Playfair, James (DNB00)

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PLAYFAIR, JAMES (1738–1819), principal of St. Andrews, second son of George Playfair, a farmer of West Bendochy in Perthshire, by his wife Jean Roger, was born on 19 Dec. 1738. After studying at the university of St. Andrews, he obtained license as a probationer on 1 Nov. 1770, and was ordained to the pastoral charge of Newtyle. On 19 June 1777 he was translated to the neighbouring parish of Meigle. He received the degree of doctor of divinity from the university of St. Andrews on 2 July 1779, and was repeatedly invited to preside as moderator of the General Assembly, an honour which he declined. On 20 Aug. 1800 he was appointed principal of the United College, St. Andrews, and minister of the church of St. Leonard's in that city. For many years he held the appointment of historiographer to the Prince of Wales. He died at Dalmarnock, near Glasgow, on 26 May 1819. He married, on 30 Sept. 1773, Margaret, elder daughter of the Rev. George Lyon of Wester Ogle in Forfarshire. She died at St. Andrews on 4 Nov. 1831. By her Playfair left four sons—of whom the three elder joined the H. E. I. C. S.—viz.: George, doctor of medicine, inspector-general of hospitals in Bengal, and father of Baron Playfair; Colonel William Davidson Playfair; Lieutenant-colonel Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair [q. v.] The youngest son, James, was a merchant in Glasgow. Of Playfair's two daughters the elder married Patrick Playfair; and Janet, the younger, James Macdonald, Anstruther Wester.

Playfair wrote accounts of the parishes of Meigle, Essie, and Nevay for Sir John Sinclair's ‘Statistical Account of Scotland.’ He was also the author of:

  1. ‘System of Chronology,’ Edinburgh, 1784, fol.
  2. ‘System of Geography Ancient and Modern,’ 6 vols. Edinburgh, 1810–14, 4to.
  3. ‘General Atlas, Ancient and Modern,’ London, 1814, fol.
  4. ‘Geographical and Statistical Description of Scotland,’ 2 vols. Edinburgh, 1819, 8vo.

[Rogers's Four Perthshire Families; Rogers's History of St. Andrews; Scott's Fasti, pt. iv. p. 401.]

G. S-h.