Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Scottish Nation

COCKBURN, a surname of old standing in Scotland, supposed to be a corruption of Colbrand. In the Ragman Roll of those who swore fealty to Edward I. in 1296, occur the names of Piers de Cockburn and Thomas de Cockburn, great ancestors of the Cockburns of Langton, Ormiston, and Clerkington, very ancient vassals of the earls of March, from whom all the Cockburns in Scotland are descended.

      The principal family of the name are the Cockburns of Langton. Their immediate ancestor, Sir Alexander de Cockburn, obtained the barony of Carriden, in Linlithgowshire, from David the Second in 1358, which barony had been forfeited to the crown, by what in the law of Scotland is denominated recognition, or a vassal disponing of his property without the consent of his superior. This Sir Alexander de Cockburn was twice married, first to Mary, daughter of Sir William de Veteriponte, or Vipont, proprietor of Langton in Berwickshire, who fell at Bannockburn in 1314, and in her right he obtained the lands and barony of Langton; and, secondly, to Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir John Monfode of Braidwood in Lanarkshire. By his first wife he had two sons, Sir Alexander de Cockburn, knight, keeper of the great seal between 1389 and 1396, and created by Robert the Second hereditary ostiarius parliamenti, an office annexed to the barony of Langton, by charter of James the Fourth, February 20, 1504. John, the second son, married Jean, daughter and heiress of John Lindsay of Ormiston in East Lothian, and from him descended the Cockburns of Ormiston, of whom afterwards. This John Cockburn of Ormiston, or his son, was constable of Haddington, an office hereditary for a long time in the family. By his second wife, Sir Alexander Cockburn, the father, had Edward, ancestor of the Cockburns of Skirling, long since extinct. In March 1567 Sir William Cockburn of Skirling was appointed by Queen Mary keeper of the castle of Edinburgh, an office which he retained till the following April, when he was succeeded by Sir James Balfour of Pittendriech. In 1568 Sir John Cockbourn of Skirling was one of the commissioners to England for Mary queen of Scots.

      From Sir Alexander the son, descended Sir William Cockburn of Langton, knight, who in 1595 obtained a grant of the lands and barony of Langton, with the office of principal usher, and its fees and casualties, to himself and his heirs male whatsoever, bearing the arms and surname of Cockburn. He married Helen, daughter of Alexander fourth Lord Elphinstone, and was succeeded by his son, William Cockburn, who was created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1627. In 1641 he was commissioner to the Scots parliament for Berwickshire, and on 13th August of that year he presented a petition to the house concerning the office of great usher, inherited from his ancestors, against John earl of Wigton, who had assumed the office; when a committee was appointed to consider the complaint and report. On the 17th of the same month, while the question was still in dependence, on his majesty, Charles the First’s entry into the house, Sir William, with a baton in his hand, “too rashly,” as Baillie in his Letters says, went before his majesty as principal usher, and “offered to make civil interruption for maintenance of his right against the earl of Wigton.” [Balfour’s Annals, vol. iii. 140.] The king, offended at his presumption, immediately signed a warrant for his committal to the castle of Edinburgh as a prisoner. The same day, the house interceded with his majesty on his behalf, and after much entreaty the king altered the warrant to confinement in his own chamber till next day. On the 18th, his majesty declared in parliament that when he signed the warrant he did not know that Sir William was a member of the house, and he there promised for himself, his heirs and successors, not to commit any member of parliament during session, without the advice and consent of the house, and ordained that declaration and promise to be recorded in the books of parliament. The conduct of Sir William in this matter thus led to the recognition of a great constitutional privilege. He subsequently alienated one half of the ushership, and became joint usher with Colonel Cunningham.

      His only son, Sir Archibald Cockburn, second baronet of Langton, was, in 1657, returned heir to his father in the office of principal usher, held jointly with Colonel Cunningham, and also in the barony of Langton and other property. In 1664, having purchased Cunningham’s liferent, he obtained a new grant of the office, with a salary of two hundred and fifty pounds, and other emoluments, for ever. Like the Humes of Polwarth and Redbraes, and the Kerrs of Nisbet, this distinguished family was eminent for piety, and suffered in the cause of civil and religious liberty. In 1679 they established a meeting in one of the houses attached to Langton castle, where they had regularly preaching from Mr. Luke Ogle, Mr. John Veitch of Westruther, and Mr. Daniel Douglas.

      Sir Archibald married Lady Mary Campbell, daughter of the earl of Breadalbane, and died in 1705. His eldest son, Sir Archibald Cockburn, third baronet, died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Sir Alexander Cockburn, fourth baronet, who was killed at the battle of Fontenoy. He was succeeded by his grandson, Sir Alexander Cockburn, fifth baronet, on whose decease the title devolved on his cousin, Sir James, sixth baronet, member of parliament for Peebles-shire in 1762. He married, first, the daughter of Douglas of Murth, by whom he had three daughters; and, secondly, Miss Ayscough, daughter of the dean of Bristol and niece of George Lord Lyttleton, by whom he had five sons and a daughter. He died 26th July 1804.

      His eldest son, Sir James Cockburn, the seventh baronet, and knight grand cross of Hanover, was in 1806 one of the under secretaries of state; in 1807 governor and commander-in-chief at Curacoa; and in 1811 governor of the Bermudas. He married in 1801 the Hon Marianna Devereux, eldest daughter of the thirteenth Viscount Hereford; issue, an only daughter, Marianna Augusta, married in 1834, to Sir James John Hamilton, baronet, of Woodbrook, county Tyrone, Ireland. Sir James Cockburn died 26th Feb. 1852, and was succeeded by his brother, Admiral Sir George Cockburn.

      The estate of Langton was in 1758 sold to David Gavin, Esq., and through his daughter, who married the first marquis of Breadalbane, it passed into the Breadalbane family.

      The second son, the Right Hon. Sir George Cockburn, G.C.B., admiral of the fleet, and major-general of marines, succeeded his brother as 8th baronet. Born in London 22d April 1772, he entered the navy in 1787, and served at the battle of St. Vincent, the reduction of Martinique, and in the expedition to the Scheldt. In 1810 he commanded at the siege of Cadiz, and in 1814 and following year his daring achievements, on the coast of the United States, mainly contributed to the termination of the war with America. In 1815 he was appointed commander-in-chief at the Cape and at St. Helena, to which island he conveyed the emperor Napoleon. In 1818 he was created a military knight grand cross of the Bath, and in 1827 was sworn a privy councillor. In November 1841 he became an admiral of the red, and in 1847 rear-admiral of the United Kingdom. He was senior lord of the admiralty from September 1841 to July 1846. He represented Portsmouth in the parliament of 1818, and Weobley in that of 1820, and sat for Ripon from October 1841 to July 1847. He died August 19, 1853, leaving a daughter, the wife of a naval officer.

      His next brother, the Rev. William Cockburn, dean of York, succeeded as ninth baronet, and died April 30, 1858. He was succeeded by his nephew, Sir Alexander James-Edmund Cockburn, tenth baronet; knighted 1850; chief justice of the common pleas in England 1856; a privy councillor 1857; son of Alexander Cockburn, 4th son of sixth baronet, minister plenipotentiary to Columbia, (died 1852).

      Sir Francis Cockburn, the fifth son of Sir James Cockburn, the sixth baronet, was major-general in the army, and in 1837 governor and commander-in-chief of the Bahama islands. He was knighted by patent in 1841. He served in Canada, and was governor at Honduras.


      The Cockburns of that ilk and Rysland, also in Berwickshire, are a branch of the same family, their immediate ancestor being Sir William Cockburn, of Langton, knight, who fell at the battle of Flodden Field in 1513. By his wife, Lady Anna Home, daughter of the earl of Home, he had three sons, namely, Alexander, who was killed fighting by his side at Flodden; John, and Christopher. John, the elder of these two, was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander Cockburn, to whom succeeded his eldest son, William Cockburn, designed of Cockburn and Rysland. He married Margaret, daughter of John Spottiswood of that ilk, in the same county, and his only son, John Cockburn of Cockburn and Rysland, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia in 1628. He married Mary, daughter of William Scott of Harden, Roxburghshire, and had three sons. The eldest, Sir James, second baronet, married Jane, daughter of Alexander Swinton of Swinton, Berwickshire. His only son, Sir William, third baronet, was succeeded by his eldest son Sir James, fourth baronet. His second son, William Cockburn, was physician-general to the forces under the great duke of Marlborough. The fourth baronet died without issue, when the title devolved upon his kinsman, Sir William Cockburn, great-grandson of Dr. William Cockburn, who had been succeeded by his second son, Dr. James Cockburn. This latter had two sons, William Cockburn, doctor in divinity, vicar-general and archdeacon of Ossory in Ireland; and James Cockburn, a colonel in the army and quarter-master, who was father of Sir William the fifth baronet, by Letitia Little, heiress of the ancient houses of Rossiter and Devereux in Ireland. Sir William was a lieutenant-general in the army. He married, 1st January 1791, Elizabeth Anne, daughter of Colonel Frederick Creutzer, of Manheim in Germany, an officer in the royal horse-guards, and descended, through her mother, the grand-daughter of Elizabeth Brydges, sister of the first duke of Chandos, from the royal house of Plantagenet. He died in March, 1835, leaving a son and a daughter. The son, Sir William Sarsfield Rossiter Cockburn, M.A., is the sixth baronet. By his wife, Anne, eldest daughter of the Rev. Francis Coke of Lower Moor, Herefordshire, he has several children. His eldest son, Devereux Plantagenet Cockburn, was born in 1828.


      The Ormiston branch was for several generations distinguished as lawyers and statesmen. On the marriage, as already stated, in 1368, of John, second son of Sir Alexander Cockburn, knight, with the only daughter of Sir Alexander Lindsay of Ormiston in Haddingtonshire, he obtained from his father-in-law a grant of these lands, which was confirmed by a charter of King David the Second the same year. Patrick Cockburn of Ormiston kept the castle of Dalkeith for King James the Second against the ninth earl of Douglas, then in rebellion, on account of the murder of his brother the eighth earl. Having obtained the command of the town, he put himself at the head of the king’s troops, defeated the rebels, though his army was inferior to theirs, and obliged them to retire. In 1508, King James the Fourth granted a charter of the lands of Ormiston, on the resignation of John Cockburn in favour of his son John Cockburn younger of Ormiston, and his spouse, Margaret Hepburn. On 30th October 1535, Christopher Armstrong, Thomas Armstrong of Mangerton, brother of the celebrated Johnny Armstrong and chief of the clan, with several others, were denounced rebels for not underlying the law for art and part carrying off, under silence of night, on the preceding 27th July, seventy draught oxen and thirty cows from John Cockburn of Ormiston, with three men their keepers.

      The old house of Ormiston, the seat of the Cockburns, is associated with the memory of George Wishart, the martyr. In January 1545, after preaching at Haddington, that eminent reformer went on foot with Cockburn of Ormiston and two of his friends to the house of Ormiston, where the earl of Bothwell made him prisoner, and delivered him to Cardinal Bethune. On March 29, 1546, James Lawson of Highriggs and two others, found caution to underly the law for art and part of the assistance afforded to William Cockburn of Ormiston and the young laird of Calder in breaking their ward from the castle of Edinburgh. In 1547, John Cockburn of Ormiston and Crichton of Brunston, on account of their favouring the reformed doctrines, were, by the regent Arran and his brother, Archbishop Hamilton of St. Andrews, banished the kingdom, and their estates forfeited. On August 3, 1548, Ormiston found caution to underly the law.

      The family of Ormiston for a long series of years occasionally held the office of lord justice-clerk. The first of them who filled that office was Sir John Cockburn of Ormiston, who succeeded to the estate in 1583. In July 1588, he was admitted an extraordinary lord of session in the room of Lord Boyd, resigned, and on the death of Sir James Bellenden he was knighted, and appointed lord-justice-clerk. He was admitted an ordinary lord of session 15th February 1593. At the parliament held at Perth in July 1604 he was chosen one of the commissioners to go to England to treat of a project of union then in contemplation. In 1621 he voted in parliament in favour of the five articles of Perth. In 1623, he resigned the office of lord-justice-clerk, and died in June of that year. A curious letter is extant, quoted in the appendix to Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials, vol. iii., from the Denmylne MMS. in the Advocate’s Library, addressed by Mr. Alexander Colville, justice-depute, to Viscount Annand, a great favourite at court, dated December 20, 1622, relative to the justice-clerkship, in which it is stated that the laird of Ormiston, the then justice-clerk, was “so afflicted with extreme age, blindness, and other infirmities that he is altogether disabled either from walking abroad, or discharging the duties,” and advising that in the appointment of his successor it should be considered that “young men and men of great clans are most dangerous for that place.” Sir John Cockburn married Elizabeth, eldest daughter of Sir John Bellenden of Auchinoul, and widow of James Lawson of Humbie.

      The next of the family who filled the office was Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, a younger son of John Cockburn of Ormiston, by his wife Margaret Hepburn. He succeeded his brother John, as heir-male in the family estate, 28th December 1671. He was commissioner for the county of Haddington at the convention of estates in the years 1678, 1681, and 1689, and in the Scots parliament for 1696. He was nominated one of the commissioners to treat of the union, 19th April 1689. On 28th November 1692, he was appointed lord justice clerk, in place of Sir George Campbell of Cessnock, and about the same time was sworn a privy councillor. On 28th May 1696, he was named one of the commissioners to inquire into the massacre of Glenco, and about this period he seems to have become unpopular, as in his letters to Mr. Carstairs he complains of the “lies raised against him.” In one of these, dated 23d July 1695, he particularly complains of the earl of Argyle, who, he observes, “reflected on the whole commission of Glenco.” On his part, Argyle, in a letter addressed to Carstairs, complains bitterly of the authority given to the lord justice clerk, “who,” he says, “with Sir Thomas Livingstone, has powers to seize persons, horses, and arms, without being obliged to be accountable to the council, make close prisoners, or otherwise as they see fit.” In February 1699 he was appointed treasurer depute, or chancellor of the exchequer. There seems also at this time to have been an intention of making him an ordinary lord of session, which, however, was violently opposed by Argyle, who addressed a strong letter of remonstrance to Mr. Carstairs, dated 31st January 1699. On the accession of Queen Anne, he was dismissed from all his offices. In January 1705, however, he was again appointed lord justice clerk, and made an ordinary lord of session. In 1710 he was superseded in his office of justice clerk by James Erskine of Grange, but retained his place as a lord of session till his death, 16th April 1735, in the seventy-ninth year of his age. He was a man of a good understanding and of great application to business, but of a hot and overbearing temper. Macky, in his Memoirs, (p. 224) writing of him when he was fifty years old, describes him as “a bigot to a fault, and hardly in common charity with any man out of the verge of presbytery, but otherwise a very fine gentleman in his person and manners, just in his dealings, with good sense, and of a sanguine complexion.” Dr. Houston, however, speaks most unfavourably of him. He says, “Of all the (whig) party, Lord Ormiston was the most busy, and very zealous in suppressing the rebellion (of 1715), and oppressing the rebels, so that he became universally hated in Scotland, where they called him the curse of Scotland; and when ladies were at cards, playing the nine of diamonds, commonly called ‘the curse of Scotland,’ they called it ‘the justice Clerk.’” He married Lady Susan Hamilton, third daughter of the fourth earl of Haddington, and had two sons, John and Patrick. The latter, an advocate, married in 1731 Miss Alison Rutherford of Fairnalee, authoress of one of the sets to the tune of “The Flowers of the Forest.” Of his son John, the last but one of the family, and the great promoter of modern agricultural improvement in East Lothian, a notice is given immediately under.

      Cockburn of Henderland, the famous border freebooter, resided at the old square tower of Blackhouse, once a stronghold of the Douglases on Douglas burn in Selkirkshire, celebrated in song, and his tombstone is still pointed out in that locality. With Adam Scott of Tushielaw, he was hanged on the 27th July 1529, by order of King James the Fifth, during that monarch’s progress for the suppression of disorders on the borders.

      A distinguished person of this name was Sir Richard Cockburn of Clerkington, lord privy seal in the reign of James the Sixth. He was the son of Sir John Cockburn by Helen, daughter of Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, and on 22d April 1591, was appointed secretary of state, on the resignation of his uncle, Sir John Maitland. On November 11th the same year he was admitted a lord of session. He was afterwards knighted, and in 1594 was sent by King James to demand assistance from Queen Elizabeth to pursue the popish peers, and was absent about six months. On the accession of the Octavians to power, he was forced to exchange with John Lindsay of Balcarres, his place of secretary for that of lord privy seal. In 1610, when a new privy council was formed, he was continued a privy councillor, and at the same time was appointed a member of the high court of commission for church affairs then constituted. On 14th February 1626, he was removed from the bench, inconsequence of the resolution of Charles the First that neither nobleman nor officer of state should remain in that judicatory. He died in the latter end of that year.

      In 1451 Patrick Cockburn of Newbigging, lord provost of Edinburgh, was appointed governor of the castle, and named, with other commissioners, after the defeat of the English in the battle of Sark, to treat for the renewal of a truce.


COCKBURN, JOHN, of Ormiston, in East Lothian, the great improver of Scottish husbandry, son of Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, lord-justice-clerk after the Revolution, by his wife Lady Susan Hamilton, was born about 1685. During his father’s life he was a member of the Scots parliament, and gave his support to the union of the two kingdoms. He afterwards represented East Lothian, in the parliament of Great Britain, from 1707 to 1741, and at one period was a lord of the admiralty, and also held several other public situations, but he was chiefly distinguished by his patriotic exertions to promote the improvement of his native country. He succeeded to the family estate in 1714. At that time agriculture in Scotland was in a very low state. Mr. Cockburn resolved to endeavour not only to rouse up a spirit among the landed proprietors for promoting improvements, but also, by every means of encouragement, to animate the tenantry to conduct their operations with energy and vigour. For this purpose he determined to sacrifice his own private interests, and to grant long leases at such low rents as would tempt the most indolent to exercise proper management. An attempt was made at one time to set aside these leases, but it did not succeed. His enterprising spirit did not rest content even with this. He brought down skilful agriculturists from England, who introduced the field culture of turnips, and of red clover; and at the same time he sent up the sons of his tenants to England to study husbandry in the best cultivated counties of that kingdom. He also established at Ormiston a society for promoting agricultural improvements. His exertions, however, were not confined to husbandry alone. In 1726 he erected a brewery and distillery at Ormiston. With a view also to promote the growth of flax, he obtained premiums from the board of trustees for encouraging its culture. He established a linen manufactory on his estate, and erected a bleach-field for whitening linens, which was the second in Scotland of the kind. It was conducted and managed by persons from Ireland; and to this Irish colony, it is said that Scotland is in a great measure indebted for the introduction of the potato, which was raised in the fields of Ormiston so early as 1734. To disseminate a spirit for agricultural improvement through the country, in 1736 he instituted a club or society composed of noblemen, gentlemen, and farmers, who met monthly for the purpose of discussing some appropriate question in rural or political economy. It subsisted above ten years. He also exerted himself in making the public roads and keeping them in repair. He married, first, in 1700, the Hon. Beatrix Carmichael, eldest daughter of the first earl of Hyndford, and secondly an English lady related to the duchess of Gordon, by whom he had a son named George. In 1748 Mr. Cockburn was under the necessity of disposing of his estate to the earl of Hopetoun. He died at his son’s house in the navy office, London, November 12, 1758. His son, George, who succeeded him, is no farther deserving of notice than as being the last of that distinguished family. He was appointed a captain in the navy in 1741, and one of the commissioners of the navy in 1756. He died at Brighton in 1770. He married Caroline, baroness Forrester in her own right, and had a daughter, Anna Maria Cockburn, also baroness Forrester in her own right, who died in 1808 unmarried.

COCKBURN, ALICIA, or Alison, authoress of the beautiful lyric, ‘I’ve seen the smiling of fortune beguiling,’ which forms one of the popular sets of the ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ was a daughter of Robert Rutherford of Fairnalee in Selkirkshire. The exact year of her birth has not been ascertained. It is supposed to have been about 1710 or 1712. We learn from Stenhouse’s notes to Johnson’s ‘Scots Musical Museum,’ that her writing of the song which has immortalized her name, was occasioned by the following incident; “A gentleman of her acquaintance, in passing through a sequestered but romantic glen, observed a shepherd at some distance tending his flocks, and amusing himself at intervals by playing on a flute. The scene altogether was very interesting, and being passionately found of music, he drew nearer the spot, and listened for some time unobserved to the attractive but artless strains of the young shepherd. One of the airs in particular appeared so exquisitely wild and pathetic, that he could no longer refrain from discovering himself, in order to obtain some information respecting it from the rural performer. On inquiry, he learned that it was ‘The Flowers of the Forest.’ This intelligence exciting his curiosity, he was determined, if possible, to obtain possession of the air. He accordingly prevailed on the young man to play it over and over, until he picked up every note, which he immediately committed to paper on his return home. Delighted with this new discovery, as he supposed, he lost no time in communicating it to Miss Rutherford, who not only recognised the tune, but likewise repeated some detached lines of the old ballad. Anxious, however, to have a set of verses adapted to his favourite melody, and well aware that few, if any, were better qualified than Miss Rutherford, for such a task, he took the liberty of begging this favour at her hand. She obligingly consented, and, in a few days thereafter, he had the pleasure of receiving the stanzas from the fair author.”

      In her youth Miss Rutherford must have been very beautiful, for in a work by a Mr. Fairbairn, styled “Professor of the French,” published at Edinburgh in 1727, entitled ‘L’Eloge d’Ecosse, et des Dames Ecossoises,’ in which all the rank and beauty of the time are described in the most glowing terms, we find her mentioned as among the most charming ladies of that day, with Mademoiselles Peggie Campbell, Murray, Pringle, Drummond, and nineteen others, her name, Alice Rutherford, as perhaps the youngest, being the last in the list. She married, in 1731, Patrick Cockburn, advocate, youngest son of Adam Cockburn, of Ormiston, lord justice clerk of Scotland, and brother of the subject of the preceding notice. Her husband “acted as commissioner,” says Sir Walter Scott, “for the duke of Hamilton of that day; and being, as might be expected from his family, a sincere friend to the Revolution and protestant succession, he used his interest with his principal to prevent him from joining in the intrigues which preceded the insurrection of 1745, to which his grace [who was then only in his twenty-second year, is supposed to have had a strong inclination.” Mr. Cockburn died at Musselburgh, “after a tedious illness,” 29th April, 1753. His widow survived him for more than forth years. She was distantly related to the mother of Sir Walter Scott, who was the eldest daughter of Dr. John Rutherford, professor of medicine in the university of Edinburgh, a relation of Mr. Rutherford of Fairnalee, and through life she continued in habits of great intimacy with Mrs. Scott.

      Sir Walter’s own personal recollections of this highly gifted and accomplished woman are very interesting. “A turret in the old house of Fairnalee,” says he, “is still shown as the place where the poem (‘I have seen the smiling,’ &c.) Was written. The occasion was a calamitous period in Selkirkshire, or Ettrick Forest, when no fewer than seven lairds or proprietors, men of ancient family and inheritance, having been engaged in some imprudent speculations, became insolvent in one year.” At the time of the rebellion of 1745 he describes Mrs. Cockburn as a keep whig, or adherent of the government. She was the authoress of several parodies and little poetical pieces, and Sir Walter mentions particularly a set of toasts descriptive of some of her friends, and sent to a company where most of them were assembled, which were so accurately drawn that the originals were at once recognised on their being read aloud. One upon Sir Walter Scott’s father, then a young and remarkably handsome man, is given as a specimen:

                        To a thing that’s uncommon –
                        A youth of discretion,
                        Who, though vastly handsome,
                        Despises flirtation:
                        To the friend in affliction,
                        The heart of affection,
                        Who may hear the last trump
                        Without dread of detection.

      “My mother and Mrs. Cockburn were related, says Sir Walter, “in what degree I know not, but sufficiently near to induce Mrs. Cockburn to distinguish her in her will. Mrs. Cockburn had the misfortune to lose an only son, Patrick Cockburn, who had the rank of captain in the dragoons, several years before her own death. She was one of those persons whose talents for conversation made a stronger impression on her contemporaries, than her writings can be expected to produce. In person and features she somewhat resembled Queen Elizabeth; but the nose was rather more aquiline. She was proud of her auburn hair, which remained unbleached by time, even when she was upwards of eighty years old. She maintained the rank in the society of Edinburgh, which Frenchwomen of talents usually do in that of Paris; and in her little parlour used to assemble a very distinguished and accomplished circle, among whom David Hume, John Home, Lord Monboddo, and many other men of name were frequently to be found. Her evening parties were very frequent, and included society distinguished both for condition and talents. The petit souper, which always concluded the evening, was like that of Stella, which she used to quote on the occasion: –

                        A supper like her mighty self,
                        Four nothings on four plates of delf

But they passed off more gaily than many costlier entertainments. She spoke both wittily and well, and maintained an extensive correspondence, which, if it continues to exist, must contain many things highly curious and interesting. My recollection is, that her conversation brought her much nearer to a Frenchwoman than to a native of England; and, as I have the same impression with respect to ladies of the same period and the same rank in society, I am apt to think that the vieille cour of Edinburgh rather resembled that of Paris than that of St James’s; and particularly, that the Scotch imitated the Parisians in laying aside much of the expense and form of these little parties, in which wit and good humour were allowed to supersede all occasion of display. The lodging where Mrs. Cockburn received the best society of her time, would not now afford accommodation to a very inferior person.”

      In the notes to the first volume of Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum, Stenhouse’s edition, two songs by Mrs. Cockburn are inserted, which were communicated by Mr. Kirkpatrick Sharpe, who has added marginal notes explanatory of the allusions to the persons described in them. The one id entitled ‘A \Copy of Verses wrote by Mrs. Cockburn on the back of a picture of Sir Hew Dalrymple,’ to the tune of ‘All you ladies now at Land;’ the other is a lively drinking piece beginning ‘All health be round Balcarras’ board,’ to the same tune, which seems to have been a favourite with her. Sir Walter Scott mistook her first name, and called her Catherine instead of Alice. In the entry of her marriage in the parish registers of Ormiston, under date 12th March 1731, she is styled Alison Rutherford. She died at Edinburgh on the 22d of November 1794, when she was above eighty. “Even at an age,” says Sir Walter Scott, (in his ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border,’ vol. iii. page 338, edition 1833,) “advanced beyond the usual bounds of humanity, she retained a play of imagination, and an activity of intellect, which must have been attractive and delightful in youth, but were almost preternatural at her period of life. Her active benevolence, keeping pace with her genius, rendered her equally an object of love and admiration. The editor, who knew her well, takes this opportunity of doing justice to his own feelings; and they are in unison with those of all who knew his regretted friend.” The following extract of a letter from a lady to Charles K. Sharpe, Esq., in reference to Mrs. Cockburn, is inserted among Mr. David Laing’s illustrative notes to Stenhouse’s edition of Johnson’s Musical Museum: – “She had a pleasing countenance and piqued herself upon always dressing according to her own taste, and not according to the dictates of fashion. Her brown hair never grew grey; and she wore it combed up upon a toupee – no cap – a lace hood tied under her chin, and her sleeves puffed out in the fashion of Queen Elizabeth, which is not uncommon now, but at that time was quite peculiar to herself.” she left property to the amount of £3,800, the bulk of which went to two nieces, Anne Pringle and Mrs. Simpson. Her last will and testament, in which Mark Pringle, Esq. of Clifton, and Alexander Keith, W.S., are named executors, was confirmed 23d January 1795. The bequest to Sir Walter Scott’s mother is thus mentioned: “I promised Mrs. Walker (a mistake for Walter) Scott my emerald ring; with it she has my prayers for her and hers. Much attention she and her worthy husband paid me in my hours of deepest distress, when my son was dying.” She mentions some of her poorer relations in affectionate terms, and leaves them small annuities; and frequently alludes to her son, who died in 1780. A lock of her hair was enclosed for two hair-rings for her ‘earliest and most constant and affectionate friends, Mrs. Keith of Ravelstone, and her brother, William Swinton,” Also a ring with Sir Hugh Dalrymple’s hair, intended tor Mrs. Dalrymple, “ is now to be given to her son Sir Hugh D., for whom Mrs. C. has great affection.” She desires that her sister Fairnillie, if she outlives her, “may have twenty pounds for mourning, besides the ring already mentioned; and also, I leave her the charge of my favourite cat.” She gives some directions about her funeral, and seems to have written an epitaph for herself, as she adds, “Shorten or correct the epitaph to your taste.”

COCKBURN, PATRICK, a learned professor of the oriental languages, was a son of Cockburn of Langton in the Merse, and educated at the university of St. Andrews. After taking holy orders, he went to the university of Paris, where he taught the oriental languages for several years. In 1551 and 1662 he published at Paris two religious works which brought him under the suspicion of heresy, and compelled him to quit Paris. On his return to Scotland he embraced the doctrines of the Reformation. He taught the languages for some years at St. Andrews; and in 1555 published there some pious meditations on the lord’s Prayer. He was afterwards chosen minister of Haddington, being the first protestant preacher in that place. He died far advanced in years, in 1559. He left several manuscripts on subjects of divinity, and some letters and orations, of which a treatise on the ‘Apostles’ Creed’ was published at London, 1561, 4to. His published works are:

      Oratio de Utilitate et Excellentia Verbi Dei. Par. 1551, 8vo.

      De Vulgari Sacrae Scripturi Phrasi. Par. 1552, 8vo.

      In Orationem Dominicam, pia Meditatio. St. Andrews, 1555, 12mo.

      In Symbolum Apostolicum, Cmment. Lond. 1561, 4to.

Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus