From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

Alexander Erskine of Dun - 10th April 1622

 

WHICH DAY ALEXANDER ERSKINE OF DUN IS ADDED TO THE BURGESSES OF DUNDEE, GRATIS.

ALEXANDER ERSKINE of Dun was descended from the famous JOHN ERSKINE of Dun, Superintendent of Angus and the Mearns, and the chosen friend and companion of JOHN KNOX. His precise relationship to the Superintendent is not clearly detailed by any of the chroniclers of the family history, and, indeed, some of them dispute as to whether he was named JOHN or ALEXANDER. The Burgess Roll, however, affords contemporary evidence as to his proper name. He succeeded to the estate of Dun after the death of two young boys, the orphan children of DAVID ERSKINE, who were poisoned by their uncle ROBERT, for which crime he suffered execution on 1st December, 1613. ALEXANDER ERSKINE was deeply concerned in the Civil Wars on the side of the Royalists, but still found time to improve the agriculture of the district by more intelligent methods of tillage than were then pursued. In 1631 he found himself in the position of having more victual in his stores than he could use or find a market for, and he was under the necessity of applying to CHARLES I. for a warrant to permit of his exporting it, a method of disposal which the strict protective laws of the realm prevented. The services which he had rendered to the KING both at home and abroad induced the Sovereign to relax these enactments in his favour, though under terms which show that the warrant was an unusual one for him to grant.

This LAIRD OF DUN was considerably in advance of his time in several particulars. He was one of the first advocates of temperance in the Kingdom. On 5th July, 1627, he signed a temperance bond at Dundee, which is perhaps the earliest document of the kind in existence. The parties to this contract, which is attested by four witnesses, were ALEXANDER ERSKINE of Dun and SIR JOHN BLAIR of Balgillo. They bound themselves to drink nothing intoxicating, except in their own dwellings, till the first of May, 1628, under a penalty of 500 merks Scots for the first "failzie or brack," and of 100 merks for every succeeding one, and for security agreed to register the contract. The reason alleged for this agreement is that the "access [excess] of drinking is prohibite bothe be the Law of God and Man," and that they were "willing to give guid exampill to vtheris be their lyff and conversacioun to abstain from the lyke abuse." It would be interesting to know if this bond was renewed upon its expiry, or if the revenues of either Dun or Balgillo suffered seriously from the penalties provided in case of failures.


The favour with which he had been received at Court caused ALEXANDER ERSKINE to journey frequently to London, and he made man acquaintances there; but, like most of the Scottish lairds who were drawn into the vortex of a society so much more lavish than that to which they had been accustomed, he became involved in debt, and died there a bankrupt. The time of his decease is not recorded, but an undated letter from his friend LORD SPYNIE to his fourth son, DAVID ERSKINE, intimates that "he died on Tuesday night, and would allow none to write home concerning his sickness. He was buried on Thursday night in S. Martin's Church, accompanied by the greater part of the nobility and all the gentry of Scotland then in London. He ows about ane hundreth and twente pounds sterling hier, and if wee had not ingaged for the payment thairof, his corps had bein arrested." His son, SIR ALEXANDER ERSKINE, was Member for Forfarshire in the Parliaments of 1630, 1639-41, and 1645. As he is described in the Parliamentary Returns for 1630 as "the Laird of Dun," his father's death must have taken place before that time.