Exploring the complex History of The Balfours and family trees, There are a variety of different sources when it comes to family trees, they are all pretty much the same with some slight differences but in a nutshell they are all descended one way or another from Siward Earl of Northumbria.
Here is the basic story…. Balfour was first used as a name by ancestors of the Pictish/Brythonic tribe of ancient Scotland and Danish Origin. The Balfour family lived in the barony of StrathOR in the parish of Markinch in Fife. The name is a topographic or local surname, which was given to a family who held a barony or lands, had houses, manors or estates in the area. The name may also be derived from the Gaelic word baile which means a place and the Brythonic word pawr which means pasture.
There were over 20 Branches of the Balfours and Bethunes along with several Lordships and Baronetcy’s along with the heredity Sherifdom of Fife
More branches and ancestries in the following sub posts
A very ancient name in Fife, derived from the lands of Balfour, in the parish of Markinch, formerly belonging to a family which were long heritable sheriffs of Fife. Balfour castle was built upon their ancient possessions, in the vale or strath of the Orr, a tributary of the Leven, near their confluence. Bal-orr is the original name. The family of Balfour, according to Sibbald, possessed these lands as early as the reign of Duncan the First, (Hist. of Fife, p. 366), and assumed from them their name. The first of the family in Scotland was Siward, supposed to have come from Northumberland, in the reign of that monarch. His son, Osulf, who lived in the time of Malcolm Canmore, was the father of Si-ward, to whom King Edgar gave the valley of Orr, that is, Strathor and Maev, “pro capite Ottar Dani.” Siward’s son, Octred, witnessed a charter of David the First about 1141. He was the father of Sir Michael Balfour, who had two sons. William, the eldest, was the ancestor of the Balfours of Balfour. About the year 1196 Sir Michael de Balfour obtained a charter from William the Lion, dated at Forfar. In 1229, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Alexander the Second, his son, Sir lngelramus de Balfour, sheriff of Fife, was witness to a charter of confirmation by that monarch to the monastery of Aberbrothock, of a mortification to them by Philip de Moubray, ‘De uno plenario tofto in Innerkeithing.’ His son Henry was witness to another confirmation by the same monarch to that monastery of a donation by Malcolm earl of Angus, ‘De terris in territorio de Kermuir.’ He was the father of John de Balfour, who, with many of the barons of Fifeshire, fell at the sack of Berwick by Edward the First, 80th March, 1296. His son, Sir Duncan de Balfour, adhered to the fortunes of Sir William Wallace, and was slain 12th June 1298 at the battle of Blackironside, where the English, under Sir Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, were defeated with great slaughter. Amongst others present at the parliament held at Cambuskenneth, 6th November 1314, were David de Balfour and Malcolm de Balfour, as their seals are appended to the general sentence by that parliament of forfeiture of all the rebels. In the parliament held at Ayr in 1315 were Sir Michael de Balfour, sheriff of Fife, and David de Balfour; their seals are appended to the act of that parliament for settling the crown. (ibid. pp. 366, 367.) Sir Michael died in 1344, and in 1375, the fifth year of the reign of Robert the Second. his eldest son and successor, Sir John Balfour of Balfour died, leaving an only daughter, Margaret, who married Sir Robert de Bethune, ‘familiaris regis Roberti,’ as he is styled. From them the present proprietor of Balfour, J. E. Drinkwater Bethune, Esq., is descended. Several of the other Fife heritors of the name of Bethune, as the Bethunes of Bandon, of Tarvet, of Blebo, of Clatto, of Craigfudie, and of Kingask, were also descended from them. Of the most remarkable personages belonging to the Bethunes of Balfour were James Bethune, archbishop of Glasgow and chancellor of Scotland; his nephew, Cardinal Bethune; and the nephew of the cardinal, James Bethune, archbishop of Glasgow. (See BETHUNE, surname of.) In the house of Balfour are original portraits of Cardinal Bethune, and of Mary Bethune, celebrated for her beauty, one of the queen’s four Maries.
Besides many illustrious descendants in the female line the surname of Balfour has been ennobled by three peerages, namely, the baronies of Burleigh and Kilwinning in Scotland, and of Balfour of Clonawley in Ireland. In Sir Robert Sibbald’s time, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, there were a greater number of heritors in Fife named Balfour than of any other surname. His list contains no less than thirteen landed proprietors in that county of the name, viz., the Balfours of Burleigh, of Fernie, of Dunbog, of Denmylne, of Grange, of Forret, of Randerston, of Radernie, of Northhank, of Balbirnie, of Halbeath, of Lawlethan, and of Banktown. (Hist, of Fife, App. No. 11.) In his Memoria Balfouriana, he says the family of Balfour is divided into several branches, of which those of Balgarvie, Mountwhanney, Denmylne, Ballovy, Carriston, and Kirkton are the principal.
Sir John Balfour of Balfour, already mentioned as the father of Margaret the wife of Sir Robert de Bethune, had an only brother, Adam, who married the granddaughter of Macduff, brother of Colbane, earl of Fife, and obtained with her the lands of Pittencrieff. He died of wounds received at the battle of Durham, in 1346, and was buried in Melrose abbey. His son, Sir Michael Balfour, was brought up by his kinsman Duncan, twelfth earl of Fife, who in 1353 gave in exchange for Pittencrieff the much more valuable lands of Mountwhanney. The countess Isabella, daughter of earl Duncan, also bestowed many grants of land upon her “cousin” Sir Michael, who, at her death without issue, should have succeeded as her nearest heir, but the regent Albany, the brother of her second husband, obtained the earldom in virtue of a disposition in his favour by the countess. Sir Michael died about 1385. His eldest son, Michael Balfour of Mountwhanney, had a son, Sir Lawrence, of Strathor and Mountwhanney, who, by his wife Marjory, had three sons: George, his heir; John of Balgarvie, progenitor, by his son James, of the Balfours of Denmylne, Forret, Randerston, Torry and Boghall, Kinloch, &c.; and David Balfour of Carraldstone or Carriston. The latter family terminated in an heiress, Isabel Balfour, who married a younger son of the fourth Lord Seton, ancestor of the Setons of Carriston.
James Balfour, son of Sir John Balfour of Balgarvy, in 1451 obtained from King James the Second the lands of Denmylne, in the parish of Abdie, and county of Fife, originally belonging to the earls of Fife, and which fell to the crown at the forfeiture of Murdoch duke of Albany. This James Balfour was slain at the siege of Roxburgh, soon after the death of James the Second, in 1460, as appears from a charter, granted by James the Third, in favour of John Balfour his son, who married Christian Sibbald, daughter of Peter Sibbald of Rankeillor, and fell with his sovereign, James the Fourth, at the battle of Flodden, in 1513. Patrick his son was the father of Alexander Balfour, whose son, Sir Michael Balfour, was knighted at Holyroodhouse, 26th March 1630, by George Viscount Dupplin, chancellor of Scotland, under a special warrant from Charles the First, and the same year in which his son Sir James received a similar honour. Sir Michael was comptroller of the household to Charles the First, and was equally distinguished for his military courage and civil prudence. By his wife, Jane, daughter of James Durham of Pitkerrow he had five sons and nine daughters, seven of whom were honourably married.
Of the eldest son, Sir James Balfour of Kinnaird, the celebrated annalist and antiquary, a life is given below.
The second son, Alexander, styled of Lumbarnie, was a minister of the gospel, a man, says Sibbald, not more respected for the dignity of his appearance than for the wisdom and piety of his life.
Michael Balfour of Randerston, the third son, was eminently distinguished for his experience and skill in agricultural matters.
Sir David Balfour of Forret, the fourth son, was admitted advocate 29 January 1650. In 1674 he was knighted, and nominated a judge in the court of session. He took his seat on the bench with the title of Lord Forret. The following year he was appointed a judge of the court of justiciary. In 1685 he was elected a commissioner for the county of Fife to the parliament which met that year, chosen one of the lords of the articles, and appointed a commissioner for the plantation of kirks. He died shortly after the Revolution. (Haig and Brunton’s History of the Senators of the College of Justice, p. 402.) His second son, James Balfour, succeeded to the lands of Randerston.
A subsequent proprietor of the estate of Forret, probably a descendant of this learned judge, seems to have entertained a design of erecting a convenient place of refreshment for the members of the college of justice at Edinburgh; for in a note to Kay’s Portraits (vol. i. p. 22) we find the following passage, which is curious as marking the habits of the members of the bar about the middle of the eighteenth century: “In the minutes of the Faculty of Advocates, 13th February 1741, there is an entry relative to a petition presented to the Dean and Faculty by James Balfour of Forret, stating that he intended to build a coffeehouse adjoining to the west side of the Parliament House, ‘for the conveniency and accommodation of the members of the college of justice, and of the senators of the court,’ and that he was anxious for the patronage of the society. He also mentioned that he had petitioned the judges, who had unanimously approved of the project. A remit was made to the curators of the library, and to Messrs. Cross and Barclay, to consider the petition, and report whether it should be granted; but nothing appears to have been done by the committee.” The estate of Forret, which is in the parish of Logie, anciently belonged to the Forrets of that ilk, a son of which house, who had been vicar of Dollar, suffered martyrdom on the Castlehill of Edinburgh in 1538. (See FORRET, surname of.) It is now the property of a family of the name of Mackenzie.
Of Sir Michael’s youngest son, Sir Andrew Balfour, doctor of medicine, the distinguished naturalist and scholar, a memoir is given below.
The descendants of Sir James Balfour, lyon king at arms, continued long to possess the lands of Denmylne. The family is now entirely extinct in the male line, and is represented by Lord Belhaven as heir of line. (See BELHAVEN, lord.) The complete extinction of this family is the more remarkable, as it is stated by Sir Robert Sibbald that Sir Michael Balfour lived to see three hundred of his own issue, while Sir Andrew, his youngest son, saw six hundred descendants from his father. The ruins of the old church of Abdie, on the western shore of the loch of Lindores, still contain several monuments of this family.
About the close of the seventeenth century a fatal duel occurred between Sir Robert Balfour of Denmylne, and Sir James Macgill of Lindores, who were near neighbours and intimate friends. Sir Robert was a young man in his prime; Sir James was much more advanced in years. Attended by their servants, they had both gone to Perth on a market day, when Sir Robert unfortunately quarrelled and fought with a Highland gentleman on the street. Sir James came up at the time and parted the combatants. In doing this, it is said, he made some observations as to the superiority of the Highlander, which offended Sir Robert, who, chafed and angry, offered next to fight his friend. They returned home together on the evening of a long summer day. When at Car-pow they dismounted, gave their servants their horses, and, ascending by the road a considerable way up the hills, they stopped at a spot on the slope of the Ochils where a small cairn of stones, locally known by the name of Sir Robert’s Prap, was afterwards raised to commemorate the event. They there drew their swords. A shepherd, who was sitting on a higher part of the hills, is said not only to have seen what took place, but even to have overheard what passed between them. It is said that Sir James Macgill, who is alleged to have been by far the more expert swordsman of the two, made various attempts to be reconciled to his angry friend, and even after they were engaged, conducted himself for a time merely on the defensive. But from the fury with which Sir Robert fought, he was forced to change his plan, and to attack in turn. The consequence was that Sir Robert was run through the body, and died on the spot, when Sir James mounted and rode off, leaving his corpse to the care of the servants. It is added that Sir James immediately afterwards proceeded to London, where he obtained a pardon from King Charles the Second. Mr. Small, in his Roman Antiquities, tells a foolish and very improbable story of Sir James being obliged by the king to fight an Italian swordsman then in London, who had previously acted the bully, but who also fell beneath the skilful arm of the Scottish knight. (Leighton’s Hist., of Fife, vol. ii. p. 178.) The fate of the last baronet of Denmylne is equally remarkable. He set out on horseback from his own house to pay a visit and neither man nor horse was ever again heard of. It is supposed that he perished in some of the lochs or marshes with which Fife then abounded. Shortly after his disappearance Denmylne was purchased by General Scott of Balcomie, the father of the duchess of Portland and the viscountess Canning. These lands were subsequently bought from her grace, when marchioness of Titchfield, by the brother of the present proprietor Thomas Watt, Esq. of Denmylne.
Another branch of the house of Balfour possesses the lands of Balbirnie in the parish of Markinch, Fifeshire. During the reign of Malcolm the Fourth, the lands of Balbirnie belonged to Orm the son of Hugh, abbot of Abernethy, the ancestor of the family of Abernethy. (See ABERNETHY, surname of, ante, p. 14.) He exchanged them with Duncan earl of Fife, the charter being conferred by William the Lion. Sibbald says that anciently these lands belonged to a family who took their name from them, and were designed Balbirnie of that ilk. About the end of the sixteenth or beginning of the seventeenth century, the lands of Balbirnie were purchased from the Balbirnies, who held them under the earls of Fife, by George Balfour, son of Martin Balfour of Dovan and Lalethan, the ancestor of the present proprietor. This Martin Balfour was, in 1596, served heir to his grandfather David Balfour, in the lands of Dovan and Lalethan. He was descended from Peter Balfour, a younger son of Balfour of Balfour, who, having married a daughter of Thomas Sibbald of Balgonie, obtained from his father-in-law a charter of the lands of Dovan in the reign of Robert the Third. The present proprietor of Bulbirnie seems, therefore, to divide with Balfour of Fernie, the representation of the ancient family of Balfour of Balfour.
BALFOUR of BURLEIGH, Lord, an attainted barony in the peerage of Scotland, formerly held by a branch of the Fife family of Balfour. In 1445—6 Sir John Balfour of Balgarvie, (from the Celtic Bal-garbh, the rough town or dwelling,) had a grant of the lands of Burleigh in Kinross-shire, which were erected into a free barony in his favour, by King James the Second, in the ninth year of his reign. He had two sons, Michael and James. The latter is said to have been the ancestor of the Balfours of Denmylne, Forret, and other families of the name. The eldest son, Michael, was the father of Sir Michael Balfour designed of Burleigh, who, besides other charters, had one of the lands of easter and wester Balgarvie, on the 16th February 1505—6, and another to himself and Margaret Musshet his wife, of the lands of Schanwell, 28th May 1512.
His grandson, Michael Balfour of Burleigh, was served heir to his father in 1542. He had a charter of half of the lands of Kinloch and office of coroner of Fife, 18th June 1566. He married Christian, daughter of John Bethune of Creich, and had an only child, his sole heiress, Margaret Balfour, who married Sir James Balfour of Pittendriech and Mountwhanney, lord president of the court of session, whose life is given below. Sir James’ eldest brother, Michael Balfour of Mountwhanney, commendator of Melrose, was the progenitor of the Balfours of Trenaby, in Orkney.
Sir James had six daughters and three sons. The eldest son, Sir Michael Balfour of Burleigh, had a charter of the lands of Nethertown of Auchinhuffis in Banffshire, 28th October 1577, and another of the barony of Burleigh, 29th October 1606. By James the Sixth, he was honoured with the title of Lord Balfour of Burleigh, by letters patent, bearing date at Royston, in England, 7th August 1606, Sir Michael being then James’ ambassador to the duke of Tuscany and the duke of Lorraine. (Sibbald’s Hist. of page 279.) He was created a lord of parliament under the same title at Whitehall 10th July 1607, without any mention of heirs in the creation. (Carmichael’s Tracts.) His lordship was subsequently sworn of the privy council. On 7th Sept. 1614, a charter was granted to Michael, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, of the barony of Kilwinning, with the title of Lord Kilwinning, to him and his heirs and assigns whatever. (Douglas’ Peerage, vol. i. page 180.) His lordship married first, Margaret Adam son, and secondly, Margaret, daughter of Lundie of Lundie, by whom he had a daughter Margaret, who succeeded him as baroness Balfour of Burleigh. She married Robert Arnot, the son of Sir Robert Arnot of Fernie, chamberlain of Fife. This Robert Arnot assumed on his marriage the name of Baifour, and had the title of Lord Burleigh, in virtue of a letter from the king. At the meeting of the Scottish parliament in 1640, the estates, in consequence of the absence of a commissioner from his majesty, appointed Lord Burleigh their president, and he was continued in that office in 1641. He was also one of the commissioners for negotiating the treaty of peace with England in 1640 and 1641, and in the latter year was one of the privy councillors constituted by parliament. During Montrose’s wars, he was actively engaged on the side of the parliament, and seems to have acted in the north as a general of the forces. In September 1644 the marquis of Montrose, with an army of about two thousand men, approached Aberdeen, and summoned it to surrender, but the magistrates, after advising with Lord Burleigh, who then commanded in the town a force nearly equal in number to the assailants, refused to obey the summons, upon which a battle ensued within half-a-mile of the town, on the 12th of that month, in which Burleigh was defeated. He was also one of the committee of parliament attached to the army under General Baillie, which, through the dissensions of its leaders, was totally routed by the troops of Montrose on the bloody field of Kilsyth 15th August 1645. He opposed the “engagement” to march into England for the rescue of King Charles, and was one of those who effectually dissuaded Cromwell from the invasion of Scotland. In 1649, under the act for putting the kingdom in a posture of defence, Lord Burleigh was one of the colonels for the county of Fife, and the same year he was nominated one of the commissioners of the treasury and exchequer. He died at Burleigh 10th August 1663. By his wife, who predeceased him in June 1639, he had four daughters and one son. Jean, the eldest daughter, married, in 1628, David, second earl of Wemyss, and died 10th November 1649, leaving one daughter, Jean, countess of Angus and Sutherland. Margaret, the second daughter, became the wife of Sir James Crawford of Kilbirnie, without issue. Isabel, the third daughter, married Thomas, first Lord Ruthven, and had issue. The youngest daughter, whose name is not mentioned, married her cousin, Arnot of Fernie.
John Balfour, third Lord Balfour of Burleigh, spent his younger years in France, where he was wounded. On his return home, on passing through London, he married, early in 1649, without his father’s consent, Isabel, daughter of Sir William Balfour of Pitcullo, lieutenant of the tower of London. His father, with the view of having the marriage annulled, got it proposed, in a general way, to the General Assembly the same year, but no answer was given to the application. Lord Burleigh died in 1688, leaving, besides Robert, his heir, two other sons and six daughters. His second son, John Balfour of Fernie, was a lieutenant-colonel in the reign of James the Seventh. He had two sons, Arthur, father of John Balfour of Fernie, and John, who succeeded by entail to the estate of Captain William Crawford, whose name and arms he assumed, and left issue. Henry, the third son of Lord Burleigh, was styled of Dunbog. He was a major of dragoons, and one of the representatives for the county of Fife in the last parliament of Scotland, in which he warmly opposed the union. He was the father of Henry Balfour of Dunbog.
Robert, fourth lord Balfour of Burleigh, was, in 1689, appointed one of the commissioners for executing the office of clerk register. He died in 1713. His lordship married Lady Margaret Melville, only daughter of George, first earl of Melville, by whom he had a son and two daughters. Margaret, the eldest, died unmarried at Edinburgh 12th March 1769. Mary, the younger, married in 1714 Brigadier-general Alexander Bruce of Kennet, and died at Skene in Stirlingshire 7th November 1758, leaving a son and daughter; the former became a lord of session under the title of Lord Kennet.
Robert Balfour, fifth Lord Balfour of Burleigh, was a man of a most daring and desperate character. In his early youth, while still master of Burleigh, he fell in love with a girl of inferior rank, whose name has not been given, and in consequence his father sent him to the continent, in the hope that travel would remove the feeling of attachment for her from his mind. Before setting out he exacted a promise from the girl, that she would not marry any one in his absence, declaring that if she did he would put her husband to death, when he came back. Notwithstanding this threat she married Henry Stenhouse, a schoolmaster at Inverkeithing, although not without informing him of the risk he incurred in taking her. On the return of the master of Burleigh his first inquiry was after the girl, and on being informed of her marriage, with two attendants, he proceeded on horseback directly to the school of Stenhouse, and calling the unfortunate schoolmaster to the door, he shot him in the shoulder, 9th April 1707. Stenhouse died of the wound twelve days after. Young Balfour was tried for the murder in the High Court of Justiciary 4th August 1709, when his counsel pleaded in defence that there was no malice prepense; that the wound had not been in a mortal place but in the arm, plainly showing that the intention had been to frighten or correct, not to kill; and lastly, that the libel had not been that the wound was deadly, on the contrary it admitted that the deceased had lived several days after it, and the prisoner would prove ma-. lum regimen and a fretful temper as the immediate causes of death. Notwithstanding this ingenious defence the Jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced, 29th November, to be beheaded 6th January 1710; but a few days before that date he escaped from prison by exchanging clothes with his sister, who was extremely like him. (Maclaurin’s Criminal Trials.) He skulked for some time in the neighbourhood of Burleigh Castle, Kinross-shire, and an ash tree, hollow in the trunk, was long pointed out as his place of shelter and concealment. From having been often the place of his retreat, it bore the name of Burleigh’s Hole. After sustaining the ravages of the weather for more than a century, it was completely blown down in 1822. On the death of his father in 1713, the title devolved on him, and the next thing heard of him is his appearance at the meeting of Jacobites at Lochmaben, 29th May 1714, when the Pretender’s health was publicly drunk by them at the Cross on their knees, Lord Burleigh denouncing damnation against all who would not drink it. (Rae’s History of the Rebellion, p. 49.) He engaged in the rebellion of 1715, for which he was attainted by act of parliament, and his title and estate, which then yielded six hundred and ninety-seven pounds a-year, forfeited to the crown. He died without issue in 1757. The representation of the family of Balfour of Burleigh is claimed by Bruce of Kennet; also, by Balfour of Fernie.
Sir James Balfour, knight, the second son of Sir James Balfour of Pittendriech, by Margaret his wife, only child and heir of Michael Balfour of Burleigh, Esq., was created by James the Sixth in 1619 a peer of Ireland, under the title of Lord Balfour, baron of Clonawley, in the county of Fermanagh. His lordship died October 1634, when the title appears to have become extinct. He was buried at St. Anne’s, Black-friars, London. From his brother, William Balfour, who settled in Ireland, are descended the family of Townley-Balfour of Townleyhall, in the county of Louth.
The John Balfour of Burley of Sir Walter Scott’s novel of Old Mortality, was usually designed of Kinloch. He was the principal actor in the murder of Archbishop Sharp. His estate was forfeited, and a reward of ten thousand marks offered for himself. He fought both at Drumclog and at Bothwell Bridge, and is said to have afterwards taken refuge in Holland, where he offered his services to the prince of Orange. He is generally supposed to have died at sea on his voyage back to Scotland, immediately previous to the Revolution. There are strong presumptions, however, for believing that he never left Scotland, but found an asylum in the parish of Roseneath, Dumbartonshire, under the protection of the Argyle family, and that having assumed the name of Salter, his descendants continued there for many generations. The last of the race died in 1815. (New Stat. Acc. of Scotland, article Roseneath.)
We learn from Schiller’s History of the Siege of Antwerp from 1570 to 1580, that a Sir Andrew Balfour and his company of Scots defended that city against the Prince of Parma. The name seems still to exist in Holland, for in the Brussels papers of 28th July 1808, Lieutenant – colonel Balfour de Burleigh is named Commandant of the troops of the king of the Netherlands in the West Indies.— (Note 2, B. to Scott’s Old Mortality.)
BALFOUR, SIR JAMES, of Pittendriech, an eminent lawyer of the sixteenth century, was a son of Sir Michael Balfour of Mountquhanny in the parish of Kilmany, Fife. Being designed for the church, he studied both divinity and law, as was usual in those days. His brother David was one of the murderers of Cardinal Bethune, and he himself, after the murder, joined the conspirators in the castle of St. Andrews. On the surrender of the castle in June 1547, he was put into the same galley with Knox, and carried prisoner to France. After his return to Scotland in 1549, he abandoned his former friends, and denied that he had been in the castle of St. Andrews or the French galleys at all, for which Knox has severely denounced him in his History. He was appointed official of the archbishop of St. Andrews within the archdeaconry of Lothian; and in 1559, he gave his active support to the queen regent against the lords of the congregation, which led Knox to declare that “of an old professor he had become a new denier of Christ Jesus and manifest blasphemer of his eternal verity.” (Knox’s History, page 173.) From this it has been supposed that Balfour had become a Roman Catholic. He seems to have been, with good reason, suspected of tampering with some of the protestant lords, as a boy of his was taken with a writ which “did open the most secret thing that was devised in the council, yea, those very things which were thought to have been known but to very few.” (Ibid. p. 200.) He escaped the search of the reformers of Fife in February 1560, when the lords of Wemyss, Seafield and others were taken prison-ers, and about the same time he was appointed parson of Flisk in Fifeshire. Shortly after the return of Queen Mary from France, 12th Nov. 1561, he was nominated an extraordinary lord of session under the title of Lord Pittendriech, and two years after, in 1563, he was made an ordinary lord. In 1564, on the institution of the Commissary Court at Edinburgh, he became chief commissary with a salary of four hundred marks. In July 1565 he was sworn of the privy council. On the night of Rizzio’s murder, he was with the queen at Holyroodhouse, and his enemies intended to have hanged him at the same time, but he made his escape. (Keith’s Hist. p. 332.) He was subsequently knighted by the queen, and promoted to the office of clerk-register, in place of Mr. James Macgill. In 1566 he was one of the commissioners for revising and publishing the old laws called Regiam Majestatem, &c., and the acts of parliament. (Douglas’ Peerage, vol. i. p. 177.) He is said to have been the original deviser of the murder of Darnley, to have framed the bond for mutual support entered into by the conspirators, and to have prepared the house of the Kirk of Field, at Edinburgh, which was possessed by his brother, for the reception of Darnley. (Chalmers’ Life of Mary, vol. ii. p. 25. — Laing’s Dissert. vol. ii. p. 37.) It is certain that on his removal to Edinburgh the unhappy Darnley was “lodged in the mansion of the provost, or chief prebendary of the collegiate church of St. Mary in the Fields, as a place of good air. This house stood nearly on the site of the present north – west corner of Drummond Street, as is ascertained from Gordon’s map of the city of Edinburgh in 1647, where the ruins are indicated as they existed at that period. It is said to have been selected by Sir James Balfour, brother of the provost, and ‘the most corrupt man of his age,’ (Robertson’s Hist. vol. ii. p. 354,) as well fitted from its lonely situation for the intended murder.” (Wilson’s Memorials of Edinburgh, vol. i. p. 78.)
Immediately after that dreadful event, which took place 9th February 1567, Balfour was openly accused of having been accessory to it, and a paper of the following tenor was affixed to the door of the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, on the night of the 16th of February: “I, according to the proclamation, have made inquisition for the slaughter of the king, and do find the earl of Bothwell, Mr. James Balfour, parson of Flisk, Mr. David Chambers and black Mr. John Spence, the principal devisers thereof, and if this be not true speir at Gilbert Balfour.” (Keith’s Hist. p. 368.) In the beginning of 1567 he had been appointed deputy governor of Edinburgh castle, under the earl of Bothwell, who committed to his care the famous bond, signed by eight bishops, nine earls, and seven barons, declaring that ambitious and unscrupulous nobleman guiltless of Darnley’s murder and a suitable match for the queen, which he afterwards used with fatal effect against the regent Morton. According to the enemies of Mary it was to Sir James Balfour that Bothwell, after Mary’s surrender at Carberry, sent for the casket said to contain the letters that formed the alleged evidence of her guilt; which casket he delivered, but on secret information furnished by him, the messenger was seized by the confederated lords, with whom he was at the time tampering. (Buchanan, b. xviii. p. 51.)
After the imprisonment of Mary, Balfour surrendered the castle of Edinburgh to the regent Murray, on the following conditions: first, a pardon for his share in the king’s murder; secondly, a gift of the priory of Pittenweem, then held by the regent in commendam; thirdly, an heritable annuity to his son out of the rents of the priory of St. Andrews; and, fourthly, a gift of five hundred pounds to himself. These terms being fulfilled, the castle was delivered into the hands of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange, who was appointed governor. He was continued in the privy council by the regent Murray, to please whom he resigned his office of clerk register, when Sir James Macgill was re-appointed. For this service, in December of the same year (1567) Balfour received a pension of five hundred pounds, and was appointed president of the court of session. He was present at the battle of Langside on the side of the regent, and was instrumental in obtaining the overthrow of his former benefactress. (Melville’s Memoirs, p. 202.) Seldom long constant to any party, and equally ungrateful to Murray for the honours conferred upon him as he had been to his hapless sister, Sir James Balfour, during the years 1568 and 1569, busily engaged in intrigues in behalf of Mary, and was, in consequence, in August of the latter year, apprehended by the earl of Lennox, for participation in his son’s murder. He was, however, set at liberty on caution, but was never brought to trial, having made his peace with the regent by means of large bribes to his servants. (Ibid. p. 221.) After the assassination of the regent in January 1570, he openly joined the party of the queen. In Bannatyne’s Journal, under date April 1570, there occurs the following passage:
“The quenis factione, to wit the Hamiltones, Argyle, Huntlie, Boyd, Crawford, Ogilbie, and Sir James Balfoure, remained at Lynlythgow, and there, after divers consultationes, vnderstanding that the Englis armie was retired furth of Scottis boundis, tuke baldness vpon them be oppin proclamatione to set vp the authoritie of that murtherer and knawin adultres called the quene, and so all farther conference betwixt the two parties ceased; for the lordis that sustened the kingis querrall answerit in few wordis, that they culd have no farther commoning with opin and periured traytoris, as they were everie one. (Bannatyne’s Journal, p. 14.) At the time Malt-land of Lethington and Kirkaldy of Grange maintained the castle of Edinburgh for the queen, Balfour joined them, and his name, with that of Gilbert and Robert Balfour, occurs in a list of persons forfeited on the 30th day of August 1571. (Ibid. p. 258.) By the end of the following year, he made his peace with the regent Morton, and was a chief instrument in bringing about the pacification, at Perth, between the king’s and queen’s party in January 1573, which, by the submission of all the queen’s lords, left Kirkaldy and Maitland entirely at the mercy of their ruthless enemy, Morton. Bannatyne says he “remaned not in the castle with the rest of the traytoris, albeit he is als grit a traytor as ony of thame all. He gave in a long scrole to the lordis of the articles of the parliament, that he might be restored to all thingis, &c., whairwith mony sturreth, and in speciall the bischop of Orknay, now abbot of Halirudhous, wha protestit for the copie of it; but I hard no word that it was obteaned. Sindrie scroles were gewin in vpon the said Sir James declaring his treassonable dealingis in tymes bypast; nottheles his dres is made with the regent, and he hes tane him in his protectione.” (Bannatyne’s Journal, p. 440.) He seems to have been at this time governor of Blackness castle, on the frith of Forth, and to fill up the measure of his treachery to his former friends, when Sir William Kirkaldy’s brother, Sir James, arrived there from France with a supply of money and stores for the queen’s service, he received him with due honour and pretended welcome, but the very night of his guest’s arrival, he placed him in a dungeon heavily chained, and with the money which Sir James Kirkaldy had brought from France, departed for Edinburgh to hand it over to Morton. He had compounded with the regent for his pardon, and was to have paid him a large sum of money for his composition; but, says Bannatyne, “the getting agane the Bracknes, and also Mr. James Kirkaldie payis that, as is reported; for it was affirmed that he said to the regent, gif I can get you as gude (or better) as my compositione, sall not I be freed thereof; which the regent grantit. For as I have said, it was alledgit that the said Sir James had written to Mr. James Kirkaldie, befoir his cumm ing out of France, to cum to the Blacknes, and not to cum to the north; becaus that gif the lord Huntlie had gottin the gold, he wald hald it to himself, or elis the maist part thereof, and so give to thame of the castle what he lyked. But howsoever the mater was, the said Mr. James come and landit at the Blacknes, a little efter the parliament, with his cofferis, thinking it had bene sure for him as befoir; and leist that ony thing suld be knawin, but that it ware tane perforce, Sir James, or the Captane Alexander Stewart, had gewin advertisment of the said James cuming.” (Ibid. p. 441.)
The regent Morton, however, was not disposed to put his trust in a man who had betrayed and deserted both sides as Balfour had done, and in the following month of February, a complaint against him and his brother for the murder of Darnley and other grievous crimes, which are recited in full by Bannatyne in his Journal, (pp. 444—455), was read before the lords of the articles in parliament; in consequence of which he was obliged to make his escape into France, where he remained for some years. On the resignation of the regency by Morton in 1578, he returned to Scotland, and joined the party who watched for that nobleman’s destruction. In 1579 Morton recovered his authority, and Balfour again fled, when the forfeiture of 1571 was re-enacted.
In 1580, after James the Sixth had assumed the reins of government, Balfour returned to Scotland to organise a plan for the destruction of Morton. On the trial of that nobleman he produced the celebrated bond already mentioned, signed by him and others for the support of Bothwell, as well as other written evidence of his guilt, which he had so long preserved for such an occasion. After Morton’s death he was restored against the forfeiture of 1579, by act of parliament.
Sir James Balfour is supposed to have died in January 1583 or 1584. He married Margaret, the daughter of Michael Balfour of Burleigh and Balgarvie, by whom he acquired these lands, and from him the Lords Balfour of Burleigh were descended, as shown in our account of that family inserted above. He is the reputed author of the well-known collection of decisions entitled ‘Balfour’s Practicks, or a System of the more ancient Law of Scotland,’ a voluminous work which remained in manuscript until 1754, when it was published by the Ruddimans, in a folio volume of 684 pages, with a life of Balfour prefixed by Walter Goodall. This work continued to be used by practitioners till superseded by Stair’s Institutes. Lord Hailes observes that Balfour’s work is interpolated, for it mentions certain acts of parliament and the names of certain peers that did not exist till after the death of Balfour. It is very likely to have been added to after his time.
BALFOUR, SIR JAMES, of Kinnaird, Bart., an eminent herald, annalist, and antiquary, eldest son of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmylne, by his wife, Jane, daughter of James Durham of Pitkerrow, was born about 1600. He soon displayed a capacity for study, and a taste for poetry. The accompanying portrait of him is from an original picture in the possession of Lord Belhaven.
His youthful efforts in verse were noticed with commendation by the poet Leach or Leochaeus, in his Strencae, published in 1626. He had successfully translated Leach’s Latin poem, Panthea, into the Scottish vernacular; and Sir Robert Sibbald, who, in his Memoria Balfouriana, gives an account of his life and writings, tells us that he had seen a volume of Latin and Scottish poems, written by Balfour, not now extant. After some time spent abroad, Sir James, on his return, devoted himself to the study of the antiquities of his native country. “It was, indeed, fortunate for his progress,” says Sibbald, “that several learned men had begun to illustrate the history of Scotland. Of these, Robert Maule, commissary of St. Andrews, had engaged in a work concerning the origin of our nation, while David Buchanan had applied an accurate criticism to the older monuments of Scottish story.
Mr. David Hume of Godscroft had undertaken to refute the objections against the high antiquity of the nation; the labours of Sir Robert Gordon of Straloch shed no inconsiderable light on the earlier history of Scotland; while Robert Johnstone detailed the transactions of British policy, in conjunction with those of France, the Netherlands, and Germany, from the year 1572 to the year 1628. Mr. William Drummond of Hawthornden recorded the history of the five Jameses; Mr. Guthry, the events which characterized the progress of our civil war; and Mr. Wishart, afterwards bishop of Edinburgh, commemorated the actions of the celebrated marquis of Montrose. The geographical delineation of the kingdom had been greatly advanced by the labours of Timothy Pont, son of that eminent promoter of letters, Mr. Robert Pont. Sir Robert Gordon of Straloch, his son James, minister of Rothiemay, and Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet, director of the chancery, had likewise contributed many topographical descriptions, and sundry maps of the counties.
The right reverend primate, John Spottiswood, archbishop of St. Andrews, had carried down both the ecclesiastical and civil history of Scotland, from the introduction of Christianity, until the death of James VI.; while the history of the Scottish Church had been detailed by David Calderwood, from the epoch of the Reformation to the year 1625.” In order to prosecute the study of heraldry, Balfour repaired to London, where he became acquainted with Sir Robert Cotton, also with Sir William Segar, garter king- at – arms, who obtained from the College of Heralds a highly honourable testimonial in his favour, signed and sealed by all the members of that body. He likewise became known to Roger Dodsworth, and Sir William Dugdale, to whom he communicated several charters, and other pieces of information regarding Scottish ecclesiastical antiquities, which they inserted in their Monasticon Anglicanum, under the title Caenobia Scotica, and which Balfour afterwards expanded into a volume, called Monasticon Scoticum. Amongst other distinguished persons of his own country whose friendship he enjoyed, were Drummond of Hawthornden, Sir Robert Aytoun, and the earl of Stirling. By the influence of the Viscount Dupplin, chancellor of Scotland, he was in June 1630 created lord lyon king-at-arms, having some days previously been knighted by the king.
In December 1633 he was created a baronet. On the occasion of the coronation of Charles I. at Edinburgh that year, Viscount Dupplin was created earl of Kinnoul; and of this nobleman Sir James in his Annals tells the following curious anecdote: The king in 1626 had commanded, by a letter to his privy council, that the archbishop of St. Andrews should have precedence of the chancellor; to which the latter would not submit. “I remember,” says Balfour, “that K. Charles sent me to the lord chancellor on the day of his coronation, in the morning, to show him that it was his will and pleasure, bot onlie for that day, that he wold ceed and give way to the archbishop; but he returned by me to his Majestic a very bruske answer, which was; that he was ready in all humility to lay his office doune at his Majestic’s feet; bot since it was his royal will he should enjoy it with the knowen privileges of the same, never a stoled priest in Scotland should sett a foot before him, so long as his bloode was hote. Quhen I had related his answer to the kinge, he said, ‘Weel, Lyone, lett’s goe to business; I will not medle farther with that old cankered gootish man, at quhose hand ther is nothing to be gained but soure words.” Though a staunch Presbyterian, when the civil wars broke out, Sir James inclined to the cause of the king, but took no part in the contest. He was, nevertheless, deprived by Cromwell of his office of Lyon king-at-arms.
Living in retirement at Falkland palace, or at his own seat of Kinnaird, he collected many manuscripts on the art of heraldry, and wrote several treatises on that subject, some of which are now in the Advocates’ Library, while others were dispersed, or destroyed by the English in the capture of Perth, in 1651, to which city he had caused them to be conveyed. Sibbald gives a catalogue both of his original treatises and of the manuscripts which he was at such pains to collect. (Memoria Balfouriana, pp. 19—33.) For illustrating Scottish history, he investigated all the charters, public registers, and monastic chartularies and chronicles he could procure, and he was able to form a large collection of these documents. He formed, at considerable expense, a library of most valuable books, and particularly rich in Scottish history, antiquities, and heraldry. He likewise collected and arranged ancient coins, seals, and other reliques of the olden time, and wrote a book of epitaphs and inscriptions on the monuments of monasteries and parish churches. He left several abridgments of the books of Scone, Cambuskenneth, and others, and extracts from the histories of John Major, Hector Boethius, Lesly, and Buchanan. His literary correspondence was extensive with those of his contemporaries who were eminent either as historians or historical antiquarians, particularly Robert Maule, Henry Maule of Melgum, David Buchanan, Sir Robert Gordon of Straloch, Mr. Roger Dodsworth, Sir William Dugdale, and Drummond of Hawthornden. At the request of Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet he contributed not a little to the geographical illustration of the kingdom. He drew up an accurate description of the shire of Fife, including observations on its antiquities, and the genealogies of its principal families, and he had begun to compile a geographical description of the whole of Scotland, the manuscript of which was of so much use to the Dutch geographer, Bleau, that he dedicated to Sir James Balfour the map of Lorn in his Theatrum Scotiae, appending to it an engraving of his arms.
Besides his various treatises on heraldry, he wrote annals of the life and reign of James I. and II., and memorials of the reigns of James III., James IV., and James V., and Mary. The reign of James VI. he treated at greater length. He also wrote an account of the kings of Scotland from Fergus I. to Charles I., and the annals of Scotland in two volumes, the first extending from the accession of Malcolm Ill, to the death of James VI., and the second from the accession of Charles I. to the sixteenth year of his reign. When it became necessary to form a separate establishment for the Prince of Wales, who was also steward or seneschal of Scotland, Sir James deemed it proper to inquire into the amount of the revenue to which the hereditary princes of Scotland were entitled, as well as the extent of their privileges; and among his manuscripts is one with the following title :—‘ The True present State of the Principality of Scotland, with the Means, how the same may be most conveniently Increased, and Augmented; with which is joyned, Ane Survey, and brief Note from the Publick Registers of the Kingdom of certain Infeftments and Confirmations given to Princes of Scotland, and by them to their Vassals, of diversse Baronies and Lands of the Principalitie, since the 15 year of the Reign of King Robert III.’ To natural history he likewise gave his attention, and composed in Scots an alphabetical treatise on gems. He also wrote in Latin, an account, collected from various authors, of the frauds practised in the imitation of precious stones. He died in February 1657. He is usually styled of Kinnaird, having, in 1631, obtained, in favour of himself and his spouse, a grant of the lands and barony of that name in Fife. He was four times married; first, on 21st October 1630, to Anna, daughter of Sir John Aiton of that ilk, by whom he had three sons and six daughters, and who died August 26th, 1644; 2dly, to his cousin, Jean Durham, daughter of the laird of Pitkerrow, who died without issue, 19th July, 1645; 3dly, to Margaret, only daughter of Sir James Arnot of Fernie, by whom he had three sons and three daughters; 4thly, to Janet, daughter of Sir William Auchinleck of Balmanno, by whom he had two daughters. The family, as stated above, is now extinct in the male line. From his collection of MS., preserved in the Advocates’ Library, his ‘Annals and Short Passages of State,’ were published by Mr. James Haig in 1824, in four volumes octavo.
BALFOUR, SIR ANDREW, Bart., an eminent physician and botanist, and founder of the botanic garden of Edinburgh, the brother of the preceding, and fifth and youngest son of Sir Michael Balfour of Denmylne, was born there January 18, 1630. His education was superintended by his brother, Sir James, the famous antiquary, who was thirty years old at the time of his birth. He took his degree of A.M. at the university of St. Andrews, and about 1650 removed to London, where he prosecuted his medical studies under the celebrated Harvey, and other eminent practitioners. He afterwards went to Blois, in France, to see the botanical garden of the duke of Orleans, then kept by his countryman, Dr. Morison. After remaining some time at Paris, he completed his education at the university of Caen, where, September 20, 1661, he received his degrees of bachelor and doctor of medicine. On his return to London, Charles the Second appointed him travelling tutor to the young earl of Rochester, whom he in vain endeavoured to reclaim. In his last illness his lordship expressed his obligations to Dr. Balfour, for the good instructions he had received from him. After spending four years on the continent, they returned in 1667. Dr. Balfour afterwards commenced practice as a physician at St. Andrews. In 1670 he removed to Edinburgh, where, among other improvements, he introduced the manufacture of paper into Scotland. Having a small botanical garden attached to his house, chiefly furnished by seeds sent by his foreign correspondents, he raised there many plants, till then unknown in this country. His friend and botanical pupil, Mr. Patrick Murray of Livingstone, had formed at his seat a botanic garden, containing one thousand species of plants; and, after his death, Dr. Balfour transferred his collection to Edinburgh; and, joining it to his own, laid the foundation of the first public botanic garden in Scotland; for which the magistrates of the city allotted a piece of ground near the foot of Leith Wynd, and adjacent to Trinity Hospital, taken down in 1845 for the convenience of the North British railway. Here the Botanic garden continued till 1767, when, by the exertions of Dr. Hope, a subsequent professor of botany, it was removed to a piece of ground between Leith and Edinburgh, on the west side of Leith Walk. (See HOPE, John.) This place was abandoned in 1822 for a more suitable situation at Inverleith Row, where the Edinburgh Botanical Garden is now in a flourishing condition.
Dr. Balfour was created a baronet by Charles the Second. He has the merit of being the first who introduced the dissection of the human body into Scotland; and, with Sir Robert Sibbald, he planned the Royal College of physicians, of which society he was elected the first president. On the publication of the Pharmacopoeia by the college in 1685, the whole arrangement of the materia medica was committed to his care. Shortly before his death he projected the foundation of an hospital in Edinburgh, which is now the Royal Infirmary. He died in 1694, bequeathing his museum to the University. He never appeared as an author, but in 1700 his son published a series of the familiar letters which he had addressed to Mr. Murray of Livingstone. The great merits of Sir Andrew Balfour as a naturalist, physician, and scholar, are commemorated, not only by Sir Robert Sibbald, in the Memoria Balfouriana, and elsewhere; but also more recently by Professor John Walker, in his Essays on Natural History.
BALFOUR, ROBERT, a distinguished scholar, and philologist, principal of Guienne college, Bordeaux, about the beginning of the seventeenth century, is supposed to have been born about the year 1550. As he left his native country young, very little is known regarding him. He is supposed to have derived his lineage from the Balgarvie branch of the Fifeshire family of Balfour, but in his Commentary on Cleomedes (p. 196) he has himself stated that he was a native of Forfarshire. He studied first at the university of St. Andrews, and afterwards repairing to France, he became a student in that of Paris, where he distinguished himself by the ability with which he publicly maintained certain philosophical theses against all oppugners. He was subsequently invited to Bourdeaux, by the archbishop of that see, and became a member of the college of Guienne. The precise date of his appointment to a professor’s chair is unknown, but it appears from a letter from Vinetus to George Buchanan, of date 9th June 1581, that he must have been previous to that year professor of the Greek language and mathematics. He was subsequently appointed principal of the college of Guienne, an office which he filled with much prudence and reputation. He is thought to have succeeded to the principalship on the death of Vinetus, 14th May 1586. His earliest publication was an edition, the first that ap- -peared, of the ancient history of the famous council held at Nice, in the year 325, the author of which was Gelasius, a native of Cyzicus, a city of Mysia, who became bishop of Caesarea in Palestine. This work appeared in 1599, in 8vo. His next undertaking was an edition of the Meteora of Cleomedes, with a copious and elaborate commentary, published at Bourdeaux in 1605, 4to. “His work,” says Dr. Irving, “was commended by men eminent for their learning, and his commentary continues to be held in such estimation that it has been reprinted within a very recent period in an edition of Cleomedes published by Professor Bake of Leyden.” (Lives of Scottish Writers, vol. i. p. 243.) Balfour’s last and greatest work was his Commentary on Aristotle. The first volume, containing an exposition of the Organon, or treatises relating to the science of logic, was published in 1616. The second volume, comprising a similar exposition of the ethics, appeared in 1620, when the author must have been upwards of seventy years of age. The date of his death has not been ascertained. He was living in 1625. “Balfour,” says Dr. Irving, from whose life of him these particulars have been gleaned, “left behind him the character of a learned and worthy man. His manners are represented as very pleasing; and he is particularly commended for his kindness to his countrymen, many of whom at that period wandered on the continent in quest of learning, or learned employment. The only fault imputed to him by one biographer, (D. Buchananus de Scriptoribus Scotis, p. 129,) is his zealous adherence to the Romish faith. This species of zeal he has testified by introducing into his commentary on the Categories of Aristotle, a defence of the astounding doctrine of transubstantiation. As a proof of the estimation in which he was held, it may be stated that François de Foix de Candale, bishop of Aire, who died in the year 1594, bequeathed to him the mathematical part of his library.” (Lives of Scottish Writers, vol. i. p. 244.) Morhof mentions Balfour as a celebrated commentator on the philosophy of Aristotle, and Dempster says he was “the Phoenix of his age; a philosopher profoundly skilled in the Greek and Latin languages; a mathematician worthy of being compared with the ancients; and to those qualifications he joined a wonderful suavity of manners, and the utmost warmth of affection towards his countrymen.” His writings display an extent of erudition which reflects honour on the literary history of his country. His edition of Cleomedes, in particular, is spoken of in high terms of praise by the erudite Barthius.
The following are the titles of Balfour’s works:
Versio et Notae ad Gelasium Cyzicenam de Cutus Consilii Nicaeni et versio ad Theodorum Presb. de Incarnatione Do-mini. Par. 1599, 8vo.
Versio et Comm. ad Cleomedis Meteora. Burd. 1605, 4to.
Commentarius R. Balforei in Organum Logicum Aristotelis. Burd. 1616, 2 vols. 4to.
Comm. in Organum Aristotelis. Burd. 1618, fol.
Commentarli in AEthica Aristotelis. Par. 1620, 4to.
BALFOUR, JAMES, of Plirig, near Edinburgh, an ingenious writer, was admitted an advocate, November 14, 1730, but never had much practice at the bar. In 1737, on the death of Mr. Bayne, professor of Scots law in the university of Edinburgh, he and Mr. John Erskine of Carnock, advocate, were presented by the faculty of advocates to the patrons of the vacant chair, who elected Mr. Erskine, afterwards author of the ‘Institute of the Law of Scotland.’ Balfour was subsequently appointed sheriff-substitute of the county of Edinburgh. Having a taste for philosophical science, he early opposed the speculations of David Hume, particularly in two treatises, which he published anonymously, the one entitled ‘A Delineation of Morality,’ and the other ‘Philosophical Dissertations.’ With these Hume, though they combated his own views, was so much pleased, that, on the 15th March 1753, he wrote the author a letter requesting his friendship as he was obliged by his civilities. On the 28th August 1754 Balfour was elected professor of moral philosophy in the university of Edinburgh. In 1764, on the death of Mr. William Kirkpatrick, professor of public law in that university, he received a royal commission to succeed him. In 1768 he published at Edinburgh his former lectures under the title of ‘Philosophical Essays,’ in which he subjected to a rigorous examination Lord Kames’ Essays on Morality and Natural Religion. In the spring of 1779 he resigned the chair of public law. He died at Pilrig, 6th March 1795, aged 92.—(Bower’s Hist. of the University of Edinburgh, vol. ii. page 374.)
The following are his publications:
Philosophical Essays. Edin. 1768, 8vo.
Philosophical Dissertations. Edin. 1782, 8vo.
Of Matter and Motion; Of Liberty and Necessity; On the Foundation of Moral Obligation; Nature of the Soul &c.
BALFOUR, ALEXANDER, a miscellaneous writer, a native of the parish of Monikie, Forfarshire, was born March 1, 1767. His parents belonged to the humbler rural class; and being a twin, he was taken under the protection of a friend of the family, to whom he was indebted for support in his early years. He received but a scanty education, and when very young was apprenticed to a weaver; notwithstanding which, he taught a school in his native parish for several years. At the age of twenty-six, he became clerk to a merchant and manufacturer in Arbroath. The following year he married. He made his first essays in composition when only twelve years of age, and at a more mature age he contributed occasional verses to the British Chronicle newspaper, and to Dr. Anderson’s ‘Bee.’ In 1793 he contributed several pieces to the Dundee Repository, and not a few to the Aberdeen Magazine in 1796. Four years after his removal to Arbroath he changed his situation, and two years after, on the death of his first employer, he carried on the business in partnership with his widow. On her retirement, in 1800, he assumed another partner, and having obtained a government contract to supply the navy with canvas, he was in a few years enabled to purchase considerable property. During the war with France he exhibited his patriotism by inserting in the Dundee Advertiser a succession of loyal poems and songs, most of which were republished in London, and some of the latter set to music and sung at places of public entertainment. To the Northern Minstrel, published at Newcastle, he contributed about twenty songs, and furnished several pieces to the Literary Mirror, published at Montrose. The account of Arbroath in Dr. Brewster’s Encyclopedia was written by him, and he also contributed several papers to Tilloch’s Philosophical Journal.
In the year 1814 he removed to Trottick, in the neighbourhood of Dundee, to assume the management of a branch of a London house, which was, in the succeeding year, suddenly involved in bankruptcy; and he was obliged to accept of the situation of manager of a manufacturing establishment at Balgonie in Fife, where, upon a limited salary, he continued for three years. In October 1818, principally on account of his children, he removed to Edinburgh, and was employed as a clerk by Mr. Blackwood the publisher. In the course of a few months he was seized with paralysis, and in June 1819 was obliged to relinquish his employment. For ten years thereafter he spent his days in a wheel-chair, and devoted himself entirely to literature. In 1819 he published a novel, called ‘Campbell, or the Scottish Probationer,’ which was well received. At the close of the same year he brought out an edition of the poems of his deceased friend, Richard Gall, with a memoir. In 1820 he published a volume, entitled ‘Contemplation, and other Poems.’ About the same time he began to contribute to Constable’s Edinburgh Magazine, tales, sketches, and poems, descriptive of Scottish rural life, which he continued to do till the close of that work in 1826. One poetical series, entitled ‘Characters omitted in Crabbe’s Parish Register,’ was so favourably received, that he was induced to republish it in one volume in 1825. In 1822 he began to write novels for the Minerva Press of London; the first of which, in three volumes, was called ‘The Farmer’s Three Daughters.’ His second, which was by far the best, appeared in 1823, also in three volumes, and was entitled, ‘The Foundling of Glenthorn, or the Smuggler’s Cave.’ In 1827, Mr. Joseph Hume, M.P., presented a number of his works to the premier, Mr. Canning, and a donation of one hundred pounds was obtained for him from the Treasury, in consideration of his talents and misfortunes. His latest work was a novel, entitled ‘Highland Mary,’ in four volumes, which, like his other novels, was distinguished for the most touching pathos. He contributed till his death to the periodicals of the day, and wrote largely in particular for the ‘Edinburgh Literary Gazette,’ a publication long since discontinued. He died on Sept. 12, 1829. A posthumous volume of his remains was published under the title of ‘ Weeds and Wild Flowers,’ with a Memoir by Mr. D. M. Moir.