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The Scottish Nation

TROTTER, the surname of a border clan, the head of which appears to have been Trotter of Prentannan, Berwickshire. On the failure of the direct male line of that family, and of the old foraying border clan of the name, the representatives of the Trotters of Prentannan are considered to be the family of Trotter, situated in Galloway, as being the nearest collateral branch, although the estates went, with an heiress, by marriage, into another family.

The origin of the name of Trotter is uncertain. The original name is said to have been Gifford, and tradition states that a brother of Lord Gifford having been summoned to the court of James III., made such haste, on a hard-trotting horse, that he was there much sooner than was expected, on which he got the surname of Trotter. There were, however, persons of the name in Scotland before the time of James III. Some say that the name was derived from one of the ducal family of Trotti in Italy, who settled in Scotland in the time of Malcolm III., while others assert that it is of Celtic origin, being compounded of the words, Trobdh ard, bestowed, on account of some warlike achievement, on the founder of the family. But all this is mere conjecture, and it is impossible to put faith in any of the received stories as to the derivation of the name.

The first of the name mentioned in authentic records is Robert Trotter, who owned some houses in Winchester, in the time of Edward the Confessor. Another is mentioned temp. Henry II. of England. What time they settled in Scotland is not certainly known. From Monypenny’s Chronicle we find that the Trotters were a riding or foraying border clan, so called in contradistinction to the head or chief clans, such as the Johnstones, Maxwells, Homes, &c. They were under Lord Home, which their position in the centre of the Merse would lead one to presuppose. The chief of the family was slain at Flodden.

In Nisbet’s Heraldry (vol. i. p. 323) mention is made of the Rev. Alexander Trotter, minister of Edrom, Berwickshire, as a descendant of the Prentannan family. He was a son of Capt. Alexander Trotter, who fought under Dundee at Killiecrankie, a younger son of the laird of Prentannan. He married the eldest daughter of Walter Tulliedelph, M.D., and sister of Lady Ogilvy of Inverquharity.

His eldest son, the Rev. Robert Trotter, A.M., rector of the grammar school, Dumfries, in 1742, was the author of a Latin grammar, long in use in the south of Scotland, and a Life of Christ and the Twelve Apostles, and other works, also in Latin.

The eldest son of this gentleman, Dr. John Trotter, was a surgeon at Tynron, Dumfries-shire, in 1745, when some of Prince Charles Edward’s sick were intrusted to his care, during his retreat from England. These he concealed and protected until after Culloden. The prince promised him knighthood should he obtain his own again.

His eldest son, Dr. Robert Trotter, a surgeon at New Galloway, in the Glenkens, for upwards of 30 years, wrote several poetical pieces, and was celebrated in his day as the discoverer, in 1776, of the remedy whereby the loathsome disease called the yaws, once the scourge of Europe, has been almost completely eradicated. He was acquainted with the poet Burns, and for refusing to doctor the lapdog, Echo, on which Burns very unwillingly wrote the Elegy given in his works, he was discontinued for a time as medical attendant to the family of Kenmure. He died in 1815, His eldest daughter, Isabella Trotter, was authoress of two published works, ‘Family Memoirs,’ Dumfries, 1822, ‘The Four Glenkens Ministers,’ a tale, published in the Dumfries Magazine and republished in Nicholson’s Galloway Tales, 1840.

His eldest son was Dr. James Trotter, surgeon, Worsley-Mills, near Manchester, who died without issue. His 2d son, Dr. Robert Trotter, surgeon, of New Galloway and Auchencairn, Kirkcudbrightshire, was author of ‘Traditional Tales of Galloway,’ Edinburgh, 1815; ‘Derwentwater, a Tale,’ 1820, with an Appendix, containing Genealogical notices of some of the principal families in Galloway, furnished principally by themselves; ‘Herbert Herries, a Tale of Dundrennan Abbey,’ Edinburgh, 1825, and various contributions to the Dumfries Magazine, Castle Douglas Miscellany, and various newspapers, some of which were copied into the Scottish Journal of Antiquities. He married Maria Maxwell, descended from the Maxwells of Nithsdale, and had 1. Robert, surgeon, Birkenhead. 2. Alexander, M.D., Blyth, Northumberland, and three other sons.

There appears to have been three principal families of the name in the Merse, viz., Trotter of Prentannan, Trotter of Charterhall, and Trotter of Cutchelraw. Of the two latter, Trotter of Mortonhall is the representative. There are numerous families of the name in Northumberland and Durham, without doubt descendants of the same border clan, as they bear the arms used by the oldest families of the name.


The progenitor of Trotter of Mortonhall, Mid Lothian, was Thomas Trotter, temp. Kings Robert II. and III., proprietor of the lands of Foulshaw, Cutchelraw, Kilnhill, and others, Berwickshire. He died temp. James I.

His eldest son, William Trotter of Cutchelraw, was one of the captains for keeping the peace on the borders in 1437 and 1450. He married Isabella, daughter of Trotter of Prentannan, a cousin of his own, and got with her estates in Fogo and neighbouring parishes, which the family still retains. He died in the beginning of the reign of James III.

His son, Thomas Trotter of Cutchelraw, married in 1490, Jean, daughter of Hepburn of Wauchton, and had a son, Robert, born in 1518, who succeeded him. Robert had 3 sons, 1. Thomas, 2. Robert, 3. William, burgess, guild-brother and treasurer of the city of Edinburgh.

The eldest son, Thomas Trotter of Cutchelraw, had also 3 sons, of whom the second, John, was the first of the family of Mortonhall. Born in 1553, he was bred a merchant and acquired a large estate, particularly Mortonhall, which thence became the chief title of the family. He married Janet, eldest daughter of David MacMath of MacMath, Dumfries-shire, and had 5 sons and 4 daughters. He was a faithful adherent of Charles I., and died in 1641, aged 81.

His eldest son, John Trotter, 2d of Mortonhall, also a loyal cavalier, was fined £500 sterling by the Scots Estates in 1645, for assisting the marquis of Montrose. He died in 1651.

Thomas Trotter, 7th of Mortonhall, who died in 1793, had, with 6 daughters, 3 sons, John and Henry, the two elder, who both succeeded to the estate, died without issue, John in 1804, and Henry in 1838.

Alexander, the 3d son, a lieutenant-general, married in 1793, Margaret Catherine, daughter of Richard Fisher, Esq. of Lovetts, Mid Lothian, and died in 1825. He had 2 sons and 2 daughters. Sons, 1. Richard, who succeeded his uncle Henry in Mortonhall. 2. Thomas, lieutenant 2d dragoons, killed at Waterloo in 1815. Daughters, 1. Margaret Richard Fisher, married in 1813, Lord Cunninghame, a lord of session. 2. Joanna married in 1838, Rev. John Morrell MacKenzie, A.M.

Richard Trotter, 10th of Mortonhall, convener of Mid Lothian, born in 1797, married Mary, daughter of General Sir John Oswald, G.C.B., of Dunnikier, issue, 2 sons. 1. Henry, born in 1844. 2. John Oswald, born in 1849, and 3 daughters.


The Trotters of Dryden and Bush, Mid Lothian, are descended from Archibald Trotter, 2d son of Alexander Trotter of Castleshiels, who succeeded his father in 1693. Archibald married in 1748, Jean, daughter and heiress of Robert Moubray, Esq. of Bush and Castlelaw, grandson of Robert Moubray, Esq. of Cockairny, and had, with 1 daughter, 4 sons. 1. Robert. 2. Alexander, of Dreghorn. 3. John, of Dyrham Park, Herts. 4. Sir Coutts, of Westville, Lincolnshire, created a baronet in 1821, grandfather of Sir Coutts Lindsay, Bart.

The eldest son. Robert, of Bush and Castlelaw, was postmaster-general for Scotland, and died in 1807. He had, with 2 daughters, 2 sons, John, and Archibald, of Dryden.

The elder son, John Trotter of Bush and Castlelaw, born in 1788, died without issue, Nov. 13, 1852.

His brother, Archibald Trotter of Dryden, born in 1789, succeeded him. Appointed to the Bengal civil service in 1806, he retired in 1840; twice married, with issue by both wives.


Alexander Trotter of Dreghorn, above mentioned, born in 1755, died in 1842. He had 5 sons and 1 daughter. Archibald Trotter of Dreghorn, his eldest son, born in 1799, died Oct. 26, 1844. He married Louisa Jane, youngest daughter of James Strange, Madras civil service, and Ann, daughter of 1st Viscount Melville; issue, 5 sons and 3 daughters. Coutts Trotter of Dreghorn, the eldest son, was born April 9, 1831, and in 1854 was appointed to the Bengal civil service. His next brother, James Stuart, R.N., was born in 1839.


The Trotters of Ballindean, Perthshire, belong to an Edinburgh family, three of whom were merchants and burgesses of that city.

William Trotter, born in 1772, was, in 1826 and 1827, lord-provost of Edinburgh. He married in 1801, his cousin, St. Clair Stuart, daughter of Robert Knox, Esq., physician, London; issue, 4 sons and 3 daughters.

Robert Knox Trotter of Ballindean, the eldest son, entered when young into the 17th regiment of Lancers, in which he rose to the rank of captain. He married in 1833, Hon. Mary Rollo, eldest daughter of 8th Lord Rollo, with issue.

TROTTER, THOMAS, M.D., at one time physician to the Channel Fleet, a native of Roxburghshire, was educated at the university of Edinburgh. In 1782, while still very young, he was appointed surgeon in the royal navy, and was the first member of his corps who was obliged to seek employment in the African trade. In 1785, he settled at a small town in Northumberland; and in 1788 he obtained his doctor’s degree at Edinburgh. In 1789, by the friendship of Admiral Roddam, he was appointed surgeon of his flag-ship. In 1790 he published a ‘Review of the Medical Department of the British Nary;’ in 1793 he was appointed physician of the Royal Hospital at Portsmouth, and in 1794 physician to the Fleet.

The improvement of the medical discipline of the navy, both as regards the care of the men’s health and the advancement of the medical officers, was early attended to by Dr. Trotter, and the many marks of respect which he received, from both officers and seamen, afford satisfactory evidence of the advantageous nature of the changes which he effected.

After a long a laborious attendance on his duties in the fleet, he retired with a pension of £200 a-year, and, settling at Newcastle, practiced there for many years with great reputation, occasionally amusing himself with poetry, and other elegant literary pursuits. His professional works deservedly rank high. He died Sept. 5th 1832. His works are:

Observations on the Scurvy. Edin. 1785, 8vo. 2d edit. Enlarged. 1792, 8vo.
De Ebrietate ejusque Effectibus in Corpus Humanum. 1788, 4to.
A Review of the Medical Department in the British Navy; with a Method of Reform proposed. Lond. 1790, 8vo.
Medical and Chemical Essays; containing additional Observations on Scurvy, with Cases and Miscellaneous Facts, in Reply to Dr. Beddoes and others; Case and Dissection of a Blue Boy; Communications from New South Wales on Scurvy; on preserving Water pure and sweet in Long Voyages, &c. Lond. 1795, 8vo. 2d edit. 1796, 8vo.
Medica Nautica; an Essay on the Diseases of Seamen, comprehending the History of Health in his Majesty’s Fleet, under the command of Richard, Earl Howe, Admiral. London, 1797, 8vo; vol. ii. 1799, 8vo; vol. iii. comprehending the Health of the Channel Fleet for the years 1799, 1800, and 1801. Lond. 1803, 8vo.
Suspiria Oceani; a Monody on the late Earl Howe, Lond. 1800, 4to.
An Essay, Medical, Philosophical and Chemical, on Drunkenness, and its Effects on the Human Body. Lond. 1804, 8vo. 4th edit. 1812; translated from De Ebrietate, &c.
A Proposal for destroying the Fire and Choak Damps of Coal Mines; and their Production explained on the Principles of Modern Chemistry; addressed to the Owners and Agents of Coal-works. Lond. 1805, 8vo.A second Address to the Owners and Agents of Coal-Mines, on destroying the Fire and Choak Damp, in confutation of two Pamphlets lately circulated in the neighbourhood of Newcastle. Lond. 1806, 8vo.
A View of the Nervous Temperament; being a Practical Inquiry into the increasing Prevalence, Preventions and Treatment of those Diseases commonly called Nervous, Bilious, Stomach and Liver Complaints, Indigestion, Low Spirits, Gout, &c. Lond. 1807, 8vo. 2d edit. 1808, 8vo. 3d edit. 1812, 8vo.
The Noble Foundling; or, the Hermit of the Tweed; a Tragedy. Lond. 1812, 8vo.
Also many contributions to the Medical Journal, the European Magazine, and other periodical works.

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