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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XXXI.—Eminent Men (of the Past)


FEW parishes can boast like Fettercairn of having had within its borders, at one time or other, so many men eminent in Church and State; particularly, men who played their part in the councils of the nation. [Andrew Wood, Sir John Ramsay, Bishop Forbes, John Earl Middleton, Sir James Carnegie, Lord Adam Gordon, and others noticed in the chapters on landowners.] The last, and presumably the greatest of the number, was the Right Honourable William Ewart Gladstone, who, for many years when a young and rising statesman, had his paternal home at Fasque. The distinguished career of the " Grand Old Man" is so well known that any account however brief would be out of place in these pages. But it may be noticed, that when at Fasque he spent much of his spare time in visiting the poor and the aged on his father's estates. In later years, the old people of the parish held him in grateful remembrance. The late Rev. Dr. M'Cosh of Princeton University, formerly of Brechin, states in the memoirs of his own life, that one day on the Fettercairn road he saw for the first time the future Prime Minister. He says: " I passed on the road a scholarly looking gentleman, evidently not belonging to the district, walking thoughtfully along the public road. At the first farmhouse I came to, I asked who this gentleman could be. 'O,' said they, 'this is Sir John Gladstone's clever son.' The people of the place had already discovered his ability."

The fallowing brief and somewhat imperfect record of natives and residents in the parish is confined to members of the learned professions, or to those that have had a college or university education. Many more however, highly successful as business men, might be included, but space forbids. Taking the list in the order of time, the first is:

Andrew Ramsay, A.M., a famous Latin scholar, born in 1574. He was a son of Sir David Ramsay of Balmain and his wife Catherine Carnegie. He probably had his degree from the Marischal College and University of Aberdeen. He became Professor of Divinity in the University of Saumur; was minister of Arbuthnott from 1606 to 1614, and a member of the Assemblies of 1608 and 1610; was translated to Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, and afterwards to St. Giles. Rector of the University in 1646-7. Deposed in 1649 for maintaining the lawfulness of the expedition into England. This sentence was recalled in 1655; after which he retired to Abbotshall, where he died in 1659, aged 85. He dedicated his Poemata Sacra, published in 1633, to his "illustrious and noble" cousin, Lord Carnegie. The dedicatory address is in the form of a Latin poem, and only a translation of the part which is of local interest need here be given, thus :—

"The warlike spirits of your ancestors and their martial hearts are shown by the fact that the Castle of Carnia [Kincardine Castle, of which an early progenitor of the Carnegies was constable or state-officer.] was given to their keeping. Carnia, which derives its name from the name of a king, [To wit, King Carnia—quite as fanciful a meaning of Kincardine as - Mount of Roses is of Montrose. Kincardine means end of the high ground.] was the castle in former times defended by its position and girt with a fosse and a (wall of) stone, with lofty buildings rising to heaven ; now only fragments of an ancient wall are to be seen— places which are laved by the river Ferderius,1 gently flowing, clear, with crystal wave, ruler of a sparkling water, winding its way in sinuous folds through the pasture lands. Once on a time a king's consort bathed in this stream with her troop of maidens, and washed her linen cloths in the river, and is said to have wrung them with her own proud hands. Next to this is the Foisdean territory. The word indicates (implies) the fields of the enemy; these your ancestors held under their sway, having subdued the hostile bands far and wide in war. And not only in the lands of the Mearns was your valour conspicuous, but Forfar, the capital of Angus, did homage to you, at the summit of affairs, ruling the royal castle with its towered citadels and battlemented walls," &c.

Alexander Peter or Peters, son of Robert Peter, Bogen-dollo, entered Marischal College in 1768 : was ordained as assistant minister of Arbuthnott in 1783, and presented to the parish of Logie Pert in 1786. He had the degree of D.D. from the University of St. Andrews in 1809, and in the same year was translated to the Cross Church, now St. John's, Dundee. He died there in 1836. His publications were "Sermons," "Account of Logie Pert" and of Dundee in part, respectively to the Old and the New Statistical Accounts of Scotland.

The Very Rev. Edward Bannerman Ramsay, fourth son of Sir Alexander Ramsay and Elizabeth Bannerman, was born at Fasque in January, 1793. A graduate of St. John's College, Cambridge, he took orders in the Church of England, and served for a few years as curate. He became incumbent successively of St. George's Episcopal Chapel, St. Paul's, and St. John's in Edinburgh. In 1846 he became Dean of Edinburgh. He died in 1872. A handsome memorial of him, in the shape of a tall granite cross, stands near St. John's Church, at the west end of Princes Street. Of his many publications, the most popular is his "Reminiscences of Scottish Life and Character." As an earnest and devoted minister, a cultured and gentlemanly scholar, with a keen sense of his country's humour, he had few equals. "'Broad' enough," says a writer, "for Dean Stanley's friendship, Eamsay was 'High' enough to appreciate Bishop Wordsworth, and yet so evangelical that Chalmers found in him one of his most appreciative biographers."

James Foote, eldest son of the Rev. Robert Foote, was born at the Manse of Fettercairn in 1781, graduated at Marischal College in 1798, was ordained minister of Logie Pert in 1809, and translated to the East Church, Aberdeen, in 1824. His brother (youngest of the family), Alex. Leith Ross, was born in 1803, and graduated in 1821. He became minister at Brechin in 1835, and died in 1878. Both joined the Free Church, and having written works on theological subjects, had the degree of D.D. conferred upon them.

Edward Bannerman Sheriffs, M.D., F.R.C.S., named after Dean Ramsay, was the son of George Sheriffs, Fasque, and graduated at Marischal College in 1829. He began practice in Fettercairn, which he left for Brechin, where in 1832 he published "Remarks on Cholera Morbus"; and afterwards, when in Edinburgh, "Osteology of the human ear, illustrated by casts." He moved to London and latterly to Aberdeen, where he died in 1846, aged 39. At these two places he lectured upon Anatomy and Physiology. In London he kept a carriage, and also a bagpiper fully dressed in "the garb of old Gaul."

John Lindsay Stewart, son of James Stewart, farmer, Dalladies, was born there in 1831. He attended the University of Glasgow, graduated M.D. at Edinburgh in 1856, and entered the Indian Medical Service as fifth in a list of 42 candidates. In the capacity of Assistant Surgeon he was present at the siege and capture of Delhi. After accompanying subsequent expeditions, he officiated as superintendent of a Government botanic garden in the north-west provinces, and of the Tea plantations in upper India. In 1864 he was selected to arrange a system of forest conservancy in the Punjaub, and his work lives in the large and flourishing timber plantations laid down by him in that country. He came back in 1869 to England on furlough, and prepared at Kew a Forest Flora of northern and central India. After his return to India in 1872 his health gave way, and he moved from Lahore to the hill station of Balhousie, Punjaub, where he died of paralysis in July, 1873, in the forty-third year of his age. He made extensive collections of plants, not only in the north-west provinces and the Punjaub, but in Sindh, Kashmir and the inner valleys of the Himalaya bordering on Turkestan and Tibet, and contributed the results of his work to various scientific journals. He became a prominent member of a few learned societies, and was regarded as one of the ablest botanists that India has known.


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