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Important People

Sir John Cockburn

Title: Sir John Cockburn
Reviewed by Admin on Jul 3

Sir John Cockburn of Ormiston, in East Lothian, the great improver of Scottish husbandry, son of Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, lord-justice-clerk after the Revolution, by his wife Lady Susan Hamilton, was born about 1685. During his father’s life he was a member of the Scots parliament, and gave his support to the union of the two kingdoms. He afterwards represented East Lothian, in the parliament of Great Britain, from 1707 to 1741, and at one period was a lord of the admiralty, and also held several other public situations, but he was chiefly distinguished by his patriotic exertions to promote the improvement of his native country. He succeeded to the family estate in 1714.

At that time, agriculture in Scotland was in a very low state. Mr. Cockburn resolved to endeavour not only to rouse up a spirit among the landed proprietors for promoting improvements, but also, by every means of encouragement, to animate the tenantry to conduct their operations with energy and vigour. For this purpose he determined to sacrifice his own private interests, and to grant long leases at such low rents as would tempt the most indolent to exercise proper management. An attempt was made at one time to set aside these leases, but it did not succeed. His enterprising spirit did not rest content even with this. He brought down skilful agriculturists from England, who introduced the field culture of turnips, and of red clover; and at the same time, he sent up the sons of his tenants to England to study husbandry in the best cultivated counties of that kingdom. He also established at Ormiston a society for promoting agricultural improvements. His exertions, however, were not confined to husbandry alone.

In 1726, he erected a brewery and distillery at Ormiston. With a view also to promote the growth of flax, he obtained premiums from the board of trustees for encouraging its culture. He established a linen manufactory on his estate, and erected a bleach-field for whitening linens, which was the second in Scotland of the kind. It was conducted and managed by persons from Ireland; and to this Irish colony, it is said that Scotland is in a great measure indebted for the introduction of the potato, which was raised in the fields of Ormiston so early as 1734. To disseminate a spirit for agricultural improvement through the country, in 1736 he instituted a club or society composed of noblemen, gentlemen, and farmers, who met monthly for the purpose of discussing some appropriate question in rural or political economy. It subsisted above ten years. He also exerted himself in making the public roads and keeping them in repair. He married, first, in 1700, the Hon. Beatrix Carmichael, eldest daughter of the first earl of Hyndford, and secondly an English lady related to the duchess of Gordon, by whom he had a son named George.

In 1748, Mr. Cockburn was under the necessity of disposing of his estate to the earl of Hopetoun. He died at his son’s house in the navy office, London, November 12, 1758. His son, George, who succeeded him, is no farther deserving of notice than as being the last of that distinguished family. He was appointed a captain in the navy in 1741, and one of the commissioners of the navy in 1756. He died at Brighton in 1770. He married Caroline, baroness Forrester in her own right, and had a daughter, Anna Maria Cockburn, also baroness Forrester in her own right, who died in 1808 unmarried.

Extract from: http://www.electricscotland.com/history/nation/cockburn.htm

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