George Dempster of Dunnichen

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George Dempster of Dunnichen
George Dempster Willison.jpg
George Dempster, portrait by George Willison
Member of Parliament for Perth Burghs
In office
Preceded by William Pulteney
Succeeded by George Murray
Member of Parliament for Perth Burghs
In office
Preceded by Thomas Leslie
Succeeded by William Pulteney
Personal details
Born 1732
Dundee, Great Britain
Died 1818 (aged 86)
Dunnichen, Angus, Great Britain
Resting place Restenneth Priory, Forfar
Political party Independent Whig
Spouse(s) Rose Heming [1748-1810]
Alma mater University of St Andrews
University of Edinburgh
Académie Royale
Profession Politician

George Dempster of Dunnichen and Skibo FRSE FSA (Scot) (1732–1818) was a Scottish advocate, landowner, agricultural improver and politician. Dempster served as Member of Parliament for the Perth Burghs (1761-8 and 1769–90), founded the bank George Dempster & Co. (also known as the Dundee Banking Company) in 1763, was a Director of the East India Company from 1769, and served as Provost of St Andrews (1780) and a Director of the Highland Society of Scotland (1789).

Dempster, nicknamed Honest George, was a key figure of the Scottish Enlightenment and respected as an "independently minded, incorruptible and moderately radical MP". He dedicated the later years of his life to improving Scottish fishing and agriculture and improving the living conditions of his tenants.

He was a lifelong friend of the philosopher Adam Ferguson and the minister Alexander Carlyle.

Life and work[edit]

George Dempster was born in 1732 in Dundee, the son of John Dempster 2nd Laird of Dunnichen, a Dundee merchant, and Isabel Ogilvie. George's date of birth is unclear, and has alternatively been given as 8 February or 8 December. He was educated at Dundee Grammar School (c1739–c1748) and possibly also at the small parish school at Leuchars, Fife. On 24 February 1748 he entered the University of St Andrews and studied there until about 1750, when he left without taking a degree and moved on to study law at the University of Edinburgh. He also studied at the Académie Royale in Brussels.

Dempster was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1755; and about the same time became a member of the Select Society, later becoming a director of this pre-eminent literary and intellectual society of the Scottish Enlightenment. In 1762 he joined the Poker Club of Edinburgh, and may have been a co-founder of this influential body,

He, Andrew Erskine, and James Boswell were joint authors and a "triumvirate of wit", although he later regretted at least one of their attacks, the Critical Strictures on the New Tragedy of Elvira, as he believed the tragedy was better than anything he or his co-authors could have done.

Dempster was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1788, upon the proposal of Dr Thomas Anderson, Henry Duncan and John Playfair.

He died at Dunnichen, Angus, on 13 February 1818, and was interred at Restenneth Priory, Forfar.


  • The Introduction to Critical Strictures on the New Tragedy of Elvira, Written by Mr. David Malloch (1763), by Frederick A. Pottle (Augustan Reprint Society, 1952).

External links[edit]

Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Thomas Leslie
Member of Parliament for Perth Burghs
1761 – 1768
Succeeded by
William Pulteney
Preceded by
William Pulteney
Member of Parliament for Perth Burghs
1769 – 1790
Succeeded by
George Murray