Thomas Somerville (minister)

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Thomas Somerville
His grave in Jedburgh Abbey
His grave in Jedburgh Abbey
Born9 March 1741
Hawick
Died16 May 1830
Jedburgh
NationalityUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Rev Dr Thomas Somerville DD FRSE FSA(Scot) (1740–1830) was an 18th/19th century Scottish minister, antiquarian and amateur scientist. From 1793 until death he was King's Chaplain in Scotland.

Life[edit]

He was born on 9 March 1740 in the manse at Hawick in the Scottish Borders the son of Rev William Somerville (d.1757) and his wife, Janet Grierson. He was educated in Hawick Parish School. On the death of his father he and his two sisters were left in the care of a family friend, Mr Cranstoun of Ancrum.[1]

He then studied Divinity at Edinburgh University. He was licensed to preach by the Church of Scotland in 1764.[2] In Edinburgh he fell from his horse near the house of Rev Bain, minister of the Relief Church and spent months living there recovering. He had an aversion to horses for the rest of his life.[3]

He did not get a post as a minister immediately and whilst awaiting a church acted as tutor to the children of Sir Gilbert Elliot, 3rd Baronet, of Minto, later Governor General of India. In 1767 Sir Gilbert appointed him minister of the local parish church at Minto (probably on the death of the previous minister). In 1772 he transferred from Minto to Jedburgh and remained there for the rest of his life.[4]

In May 1787 Somerville met Robert Burns during his stay in Jedburgh, but Burns complained that Somerville was "sadly addicted to punning".[5][6] Somerville claimed that Burns presented him with a gold-topped cane during his visit. This is unlikely, and although Somerville owned a gold-topped cane it was likely self-bought.[7]

St Andrews University awarded him an honorary doctorate (DD) in 1789. In 1793 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were Andrew Dalzell, James Hutton, and Rev John Hill.[8]

He died following a short illness in the manse at Jedburgh on 16 May 1830 aged 90. He is buried in the grounds of Jedburgh Abbey within the Lady Chapel.[9]

Family[edit]

In 1770 he married Martha Charters (d.1809). They had at least six children[10] including William Somerville who later married their niece Mary Greig (née Fairfax), who spent much of her childhood with them.[11]

His daughter Janet married General Henry Elliot.[12]

Publications[edit]

  • History of Political Transactions and Parties from Charles II to King William (1792)
  • On the Constitution and State of Great Britain (1793)
  • The History of Great Britain During the Reign of Queen Anne (1798)[13]
  • My Own Life and Times (1814)
  • A Collection of Sermons (1815)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dr Thomas Somerville". www.electricscotland.com. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  2. ^ A Minister of Jedburgh 1773 to 1830, Rev Thomas Somerville DD by W Wells Mabon 1905
  3. ^ "Dr Thomas Somerville". www.electricscotland.com. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  4. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  5. ^ "Robert Burns Country: The Burns Encyclopedia: Jedburgh". www.robertburns.org. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  6. ^ "Robert Burns Country: The Burns Encyclopedia: Somerville, The Reverend Dr Thomas (1741-1830)". www.robertburns.org. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  7. ^ "Dr Thomas Somerville". www.electricscotland.com. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  8. ^ Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN 0 902 198 84 X.
  9. ^ https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/77193513/thomas-somerville
  10. ^ Grave of Rev Thomas Somerville, Jedburgh Abbey
  11. ^ "Burntisland, Fife - Mary Somerville's Family History". www.burntisland.net. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  12. ^ "Janet Elliot". geni_family_tree. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  13. ^ "Robert Burns Country: The Burns Encyclopedia: Somerville, The Reverend Dr Thomas (1741-1830)". www.robertburns.org. Retrieved 2018-08-20.