Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Significant Scots
Walter Goodal

GOODAL, WALTER, well known as an historical antiquary, was the eldest son of John Goodal, a farmer in Banffshire, and was born about the year 1706. In 1723, he was entered as a student in King’s college, Aberdeen, but did not continue long enough to take a degree. In 1730, he obtained employment in the Advocates’ Library at Edinburgh, under the famous Thomas Ruddiman, who was a native of the same district, and perhaps patronized him on account of some local recommendations. He assisted Ruddiman in the compilation of the first catalogue of the library, which was published in 1742. When Ruddiman was succeeded by David Hume, Goodal continued to act as sub-librarian, probably upon a very small salary. Like both of his successive superiors, he was a tory and a Jacobite, but, it would appear, of far more ardent character than either of them. Being, almost as a matter of course, a believer in the innocence of queen Mary, he contemplated writing her life, but afterwards limited his design to a publication entitled "An examination of the letters said to be written by Mary to James earl of Bothwell," which appeared in 1754. In this work, says Mr George Chalmers, he could have done more, if he had had less prejudice and more coolness. Hume had become librarian two years before this period; but "the chief duty," we are informed, "fell upon Walter, or, as he good-naturedly permitted himself to be called, Watty Goodal. One day, while Goodal was composing his treatise concerning queen Mary, he became drowsy, and laying down his head upon his manuscripts, in that posture fell asleep. Hume entering the library, and finding the controversialist in that position, stepped softly up to him, and laying his mouth to Watty’s ear, roared out with the voice of a Stentor, that queen Mary was a whore, and had murdered her husband. Watty, not knowing whether it was a dream or a real adventure, or whether the voice proceeded from a ghost or living creature, started up, and before he was awake or his eyes well opened, he sprang upon Hume, and seizing him by the throat, pushed him to the further end of the library, exclaiming all the while that he was some base presbyterian parson, who was come to murder the character of queen Mary as his predecessors had contributed to murder her person Hume used to tell this story with much glee, and Watty acknowledged the truth of it with much frankness."

In 1753, Mr Goodal acted as editor of a new edition of the work called Crawford’s Memoirs, which he is generally blamed for not having corrected or purified from the vitiations of its author In 1754, he published an edition, with emendatory notes, of Scott of Scotstarvet’s Staggering State of Scots Statesmen, and wrote a preface and life to Sir James Balfour’s Practicks. He contributed also to Keith’s catalogue of Scottish bishops, and published an edition of Fordun’s "Scotichronicon," with a Latin introduction, of which an English version was given to the world in 1769. Goodal died July 28, 1766, in very indigent circumstances, which Mr Chalmers attributes to habits of intemperance. The following extract from the minutes of the faculty of advocates, throws a melancholy light upon the subject, and is fully entitled to a place in Mr D’Israeli’s Calamities of Authors: -

"A petition was presented in name of Mary Goodal, only daughter of the deceased Mr Walter Goodal, late depute-keeper of the Advocates’ Library, representing that the petitioner’s father died the 28th last month; that by reason of some accidental misfortunes happening in his affairs, any small pieces of household furniture or other movables he hath left behind, will scarcely defray the expense of his funeral; that if there is any overplus, (it) will be attached by his creditors; that she is in the most indigent circumstances, and without friends to give her any assistance; that she proposes to go to the north country, where she hath some relations, in order to try if she can be put upon any way of gaining her bread; that she would not be permitted to leave the town until she should discharge some small debts that she was by necessity obliged to contract; that, besides, she was in such want of clothes and other necessaries, that she can scarcely appear in the streets; and that, in her most distressed situation, she hath presumed to make this humble application to the honourable the Dean and Faculty of Advocates, praying that they would be pleased to order her such a sum from their fund as they shall judge her necessities require.

"The Dean and Faculty, taking this clamant case under their consideration, were unanimously of opinion that the petitioner should have some allowance out of their fund." The sum given was ten pounds.

Return to our Significant Scots page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus