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The Scottish Nation

PONT, a surname rare in Scotland, and in the case of the subjects of the two following memoirs, a contraction of Kilpont. Lord Kilpont was the secondary title of the earl of Airth, a peerage dormant since 1694. “The kindred names,” says Lower, (English Surnames, vol. i. p. 81) “Pontius, Ponto, Dupont, Du Ponte, &c, occur in most of the ancient and modern languages of Europe,” and are derived from Pons, a bridge.

PONT, ROBERT, an eminent churchman, judge, and miscellaneous writer, generally called, in his younger years, Kynpont or Kylpont, was born at Culross about 1524. Dr. Andrew Crichton, in a note to his Life of the Rev. John Blackadder, says that he was the son of John du Pont, an illustrious Venetian, who, being banished his country for professing the Reformed religion, came to Scotland in the train of Mary of Guise, queen of James V.; and that Nicholas du Pont, or da Ponte, father of the said John du Pont, was elected doge of Venice in 1578. Queen Mary of Guise, however, did not arrive in Scotland till 1538, which is inconsistent with the date of Robert Pont’s birth, and the probability is that his parents, like himself, were natives of Scotland; where the surname of Pont is stated to have been known long before the Reformation. He received the rudiments of his education at Culross school, and in 1543 went to the university of St. Andrews, where, after finishing the philosophical curriculum, he entered on the study of theology. It is conjectured that he afterwards studied law at one of the continental universities. In 1559 his name appears as an elder in the kirk-session record of St. Andrews, and he was sent as one of the commissioners from that place to the first General Assembly, by which he was, with twenty others, declared fully qualified for the ministry.

In 1562 Pont was appointed to preach till the next Assembly at Dunblane, and in the following December he was named minister of Dunkeld. In 1563 he was put upon the leet with Bishop Alexander Gordon for the office of superintendent of Galloway, but was not elected, and by the Assembly of the same year he was appointed commissioner to visit the diocese of Moray. Being deeply skilled in the canon and civil laws, and highly esteemed for his prudence, zeal, and learning, he took an active and influential part in all the ecclesiastical transactions of that period. In 1566 the Assembly approved of his ‘Translation and Interpretation of the (latter) Helvetian Confession,’ and ordered it to be printed. In 1570 he was chosen moderator of the Assembly, an office to which he was four times elected afterwards. In January 1571 he was appointed provost of Trinity college, Edinburgh; and in the same year he was proposed by the regent as a senator of the college of justice. This dignity he did not deem himself at liberty to accept until he had obtained the sanction of the General Assembly, which he accordingly received on January 12, 1572. The following year he was charged with neglect of duty in non-residence and not visiting the churches in Moray; and for his excuse alleged want of leisure in consequence of his judicial duties. In November of the same year (1573) he received a pension from the king of 300 merks, on account of having no ecclesiastical living “quhairupon he may commodiously leif.” In the Assembly of February 1574 he resigned his office of commissioner of Moray; and in that year was appointed colleague to William Harlaw, minister of St. Cuthbert’s church, Edinburgh; and, December 29, 1584, was presented to the vicarage of St. Cuthbert’s, vacant by Harlaw’s decease.

In July 1574 he was, with others, appointed by the Assembly to revise all books that were printed and published. About the same period he drew up the Calendar, and framed the rules for understanding it, for Arbuthnot and Bassandyne’s edition of the Bible. He had also a considerable share in the preparation of the Second Book of Discipline. In 1582 he became, on invitation, minister of St. Andrews, but did not remain there above a year. In 1584 he publicly protested, with Mr. Walter Balcanqual and Mr. James Lawson, ministers, in name of the clergy and people of Scotland, against the acts of parliament concerning the church, commonly called “The Black Acts,” on their proclamation at the market-cross of Edinburgh; and, having been deprived of his seat as a lord of session, he fled to England with many of his brethren; but in a few months he returned to Scotland with the earl of Angus, and the other Protestant lords. He now resumed his ministerial duties at St. Cuthbert’s, and in 1587 was nominated by the king to the temporality of the bishopric of Caithness, but the Assembly refused to ratify the appointment. In 1591 he was directed by the Assembly to write against sacrilege, and his three sermons on that subject, after being approved of by the presbytery of Edinburgh, were printed in 1599. In 1594 he published ‘A New Treatise of the Right Reckoning of Yeares and Ages of the World,’ with the view of showing that the year 1600 was erroneously supposed to be the year of Jubilee. In 1600 he and two others were chosen commissioners to visit Orkney and Caithness; and in 1601 the Assembly appointed him to revise the Psalms. In 1604 he published a Latin treatise on the Union of the Two Kingdoms. He died May 8, 1606.

A second edition of his work on the Jubilee Year was published in quarto in 1619, in which year appeared also his ‘De Sabbaticorum annorum periodis.’ His ‘Chronologia de Sabbatis’ was published at London in 1626. He left several works in manuscript, which, however, have not been preserved.

He was twice married; first, to Catherine, daughter of Masterton of Grange; and, secondly, to Margaret Smith, who survived him. One of his daughters by the first marriage, Helen Pont, married Adam Blackadder of Blairhall, the grandfather of the Rev. John Blackadder. Of his eldest son, Timothy, a brief notice follows. His second son, Zachary, obtained in October 1590, a full license, under the privy seal, as chief printer within the realm. He married Margaret, a daughter of John Knox by his second wife, and is mentioned as minister of boar, in Caithness, in 1605. Dr. M’Crie, in his Life of Knox, however, states that it was Robert Pont, the father, who married Knox’s daughter. His works are:

Three Sermons against Sacrilege. Edin. 1599. 8vo.
A newe Treatise of the right reckoning of Yeares and Ages of the World, and men’s lives, and of the estate of the last decaying age thereof, this 1600 yeare of Christ, (erroneously called a yeare of jubilee,) which is from the Creation the 5548 yeare. Containing sundrie singularities, worthie of observation, concerning courses of times, and revolutions of the Heaven, and reformations of Kalendars, and prognostications, &c. &c. Edin. 1599, 4to. Latine. 1619, 4to.
De Unione Britanniae, seu de Regnorum Angliae et Scotiae omniumque akjacentium insularum in unam monarchiam consolidatione, deque multiplici ejus unionis utilitate, dialogues. Edin. 1604, 8vo

PONT, TIMOTHY, a celebrated topographer, eldest son of the preceding, is styled, in the Books of Assignation 1601-8, “Minister of Dwnet.” Very little is known of his personal history, and the precise date of his death has not been recorded. According to Sibbald, he undertook, in 1608, a pedestrian expedition to explore the more remote parts of Scotland. Bishop Nicholson describes him as “a complete mathematician, and the first projector of a Scotch Atlas, for which great purpose he personally surveyed all the several counties and isles of the kingdom.” The originals of his maps are preserved in the Advocates’ Library. They were ordered by King James to be purchased from his heirs; and Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet afterwards prevailed upon Sir Robert Gordon of Straloch to prepare them for publication. Their revision was continued by his son, Mr. James Gordon, parson of Rothiemay, with whose corrections and amendments they were published in Bleau’s Atlas, under the title of ‘Theatrum Scotiae.’

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