The Pont family: a summary

The following outline of the known documentary evidence (1) relating to Timothy Pont and his immediate family has been prepared by Ian C. Cunningham. It summarises the content of a very detailed account of the Pont family prepared by Diane Baptie, and available in full elsewhere on this website as an Acrobat file.

Several persons called Pont or Kinpont are recorded as monks of Culross Abbey between 1511 and 1550 (2). Presumably they were related to Timothy's grandfather, Robert Kinpont, who died before August 1540, leaving a widow, Katherine Masterton (probably of the family of Easter Grange), and at least three sons and one daughter. The eldest son, David, acquired a third of the lands of Shiresmill (today a farm on the B9037 road north of Culross; the mill pond and a mill stone survive) from the Abbey on 18 August 1540 (3); he died without issue in 1550, when his brother, Mr Robert, inherited the property, their mother's liferent being preserved (4). The third son was Mr James (at St Leonard's College, St Andrews 1551-4; minister of Melrose 1562; commissary of Dunblane by 1568; married Abigail Strang and died without issue 1602) (5). The daughter was Janet, married to Andrew Rowan of Barnhill, with at least one son, John, tailor in Edinburgh (6).

The second son and Timothy's father, Robert, was born in 1524 (7). As noted, he inherited a third of Shiresmill in 1550, which he disponed (i.e. transferred) to his elder son and apparent heir, Zachary, in 1584 (8). Between about 1566 and 1586 he owned a tenement in St Andrews (9). When minister of St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, he built a manse which was to be his until redeemed by the heritors, and also owned property on the Castlehill in Edinburgh (10). His career may be summarised thus: 1544 matriculated at St Leonard's College, St Andrews; 1562 preacher at Dunblane and then Dunkeld; 1563-74 Commissioner of Moray, Inverness and Banff; 1571-85 Provost of Trinity College, Edinburgh; 1572 Lord of Session; 1574 minister of the second charge, and 1578 of the first charge, St Cuthbert's, Edinburgh; 1590-1601 Commissioner of Orkney; 1602 retired; 8 May 1606 died.

He was married at least twice. His first wife's name is uncertain (later sources give it as Katherine Masterton, but this may be a confusion with his mother). In 1587 Sara Denholm is named as his future wife (11), but it is not known if the marriage took place. His second or third wife, who survived him, was Margaret Smyth. The dates of the marriages are unknown. His known children are two sons and four daughters by his first wife, and three sons by Margaret Smyth.

The eldest son was Zachary, who was educated at St Leonard's College, St Andrews. The third part of Shiresmill was transferred to him in 1584, but in 1602 he and his wife (Margaret Knox, daughter of the reformer) were in debt and had to wadset (i.e. mortgage)it (12). In 1590 he had a royal licence to print books (13). In 1600 or 1601 he became minister of Bower and Watten, Caithness (14); by 1605 he was also minister and parson at Kirkwall, and claimed the parsonage of Walls, Orkney (15); in 1608 he became archdeacon of Caithness (16). He died before 20 Jan. 1619 (17), leaving several children.

Mr Robert Pont's second son was Timothy (see below). His daughters were Helen, married in 1575 to Adam Blacader of Blairhall (a property near to Shiresmill) (18); Margaret, married before 1585 to Alexander Borthwick of Nether Learnie (Leny) (19); Catherine, married to Patrick Dunbar, prebendary of the Chapel Royal, Stirling (20); and Beatrix, married by 1598 as his first wife to Charles Lumsden, minister of Duddingston (21); all had children. By his second/third wife he had James, born 1595 (served heir in 1629 to his uncle James, Commissary Clerk of Dunblane, admitted merchant burgess of Edinburgh in 1633, married in 1626 to Janet Lowson by whom he had three sons) (22), Robert, born between 1595 and 1598 (23), and Jonathan, born after 1598, alive in 1642 (24).

Mr Robert Pont's widow was the executor of his will (his will was not recorded); she brought several actions for payments due to him, including in 1614 the arrears of small teinds which he had claimed from the Council of Edinburgh in 1600 (25).

Timothy was probably born in 1565 or 1566, a deduction from the date of his matriculation at St Andrews. It is likely that he was born at Shiresmill; presumably the family moved to Edinbugh in 1571 when Robert became Provost of Trinity College. In 1574 the Master of Trinity College granted him for his education the kirklands of Strathmartin, confirmed in 1583 (26). He married, date unknown, Isobel Blacader, presumably of the Blairhall family (one of whom had married his sister Helen) (27); by her he had two children, Timothy and Margaret, but nothing is known of them except that in 1615 they were still under-age (35). In probably the second half of 1592 he was given a commission by John Lindsay, parson of Menmuir, Master of the Mines in Scotland, to visit and search for minerals in Orkney and Shetland (28). In June 1593 he was in Edinburgh, where he collected the annuity mentioned in note.25 (29). Otherwise he does not appear in family or official documents during the 1580s and 1590s, and it may be presumed that he was then travelling in Scotland. In 1601 he became minister of Dunnet, Caithness (30), a post which he held until at least 1611 but must have left by 1614, possibly at his death.(31) In 1609 he applied for a grant of land in Ulster, surety being given by his brother-in-law Alexander Borthwick of Nether Laich (Learnie); but his name is not on the list of successful bidders of 1611 (32). In 1611 he and his wife lent 1000 merks in gold to the earl of Caithness (33); this took place in Edinburgh, and possibly he was there to publish his maps - Robert Gordon says he 'returned' (presumably to Edinburgh) to do this but met an untimely death soon after (34). He was dead before 28 March 1615, when his widow made an obligation to give a discharge for a debt due to them (35). There is no record of his having left a will, and it is not clear if the heirs whom Gordon accuses of neglecting their inheritance are his children or others (35).

(1) Abbreviations of sources: ECA Edinburgh City Archives; FES Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae; NAS National Archives of Scotland; NLS National Library of Scotland; PSAS Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; RPC Register of the Privy Council; RSS Registrum Secreti Sigilli. back
(2) NAS GD 124/9/6; Laing Charters 350, 442, 456, 507; PSAS xli.326; NAS RH 6/1247. back
(3) NAS RH 6/1247. back
(4) NAS RH 6/1488. back
(5) Early Records of the Univ. of St Andrews 151-2, 255; Wodrow, Coll. i.504; NAS B66/1/5; ib. C22/2. back
(6) NAS RH6/11/2548; ECA SL1/12-2 Jun. 1609.. back
(7) Inscription in St Cuthbert's churchyard (D. Buchanan, De script. Scot. 128). back
(8) NAS RH6/1488, RH6/12/2724. back
(9) NAS B65/22 no.355, RD1/26, f.271. back
(10) G. Lorimer, Early days of St Cuthbert's Church 24; NAS B22/1/33, f.35. back
(11) NAS B22/1/33, f.35. back
(12) NAS RH6/12/2724, RD1/88, f.627. back
(13) NAS PS1/61, f.63. back
(14) NAS E47/8. back
(15) NAS CS7/211, f.244. His claim is not supported by the Register of Assignations (E47/8). back
(16) NAS CH4/1/4, 2 Sept. 1608. back
(17) FES vii.113. back
(18) NAS CS7/60, f.302. back
(19) NAS RD1/23, f.331. back
(20) ECA Moses bundle 2, no.80. back
(21) FES i.18. back
(22) Edinburgh OPR; NAS RS1/27, f.70; Roll of Edin. Burg.; Edinburgh OPR. back
(23) NAS PS1/70, f.172. back
(24) NAS GD194/Box 8. back
(25) NAS CC8/2/22; ECA SL1/12, f.298. Note that the latter was not for the annuity of 160 given him in 1585 on resigning as Provost of Trinity College, of which he assigned 140 to Timothy in 1593 (ECA SL152/8, SL1/8, p.412, SL1/11, pp.336-7): this was in liferent only and therefore ceased on his death; Robert Pont's widow's actions in 1614 therefore have no bearing on whether Timothy was still alive or not. back
(26) ECA SL152/8, f.90 (in 1582 copied into the Register of Feuing of Kirklands, NAS E14/2, f.173); RSS viii.1260. back
(27) NAS RD1/225, f.119. back
(28) NLS Adv.MS.19.1.24. back
(29) ECA SL1/8, p.412. back
(30) NAS E47/8. back
(31) FES vii.119. back
(32) RPC viii.330, ix.lxxxi. back
(33) NAS RD1/225, f.120. back
(34) Gordon to Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit, 1648, in Blaeu. back
(35) NAS RD1/238, ff.248-9; CS290/41. back