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The Scottish Nation

DICK, a surname of great antiquity in Scotland, supposed to be of Danish extraction, and to have had the same origin as the name of Van Dyke, )or lord of the Dykes) in the Netherlands.

      The progenitor of the Dicks of Prestonfield in Edinburghshire, was one William de Dyck, who was first magistrate of Edinburgh in 1296, before the institution of the office of lord provost. To this family, who were deeply embarked in commerce, Scotland owes much of the advancement of her foreign and domestic trade during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Their immediate ancestor, James Dick, a considerable merchant at Arbroath, lived in the reign of King James the Fifth, and chose that port for his residence, for the convenience of shipping and carrying on a foreign trade. In a charter under the great seal, dated in January 1539, he is designed “merchant burgess” of Arbroath. Contemporary with him was Sir Alexander Dick, archdean of Glasgow, who got a charter under the great seal of the lands of Dillerburn, Doggflatt, &c., in the county of Peebles, 29th September, 1548.

      James Dick’s son, Alexander Dick, resided chiefly in the Orkneys, where he had some landed property. He was a person of considerable knowledge and learning, and after the Reformation he was appointed provost of the Cathedral church of Orkney. He died before 1580. His son, John Dick, also a man of abilities, was proprietor of the islands of North Ronaldshay, Ormsay, &c., and carried on, from the Orkneys, a very extensive and advantageous trade with Denmark. Having gone there in command of one of the largest of his own ships, about the time that King James the Sixth went for his queen, in 1590 he returned with the squadron which conducted her majesty to Scotland, and becoming a great favourite with the king, afterwards resided chiefly at Edinburgh.

      His only son, Sir William Dick, a banker in Edinburgh, and one of the most eminent Scotsmen of the seventeenth century, acquired considerable wealth, even in his father’s lifetime, and advanced to James the Sixth six thousand pounds sterling, to defray his household expenses when his majesty held a parliament in Scotland in 1618. In 1628 he farmed the customs on wine at six thousand two hundred and twenty-two pounds sterling, and the crown rents in Orkney at three thousand pounds sterling per annum, and afterwards the excise. By his connexion with the northern islands and Denmark he introduced a most advantageous and extensive trade from the Baltic to the Firth of Forth, as well as from the Mediterranean, by which and his negociating bills of exchange from Holland, he acquired great wealth. Besides the islands of North Ronaldshay, Ormsay, &c., and his paternal inheritance in the Orkneys, he possessed many lands and baronies in Mid Lothian, East Lothian, the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Dumfries-shire, &c., all of which were confirmed to him by no less than eight chatters, under the great seal, from Charles the First. The barony of Braid in Mid Lothian, the precept of which is dated in 1631, became one of the chief titles of his family. In the beginning of 1638, he joined with the earl (afterwards the marquis) of Montrose and other loyalists, for the national covenant, and in that critical year, and also in 1639, he was elected lord provost of Edinburgh. In 1641, when Charles the First intended to visit Scotland, application was made to Sir William (then Mr.) Dick for money to defray necessary expenses, and he frankly advanced one hundred thousand merks, for which he obtained security on the king’s revenue 9th August of that year. With a portion of this sum the arrears due to the Scots army appear to have been paid. In the following January he received the honour of knighthood, and subsequently was created a baronet of Nova Scotia. Some time thereafter a bill was drawn upon him by order of parliament for twenty thousand pounds sterling, which he was obliged to pay, receiving as usual government security. In 1644 he petitioned the estates for payment of a portion of the large sum owing to him, saying he was willing to take the rest by instalments, when the matter was referred to a committee. In the following March the parliament assigned him £40,000 sterling, owing “of the brotherly assistance by the parliament of England,” and ordained him to have real execution upon his bond of two hundred thousand merks. They also gave him the excise of Orkney and Zetland, and also of the tobacco; but no part of that money was ever paid. In December of the same year he again petitioned parliament for payment of some portion of it, “for preserving of his credit,” &c., but received only empty promises. He was then one of the committee of parliament, and up to 1651 his name appears on the committee of estates; but seeing matters carried to extremities, and obtaining no redress for himself, he soon after withdrew from public affairs. The parliamentary party, treating him as a malignant (as the loyalists were then called), subjected him to heavy fines, and obtained from him at different times the large sum of £64, 934 sterling. He and his family were ultimately reduced to very indigent circumstances, and in Cromwell’s time he went to London, to endeavour to procure repayment of the sum due to him, but was thrown into prison by order of the Protector, and died at Westminster, 19th December 1655, in want, it is said, of even the commonest necessaries of life. At one period he was reputed the wealthiest man in Scotland of his time, and was generally believed by his contemporaries to have discovered the philosopher’s stone! [Archaeologia Scotica, vol. i. p. 336.] In 1656 was published at London a folio pamphlet with the title of ‘The lamentable case and distressed estate of the deceased Sir William Dick;’ containing several copper-plates; one representing Sir William on horseback, attended by guards, as lord provost of Edinburgh, superintending the unloading of one of his rich argosies at Leith; a second exhibiting him as arrested, and in the hands of bailiffs, and a third showing him dead in prison. The tract is greatly valued by collectors of rare publications, and in a note to the Heart of Mid Lothian, in which David Deans makes allusion to his “sacks of dollars,” Sir Walter Scott mentions that the only copy he ever saw for sale was valued at thirty pounds.

      Sir William had five sons and two daughters. His eldest son, John, whose designation was of Braid, died before his father in 1642, leaving a son, William, who, soon after the restoration, made application to parliament for payment of the large sums advanced by his grandfather to government, but without success. From Charles the Second, however, he got a pension of £132 sterling, till satisfaction was made to him, but it was soon discontinued. His son, William Dick, born in 1679, applied with his mother, Elizabeth Duncan, to parliament, first in the reign of James the Seventh, and afterwards in that of King William, in 1695, for redress, but got none. He was a captain in the third regiment of foot-guards, and was at the battle of Almanza under the duke of Argyle. Being appointed fort major and deputy-governor of New York, he there acquired a considerable plantation, and assumed the title of baronet as the heir male of his great-grandfather, Sir William, the first baronet. He died without issue-male in 1733.

      Sir Andrew Dick, the second son of Sir William, was an advocate and sheriff of Orkney. From his father he got the lands of Craighouse and Plewlands, and was knighted by Charles the Second, about January 1663. He lent a hundred thousand merks to the earl of Morton, for which he obtained security upon the Orkneys, then deemed sufficient, but on the reduction of Morton’s right, in Charles the Second’s time, the security was entirely set aside, so that both principal and interest were lost. His son Louis Dick, a captain in the army, had a son, Alexander, a merchant, whose eldest daughter, Janet, married Sir Alexander Dick, the celebrated physician, as after stated. Alexander’s son, Patrick, on the death of his cousin, Sir William Dick, governor of New York, became heir male of the family, but died without issue.

      William, the third son, was the ancestor of the Dicks of Grange, in the county of Edinburgh. Isabel, only child and heiress of William Dick, third baron of Grange, married before 1740, her cousin, Sir Andrew Lauder, baronet of Fountainhall, grandfather of the late eminent writer, Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, and in consequence succeeded to the estate of Grange (see LAUDER, surname of).

      Alexander, the fourth son, acquired from his father the estate of Heugh near North Berwick, and was the father of Sir James Dick, the first of Prestonfield.

      Louis, the fifth son, obtained from his father in patrimony forty thousand merks, and entering the navy was commander of a frigate in the coasting service. His great-grandson, Sir John Dick, was bred a merchant, and went abroad in 1739. After residing for some time in Holland, he was in 1754, by George the Second, appointed British consul in Tuscany, an office afterwards confirmed to him by George the Third, by whom he was made a knight of the Bath. Subsequently he became head auditor and comptroller of the army accounts at London. The male line of the four eldest sons of the first Sir William having entirely failed, Sir John became undoubted heir male of Sir William Dick of Braid, his grandfather’s grandfather, and on 14th March, 1768, he was, before a respectable jury at Edinburgh, served heir to the title of baronet, which had been dormant since the death of Sir William Dick of Braid, who died in 1733, great-grandson of the first Sir William. Sir John died in 1805, without issue. His nearest relations and heirs at law were the Prestonfield family, but, in his old age, he was induced to leave nearly the whole of his large fortune to strangers, to the prejudice of his own connexions.

      James Dick, the son of Alexander Dick of Heugh, fourth son of the first Sir William, was a merchant in Edinburgh, and purchased the lands of Priestfield in Mid Lothian. He was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, 2d March 1677, and having also bought the lands of Corstorphine, and several other lands belonging to the Prestons of Craigmillar, he united the latter to his barony of Priestfield, and changed the name to Prestonfield. In 1687 he greatly improved that place with good grass enclosures, which seem to have been the earliest improved and enclosed lands in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, and he was one of the first to employ the refuse of the streets of Edinburgh on his fields as manure. The same year the principal mansionhouse of Prestonfield was built. Sir James Dick was with the duke of York in 1682, on his voyage from London in the Gloucester man-of-war, when that vessel struck upon a sandbank about twelve leagues from Yarmouth, and was saved in the longboat, while the prince and Mr. Churchill, one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber, afterwards the great duke of Marlborough, made their escape in another boat. An interesting account of this event, in a letter from Sir James to Mr. Patrick Elies, merchant, London, dated Edinburgh, 9th May 1682, is printed in Playfair’s British Family Antiquity, (vol. viii. app. pp. cxxxvii. and cxxxviii., note.) In the same year he was elected lord provost of Edinburgh, and again in 1683. In the former year he presided at a banquet given to the duke of York, along with his duchess, and the princess Anne his daughter, afterwards Queen Anne, in the parliament house, which cost the city above fourteen hundred pounds sterling, and at which was present the whole court of Scotland and a numerous train of nobility.

      In 1682, Sir James was one of the jurymen of the earl of Seaforth’s trial. By his wife Anne, daughter of William Paterson of Drumure, Fifeshire, he had several children, but they all died young, except one daughter, Janet, who married Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, baronet. Having no surviving male issue, he made an entail of his estates in 1699, failing himself and heirs male of his body, to the second and younger sons successively of his daughter Janet, by the said Sir William Cunningham, and their issue male, &c. He also got a baronet’s patent from Queen Anne, dated 22d March 1707, to go with the entail, and in 1710, he made another strict entail to the same series of heirs, obliging them to take the name of Dick, on succeeding to the title and estate of Prestonfield. On his death in 1728, he was succeeded by his daughter, Janet, Lady Cunningham, and her third but second surviving son, William, became, in her right, second baronet of Prestonfield, and assumed the name of Dick, in virtue of the entail made by his grandfather. He married Anne, daughter of the Hon. Sir James Montgomery of Royston, baronet, one of the lords of session, third son of the first earl of Cromarty. This lady appears to have possessed both wit and spirit in a high degree, though they were not always shown in a manner that the more strict notions of decorum of a later age would altogether approve of, as she is noted for having, in her youth, occasionally amused herself with sallying out to the streets, dressed in male attire, in search of adventures, with her maid, also in man’s apparel, as her attendant. some of her poetical lampoons, privately printed by C. Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq., in a rare little volume, entitled ‘A Ballad Book,’ are curious specimens in their way of the singular notions of delicacy which prevailed at that period. She died in 1741 and Sir William, her husband, in 1746, without issue, when the estate and title devolved upon his immediate younger brother, Sir Alexander, the celebrated physician, of whom a memoir is given below.

      Sir Alexander’s eldest son, Sir William Dick, the fourth baronet of Prestonfield, born 7th January 1762, early entered the army, and at the age of sixteen, was adjutant in the 1st regiment of foot-guards. Soon after, he became captain in the 10th regiment of foot, but retired from the army, on succeeding to the estate. Subsequently he was appointed major in the Mid-Lothian Fencible cavalry, and died (in the assembly at Durham, at which city he was then on service with his regiment) 19th November 1796. His only son, Sir Alexander Dick, the fifth baronet, died shortly after coming of age, June 2d, 1808, and was succeeded by his uncle, John, the second son of Sir Alexander, the third baronet. Sir John died in December 1812, when his younger brother, Sir Robert Keith Dick, became the seventh baronet. On his death in 1849, he was succeeded by his son, Sir William Hanmer Dick, who obtained the authority of parliament to assume the name of Cuninghame after that of Dick as already mentioned, (see CUNINGHAME). The present representative of the family thus possesses the two baronetcies of Prestonfield and Caprington.

DICK, SIR ALEXANDER, Baronet, an eminent physician, fourth (but third surviving) son of Sir William Cuninghame of Caprington, Ayrshire, and Janet, daughter and heiress of Sir James Dick, baronet of Prestonfield, was born at the latter place, October 23d, 1703. While his two elder brothers had the prospect of being provided for, the one as heir to his father and the other to his mother, it was thought necessary that he should learn a profession, and accordingly, having chosen that of medicine, after studying for some time at the university of Edinburgh, he went to Leyden, and became a pupil under the illustrious Boerhaave. On August 31, 1725, he obtained the degree of M.D., when he published an inaugural dissertation ‘De Epilepsia,’ and not long after returned to Scotland. On the 23d January, 1727, he received a second diploma of M.D. from the university of St. Andrews, and November 7th following, was admitted a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. IN 1736-7 he made the tour of Europe, accompanied by Allan Ramsay, the painter, son of the author of the Gentle Shepherd, and resided for a considerable time in Italy. Of this tour a journal kept by himself has been printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1853.

      On his return to England, Mr. Hooke, a gentleman of large fortune in Pembrokeshire, with whom he had formed an intimate friendship, persuaded him to settle as a physician in that county, and he practised with great reputation there for several years as Dr. Alexander Cuningham, maintaining all the time a constant correspondence with his friends in Scotland, particularly with Allan Ramsay the poet.

      In 1746, he succeeded his brother in the title and estates of his mother’s family, when he assumed the name of Dick, as already stated, and leaving Pembrokeshire, he fixed his residence at the family seat of Prestonfield on the south side of Edinburgh. In 1756, though he had relinquished the active practice of his profession, he was elected president of the Royal college of Physicians, Edinburgh, and for seven years afterwards was re-elected to the same high office. He would have been continued the head of that body but declined, lest he should deprive other gentlemen of a dignity to which their merits and professional standing entitled them in rotation. He was one of the principal contributors to the fund for erecting the Hall of the Royal College of Physicians in George Street, Edinburgh, (removed in 1845 to Queen Street of that city,) in the library of which his portrait is said to have been placed, the first president on whom that honour had been conferred. On applying, however, to the council, for permission to make a drawing of it, for a woodcut for this work, it was found that no such portrait existed, the official answer being that “the picture was not known to be in the college; however, it was agreed that the officer should show four or five pictures in the college to the artist, any of which he might copy if he pleased!”

      Sir Alexander Dick was long distinguished as an active and zealous member of the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, and in the charter of incorporation of the Royal Society of that city, his name is enrolled as one of the first on the list. He was also for several years a manager of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Possessing a high degree of public spirit, he took an active share in promoting every undertaking which he thought would be beneficial either to his native country, or to its metropolis. In 1752 he was chosen one of the ten directors of the public works at Edinburgh; and in 1761 he was appointed one of the extraordinary directors of the select society for promoting the reading and speaking of the English language in Scotland. He bestowed great attention on the culture and preparation of the true rhubarb plant when first introduced into Great Britain by Dr. Mounsey, for which, in 1774, he received the gold prize medal from the London Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Commerce.

      Sir Alexander was the intimate friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson, who, when in Edinburgh with his friend Boswell in 1773, visited him at Prestonfield, and there are several allusions to Johnson’s regard for him in Boswell’s life of that lexicographer. When Johnson published his ‘Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland,’ in 1775, among others of his Scottish friends to whom he sent a presentation copy, was Sir Alexander Dick. In his answer, conveying his thanks and acknowledging receipt. Sir Alexander, referring to the doctor’s remarks as to the then want of trees in Scotland, says, “The truths you have told, and the purity of the language in which they are expressed, as your ‘Journey[ is universally read, may and already appear to have a very good effect. For a man of my acquaintance tells me that the demand upon him for these articles is doubled.”

      Sir Alexander died November 10, 1785, aged 82. He was twice married, first in 1736 to his cousin Janet, daughter of Alexander Dick, Esq., merchant in Edinburgh, by whom he had a son who died an infant, and three daughters; and secondly in 1762, to Mary, eldest daughter of David Butler, Esq., county of Pembroke, by whom he had three sons, William, John, and Robert Keith, who all succeeded to the baronetcy and estate of Prestonfield, and three daughters. A memoir of Sir Alexander Dick, which was published soon after his death in the Edinburgh Medical Commentaries, was reprinted for private distribution, in 1849, by his descendant, the late Sir Robert Keith Dick Cuninghame, Baronet.

DICK, JOHN, D.D., an eminent minister of the Secession church, the son of the Rev. Alexander Dick, minister of the Associate congregation of Seceders in Aberdeen, and a daughter of Capt. Tolmie of that city, was born there October 10, 1764. He early gave indication of superior mental endowments, and while at the grammar school of Aberdeen, he carried off from his youthful compeers several prizes. When he had completed his twelfth year he became a student in King’s College, Old Aberdeen, having been the successful candidate for one of the bursaries of the college. In 1780 he entered the Divinity Hall of the Associate Burghers, under Brown of Haddington, and in 1785 he received his license as preacher from the Associate presbytery of Perth and Dunfermline. He soon received calls from Scone, Musselburgh, and Slateford, two miles from Edinburgh, and was ordained minister of the Secession congregation at the latter place, October 26, 1786. During the Old Light controversy, a synod sermon which he preached as moderator, and afterwards published, was made the subject of complaint to the Synod by some of the brethren, who then withdrew from the Secession church. In 1801 he removed to Glasgow as colleague to the Rev. Alexander Pirie, minister of the Secession congregation Shuttle Street, now Greyfriars, whom he succeeded in 1810. He had twice previously refused a call from the congregation at Aberdeen, to be his father’s successor. In 1815 he received the degree of D.D. from the college of Princetown, New Jersey, America. In 1820 he was chosen professor of theology to the Associate Synod; and in March 1832 succeeded the earl of Glasgow as president of the Auxiliary Bible Society of Glasgow. In the same year he was elected president of the Voluntary Church Association in that city. He died somewhat suddenly January 25th 1833, in the 69th year of his age, and 47th of his ministry. On the 23d he had spoken at a pubic meeting in Glasgow held for the purpose of petitioning the legislature for some enactment concerning the better observance of the Sabbath. On the evening of the same day after returning home from a meeting of his session, he complained of earache; but as this was a complaint to which eh was subject, it created no alarm. He was restless during the night, rose at a late hour next morning, and on the afternoon of the 24th was seized with shivering, when he was obliged to retire to bed. Medical aid was procured, and recourse was had to bleeding, which afforded him a temporary relief. But he soon after sunk into a stupor, from which he never recovered. The disease was ascertained from a post mortem examination, to have been internal suppuration. His remains were interred in the Necropolis of Glasgow, where a most tasteful monument has been erected over his grave. At the meeting of the United Synod, in the following April, they entered on their record a well-expressed tribute of respect to his memory. Soon after his establishment at Slateford he married Jane, daughter of the Rev. George Coventry of Stitchell, by whom he had a family. As a theological writer, Dr. Dick held a high reputation in the body to which he belonged. The following is a list of his works: –

      The Conduct and Doom of false Teachers; a Sermon from 2 Pet. ii. 1. 1788. The publication of this discourse was occasioned by an Essay which Dr. M’Gill of Ayr had published on the death of Christ, in which Socinian sentiments were openly maintained.

      Confessions of Faith shown to be necessary, and the duty of churches with respect to them explained; a Sermon preached at the opening of the Associate Synod, in April 1796, from 2 Tim. i. 23, “Hold fast the form of sound words.” This sermon procured for Dr. Dick considerable obloquy from a small minority who left the Secession Church about that time.

      An Essay on the Inspiration of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Edinb. 1800, 12mo. 2d ed. 1804, 8vo. The matter of this work was at first delivered in a series of discourses from the pulpit, but afterwards thrown into a connected form. It has gone through various editions, and is regarded as a standard work in divinity.

      A Sermon on the Qualifications and the call of Missionaries, from Acts xiii. 2. Edin. 1801, 8vo.

      Lectures on some passages of the Acts of the Apostles. London, 2 vols., 1805-1808, 8vo.

      Sermons on Miscellaneous Subjects. Glasgow, 1816, 8vo.

      Lectures on Theology, 4 vols. 1834, 8vo, with a memoir prefixed by one of his sons. Posthumous.

DICK, THOMAS, LL.D., author of ‘The Christian Philosopher,’ see SUPPLEMENT.

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