Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Shirreff, John

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

SHIRREFF, JOHN (1759–1818), agricultural writer, was the son of an East Lothian farmer. After spending his youth in the West Indies as a merchant, he returned at his father's death, and succeeded to the lease of the farm at Captainhead, Haddington. In 1793 he was chosen, together with two other East Lothian farmers, Rennie and Brown, to survey the West Riding of Yorkshire for the county agricultural reports of the board of agriculture. This survey was drawn up in such a manner as to give satisfaction even to William Marshall, who criticised so severely most of the board's county reports (Marshall, Review, i. 331). On his return home Shirreff attempted several improvements, including a threshing-machine, worked by wind, and a bone-mill. He made an unsuccessful attempt to introduce into Scotland the use of bone-dust as manure. In 1801 he received a premium from the board of agriculture for an essay on the ‘Best Mode of cropping Old Pasture Grounds.’ Shortly afterwards he contributed to the London Society of Arts an account of the osier plantations upon his farm at Captainhead. After subletting his farm, he resided at Craigside, Abbey Hill, and other places in and around Edinburgh, writing a good deal on agricultural topics. During the last years of his life he resided in the country, in charge of the estates of various noblemen. He died 2 Nov. 1818, and was interred in the ‘burial-ground of his ancestors at Prestonkirk, East Lothian.’

Besides his ‘Survey of Yorkshire,’ which he followed up by surveys of the Orkney and Shetland Islands (1804), Shirreff wrote pamphlets and articles in the ‘Farmer's Magazine’ and ‘Scots Monthly Magazine’ on such topics as ‘The Curled Disease in Potatoes,’ ‘Introduction of Exotic Heaths,’ and ‘Method of Stacking Turnips to preserve them through the Winter.’

[Biography in Farmer's Magazine, 1821, xxii. 207; see also Shirreff's contributions in xv. 20, 159, 198, 293; reviews, &c., vi. 209, xv. 343.]

E. C.-e.