John Hanna (1752-1832) – Pioneer and Patriot

John Hanna

Pioneer and Patriot

1752 to 1832


John Hanna was born in Derry County, Ireland in 1752 A.D. He was the son of Thomas Hanna born in 1720 in Lesararh Loch Ulster, Ireland.  John Hanna came to Boston in 1776 with two indentured servants when he was 18 years old.  His background was military, He had been a soldier in North Ireland fighting the English, and so he joined the militia with Captain John Hinkson’s Company and ended up in Northern Pennsylvania.  John was described as a man about 5 feet 8 inches in height, neatly compact with small feet, black hair, fair skin and blue eyes.

There was a fateful meeting between Henry Trout and John Hanna.  Henry was a French Huguenot with a wife and children.  He happened to meet John Hanna arriving at the foot of Chestnut Ridge on the northwest side of Jacobs Creek.  Henry came upon a small company of men, singled out a man by the name of John Hanna as one he could trust.  Trout told John the story of his predicament.   “I am a stranger in this land with one shilling in my pocket.”  Hanna’s reply was prompt, “I’d advise you to invest that shilling in whiskey and treat those men.”   The advice was carried out at once.  John Hanna said that he should meet the company at the next day in the morning, “You will learn something of my sympathy for you.”

The next morning, the company of men built a small cabin for Henry Trout and his wife and family.  Henry and John became fast friends and John married a Trout daughter, Elizabeth Miller, in 1789 at West Newton, Pennsylvania.  Hanna bought a 400 acre farm with Henry trout and had a very long-life and many children.  He sold horses to the continental Army, navigated a flat boat full of corn to New Orleans and made numerous trips across the trackless mountains for supplies.

John Hanna carried with him over the mountains a lot of Continental money found in an old trunk a century later.  The money included much of his earnings during the Revolutionary War. Some documents found in the trunk showed evidence that he had furnished supplies to the Revolutionary army.  These being withdraw drafts in his possession signed by the quarter master.  The Continental paper was the size of a business card.  The engraving was poorly executed, the denominations printed in the corner and the conditions of redemption in the middle.

John Hanna lived to be 80 years old.  One son, Robert Hanna was his seventh child, born in 1806.  He married Priscilla Hamilton who was a direct descendant of John Alden and Alexander Hamilton.  The Hannas were well thought of in the community and one of the important families in Pennsylvania.

Patrick Hanna, MP, Australian Engineer & Politician, 1819 – 1890

 Patrick Hanna Esq., MP

Patrick Hanna Esq., MP

Patrick Hanna was born on the 24th June 1819 in Kilmegan townland, near Castlewellan, County Down, in the north of Ireland, the fifth son of Patrick Hanna, a well-to-do farmer.  A devout Roman Catholic, but staunch British Empire Loyalist, his relatives include several bishops and an Archbishop, Edward Hanna of California. He was educated at local schools before being apprenticed at age 16 with the famous railway engineer, George Stephenson, in Newcastle on Tyne from 1835 – 1838 and then as a shipbuilder (from 1838) with various firms building steamships in England and Scotland. A Street is named after him in modern day south Melbourne.

Patrick evidently developed into a very competent engineer, choosing on a chance decision to follow an opportunity in the far flung colony of the State of Victoria, Australia, on the ship Abdallah from Glasgow on the 4th April 1853 with his nephew, John Hanna. His total cost of passage was 75 pounds and his wife, Sarah Hamilton, waited a year later to join him in Australia. When she arrived in Australia on the Cairngorm in 1854 she was aged 23. In 1886 Patrick described his wife as the only surviving daughter of John Hamilton, merchant, Liverpool.  On her death certificate her birth place is given as Liverpool and her father’s occupation as ‘Sea Captain’.  Her mother was Sarah Donnelly. She and Patrick married in Glasgow in January 1848.  Their only son was named Patrick Hamilton Hanna, who predeceased him, and six daughters. She died in 1902 aged 73.

George Stephenson’s Rocket Steam Engine

He put his knowledge of steam powered ships to good use by immediately establishing the first steam-powered City ferry across the Yarra River in Melbourne and he held the ferry licence until 1884. He also built a bridge at Seymour over the river in 1862. An enterprising and opportunistic Victorian business man, who seemed symbolic of the optimism evident in post-gold rush Melbourne, he became a landowner in various districts of the emerging city, being one of the earliest residents of Emerald Hill. His land there and the lease of the toll gates he subsequently obtained on the Sandridge, and later, Sydney roads (1859-60) laid the foundation for his later wealth.  This, and a multitude of other mercantile investments, enabled Patrick Hanna to purchase LaTrobe House in William Street in 1863, and also to meet the property qualification to stand for the Legislative Council where he worked for various electorates from the local to state legislature from 1864 – 1888.

In 1864 he entered Victorian Parliamentary life (1) when he stood for the Eastern province but was defeated by one vote. However, in 1866 he was eventually elected to the Assembly for the Murray Boroughs and held the seat until 1877 when there was a boundary change. He stood and lost another seat before re-entering parliament under a new constitution in 1882 which he held until ill-health before his death. In 1880 he was the MP who supervised the Melbourne International Exhibition. He died on 12th September 1890 (2) at his house on 277 William Street, West Melbourne, a year after the death of his only son, and is buried in Melbourne Cemetery Roman Catholic section E.


The Most Reverend Thomas Hannay (1887-1970)

Thomas Hannay was the head of the Episcopal church of Scotland from 1952 to 1962.

Born in Liverpool in 1887, he was educated at the University of Liverpool and Queens’ College, Cambridge. While at Cambridge, he developed a strong interest in missionary work in Africa.  After ordination in 1910, he spent time as a curate in Yorkshire before joining the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa, where he worked in Nyasaland and Kenya.  He returned to the United Kingdom in 1926. He chose to become a monk, and from 1927 to 1942,  he was associated with the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield and was the Principal of its Theological College from 1933-40.  In 1942, he became Bishop of Argyll and The Isles, and in 1952, he was elected Primus (Primate) of the Scottish Episcopal Church. This made him the first member of a religious order to become a bishop in Scotland since the time of the Reformation.

Bishop Hannay retired in 1962 and died in 1970.


Lambeth Palace Library

The Living Church, March, 1952

Scottish Episcopal Church History

Marcus Alonzo (Mark) Hanna

Marcus Alonzo Hanna was an American capitalist and politician, b. New Lisbon (now Lisbon), Ohio. He attended Western Reserve College for a short time, then entered his father’s wholesale grocery and commission business at Cleveland in 1858. He became a partner in 1862 and rapidly developed as a characteristic American capitalist of the Gilded Age.

Marcus Alonzo Hanna

Hanna became a dealer in coal and iron mines, furnaces, lake shipping and shipbuilding; his financial enterprises included ownership of a bank, a newspaper, an opera house, and a street-railway system. He was active in politics and by 1890 was the ruling power in the Ohio Republican party. He was instrumental in having William McKinley elected governor of Ohio in 1891 and again in 1893. Hanna saved McKinley’s reputation when financial ruin threatened, groomed him for the presidency in 1895, and was responsible for his nomination by the Republicans in 1896. As chairman of the Republican National Committee, Hanna boldly made that campaign a defence of business and property against the doctrines of the Democrats enunciated by William Jennings Bryan; on that basis he received heavy financial contributions from big business. He was appointed Senator from Ohio in 1897 after John Sherman resigned and was subsequently elected to the seat. Hanna continued to dominate Republican party councils until he died. He supported ship subsidies and advocated construction of the Panama Canal, opposing the Nicaraguan route. At the time of his death Hanna was being considered as a possible presidential candidate by old guard Republicans disenchanted with Theodore Roosevelt’s progressive policies. Although sympathetic at times to organized labor, Hanna looked upon the great industrialists as the natural leaders of the country. His leadership of the party exemplified the union between business and politics for the purposes of economic policy rather than for personal graft.


Clan Hannay Society 2005 Newsletter

Robert Hannay, 1st Baronet of Mochrum

Sir Robert Hannay, 1st Baronet of Mochrum, was the son of Alexander Hannay of Sorbie. He served in Ireland receiving a land grand on the Longford Plantation, and acting as Quartermaster-General to Sir Charles Coote.   James VI/I created him 1st Baronet Hannay, of Mochrum, co. Kirkcudbright, in 1629. His wife Jane Stewart died in 1662.  Hannay himself died on January 8 1657/58, and was buried in Dublin on January 25th.


Stewart Francis, The Hannays of Sorbie

Richard Hannay, KCB, OBE, DSO, Legion of Honour

Richard Hannay, although a fictitious character, may be the most famous person to hold the family surname. Scottish novelist John Buchan wrote a series of novels featuring this dashing protagonist, starting with The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915).

Hannay may have been modeled on Edmund Ironside, who was a spy in the Second Boer War.  Both Scots, Ironside was born in 1880, Hannay in 1877.  Both served in the Boer War before returning to the United Kingdom.

It is here that the lives of the model and the character divide.  Ironside went on to fight in uniform in World War I, and then rose through the ranks to become Chief of the Imperial General Staff during World War II, while Hannay became an intrepid adventurer who occasionally took on military espionage assignments.

Hannay’s Biography as per Buchan’s books

Hannay’s father took six-year-old Richard to Bulwayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in about 1883. Although it is not explicitly stated where Hannay was born, when he returns to Scotland for the first time in some 30+ years, he makes a beeline for Galloway.  The text of The Thirty-Nine Steps states that he chose the region because “It was the nearest wild part of Scotland” when he was attempting to escape nefarious forces in London.  It is reasonable to infer that since he wished to blend in as “an ordinary Scotsman”, he could do worse than head to Galloway, land of Sorbie Tower and a crowd of Hannays into which he could easily blend.  And so, our hero gets a train ticket from London to Newton Stewart and off he goes on his adventure.

After completion of his Scottish adventure as chronicled in The Thirty Nine Steps, he signs up with the Army just in time for the First World War. After being injured in Belgium, he is invalided back to the UK and soon finds himself working as a spy for the Allies in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) in Buchan’s next novel, Greenmantle.

Hannay continues his adventures in and out of uniform in the First World War with Mr. Standfast, attempt to retire to a family life of being a gentleman farmer in Oxfordshire, but finds his idyllic life interrupted by intrigue in The Three Hostages and The Island of Sheep.

Hannay on Film and Television

The most well-known representation of Hannay is probably Robert Donat‘s portrayal of the dashing hero in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 adaptation of The Thirty Nine Steps. Richard Hannay, in this version, grew up in Canada rather than Rhodesia. A remake in 1959 starred Kenneth More. Robert Powell played Hannay in a second remake of The Thirty-Nine Steps in 1978, then went on to play him in a television series based on Buchan’s works in the 1980s.  The most recent version was a third remake in 2008.  It starred Rupert Penry-Jones.

Real Family Connections

As noted above, Galloway, from which all Hannays ultimately originate, features prominently in Buchan’s first book. Also, our own chief’s great uncle Ramsay Hannay (not to be confused with Ramsay William Hannay, the current chief’s late father) fought with the 45th Sikhs in Mesopotamia, where he was killed in 1917.

There has been speculation over the years as to what — if any — family connection there was between John Buchan and the Hannay family, but it seems unlikely the choice of the name would have been purely coincidental.  It is likely that Buchan had a friend of that surname or had spent time in Galloway and remembered the Hannay name. This theory is discussed in greater detail in another article.


James Hannay, Dean of St. Giles

A person’s life consists of many moments. It is not uncommon that but one moment lives on after them, if even one. In the case of Dean Hannay, what has lived on for many is an act now reviled in Scottish lore, and the reaction to that act. In this article, we will explore a bit more about Dean Hannay, and set his most famous moment in context.

When I entered St. Giles Church in Edinburgh for the first time, I had heard of Dean Hannay, and thought perhaps there might be some mention of him in the pamphlets or guidebooks. When I walked it, prominently displayed in the center of the church, was a bright, brass plaque which reads:

To James Hannay DD
Dean of this Cathedral
He was the first and the last who read the service book in this church.
This memorial is erected in happier times by his descendant.

His presence at a pivotal event in Scottish history is both interesting and tragic.

Early Life

James Hannay was born before 1600, though the exact date of his birth is not known. John Hannay, his father was a second son of Patrick Hannay, who held the Sorbie estate from 1543 to 1560. John’s brother, Alexander, succeeded to title to Sorbie. In 16th century Scotland, the rule of primogeniture applied, meaning that only the first born succeeded to a father’s lands. It appears that for this reason, John began to seek his life in Edinburgh.

John married Margaret Johnson in the Canongate in 1567. The Canongate is today the lower half of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, but was a separate burgh at the time. He built up a significant estate in Edinburgh. After the death of his first wife, he married Maus Smyth, the daughter of a merchant burgess in the Canongate. John himself became a burgess, and eventually the bailie burgess of the Canongate. A burgess is equivalent to the modern day city council, and the bailie was the head of the council, somewhat like a mayor. John also maintained connections with Galloway. He represented Wigtown in the Scottish Parliament in 1589, and represented the Wigtown Presbytery in the General Assembly in 1590. John died in 1604, leaving 4 legitimate sons, including James, and one natural son.

With this pedigree of both civic and religious activity, James Hannay pursued his education at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with an M.A. degree in 1615. His plaque at St. Giles indicates he had a D.D. (Doctorate of Divinity), so he may have pursued further education. He became a minister, first serving the church in Kilmaurs, a village in East Ayrshire, in 1620.

The King’s Minister

Stewart Frances speculates that the connection of James Hannay’s cousins, Baronet Robert Hannay of Mochrum and the poet Patrick Hannay, to King James may have helped him advance to his next position. James Hannay was appointed by King James I of England and VI of Scotland, head of the Scottish and English national churches, to serve the church in Canongate on December 5, 1623. This church served the royal family and court at Holyrood Palace, as well as being a parish church for Canongate. The church today is known as Holyrood Abbey, the ruin on the grounds of the Palace of Holyrood House.

A number of years later, the Holyrood church was remodeled for a special event, the Coronation of Charles I in 1633. “Mr. James Hannay of ye said churche (Holyrudhouse) had a shorte speache to his Majesty.“  This Scottish coronation occurred quite some time after Charles’s ascension to the throne of both England and Scotland in 1625. The position of the royal family in Scotland was difficult, which accounts for the delay in the Scottish coronation. Symbolic of this troubled relationship was that the Scottish Parliament had told Charles he could not wear the crown of Scotland unless he was crowned in Scotland. The roots of this difficulty lay in religion.

The Position of the Scottish King

The Reformation had swept across both England and Scotland, then separate kingdoms, in the 16th century. The English Reformation began in England with the active support and encouragement of King Henry VIII in 1531 when the Pope failed to grant him a divorce. After the Reformation, Anglican ritual and doctrine still maintained heavy influences from its Roman Catholic roots. Governance of the church was ultimately up to the sovereign, who appointed bishops to preside over church matters.

The Scottish reformation, by contrast, was strongly influenced by John Knox, a protege of John Calvin, and was supported and encouraged by Scottish nobles in the face of a weakened royalty. The Reformation in Scotland began while Queen Mary was under the regency of her mother, Mary Guise, and the young queen was growing up in France. Calvin strongly believed that church governance should be through a General Assembly, whose delegates were made up of members of local churches. Government was to have no role in church governance. Among the doctrinal points that differentiated Presbyterians were that salvation was only by grace, not by works; that the mass was not an actual sacrifice; that only an elect chose by God would be saved; and a belief that salvation could not be lost. Presbyterian ritual was austere in comparison to Anglican practice: there was no mass, and no pageantry.

Mary, Queen of Scots, had resisted the Scottish reformation but ultimately had no choice but to consent as a condition of her return as sovereign from France in 1560. She was permitted to be the only Catholic in Scotland, and in fact most Scots remained Catholic for quite some time. Mary was not to be Queen much longer-a tale too long to relate here. What is more important to understand is that Protestant forces, led by her brother, the Earl of Moray, held true power and obtained regency over her son James VI after her abdication and eventual execution in England by Elizabeth I. James VI was anointed king of Scotland in 1567 at the age of thirteen months.

James, while subject to regency, retained power against efforts by his mother’s supporters to regain the throne on her behalf. The Marian civil war was decided in favor of James’ supporters in 1573 with English intervention. James had been raised by protestant regents, and owed his throne as well to English, Anglican, help.

King James VI of Scotland was ultimately designated heir to the English throne by Elizabeth I, and became King of the separate kingdoms of Scotland  (James VI) and England (James I)  in 1603 on her death. Once becoming King of England, James was sympathetic to Anglican governance of the Scottish church. His quest for episcopacy, the governance of the church by bishops, fit well with his philosophy that kings should rule, and not defer to parliaments or popular will.  

By the end of the reign of King James, the English system of bishops had been transposed to Scotland, and General Assemblies met only with the approval of the king. In essence, church governance had assumed an Anglican cast in Scotland, but ritual and doctrine were still Calvinist in some respects. Calvinism had a long period to take root in Scotland, and by the time of the death of King James had done so in most areas other than the Highlands.

Charles I inherited his father’s project of increasing the power of the king and unifying church practice in Scotland. His political astuteness, however, did not match his father’s. Never having lived in Scotland, nor even having visited, he held a low opinion of the kingdom, and seemed to do everything he could to alienate it. He married the Catholic Henrietta Maria of France, sparking concern among the Calvinists that he wished to bring back the authority of the Pope. Charles revoked all gifts and privileges in Scotland. He hoped to then be paid for these lands and privileges. This policy effectively took back lands distributed upon the destruction of the Catholic church, about 1/3rd of Scotland, and uphended the livelihood of much of the laity and clergy. Resistance was strong, and Charles had to settle for much less than he wanted from the Scots.

Unifying Church and State: The Book of Common Prayer

Charles I wanted to make church practice uniform throughout his two kingdoms, and in 1633 he appointed the like-minded William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest authority in the English church after the king. To the dismay of many of the Scots who attended the coronation at St. Giles, Anglican rites were used in the ceremony.

Charles I and Archbishop Laud were determined to have Scottish churches begin using the Common Book of Prayer. The Bishop William of Edinburgh was won over to Laud’s project, and a letter from March 5, 1634, indicates that James Hannay agreed with that direction. James Hannay was subsequently appointed Dean of St. Giles Church in Edinburgh in 1635. He traveled to London along with other Scottish clerics that year to participate in the drafting of the Scottish Book of Common Prayer. The new book to be used in Scottish church services would be similar to that being used by the Church of England, with some changes giving it a little Scottish flavor. Ministers and priests would be called Presbyters, and the Apocrypha would not be used for scripture readings, for example. It appears that King Charles I rewarded Dean Hannay well for his work, granting him land in Kelso, now in the Scottish Borders, in May of 1637.

Our Hannay relative appeared to be doing very well. Appearances can be deceiving.

The Fateful Reading

This version of events that follows is based on James King Hewiston’s The Convenanters. I have used that source as it notes contemporary or nearly contemporary documents to support its version of events.

In December 1637, an order was issued which required all churches to purchase 2 copies of the new prayer books by Easter of 1638, which fell on April 12. While most churches followed the requirement, many did not, and resistance to the new book was growing. Some claimed that Archbishop Laud had it approved by the Pope. An order was issued by Scottish bishops on the following Monday requiring purchase within 15 days. Still, by the end of summer, the new prayer book was not being used. To jumpstart use of the liturgy, Dr. David Lindsay, the Bishop of Edinburgh, printed advertisements that ministers would read the new prayer book to their congregations on July 23, and that ministers must read the advertisement to their congregations on July 16. This would give resisters time to respond.

Bishop Lindsay then planned an elaborate ceremony at St. Giles on July 23, 1637. The day of the introduction of the prayer book was a high occasion. The Archbishop of St. Andrews, John Spottiswoode was in the royal loft of the church. The Bishop of Dunblane also attended. Nobles, judges, and city officials were decked out in their formal gowns. The church was crowded. In those days, there were no seats in the church, and serving maids were sent with three legged stools to secure a place for their mistresses. The service started with prayers from the soon to be displaced Book of Common Order, psalms and prayers by Patrick Henderson. Mr. Henderson ended his part of the service saying, “Adieu, good people, for I think this is the last time I shall be reading my prayers in this place.”

At about 10 am, Dean Hannay came to the reader’s desk, with the new prayer book in hand. A murmur began before he could begin to read, and it soon turned into a roar which kept him from reading. As the rotund Bishop Lindsay began to approach the pulpit in an attempt to quiet the crowd, and the roar increased. Among the shouts from the crowd were “traitors,” “bellygods,” “deceivers” and “Pope.” A volley of Bibles and stools soon followed. A woman, identified variously as Mrs. Main or Jenny Geddes, pulled Bishop Lindsay from the pulpit. The protesters were then forces out of the church by magistrates. They continued their protests outside, throwing stones at the church windows and doors.

One woman in the church decided to go to a corner of the church and read her Bible rather than pay attention to the service. When a man next to her shouted “Amen” repeatedly during the service, she yelled at him, “Is there no other part of the Kirk to say mass in but thou must sayest it in my lugge (ear)?”

The story one hears of frequently in Scottish retellings, and that is commemorated in St. Giles, is that the first stool was thrown by Jenny Geddes. Other accounts have her making the comment about having someone say mass in her ear. To this day, there is significant controversy as to whether Jenny existed or not. The words of the woman Hewiston describes in the corner have been attributed to Jenny in some accounts. In some accounts, the stool was thrown at Dean Hannay, and he was driven from the church. Perhaps the exact details will never be known with certainty, but there is no doubt of a protest on that Sunday. The depth of the Scottish attachment to the tale of Jenny Geddes is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that Robert Burns named a loyal horse that once threw him Jenny Geddes, and Walter Scott details the incident in Tales of My Grandfather.  

According to Hewiston, Dean Hannay and Bishop Lindsay subsequently carried out the full service. As Bishop Lindsay left, he was attacked with stones as he walked away from the church, but made his way to safety. The afternoon service went better, with guards and a congenial audience present. Still, Lindsay’s coach was attacked with stones as he left. In many other churches where the new prayer book was read, there were angry protests. Some understandably chose to defer the reading.

Royalists would claim that the disruption and St. Giles was planned, with some versions claiming the outraged women were actually men dressed in women’s clothes. Archbishop Laud later criticized Bishop Lindsay’s roll out of the new prayer book as providing the opportunity to protest. Those aligned with the protesters claims the outburst was spontaneous and the result of righteous indignation. What is indisputable is that the tale of Jenny Geddes and the stool has inspired Scottish nationalists over the years, reflecting the troubled history of relations between England and Scotland.


Many accounts of the events at St. Giles mark it as the start of the Covenanter movement, though certainly it had deeper roots. Discontent with the move toward a greater episcopacy grew quickly. A National Covenant for Scotland was first signed on February 28, 1638 at Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, swearing to defend true worship of God in a Presbyterian manner and claiming loyalty to the king. We shall not seek to recount the entire rest of the  story here, except to note that after almost 50 years of war and internal strife the Church of Scotland did indeed become Presbyterian and Calvinist without bishops, distinct from England while together in the United Kingdom.

What of Dean Hannay? It appears that life soon became quite difficult. As the Convenanters drew up their articles of demands upon king Charles in April of 1638, the Bishops of Edinburgh, Dunblane and Argyll met with only three ministers, one of whom was James Hannay. Most of the remaining loyal clergy had escaped to England. The report of the conclave indicated that many loyal ministers had been abused, deposed, and were broke. Those in attendance indicated they also would soon be in debtor’s prison. Dean Hannay expelled from his clerical positions in 1639. We do not know specifically what happened to Dean Hannay after this point. However, two things point to his continued resistance to the Covenanter cause. His son was a noted royalist in later actions. After the restoration of Charles II in 1660, Dean Hannay’s children were provided with a pension of by the parliament. The awarding of a pension to his children was for the hardships he suffered in the royalist cause.

Other Hannays would figure prominently in the Convenanter movement opposed to Dean Hannay. Presbyterianism had a strong based in southwest Scotland where the Hannays originated, as a number of local nobles were attracted by both the religion and the practical aspects of control over their lands. A Patrick Hannay represented Wigtown in both the Scottish Parliament and in the General Assembly of the church in Glasgow in 1640. Many Hannays and related Hannas became strong Presbyterians, both in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Dean Hannay is in many ways a sympathetic figure. Coming of age as a minister as the Scottish Church was being moved toward episcopacy, it is not hard to understand that he was loyal to both the king and his superiors in the church. From a historical standpoint, he is to many a symbol of English attempts at domination of Scotland. He may simply have been a good minister caught on the wrong side of history.


Andrew McCullough, Galloway, A Land Apart (2000).

Stewart Frances, Hannays of Sorbie.

James King Hewiston, The Convenanters: A History of the Church of Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution (1915).

Sean Palmer, Lo and Behold! (2007), last accessed June 19, 2017.

Christopher Wordsworth, Ed., The Manner of the Coronation of King Charles The First of England, Appendix V: The Coronation of King Charles I. in Scotland (London, 1892), p. 97. This description of the coronation is taken from contemporary notes, and is the source of the quotation regarding James Hannay’s participation.

Scottish Book of Common Prayer (1637).

The Scottish National Covenant (1638).

James Ballantyne Hannay

The Story of
James Ballantyne Hannay
(1855 – 1931) — Chemist & Scientist

by Mrs. Playfair-Hannay of Kingsmuir

A chance reading of the Glasgow Herald, a paper seldom seen, contained a paragraph about man-made diamonds produced by an eccentric Glasgow chemist named James Hannay in 1880. An investigation (one of many over the years) was being undertaken by a lecturer in physics at Plymouth Technical College at the request of the son of a life-long friend of Hannay. I wrote to the lecturer, Dr Angel, who referred me to Mr. Robert Robertson, a Consultant Mineralogist and the son of Hannay’s friend. He turned out to be a cousin of Robertsons I knew in Cupar, his father was born there in 1869 so he was interested and most helpful. He put me on to a most learned and technical paper by a Professor Travers concerning Hannay’s work, which an American, Dr Ftint, was discussing and who is now engaged on a biography of James Hannay. I then got in touch, through the SWRI with a lady who lived at Cove near Helensburgh who remembered the Hannays so I visited her and the Hannay graves, and found the following details:

On January lst 1855 James Ballantyne Hannay was born in Glasgow, his father was Alexander Hannay who owned the Grand Theatre in the Cowcaddens, Glasgow. He had a sister Margaret who married Dugald Clerk, the inventor of the Clerk Clyde Gas Engine in 1883. Margaret died in 1930 and so far I have found no trace of their four daughters. There was also a brother, William, and another sister. James was apparently a brilliant chemist and scientist and from 1879 onwards produced papers, which were read to the Royal Society on many scientific matters, and he also patented many inventions connected with industry. He had a dye works in Hamburg, which specialised in aniline dyes and a private laboratory in Sword Street, Glasgow. The Hamburg business is thought to have provided Hannay with a considerable fortune, which presumably enabled him to buy Cove Castle on the Clyde when he was 28 years old. He married Caroline Johnston and there were three daughters of the marriage; Edith, Ethel and Eva.

Mrs. Hannay and the girls, who were said to be very good-looking, lived at Cove, but James apparently spent most of his time in London. Edith married a Colonel in the Indian Army and had no children. Ethel died unmarried at the age of 35. Eva lived on certainly into the late 1930s. She inherited Cove Castle which she either gave or sold to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association and ended her days in a flat in Glasgow. Cove Castle did not prove suitable as a Youth Hostel and now belongs, I think to a Professor who has modernised and renovated it. It stands in a lonely situation above Cove village. Mrs Hannay is described as a charming, kindly person who walked about the castle grounds with a parrot perched on her shoulder! She died in 1941 and left the parrot to a local doctor and it only died a few years ago!

James Hannay had apparently many excellent and useful inventions and papers to his credit but it is the making of diamonds, which caused a considerable “stushie” which continues to this day.

In 1880 as a sort of sideline the Royal Society published Hannay’s paper on the synthesis of diamond. The minute particles he claimed to have produced were handed over to the Mineral Department of the British Museum where they still remain. At the time of his discovery it is said that Hannay was offered a very large sum if he would drop the whole thing and it is also said that the Stock Exchange and the Amsterdam Diamond Bourse were distinctly “het-up” by the report.

The local reputation Hannay has left behind him is of a well-educated, well-connected man who squandered most of his money. A brilliant man in many ways, a dogmatic atheist and somewhat difficult to get on with. He eventually came back to Cove mentally it[ and finally died in a mental hospital in Glasgow.

The Hannays are alt buried in the Barbour Cemetery at Cove. James died March 1931.

As well as all his scientific work he wrote the following books: Bible Folklore; Sex Symbolism in Religion; The Rise, Decline, and Fall of the Roman Religion; Kosmos, Eternal Universe Which was privately printed for the Religious Evolution Research Society in 1927 and has, I believe, been reprinted as a paper back.

In 1878 German scientists Ulrich and Von Rath named a mineral Hannaysite. James can then have been only 23 so it is interesting to note that he was already known; at this time he was working as a chemist at Manchester University. It will be interesting if some tie-up can be found with Sir Samuel Hannay of Mochrum, a known scientist and manufacturer of chemicals and drugs in London about the end of the 18th century. There was also Erskine Hannay who was interested in science who died in 1956.

The last coincidence, luck or what have you, occurred a short time ago when a telephone call came from Mr. Robertson. I had written to the Hannay family lawyer and got no reply. Dr Flint had written twice with the same result so appealed to Mr. Robertson. He went to see the lawyer who said as there seemed no further need to keep the papers as the family were all dead he was going to destroy them. Mr. Robertson has rescued them and when Dr Flint has written his biography they will be handed over to the Clan Hannay Society.

So ends Part I of the story of James of the Diamonds. There are many gaps, but I hope someday Part II may clear up many points.


[Note – This is the third Historical Paper I have been able to find and reproduce for Clan Hannay. If you have any others I would be grateful for the opportunity of republishing them for new Clan Members.

David Hannah – Constable of Sorbie Tower – January 2001]