Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pitcairn, Robert (1793-1855)
PITCAIRN, ROBERT (1793–1855), antiquary and miscellaneous writer, second son of Robert Pitcairn, W.S., was born in Edinburgh in 1793. After a sound general education, he was apprenticed to William Patrick, writer to the signet, Edinburgh, and was admitted writer to the signet on 21 Nov. 1815. He was long an assistant to Thomas Thomson, deputy clerk register in her majesty's register house, and in 1853 he was appointed one of the four official searchers of records for incumbrances in that institution. In 1833 appeared an elaborate and exhaustive treatise by Pitcairn, entitled ‘Trials and other Proceedings in Matters Criminal before the High Court of Justice in Scotland,’ 3 vols. 4to. Pitcairn's antiquarian tastes and literary bias commended him to Scott, who was stimulated by one of the narratives in his ‘Criminal Trials’ to write his ‘Ayrshire Tragedy’ (Lockhart, Life of Scott, vii. 202). Scott reviewed the earlier portion of Pitcairn's massive work in the ‘Quarterly Review’ for 1831, lauding his friend's ‘enduring and patient toil,’ and thanking him for his ‘self-denying exertions’ in producing ‘a most extraordinary picture of manners,’ calculated to be ‘highly valuable in a philosophical point of view,’ and containing much that would ‘greatly interest the jurist and the moralist’ (Scott, Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xxi.) Pitcairn died suddenly of heart-disease in Edinburgh on 11 July 1855.
On 4 Sept. 1839 Pitcairn married Hester Hine, daughter of Henry Hunt, merchant, London.
An industrious and accurate worker, Pitcairn also published:
- ‘Collections relative to the Funeralls of Mary Queen of Scots,’ 1822.
- An edition of ‘Chronicon Cœnobii Sanctæ Crucis Edinburgensis,’ 1828 (Bannatyne Club).
- ‘Families of the Name of Kennedy,’ 1830.
- James Melvill's ‘Diary,’ 1842.
[Edinburgh Evening Courant, 12 July 1855; Scotsman, 14 July 1855; Lockhart's Life of Scott; Hist. of the Society of Writers to H. M. Signet; information from Mr. G. Stronach, Advocates' Library, Edinburgh.]