Open main menu

Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 34.djvu/189

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

tour of the south islands of Orkney and the whole of the Shetland group, and sent the great antiquary some materials for the last volume of his ‘Tour in Scotland.’ At the close of this year he was presented to the parish of Birsay and Harray, on the mainland of Orkney, by Sir Laurence Dundas. He was for some time subsequent to his instalment occupied in writing, with a view to publication, an exhaustive account of his tour, which dealt with the commerce, the population, and language, as well as with the archæological and other records of the islands. In the seclusion of Birsay he also completed his ‘History,’ together with his accounts of ‘Fauna’ and ‘Flora’ respectively, of the islands of Orkney. In 1778, to complete his survey of the islands, he made a tour through the north isles of Orkney, the manuscript of which has been unfortunately lost. In 1781 he became a corresponding member of the Scottish Society of Antiquaries. From this date until 1790 he was engaged in a succession of futile endeavours to get published the manuscripts of his various works, the value of which had been so repeatedly acknowledged. Though not published, his writings were extensively circulated, and received the impartial attention of every one who wrote on the subject. Gough introduced quotations from him into his ‘British Topography,’ and Pennant inserted, besides descriptions, several engravings from his drawings into his ‘Arctic Zoology.’ Dr. Samuel Hibbert [see Hibbert-Ware, Samuel], writing in 1822, managed with difficulty to cull some information respecting the earlier customs of Shetland ‘that had escaped the notice of those who had seen the work.’ The manuscript of his ‘History’ fell into the hands of Dr. Barry, ‘by whom it was laid under heavy obligations in compiling his work [‘The History of Orkney,’ 1805, 4to], and although he was indebted to it for the greater part of the appendix, in which he treats of the natural history of Orkney, he nowhere acknowledges his obligations to Low.’

Disappointed at the scant recognition of his labours, and embittered by the increasing coldness of Pennant and other friends, Low was in 1790 cut off from his favourite studies by an attack of ophthalmia, due to the assiduity with which he had pursued his microscopic researches, and became almost completely blind in 1793. He died on 13 March 1795, and was buried beneath the pulpit in Birsay Church. Low was an eloquent preacher, and greatly beloved by his flock, to whom, during a ministry of over twenty years, he only dispensed the sacrament on three occasions. Low married in 1775 Helen, only daughter of James Tyrie, minister of Stromness and Sandwick. She died on 2 Sept. 1776, after giving birth to a still-born child.

Most of the unfortunate naturalist's manuscripts fell into the hands of his friend and correspondent, George Paton, at whose death they were distributed. The ‘Fauna Orcadensis’ was published in 1813 by William Elford Leach [q. v.], who in his preface opines that as ‘an interesting and valuable addition to the natural history of the British Isles it will be more useful than the closet compilations of some of our modern zoologists.’ The ‘Flora Orcadensis’ seems to have disappeared. The ‘History,’ however, passed through the hands of Professor Trail into those of Dr. Omond, and the ‘Tour’ ultimately became the property of David Laing (1793–1878) [q. v.] of Edinburgh, by whom it was placed at the disposal of Mr. Joseph Anderson, who edited the ‘Tour’ of 1774, with an appendix of ancient documents and a valuable introduction, containing extracts from Low's correspondence, in 1879 (Kirkwall, 8vo). The remainder of his writings are still only available, in fragmentary form, in the works of his learned friends. The manuscript of the ‘Tour’ is now preserved in the library of the university of Edinburgh, and that of the ‘History of the Orkneys’ and several others are still in possession of the late Dr. Omond's representatives.

[Introduction to Anderson's Edition of the Tour, Peace and Son, Kirkwall, 1879 (Mr. Anderson has kindly revised the present article); Memoir prefixed to Fauna Orcadensis, 1813; Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, xvi. 390; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, 1875, ii. 547; Chalmers's Biog. Dict.; W. B. B[laikie]'s List of Books and MSS. relating to Orkney and Zetland, 1847, pp. 6, 18; Tudor's Orkneys and Shetland, p. 85; Jervise's Land of the Lindsays, 1882, pp. 20–2; Literary Life of the late Thomas Pennant, 1793; Hibbert's Description of Shetland Islands, 1822; Patrick Neill's Tour in Orkney and Shetland.]

T. S.

LOW, JAMES (d. 1852), lieutenant-colonel Madras army, Siamese scholar, received a cadetship in 1811, and on 11 June 1812 was appointed ensign 25th Madras native infantry. He became lieutenant in 1817, and captain 46th Madras native infantry in 1826. He retired as lieutenant-colonel 16th Madras native infantry in 1845. He was for many years in civil charge of the province of Wellesley in the Straits Settlements. Low died 2 May 1852. He was the author of ‘A Dissertation on the Soil and Agriculture of Penang’ (London, 1828), of a grammar of the Siamese (Thia) language, Calcutta, 1828,