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The Scottish Nation

WEDDERBURN, a surname assumed from lands of that name in Berwickshire. About the year 1400, James Wedderburn, of the family of Wedderburn of Wedderburn, settled in Forfarshire. A descendant of his, Sir Peter Wedderburn of Gosford, was bred an advocate, and having been appointed a lord of session during the reign of Charles II., assumed the title of Lord Gosford. His eldest son was a privy councillor, and member in the Scots parliament for Haddingtonshire. His second son, Peter, married the heiress of Halkett of Pitfirran. His third son, Alexander, became a member of the faculty of advocates, and having exerted himself in favour of the Union, received by way of recompense an appointment as a commissioner of excise. Peter Wedderburn of Chesterhall, the son of this youngest brother, like most of his immediate ancestors, was bred to the law, and passed advocate, Feb. 1715. He was also secretary to the excise. In 1755 he was appointed a lord of session by George II., and took his seat on the bench as Lord Chesterhall. He died August 11, 1756. He was the father of the celebrated Alexander Wedderburn, first earl of Rosslyn, whose only sister, Janet Wedderburn, having married Sir Henry Erskine, 6th baronet of Alva, her son, Sir James St. Clair Erskine, baronet, succeeded in 1805 as second earl of Rosslyn.


A baronetcy of Nova Scotia was, Aug. 9, 1704, conferred on John Wedderburn, Esq. of Blackness, Forfarshire, advocate, son of Sir Alexander Wedderburn, knight, one of the Scots commissioners to the treaty of Ripon in 1641, and one of the deputies to the king at Newcastle in 1646.

Sir John Wedderburn, the fifth baronet, joined in the rebellion of 1745, and having been taken at the battle of Culloden, was attainted and executed.

His son, Sir John Wedderburn, assumed the title, though forfeited, and was father of Sir David Wedderburn of Ballindean, Perthshire, born in 1777, who, Aug. 18, 1803, was created a baronet of the United Kingdom, with remainder, in default of issue, to the heirs male of his great-grandfather. Sir David was M.P. for the St. Andrews burghs from 1807 to 1818, and in 1823 was postmaster-general of Scotland. He died in 1858.

His son, Sir John Wedderburn, born in 1803, succeeded as 2d baronet of the new creation.

WEDDERBURN, JAMES, a poet of the 16th century, and an early friend of the Reformation, was born in Dundee about 1500. The eldest son of James Wedderburn, merchant in that town, he was educated at St. Leonard’s college, St. Andrews, and on leaving college he went to France, where he was for a time a merchant. On his return to Scotland he was instructed in the doctrines of the Reformed religion by James Hewit, a Black friar at Dundee. For the purpose of exposing the abuses and superstitions of the times, he composed some plays in the Scottish language, which, with his poems and songs, had a good effect in stirring up the minds of many in favour of the new religion. Three of his poems are inserted with his name in the Bannatyne Manuscript. Calderwood, in his ‘Historie of the Kirk of Scotland,’ (vol. i. p. 142,) says that he wrote a Tragedy on the beheading of ‘John the Baptist,’ showing the corruptions of the Romish church, which was acted at the West Port of Dundee, as was also a comedy on the ‘History of Dionysius the Tyrant,’ in which he likewise attacked the Papists. He counterfeited so well “the conjuring of a ghaist,” that the king, James V., was constrained to discharge his confessor, Friar Laing, who had practiced the trick of conjuring up a ghost between Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy. Wedderburn was the principal author of the celebrated ‘Buik of Godlie and Spiritual Sangs, collect out of sundrie parts of Scripture, with sundrie of uther Ballates, changed out of Profane Sangs for avoiding of Sinne and Harlotrie,’ composed before 1549, in which it is supposed he was assisted by his two brothers, one of whom was vicar of Dundee.

In 1540 he was dilated to the king for heresy, and letters of caption were ordered to be issued against him. In consequence he fled to France, and resided at Rouen or Dieppe till his death. While at the latter place, four Scottish merchants there, named John Meldrum, Henry Tod, John Mowat, and Gilbert Scott, accused him of heresy to the bishop of Rouen, but that prelate refused to interfere with him because they could prove nothing against him. They insisted that he had been declared a heretic in Scotland, but the bishop desired them to send for the process, and if it were the case he would not be allowed to continue his residence in Dieppe. He is supposed to have died in 1564 or 1565. On his deathbed he said to his son, “We have been acting our part in the theatre; you are to succeed; see that you act your part faithfully.” In the Harleian Catalogue the authorship of ‘The Complaynt of Scotland,’ published at St. Andrews in 1548, is ascribed to Wedderburn. It has also been attributed to Sir James Inglis and Sir David Lindsay.

His brother, John Wedderburn, was also educated at St. Leonard’s, and, against his will, was persuaded by his friends to take orders as a priest, but soon began to profess the reformed religion. Being summoned for heresy, he left Scotland for Germany, where he heard Luther and Melancthon preach, and he became very fervent and zealous in support of the reformed faith. He translated many of Luther’s hymns into Scottish metre, and also the Psalms of David. After the death of James V., in December 1542, he ventured to return to Scotland, but being again persecuted by Cardinal Bethune, he fled to England. The youngest brother, Robert Wedderburn, already mentioned as vicar of Dundee, spend some tome in Paris, where he chiefly frequented the company of those of his countrymen who professed the reformed religion, such as Alexander Hay, and young Sandilands, the son of the laird of Calder, whose father, the lord of St. John, and whole family were zealous reformers. On his return voyage to Scotland, the ship he was in was driven, by contrary winds, on the coast of Norway, and the passengers remained for some days at Ripperwick in that country. While there, on the Saturday before Whitsunday even, 1546, after continual disputing and reasoning among the passengers, some of whom were papists, he and the other Reformers on board, burnt Cardinal Bethune in effigy, “in a great fire of timber.” It happened that that same day the cardinal was slain in his own castle of St. Andrews.

WEDDERBURN, DAVID, a learned poet of the seventeenth century, is supposed to have been born about 1570. If not a native of Aberdeen, he appears to have been educated there, studying either at King’s or Marischal college, which was founded in 1593. In 1602, he and Mr. Thomas Reid, afterwards Latin secretary to James Vi., were appointed, after a strict and lengthened examination, conjunct masters of the Grammar school of Aberdeen, then vacant by the death of Thomas Cargill, author of a forgotten treatise on the Gowrie Conspiracy. Early in the following year, Wedderburn attended before the town council, and, after stating it to be his intention to enter on the ministry, requested permission to resign his office, which was granted; but he does not seem to have carried his design into execution, as he resumed his old situation in the Grammar school the same year. In 1614, on the death of Gilbert Gray, principal of Marischal college, Wedderburn was appointed to teach the high class in the university. In 1617 he published two Latin poems on the king’s visit to Scotland that year; which, with five more of his pieces, were reprinted in the ‘Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum.’ For one of these, written at the request of the magistrates, he received a donation of fifty merks. In 1619, he was appointed to teach a lesson in Humanity once a-week to the students of Marischal college, and also to compose in Latin, both in prose and verse, an Essay on the common affairs of the city, for which he obtained a salary of eighty merks per annum. In 1625, a poem which he wrote on the death of James VI., was printed in 4to by Edward Raban at Aberdeen, and is now very rare. In 1630 he received from the magistrates a reward of £100 Scots for a new Grammar, which he had completed for the use of his pupils, and “ane hundredth pundis moe,” to defray his expenses into Edinburgh, to obtain the license of the privy council for the printing of the same. In 1640, in consequence of his bodily infirmities, he was allowed to retire from the rectorship of the Grammar school, on a pension of two hundred merks annually. In 1641, on the death of his “old friend,” Dr. Arthur Johnston, he published, at Aberdeen, six elegies, under the title of ‘Sub Obitum Viri Clarissimi et Carissimi, D. Areturi Joustoni, Medicii Regii, Davidis Wedderburni Suspiria;’ reprinted by the notorious Lauder, in 1731, in the ‘Poetarum Scotorum Musae Sacrae.’ In 1643, Wedderburn published, at Aberdeen, ‘Meditationum Campestrium, sen Epigramatum Moralium, Centuriae Duae,’ and, in 1644, ‘Centuria Tertia.’ He wrote also numerous commendatory poems and elegiac verses. The precise date of his death has not been ascertained. In 1664 his brother Alexander published, at Aberdeen, a posthumous work, being Commentaries on Persius. “Wedderburn,” says Dr. Young, “is not so generally known as a commentator as one of the Latin poets; but his posthumous edition of Persius, which, by the care of his brother, Alexander, was published at Amsterdam, ought to have secured him a respectable place among our philologers.” It is probable that he died a few years before the publication of this work.

WEDDERBURN, ALEXANDER, first earl of Rosslyn, a distinguished lawyer, See ROSSLYN.

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