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TRAILL, a surname supposed to be a corruption of Tyrrel, the first of the name in this island having been said to have come from the province of Tyrol in Germany. (Nisbet’s Heraldry, vol. i. p. 212). The name is probably in some instances but another form of the Norse Troil, from Trold, an elf or fairy. In the reign of Robert III., a Scottish warrior, named Hugh Traill, defeated an English champion in single combat at Berwick.


The Traills of Blebo were an old family in the parish of Kemback, Fifeshire, which produced some eminent members. Among the most distinguished was Walter Traill, who became bishop of St. Andrews in 1385. He studied on the continent, and was a doctor of the civil and canon law, and canon of St. Andrews. According to Fordun, he was “referendarius Papae Clementis septimi,” and was attending that pontiff at Avignon, when a vacancy in the see of St. Andrews took place. So high was the opinion which Clement had of his learning and worth that, by his own authority, without any election, he appointed him to the bishopric, saying to those beside him, “This man deserveth better to be pope than bishop; the place is better provided than the person,” meaning that he was an honour to the place, and not the place to him. IN 1390, he and the bishop of Glasgow assisted at the funeral of Robert II., and the day following he placed the crown on the head of Robert III. IN 1391, he was sent ambassador to France, where he remained a year. He is witness to a charter of King Robert III., confirming former donations to the abbey of Paisley, 6th April, 1396. He died in the year 1401, in the castle of St. Andrews, which had been rebuilt by him, and was buried, among his predecessors, in the cathedral of that city, near the high altar, with this inscription on his monument; “Hic fuit Ecclesiae directa columna, fenestra lucida, thuribulum redolens, campana sonora.”

It is stated by Nisbet (Heraldry, vol. i. p. 212), that the lands of Blebo were purchased by Bishop Traill, in the reign of Robert III., and gifted by him to his nephew, Traill of Blebo. Keith (Catalogue of Scottish Bishops, p. 26) and other writers say that the bishop was the son of the laird of Blebo, In the early part of the reign of Charles I., Blebo was purchased by a gentleman of the name of Kay, but in 1649 it was sold to Mr. Andrew Bethune, a son of Bethune of Balfour, in possession of whose descendants it still remains.

Andrew Traill, a younger brother of the family of Blebo, was a colonel in the Dutch service, in the war of independence against Philip II. of Spain. When he quitted the Netherlands his arrears of pay amounted to £2,700 sterling, for which he had a bond from the city of Bruges and other towns of Flanders. He afterwards served with distinction under the king of Navarre in the civil wars of France. On his return to Britain, he was made a gentleman of Prince Henry’s privy chamber. His son, James, had a small property in the parish of Denino, where he lived. He endeavoured to recover the sum due to his father by the cities of Flanders, and upon a petition to King James, he obtained a warrant to arrest a ship belonging to the city of Bruges at London, but through the influence of the king’s favourite, the duke of Buckingham, was prevented from obtaining possession of her. He never obtained any part of the debt due to his father, and he was obliged to dispose of his estate in Denino. This James had two sons, James and Robert.

The younger son, Robert Traill, born at Denino in 1603, was educated at St. Andrews. On the invitation of his brother, James, then in France, with a pupil, who was afterwards Lord Brook in England, he went over to Paris, and subsequently joined his brother in Orleans. He then went to Saumur, and entered the Protestant college there. He was afterwards teacher in a school established by a Protestant minister at Montagne, in Bas Poitou. In 1630 he returned to Scotland. IN 1639 he was ordained minister at Elie, Fifeshire. In 1640, he was ordered to attend Lord Lindsay’s regiment at Newcastle for three months. In 1644 he again attended the army in England as chaplain, and was present at the battle of Marston Moor. In 1649 he was translated to the Greyfriars’ church, Edinburgh. He was one of the covenanting ministers who attended the marquis of Montrose on the scaffold, at his execution in 1650. In 1663 he was banished from Scotland, being then sixty years of age, for having read and expounded a portion of scripture to a few friends in his own house. He retired to Holland, where he died. A painting of him was, in 1857, placed in one of the windows of Greyfriars’ church, Edinburgh. He had three sons and three daughters. The sons were 1. William, minister of Borthwick, 2. Robert, of whom a notice follows, 3. James lieutenant of the garrison of Stirling.

TRAILL, DR. THOMAS STEWART, professor of medical jurisprudence in the university of Edinburgh, born in Oct. 1781, at Kirkwall, Orkney, was the son of the parish minister of that place. He studied at the university of Edinburgh, and in 1801 took his degree of M.D. In 1803 he settled at Liverpool as a general practitioner, and soon rose to distinction in his profession. He was the intimate friend of Dr. Currie, author of the ‘Life of Burns.’ IN 1832 he was appointed professor of medical jurisprudence in the university of Edinburgh, and held that chair for thirty years. He lectured frequently on chemistry and natural history in Liverpool, and in the university, in the absence of the professors of both these classes. He was a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of various associations connected with natural history; author of a small and comprehensive manual on medical jurisprudence, and editor of the eighth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, on which he had been engaged for ten years. He died at Edinburgh, July 30, 1862. He had married, in 1811, a daughter of Dr. Henry Robertson, minister of Kiltearn, Ross-shire, and had two sons and three daughters, of whom only 2 daughters survived him.

TRAILL, ROBERT, an eminent divine of the Church of Scotland, son of Robert Traill, minister of Greyfriars, Edinburgh, was born at Elie, Fifeshire, in May 1642, when his father was minister of that place. He studied at the university of Edinburgh, and while yet a student, he evinced his strong attachment to the principles and discipline of the Presbyterian church by accompanying Guthrie, the martyr, to the scaffold, on June 1, 1661. In 1667 a proclamation was issued for apprehending him, in consequence of which he retired to Holland to his father.

In 1669 he was ordained by some Presbyterian divines in London, and appointed to a charge at Cranbrook, Kent, where he preached for several years. In 1677 he visited Edinburgh, and during his stay there, he was apprehended for privately preaching, and brought before the privy council. On his examination he owned that he had kept house-conventicles, but declined to answer when they asked him if he had held field-preachings also, peremptorily refusing to reply upon oath to any of their questions that might affect his life. He was sentenced to imprisonment in the Bass, and after being confined there for three months, he was in October of the same year released by order of the government. He then returned to Cranbrook but was afterwards for many years pastor of a Scots congregation in London, and at one time was colleague with the Rev. Nathaniel Mather, in a meeting-house in Lime Street in the city. He was a rigid Calvinist, and the author of several theological works, chiefly sermons, which were for a long time popular in Scotland. He survived the Revolution, and saw the accession of the house of Hanover to the throne. He died in May 1716, aged 74. His son, also named Robert, was minister of Panbride, Forfarshire, and was the father of Dr. James Traill, who, conforming to the Church of England, was presented to the living of West Ham in Essex, in 1762. Three years afterwards he was consecrated bishop of Down and Connor in Ireland, and died in Dublin in 1783. – Mr. Traill’s works are:

How Ministers may best win Souls. A Sermon.
Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine of Justification, and of its first Preachers and Professors, from the unjust charge of Antinomianism. London, 1692.
Thirteen Discourses on the Throne of Grace, from Heb. iv. 16.
Sixteen Sermons on the Prayer of our Saviour in John xviii. 24.

The following were left in manuscript, and published after his death.

Twenty-one Sermons on Steadfast Adherence to the Profession of our Faith, from Heb. x. 23.
Eleven Sermons from 1 Peter i. 1-4.
Six Sermons on Galatians ii. 21.
His works were first collected and published at Glasgow in 1776, and in 1810 a more complete edition appeared at Edinburgh in 4 vols. 8vo, with a life prefixed.
Ten Sermons on Various Subjects, transcribed from family manuscripts, and issued by the Cheap Publication Society of the Free Church of Scotland, in 1845.

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