Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Preston, John (d.1616)
PRESTON, Sir JOHN (d. 1616), of Fentonburns and Penicuik, lord president of the Scottish court of session, is stated to have been the son of a baker (Brunton and Haig, Senators of the College of Justice, p. 235), who was also a town councillor of Edinburgh, and is mentioned in 1582 as dean of guild (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iii. 516). Not improbably he was related to the Prestons of Craigmillar, for on 13 Jan. 1584–5 he was one of the sureties in a bond of caution by David Preston of Craigmillar (ib. p. 716) [see Preston, Sir Simon]. The son was admitted advocate at the Scottish bar at least before 20 Oct. 1575, and, from his frequent appearances in connection with cases before the privy council, must have early acquired an important practice (cf. ib. vols. iii. and iv. passim). In 1580 he was one of the commissioners of Edinburgh, and he was also one of the assessors of the city. On 8 March 1595 he was elected an ordinary judge of the court of session, and he was admitted on the 12th. His name first appears at a sederunt of the privy council on 24 Nov. 1596 (ib. v. 332). The same year he was, along with Edward Bruce, commendator of Kinloss, named king's commissioner to the general assembly of the kirk (Calderwood, v. 412). On 4 March 1596–7 he was appointed a commissioner ‘to conclude upon the form and circumscription of a new coinage’ (Acta Parl. Scot. iv. 113; Reg. P. C. Scotl. v. 369), and on 4 May 1598 he was chosen a commissioner to treat of matters concerning the Isles (ib. p. 455). On 31 Oct. 1598 he was appointed to the important office of collector and treasurer of the new augmentations; and in this capacity he served on a large number of commissions (cf. Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. v. and vi. passim). On 2 Oct. 1601 he was named one of eight commissioners to assist the treasurer in the administration of his office (ib. vi. 292). In recognition of his services the king, on 10 Feb. 1601–2, conceded to him and his wife, Lilias Gilbert, the lands of Guthrie in the county of Midlothian (Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1593–1608, entry 1296), and on 30 March 1604 the lands, barony, castle, &c., of Penicuik and various other lands in the same county (ib. entry 1528).
Preston was one of the assessors at the famous trial in 1606 of the ministers concerned in holding the Aberdeen assembly. In the parliament held in the same year there were ratified to him pensions from the king amounting to 1,087l. 10s., and twenty-four bolls of meal yearly from the feu duties of the abbeys of Jedburgh, North Berwick, Holywood, Haddington, and others. He was elected vice-president of the court of session on 23 Oct. 1607, to act in the absence of Lord Balmerino, the president; was one of the assessors at the trial of Balmerino in 1608; and, on Balmerino's removal from the presidentship, was, on 6 June 1609, chosen to succeed him. On 4 May 1608 he was appointed one of a commission for searching the chests left by jesuits in the Canongate (ib. viii. 281–2); and on 6 Feb. 1609 he was named one of a royal commission to consult with and advise the king as to the best means of assuring the king's peace in the Isles, and for planting ‘religion and civilitie’ there (ib. p. 142). He was one of the members of the reconstructed privy council chosen in February 1610 (ib. 815), and of the court of ecclesiastical high commission appointed on the 15th of the same month (Calderwood, vii. 58); he was also a joint commissioner to the general assembly of the kirk held in June of the same year (ib. p. 104). On 24 July he was nominated one of the assessors to the commissioner, Lord Roxburghe, for the trial of English pirates (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ix. 16). On 15 Nov. he was named one of six assessors to the Earl of Dunbar, and the treasurer-depute in the business of the conjoint offices of the treasurership, the collectorship, and the comptrollership, and also one of a royal commission of exchequer (ib. p. 85); and on 4 Dec. it was ordained that, notwithstanding his demission of the offices of treasurer of the new augmentations and collector of thirds of the benefices—incorporated in the office of the treasurership—he should be continued a member of the privy council (ib. p. 94). About the end of April 1611 he was appointed one of a council of eight—called the New Octavians—in whom the offices of the treasurership, the collectorship, and the comptrollership were vested (Calderwood, vii. 158). He died on 14 June 1616. By his wife, Lilias Gilbert, he left a son John, on whom a baronetcy of Nova Scotia was conferred in 1628, and who, by his marriage to Elizabeth, daughter of William Turnbull, became possessor of the lands of Auchie, Fifeshire, on which a mansion-house was erected, named Prestonhall. The baronetcy is now extinct.
[Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. iv.–x.; Reg. Mag. Sig. Scot. 1580–1620; Calderwood's Hist. of the Kirk of Scotland; Brunton and Haig's Senators of the College of Justice, pp. 235–6.]