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The Scottish Nation

BRYCE, a surname supposed to have been originally Bruce, which in early records is indifferently written Bruis or Bruys. There is one well authenticated instance in which the name of Bruce was changed into Bryce, by an ancestor of the family of Bruce of Scoutbush and Killroot, in the county of Antrim, Ireland, a scion of the ancient Scotch house of Bruce of Airth, being descended from the Rev. Edward Bruce, or Bryce, younger brother of the laird of Airth, who settled in Ireland about 1608. The name continued for a long time Bryce, but in 1811, the possessor of Scoutbush, resumed, by royal license, the family name of Bruce. The reason for changing the name is thus described by Mrs. Bruce’s grandfather, in a letter to his son, relative to the family descent, in 1774-5. “One of my ancestors had a dispute with his chief who attacked him. He, according to the laws of Scotland, retreated as far as wood, water, &c., would allow him, then turned in his own defence and killed his chief. In those days, two or three hundred years ago, the chiefs had great influence. He was prosecuted with great virulence. The sentence was, ‘that he should be either banished or change his name.’ He said he had done nothing sinful or shameful to fly his country, but put a tail to the u and made it y; thus it was Bryce, but when my grandfather went to Ireland, he spelled his name with an i, and since it has so remained.” – Burke.

BRYCE, ALEXANDER, the Rev., an eminent geometrician, was born at Boarland, parish of Kincardine, in 1713. He received the first rudiments of his education at the school of Doune, Perthshire; and, after studying at the university of Edinburgh, proceeded to Caithness, in May 1740, as tutor to a gentleman’s son. He resided there for three years, and during that time, at his own expense, and in the midst of much obstruction, he completed a ‘Map of the North Coast of Britain, from Raw Stoir of Assynt, to Wick in Caithness, with the Harbours and Rocks, and an account of the Tides in the Pentland Firth,’ which was published in 1744 by the Philosophical, afterwards the Royal, Society of Edinburgh. In June 1744 he was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Dunblane; and, in August 1745, having received a presentation from the earl of Morton, he was ordained in the church and parish of Kirknewton, in the Presbytery of Edinburgh. In the winter of 1745-6 he taught the mathematical classes in the university of Edinburgh, during the last illness of Professor Maclaurin. In 1752, after much anxious search, he discovered, among some old lumber in a garret at Stirling, the Pint Jug, the standard, by statute, for weight and for liquid and dry measure in Scotland, committed by an old act of parliament to the keeping of the magistrates of that burgh. At the request of the magistrates of Edinburgh, he afterwards superintended the adjustment of the weights and measures kept by the dean of guild, and, for so doing, was made a burgess and guild brother in 1754. He wrote several scientific papers, which were published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of London, amongst which may be mentioned ‘An Account of a Comet observed by him in 1766;’ ‘A new Method of measuring the Velocity of the Wind;’ and ‘An Experiment to ascertain to what quantity of Water a fall of Snow on the Earth’s Surface is equal.’ He also contributed several papers to Ruddiman’s Weekly Magazine. By the influence of Stuart Mackenzie, lord privy seal of Scotland, for whom he planned the observatory at Belmont castle, he was appointed one of his majesty’s chaplains in ordinary. In 1774 the freedom of the town of Stirling was conferred on him, in consequence of his advice and assistance in supplying that town with water. In 1776 he made all the requisite calculations for an epitome of the solar system on a large scale, afterwards erected by the earl of Buchan at his seat at Kirkhill. Mr. Bryce died January 1, 1786.

The name Bryce in the Dictionary of National Biography

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