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date: 23 May 2024

Gifford, Adam, Lord Giffordfree

(1820–1887)

Gifford, Adam, Lord Giffordfree

(1820–1887)
  • James Tait
  • , revised by Eric Metcalfe

Gifford, Adam, Lord Gifford (1820–1887), judge and benefactor, eldest son of James Gifford, administrator, and his wife, Catherine Ann, née West, teacher, was born at Edinburgh on 29 February 1820. His sister Mary married the Congregationalist minister Alexander Raleigh, and was the mother of Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh, first professor of English literature at Oxford. His father, who had risen from a comparatively humble position, became treasurer and master of the Merchant Company, an elder in the Secession church, and a zealous Sunday school teacher. His mother was vigorous in body and mind, and a very independent thinker. She was the only teacher of her sons Adam and John until Adam was eight years old, when the boys were sent to learn Latin and Greek at a small school kept by John Lawrie in West Nicolson Street. Adam Gifford was afterwards a pupil at the Edinburgh Institution, founded in 1832. In early life he became a Sunday school teacher in the Cowgate, besides sometimes taking a service on a Sunday forenoon with the poor children of Dr Guthrie's ragged school.

In 1835 Gifford was apprenticed to his uncle, a solicitor in Edinburgh; at the same time he attended classes in the university, and became a member of the Scots Law Debating Society. He soon became managing clerk in the office, but decided to become an advocate, and in 1849 was called to the bar. He was clear-headed, persevering, and had good connections but, from unwillingness to push himself, advanced slowly. He acquired by degrees an extensive practice. As a radical politician he expected nothing from the government, but in 1861 he was appointed an advocate-depute. In that capacity he conducted on behalf of the crown, in 1863, the prosecution against Jessie McLauchlan in the Sandyford murder case. On 7 April 1863 he married Maggie, daughter of James Pott, writer to the signet. She died on 7 February 1868. In 1865 he was appointed to succeed W. E. Aytoun as sheriff of Orkney and Shetland; but he continued his practice as an advocate, having appointed a resident sheriff-substitute.

On 28 January 1870 Gifford was nominated a judge, and on 1 February he took his seat in the Court of Session as Lord Gifford. From 1872 he suffered from progressive paralysis, but he worked on until 25 January 1881, when he retired with a pension. He died at his home, Granton House, near Edinburgh, on 20 January 1887. On the 27th he was buried in the old Calton cemetery, Edinburgh. He was survived by one son, Herbert James Gifford.

Gifford was an able judge, with great common sense and little respect for technicalities. He often lectured to literary and philosophical societies. By his will, recorded on 3 March 1887, a sum estimated at £80,000 was bequeathed to found lectureships on natural theology, £25,000 being assigned to Edinburgh, where Gifford was curator, £20,000 to Glasgow and Aberdeen, and £15,000 to St Andrews. The object was to found 'a lectureship or popular chair for promoting, advancing, teaching, and diffusing the study of natural theology, in the widest sense of that term, in other words, the knowledge of God', and 'of the foundation of ethics' (will, 1887, proved at Edinburgh). All details and arrangements were left to be settled by the accepting trustees in each town, subject only to certain leading principles and directions stated in the will. The first appointments were made and lectures delivered in 1888.

Sources

Archives

Likenesses

  • J. Moffat of Edinburgh, carte-de-visite, NPG

Wealth at Death

£189,338 7s. 3d.: confirmation, 10 March 1887, CCI

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J. Irving, ed., (1881)
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National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
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National Portrait Gallery, London