779 he was appointed deputy receiver general of the land tax. In 1781 and 1782 he served as acting receiver general, and when the post became formally available in 1783, he believed that it should be his. When he was not appointed, he refused to continue as deputy, and resigned altogether from the Office of the Land Tax.
The Royal Bank of Scotland
In 1783 the Royal Bank of Scotland reversed its previous policy of operating only from its head office in Edinburgh and decided to open a branch in Glasgow. Robert Scott Moncrieff, having recently resigned from the Office of the Land Tax, was appointed to serve as its joint agent. Soon afterwards, he remarked, in comparing his new and old jobs: ‘my present appointment at Glasgow, tho’ it may not be so profitable, is more respectable than a deputyship.’
His fellow joint agent in the Glasgow office was David Dale. Dale had numerous other business interests, so Scott Moncrieff was responsible for undertaking most of the agents’ work. The branch soon became exceptionally busy, playing an important role in the economic expansion of Glasgow and, in turn, of the Royal Bank itself. By the early years of the 19th century the Glasgow agency was transacting more business than the bank’s head office in Edinburgh. Scott Moncrieff’s daily letters to William Simpson, the Bank’s cashier in Edinburgh (written 1801-3) survive in the NatWest Group's archives, and provide precious insights into life and business in Glasgow in that period. Digitised versions of them are available on this site.
By 1803 Scott Moncrieff wanted to retire, but the bank was slow to find a replacement for him. The distress he felt at a financial crisis which unfolded over 1803, severely affecting a number of his customers, increased the urgency of Scott Moncrieff’s requests to be allowed to leave office. He finally retired at the end of December 1803.
He was an ordinary director of the Royal Bank of Scotland from 1806 until his death in 1814.
Public service and offices
Robert Scott Moncrieff was an active supporter of the Edinburgh Orphans’ Hospital from the 1760s onwards.
During his years in Glasgow he served periods as a director of the town’s hospital, as a town councillor and as an assessor of Glasgow poor rates.
In around 1763 Robert Scott Moncrieff married Jean, daughter of Edinburgh merchant William Hogg. They had three children together: John, William and Jean. She died in 1769 giving birth to their third child, Jean.
Robert Scott Moncrieff’s second wife was Ann Wellwood. They had one child together, who was named Robert.
Scott Moncrieff was a religious dissenter, and through his friend Henry Thornton (who also acted as London agent for the Royal Bank of Scotland) was connected with the Clapham Sect.
Retirement and death
After his retirement in 1803 Scott Moncrieff wished to remain in Glasgow, where he had made his home for 20 years, but his wife and friends persuaded him to return to Edinburgh.
He died on 10 November 1814. He was survived by his sons William and Robert, his daughter Jean and his second wife Ann. His remains were interred with those of his first wife Jean in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh. After his second wife Ann died in 1829 her remains were also added to the tomb.
His death notice in the Scots Magazine called him ‘a gentleman universally esteemed and regretted, on account of his many amiable qualities, and for the great attention he paid to the religious, charitable and benevolent institutions of this city’