Statistical Account of Scotland (1845)
Volume XII - Aberdeen
Account of the University and
King's College of Aberdeen
[Drawn up by William Gregory, M, D., Professor of
Medicine and Chemistry in King's College, Aberdeen.]
There appears to have existed in Old Aberdeen, from a
very early period, a Studium Generate, or University, attached to
the Episcopal Chapter of the See of Aberdeen. It is said to have been
founded in 1157 by Edward, Bishop of Aberdeen, and although, according
to Boece, it still existed at the period when King's College was
founded, it is probable that it had in some way ceased to answer the
purposes which it must have been designed to serve, since King James
IV., in his letter to
Pope Alexander VI.,
requesting him to found a University in Old Aberdeen, mentions as the
chief motive for the undertaking, the profound ignorance of the
inhabitants of the north of Scotland, and the great deficiency of
properly educated men to fill the clerical office in that part of his
Foundation of the University —
In 1494, William Elphinston, Bishop of Aberdeen, and Chancellor of
Scotland under James III., persuaded James IV.
to make the above application to the Pope, who
was then considered the only source of the universal privileges which
were desired for the projected institution, the power of the king
extending only to his own dominions, while that of the Roman pontiff
embraced the whole of Christendom. The result of this application was a
Bull dated 10th February 1494, instituting a University in Old Aberdeen
or Aberdon, which was to include every lawful faculty, namely, those of
Theology, Canon and Civil Law, Medicine, and the Liberal Arts. Masters
were appointed to read in all the faculties, and were empowered
specifically to confer all the lawful degrees of Baccalaureate Master
and Doctor, in like manner as these degrees are granted in any the most
highly privileged University. It was also provided in this Bull, that
the degrees thus conferred should carry with them all the usual
privileges and immunities that are attached to such degrees in other
Universities ; and that, not only within the University itself, but in
all other Universities, ubique terrarum, without further
examination of the graduates. It is particularly mentioned, that the
University of Aberdeen was to possess all the privileges enjoyed by
those of Paris and Bologna, two of the most highly favoured in Europe.
This Bull of institution has been printed in the Report
of the University Commission of 1826, along with all the charters of
King's College, and may be referred to by those who wish to ascertain
the precise terms in which the very ample privileges of King's College
were conferred. By a mandate dated on the same day, but not executed
till 1496, Bishop Elphinston, with two coadjudators, was directed to
publish the Bull, to defend and protect the doctors, masters, and
scholars in all their immunities, &c, and to cause the statutes to be
inviolably observed. By a second Bull dated in 1495, the Pope annexed to
the University the church of Aberbuthnot, now Marykirk, and the revenues
of the Hospital of St Germains in Lothian.
King James IV., by a
charter of confirmation dated 22d May 1497, ratified all the enactments
of the papal Bull, and empowered Bishop Elphinston to found a college
within the University. Accordingly, the bishop in 1505 published what is
called the first foundation of the college, which was confirmed by a
Bull of Pope Julius II. in 1506. By this deed
he formed and endowed a college, to be called that of Sancta Maria in
Nativitate. The members were thirty-six in number; but by a second
foundation, prepared by Bishop Elphinston during his life, but published
after having been proved by Bishop Gavin Dunbar in 1581, seventeen years
after the death of Elphinston, the number was raised to forty-two;
namely, four doctors in the faculties of Theology, Canon Law, Civil Law,
and Medicine, the first to be Principal of the College; eight Masters in
Arts, the first to be Sub-Principal, the second Grammarian, and the
other six Students in Theology; three Students of Law; (all the above,
except the Mediciner, to be ecclesiastics); thirteen poor scholars;
eight prebends for the service of the College church, the first to be
cantor, the second sacrist, and six singing boys.
Such is a brief sketch of the original constitution
of the College, which has been repeatedly and fully confirmed by
numerous Papal Bulls, royal charters, and Acts of Parliament. The mode
of election, salaries, and duties of all the members are minutely
detailed in the two foundations published by Bishop Dunbar in the form
of a solemn instrument, and which are printed in the Commissioners'
Report above referred to. These important documents, especially the
second foundation, have always been considered as the binding laws of
the University; but although, up to the period of the Reformation in
Scotland, they were literally obeyed, the change which then took place
in religious matters rendered it impossible subsequently to pursue the
same course. All those offices, therefore, which were only intended for
the better performance of divine service after the Romish form were
either from time to time abolished, or fell into disuse; till at last
the university assumed the present form, consisting of ten members of
senatus or masters, besides the chancellor, the rector, and his
Bishop Elphinston liberally endowed the university
during his life, and at his death left to it the sum of L. 10,000
Scots,—in those days a very large sum of money. He also provided all the
members with manses either in the college or close to it. He built,
about the time of the first foundation, the original handsome fabric, of
which a considerable part yet remains. But in the progress of the
Reformation, and especially at the period of the abolition of Episcopacy
in Scotland, the greater part of the funds of the university, which
chiefly consisted of ecclesiastical property and tithes, was alienated,
and what remained was so much diminished by various causes, especially
by the augmentation of ministers' stipends out of the tithes belonging
to King's College, that, at the beginning of the last century, the
university funds were in a most miserable condition. They have since
been somewhat improved, partly by a sale of certain superiorities
belonging to the college, which produced about L. 3000 Sterling, partly
by grants from the Crown in aid of the masters' salaries. This statement
refers to the property belonging to the college itself. But the members
are also trustees of a large amount of property, bequeathed at various
periods by benevolent persons, for the foundation of bursaries or
scholarships, of which the number attached to King's College is now very
In this slight sketch of the history of King's
College, it is necessary to mention that King Charles I. in 1641, after
the abolition of Episcopacy in Scotland, granted a charter incorporating
this University with the Marischal College of New Aberdeen under the
name of the Caroline University. This charter was ratified by Parliament
in the same year, and confirmed by Cromwell in 1654; and the union
continued till after the Restoration; but Charles
II., when he re-established Episcopacy, rescinded all the acts
passed from 1640 to 1648, by which means the union was annulled and the
two colleges have ever since continued distinct and independent. At
different periods during the last century, namely, in 1747, 1754, 1770,1786, and still more recently within the last ten years, attempts
have been made in different quarters to effect a union of the two
colleges. The advocates of this measure were few in number, and in
general interested parties, the public have ing on all occasions
expressed a determined hostility to every scheme of union.
Our space will not permit us to enter into a detailed
account of the various changes to which the university was subjected
during the troubled period from the Reformation to the Revolution. We
must here observe, however, that King's College, since its foundation,
has never ceased actively to perform its proper functions whether in the
education of youth or in the conferring of degrees and that it has
generally been in a flourishing condition, a proof of the necessity of
the institution, and of the wisdom of its founder. It can boast,
moreover, of a very large number of distinguished names both among its
office-bearers and its alumni at all periods of its existence.
We shall now briefly describe the present
constitution of the university, the nature of its offices, and the
system of education pursued in it; and we shall conclude by mentioning
those benefactors who have so greatly contributed to its usefulness, and
those alumni who have distinguished themselves.
Office-Bearers.—The office-bearers of King's
College are, the Chancellor, the Rector, with four Assessors, ten
Masters, including the Principal and Sub-Principal, and the factor or
Procurator, The Chancellor is the supreme authority in the University,
and an appeal lies to him from the Rectoral Court.
During the Roman Catholic and Episcopal periods, the
Bishop of Aberdeen was, ex officio, chancellor. Bishop Elphinston
was the first chancellor, and among his successors may be named Bishop
Gavin Dunbar and Bishop Patrick Forbes, the former of whom may be called
the second founder of the University, and the latter of whom was one of
its greatest benefactors ; also, Bishop Scougall, and George, Marquis of
Huntly, who was Chancellor of the Caroline or United University. The
present Chancellor is the Right Honourable George Earl of Aberdeen, who
succeeded the late Alexander Duke of Gordon. The Chancellor is elected
by the Senatus, and retains his office for life. He admits to certain
offices in the College, and if any vacancy be not filled up within a
month, he presents to the vacant office,
The Rector is next in authority to the Chancellor. He
is elected annually by the Senatus, along with four Assessors. An appeal
may be made from the decision of the Senatus to the Rector and
Assessors. It is his duty to visit the College, and to correct what may
be found amiss. Among those who have been Rectors may be mentioned Dr
John Forbes, son of Bishop Forbes, a man of great learning; Dr William
Guild, Sir William Forbes of Craigievar, and Sir John Macpherson. The
present Rector is the Right Honourable Lord Francis Egerton, M.P.
By the foundation, the Doctor of Theology was to be
Principal of the College, and, with the aid of the six students of
theology to teach divinity. When, at a later period, the students of
theology were reduced in number, and made Regents, or Masters in
Philosophy, the duty of teaching divinity devolved on the Principal
alone. But, after the foundation of the Professorship of Divinity, the
Principal gradually ceased to act as a teacher, and since 1730 or 1740
has not performed this duty. Of late years, an attempt has been made by
the late Chancellor, Alexander Duke of Gordon, aided by the then Rector,
Lord Aberdeen, and his Assessors, and supported by a majority of the
Senatus, to restore efficiency to this branch of the Principal's duties;
but nothing has yet been done. The remaining duties of the Principal
are, to preside at college meetings, to confer degrees in the various
faculties, and generally to govern (regere et gubernare) the
college. Originally, the salary of the Principal was the largest in the
College. It now consists of about L.110, derived from royal grants,
bestowed on the college in compensation of the losses sustained by the
various causes above alluded to ; of L.35 of fixed money salary from the
college property ; of victual salary, varying with the fiars of grain,
and amounting to from L.80 to L.90; and lastly, of one-tenth part of the
balances, namely, that of the procuration account or college revenue,
which balance is very variable ; and that of the account of money
derived from the sale of superiorities, which is kept separate, under
the name of the superiority fund, and which varies little, the tenth
part averaging about L.23. The Principal's salary for 1836 amounted to
L.300. He has also a house and garden.
The first Principal of King's College was the
celebrated Hector Boece, who was invited from Paris, where he was
Professor of Philosophy, by his friend, Bishop Elphinston. The most
distinguished of his successors in office were Alexander Anderson,
Alexander Arbuthnot, Dr William Leslie, Dr William Guild, Alexander
Middleton, and his son, Dr George Middleton, [Dr
George Middleton was the father of Sir Charles Middleton, first Lord
Barham.] George Chalmers, and the late Dr Roderick Macleod. The
present Principal is Dr William Jack.
The office of sub-principal is peculiar to thisuniversity, and is held by one of the Regents, who, in addition
to his duties as Professor, must supply the place of the Principal in
his absence. The first Sub-Principal was William Hay, who accompanied
Boece from Paris, where he had also taught Philosophy. A large
proportion of the Principals have passed through the office of
There is no salary attached to the office, but there
is a house and glebe which belongs of right to that Regent who may be
Originally, each of the Regents carried his own class
of students through all the branches of philosophy in the curriculum of
arts and this system continued till a comparatively recent period. But
at present, each Regent confines himself to one subject, out of the four
principal courses in arts, namely, Greek, Mathematics, Natural
Philosophy, and Moral Philosophy.
The present Sub-Principal is Dr Hugh Macpherson, who
is also Professor of Greek. The salary of this chair is made up of L.80,
15s. from Royal grants, of fixed money, and victual salaries; and of his
share, one-tenth of the balances above described. From all these
sources, it amounted in 1836 to L.220; to which is to be added the
amount of fees from students attending the Greek class, which in 1836
was L.250, but has diminished considerably since that time. In the above
salary is included about L.20 derived from the Sub-Principal's share of
a glebe or College croft.
The first Regent is at present Mr John Tulloch, A.M.,
Professor of Mathematics. The salary of this chair, derived from sources
similar to those above-described, amounted in 1836 to about L.195, and
the class-fees to about L.150. He has a house and garden close to the
College, with a share of the College croft, the latter included in the
The third Regent, at present, is Dr John Fleming,
Professor of Natural Philosophy. The salary of this chair in 1836 was
about L.195, the class-fees about L.160. This Professor likewise has a
house and garden, with a share of the College croft, the latter being
included in the salary.
The present second Regent is Mr Hercules Scott, A.
M., Professor of Moral Philosophy. His salary, including his share of
College croft, was, in 1836, about L.195, and the class-fees in that
year amounted to L.180, including the fees for graduation in Arts. To
this regent belongs a house in the College, where he alone of all the
members now resides, and a garden.
The Humanist or Professor of Humanity is not one of
the Regents, and his course was formerly not included in the curriculum
of Arts, Latin being in those days more or less completely taught at
school, and Greek being left for college study. For a long time past,
however, Latin has formed an essential part of the curriculum. The
Humanist is the Grammarian of the original foundation, and this office
has been held by many men of great learning. The first was John Vaus,
and among his successors was Andrew Cant. Of late years, Mr Thomas
Gordon and Mr William Ogilvy have held this chair with great credit. The
present Professor is Dr Patrick Forbes, one of the ministers of the
parish of Old Machar.
The salary of this chair, in 1836, amounted to about
L.210, and the class-fees to nearly L. 240. The Professor has a house
It ought here to be mentioned, that Dr Forbes for a
long period officiated as Lecturer on Chemistry and Natural History, in
addition to his other duties, and that attendance on these lectures was
rendered imperative, as it now continues, on candidates for the degree
of A.M.; a circumstance without a parallel, in any other British
university. The class of chemistry has been found to excite considerable
interest among the students, and must be considered as a most important
and valuable addition to the curriculum in arts. At the commencement of
the session of 1840-41, Dr Forbes relinquished this part of his duties,
some additions being at the same time made to the amount of Latin in the
curriculum; and since that time chemistry has been taught by the present
Professor of Medicine.
The original foundation contained a Canonist or
Professor of the Canon Law, and a Civilist or Professor of the Civil
Law. The former office was abolished at the Reformation, but the latter
continues to exist. Among the holders of the former office must be
mentioned John Lesley, afterwards Bishop of Ross, so celebrated for his
fidelity to Queen Mary. A portrait of this prelate adorns the common
hall of the university. Among the civilists were George Nicolson, Lord
Kemnay, James Scougall Lord Whitehill, and David Dalrymple, Lord
Westhall, all three Judges of the Court of Session.
The salary of this chair, in 1836, amounted to about
L.200. The fees are quite trifling. Indeed, the chair was long a
sinecure, but of late has been rendered effective. The present civilist
is Dr Patrick Davidson, who lectures once a-week during the winter
session, without exacting any fee. The civilist derives a small and very
uncertain emolument from the degrees of LL.D. occasionally conferred by
the University. He has no house, but enjoys the rent of a small glebe.
The Mediciner or Professor of Medicine was- the only
master on the original foundation who was not an ecclesiastic. Both
Bishop Elphinston and King James IV. took
great interest in medicine, in which the King was even a proficient. The
first mediciner was Dr James Cuming, a man of great learning in his
profession. Among his successors were Dr James Gregory (son of James
Gregory, Professor of Mathematics in Marischal College, and afterwards
in Edinburgh, inventor of the Gregorian or reflecting telescope,) and
his two sons, James and John, the latter of whom became Professor of the
Theory and Practice of Medicine in Edinburgh, and wrote " A Father's
Legacy to his Daughters," and other works. This Dr John Gregory made
repeated efforts to establish permanent medical lectures in Aberdeen,
but failed, from the then limited number of medical students. More
recently, a joint medical school was established, conducted by the
Professors of Medicine in King's and Marischal Colleges, assisted by
lecturers on the various branches of medical science, to be nominated
alternately by the two colleges. Before 1839, however, this joint school
ceased to exist; and since that period, the University has established
an independent school of medicine, in which all the branches of medical
study are taught by the present mediciner and eight lecturers, appointed
by the Senatus. This school is flourishing, and a convenient building
for the lecturers has just been erected by subscription.
The salary of the Mediciner, in 1836, amounted to
about L.210. The class-fees and fees for graduation (of which latter a
part accrues to the Mediciner, as Promoter to the degree of M. D.,) have
amounted, since 1839, on an average, to about L.100 more. There is a
house and garden attached to the chair.
The present Mediciner is Dr William Gregory, grandson
of the Dr John Gregory above-mentioned. He lectures on chemistry, the
other branches of medicine being taught by the lecturers. He also
conducts the examinations for medical degrees, with the aid of three
assessors, appointed by the Senatus from among the medical lecturers
attached to the University.
Professor of Divinity.—-This Professorship, as
already stated, was not in the original foundation, which entrusted the
teaching of theology to the Principal and six students. When these
latter were converted into three Regents in Philosophy, the Senatus,
aided by contributions from the Bishop and clergy of the diocese,
founded this chair, the patronage of which was vested, by royal charter,
dated 1642, in the Synod of Aberdeen, with the Principal and two other
members of the University. The fund subscribed was invested in lands,
which were afterwards feued by the synod to the college for the benefit
of the professor.
The salary of this chair is now the largest in the
university, being composed of L. 265 from various royal grants; of the
interest of two sums of L. 106 and L. 300, the former originally
belonging to the chair, the latter bequeathed by Miss Teresa Lumsden; of
a fixed money salary from the College of L.21, 15s.; of a victual
salary, about L. 60 ; and of his share of the procuration and
superiority balances. In 1836, the whole amounted to L.425. It is to be
observed, however, that this includes a royal grant of L. 150, given to
the present incumbent at his appointment, and not secured to the chair
beyond his life. There are no fees attached to this chair. The professor
has a house and garden.
This chair has been filled by many distinguished men,
among whom may be mentioned Mr William Douglas (1644,) author of several
works; Mr Henry Scougall, son of Bishop Scougall, well known by his
theological writings, who was made Professor as soon as he had completed
his studies at the University, and who died at twenty-eight; Dr
Alexander Gerard, and Dr Gilbert Gerard, both men of high eminence in
the literary world.
The present incumbent is the Rev. Dr Duncan Mearns,
at one time Moderator of the General Assembly.
Professor of Oriental Languages.— This chair was
founded about 1674, at the request of Bishop Scougall. The salary is the
smallest in the college. It is chiefly made up of royal grants, with the
balances of the college accounts. In 1836, it amounted to about L.195,
and the class-fees in that year to about L.45. No house is attached to
this chair. The present Professor is Mr James Bentley, A. M.
The students are divided into students of arts and
students of divinity. Most of the latter have previously obtained the
degree of A. M., or, if not, have attended the necessary courses, and
may obtain the degree when they require it.
The curriculum of study for the degree of A. M.
occupies four winter sessions, each of five months' duration, viz. from
the first Monday of November to the last Friday of March.
The students of the first year constitute the first
class, or Bajans. They attend Greek about three hours a-day, and Latin
one hour or one hour and a-half.
In the second year, they form the second or
senior-class. In this they attend mathematics, the second or advanced
Greek and Latin, and chemistry. The latter class, however, may be
attended during any year but the first.
In the third year, the students form the third or
tertian class, in which they attend Natural Philosophy, the second Greek
and Latin, and Chemistry, if they choose to take that class in this
In the fourth year, the students constitute the
Magistrand or fourth class, attending Moral Philosophy and Logic, the
second Greek and Latin; and, if not previously attended, the Chemistry.
The second or advanced mathematical class may be
attended either in the third or fourth year.
The Professor of Moral Philosophy graduates his
class, that is, such of them as desire the degree of A. M., at the close
of each session.
The number of students in Arts in the first class
varies from 50 to 80 ; in the second, from 40 to 70; in the third, from
35 to 50 ; and in the fourth, from 35 to 45. This progressive diminution
arises from the circumstance, that many leave the university to enter on
professions before completing the course. The number of students
attending the chemistry varies from 40 to 70, including a certain number
of medical students, and of others who attend this class alone.
In all of these classes frequent examinations are
held, in most of them daily; exercises are prescribed, and regular
attendance is strictly enforced by calling the roll daily and fining
absentees. At the end of each session, examinations on printed questions
are held, the average duration of which, in each class, is about four
hours. To the four or five best answers in each class, prizes are
awarded, and these are publicly delivered by the Principal to the
successful students on the last day of the session.
On Monday mornings, during the session, the whole
students and professors meet in the public school; when the
Sub-principal enforces the discipline of the college, by levying the
fines for absence from prayers or misconduct, and reprimands such
delinquents as may seem to him to require reproof. The students meet in
the publicschool every morning under one of
the regents, who, with the humanist, take this duty, styled that of
Hebdomader, by turns, weekly. The roll is called and absentees marked,
and the fines, as above stated, are levied on the Monday mornings. The
fines for absence from the classes are inflicted and levied by the
professors, each in his own class.
All students, except those of divinity and medicine
(who have already completed the curriculum of Arts) wear a scarlet gown
and a uniform cap, the latter lately adopted by order of the Senatus.
Students of Arts are hence called gown students.
Bursars, or those students who enjoy bursaries or
scholarships, formerly wore a black gown, and were made to perform
menial services about the college. But for a long time past there has
been no distinction in dress or duties between them and other students,
with this exception, that the bursars in each class act by turns as
censor, calling the roll and marking absentees, &c.
The fees paid by students in the four chiefclasses are L. 3, 3s. but the holders of the smaller bursaries
pay much less, and these form generally about a-fourth of each class.
The fee in the Latin class, and in that of oriental languages, is only
L.1, 1s., and in the chemistry, L.1, 11s. 6d.; the holders of the
smaller bursaries, as before, paying much less.
At the commencement of the session, all bursars who
had attended during the preceding session are examined on printed
questions, and if found deficient, the payment of the bursaries is
suspended till the student shall prove, by his examination at the end of
the session, that he has made the desired progress. No session passes
without several bursaries being suspended in this manner.
Those presented to bursaries by lay patrons are also
examined at the beginning of the session in which they produce their
presentations, and are only admitted if found habile, that is, properly
qualified. The rejection of unqualified presentees is by no means
unfrequent. When once admitted, they are examined, with the other
bursars, at the beginning of each Session.
All the bursaries in the gift of the Senatus are
conferred after public competition, held a week before the commencement
of the session. Of these there are now about twenty-four annually
vacant. The Sub-principal collects the exercises, removes the names
substituting numbers, and then submits them to the judgment of the other
masters. The best exercises obtain the bursarieswhich are vacant; the order of merit in the exercises regulating
that of the amount of the bursaries.
The entire number of bursaries attached to King's
College now amounts to upwards of 140. Their amount is very various. A
few are under L.4; a few more L.5; the majority range from L.10 or L.12
to L.20 or L.25; and, within the last three years the late Dr Simpson
bequeathed to the university funds sufficient to provide six Bursaries
of L.30 each, four of which are already in operation. There is one
bursary of L.40 and one of L.50. Each bursary is enjoyed for four years,
and if a vacancy occur during this period by death or resignation, the
vacancy is not filled up till the four years have expired, and the
vacant revenue is in the interim added to the proper fund of the bursary
The following is a list of the foundations and
bursaries attached to King's College, with the names of founders and
1. Founded Bursaries.—These belong to the
original foundation by Bishop Elphinston. Their number was originally
thirteen, but, from some cause or other now unknown, was long ago
reduced to twelve. Three are presented annually, and decided by
competition. Patrons, the Senatus. The value originally was L.40 Scots
each, or L.3, 6s. 8d. Sterling; but for the last seventy years, the
Senatus has raised it to L.5, at which sum these bursaries now remain.
2. Watt's Bursary.—Mr James Watt, Minister of
Snaith, mortified, in 1625, a rigg or croft of land for the support of a
bursar in theology of the name of Watt, Barclay, or Chalmers, failing
whom, of one born in the city or chanonry of Old Aberdeen. Its value was
for a long period L.5 ; but the property having much improved in value,
the Senatus, in 1819, established on this fund two bursaries of L.20
each. Patrons, the Senatus.
3. Ley's Bursaries.—In 1648, Sir Thomas
Burnett of Leys disponed to the college four crofts of land, for the
support of three bursars on the same footing as the founded bursars; the
patronage to remain with Sir Thomas and his heirs, and the Senatus to
present in the event of the patron failing to do so. The college
accepted these conditions, and have strictly fulfilled them, increasing
these bursaries from L.3, 6s. 8d. to L.5, along with their own founded
bursaries. They also released Sir Thomas from arrears of feu-duties due
to the College as superiors of the crofts. For a very long period, this
transaction was a source of loss to the College, the revenue of the
crofts being quite inadequate to the payment of the three bursaries. But
at length the crofts were feued for building, and thus produced a large
revenue, amounting now to upwards of L.300. It seems but just that the
college, which has always, even at a loss, fulfilled the original
contract, should now benefit by the improvement in value of the property
which they took with the risk, which was actually for a long time
fulfilled, of deterioration. But the present Sir T. Burnett has brought
an action to compel the college to divide the whole produce of the lands
among the bursars, apparently considering this contract as an ordinary
mortification, from which, however, it differs in every particular. The
college maintains, that, having received the property in fee, on
condition of maintaining three bursars on the same footing as the
founded bursars, having always done this, and having incurred great loss
in fulfilling the contract, it is now entitled to the benefit of the
improvement. The question is now in a court of law, for which reason we
have given the above details, as the question has been very generally
misunderstood by the public.
4. Redhyth Bursaries.— In 1678, Walter Ogilvie
of Redhyth mortified his estate for the board and education of twenty
poor boys, twelve at the school of Fordyce, and eight at King's College.
At present, the number supported at the school of Fordyce is thirteen,
and at King's College, thirteen. The former receive each L.1, 16s. 8d.
in money, and 8½ bolls of meal. The College
bursars formerlyreceived L.9 each, then L.11,
and at present, L.16, 10s. each, their number being also increased from
eight to seventeen. Patron, Earl of Seafield.
5. Melville Bursaries.— Three in number,
founded by Mr G. Melville in 1679, of the value of L.3, 6s. 8d. each.
They have been increased to L.3, 16s. 8d. Patrons, the Senatus.
6. Park's Bursaries,—Founded in 1691, for two
bursars L.2, 15s. 6d. each, by James Park of Cranock. They have been
increased to L.3, 18s. 10d. Patrons, the Senatus.
7. Adam's Bursaries—Founded in 1691, by Dr
Alexander Adam, for three bursars, at L.3, 6s. 8d. This was increased
before 1755, to L.5 ; and now, instead of three, there are thirteen
bursars on this fund, four at L.20 each, and nine at L.15,
10s. each. Patrons, the Senatus.
8. Fullerton's Bursaries.—Founded in 1692, by
Mr James Fullerton, for maintaining as many bursars as the revenue of
the original sum, L.850, would support. There were, in 1704, ten at L.3,
6s. 8d. These are now twenty-six; six at L.14, 10s., eight at L.14, and
twelve at L.12 each. Patrons, the Senatus.
9. Watson's Bursaries.—Founded in 1699, by the
Rev. William Watson, for two bursars at L.2, 15s. 6d., since increased
to L.3 18s. 10d. In this and several other cases, the mortification
consisting of a fixed annual payment, it has not been in the power of
the Senatus to improve the fund in the same proportion as where they
were enabled, as trustees, to invest a capital sum in land or otherwise.
The Senatus are Patrons.
10. Lady Braco's Bursary.—In 1706, Lady Braco
mortified the interest of L.1000 Scots (L.83, 6s. 8d. Sterling,) for the
support of one bursar. He receives at present L.12. Patron, Earl of
11. Glenfarquhar Bursaries.— Founded in 1716,
by Sir Alexander Falconer of Glenfarquhar, who mortified the annual sum
of L.320 Scots, about L.26 Sterling for the support of four bursars. The
value of these four bursaries, for the reason mentioned above, has never
changed, being still L.80 Scots, or L.6, 13s. 4d. Sterling each. Sir
Alexander Ramsay of Balmain presents to two, and the Earl of Kintore to
the other two.
12. Ogilvy's Bursary.—Founded in 1723, by Mr
David Ogilvy for one bursar. L.200 were mortified, and for some time the
interest of this sum amounted to L.10, but latterly has been reduced to
13. Greig's Bursary.—Founded in 1724, by Mr
James Greig, who mortified 1500 merks Scots, to be invested by advice of
Mr Robertson of Foveran and his heirs, and the interest applied to
support one bursar. This fund has not been invested as the other funds
over which the College has full power have been. For this reason,
although its value at first was L.4, 3s. 4d. annually, it was reduced,
in 1762, to the free produce of the mortification, viz. L.3, 18s. 4d. at
which it has since remained. Patron, Mr Robertson of Foveran.
14. Mackintosh's Bursary.—In 1728, the Laird
of Mackintosh and his lady mortified the interest of 2000 merks Scots
for one bursar of the name of Mackintosh, or of some other tribe of Clan
Chattan. Patron, the Laird of Mackintosh. Present value of bursary, L.5,
15. Dr Fraser's Bursaries.—In 1730, Dr James
Fraser, one of the greatest benefactors to the College, founded two
bursaries, one in theology, the holder to be librarian after he
graduates for four years, with L.6 annually ; the other a bursar in
philosophy, with L.5 annually. There are now on this fund two bursars in
philosophy at L.15, and two in theology at L.11, with L.30 additional if
one of them act as librarian. If not, the L.30 go to provide a
substitute librarian. The bursars to be of the name of Fraser, and the
magistrates and ministers of Inverness are patrons.
16. Moir's Bursaries.— In 1769, Dr Alexander
Moir of Sante Croix bequeathed L.600 for the support of four poor
students, each of whom at first had L.5. This sum having been with many
others (also mortified for bursaries) judiciously invested by the
Senatus in land, there are now on this fund thirteen bursars in all,
four at L.17, and nine at L.15. Patrons, the Senatus.
17. Coll's Bursary.—Founded in 1791, by
Maclean of Coll, who mortified L.200 for the support of one bursar,
presented by him or his heirs, of the name of Maclean. In the event of a
vacancy, the interest to be added to the capital. At first, the value of
the bursary was L.9. It is now L.14.
18. Dr Murray's Bursary.—-In 1793, Dr
Alexander Murray of Philadelphia, bequeathed to the College the residue
of his estate, to found a lectureship in the College Chapel on Sundays ;
the lecturer to receive three-fourths of the revenue, and one-fourth to
be given to a bursar of the name of Murray, to assist in educating him
for any secular profession. The present revenue is about L.200, of which
one-fourth or L.50 forms the secular Murray Bursary, held for three
years only. Of the remaining L.150, L.120 are divided between two
licentiates of the church, who perform divine service on Sundays during
the session in the College Chapel, both forenoon and afternoon. They are
elected annually by the Principal and Regents. The balance is employed
in the expenses incidental to the performance of divine service in the
chapel, which had long been discontinued, and in keeping the chapel in
repair, also in paying a small salary to a precentor The College is
deeply indebted to Dr Murray for this very valuable foundation, which
has restored Divine Service to the University, and is of the utmost
advantage in every point of view.
19. Mrs Udny Duff's Bursaries.—Founded in
1794, for two bursars, who receive L.7, 14s. each. Patron, Earl of Fife.
20. Grant's Bursary.—Founded in 1795 by the
Rev. James Grant, for one bursar of the name of Grant or Fraser. Value
originally L.8, 5s.; at present, L.9, 1s. 6d.
21. Hutton's Bursaries.— Founded in 1801 by MrGeorge Hutton of Woolwich, who left a large amount of property,
both landed and personal, for the support of forty-eight bursars. The
act of mortmain defeated his intentions as to his real property, and the
College at last only received the residue of the personal estate
amounting to about L.5000, 3 per cent. red. ann., and yielding a revenue
of about L.153. On this fund there are now four bursars at L. 18, and
four at L. 16; and L. 15 are annually given by competition under the
name of the Huttonian prize. In the amount of the bursaries and the
arrangement of the prize, the College has adhered as closely as possible
to the intentions of Dr Hutton. Patrons the Senatus.
22. Finlay's Bursaries.— Founded in 1804 by
the Rev. Robert Finlay. The sum of L.600 was vested in the hands of Mr
Moir of Scotstoun, who was to pay the interest to the bursars, three in
number. These bursaries, of the value of L. 10 each, are now paid by Sir
M. Bruce as husband of Mr Moir's heiress. Sir M. Bruce is also patron,
in right of his lady.
23. MacLeod's Bursary.—Founded in 1806 by Dr
Hugh Mac-leod of Glasgow College, for one bursar of the name of Macleod.
Value, L.8, 15s. 6d. Patrons, the Senatus.
24. Milne's Bursary.—In 1808, Dr John Milne of
Madras paid to the College L.600, to be invested at 4½
per cent., for the assistance of a bursar studying medicine, after
passing through the curriculum of arts. Value at first, L. 30 ; at
present, owing to the fall of interest, L. 24. Patrons, the Principal
25. Stuart's Bursaries.—Founded in 1809 by the
Rev. James Stuart of George Town, South Carolina, who left L.1000, 3 per
cents., to be sold, and the interest of the price applied to the
promotion of education, by the Principal and other trustees named in the
deed. On this fund are two bursars, at L. 14, 10s., who are, like all
those of whom the college is patron, chosen by comparative trial. A
preference is given, by the will of the founder, to those of the names
of Stuart and Simpson.
26. Johnston's Bursaries.—Two bursars, at L.
4, 10s. each, to be chosen by competition, those of the name of Johnston
and Forbes to be preferred, if found habile. The Senatus and the
family of Caskieben are joint patrons.
27. Cruickshank's Bursary.— Founded in 1815 by
Mr James Cruickshank of Touxhill, who ordered L. 400, deducting the
legacy-duty of L. 40, to be lent on personal security, and the interest
to be paid to one bursar of the name of Cruickshank or Jopp. For some
time it yielded L. 18 per annum, but in consequence of the bankruptcy of
the parties to whom the trustees had lent the capital, it has been much
reduced, so that in future it cannot yield more than from L.10 to L.12,
according to the rate of interest. Patron, the minister of Monquhitter.
28. Macpherson's Bursary. — Founded by the
late Sir John Macpherson, Bart., for one Highland student. The founder
directed the revenue of the bequest to be paid annually to a new bursar,
but the Senatus found it more likely to promote the objects of the
foundation, to appoint annually a new bursar for four years, and to pay
him the annual revenue of the fund by four equal annual instalments,
that is, during his curriculum of arts. As the revenue amounts to L.80,
the annual value of the bursary is L.20, and the foundation thus yields
four bursaries of that value, instead of one at L. 90; a sum considered
by the Senatus much too large in proportion to the expense of living and
of education in Aberdeen. Patrons, the Senatus.
29. Forbes's Bursaries.— Founded in 1821, by
John Forbes, Esq. of New. The bequest consists of L.200 long annuities,
expiring in 1860, to be applied to the support of eight bursars at
King's and Marischal Colleges, at L. 25 each. Patron, Sir Charles Forbes
of New, Bart.
30. Simpson Bursaries.—Founded in 1840, by the
late Dr Simpson, an alumnus of King's College, who left upwards of
L.11,000, 3 per cent, consols, for the purpose of founding six bursaries
of L.30 each, and two annual prizes of L. 60 each, one for the best
Greek scholar, the other for the best mathematician in the magistrand
class of the year. The Senatus are patrons of this splendid bequest, and
the bursars are chosen by public competition.
31. King William's Divinity Bursaries.—Besides
the above, there are two divinity bursars, founded by King William III.
out of the Bishop's rents, the patronage of which is in the Lords of the
Treasury, who select from a leet sent up by the Masters of King's and
Marischal Colleges. These bursaries are common to both colleges. At
first, their value was L.20 each; but Queen Anne reduced them to L.10
each, and transferred L.20 in aid of the salary of the Principal of
King's College. Although these bursaries are said to be paid partly by
King's College and partly by Marischal College, they have never, in
point of fact, been paid by either body, but always by the Exchequer.
32. Bruce's Bursaries.—Founded about 1827 (but
the money not received till 1836,) by the Rev. George Bruce, for six
bursars in divinity, who receive L. 10 each. Patrons, the Senatus.
33. Davidson's Bursary.—Founded in 1827, by Mr
William Davidson, for one bursar, who receives L.14, 8s. Those of the
name of Davidson to be preferred. Patrons, the Senatus.
By the above statement it appears that there are, on
the thirty-three foundations, 150 bursaries, including those in medicine
and theology, the aggregate annual value of which is above L. 2000. This
is exclusive of the two Sunday preachers, who receive L. 60 each on Dr
Murray's foundation, and of the 17 boys educated and supported at the
school of Fordyce under Redhyth's foundation. There can be no manner of
doubt that this large amount of scholarship, large in proportion to the
whole number of students, is of the very greatest benefit in a country
like Scotland, where the inhabitants, although poor, are yet
intelligent, and very desirous of giving to their children a liberal
It has been thought right to give the details of the
original and present state of these foundations, that the public may
know how well the funds thus entrusted to the college have been managed.
It will be seen, on referring to the above statement, that in every
•case where the college has been at liberty to invest a capital sum
according to their judgment, this has been so judiciously and
conscientiously done, and also so fortunately, that in every such
instance either the amount or the number, or both, of the bursaries on a
special fund, have been augmented. In no case has the number been
augmented without an addition to the value of the bursaries, and in no
one such case has the value been diminished. It has been said that the
multiplication of small bursaries produces bad effects; but it is to be
observed that the College has uniformly raised the value where it had
the power to do so. Besides, it is the opinion, formed on experience of
all the members, that large bursaries, that is, above L.20 or L.30, are
not favourable to studious habits, and that the inconvenience on this
side is greater than on the other. No doubt, it is desirable, that no
bursary should be under L.10 to L.15; and it may safely be said that,
had the College been in all cases trustees of the capital sum, with full
power, there would now be none under that value. But King's College has,
at all events, reason to be proud of her management of the funds
actually intrusted to her for the benefit of poor scholars, and may
safely challenge the world to produce another example of equal skill and
integrity in the management of so numerous and often individually small
trusts. If we take the earlier bursaries, thus managed by the College,
excluding one or two recent and large bequests, we shall find that the
annual revenue of the trust-funds is not far from being equal to the
original fee-simple of the funds. It is only just that the truth on this
matter of the mortifications of King's College should be known, for it
has often, and especially of late, been much misrepresented, and King's
College has been accused authoritatively of malversation, and of acting
contrary to the will of the founder, for acting as they have done. To
take only one example, in Adam's mortification, at first designed to
support three bursars at L.3, 6s. 8d. each, or to yield L.10 in all;
this fund might have been kept in its original amount, say in the funds,
and such a mode of management has not only been frequently practised
elsewhere, but praised in others, as fulfilling the intentions of the
founder, by the very parties who blame King's College. But King's
College acted differently; invested the capital with caution and skill;
and now maintains out of this fund twelve bursars instead of three,
expending on them L.200 instead of L.10 annually. This is called acting
contrary to the will of the founder, nay, it is actually affirmed to be
contrary to the spirit, and not merely to the letter of that will. This
is, moreover, what is stigmatized as multiplying small bursaries; twelve
bursaries averaging L. 16, 13s. 4d. being substituted for three of L.3,
6s. 8d. It ought here likewise to be stated, that the masters have no
personal interest in the gradual and slow improvement of these
trust-funds. The only way in which they are personally benefited thereby
is by the class-fees paid by the newly made bursars. But the increase
under this head to any one individual during his incumbency is quite
trifling; the bursars, besides, for the most part pay reduced fees, and
the aggregate number of students isnot now so
large as it has been, nor larger than it often was in early periods,
although there are more bursars, and the non-bur-sars always pay the
full fees. Even if the masters, however derived a much greater benefit
than they do from this source, they could not do so without a
corresponding extension of university education; in other words, a great
benefit to the country at large —and to this they are surely well
Exclusive of the Huttonian prize of L.15 and the two
new Simp-sonian prizes of L.60 each, about L.80 is annually bestowed in
prizes in the form of books. This money is made up by contributions from
the surplus funds of the richer mortifications. The Professors also
frequently add prizes at their own private cost.
A fund, called the Edilis fund, formerly existed for
the necessary repairs in the College, and in the houses of the masters;
but, owing to the dilapidation of the College property, this fund has
long been merely nominal, it being now considerably in debt. Part of the
public buildings was about twenty years ago repaired and rebuilt by a
public subscription ; and one hundred years ago Dr James Fraser,
formerly mentioned, built, at his own expense, the whole range of
buildings now forming the south side of the College. The square tower in
the north-east corner was built before the Restoration by subscription.
Owing to the decay of the Edilis fund, the houses of
the Professors, intended by the founder to be free, are now all more or
less in debt, for building or repairs. In most cases, the interest of
this debt amounts to from L.10 to L.20, but in two it reaches L.35 and
L.40; thus, in reality, forming a heavy house rent, where the house
ought to be free. The masters pay to the College five per cent. for
money expended on their houses, and of late one to one and a half per
cent. of this has been devoted to a sinking fund, in each case intended
gradually to diminish the debt.
The revenues of the College form three separate
accounts. The mortification account includes all the trust-funds
belonging to bursaries. The superiority account includes the sums
received for superiorities and feu-duties sold by the College, and is
kept separately; while the procuration account includes the proper
annual revenue of the College from all other sources, such as land,
tithes, feu-duties, &c. &c. After deducting from the two latter accounts
the annual charge on each, the respective balances, which have been
already alluded to, are equally divided among the ten members. The
balance of the superiority fund hardly varies from L.230, while that of
the procuration or general account varies from L.200 to L.500, or even
more, according to circumstances. When money must be expended on
permanent improvements of the College property, it is borrowed from the
mortification funds, at the current rate of interest, and the debt thus
incurred each year is paid off by ten annual instalments.
The accounts are kept and the property managed by the
common procurator or College factor. This office was formerly held by
one of the masters ; but, of late years, a man of business has been
appointed, who receives a small salary, and a very small commission on
his intromissions with the trust-funds. The present procurator is
William Gordon, Esq. Advocate.
Degrees are granted, as formerly mentioned, in all
the faculties. Those of D.D. and LL.D. are commonly honorary degrees.
The degree of M. D. is conferred after examination in presence of the
Senatus, according to regulations adopted in 1839. Since that period,
the average annual number of medical degrees conferred, exclusive of a
few honorary degrees, has been seven. For many years previously, no
degrees at all had been conferred in medicine. The cost of a medical
degree, including the L.10 stamp, is L.26, 5s. 6d. Of the degree of A.
M. mention has already been made. The expense of it is L.2, 16s. 2d.
The students in divinity are common to both Colleges,
and attend alternately the Professors of Divinity in King's and
Maris-chal College. They often amount to 150.
The Medical School of King's College includes the
besides Clinical Lectures at the Hospital. A
building, as already stated, has lately been erected for the
accommodation of the lecturers. The school is at present prosperous, and
this notwithstanding the existence of another medical school in Aberdeen
attached to Marischal College.
The Library of King's College is very extensive and
valuable but sadly cooped for want of space. As one of the four
universities of Scotland, King's College enjoyed, till lately, the
Stationer's Hall privilege, and now receives, by Act of Parliament, the
compensation granted in lieu of that privilege. By a decision of the
Court of Session, in the exercise of their nobile officium or
legislative power, the Marischal College has long been entitled to the
use of the books derived from Stationer's Hall. But the custody of these
books, as well as the choice of those to be purchased with the
compensation fund, remain with the University of King's College.
The library possesses some other funds, partly
derived*from bequests, partly from martriculation, and other fees paid
by students. It is managed by a librarian with two bursars as
assistants. The students attending College have the use of the books on
deposit of L. 1 for each volume, to be returned when the book is
restored. The Masters have the use of a certain number of volumes
without deposit. One of them is annually named curator, and is aided by
a Library Committee.
A very neat room in the newest part of the College
was fitted up, in 1842, very beautifully for a Museum of Natural
History. It is expected it will be opened in summer. There are no funds
yet provided for theMuseum. It has been
fitted up by subscription.
The Natural Philosophy Class has a tolerable cabinet
of apparatus, which the Professor is annually improving and extending,
by means of a small fund set apart for the purpose. The class of
Chemistry possesses a moderate stock of apparatus, the property of the
College, and an excellent lecture room. The Professor has a considerable
amount of apparatus of his own ; but there is no fund worth mentioning
for the purchase of apparatus, materials, or specimens, for this class.
It may here be mentioned, that in summer he gives a course of Practical
Chemistry; average number of students, 10. There has for some years
existed in the Natural Philosophy Class, an excellent class library,
purchased chiefly by subscriptions from the students, aided by the
Professors. A similar library has this session been instituted in the
There are a few astronomical instruments belonging to
the College, but no regular Observatory.
The College Chapel is a very handsome building, being
the quire of the old College Church, the nave of which is now the
Library. The stalls for the members of the church in the quire are of
beautifully carved black oak, and are surrounded by a screen of the same
material, which, in point of beauty and delicacy of carving, far
surpasses any similar remains in Scotland. The tomb of Bishop
Elphinstone is in the middle of the chapel, and, although once highly
ornamented, is now covered with a slab of black marble without
In the Senatus meeting-room is a fine portrait by
Jameson, of Bishop Patrick Forbes; and in the Public Hall adjoining are.
portraits of Bishops Dunbar, Elphinstone, Lesley, (of Ross), and
Scougall, also of Hector Boece, and of Henry Scougall, of George
Buchanan, and curious likenesses of many of the Stuart Kings.
The College is rendered conspicuous at a distance, by
its fine square tower, surmounted by a beautiful imperial crown, which
again is surmounted by a cross. The effect of this belfry is remarkably
fine. In its present form it is said to have been built by Bishop Dunbar
about 1530, the original tower or spire having been blown down or
damaged by a storm. The old part of the College to which this belongs is
ornamented with the arms of James IV., of
several of the Bishops, and of some of the nobles. The tower and crown
are faced with freestone from Moray.
It only now remains to mention, in addition to the
eminent Professors formerly named, those distinguished men who were
educated at King's College. Among these may be named James Cheyne, LL.
D., who became Professor in Paris and Douay, about 1570; John Erskine of
Dun, who assisted in promoting the Reformation in Scotland; Sir George
Mackenzie, King's Advocate, 1674; Mr George Gordon of Haddo, Regent in
the College, afterwards President of the Court of Session, 1681,
Chancellor, 1682, and the first Earl of Aberdeen; Dr Thomas Bower, a
distinguished mathematician; the celebrated Dr Thomas Reid, first
Professor of Philosophy here, and afterwards in Glasgow; Lord Monboddo;
Robert Hall; Charles Burney, the celebrated Greek scholar; the late Dr
James Gregory of Edinburgh, author of the "Conspectus Medicinse
Theoreticse," and long Professor of the Practice of Medicine; he was son
of Dr John Gregory, formerly mentioned, and received part of his
education at King's College, before his father was invited to Edinburgh;
and lastly, the late Sir James Mackintosh, M. P.; George, Earl
Marischall, the founder of Marischall College; and Arthur Johnston, the
celebrated Latin poet, were also educated at King's College.
Such is a brief account of the University and King's
College of Aberdeen. Attention has been chiefly devoted to its present
state; and the writer trusts that it will appear that this Institution
was never more flourishing than it is now. That it may long continue, as
it has always been, a blessing and an ornament to the north of Scotland,
is the wish of every true Scottish man who knows its history.
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