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Richard Oswald


1705 - 1784

Influential merchant who amassed great wealth from plantations in the West Indies. Born in Dunnet (Caithness), the son of the parish minister, Oswald became a teacher at the school in Thurso, but left initially for Glasgow and then moved to London. There he established himself as a successful merchant and slave trader. He married Mary Ramsay, only daughter of a plantation owner, and inherited several properties in the West Indies and America. Mary was celebrated in a song by Robert Burns (1759-96). His wealth increased further during the French and Indian War (1754-63) through obtaining a contract to supply the British Army with bread. He had a wide circle of influential friends in the Americas and, in 1782, was appointed by the British Prime Minister to attempt find a settlement in the American War of Independence. He became known as 'Richard the Peacemaker' when he concluded a peace treaty in Paris which he signed along with his friend Benjamin Franklin. However the treaty did not receive the support of the British House of Commons. Oswald resigned and the war continued until it was finally concluded by an identical treaty almost a year later.

Oswald bought Auchincruive Estate in Ayrshire in 1764, and commissioned the notable architect Robert Adam (1728-92) to build a house which later became known as Oswald Hall. It was here Oswald died.


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