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The Scottish Nation

ABERNETHY—(beyond 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. 211.)

      The eldest 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 war lost
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.

      This Laurence 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 Douglass.—See HAMILTON.

ABERNETHY, JOHN, 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.

      Accordingly, on 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:

Surgical and 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. 1816, 8vo.
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.

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