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The mystery of Dr John Durie

Dr John Durie, attended Glasgow University in 1788, d. Trinidad 1811

Can anyone throw any light on this mystery man?

A query came to the DFA from Peter Strang, a student at the University of Glasgow assisting the university archives in compiling and publishing information relating to historic students and alumni that attended the university and who have international connections. Specifically, he is researching students who had links with Trinidad & Tobago.

The query concerned still inconclusive research into Dr John Durie, possibly a Reed Maker’s son, who attended the University of Glasgow and died in Trinidad but about whom so little is known. Our own Dr Bruce Durie looked into this, and says: “it shows just how important documentary evidence is in verifying the facts; how trails can end with question marks; how exciting and interesting delving into the family past can be."

Initial Clue: an original entry, taken from W. Innes Addison's, The Matriculation Albums of the University of Glasgow from 1728 to 1858 (Published: Glasgow, 1913)

For 1788:

Translated, this is: “John Durie, eldest born son of Robert, Craftsman in the city of Glasgow”. This could well be him, in which case he was born 22 Aug 1777 (see below for the baptism record, dated the next day, 23rd)

The father, Robert, would certainly qualify as an “atificier” (here, Reed Maker) but this John is possibly too young. Our database also shows a younger brother, George, b. ca. 1792.

On the other hand, could there have been a misreading of the original manuscript entry of John’s death? Could he have been 34 or 35 at death, and could he have matriculated at the university aged 11? That wasn’t so unusual then - William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin did, at the same age.

Why does W. Innes Addison, in 1913, say the Trinidadian university student was Possibly "Dr John Durie, late of Glasgow," who died at Trinidad, 13th January, 1811, aged 39?

Also within the time-frame we are looking at there is only one Robert Durie recorded as married in Glasgow.

If this is the wrong couple, John’s parents could have been members of a secession church (in which case the baptism records might have found their way back into the Church of Scotland records post-recombination) or Episcopalians (not much chance of finding anything about them) or even Catholics. Bruce has searched, but to no avail.

He did find the burial of a Robert in 1803, aged 70 so b. ca. 1773, presumably another son who carried on the business.

If it is assumed Robert was b. ca. 1750, he would be about 90 come the 1841 census. But what about any other children? If they were born after 1772, they might be aged 50-70. But there’s nothing convincing.

Bruce can find nothing testamentary or executory regarding John Durie, or anyone similar, including records in Scotland from deaths in Trinidad and/or Tobago.

So, Does anyone know who Dr John Durie was? Why was he in Trinidad? Are you descended from him?

We throw this open to the wider Durie community – Can you shed any light?

If you have anything to add to this please e-mail Dr Bruce Durie

If you have someone or a history for us to consider adding to the website please send your copy (attached in Word Document or Plain Text only) by email, accessible from our Contact page. If possible attach photographs in Jpeg format (.jpg). All information will be reviewed and may be used in a Newsletter and/or posted on the website and shared with the family genealogist.

We hope you will also be able to provide details have on parents, grandparents and ancestors to help us build up our extended Family Tree.

Do please join the Durie DNA Project: Click Here

There is an historical information section on Overseas Duries included in '750 Years of Duries' by Dr Bruce Durie. Click Here

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