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The Scottish Nation

DICKSON, a border surname, derived from the abbreviate or nurse-name of Dick for Richard, and meaning the son of Richard or Dick. Nisbet says, “They of the surname of Dickson, as descended of one Richard Keith, said to be a son of the family of Keith Marischal, took their name from Richard (called in the south country Dick), and to show themselves descended of Keith, earl Marischal, they carry the chief of Keith.” [System of Heraldry, vol. i. p. 76.] In Berwickshire there were formerly several families of this name of old standing; such as the Dicksons of Buchtrig; of Belchester; of Newbigging; of Wester Binning; and of Sornbegg. Of the last, Sir Robert Dickson of Sornbegg, subsequently designed of Inveresk, was created a baronet in 1695, but the title soon became extinct. The lands of Chatto and Buchtrig were in the present century purchased by Walter Dickson, seedsman in Edinburgh, and entailed by him.


      Some descendants of the Keiths, hereditary marischals, whose assumed name was Dickson, left Scotland at an early date, and became tenants of Furness abbey in Lancashire, where “William Dycson, George Sandys, and William Dycson,” were witnesses to an indenture in 1525. Several of the family had previously fought with the English in the French wars, one of whom acquired the arms “a fleur-de-lys and chief ermine.” This bearing was first recorded in 1448, when Sir Nicholas Dixon, baron of the exchequer and rector of Cheshunt, dying, his arms were placed upon his tomb in the chancel of his church. In the 15th century John Dixon of Furness Fells married Anne Roos (descended from Robert Lord Roos and the Princess Isabel his wife), whose mother was a Thornborough. John’s daughter, Margaret, was mother to Archbishop Sandys, by whose influence his cousins, Richard Dixon and John Thornborough, were respectively made bishop of Cork and Cloyne, and dean of York. From Bishop Dixon descended the knightly family of Dixon of Barretstown Castle, county Kildare, which castle was obtained from the Eustaces by a match with Sir Maurice Eustace, lord chancellor of Ireland. This short but brilliant line, famed in the field, the senate, and at the bar, and closely allied by marriage with the O’Niels and Annesleys, ended in 1732 in an heiress, married to Sir Kildare Borrowes, (descended maternally from the earls of Cork and Kildare,) ancestor of Sir Erasmus Dixon Borrowes of Lauragh, Queen’s county. Bishop Dixon’s brother, or cousin, William, who settled in Yorkshire, circa 1560, was ancestor of the Dixons formerly of Beeston, Yorkshire, but now of Seaton-Carew, Co. Durham, and the mother of the present representative of the family (1860) was of the Macdonalds of Perth.


      On 21st September 1802 a baronetcy of the United Kingdom was conferred on Admiral Archibald Dickson, second son of Archibald Dickson, Esq. of Hardingham, of Norfolk, descended from a Scottish family. He died in 1803. His nephew, Sir Archibald Collingwood Dickson, 2d baronet, admiral of the Red, died in 1827, aged 55 years. The latter’s eldest son, Admiral Sir William Dickson, 3d baronet, born in 1798, was a midshipman at the bombardment of Algiers in 1816. Seat in Scotland, Sydenham House, Roxburgshire.


      The first of the family of Dickson of Hartree in Lanarkshire was John Dickson, an eminent lawyer of the 17th century, who acquired the lands of Kilbucho, Peebles-shire, from the earl of Morton in 1630, and those of Hartree, in Lanarkshire, from the earl of Traquair in 1633. Admitted advocate 9th June 1649, on 7th of August following he was appointed by the Estates one of the lords of session, taking his seat as Lord Hartree. In Balfour’s Annals (vol. iv. p. 168), under date 22d November 1650, we find it stated that “The committee of Estates ordains Mr. Jo. Dicksone, Colonell Leightone, and the king’s advocate, to examine Mosse, the Englische spay, that he may be hanged.”

      Of the same family was the Rev. David Dickson, minister of Newlands, Peebles-shire, and proprietor of the estate of Kilbucho, whose third son, the Rev. David Dickson, at one time minister of Libberton in Lanarkshire, was afterwards the first minister of the chapel of ease, New Street, Canongate, on its erection in 1795, and ultimately of New North church, Edinburgh, and died 3d August 1820. A volume of his Sermons was published in 1817. The eldest son of the latter, the Rev. Dr. David Dickson, was one of the ministers of St. Cuthbert’s or West Kirk parish, Edinburgh, and died 28th July 1842, in the 63d year of his age. He edited an edition of Horsely on the Psalms, a great portion of which was in Hebrew. He also published several sermons, preached on public occasions; one of these was on the death of his colleague, the Rev. Sir Henry Wellwood Moncrieffe, in 1827, and another on that of Dr. Andrew Thomson in 1831.

DICKSON, DAVID, an eminent presbyterian divine of the seventeenth century, the only child of John Dickson, a wealthy merchant of Glasgow, was born in the Trongate of that city, in 1583. He was at first designed for the mercantile profession, but his total unfitness for it, and a severe attack of illness by which he was visited when very young, induced his parents to educate him for the church. It is said that, previous to his birth, they had resolved to devote him to the ministry, if favoured with a son, and that their doing so at last, was only in fulfilment of their original intention. He studied at the university of Glasgow; and on taking his degree of M.A., he was appointed one of the regents or professors of philosophy in that college, as was then the custom in the Scottish universities for graduates destined for the ministry. Having been licensed to preach the gospel, he was in 1618, ordained minister of the parish of Irvine in Ayrshire. Sometime after he declared against the five articles of Perth as unscriptural, and was in consequence, at the instance of Law, archbishop of Glasgow, summoned to appear before the High Court of Commission at Edinburgh, on the 19th of January 1622. He accordingly appeared, and gave in a paper declining the jurisdiction of the court. On several of the bishops entreating him to take it up again, he answered, “I laid it not down for that end, to take it up again.” He was sentenced to deprivation of his ministry at Irvine, and ordained to proceed to Turriff in Aberdeenshire within twenty days. He continued preaching almost daily till these were expired, and was then about to commence his journey to the north, when at the earnest request of the earl of Eglintoun he was permitted to remain in Ayrshire, and for about two months he preached in the hall and courtyard of Eglintoun castle, weekly, to large congregations of his parishioners. He was then ordered by the archbishop of Glasgow to set out for the place of his banishment, which he did, and during his stay in Turriff, he frequently preached there with the full consent of the minister of that parish. In the meantime Lord Eglintoun and other friends made many applications to have him restored to his flock, and the archbishop at length declared his readiness to remove the sentence of banishment, provided he withdrew his declinature, but this he refused to do. He was sent for to Glasgow, that his friends might, if possible, prevail upon him to make concessions; but, although in obedience to their wishes he undertook the journey, no entreaties could move him from his purpose, and in consequence he returned to Turriff.

      In July 1623, he was allowed, without any condition, to return to his charge at Irvine, and remained unmolested till the year 1637, when, for having harboured Mr. Robert Blair, and Mr. John Livingstone, on their being forced to leave their charges in the north of Ireland by the interference of the Irish bishops, and allowing them to preach for him, he was again cited before the High Commission court, but the influence of the bishops was now much curtailed, and they did not deem it advisable this time to proceed to extremities against him.

      To the establishment of the second reformation in Scotland, which soon after occurred, Mr. Dickson was in a great degree instrumental. It was he who prevailed on the presbytery of Irvine to apply, in 1637, for the suspension of the service book; and he was one of those who were deputed to urge upon the ministers and people in and around Aberdeen, to renew the covenant. In the memorable year 1638, he was proposed by some persons, previous to the meeting of the General Assembly at Glasgow, to fill the chair on that important occasion, and although the choice fell upon Mr. Alexander Henderson, Mr. Dickson took an active part in the proceedings. In the short campaign of 1639, he acted as chaplain to a regiment of Ayrshire men commanded by the earl of Loudoun; and after the disbanding of the army he was almost unanimously chosen moderator of the subsequent General Assembly which met at Edinburgh in August of that year. In the course of this assembly he was invited to accept of a charge in Glasgow; but such was the opposition made to his removal by the earl of Eglintoun and his parishioners at Irvine, that the General Assembly refused to sanction his translation. Notwithstanding his popularity and great success as a preacher, he ever maintained a humble and modest deportment, and was once heard to declare that the vintage of Irvine in his time was not equal to the mere gleanings of Ayr in that of Mr. Welch.

      In 1640, he was appointed to the professorship of divinity in the university of Glasgow, instituted in that year. In the Assembly of 1643, he was nominated, with Alexander Henderson, the moderator, and David Calderwood, to prepare the draft of the ‘Directory for Public Worship.’ He was also the author, conjunctly with Mr. Durham, of ‘The Sum of Saving Knowledge.” In 1640, he was elected to the divinity chair in the university of Edinburgh, in which his ‘Truth’s Victory over Error,’ was originally delivered by him in Latin to his students, and afterwards translated into English and published, with his name, at Glasgow in 1725.

      In all the public affairs of his time, and in the keen controversy which was maintained between the Resolutioners and Protesters, he took an active share, publishing several pamphlets in favour of the former party. At the restoration, for declining to take the oath of supremacy, he was, with many others from their charges, ejected from his chair, and the subsequent proceedings of government in favour of episcopacy appear to have seriously affected his health. In December 1662, he was seized with a severe illness, from which he never recovered. Mr. Livingstone, one of the “outed” ministers, who visited him on his deathbed, has left on record the memorable saying which he uttered in the immediate prospect of death. On being asked how he felt, he exclaimed, “I have taken all my good deeds, and all my bad deeds, and have cast them together in a heap before the Lord, and have fled from both to Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace.” In the beginning of 1663, feeling death approaching, he summoned his family to his bedside, and addressed a few words to each of them. He concluded with solemnly pronouncing the apostolical blessing, after which he lifted up his hand and closed his own eyes. An account of his works, which are marked by great vigour of thought, and simplicity, and clearness of style, will be found in Wodrow’s Life of Dickson, prefixed to the latter’s ‘Truth’s Victory over Error.’ Subjoined is a list of them:

      A Treatise on the Promises. Dublin, 1630, 12mo.

      Explanation of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Aberdeen, 1635, fol. and 12mo.

      Expositio analytica omnium apostolicarum Epistolarum. Glasguae, 1645, 4to.

      A brief Exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew. London, 1651. 12mo.

      Explanation of the First Fifty Psalms. London, 1653, 8vo.

      Explication upon the Last Fifty Psalms. London, 1644, 3 vols. 8vo.

      A brief Explication of the Psalms, from Psalm 1. to c. London, 1655, 8vo.

      Therapeutica Sacra, seu de curandis Casibus Conscientiae circa Regenerationem per Foederum Divinorum applicationem, 3 lib. London, 1656, 4to. In English, entit. Therapeutica Sacra; or the method of healing the diseases of the Conscience concerning Regeneration. Edin. 1695, 8vo. An edition of this work, entitled “Therapeutica Sacra, or Cases of Conscience Resolved,” was published in 1664, by his son Alexander Dickson, professor of Hebrew in the University of Edinburgh, at one time minister of Newbattle.

      A Commentary on the Epistles. Latin and English. Fol. and 4to.

      Directory for Public Worship, with the assistance of Henderson and Calderwood.

      The Sum of Saving Knowledge, assisted by Durham.

      Praelectiones in Confessionem Fidei. fol. being the heads of his Lectures delivered in the Divinity Chair, and afterwards translated, and often printed under the title of Truth’s Victory over Error.

DICKSON, ADAM. M.A., minister of Dunse, an able writer on agriculture, was born in East Lothian. He studied at the university of Edinburgh for the Church of Scotland, of which his father was a minister, and, in 1750, was ordained to the parish of Dunse, in Berwickshire. He died March 25, 1776, in consequence of a fall from his horse. He was the author of the following works:

      Treatise on Agriculture. Edin. 1762, 8vo. 2d edit. with large additions and amendments. Edin. 1765, 8vo. Vol. ii. 1769, 8vo. A new edit. Edin. 1785, 2 vols. 8vo.

      The Husbandry of the Ancients. Edin. 1778, 2 vols. 8vo. London, 1788, 2 vols. 8vo.

DICKSON, JAMES, F.L.S., an eminent botanist, was born in Scotland. He was at first a working gardener, but became vice-president of the horticultural society; also one of the founders of the Linnaean society, and a contributor to their transactions. He died in London in 1822. His works are:

      Fasciculus Plantarum Cryptogamicarum Britanniae. Lond. 1785, 1801, 4to.

      A Collection of Dried Plants, named on the authority of the Linnaean Herbarium, and other original collections. London, 1787-1799, small folio.

      Botanical Catalogue alphabetically arranged according to the Linnaean System. London, 1797, 8vo.

      Observations on Polyposium Oreopteris, accompanied with a Specimen from Scotland. Trans. Linn. Soc. i. 181. 1791.

      An Account of some Plants newly discovered in Scotland. Ib. ii. 286. 1794.

      Observations on the Genus of Porella, and the Phascum Caulescens of Linnaeus. Ib. 238. 1797.

      On a variety of the Brassica Napus, or Rape, which has long been cultivated upon the continent. Trans. Hortic. Soc. i. 26. 1815.

      Observations on, and an Account of the Tubers of the Lathyrus Tuberosus, with Instructions for the Cultivation of the Plant in a Garden. Ib. ii. 359. 1817.

      On the Cultivation of the Rampion. Ib. iii. 19. 1818.

DICKSON, SIR DAVID JAMES HAMILTON, M.D., an eminent physician and medical writer, inspector of fleets and hospitals, was the youngest son of the Rev. George Dickson, minister of Bedrule, Roxburghshire, where he was born in 1780. He studied for the medical profession at the university of Edinburgh, and in 1798 became a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of that city. In the following year he was appointed a surgeon in the navy, and served in the expeditions to Holland, in 1799, and to Egypt, in 1801 In 1806 he was appointed acting physician and inspector of the fleet and hospitals of the Leeward Islands, and in 1813, superintending physician of the Russian fleet in the Medway. For his services in the latter capacity, he received the thanks of his imperial majesty, the emperor of Russia, and was nominated a knight of the order of St Vladimir. In 1814 he was appointed physician to the Mediterranean fleet, but changed to the Halifax station. In 1816 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and in 1822, a member of the Royal College of Physicians, London. In 1824 he was appointed physician to the Royal Naval Hospital at Plymouth, and 1840 inspector of hospitals.  He was physician inspector at the capture of the French and Danish Islands in the West Indies, and in the expedition on the Chesapeake, New Orleans, &c.; and for his services he was knighted by King William the Fourth in 1834. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, Edinburgh, and of the Linnaean Society, &c. He died at Plymouth on the 2d January 1850, in his 70th year.

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