William Forbes - 6th Baronet of Pitsligo

Personal data
Born April 05, 1739
in Edinburgh

Died November 12, 1806
6th Baronet of Pitsligo

Son of Sir William Forbes (d. 1743), 5th of Pitsligo, and Christian Forbes (1705-1789), daughter of John Forbes, 1st of Boyndlie. Married (1770) to Elizabeth Hay (d. 1806), daughter of Dr. James Hay of Hayston, Peeblesshire.

Sir William and Elizabeth had several children including William1 and John Hay2.3

Apprentice (1754-59) to the banking firm Coutts & Co. in Edinburgh of which he later became a partner (1761). In 1773 the bank changed its name to Forbes, Hunter & Co. Grand Master of the masonic Grand Lodge of Scotland (1776-78). Founder member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (1780) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1783). In 1803 he published Memoirs of a Banking House. Despite a few accounts stating otherwise, Forbes was probably not a member of Johnson's Club.

  • 1. William Forbes (1773-1828) succeeded to the baronetcy following the death of his father
  • 2. John Hay Forbes (1776-1854) married Louisa Gordon, with whom he had several children. He was admitted advocate in 1799 and in 1825 was made Lord of Session, assuming the courtesy title of Lord Medwyn. From 1830 until 1849 he was even a Lord of Justiciary.
  • 3. There appears to be some confusion as to the number of children of Sir William Forbes. According to introductory notes in Memoirs of a Banking House (1850), p. iii, he had four sons (as listed in this article). An article in the Significant Scots series (http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/forbes_william.htm) mentions three sons (excluding Charles) and five daughters, while an article on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_William_Forbes,_6th_Baronet) lists two sons (excluding Charles and George) and four daughters.
Life with Boswell

From Boswell's memos, one could get the impression that Boswell didn't meet Forbes until September 21, 1763, in Utrecht. Boswell's brother, David, was at that time an apprentice in the bank of which Forbes was a partner. However, in a letter to Boswell's daughter Veronica, dated June 13, 1795 (a few weeks after Boswell's death), Forbes wrote about "the memory of a friend with whom I had lived in the strictest intimacy for thirty-six years, and to whose steady and unalterable regard and attachment I shall ever look back with gratitude and affection". Presumably, they met in 1759 and became friends later.

Forbes was one of the executors of Boswell's estate following his death.


It is usually possible to find antiquarian copies of Forbes' Memoirs of a banking-house via the via the AbeBooks used books search engine.