James FORREST (1715-Unknown)

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James FORREST was a farmer in Wester Hairburnhead (or Harburnhead), West Calder, Midlothian. He was born at Grange, West Calder, Midlothian and baptised on the 8th May 1715[1]. He was the eldest son of William FORREST.

The Kirk Session[nb 1] minutes record a petition from the Elders and several others in the Parish of West Calder to the Presbytery “That your petitioners were greatly concerned to hear the issue of a late process referred by the Session of this Parish in your Presbytery about James Forrest in Westerhairburnhead, who had given great offence to this Congregation and to several others in the neighbourhood thereof by bleeding six or seven horses on the Lords day without any evident necessity which example was followed by another the very next Sabbath giving them phiseck [medicine] ”[2].


Official records for James’ wife and children cannot be found, however family stories tell that James had a son who was brought up by his uncle Rev David Forrest. James had a bad temper and used to beat his son with a Malacca cane but his wife, on her deathbed, told him to strike him no more; however he threw the stick at his son instead[3].

The son,

i. Captain James FORREST, born around 1740


  1. The Kirk Session was the governing body of the Presbyterian Church and consisted of the Minister of the Parish and the ordained Elders of the congregation. The powers of the Kirk Session were wide and the discipline exercised by them was strict. While much time was occupied in dealing with breakers of the moral laws, complaints were not confined to breaches of the seventh Commandment. The sanctity of the Sabbath Day was a matter of the greatest concern to the Kirk Session and the views which it held were as extreme as those of the Pharisees in the time of Our Lord. Any acts of agricultural labour were deemed worthy of punishment and perhaps the most trivial act regarded as Sabbath breaking was that of leaving out clothes on the Sabbath.


  1. Old Parochial Register, Births, West Calder, OPR Ref. 701/0010 0093
  2. Petition to the presbytery of Linlithgow 25th May 1742, National Archives Scotland Ref. GD215/1223
  3. Letter from Jane or Margaret Forrest to Nola Forrest (1918)