William Dunlop (principal)

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William Dunlop
Born c. 1654
Paisley, Scotland
Died 8 March 1700
Glasgow, Scotland
Known for Principal of the University of Glasgow
predecessor: James Fall
successor: John Stirling
Historiographer Royal for Scotland
predecessor: Christopher Irving
successor: Daniel Campbell
Founding leader of Stuart Town, a Scottish settlement in the Province of Carolina
Spouse(s) Sarah Carstares
Website William Dunlop, Biography at www.gla.ac.uk

William Dunlop (c.1654 – 1700) was a Covenanter, adventurer, and Principal of the University of Glasgow from 1690 to 1700. According to Howe (1859, 653), William Dunlop was the first Presbyterian minister in South Carolina.


William Dunlop was a son of Alexander Dunlop (c.1620-c.1667), a Presbyterian minister at Paisley, Scotland, and Elizabeth Mure (c.1620-c.1667), daughter of William Mure of Glanderston. At some time before 1684 William Dunlop became a licentiate minister of the Church of Scotland.

William grew up during the time of persecution of the Covenanters. His mother and father were imprisoned "for their constancy in the cause of the Covenant."[1] As a young man William gained a position as tutor to the family of William Cochrane, Baron of Paisley and Ochiltree who was a Covenanter. In 1679, during the Westland Rising, William served as a courier for the Whigs who were attempting to negotiate with the leader of the Royal army.[2][3] This rebellion was put down at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. William Dunlop, along with Henry Erskine (Lord Cardross) and his half-brother John Erskine, Sir Robert Montgomery of Crevock, and Sir George Campbell of Cesnock were implicated, but not prosecuted, as participants in the uprising.[4]

In the early 1680s Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury was Lords Proprietor of the Province of Carolina. He was also sympathetic to the Protestant Non-Conformists and was promoting ships to take settlers to the Carolinas as a place of religious tolerance. In 1682 Lord Cardross, Campbell, and Sir John Cochrane (son of the aforementioned William Cochrane) negotiated the purchase of two counties south of Charles Town, South Carolina.

In July 1684 the Carolina Merchant, captained by James Gibson, left the Firth of Clyde with 149 passengers, including: Cardross, Dunlop, Montgomery, 35 convicts (Covenanters who were being banished), settlers who were being transported as indentured servants, and some paying passengers. The ship arrived in Charles Town on 2 October 1684 with no lives lost. However, they arrive during an outbreak of malaria.[5] Soon after arriving most of the immigrants became ill, including Cardross and Dunlop, and some died. In November, a smaller group of fifty-one sailed south to Port Royal and chose a site for Stuart Town. The towns location was about 1.5 miles south of present-day Beaufort[6] at Spanish Point.

By March 1685, the town had been laid out and a number of homes were built. They formed a militia for protection and Dunlop served as a major and as the settlements Presbyterian minister. Having purchased the land from the English, the Scots were supposed to follow established guidelines of legal jurisdiction. However,the Scots began questionable trading relationships with the Native American Yamasee tribe. Together with the Yamasee, the Scots attacked a Spanish mission at Santa Catalina and captured 22 Timucuans to be used as slaves. The Governor, Robert Quary, investigated and ordered the arrest of Cardross. Cardross was too ill to travel, so Dunlop wrote Quary and apologized for their actions and said they would submit to majistrates appointed by the Governor.

On 17 August 1686 the Spanish attacked Stuart Town. It was either in retaliated for the attack on Santa Catalina or simply to contest the Scots presence on the coast. Three small ships with 100 soldiers surprised the settlers at Staurt Town. Most of the settlers, who were ill with fever, could put up no resistance and escaped into the forest. For three days the Spaniards plundered the town, killed livestock and burned the entire village to the ground. The Spaniards began to move towards Charles Town, burning English homes and plantations along the way when a hurricane hit. Two of the ships were destroyed, but the third returned to St. Augustine. Dunlop and some of the survivors retreated to Charles Town.

It is uncertain if William Dunlop returned to Scotland after the destruction of Stuart Town. However, it is recorded[7] that in April 1687, William Dunlop was in the St. Helena Sound area, presumably to make another attempt to set up trade with the Native Americans.

Upon his return to Scotland in 1690, after the Glorious Revolution and the overthrow of James VII of Scotland, William was appointed minister of Ochiltree.[3][8] In December he was appointed Principal of the University of Glasgow, possibly through the influence of his brother-in-law and cousin William Carstares, an advisor to King William II of Scotland. Dunlop's achievements as Principal included increasing grants and other income from the King and the Scottish Parliament. He held this post until his death in 1700.

At some point in the 1690s, William Dunlop had a role in exposing a plot against the authority of King William II of Scotland.[9] On 31 Jan. 1693 Dunlop was appointed Historiographer Royal for Scotland. In the late 1690s, the Company in Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies was formed to establish another colony, called Darien. Dunlop invested about £1,000 in the scheme and persuaded the University to invest a similar amount. He also committed the University to contribute to the heavy cost of rebuilding the Blackfriars Kirk, which had been destroyed by a lightning strike in 1670.[10]

William Dunlop died on 8 March 1700.


William Dunlop married Sarah Carstares, a daughter of John Carstares, a Covenanter. Sarah's mother was a sister of William's mother. Two sons became professors: William Dunlop was a professor of church history at the University of Edinburgh, and Alexander Dunlop was a professor of Greek at the University of Glasgow.


  1. ^ Insh, p. 202
  2. ^ Insh, p. 203
  3. ^ a b Howe, p. 654
  4. ^ Rowland, Moore and Rogers, p. 68
  5. ^ Helsley, p. 26
  6. ^ Rowland, Moore and Rogers, p. 72
  7. ^ Rowland, Moore and Rogers, p. 74
  8. ^ Helsley, p. 27
  9. ^ "University of Glasgow :: Story :: Biography of William Dunlop". Universitystory.gla.ac.uk. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  10. ^ Scotland, Gerald Blaikie, Glasgow,. "Glasgow Cathedral Precinct". Scotcities.com. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 
  • Helsley, Alexia Jones. (2005) Beaufort, South Carolina: A History. Charleston, S.C. : The History Press. ISBN 1-59629-0277
  • Howe, Rev. George. (1859) The Early Presbyterian Immigration into South Carolina. In The Southern Presbyterian Review, Conducted by an Association of Ministers, In Columbia, South Carolina, Volume XI. Columbia, S.C. : Steam Power Press of R. W. Gibbes.
  • Insh, George Pratt. (1922) Scottish Colonial Schemes: 1620-1686. Glasgow : Maclehose, Jackson & Co.
  • Rowland, Lawrence S., Alexander Moore, and George C. Rogers, Jr. (1996). The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina: Volume I, 1514-1861. Colombia, South Carolina : University of South Carolina Press. ISBN 1-57003-090-1.