By Aberdeenshire Silver descendant Warren Nunn
Reverend Alexander Silver was for about 40 years the spiritual leader of Dunnottar church near Stonehaven in Scotland. He was described as “many-sided and sterling in character”.
He was a larger-than-life, quick-witted individual with a keen, hands-on interest in contributing to a community that highly valued Christian endeavour and dedication.
In 1829 he succeeded his older brother John as schoolmaster at Fordoun about 10 miles (16 km) from Dunnottar where he would afterwards see out his days as a pastor.
He was thrust into the role of schoolmaster when his brother was killed in an unfortunate accident that also took the life of another man. Along with a third individual they were all thrown from a gig which hit a bridge near Glenbervie. As an aside, more than 30 years later Sandy Silver was also involved in a buggy accident.
Sandy Silver was born in 1804 at Mill of Uras (south of Stonehaven) the youngest child of John Silver and Elizabeth Thomson. Research suggests he may have had four siblings: John (1793-1829), Jean (1795-unknown), Elizabeth (1798-1857) and James (1800-1865).
Rev Silver attended Marischal College, Aberdeen, between 1818 and 1822, graduating from the arts faculty filius Joannis agricolae.
The Silver surname has for hundreds of years been prominent throughout Aberdeenshire, particularly in Maryculter and Fetteresso parishes.
It can be difficult to place people in the correct family line because earlier records contained less information. A certain amount of guesswork is needed and it becomes even more complicated by the type of family naming patterns that were practised.
If Rev Silver’s family stuck to that protocol then his father John would have been named John after his father before him. It would have been the basis for Rev Silver’s eldest brother John having that Christian name.
Confused? You should be because I can’t be certain to which family he belonged because the two likely candidates prove hard to track. However I have concluded that Rev Silver’s father was born in Fetteresso and was buried in Maryculter. See following footnote for my reasoning.
Is his parentage that important? Perhaps not, but I’m interested because of my connection to the Silver family in the district given my great grandfather James Silver (1863-1949) grew up a few miles from where Rev Silver was pastoring.
My best guess is that there would have been a family connection in a previous generation but it’s unlikely I’ll be able to prove it.
Nevertheless, Rev Silver’s life is worth exploring and recording for posterity because of the impact he made in a life of public service which went beyond pastoral duties.
On 30 October 1844, the then 40-year-old Rev Silver was introduced to Dunnottar parishoners as their new minister in a ceremony attended by a large number of people despite what was described as unfavourable weather.
It seems likely that Alexander Silver answered a call to pastor at Dunnottar because of the split that occurred within the Church of Scotland. It became known as the Disruption of 1843.
Rev Silver remained loyal to what was at the time known as the Established Church of Scotland, or what nowadays is broadly known as the Presbyterian denomination.
He thereafter gave the rest of his life to serving others. He did not marry, which was a little unusual for the time.
Several years later, Rev Silver is mentioned in connection with the Stonehaven National Security Savings Bank, an institution with which he was to be associated right up until his death.
This became the pattern of his life. Along with his pastoral duties, Rev Silver was also committed to educating the district’s children, a contribution that won him praise on more than one front.,
His commitment to the community he served was an extension of his pastoral duties but he always held close to his heart the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the measures of a man is any reflection on his life. When Rev John Watt spoke at Dunnottar church about Rev Silver’s passing, he painted a vivid picture of a faithful and true Christ-like servant whose life calling it was to serve others. Rev Watt’s address is worth reading and is below reproduced.
The description of Rev Silver fits with and fleshes out what the bland public record tells us of his involvement in various organisations both commercial and public.
The Aberdeen Weekly Journal published a tribute which reinforced the high esteem in which the pastor was held.
Sandy Silver clearly understood his limitations and the march of time and the impact it was having on his duties as pastor.
This almost brutal self-assessment showed how realistic Rev Silver was about himself and his abilities. He knew his body was giving out on him and so gradually withdrew from the more taxing tasks; the main one being that of pastor. It showed how seriously he took his calling and his determination to put others first in all things and allow the Lord to look after the rest.
Still he remained as active as possible and, several weeks before his passing, recommitted to his involvement in the parish poorhouse. 
However, a few weeks later he suffered a stroke, lingered for 19 days and finally passed into the presence of the Lord he so faithfully served for so long. 
For Rev Alexander Silver, he knew the proof of that which he so faithfully preached; that to be “absent from the body was to be present with the Lord”. For him, 2 Corinthians 5:8 had become reality.
One thing for certain about Rev Silver is that his love of others and his willingness to give of himself was everlovingly expressed in his will which lists a number of relatives and friends who benefitted from his estate. Again, it is a long and detailed document but worth reading through to gain a further insight to a man who lived out his life in line with his firm convictions that he was a sinner saved by grace.
Various other references to Rev Silver can also be read here.
More than 20 years after he passed away, Sandy Silver was remembered in an article that appeared in the Dundee Courier of 4 May 1908.
The article “Men of the Mearns, Kincardineshire Wit and Humour” described an encounter at Stonehaven between Rev. Sandy Silver and an Aberdeen lawyer. The account is somewhat confusing and not really amusing and perhaps has much to do with the aforementioned divisions within the church. It describes a mild exchange between two people who were both about the Lord’s business, but it underscores that Sandy Silver didn’t take himself too seriously.
Later in 1908 there was another reference to Sandy Silver because of a wooden microscope he once owned that was a point of curiosity at a meeting of scientifically-minded men in Aberdeen.
(10) Deposit receipt by the Agent Town & Country Bank, Limited, Stonehaven, in favour of deceased dated 5th July 1884 24/9/7
Interest thereon to date of oath to inventory 0/5/4 24/14/11 378/0/7
Stocks and shares of public companies:-
(1) Two thousand five hundred and fifty pounds Great North of Scotland Railway 4 per cent lieu stock at the price of 106/10/0 per cent at date of oath to inventory 2715/13/0
Half yearly dividend due thereon 49/18/9 2765/13/9
(2) Seventy two shares of the Capital Stock of the Town and Country Bank, Limited (formerly the Aberdeen Town and Country Bank) of the price of 17/7/6 at date of oath to inventory 1251/0/0 Half yearly dividend due thereon 28/19/7 1279/19/7
(3) Twenty two shares of the Northern Agricultural Company, Aberdeen, at the price of 7/15/0 at date of oath to inventory 170/10/0
Note. No dividend accrued 4216/3/14
8. Pension:- (1) Proportion of pension due to decease by the commissioners of supply for Kincardineshire as Retired Prison Chaplain from 26th April 1884 to date of death 2/2/8
(2) Proportion of pension due to decease by the Magistrates of Inverbervie and arrears 0/5/4
(3) Proportion of pension due to deceased by Government for quarter ended 30th June 0/18/6
Proportion of pension due to deceased by Government from 30th June to date of death 0/7/7 1/0/1 3/8/1
9. Commission due to deceased as one of the Trustees of the late John Duncan, Feuar?, Stonehaven 19/9/3
10. Grain stipend due to the deceased as minister of Parish of Dunnottar for first half of crop and year 1884 he having survived Whitsunday and died before Michaelmas estimated at 105/0/0
Money stipend due to the deceased for said period 5/0/0 110/0/0
Debts due to the deceased upon the following document:-
(1) Ten debenture bonds per 100/0/0 each by the American Freehold Land Mortgage Company of London Limited in favour of deceased date respectively 14th November 1882 and number from F360 to F369 1000/0/0
Interest thereon from 1st July 1884 to date of death of oath to inventory 23/16/8 1023/16/8
(2) Debenture bond by the Colorado Mortgage and Investment Company of London, Limited, in favour of deceased number 345 and dated 20th July 1880 500/0/0
Interest thereon from the term of Whitsunday 1884 to date of oath to inventory 18/2/9 515/2/9
(3) Debenture of the New South Wales Mortgage Loan and Agency Company, Limited, in favour of deceased numbered 384 and dated 28th July 1880 500/0/0
Interest thereon from the term of Whitsunday 1884 to date of death 16/13/0 516/13/0
(4) Debenture by the Texas Land and Mortgage Company Limited in favour of deceased numbered 33 and dated 11th July 1883 500/0/0
Interest thereon from Whitsunday 1884 to date of oath to inventory 18/3/3 518/3/3 2573/15/8
Total amount of personal estate in the United Kingdom 7705/0/0
Signed AW Kinnear, John G. Thomson, Sheriff Clerk Depute. Schedule of debts due and owing from the deceased at the time of his death to persons resident in the United Kingdom and Funeral Expenses.
1. James Brown, Fishmonger, Aberdeen 0/17/5
2. Margaret Walker, half year wages & Board. Wages 10/6/0
3. Euphemia Chalmers do____ do___ 8/6/0
4. James Gillespie half year wages & Board. Wages 11/0/0
5. N.N. (?) Forbes rent of land for crop 1884 10/1/0
6. One half of grain stipends for crop 1884 due by deceased to Reverend Robert Davidson as his assistant and successor in the charge of the Parish of Dunnottar as per agreement between them say ________ 105/0/0
II Funeral Expenses
James Nicols, Undertaker 8/10/0
Alexander Skerret, Gravedigger for making grave and other work connected therewith 1/6/6
Robert Taylor account for work taking down and resetting tombstone 0/12/6
James Sinclair for grave cloths and attendance 2/1/6
Dr Leslie for attendance 4/10/0
James McLachlan, draper, for servants mournings as authorized, by deed of settlement 11/4/6
Miss Howarth, dressmaker 0/6/6
Total amount of debts and funeral expenses 174/1/11
Total amount of personal estate as per foregoing inventory 7705/0/0
Amount of debts and funeral expenses as per schedule 174/1/11
Nett value of personal estate chargeable with duty 7330/18/1
Signed A. W. Kinnear, John C Thomson, Sheriff Clerk Depute. At Stone have the second day of December, one thousand and eight hundred and eighty four years. In presence of John Craig Thomas, Sheriff Clerk Depute of Kincardineshire. Appeared Arthur Wellesley Kinnear, Solicitor and Bank Agent Stonehaven executor of the deceased Reverend Alexander Silver Minister of the Parish of Dunnottar in the county of Kincardine who being solemnly sworn and examined depones, that the said Alexander Silver died at Dunnottar Manse in the county of Kincardine aforesaid, domiciled in Scotland, upon the twenty fifth day of August eighteen hundred and eighty four without ever having been married. That the deponent has entered upon the possession and management of the deceased’s estate as executor, nominated by him, along with the Reverend William Mearns, Doctor of Divinity, Minister of the Parish of Kinneff and Robert Tindal, Sheriff Clerk of Kincardineshire in a General Deed of Settlement executed by him upon the twenty eighth day of December eighteen hundred and eighty four, and along with a relative codicil thereto dated the eighth day of October eighteen hundred and eighty three registered in the Sheriff Court Books of the County of Kincardine the second day of September eighteen hundred and eighty four and extract of which Deed of Settlement and codicil is now established and signed by the deponent and the said Sheriff Clerk Depute of this date as relative hereto: That the deponent does not know of any testamentary settlement or writing relative to the dispersal of the deceased’s personal estate or effects or any part thereof other than the said general deed of settlement and relative codicil. That the foregoing inventory signed by the deponent and the said Sheriff Clerk Depute as relative hereto is a full and complete inventory of the personal estate and effects of the said deceased Alexander Silver wheresoever situated and belonging or due to him beneficially at the time of the his death in as far as the same has come to the deponent’s knowledge; that the deponent does not know of any money or property belonging to the deceased secured by Scottish Bonds or other instruments excluding executor; that the said deceased had no heritable estate in this country in as far as known to the deponent; that the said deceased Alexander Silver was due and owing at the time of his death to persons resident in the United Kingdom the debts enumerated in the foregoing schedule. That these debts are payable by law out of the estate and effect comprised in the foregoing inventory are not any of these voluntary debts made payable under some instrument delivered to the do?? Thereof within three months before the death of the deceased or debts in respect whereof a reimbursement is capable of being reclaimed from any real estate of the deceased or from any other estate or person whatever. That these debts with the funeral expenses or the said deceased as also shown in the said schedule amount to one hundred and seventy four pounds 1/11. That the nett valued of this date of the said personal estate and effects situated in the United Kingdom including the proceeds accrued thereon down to his death and after deducting the amount of the said debts and funeral expenses is seven thousand five hundred pounds sterling and does not exceed seven thousand six hundred pounds sterling; That confirmation of the said personal estate is required in favour of the deponed and the said William Mearns and Robert Tindal. All which is truth as the deponent shall answer to God. (Signed) Ar W Kinnear, John C Thomson, Sheriff Clerk Depute, Written by John McDonald. Collated by Robt Tindal.
Follows extract registered deed of settle and codicil before referred to:- At Stonehaven the second day of September one thousand eight hundred and eighty four the deed hereinafter engrossed? was presented for registration in the Sheriff Court Books of the County of Kincardine for preservation and is registered in the said Books as follows:-
I, the Reverend Alexander Silver, Minister of the Parish of Dunnottar, in order to settle the success to my estate real and personal after my decease and for other good causes and consideration, do hereby give, grant, assign, convey and dispone? to and in favour of the Reverend William Mearns, Doctor of Divinity, Minister of the Parish of Kinneff, Robert Tindal, Sheriff Clerk of Kincardineshire and Arthur Wellesley Kinnear, Solicitor and Bank Agent, Stonehaven, as trustees for the purposes after mentioned, and to such other persons as may hereafter be nominated by myself or be lawfully assured by my trustees and to such of my said trustees as shall accept, and to the survivors or survivor of those accepting, and to the heir of the last surviving trustee, a majority of my accepting and surviving trustees resident in Great Britain for the time being always a quorum, and to the assigned of my said trustees or their foresaids, my whole estate both heritable and moveable, real and personal, of whatever description, presently belong to me or which shall belong to me at the time of my decease; with full power to my said trustees and their foresaids, so far as not otherwise directed by me, to sell my trust estate by public auction or private bargain, to grant conveyances thereof, and to receive the prices thereof, hereby discharging purchasers from all responsibility as to the application of which the debtors shall not be answerable; as also to pursuit and defend, or to compound, transact or refer or settle by the advice of counsel all question affecting any trust estate; as also to name factors and agents either from their own number or otherwise, and to pay such factors or agents a suitable remuneration for their trouble, but for whom they shall not be answerable further than that they were habit responsible at the time of their appointment; and in general with the fullest powers to manage my who trust affairs as freely as I might have done myself and against all mortals, and I hereby bind and oblige me and my foresaids to make this conveyance effectual where required by completing tittles in our own persons and granting special conveyances in implement thereof to my said trustees and their foresaid; and further I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my said trustees and their foresaids to be my sole executors and universal intromitters with my moveable means and estate, with all the powers competent to executors; but these presents are granted in trust for the ends, uses and purpose following, videliset?; in the firstplace, for payment of my just and lawful debts and funeral expenses, including such sums as my trustees shall think proper for the mournings to my servants and for the creation of a suitable enclosure and tombstone at my burial place, and of the expenses of this trust, and for fulfilment of all obligations incumbent on me; Secondly, for the payment of such legacies as I may bequeath by any writing under my hand however informed the same may be and though found in my repositories or in the custody of any third party undelivered at this time of my death. Thirdly, I divest my said trustees at the first term if Whitsunday or Martimmas after my death to make payment to my housekeeper Margaret Walker as a reward for her long and faithful services to me of the sum of one hundred pounds sterling free of legacy duty and also to purchase for her from such insurance company as they may select a free year annuity of fifteen pounds sterling, which annuity shall commence to run as from the date of my death, and shall be paid as an alimentary provision to the said Margaret Walker free of secession or legacy duty at two terms in the year, Whitsunday and Martimmas, during all the days of her life; Fourthly, for payment to my late servant Margaret Glennie, now Margaret Mason, at the first term of Whitsunday or Martimmas after my death of a legacy of one hundred pounds sterling as an acknowledgement of her long and faithful services to me and of her attention to me since she left my employment, which legacy shall be paid to her free of legacy duty on her own receipt and exclusive of her husband just martiti; Fifthly, for payment at the first term of Whitsunday or Martimmas after my death or as soon thereafter as convenient of the following legacies to the persons afternamed videlicet; To each of my said trustees who shall accept office as a trustee and act as such the sum of fifty pounds sterling; to Eliza Donaldson, wife of John Walker, Spurryhillock, Fetteresso, the sum of ten pounds sterling; to Ann Mowat, formerly in my service and now in the service of Mr and Mrs Fowler, London, the sum of ten pounds sterling; to Elizabeth Paterson, formerly in my service, now wife of Joseph Walker, Mason, Aberdeen, the sum of ten pounds sterling; and lastly, with regard to the residue and remainder of my said means and estate heritable and moveable remaining after fulfilment of the foregoing purposes of this trust, I direct my said trustees to convert the same into cash, and at the firs term of Whitsunday or Martimmas after my death or as soon thereafter as practicable, to divide the proceeds among my nephews and nieces the lawful children of my deceased brother James and of my deceased sister Elizabeth equally share and share alike; declaring that the lawful children of any of my nephews and nieces who may be already dead or who may predecease me shall be entitled equally among them to the share or shares of the said residue which their deceased parent or parents would have been entitled to had he, she, or they survived me; and declaring further that any sums deposited by me and found standing in the names of any of my said nephews and nieces in the Books of the National Security Savings Bank, Stonehaven, conform to deposit slips in my possession shall be taken into account in estimating the residue of my said means and estate and shall be counted as part of my shares of the said residue to my nephews and nieces in whose names the said sums may be standing; and I reserve my own ?? of the premises and full power to alter and revoke these present in whole or in part; and I dispense with the delivery hereof and of all writing made in relation hereto and declare that the same shall be effectual although found in my repositories or in the custody of any other person to whom I may have entrusted the same at the time of my death; and I consent to registration for preservation on witness whereof I have subscribed these presents, written on this and the two preceding pages by George Weir, Apprentice to the said Arthur Wellesley Kinnear, at Manse of Dunnottar, the twenty eighty day of December, eighteen hundred and eighty, before these witnesses, James Gillespie, residing at Kirktown of Fetteresso and Euphemia Chalmers, residing at Manse of Dunnottar, both my servants (Signed). Alex Silver, James Gillespie witness, Euphemia Chalmers, witness. I the Revered Alexander Silver, named in the foregoing deed of settlement, do hereby bequeath to Euphemia Chalmers, my servant, provided she is in my service at the time of my death, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling free of legacy duty as a reward for her attention to me payable at the first term of Whitsunday or Martimmas after my death or as soon as thereafter as convenient; and I consent to registration hereof for preservation. In witness thereof I have subscribed this codicil written by Arthur Wellesley Kinnear, Solicitor, Stonehaven, at Stonehaven, the eight day of October eighteen hundred and eighty three years before these witnesses James Milne and James Brown Junior both clerks to the said Arthur Wellesley Kinnear. (Signed) Alex. Silver, James Milne witness, John Brown Jr witness. Extracted upon this and the eleven preceding pages by me Sheriff Clerk Depute of Kincardineshire in the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, Kincardine and Banff. (Signed). John C Thomson. Written by James Burness Cunningham, collated by John Craig Thomson, signed 12th September 1884. Stonehaven 22nd December 1884. This is the extract of the deed of settlement and codicil referred to in the oath emitted by me of this date to the verity of the inventory of the personal estate of the late Reverend Alexander Silver Minister of the Parish of Dunnottar in the County of Kincardine. (Signed). Ar W. Kinnear, John C Thomson, Sheriff Clerk Depute. Written by John McDonald. Collated by Robt Tindal. ｜ Return to text