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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Riddell, Walter (1764-1802)

Younger son of Walter Riddell of Glenriddell, and brother to Captain Robert Riddell. He married Ann Doig, the daughter of a sugar-prince in Antigua, through whom he inherited estates there when she died a year later. While in the West Indies taking over his estates, he met Maria Banks Woodley, third daughter of William Woodley, Governor and Captain-General of the Leeward Islands. He married her at St Kitts, on 16th September 1790, and soon afterwards returned with her to London. A daughter was born there to them on 31st August 1791, and another on 23rd November 1792.

In the spring of 1792, Walter Riddell acquired the estate of Goldielea from its proprietor, Colonel Goldie, by putting down a small deposit, renaming it Woodley Park in his wife 's honour. To find the balance of the purchase money, Walter Riddell returned to the West Indies in the

summer of 1793, where he remained until the early spring of 1794, being thus out of the country during the 'Sabine Rape' incident at Friars' Carse. But he could not find the necessary money, so Goldie repossessed the estate. At about the same time, Robert Riddell died. Walter had expectations of getting Friars' Carse; expectations which came to nothing, as Burns explained to an unidentifiable correspondent, McLeod, in a letter of 18th June 1794. McLeod, it seems, hoped to purchase, the place himself. 'The fate of Carse is determined. A majority of the trustees have fixed its sale. Our friend, John Clarke, whom you remember to have met with here, opposed the measure with all his might; but he was overruled. He, wishing to serve Walter Riddell, the surviving brother, wanted the widow to take a given annuity and make over to him the survivancy of the paternal estate; but, luckily, the widow most cordially hates her brother-in-law, and, to my knowledge, would rather you had the estate, though five hundred cheaper, than that Wattie should. In the meantime, Wattie has sold his Woodley Park to Colonl Goldie, the last Proprietor. Wattie gave 16000 £ for it; laid out better than 2000 £ more on it; and has sold it for 15000 £. So much for Master Wattie's sense and management, which, entre nous, are about the same pitch as his worth.'

Burns had a low opinion of Maria's husband, who drew some of his spleen when Maria's support of her sister in the Sabine Rape affair led her temporarily to withhold her friendship, an action which greatly hurt Burns. Burns's epitaph, silly though Waiter Riddell may have been, reflects no credit on its author:

"So vile was poor Wat, such a miscreant slave
That the worms even damn'd him when laid in his grave.
'In his skull there's a famine!' a starved reptile cries;
'And his heart, it is poison!' another replies.

'Poor Wat' seems to have dissipated his estate. The Walter Riddells moved to Tinwald House, between Dumfries and Lochmaben. In May 1795, they moved again, to the smaller house of Hallheaths, on the eastward side of Lochmaben. They were there when Burns died. Walter died in Antigua, apparently penniless, for his widow and surviving daughter had to live at Hampton Court as state pensioners, until Maria remarried in 1807, and died the following year.

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Complete Burns Songs

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