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Members of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet

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  • James Heriot Balfour-Melville, WS (1845 - 1913)
    Biographical Summary Balfour, James Heriot — Apprentice to, and eldest son of, James Balfour, W.S. — Born 8th July 1845. Mar. 21st November 1878, Mary Louisa, elder daughter of Sir Davi...
  • James Balfour (1815 - 1898)
    Biographical Summary Balfour, James . — Apprentice to, and second son of, James Balfour of Pilrig, W.S. — Born 17th February 1815. Mar. 15th August 1844, Eliza Ogilvy, daughter of James...
  • John Mackintosh Balfour-Melville of Pilrig and Strathkinness, WS (1811 - 1893)
    Biographical Summary Balfour-Melville, John Mackintosh, of Pilrig and Strathkinness — Apprentice to, and eldest son of, James Balfour of Pilrig. — Born 23d September 1811. Mar. 21st Sep...
  • Alexander Young Pitcairn, WS (1837 - d.)
    Biographical Summary PITCAIRN, ALEXANDER YOUNG . 5th December 1861. Apprentice to Robert Haldane. — Only surviving son of the Rev. Thomas Pitcairn, Free Church Minister at Cockpen. Born 5th ...
  • Walter Ewing, WS (b. - 1674)
    Biographical Summary EWING, WALTER . 16th October 1658. Apprentice to John Semple. — Son of Ewing of Keppoch, Dumbartonshire. Bied before 1674. Mar. 1st December 1665, Mary, eldest daughter ...

The Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet is a private society of Scottish solicitors, dating back to 1594 and part of the College of Justice. Writers to the Signet originally had special privileges in relation to the drawing up of documents which required to be signeted, but these have since disappeared and the Society is now an independent, non-regulatory association of solicitors. The Society maintains the Signet Library, part of the Parliament House complex in Edinburgh, and members of the Society are entitled to the postnominal letters, WS.

Heredity in the Society

There is always a hereditary tendency in professional life, but it is somewhat remarkable to find heredity so strongly developed as it has been among the writers to the signet. The same surnames appear again and again upon the lists, and the connection of many families with the calling has been kept up through a long series of years. The continuance of a family for three generations in the society is so common as hardly to attract attention. It is more notable to find such a race as the Russells of Braidshaw and Roseburn, connected with the body from 1711 till 1887, during which time six members of the family, constituting five generations, were writers to the signet. There have likewise been six Ferriers, six Formans, and six Steuarts, all of the same families. The list contains also five Hamiltons of Presmennan, six Andersons of Inchyra, seven Balfours of Pilrig, seven Brodies of Lethen, five Tytlers of Woodhouselee, five Tods of Drygrange, seven Mackenzies of Portmore, five Dundases of Ochtertyre, and five Cuninghams of Newholm.