Patrick Brydone (1741 - 1818)
A son of the Manse, Patrick Brydone’s father and maternal grandfather were both ministers in Coldingham. His grandfather was a somewhat fiery character whose appointment caused such dispute that the military had to be called out to quell the riot and he subsequently carried two pistols into the pulpit whenever he preached.
His parents lived at Abbey Park just outside the village but, by the time of Patrick’s birth, his father had succeeded to the ministry and it is most likely that Patrick was born in the old manse which stood south of the Priory.
Interested in electricity, he travelled to Switzerland to conduct experiments, engaging in correspondence with Benjamin Franklin. On the basis of his publications on electricity he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1772.
He is famous as the author of one of the earliest travel books A Tour through Sicily and Malta, in a series of letters to William Beckford Esq. of Somerley in Suffolk. Despite the cumbersome title, the book is a lively and, to this day, highly readable account of a trip with two companions. Descriptions of Mount Etna, of encounters with banditti, a sort of proto-Mafia, of the Italian love of ices, of the heat of the sirocco in Malta and much else made his account immensely popular and it became a best seller running to several editions and being translated to French and German.
A peripheral figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, he was praised by David Hume and denounced by Samuel Johnson which, considering who and what else the lexographer denounced, amounts to an accolade.
He was a Founder Member of The Royal Society of Edinburgh and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
He was admired by Burns who visited him and hailed him in his poem “The Vision”. Sir Walter Scott describes him in “Marmion” as “a reverend pilgrim”.
He spent his later years at Lennel House in Coldstream.