National Records of Scotland

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Hugh Miller (1802-1856)

Hugh Miller (1802-1856)

Geologist, evangelical journalist and writer

Hugh Miller was apprenticed as a stonemason - an occupation which stimulated his interest in geology. He went on to edit the evangelical newspaper 'The Witness' and to produce many publications including 'Scenes and Legends of the North of Scotland' (1835), 'The Old Red Sandstone' (1841) on fossils found in the Cromarty area and his autobiography 'My Schools and Schoolmasters' (1854).

His 6,500 fossils formed the basis of the National Museum of Scotland's collection. The National Library of Scotland holds the main body of his original manuscripts (some 13 bound volumes) on deposit from the National Trust for Scotland.

Birth in 1802

Hugh Miller was born on 10 October 1802, the son of Hugh Millar, shipmaster, and Harriot Wright. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Cromarty gives the surname as Millar and the baptism date as 22 October.

Baptism entry for Hugh Miller

Baptism entry for Hugh Miller in the OPR for Cromarty (17 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 61/10, page 105

Marriage in 1837

Hugh Miller, mason, accountant in the Commercial Bank married Lydia Fraser, teacher, on 7 January 1837. The entry in the OPR for Cromarty shows they were both from the parish.

Marriage entry for Hugh Miller

Marriage entry for Hugh Miller in the OPR for Cromarty (22 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 61/2, page 11

1841 and 1851 censuses

In 1841 Hugh Miller's occupation is given as 'editor of newspaper' and his age as 35 (ages were rounded down to the nearest five in 1841). He was living at 5 Sylvan Place in the parish of St Cuthbert’s with his wife, daughter and two servants. Another member of the household, presumably a visitor or lodger, is described as a student of divinity. (National Records of Scotland, 1841/685-2/197 page 11)

In 1851 Hugh Miller's occupation is 'editor, author, geology' and his age is 48. He was living at 2 Stuart Street in the parish of Leith South with his wife, children and three servants.

1851 census entry for Hugh Miller

Household of Hugh Miller in the 1851 census of Leith South (38 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1851/692-2/62, page 3

Death in 1856

Hugh Miller died on 24 December 1856 at Shrub-Mount in Portobello. His profession is editor of 'The Witness' and author of ‘The old red sandstone’. He was 54. The cause of death is given as a bullet shot from a pistol through his chest by himself while in a fit of temporary insanity. The entry in the statutory register of deaths for the district of Portobello shows that he was buried in Grange Cemetery. The death was registered by his half-brother A Williamson.

Death entry for Hugh Miller

Death entry for Hugh Miller in the statutory register for Edinburgh (23 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1856/684-1/81

Testament of Hugh Miller

(National Records of Scotland, SC70/1/93 pp 907-912)

Although Hugh Miller died intestate there is an inventory of his estate in the records of Edinburgh Sheriff Court. It covers the valuation of the contents of his house (totalling 289 pounds 1 shilling), the copyright value of some of his publications and the contents of his 'geological museum'.

View transcript (78 KB PDF)

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