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Significant Scots
James Kirkwood


KIRKWOOD, JAMES, an eminent teacher and writer on grammar, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, was born near Dunbar. The circumstances of his education are unknown; he was first schoolmaster of Linlithgow, and subsequently of Kelso. His school at Linlithgow was one of considerable reputation, and he would appear to have been instrusted, like many teachers of the present day, with pupils who boarded in his house. The celebrated John, second earl of Stair, was thus educated by him. The first work ascertained to have been published by him, was an "Easy Grammar" of the Latin language, which appeared at Glasgow in 1674. In 1677, he published at London an octavo fasciculus of "Sentences," for the use of learners. In the succeeding year appeared his "Compendium of Rhetoric," to which was added a small treatise on Analysis. After the Revolution, he was sent for by the parliamentary commissioners for colleges, on the motion of lord president Stair; and his advice was taken about the best Latin grammar for the Scottish schools. The lord president asked him what he thought of Despauter. He answered, "A very unfit grammar; but by some pains it might be made a good one." The lord Crossrig desiring him to be more plain on this point, he said, "My lord president, if its superfluities were rescinded, the defects supplied, the intricacies cleared, the errors rectified, and the method amended, it might pass for an excellent grammar." The lord president afterwards sent for him, and told him it was the desire of the commissioners that he should immediately reform Despauter, as he had proposed; as they knew none fitter for the task. He according published, in 1695, a revised edition of Despauter, which continued to be commonly used in schools till it was superseded by Ruddiman’s Rudiments. Kirkwood was a man of wit and fancy, as well as of learning; and having fallen into an unfortunate quarrel with his patrons the magistrates, which ended in his dismission, he took revenge by publishing a satirical pamphlet, entitled "The twenty-seven gods of Linlithgow," meaning thereby the twenty-seven members of the town-council. He appears to have afterwards been chosen schoolmaster at Kelso, where he probably died.

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