Duff, William

Biography: M.A., King's Coll., 1721. Regent, Marischal College, 1727. In 1734, he had a lawsuit with his colleague, Thomas Blackwell. He had "jostled and pressed violently on Mr Blackwell" during a service at the College Church. The following day, he sent a bajan (first year student) to Blackwell's class, "to desire him to come out and speak to a gentleman", and struck Blackwell on the head with a staff, "having come without his gown, which he had put off for that effect". After some delays, the matter was submitted to the Principal and the Sheriff Depute of Aberdeen, who settled the case by a Decreet-Arbitral. A minute of Faculty was prepared in draft, in which Duff was to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the College, ask pardon for attacking its privileges, and receive a rebuke from the Principal. Duff was at first satisfied with this, but then refused to submit and insisted on a Bill of Advocation. The outcome of the proceedings has not been traced. At a meeting of Faculty in February 1736, Duff is charged with neglect of duty and with "quarrelling upon slight and trivial occasions with one Master after the other, and raising litigious and expensive lawsuits, and instigating the students to illegal and hurtful proceedings and undutiful conduct to their masters". In the winter of 1736-7, he had to go to Edinburgh and returned 5 days late for the start of term in January, neglected his duty as Hebdomader, refused to preside at the public disputes, and in February returned to Edinburgh, appointing an assistant without asking leave from the College. Blackwell states that he had raised criminal actions against all of his colleagues, and calls him "that strange unhappy man". In March 1737, the Principal informed the Court that he had given Duff two admonitions for neglect of duty and other irregularities, and the Court authorised the third and final admonition. At subsequent meetings, evidence is given of Duff's non-attendance at College for two years. In January 1738, a sentence of expulsion is formally pronounced, Duff being "extruded forth and from the said University and Marischall College, and his said office and employment declared void and vacant". After his expulsion, Duff went to London, where he published The Case of William Duff, Professor of Philosophy in the Marischal University of Aberdeen: Showing the Barbarous Treatment of an Honest Family in 1739, and A History of Scotland, vol 1., in 1750. The university were rebuked by their Chancellor, Lord Ilay, for not sending a copy of the proceedings against Duff to the Government or informing them of the causes of deposition, but he added that "Duff has been a considerable time about town making a noise in all the offices and in every place where he could have access", and that "Duff's long stay in this London and the unaccountable turn of his temper made it highly probable that the Faculty had done nothing but justice". Duff's successor, Alexander Innes, sent the emoluments of his class to support Duff's "unhappy relinquished family".

Biography Date: fl. 1721-50

Biography References: LOC; CERL; Fasti 15, 42-3, 44;


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