James Duncan

Doctor | Number 12

James Duncan bought 12 Heriot Row in 1842 for £1,900.  He moved there with his wife, Margaret Balfour and their 2 sons, John (born 1839) and Andrew (born 1841) from 7 Dundas Street.

James was born in Perth on 31st October 1810, the only son of John Duncan and Elizabeth Morrison.  His father was a 'druggist' who established the firm Duncan, Flockhart & Company, initially in Perth and latterly in Edinburgh. The firm played a major part in the development of chloroform for James Young Simpson.

James received his early education in Perth and then at the High School in Edinburgh. He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and graduated M.D. in 1834.  After studying anatomy and surgery at medical schools in France, Germany, Austria and Italy for two years, he returned to Edinburgh to act as house-surgeon, first to James Gregory and then to Robert Liston.  He also spent some time with Liston at the hospital of University College in London.  By 1837, he had set himself up as a medical practitioner in Edinburgh and in due couse enjoyed great eminence.  He was senior surgeon to the Royal Infimary for many years and in that capacity gave lectures on clinical surgery.  He contributed to several papers to medical journals and in his leisure hours pursued his favourite hobby of landscape painting.

He married Margaret Balfour, daughter of Andrew Balfour, surgeon, and Magdalene Goldie, on 5th June 1838 in the Parish Church of St Mary's. Their first son, John, was born on 18th August 1839 and Andrew Balfour was born on 15th January 1841.  They went on to have three daughters, Jessie (born 1843), Magdalene Goldie (born 1845) and Elizabeth Morrison (born 1851).

The 1851 census lists James (General Practitioner), his wife Margaret and children John, Andrew, Jessie and Magdalene along with two visitors, two general servants and a maid.

By 1861, the family included daughter Elizabeth, now 9.  Sons, John and Andrew, now 21 and 20 were both students and the three girls were at school.  The family now had four domestic servants.

Andrew Balfour Duncan, their second son, died on 4th June 1864, aged 23, at Taranaki, New Zealand.  He was a soldier in HM 57th (The West Middlesex) Regiment of Foot, who were engaged in battle with the Maoris in the province of Taranaki on the west coust of the North Island.  His gravestone is in Liberton churchyard (plot 169).

James Duncan had his practice at 12 Heriot Row and by 1866 it was the largest general practice in the city. The increase in his practice was having an adverse affect on his health, so in July 1866, he went on a tour to the Continent with his wife and family, leaving his eldest son, John, to take care of the practice.  Cholera was prevalent in Paris and after developing symptoms of the disease, James died in Tours on August 16th 1866.

He was described as a kind, genial, domesticated man with a keen sense of humour in conversation.

After his death, his widow, Margaret, moved to 1 Dundas Street and the family living at 12 Heriot Row in the 1870's was that of James and Margaret's elder son,  John Duncan. Like his father, he was one of the most expert of Edinburgh's surgeons.  Educated at Edinburgh Academy, he gained an M.A. before starting medicine, graduating in 1862.  He was appointed house surgeon under James Syme who held the chair of Clinical Surgery. He married Jemima, daughter of Alexander and Eliza Thomson in Tillicoultry in 1866 and they had three children, James (born 1867), Eliza Alexandra (born 1868) and Margaret (who was born at 12 Heriot Row in 1870). The 1871 census lists the family with a nurse, an under nurse, a table-maid, a housemaid and a cook.

John and Jemima and their family then moved to 8 Ainslie Place.  John died in 1899 at Kinloch, Skye, and his obituary ended with the words,'...a man of magnificent presence and exceeding like the late Emperor Frederick of Prussia, he died 24th August 1899 at Kinloch, Skye, aged  about 60 years.'

The family living at 12 Heriot Row in 1881 was that of James and Margaret's youngest daughter, Ellizabeth Morrison Duncan.  She married Charles Algernon Bishop Culpeper, late of the 91st Highlanders, on March 26th 1874 at 8 Ainslie Place and they lived at 12 Heriot Row with their cook and two servants.

Charles Algernon Bishop Culpeper died on February 18th 1917 at 12 Heriot Row and his wife Elizabeth died on January 6th 1928 at Silverknowes Nursing Home, Davidson's Mains.

James and Margaret's eldest daughter, Jessie, married Rev. John Stuart on 14th May 1867 and they had two children, Margaret Balfour (born 1868, died 1876) and William James (born 1873).

Rev. John Stuart, educated at Edinburgh Academy, was the minister of St. Andrew's Parish Church, Edinburgh and was also Chaplin-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria.  He died in 1888.

His son, William James Stuart was educated at Edinburgh Academy and Edinburgh University and became an eminent surgeon working at both the Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh and the Deaconess Hospital.  He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1903.

In 1929, he gifted 12 Heriot Row to the Kirk Session of St. Andrew's Church in George Street. in memory of his late parents and the house served as the manse for the church until it was sold in 1985.


Cholera was prevalent in Paris and after developing symptoms of the disease, James died in Tours on August 16th 1866.