Robert Kerr Hannay

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Robert Hannay redirects here. For Sir Robert Hannay, 1st Baronet and Sir Robert Hannay, 2nd Baronet, see Hannay baronets

Prof Robert Kerr Hannay FRSE RSA (31 December 1867, Glasgow – 19 March 1940, Edinburgh) was a Scottish historian. He served as Historiographer Royal for Scotland and Chair of Scottish History and Palaeography at the University of Edinburgh.[1]

He collected and calendared the letters of both James 1V and James V,[2] and wrote The Early History of the Scottish Signet.


He was born in Glasgow on New Year's Eve 1867. He was the eldest of seven children of Thomas Hannay (1841-1916), and his wife Elizabeth McDowall of Alloa. His father owned the estate of Rusco, but in 1878 had sold it to settle debts, theafter becoming an agent for the iron-masters William Whitwell & Co.[3] The family thereafter lived at 16 Woodside Terrace in Glasgow.[4] Robert was educated at the Albany Academy in Glasgow. He then went first to Glasgow University then Oxford University graduating MA from the latter in 1891.[5]

He began lecturing in Ancient History at Dundee University in 1894. In 1901 he transferred to St Andrews University. From 1911 to 1919 he left academia to act as Curator of Register House in Edinburgh. From 1919 to 1930 he was Professor of Scottish History and Palaeography in Edinburgh University. From 1930 he was Historiographer Royal for Scotland.

In 1922 he was elected a Fellow of the royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Cargill Gilston Knott, James Hartley Ashworth, James Alfred Ewing, and Sir Edmund Taylor Whittaker. St Andrews University granted him an honorary doctorate (LLD) in 1923.[6]

He died in Edinburgh on 19 March 1940.


In 1899 he married Jane Ewing Wilson CBE (d.1938), daughter of Rev John Stewart Wilson DD of New Abbet. They had one son, Robert Stewart Erskine Hannay (b.1900).

He is the grandfather of writer Alastair Hannay.


  • The Arch-Bishops of St Andrews (co-written with Sir John Herkless) (1907)
  • St Cuthbert's Kirk and its Saint (1933)
  • The Letters of James IV (1953)
  • The Letters of James V (1954)