One of Kellie's friends, James Boswell, the famed diarist, noted on Thursday 20th October 1762 that he had borrowed five guineas from Kellie at the Kelso Races adding "the romantic conceit of getting it from a gamester, a nobleman and a musical composer".
Thomas Robertson in his book 'An Inquiry into the Fine Arts' described Kellie's music as "the fervium ingenium of his country bursts forth; and elegance is mingled with fire."
Captain E. Topham in Edinburgh, May 1775 "Lord Kelly, whose admirable talents and genius in this science have been corrupted and restrained by his poorly copying the compositions of other masters." Topham went on to suggest that he composed better when he was drunk. "I refer you to these wilder compositions, where his proper genius has broke forth, where his imagination heated by wine, and his mind unfettered by precept, and unbiased by example has indulged itself in all of its native freedom."
His dissolute lifestyle had affect on his appearance developing a particularly ruddy complexion which one observer remarked that he would be able to ripen cucumbers by looking at them.
Henry Erskine summed up his relative : "Still, it is certain, that of all the boisterous free livers of the age, no-one was so free or so boisterous as Lord Kellie. His rough good nature is said to have been very attractive to men younger than himself; and to them his manner of life was dangerous in a high degree, in an age when a coarse joviality was apt to be looked upon as a sign of good fellowship."
In November 1775 that he narrowly escaped death when his ship was wrecked in the English Channel.
His relative,well known lawyer. MP and Lord Advocate of Scotland, Henry Erskine is thought to have composed the following lines:-
In ancient story this I've found,
That no Musician e'er was drown'd.
A harp was then, or I mistake it,
Much better than the best cork-jacket;
The Grecian harpers went abroad
The lockers well with liquor stor'd,
For harpers ever had a thirst,
Since harping was invented first;
They in the cabbin sat a drinking,
Till the poor ship was almost sinking;
Then running nimbly to the poop,
They gave the scaly brood a whoop;
And sudden as they formed the wish,
For every harper came a fish;
Then o'er the briny billows scudding
They car'd for drowning not a pudding.
Methinks my Lord, with cheek of rose,
I see you mount your bottle-nose;
Or firmly holding by a whole fin
Ride degage upon your dolphin.
'Twas thus the tuneful Peer of Kelly
Escap'd some whale's enormous belly;
And safe in London, thinks no longer
He'll prove a feast for shark or conger.
"He loved his bottle but was a worthy social character." - Gentleman' Magazine obituary.
"Still, it is certain, that of all the boisterous free livers of the age, no-one was so free or so boisterous as Lord Kellie. His rough good nature is said to have been very attractive to men younger than himself; and to them his manner of life was dangerous in a high degree, in an age when a coarse joviality was apt to be looked upon as a sign of good fellowship." - Henry Erskine