Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, William Abernethy

DRUMMOND, WILLIAM ABERNETHY (1719?–1809), bishop of Edinburgh, born in 1719 or 1720, was descended from the family of Abernethy of Saltoun in Haddingtonshire. He at first studied medicine, and took the degree of M.D., but was subsequently for many years minister of an episcopalian church in Edinburgh. Having paid his respects to Prince Charles Edward, when he held his court at Holyrood in 1745, he was afterwards exposed to much annoyance and even danger on that account, and was glad to avail himself of his medical degree, and wear for some years the usual professional costume of the Edinburgh physicians. He took the additional surname of Drummond on his marriage, 3 Nov. 1760, to Mary Barbara, widow of Robert Macgregor of Glengarnock, and daughter and heiress of William Drummond of Hawthornden, Midlothian, grandson of the poet (Burke, Peerage, 1887, p. 444; Gent. Mag. xxx. 542). He was consecrated bishop of Brechin at Peterhead, 26 Sept. 1787, and a few weeks later was elected to the see of Edinburgh, to which the see of Glasgow was afterwards united. About the middle of February 1788 the news reached Scotland that on 31 Jan. of that year Prince Charles Edward had died at Rome. Drummond was the first among the bishops to urge that the time had now come for the episcopalians to give a public proof of their submission to the house of Hanover by praying in the express words of the English liturgy for the king and royal family. This was accordingly done throughout Scotland on 25 May. A bill of ‘relief for pastors, ministers, and lay persons of the episcopal communion in Scotland’ having been prepared, Drummond, with Bishops Skinner and Strachan, set out for London in April 1789 to promote its progress through parliament. Drummond continued bishop of Edinburgh till 1805, when, on the union of the two classes of episcopalians, he resigned in favour of Dr. Daniel Sandford. He retained, however, his pastoral connection with the clergy in the diocese of Glasgow till his death, which took place at his residence, Hawthornden, 27 Aug. 1809, at the age of eighty-nine or ninety (Scots Mag. lxxi. 719). His wife died at Edinburgh, 11 Sept. 1789, in her sixty-eighth year (ib. li. 466), having had an only child, a daughter, who died before her. Drummond was a good theologian and well-meaning, but, says Russel, ‘his intemperate manner defeated in most cases the benevolence of his intentions, and only irritated those whom he had wished to convince’ (Keith, Cat. of Scottish Bishops, ed. Russel, Append., p. 529; with which cf. Skinner, Annals of Scottish Episcopacy, p. 480). He wrote several small tracts, among which may be mentioned: 1. ‘A Dialogue between Philalethes and Benevolus: wherein M. G. H.'s defence of Transubstantiation, in the Appendix to his Scripture Doctrine of Miracles displayed, is fully examined and solidly confuted. With some Observations on his Scripture Doctrine of Miracles,’ 12mo, Edinburgh, 1776. 2. ‘A Letter to the Clergy of his Diocese, 8 March 1788,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1788. 3. ‘A Letter to the Lay Members of his Diocese, April 1788. With large notes,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1788. He also furnished a preface and notes to Bishop Jolly's abridgment of Charles Daubeny's ‘Guide to the Church,’ 8vo, Edinburgh, 1799. His letters to Bishops Douglas and Skinner, mostly on the recognition of the Scotch episcopal church of the Hanoverian line of succession, are among the Egerton and Additional MSS. in the British Museum (Index to the Cat. of Additions to the MSS. 1854–75, p. 448). Drummond presented in 1782 to the Edinburgh University the manuscripts of William Drummond of Hawthornden [q. v.], the ancestor of his wife.

[Keith's Cat. of Scottish Bishops (Russel). Appendix, pp 529, 545; Skinner's Annals of Scottish Episcopacy, pp. 68, 76, 83, 84, 479–80; Foster's Baronetage (1882), p. 190; Cat. of Library of Advocates, ii. 76.]

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