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

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  • William Chiesley of Cockburn, WS (1634 - 1704)
    WILLIAM CHIESLEY OF COCKBURN WS Writer to the Signet: Formerly Writer in Edinburgh William Chiesley is the son of John Chiesley, Minister of the Gospel at Quothquan. He died 13 February 1704 aged 7...
  • James Hamilton, WS (b. - 1698)
    JAMES HAMILTON WS James Hamilton, Writer to the Signet, is the son of Sir James Hamilton of Orbiestoun and his wife Jean Houston. Memoirs of the House of Hamilton He was alive on 10 August 1698, when...
  • James Linning Woodman, WS (1811 - 1856)
    JAMES LINNING WOODMAN WS Writer to the Signet, Sometime Secretary to the Royal Association of Contributors to the National Monument of Scotland, Member of the Royal Company of Archers (The Sovereign'...
  • Walter Scott, WS (1729 - 1799)
    WALTER SCOTT, WS Walter, M. Born in 1729. Admitted a writer to the signet (lawyer) in 1755. Father of Sir Walter Scott. " no means a man of shining abilities. He was, however, a steady, expert...
  • Alexander George Monilaws, WS (1828 - 1858)
    The Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet ; 1890; page 148

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.