the Nethy)—a surname derived from a barony of that name in Lower
Strathearn, Perthshire, which was possessed in the reign of William I. by
Orme, the son of Hugh, who was styled Abbot of Abernethy, and whose
descendants assumed the name of Abernathy. In 1288 Sir William de
Abernethy, the first of the family styled of Saltoun, and Sir Patrick de
Abernathy, lay in wait for Duncan earl of Fife, one of the regents of the
kingdom during the minority of Margaret of Norway, at Potpollock, and
murdered him. William was seized by Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell and
condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and Patrick fled into France and died
there. (Fordun.) His nephew, Alexander de Abernethy, in 1308, along
with Robert de Keith, Adam de Gordon, and other leading barons, were
sureties to Edward for the good behaviour of William de Lambyrton,
bishop of St. Andrews. (Rymer's Foadera, tome iii. p. 82.] The same
individual was appointed by Edward warden of the country between the Forth
and the mountains of Scotland; 15th June, 1510. (Ibid. tome iii. p.
daughter Margaret was married to John Stewart, earl of Angus, who got with
her the barony of Abernethy, the superiority of which is still possessed
by the family of Douglas, (now Hamilton,) so representatives of the earl
of Angus. To the famous letter to the Pope, drawn up by the barons of
Scotland at the parliament of Aberbrothic 6th April, 1320, appears the
name of William de Abernethy, lord of Saltoun. He was the son of the first
Sir William de Abernethy of Saltoun. His son, also named Sir William,
appears in the list of noble persons who fought at the battle of Halidon
Hill, 19th July, 1333, (Hailes’ Annals vol. ii. p. 307,) from which
disastrous field he appears to have escaped. He had from David II. a grant
of the lands of Rothesay in Aberdeenshire. George Abernethy of Saltoun,
his son, was taken prisoner at the fatal fight of Durham, 17th Oct., 1346.
At the bottle of Harlaw 24th July 1411, William Abernethy, son and heir to
the Lord Saltoun, was one of the principal leaders, and was slain. But
although he is called "the worthy Lord Saltone," and of his death it is
said in the popular ballad,
"And on the other side
Into ths field that dismal day,
Chief men of worth of mickle cost,
To be lamented sair for aye,
The lord Saltone of Rothesay,.
A man of micht and mickle main,
Great dolour was for his decay
That sae unhappily was slain;"
yet the peerage was
not conferred upon the family till 28th June, 1445,— 34 years later,— in
the person of Laurence Abernethy of Saltoun and Rothesay, created Baron
Saltoun of Abernethy, and so the said William Abernethy predeceased his
father, he was called "the Lord Soltone" only by courtesy.
Abernethy of Saltoun and Rothesay, first Lord Saltoun, was the twelfth in
descent from Orm the Founder of the family. Margaret, the eldest daughter
of the seventh Lord Saltoun, married Sir Alexander Fraser of Philorth in
Aberdeenshire, and their son, Sir Alexander Fraser, became the tenth Lord
Saltoun, and his descendants succeeded to the title. The brother of his
mother, John, eighth Lord Saltoun, sold the estate of Rothesay. The family
of Absmstby is now represented by the Frasers of - Philorth, lords Saltoun.—See
SALTOUN. —The parish and village of Abernethy are of great antiquity. The
latter was at one period the capital of the Pictish kings. It is named by
various English writers and by Fordun as the place where Malcolm Canmore
concluded a peace with William the Conqueror in 1072, delivered to him
hostages, and did homage to him for the lands which he held in England.
But although now a mean village, "it would appear," says Dr. Jamieson,
"that it was a royal residence in the reign of one of the Pictish princes
who bore the name of Nethan or Nectan. The Pictish chronicle has ascribed
the formatation of Abernethy to Nethan I., in the third year of his reign,
corresponding with A.D. 458. The Register of St. Andrews, with greater
probability, gives it to Nethan II. about the year 600."
We find that
while the church of Abernethy was granted by William I. in 1178, to his
foundation of the abbey of Aberbrothock, Orme, abbot of Abernethy, granted
the half of the tithes of the property of himself and his heirs to the
same institution. The other half belonged to tbs Culdees, as in ancient
times Abernethy was a principal seat of the Culdees, who had a university
at Abernethy, which in 1273 was turned into a priory of canons regular of
St. Augustine. It is a burgh of barony, and has a charter from Archibald,
earl of Angus, lord of Abernethy, dated November 29, 1628. The title of
Lord Abernethy was conferred on the earl of Angus when created marquis of
Douglas in 1633, and is now one of’ the inferior titles of the duke of
Hamilton as representative and chief of the illustrious house of
an eminent physician of London, was born in 1763 or 1764, at Abernethy in
Perthshire, it is believed; although Londonderry in Ireland is also
mentioned as his birth-place. When very young, his parents removed to
London, where he was apprenticed to the late Mr. (afterwards Sir) Charles
Blick, surgeon of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. He was the pupil and friend
of the celebrated John Hunter. In 1780, on being elected assistant-surgeon
to St. Bartholomew’s, he began to give lectures in the hospital on anatomy
and surgery. On the death of Sir Charles Buck he succeeded him as surgeon
to the Hospital.
In 1793 he
published ‘Surgical and Physiological Essays.’ In 1804 appeared ‘Surgical
Observations,’ volume first, relating to tumours, and two years
afterwards, volume second, treating principally of the digestive organs.
Having been elected anatomical lecturer to the Royal College of Surgeons,
he published in 1814 the subject of his first two lectures, under the
title of ‘An Enquiry into Mr Hunter’s Theory of Life,’ elucidatory of his
old master’s opinions of the vital processes. In 1809 appeared his
‘Surgical Observations on the Constitutional Origin and Treatment of Local
Diseases, and on Aneurism,’ in which are detailed his memorable cases of
tying the iliac artery for aneurism; a bold and successful operation,
which at once established his reputation. He was the author of several
other popular medical works. In chemistry, we owe to him in conjunction
with Mr. Howard, brother of the duke of Norfolk, the discovery of the
"fulminating mercury," the force of which, as an explosive power, is
greater than that of gunpowder.
He died on the
20th of April, 1831, at his house at Enfield. Many amusing anecdotes are
related of his eccentricities. He attributed most complaints to the
disordered state of the stomach, and his chief remedies were exercise and
regulation of the diet. Once he prescribed a skipping rope to a female
hypochondriac patient of the upper ranks; and at another time, as a cure
for gout, he advised an indolent and luxurious citizen to "live upon
sixpence a-day, and earn it." In spite of the bluntness of his manner,
however, he was very benevolent, and often not only gratuitously visited
persons whose poverty prevented them from coming to him, but even
sometimes supplied their wants from his own purse. The following is the
account given of the abrupt and unceremonious but truly characteristic
manner in which he obtained his wife. The name of the lady is not given.
"While attending a lady for several weeks, he observed those admirable
qualifications in her daughter, which he truly esteemed to be calculated
to make the marriage state happy.
a Saturday, when taking leave of his patient, he addressed her to the
following purport :—‘ You are now so well that I need not see you after
Monday next, when I shall come and pay you my farewell visit. But, in the
meantime, I wish you and your daughter seriously to consider the proposal
I am now about to make. It is abrupt and unceremonious, I am aware; but
the excessive occupation of my time by my professional duties affords me
no leisure to accomplish what I desire by the more ordinary course of
attention and solicitation. My annual receipts amount to £—, and I can
settle £— on my wife (mentioning the sums): my character is generally
known to the public, so that you may readily ascertain what it is. I have
seen in your daughter a tender and affectionate child, an assiduous and
careful nurse, and a gentle and ladylike member of a family; such a person
must be all that a husband could covet, and I offer my hand and fortune
for her acceptance. On Monday, when I call, I shall expect your
determination; for I really have not time for the routine of courtship.’
In this humour, the lady was wooed and won; and the union proved fortunate
in every respect."—Annual Obituary, 1832. The following is a list
of his works:
Physiological Essays. Loud. 1793-7, 8vo.
Surgical Observations, containing a Classification of To-moors, with Cases
to illustrate the History of each Species. Loud. 1804, 8vo.
Surgical Observations, part second, containing an Account of the Disorders
of the Health in general, and of the Digestive Organs in particular.
Observations on the Diseases of the Urethra, and Observations relative to
the Treatment of one Species of the Naevi Maternae. Loud. 1806, 8wo. Lond.
Surgical Observations on the Constitutional Origin and Treatment of Local
Diseases; and on Aneurisms. Lond. 1809, 8vo. 3d edit. 1813, 8vo.
Surgical Observations, part second, containing Observations on the Origin
and Treatment of Pseudo-syphilitic Diseases, and on Diseases of the
Urethra. Loud. 1810, 8vo.
Surgical Observations on Injuries of the Head, and other Miscellaneous
Subjects. Loud. 1810, 8vo.
An Inquiry into the Probability and Rationality of Mr Hunter’s Theory of
Life, being the Subject of the first two Anatomical Lectures before the
Royal College of Surgeons. Loud. 1814, 8vo.
The Introductory Lecture for the year 1815, exhibiting some of Mr.
Hunter’s Opinions respecting Diseases; delivered before Royal College of
Surgeons, London. Loud. 1815, 8vo.
Surgical Works, a new edit. 1813, 2 vols. 8vo.
Physiological Lectures, 1817.