George Neilson (1858-1923)

George NeilsonGeorge Neilson was elected a member of Society on 13 December 1895.

Extract from George Eyre-Todd's Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909
(For further information on this biographical dictionary of nearly five hundred Glasgow citizens click here.

A borderer by descent, only son of Captain Edward Neilson, who died in 1861, and his wife, Jannet Paterson, who died in 1903, Dr Neilson was born at Horseclose, Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, 7 December, 1858. He was sent first to Cummertrees Parish School, and thereafter to King William's College, Isle of Man. After an apprenticeship to law in Dumfries, from 1873 until 1879. he went to Glasgow and was in 1880 and 1881 a prizeman in Scots law and conveyancing at the University. Passing as law agent in the last-named year, he started business as a writer in 1884, and was in 1891 elected Procurator Fiscal of Glasgow. His chief functions are those of Public Prosecutor in the Police Courts and Dean of Guild Courts of the City, with miscellaneous legal and administrative tasks incident to office. He has been associated on the boards of management of Stirling's Library and the Baillie Library. His studies appear from his publications, such as Trial by Combat, Annals of the Solway, and Huchown of the Awle Ryale. The last of these, concerning the poetical career of Sir Hew of Eglintoun, he reckons his most important contribution to history, and when invited to deliver a course of Scottish historical lectures in Glasgow University in 1902, he made that subject his central theme. The University next year conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. He was also editor of the memorial volume of the George Buchanan Quatro-centenary published at Glasgow in 1907.

An antiquary and occasional collector of old manuscript, and specially a student of the Scottish Middle Ages, he has contributed to various periodicals, notably to Scots Lore in 1895 and to the Scottish Historical Review founded in 1903. He is President of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, and has been a Vice-President of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow. His wife is Jane Ann, second daughter of Mr. Thomas Richardson, Hexham.

According to The Consise Dictionary of National Biography (1992) he became a stipendary police magistrate of Glasgow in 1910 — and is there described as a 'charter scholar and expert palaeographer' and correspondent of F.W. Maitland (1850–1906) the Downing professor of the laws of England at Cambridge.

The George Neilson papers are part of the Special Collections of the University of Glasgow and consist of over three-hundred items comprising press cuttings, scrapbooks and letters mainly, relating to Neilson's academic work and discussing topics such as philology and early Scottish literature. Also included are a small number of historical documents from earlier centuries, such as documents rekating to Mary, Queen of Scots and Mary of Guise.

The collection includes an excellent photographic portrait.

Articles within the Society's Transacions

  • Old Annan, Series II, Vol.11, p152
  • The Battle of Dornock, Series II, Vol.1, p154
  • The Battle of Sark, Series II, Vol.13, p122
  • Dumfries: Its Burghal Origin, Series III, Vol.2, p157
  • Burghs of Annandale: Annan and Lochmaben — their Burghal Origins, Series III. Vol.3, p57
  • The Brus Inscription at Annan, Series III, Vol.4, p69
  • The Maid of Enterkin, Series III, Vol.11, p64

Co-author with Gordon Donaldson

  • Guisborough and the Annandale Churches, Series III, Vol.32, p142.

This latter article reproduces the substance of articles published by Dr Neilson in the Annandale Observer of June 19, July 3, 17 and
31, 1896. Neilson's commentary was at times revised, and the charters, which he translated in full, are given in summary form.

His works, other than those previously noted for the Transactions, included:

  • Trial by Combat (1890).
  • Peel, its Meaning and Derivation (1894)1
  • Per Lineam Valli
  • Repentance Tower and its Tradition (1895)2
  • Annals of the Solway (1899)3
  • John Barbour (1900).
  • Huchown of the Awle Ryale (1902).
  • Acta Dominorum Concilii, 1496–1501 (1918) — co-editor

1 Originally read at a meeting of the Glasgow Archaeological Society on 9 January 1891 Neilson produced two printed versions consisting of 55 and 120 (1894) copies.
2 Originally appearing in the Transactions the Glasgow Archaeological Society for 1895 Neilson reprinted 200 copies, of which 150 were made available for sale.
3 From the Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, New Series, Vol. III, pt. II, pp.245–308.

Created 22 April 2006 by J. Williams