Ker, John (d.1741) (DNB01)

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KER, JOHN (d. 1741), Latin poet, was born at Dunblane, Perthshire. He was for a time schoolmaster at Crieff, and about 1710, after examination by ministers and professors, became a master in the Royal High School, Edinburgh. In 1717 he was appointed professor of Greek in King's College, Aberdeen, being the first special teacher of the subject there (Stat. Account of Scotland, xxi. 82). It is significant that he should have secured this post when his political proclivities are remembered, as well as his admiration for the uncompromising Jacobite, Archibald Pitcairne [q. v.] On 2 Oct. 1734 Ker succeeded Adam Watt in the Latin chair at Edinburgh University. Here he studied law, associating again with friends of high school days, and became exceedingly popular (Chalmers, Life of Ruddiman, p. 98). He had a distinct influence in reviving exact Latin scholarship in Scotland. As a professor he commanded the respect of his students, although somewhat weakly deferential towards live lords when they happened to be members of his class. But, says Dr. Alexander Carlyle of Inveresk, who notes this foible, he ‘was very much master of his business’ (Autobiography of the Rev. Dr. Alexander Carlyle, p. 31). He died at Edinburgh in November 1741.

About 1725 Ker published his Latin poem, ‘Donaides’ (those of the Don), celebrating illustrious alumni of Aberdeen. In 1727 appeared his paraphrase of the Song of Solomon, ‘Cantici Solomonis Paraphrasis Gemina.’ He is also the author of memorial verses on Archibald Pitcairne, Sir William Scott (1674?-1725) [q. v.], and others. He is represented, along with Arthur Johnston and other Latinists, in Lauder's ‘Poetarum Scotorum Musæ Sacræ,’ 1739. The Latin ballad on the battle of Killiecrankie versified in English by Sir Walter Scott in ‘Chambers's Journal,’ 1st ser. No. 48, is most probably Ker's (Chambers, Scottish Songs before Burns, p. 43).

[Bower's History of the University of Edinburgh, ii. 296-314 ; Grant's Story of the University of Edinburgh during its first Three Hundred Years, ii. 318; appendix to Erskine's Sermon on the Death of Robertson the Historian, in Discourses on several Occasions, i. 271.]

T. B.