National Records of Scotland

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Peter Williamson (1730-1799)

Peter Williamson (1730-1799)

Publisher and adventurer

Peter Williamson was born near Aboyne. He was kidnapped as a child from Aberdeen harbour, transported to America and sold to a Perthshire pioneer. Having served his indenture, he escaped capture by Indians, was taken prisoner by the French and returned to Plymouth. His memoir of these momentous years, published in 1758, was successful but led the Aberdeen merchants named as being involved in his kidnapping to sue for libel. In return he brought legal actions in 1762 and 1765 which resulted in the Court of Session awarding him damages. He settled in Edinburgh where he opened 'Indian Peter's Coffee-room', introduced the city's first penny postal service (later taken on by the government), ran his own printing-press, wrote accounts of his time in America and other works, and produced the first street directory of Edinburgh. Williamson's Edinburgh directory from June 1790 to June 1792 is available on the National Library of Scotland's website. The title page shows that it was printed for P Williamson and sold from his General Penny Office, Luckenbooths.

Marriage in 1771

Peter Williamson, vintner in New North Kirk parish, married Jean Wilson on Sabbath 10 November 1771. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Edinburgh gives her father's details as John Wilson, book seller in New Kirk parish.

Marriage entry for Peter Williamson

Marriage entry for Peter Williamson (43 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 685-1/49, page 535

Divorce in 1789

Process of Divorce: Peter Williamson v Jean Wilson, 6 and 25 March 1789, Commissary Court of Edinburgh (National Records of Scotland, CC8/6/820). The National Records of Scotland online public catalogue gives this description: Peter Williamson, printer in Edinburgh, against Jean Wilson, his spouse, daughter of John Wilson, bookseller in Edinburgh, married November 1770.

Death in 1799

Peter Williamson, first establisher of the Penny Post and publisher of the Directory, 'died of a decline' and was buried on 22 January 1799. The entry in the Old Parish Register for Edinburgh gives the place of burial as John Scott's Ground and his age at death as 74 years.

Burial entry for Peter Williamson

Burial entry for Peter Williamson (32 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 692-2/31