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Chapter 25. - The Roll of Honour

In the state and the church, in the army and the navy, in letters and law and science, and in the struggles for religious and political liberty, there is many a noted name associated with our county.

The name of Scrymseour or Scrimgeour, “skirmisher or hardy fighter,” was bestowed by Alexander on Sir Alexander Carron, for bravery in assisting to put down a rebellion, and in particular for carrying the royal standard across the Spey. The honour of being standard-bearer was made hereditary in his family and attaches to his lineal representative of to-day. One descendant of Scrimgeour was made constable of Dundee by William Wallace. Another bore the royal standard at Harlaw and fell in the battle. Sir Alan Durward (i.e. door-ward), whose castle was situated near the Loch of Lintrathen, held high office under Alexander II, married one of the king’s daughters, was one of the regents during the minority of Alexander III, and in 1264 was one of the leading generals at Largs. In the thirteenth century the Montealts or Mowats, who had property near Fern, were an important Forfarshire family. One of them went to Norway as a witness of the marriage of Princess Margaret to King Eric.

Another family of historical interest is that of the Bethunes, Betons, or Beatons, whose descent has been traced to the time of William the Lion. James Beaton, Abbot of Arbroath and subsequently Archbishop of St Andrews, was succeeded in both offices by Cardinal David Beaton. The latter owned various lands in Forfarshire, and built Melgund Castle.

James Hallyburton of Pitcur Castle was Provost of Dundee in the time of Mary of Guise. He was a Protestant leader and protected Paul Methven (a noted reforming preacher of Dundee) against the royal mandates. When Mary was being besieged in Leith, Hallyburton led a contingent from his town, and was killed in a sortie from Leith. His son, provost of Dundee for thirty-three years, held many high offices during the reign of Mary, and was one of the committee who brought about her demission of the crown.

Sir Thomas Lyon, the Master of Glamis, was conspicuous in the Raid of Ruthven. It was he who exclaimed, “Better bairns greet than bearded men!” and at his death James is said to have remarked that the boldest and hardiest man in his kingdom was dead.

The “Great” Marquis of Montrose is one of the most noted of the sons of Forfarshire. At first a Covenanter, he went over to the king’s side in 1642, and for some time was the terror alike of his native shire and of the whole country. His brilliant career and its sad termination have been the theme of many a writer.

Few men have been more eulogized by friends and defamed by foes than John Graham of Claverhouse, created Viscount Dundee by James VII. In Scott’s Old Mortality he is depicted as a stern yet chivalrous soldier. Another native of Forfarshire shared with Claverhouse the epithet of “bloody”—Sir George Mackenzie. Born in Dundee (1636), he was educated at St Andrews and Bourges. Becoming King’s Advocate, he earned the undying hatred of the Covenanters for his stern severity as prosecutor. But he was a lover of literature, and his best title to fame is the foundation of the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh.

Admiral Duncan was raised to the peerage as Viscount Duncan for his naval exploits, and especially for his victory at Camperdown. “The rapidity of his decision, the justice of his glance, were equal to those of Nelson himself.”

Sir William Chalmers served with distinction under Wellington in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, and was knighted for his services.

From 1762 to 1790 the Forfar and Fife District of Burghs was represented in Parliament by George Dempster of Dunnichen. He was nicknamed “Honest George” because of the deep interest he took in the welfare of his native county. Equally distinguished in the beginning of the nineteenth century was George Kinloch. He presided over a monster meeting in Dundee to protest against the “Peterloo massacre” and so roused the ire of the authorities that he was outlawed and was in exile for three years. Pardoned by George IV, at the personal request of his daughter, Kinloch returned to his native town of Dundee, and sat as its first representative in the Reformed Parliament. William, Lord Panmure, is known as “the father of reform in Scotland,” and still more widely famous was his son, Fox Maule, Secretary of War. Of another statesman, Joseph Hume, Montrose, his native town, is justly proud. In India he acquired so profound a knowledge of Indian languages that he was appointed Government Interpreter and Commissary-General. On his return home he became a great radical reformer in Parliament and won for himself the esteem and confidence of the whole nation.

One of the outstanding figures in the Reformation struggle was George Wishart, a native of Forfarshire. Teacher of Greek and preacher of the reformed doctrines, he became a marked man and was burned in St Andrews in 1546. Another Forfarshire martyr, Walter Mill, long parish minister of Lunan, was burned in St Andrews at the age of eighty-two. In later times the Rev. James Guthrie, son of the Laird of Guthrie, was executed for having promoted the Western Remonstrance, and for having denied the authority of the king in ecclesiastical matters. Dr Alexander Leighton, Usan, was one of Laud’s victims, being mutilated in 1630 by order of the Star Chamber for a virulent libel against the bishops. His son, Robert Leighton, Bishop of Dunblane and afterwards Archbishop of Glasgow, proved himself a most amiable and broad-minded churchman.

The great names of Andrew Melville, James Melville his nephew, and Erskine of Dun, all closely connected with Montrose, take us back to the sixteenth century. With the exception of Knox, no preacher had more influence in ecclesiastical affairs than Andrew Melville. Melville was renowned as a scholar. He was Professor of Latin in Geneva, and, on returning to Scotland, became Principal of Glasgow University and then of St Mary’s College, St Andrews, where at the same time his nephew was Professor of Oriental Languages. Andrew was for four years imprisoned in the Tower of London, and died in exile at Sedan in 1622. John Erskine of Dun, a member of a well-known family, returned from the Continent imbued with reformation principles, yet so highly respected by all that he frequently played the role of mediator between Catholics and Protestants. It was he who brought to Montrose Marsilliers, the first teacher of Greek in Scotland. After the Reformation :n 1560, he was appointed Superintendent of Angus and Mearns. Without sacrifice of his integrity, he managed to retain the confidence of the Reformers and the favour of James VI.

Thomas Erskine of Linlathen, near Dundee, advocate and theologian, a friend of Carlyle, Dean Stanley, and F. D. Maurice, was an accomplished scholar, but was still more potent in stimulating the religious life of his times. Dr Thomas Guthrie, a native of Brechin, had his first ministerial charge in Arbirlot, though it was in Edinburgh that he won his fame. He was one of the Disruption leaders; and his deep interest in the poor manifested itself in the founding of the Edinburgh Original Ragged School.

Hector Boece may head the list of scholars and men of letters. Born in Dundee in 1465, he was appointed first Principal of the University of Aberdeen. His Latin History of Scotland is picturesque but largely legendary. James, John, and Robert Wedderburn, sons of a Dundee merchant, disciples of Wishart, and students of St Andrews, were contributors to the Gude and Godly Ballates, sometimes known as the Dundee Psalms. Sir Peter "Young of Seaton, a contemporary of the Wedderburns, and like them the son of a Dundee burgess, was tutor, under Buchanan, to James VI, who knighted him for his services.

Amongst the many sons of Angus who have written of their native county are John Ochterlony or Auchterlony, who penned an interesting and trustworthy local history about 1682; James Thomson, “father of our local archaeological literature,” the author of a number of valuable historical works on the county; and Alexander J. Warden, whose five monumental volumes are the result of years of patient research.

The Bards of Angus and Mearns proves this part of Scotland to be a nest of singing birds. One of these, Alexander Ross, schoolmaster of Lochlee, but a native of Aberdeenshire, honoured alike as a teacher and a poet, wrote Helenore, or The Fortunate Shepherdess, and other poems in the Scottish dialect. Amongst his popular songs are “The rock and the wee pickle tow,” “To the beggin’ we will go,” and “Woo’d and married and a’.” He died in 1784. Other two poets, natives of Dundee, are Robert Nicoll, “a second Burns,” and William Thom, author of “The Mitherless Bairn.”

Dr Thomas Dick, a native of Dundee, did much to popularise science, especially astronomy, by his books and his lectures. He died at Broughty Ferry in 1857.

James Tytler, son of a minister of Fern, wrote songs in his native Doric, and became first editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. One of his contributors, the son of a crofter at Logie-Pert, near Montrose, was James Mill, the historian of British India (i806-1818) and father of John Stuart Mill. Patrick Chalmers, M.P., of Aldbar, was noted alike for his philanthropy and his wide antiquarian researches. His Sculptured Stones of Angus is a work of much value. Dr John Jamieson, author of An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, though not a native of the county, was long closely associated with it.

In science some natives of Forfarshire have gained not a little distinction. Dr Patrick Blair, born in Dundee, who was imprisoned after 1715 as a Jacobite, was a noted physician and botanist. Colonel William Patterson, son of a gardener in the parish of Kinnettles, made valuable contributions to the science of natural history. Towards the close of the eighteenth century he travelled in Africa, and from the Cape penetrated farther into the heart of the continent than any other European had then done. For many years he was Lieutenant-Governor of New South Wales. William Gardiner, also of humble birth, rose to fame as a botanist, and published a number of works, amongst which was The Flora of Forfarshire. Sir Charles Lyell, the eminent geologist, whose works revolutionised his science, was born in 1797 at Kinnordy, near Kirriemuir. In 1859 James Bowman Lindsay, a native of Carmyllie, held wireless communication across the Tay at Glencarse, where the river is half a mile wide. It was he also who originated the idea of a submarine cable to America. Lord Brougham said of another Dundonian, Sir James Ivory, that he was the greatest mathematician since Sir Isaac Newton.

From the crowd of names connected with improvements in spinning and weaving appliances, it can scarcely be regarded as invidious to select that of the late James Carmichael of engineering fame.

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