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CRICHTON, a surname assumed from the barony of that name in the county of Edinburgh, and amongst the first mentioned by historians in the reign of Malcolm the Third. To the charter of erection of the abbacy of Holyroodhouse, by King David the First, Thurstannus de Creichton is a witness. William de Crichton is mentioned as dominus de Crichton about 1240. Thomas de Crichton, supposed to be his son, was one of those barons who swore fealty to Edward the First in 1296. By Eda his wife he had three sons. William, the second son, acquired by marriage with Isabel de Ross, one of the two daughters and coheiresses of Robert de Ross (a cadet of the earls of Ross, lords of the Isles), half of the barony of Sanquhar in Dumfries-shire. The other half was subsequently purchased by his successors, and it became the chief title of the family. Sir Robert de Crichton of Sanquhar, a descendant of this William de Crichton, had charters of the barony of Sanquhar, and of the office of sheriff of the county of Dumfries, 23d April 1464; of the lands of Eliock, 21st October same year; and of the office of coroner of Nithsdale, 8th January 1468-9. His eldest son, Sir Robert Crichton of Sanquhar, signalized himself at Lochmaben against the duke of Albany and the earl of Douglas, when they invaded Scotland in 1484. He was created a peer of parliament by the title of Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, by King James the Third, 29th January, 1487-8, and died in 1502. See SANQUHAR, Lord. The title is now merged in the earldom of Dumfries [see DUMFRIES, earl of], now held by the marquis of Bute. [See BUTE, marquis of ante.]

      the name Crichton may probably be a corruption of Caerric-ton, (as Cramond is of Caer-almond,) and be therefore a variety of Ric-caer-ton, – the stone place of the Ric-ton, or rich land. Many local names appear in the Lothians to be corruptions of Caer of place of stones.


      CRICHTON, Lord, a title conferred in 1445, on Sir William Crichton, lord high chancellor of Scotland, of whom a memoir is subsequently given below. He was a descendant of the above-mentioned William de Crichton, and the son of Sir John Crichton, who obtained a charter of the barony of Crichton from King Robert the Third. His cousin, Sir George de Crichton, high admiral of Scotland, (designed son and heir of Stephen Crichton of Cairns, brother of the said Sir John Crichton,) was in 1452 created earl of Caithness, the honours being limited to the heirs male of his own body by his second wife, Janet Borthwick. He died in 1455, without issue of his second marriage, and the title became extinct in his family (see CAITHNESS, earl of). The first Lord Crichton had a son and two daughters.

      James, the son, second Lord Crichton, was knighted by James the First, at the baptism of his eldest son in 1430. He married Lady Janet Dunbar, eldest daughter and coheiress of James earl of Moray, with whom he got the barony of Frendraught in Banffshire, but the earldom of Moray was, to his prejudice, bestowed on Archibald Douglas, (third son of the seventh earl of Douglas,) who had married the younger sister of his wife. Under the designation of Sir James Crichton of Frendraught, he was appointed great chamberlain of Scotland in 1440, and his held that office till 1453. He died about 1469. He had three sons, William, Gavin, and George.

      William, the third lord, joined the duke of Albany in his rebellion against his brother, James the Third, and garrisoned his castle of Crichton in his behalf. He was in consequence attainted for treason, by parliament, 24th February 1483-4. His brothers were also forfeited for joining in the same rebellion. On his forfeiture, his castle of Crichton, a very ancient and magnificent structure, the ruins of which overhang a beautiful little glen through which the Tyne slowly meanders, was granted to Sir John Ramsay of Balmain. From him it afterwards passed, by forfeiture, to Patrick Hepburn, chief of that name, and third Lord Hales, ancestor of the celebrated James Hepburn, earl of Bothwell, the husband of Mary queen of Scots. On the forfeiture of this last nobleman in 1567, Crichton became the property of the Crown, but was granted to Francis Stewart, earl of Bothwell. It subsequently passed through the hands of several proprietors, from one of whom, Hepburn of Humbie, who acquired it about the year 1649, it obtained the name, among the county people, of ‘Humbie’s Wa’s.’ In the fourth canto of Marmion, Sir Walter Scott has minutely described this relic of the feudal ages.

      The third lord had married Margaret, second daughter of King James the Second, and had, with a daughter, a son, Sir James Crichton of Frendraught. The direct descendant of the latter, in the fifth generation, James Crichton of Frendraught was, in 1642, created Viscount Frendraught and Lord Crichton, in consideration of his father being heir male of Lord-chancellor Crichton. See FRENDRAUGHT, viscount of.


      The other principal families of the name were Crichton of Cranston, descended from Frendraught; (David Crichton of Cranston was one of the commissioners nominated by King James the Third, in his treaty of marriage with Margaret daughter of the king of Denmark); Crichton of Ruthven, descended from the second son of Stephen Crichton of Cairns above mentioned; Crichton of Easthill; Crichton of Naughton; Crichton of Cluny; Crichton of Invernyty; Crichton of Brunston; Crichton of Lugdon; and Crichton of Crawfordtoun.

      George Crichton, a son of Crichton of Naughton, became bishop of Dunkeld in 1525, having previously been abbot of Holyroodhouse. According to Spotswood, he succeeded the celebrated Gavin Douglas in that see, but this is a mistake, as another prelate, named Robert Cockburn, intervened between them.  In the beginning of 1527, he was one of the bishops present at St. Andrews at the condemnation of Patrick Hamilton, the protomartyr. In 1529, he is said to have been lord privy seal, and to have held the same office in the beginning of 1539. He appears as an extraordinary lord of session in the sitting of that court, November 17, 1533. He died on 24th January 1543-4, having previously transmitted to the pope a resignation of his bishopric in favour of his nephew Robert Crichton, then provost of St. Giles. It was this bishop of Dunkeld that in 1539, on the examination of Dean Thomas Forret, vicar of Dollar, accused of heresy, said he thanked God that he never knew what the old and the new Testament was, and that he would know nothing but his breviary and his pontifical! His nephew, Robert Crichton, notwithstanding his uncle’s resignation in his favour, and his own application, was prevented from immediately succeeding to the see, by the stronger influence of the earl of Arran, governor of the kingdom, upon whose natural brother, John Hamilton, it was conferred, but on his translation to the archbishopric of St. Andrews in 1550, Crichton was promoted to Dunkeld, and continued bishop there till the establishment of the Reformed religion in 1560. At the parliament, wherein the Confession of Faith was ratified, 17th July of that year, he was appointed a commissioner for divorcing the earl of Bothwell from Lady Jane Gordon.

      Robert Crichton of Eliock, the father of the admirable Crichton, (of whom a memoir is hereafter given in its place,) having been educated for the bar, was appointed lord advocate, jointly with John Spens of Condie, 8th February 1560. He appears to have been favourable to Queen Mary’s cause in the beginning of her son’s reign, and was sent for by that unfortunate princess into England after the death of the regent Murray, but was prevented from going by the regent Lennox, who made him find caution to the extent of four thousand pounds Scots, that he would not leave Edinburgh. On the death in January 1581, of David Borthwick of Lochill, who had succeeded Spens as his colleague, and was appointed a lord of session in October 1573, Crichton was nominated his successor on the bench, and at the same time was constituted sole lord advocate. He took his seat 1st February 1581. In the same year he was appointed one of the parliamentary commissioners for the reformation of hospitals. He died in June 1582.

      An account of the feud betwixt the Crichtons and the Maxwells, the two most powerful barons in Nithsdale, will be found under the head of SANQUHAR, lord. In 1512, Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, ancestor of the noble house of Queensberry, accused of the slaughter of Robert Crichton of Kilpatrick, on the complaint of Robert Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, pleaded that the person killed was at the time a declared rebel and at his majesty’s horn, when the jury delivered a verdict freeing h im and his accomplices from the charge. This case is thought to have given rise to the subsequent “Act anent the Resset of Rebellis.” &c., in which it is expressly stated that “gif ony personis happins to committ slauchter upone the said rebellis and personis being at the horne, the tym of the taking or apprehending of them, sal be no point of dittay (indictment), bot the slaaris of them to be rewardit and thankit tharfore.” On October 24, 1526, Andrew Crichton of Crawfordtoun, John Crichton of Kilpatrick, and forty-six others, were denounced rebels and put to the horn for not appearing to underly the law for the convocation of the lieges in great numbers in arms, and attacking Archibald earl of Angus and James earl of Arran, his majesty’s lieutenants, near the church of Linlithgow, for their slaughter and destruction. On November 24th, 1536, Mariota Home, countess of Crawford, the widow of that earl who was slain at Flodden, and Patrick Crichton of Camnay, with seventeen others, found caution (namely, Sir John Stirling of Keir, and John Crichton of Cranstoun) to satisfy John Moncur of Balluny, for seizing a “wayne” or waggon from him, with four oxen and two horses; and on the 12th December following, the same John Moncur, with Mariota Douglas, his wife, and four others, found caution to underly the law at the next justice-aire of Perth, for oppression done to the countess of Crawford, in breaking up the soil and ditches of her lands of Potento, and wounding her in the throat. This shows a strange state of society at that period.

      One of the leading friends of Wishart the martyr and most resolute conspirators against Cardinal Bethune, was Crichton of Brunston in Mid Lothian. He had been at one time a familiar and confidential servant of the cardinal, who, on the 10th of December 1539, intrusted him with secret letters to Rome, which were intercepted by Henry the Eighth. He next attached himself to Arran the governor, who employed him in diplomatic missions to France and England. He afterwards gained the confidence of Sir Ralph Sadler, the English ambassador in Scotland, to whom he furnished secret intelligence, and subsequently entered into correspondence with King Henry himself. On the 17th of April 1544, the laird of Brunston is said to have engaged in that secret correspondence with Henry the Eighth, in which, on certain conditions, he offered to procure the assassination of Bethune. Tytler points his character in very dark colours, but his representations should undoubtedly be taken with considerable reservation. [See his History of Scotland, vol. v. Appendix, p. 453.] Among others who were banished by the regent Arran, and his natural brother, the archbishop of St. Andrews, for alleged crimes against the state, but in reality on account of their professing the reformed religion, was Crichton of Brunston. Soon after the assassination of the cardinal he was indicted on a charge of treason, but the process against him was afterwards withdrawn.


      Two eminent medical men of this surname were long in the service of Russia. 1. Sir Alexander Crichton, M.D., F.R.S., &c., son of Alexander Crichton, Esq. of Newington, Mid Lothian, and grandson of Patrick Crichton, Esq. of Woodhouselee and Newington, born at Edinburgh in 1763, was physician in ordinary to the emperor of Russia, and physician to the duke of Cambridge. Author of, ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Mental Derangement, comprehending a concise system of the Physiology and Pathology of the human mind, and a History of the Passions, and their effects,’ Lond. 1798, 2 vols. 8vo.; ‘A Synoptical Table of Diseases, exhibiting their arrangement in Classes, Orders, Genera, and Species, designed for the use of Students,’ Lond; 1805, large sheet; ‘An Account of some Experiments made with the vapour of boiling Tar in the Cure of Pulmonary Consumption,’ 1818; ‘Some Observations on the Medicinal Effects of Arnica Montana,’ London Medical Journal, vol. x. p. 236, &c.; ‘Some Observations on the Medicinal Effects of the Lichislandicus,’ Ibid. p. 229; Commentary on some Doctrines of a dangerous Tendency in Medicine, 8vo, 1842, &c. Knight grand cross of the Russian orders of St. Vladimir and St. Anne, and knight of the red eagle of Prussia, second class; he was knighted on his return to England in 1820, was an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg, a corresponding member of the Royal Institute of Medicine in Paris, of the Royal Society of Sciences in Gottingen, &c. He was descended from a younger branch of the house of Frendraught. He died in 1856. 2. His nephew, Sir Archibald William Crichton, eldest son of Captain Patrick Crichton of the 47th regiment; born in 1791, graduated J.D. at Edinburgh, and was thirty years in the Russian service, for twenty-four of which he was physician to the czar and his family; He was a member of the medical council in Russia and a councillor of state. in 1814 he received the star of the legion of honour; in 1817 he was knighted; in 1829 he received the grand cross of the red eagle of Prussia, second class; in 1832, that of St. Stanislaus, first class; in 1834, that of St. Anne, first class; and in 1836, that of St. Vladimir. In 1820 he married a daughter of Dr. Sutthoff, one of the physicians in ordinary to the emperor of Russia. A member of the Medico-Chirurgical Academy of St. Petersburg (1853), M.D. of Glasgow, and D.C.L. of Oxford.


      The family of Makgill of Rankeillor in Fife, assumed the additional surname of Crichton in 1839, in consequence of the then proprietor of that estate, David Maitland Makgill-Crichton, being, in June of that year, served heir of line in general to the first Viscount Frendraught; his ancestor, Sir James Makgill of Rankeillor, having married, in 1665, the Hon. Janet Crichton, daughter of the first viscount. [See FRENDRAUGHT, viscount of, and MAKGILL, surname of.]

      The noble family of Crichton, who enjoy the earldom of erne, in the peerage of Ireland, are also descended from a branch of the house of Frendraught in the Scottish peerage.

CRICHTON, SIR WILLIAM, chancellor of Scotland during the minority of James the Second, was a personage of great abilities and political address. In 1423 he proceeded to Durham, with other barons, to conduct James the First home after his long captivity. At the coronation of his majesty in 1424, he was knighted, and appointed chamberlain to the king. On 8th May 1426, a commission was issued constituting him and two others ambassadors to treat with Eric, king of Norway, for a lasting peace; and soon after his return home, he was appointed one of the king’s privy council, and master of the household. On the accession of James the Second, he was in possession of the castle of Edinburgh. Between him and Sir Alexander Livingston, of Callendar, there was an unhappy rivalship, which weakened the authority of the government. During the two years succeeding his coronation the young king continued to reside entirely in the castle of Edinburgh, under the care of Crichton, its governor, greatly to the displeasure of the queen and her party, who thus found him placed entirely beyond their control. She accordingly visited Edinburgh, professing great friendship for Sir William Crichton, and a longing desire to see her son, by which means she completely won the good will of the former, and obtained ready access with her retinue, to visit the prince in the castle and take up her abode there. At length, having lulled all suspicion, she gave out that she had made a vow to pass in pilgrimage to the white kirk of Brechin for the health of her son, and bidding adieu to the governor over night, with many earnest recommendations of the young king to his fidelity and care, she retired to her devotions. Immediately on being left at liberty, the young king was cautiously pinned up among the linen and furniture of his mother, and so conveyed in a chest to Leith, and thence by water to Stirling, and placed in the hands of Livingston. Immediately thereafter, the latter raised an army and laid siege to Crichton in the castle of Edinburgh; on which he applied to the earl of Douglas for assistance, when that chief replied that he was an enemy to both parties, and in consequence refused his aid. Thereupon Crichton and Livingston became reconciled to each other, and having deprived Cameron, bishop of Glasgow, a partisan of the house of Douglas, of the office of chancellor, it was conferred upon Crichton, while Livingston obtained the guardianship of the king’s person, and the chief management in the government. Soon after, however, Crichton seized the person of the young monarch in the royal park at Stirling, while proceeding to the chase, and removed him to Edinburgh castle; but a second reconciliation took place between him and Livingston. Douglas died in 1439, and owing to the overgrown power of his son who succeeded him, it was resolved to get rid of him by summary means. With this view he invited him to attend a parliament then about to be held at Edinburgh, and having inveigled him and his brother into the castle, ordered them to be executed on the Castle-hill. This took place in 1440. The new earl of Douglas having been reconciled to James, and admitted into the royal councils, Crichton immediately fled to the castle of Edinburgh; on which he was denounced as a rebel, and his estates confiscated. Douglas laid siege to the castle, and after an investment of nine weeks, Crichton entered into a treaty with Livingston and Douglas, and surrendered it to the king. In 1445 he was created Lord Crichton, and in 1448 he was sent on an embassy to France, to treat with Arnold, duke of Gueldres, for the marriage of his daughter Mary with his royal master, now in his eighteenth year. He accompanied the bride to Holyrood, where the nuptials were solemnized with much pomp. douglas afterwards endeavoured to assassinate the chancellor, who continued to enjoy the king’s confidence and favour till his death in 1454.

CRICHTON, JAMES, styled “The Admirable,” from his extraordinary endowments both mental and physical, was the son of Robert Crichton of Eliock, lord advocate of Scotland in the reigns of Queen Mary and James the Sixth, and was born in 1557, or, according to some accounts, in 1560. His mother was Elizabeth Stuart, only daughter of Sir James Stuart of Beith, a family collaterally descended from Murdoch, duke of Albany, third son of Robert the Third, by Elizabeth Mure, and uncle of James the First. Eliock-house, on Eliock-burn, in the vale of the Nith, Dumfries-shire, is said to have been the birthplace of the Admirable Crichton, and the apartment in which he was born is carefully preserved in its original state. Soon after his birth, his father sold Eliock to the Dalzells, afterwards earls of Carnwath, and removed to an estate which he had acquired in the parish of Clunie in Perthshire, a circumstance which h as occasioned the castle of Clunie to be mistaken as the place of his nativity. He received the rudiments of his education at Perth school, and completed his studies at the university of St. Andrews, where he took his degree of M.A. at the age of fourteen. Before he was twenty, he had mastered the whole circle of the sciences,, and could speak and write ten different languages besides his own. He also excelled in riding, dancing, fencing, painting, singing, and playing on all sorts of instruments. On leaving college he went abroad to improve himself by travel. On his arrival at Paris, in compliance with a custom of the age, he affixed placards on the gates of the university, challenging the professors and learned men of the city to dispute with him in all the branches of literature, art, and science, and offering to give answers in any of the following languages, viz. Hebrew, Syriac, Arabic, Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, Italian, English, Dutch, Flemish, and Slavonic, and either in prose or verse, at the option of his antagonist. On the day appointed three thousand auditors assembled. Fifty masters proposed to him the most intricate questions, and with singular accuracy he replied to them all in the language they required. Four celebrated doctors of the church then ventured to dispute with him; but he refuted every argument they advanced. A sentiment of terror mingled itself with the admiration of the assembly. In the superstitious feeling of those days they conceived him to be Antichrist! This famous exhibition lasted from nine o’clock in the morning till six at night. At the conclusion, the president expressed, in the most flattering terms, their high sense of his talents and erudition, and amid the acclamations of all present, bestowed on him a diamond ring with a purse of gold. It was on this occasion that he was first saluted with the proud title of “The Admirable Crichton!” During the interval between giving the challenge, and the day appointed for accepting it, we are told, that so far from preparing himself by study, he had devoted his time almost entirely to amusements. The day after the disputation, he attended a public tilting match in the Louvre, and in presence of the princess of France and a great many ladies, bore away the ring fifteen times, and “broke as many landes on the Saracen.”

      Crichton afterwards appeared at Rome, and disputed in presence of the Pope, when he again astonished and delighted the audience by the universality of his attainments. He next went to Venice, where, becoming acquainted with Aldus Manutius, the younger, he inscribed to hi one of the four little Latin poems, which are all that remain to prove the poetical powers of this “prodigy of nature,” as he was styled by Imperialis. Having been presented to the doge and senate, he made an oration before them of surpassing eloquence. Here also he disputed on the most difficult subjects before the most eminent literari of that city.

      He arrived in Padua in the month of March 1581. The professors of that university assembled to do him honour, and on being introduced to them, he made an extemporary poem in praise of the city, the university, and the persons present, after which he sustained a disputation with them for six hours, and at the conclusion delivered an unpremeditated speech in praise of Ignorance, to the astonishment of all who heard him. He subsequently offered to point out before the same university the innumerable errors in the philosophy of Aristotle, and to expose the ignorance of his commentators, as well as to refute the opinions of certain celebrated mathematicians, and that in the common logical method, or by numbers or mathematical figures, and by a hundred different kinds of verses; and we are assured that he performed that stupendous task to the admiration of every one. After defeating in disputation a famous philosopher named Archangelus Mercenarius, he proceeded to Mantua, where he challenged in fight a gladiator, or prize-fighter, who had foiled the most expert fencers in Europe, and had already slain three persons who had entered the lists with him in that city. On this occasion the duke and the whole court were spectators of the combat. Crichton encountered his antagonist with so much dexterity and vigour that he ran him through the body in three different places, of which wounds he immediately expired. The victor generously bestowed the prize, fifteen hundred pistoles, on the widows of the men who had been killed by the gladiator. The duke of Mantua, struck with his talents and acquirements, appointed him tutor to his son, Vincentio di Gonzaga, a prince of turbulent disposition and licentious manners. For the entertainment of his patron he composed a comedy, described as a sort of ingenious satire on the follies and weaknesses of mankind, in which he himself personated fifteen characters. But his career was drawing to a close. One night during the festivity of the Carnival in July 1582, or 1583, while he rambled about the streets playing upon the guitar, he was attacked by six persons in masks. With consummate skill he dispersed his assailants, and disarmed their leader, who, pulling off his mask, begged his life, exclaiming, “I am the prince, your pupil!” Crichton immediately fell upon his knees and presenting his sword to the prince, expressed his sorrow for having lifted it against him, saying that he had been prompted by self-defence. The dastardly Gonzaga, inflamed with passion at his discomfiture, or mad with wine, immediately plunged the weapon into his heart. Thus prematurely was cut off “the Admirable Crichton.” Some accounts declare that he was killed in the thirty-second year of his age; but Imperialis asserts that he was only in his twenty-second year at the time of his death, and this fact is confirmed by Lord Buchan. His tragical end excited a great and general lamentation. According to Sir Thomas Urquhart, the whole court of Mantua went for nine months into mourning for him; innumerable were the epitaphs and elegies that were stuck upon his hearse; and portraits of him, in which he was represented on horseback with a sword in one hand, and a book in the other, were multiplied in every quarter. Such are the romantic details which are given of the life of this literary phenomenon. Dr. Kippis, in the Biographia Britannica, was the first to call in question the truth of the marvellous stories related of him. But Mr. Patrick Fraser Tytler, in his Life of Crichton, published in 1823, has adduced the most satisfactory evidence to establish the authenticity of the testimonies and authorities on which the statements regarding Crichton rest.

      The following woodcut is from a portrait of the Admirable Crichton in the Iconographia Scotica:

      Dr. Clarke gives the following list of his works, but does not say when or where they were published:

       Opera; 1. Odae ad Laurentium Massam plures. 2. Landes Patavinae, Carmen extempore effusum, cum in Jacobi Aloysii Cornelii domo experimentum ingenii, coran tota Academiae frequentia, non sine multorum stupore faceret. 3. Ignorationis Laudatio, extemporale Thema, ibidem redditum post sex horarum disputationes, ut, presentes somnia potius fovere quam rem se veram videre affirmarunt ait Manutius. 4. De appulsu suo Venetias. 5. Odae ad Aldum Manutium. 6. Epistolae ad Diversos. 7. Praefationes solennes in omnes scientias, sacras et profanas. 8. Judicium de Philosophia. 9. Errores Arisotelis. 10. arma an Literae praestant? Controversia Oratoria. 11. Refutatio Mathematicorum. 12. A Comedy in the Italian Language.

CRICHTON, GEORGE, an author of considerable merit in the seventeenth century, was professor of Greek in the university of Paris. He was a native of Scotland, but very little is known of his personal history. He wrote several poems and orations in the Latin language.

CRICHTON, or CREYGHTON, ROBERT, a learned prelate, was born of an ancient family, at Dunkeld, in Perthshire, in 1593. He was educated at Westminster school, whence, in 1613, he was elected to Trinity college, Cambridge, where he took his degrees in arts, and was chosen Greek professor and university orator. In 1632 he was made treasurer of the cathedral of Wells, of which he was canon residentiary. He was also prebendary of Taunton, and had a living in Somersetshire. In 1637 he was admitted to the degree of D.D. In the beginning of the civil wars he joined the king’s troops at Oxford. But he was obliged afterwards to escape into Cornwall, in the dress of a day-labourer. He subsequently found his way to the Continent, when Charles the Second employed him as his chaplain, and bestowed on him the deanery of Wells, of which he took possession at the restoration. In 1670, he was promoted to the see of Bath and Wells, which he held till his death, November 21, 1672. His only publication was a translation from Greek into Latin of Sylvester Sguropulus’s History of the Council of Florence, printed at the Hague, 1660. Wood says some of his Sermons were also in print.

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