Record

CodeNA6961
Dates1811-1863
Person NameTurnbull; William Barclay David Donald (1811-1863)
SurnameTurnbull
ForenamesWilliam Barclay David Donald
ActivityWilliam Barclay David Donald Turnbull 1811-1863, archivist and antiquary, born in St. James's Square, Edinburgh, on 6 Feb. 1811, was the only child of Walter Turnbull, sometime of the West Indies, afterwards of Leven Lodge near Edinburgh, and Torry-burn, Fifeshire. His mother was Robina, daughter of William Barclay, merchant, of Edinburgh. He first studied the law as apprentice to a writer to the signet, and shortly after attaining his majority he was admitted an advocate in 1832. In 1834 he founded a book-printing society which was named the Abbotsford Club in honour of the residence of Sir Walter Scott, and Turnbull continued to act as its secretary until his removal from Edinburgh. His parents were members of the established church of Scotland, but he became an episcopalian, being a very liberal contributor to the erection of the Dean Chapel; and afterwards in 1843 he was received into the Roman Catholic Church
In 1852 he moved to London to study for the English bar, to which he was called, as a member of Lincoln's Inn, on 26 Jan. 1856. In 1858 he edited for the Rolls Series 'The Buik of the Cronicles of Scotland; or a metrical version of the History of Hector Boece; by William Stewart' (3 vols.). In August 1859 Turnbull was engaged as an assistant under the record commission, undertaking the examination of a portion of the foreign series of state papers. He completed two valuable volumes of calendars, which describe the foreign series of state papers for the reign of Edward VI (1860, 8vo) and for that of Mary (1861, 8vo). His Roman Catholicism, however, aroused the antagonism of the more extreme protestants, and a serious agitation arose against his employment. He was warmly supported by Lord Romilly, the master of the rolls, but, finding his position untenable in the face of constant suspicion and attack, he resigned on 28 Jan. 1861. He subsequently brought an unsuccessful action against the secretary of the Protestant Alliance for libel (July 1861). The Alliance continued its persecution, and its 'Monthly Letter,' dated 16 March 1863, contained a list of documents stated to be missing from the state papers, the insinuation being that they were purloined by Turnbull; but a letter from the master of the rolls to the home secretary, officially published, shows that there was absolutely no foundation for the charge. From the time of his resignation ill-health and anxiety broke him down and he died at Barnsbury on 22 April 1863, and was buried in the grounds of the episcopal church at the Dean Bridge, Edinburgh.
He married, 17 Dec. 1838, Grace, second daughter of James Dunsmure of Edinburgh, who survived him.
He formed a very extensive and valuable collection of books, which was dispersed by auction in a fourteen days' sale in November 1851.
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