Craig, William Gibson (DNB00)

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CRAIG, Sir WILLIAM GIBSON (1797–1878), lord clerk register of Scotland, eldest son of (Sir) James Gibson, afterwards Craig, of Riccarton [q. v.], was born 2 Aug. 1797. Educated at the high school of Edinburgh and a private school in Yorkshire, he was called to the Scotch bar in 1820. His connection with the bar was, however, merely nominal, and after devoting some time to foreign travel he, on his return to Edinburgh, turned his attention to politics and other matters of public interest. In 1834 he served on the commission to inquire into church property in Ireland, and in the same year as a member of the general assembly of the church of Scotland he gave his support to the Veto Act. In 1835 he contested Midlothian with Sir George Clerk, but was defeated by a small majority. He was, however, returned in 1837, and in 1841 he exchanged the representation of the county for that of the city of Edinburgh, his parliamentary career closing in 1852. From 1846 to 1852 he was a lord of the treasury. In the public affairs of Edinburgh he took an active and prominent interest. He was one of the chief originators of the scheme for the water supply of the city, and through his suggestion a commission was in 1847 appointed to inquire into the whole subject of art in Scotland, the result of its deliberations being the erection of the National Gallery. In 1854 he was appointed to one of the unpaid seats at the board of supervision for the administration of the poor law in Scotland. In 1862 he was appointed lord clerk register and keeper of the signet in Scotland, and the following year was elected a privy councillor. The duties of lord clerk register he discharged gratuitously, in order that meanwhile inquiry might be made in regard to the functions of the office, the result being that in 1871 the salary of 1,200l. attached to it was restored. It is to his initiative that we owe the publication of the documents of the register office, of the privy council records, and of an index volume to Thomson's ‘Acts of Parliament.’ Craig was a leading member of the Highland and Agricultural Society, of which he became treasurer in succession to Sir Thomas Dick Lauder. In 1848 he became deputy-lieutenant of Midlothian. Privately he secured general and cordial esteem, and was well known for his hospitality to men distinguished in politics or letters. He died 12 March 1878. By his wife, a daughter of Mr. H. Vivian, M.P., he left issue, and he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his eldest son.

[Men of the Time, 9th ed.; Scotsman, 13 March 1878.]

T. F. H.