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The Scottish Nation

FORSYTH, a surname, the etymology of which is uncertain. As in Kilsyth the last syllable is supposed to be derived from Sythin, which is Gaelic signifies peace. It seems probable that the brook of Sith in Stirlingshire was in remote superstitious times believed to be haunted by the Daoine Sith, of Scottish fairies, called “men of peace,” for fear of their malign influence [Nimmo’s Stirlingshire, ed. 1817. App. p. 754.] If the name is Celtic in its origin, the first syllable would arise from fuar, cold, and the word might therefore mean cold river of peace. For the antiquity of the name, says Nisbet (System of Heraldry, vol. i. p. 352), there is a charter in the earl of Haddington’s collections, p. 67, granted by King Robert the Bruce Osberto filio Roberti de Forsyth servienti nostro, of an hundred solidates terrae in tenemento de Salekill, in the sheriffdom of Stirling. As there was the family of Forsyth of Forsyth, the name must originally have been territorial.

FORSYTH, WILLIAM, an able arboriculturist, was born in 1737, at Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, where he was early initiated into the science of horticulture. In 1763 he went to London, and became a pupil of the celebrated Philip Miller, gardener to the company of apothecaries at their botanical gardens at Chelsea. In 1771 he succeeded him in that situation. In 1784 he was appointed by King George the Third chief superintendent of the royal gardens at Kensington and at St. James’. Having discovered a composition to remedy the diseases and injuries incident to fruit and forest trees, he received a grant from parliament on disclosing the secret of his discovery to the public. Accordingly, in 1791 he published his ‘Observation on the Diseases, Defects, and Injuries of Fruit and Forest Trees,’ to which he appended the whole of the correspondence that had taken place between the commissioners of the land revenue, the committee of parliament, and himself, on the subject. A Mr. A.T. Knight, of Elton, near Ludlow in Shropshire, president of the Horticultural Society, published a small quarto pamphlet, entitled ‘Some doubts relative to the Efficacy of Mr. Forsyth’s Plaister in renovating Trees,’ which does not seem to have attracted much attention. In 1802 appeared his ‘Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit Trees,’ with plates, three editions of which valuable and useful work were sold in a very short time. Mr. Forsyth, who was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and a member of the Linnaean and other learned bodies, died at his official residence in Kinsington Gardens, July 25, 1804. In honour of his name, a particular genus of plants has been termed Forsythia. – His son, also named William, his successor at Chelsea Gardens, was the author of the following botanical work: ‘A Botanical Nomenclator; containing a systematical arrangement of the classes, orders, genera and species of plants, as described in the new edition of Linnaeus’ System, by Dr. Gmelin, with the Alphabetical Indexes of the Latin and English names, &c.’ Lond. 1794, 8vo.

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