Gifford, Adam (DNB00)

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GIFFORD, ADAM, Lord Gifford (1820–1887), lord of session and founder of the Gifford lectureships, eldest son of James Gifford and his wife, Catherine Ann West, was born at Edinburgh on 29 Feb. 1820. His father, who had risen from a comparatively humble position, became treasurer and master of the Merchant Company, an elder in the Secession church, and a zealous Sunday-school teacher. His mother was vigorous in body and mind, and a very independent thinker. She was the only teacher of her sons Adam and John, till Adam was eight years old, when the boys were sent to learn Latin and Greek at a small school kept by John Lawrie in West Nicolson Street. Adam Gifford was afterwards a pupil at the Edinburgh Institution, founded in 1832. In early life he became a Sunday-school teacher in the Cowgate, besides sometimes taking a service on a Sunday forenoon with the poor children of Dr. Guthrie's ragged school.

In 1835 Gifford was apprenticed to his uncle, a solicitor in Edinburgh; at the same time he attended classes in the university, and became a member of the Scots Law Debating Society. He soon became managing clerk in the office, but decided to become an advocate, and in 1849 was called to the bar. He was clear-headed, persevering, and had good connections, but, from unwillingness to push himself, advanced slowly. He acquired by degrees an extensive practice. As an advanced politician he expected nothing from the government, but in 1861 he was appointed an advocate-depute. In that capacity he conducted on behalf of the crown, in 1863, the prosecution against Jessie m'Lauchlan in the Sandyford murder case. In 1865 he was appointed to succeed W. E. Aytoun [q. v.] as sheriff of Orkney and Zetland; but continued his practice as an advocate, having appointed a resident sheriff-substitute.

On 28 Jan. 1870 Gifford was nominated a judge, and on 1 Feb. took his seat in the court of session as Lord Gifford. Symptoms of paralysis appeared in 1872, and gradually developed themselves, but he worked on till 1881. On 25 Jan. of that year he resigned, and retired with a pension. He died on 20 Jan. 1887. On the 27th he was buried in the old Calton cemetery. He was survived by one son, Herbert James Gifford; his wife, Maggie, only daughter of James Pott, W.S., to whom he was married on 7 April 1863, having died on 7 Feb. 1868.

Gifford was an able judge, with strong common sense and little respect for technicalities. He often lectured to literary and philosophical societies. By his will, recorded on 3 March 1887, a sum, estimated at 80,000l., was bequeathed to found lectureships on natural theology, 25,000l. being assigned to Edinburgh, 20,000l. to Glasgow and Aberdeen, and 15,000l. to St. Andrews. The object was to found ‘a lectureship or popular chair for promoting, advancing, teaching, and diffusing the study of natural theology, in the widest sense of that term, in other words, the knowledge of God,’ and ‘of the foundation of ethics.’ All details and arrangements were left to be settled by the accepting trustees in each town, subject only to certain leading principles and directions stated in the will. The first appointments were made and lectures delivered in 1888.

[Private information obtained from relatives; Lord Gifford's will, in General Register House; Scotsman newspaper, 1870, and 21 Jan. 1887.]

J. T.