Adam Duff

The slovenly, genial Tory Adam Duff never married, but his chief heirs were five young 'Adams' probably named after him, three of them great-nephews and two sons of dependents. A younger son, possessed of noble blood, a small estate in traditional Episcopalian heartlands, and a profession as an advocate he rose through Dundas' Tory administration to become a man of considerable wealth and status in Edinburgh. It is a route to success interesting to compare to that of his contemporary and next door neighbour in Charlotte Square, Robert Downie.

Robert Duff of Logie and Fetteresso, Vice Admiral of the Red. He purchased Feteresso Castle from the York Building Company in 1782, five years before his death. He was one of the youngest of the enormous family of Patrick Duff of Craigston, and his father didn't know him by sight. (9 p.309) Adam was 12 when he died 'and seems to have been left in to the guardianship of his mother's brother Arthur, the good genius of all the family.'(9 p.310)
Lady Helen Duff daughter of William, Earl of Fife.
95 Princes Street: a lodger in the house of 'Miss Hill, Roomseller' (5) In 1819 on becoming Sheriff of Midlothian he moved to 25 Charlotte Square.
Political views
As Sheriff of Midlothian he was described in Crombie's Modern Athenians as 'a convinced Tory, plain-featured and very amiable, of careless exterior and slovenly gait. In the picture, he is shown sauntering along, wrapped in his coarse blue spencer and his hands idly folded behind his back, grasping an umbrella which can be of little service to him, seeing he has nothing on his person that rainfall would fall.' His obituary notice said that 'he was respected by both Whigs and Radicals, and beloved by all who came in contact with him. Few men have passed through such stormy times, and left behind them a character so unblemished.' (9 p.319)
Advocate. Sheriff of Forfar 1807. The process by which he had to both satisfy the government that he was politically loyal, and purchase the office from the previous incumbent, can be followed through his letters (6). Sheriff of Midlothian 1819.(3)
Wealth at death
Assessed taxes 1811
He was an inmate in Princes Street but paid tax on a clerk and Armorial bearings duty.
His letters to his uncle when he came of age 'reveal him as a thorough-paced prig'. He had made plans for his own improvement including a year's residence in a foreign university because 'from the great progress the Germans have of late made in literature, their language is a proper branch of education.' He was however willing to substitute this for a year at Oxford, where he understood Christ Church (Daniel Sandford's college) was the best. However, none of these ideas came to fruition and he studied Law in Edinburgh instead. (9 p.318) In 1812 his philanthropy was noted in the papers when he gave 3 guineas to the Presbyterian minister Archibald McLaughlan for the poor of Dundee (8), and in Edinburgh the following year he was an office bearer for the Society for the Suppression of Begging along with William Forbes, Colin Mackenzie and Daniel Sandford.
Chapel connection
Vestry of St John's
Unmarried. Although he had no children, in his will he left legacies to his three great-nephews called Adam, Adam Duff Kirkwood son of the Governor of Bridewell, and Adam Hetherton son of his servant -- perhaps godchildren: certainly most were probably named after him.
Jane Duff's brother
In 1814 he travelled around Scotland on the Northern Lighthouse boat with Walter Scott. Scott, Duff and his brother-in-law James Clerk Rattray all had parts of the Bell Rock named in their honour on the map Stephenson included in his 'Account' (7)


  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. The Faculty of Advocates in Scotland 1532-1943, with genealogical notes, ed Sir Francis J Grant (Edinburgh: Faculty of Advocates, 1944)
  4. Inventory and Will NAS SC70/1/59/513
  5. Assessed taxes for the Burgh of Edinburgh year ending at Whitsunday 1811, NAS E327/51
  6. Chalmers of Auldgarth papers, National Library of Scotland MS.15469
  7. Bellrock map deciphered, online accessed 7 June 2010
  8. Caledonian Mercury 14 September 1812
  9. Alistair and Henrietta Taylor, The book of the Duffs (Constable and co, Edinburgh, 1914)

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