Robert Cockburn

Like the banker John MacKenzie, Robert, whose Cockburn's Port is still drunk today, came to epitomise the best of the 'Scottish character' at the beginning of the nineteenth century: well-born yet hard-working, rich yet generous, canny yet true.

Archibald Cockburn 1738-1820, Baron of the Exchequer, son of Archibald Cockburn, merchant, Edinburgh.
Janet Rannie daughter of David Rannie of Melville.
36 North George Street until his marriage in 1805 when he moved to 26 Castle Street
Wine merchant. Robert started in business with his brother John but they later split up. Robert founded a firm of shippers in Oporto, which became Cockburn's Port, still drunk today (you can read the history of the firm at
Wealth at death
Assessed taxes 1811
His house had 20 windows and a rental value of £60. He had 2 male house servants, 1 clerk and 2 warehousemen or porters. He had two horses, one for personal use and one for business. In the 1812 assessment he also had a dog.
John Ruskin described Robert Cockburn:
'In the first chapter of the Antiquary, the landlord at Queen's Ferry sets down to his esteemed guest a bottle of Robert Cockburn's best port; with which Robert Cockburn duly supplied Sir Walter himself, being at that time, if not the largest, the leading importer of the finest Portugal wine, as my father of Spanish. But Mr Cockburn was primarily an old Edinburgh gentleman, and only by condescension a wine-merchant; a man of great power and pleasant sarcarstic wit, moving in the finest circle of Edinburgh; attached to my father by many links of associatiion with the "auld toun," and sincerely respecting him. He was much the stateliest and truest piece of character who ever sate at our merchant feasts.' (4)
Chapel connection
1810 (baptism). They had a family vault at St John's.
Mary Duff
Ellen (1810); Robert (1812) died 1836 age 23 on the first expedition to explore the navigation of the Euphrates drowned near Ana, Mesopotamia; Gordon Duff (1819) died aged 9 month; Alexander and Archibald who succeeded their father in business.
In 1814 Robert was the steward at the Friends of the Lancasterian Society dinner with William Forbes, Walter Scott and his brother Henry Cockburn. In 1816 he was steward at a dinner for the Anniversary Commemoration of the battle of Waterloo, with the same people and Adam Duff. He appoints John Tod as a trustee in his will.


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, NAS E327/51, and 1812 ED327/54
  4. John Ruskin, Praeterita chapter 5, in The Works of John Ruskin ('Library Edition') edited by E.T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (London, George Allen, 1912) vol.35 p.102
  5. Inventory, National Archives of Scotland SC70/1/67/333
  6. Will, National Archives of Scotland SC70/4/3/331

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