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Weary Bairn

“Weary Bairn”

Alexander Brown was born at Grange of Conon on 8th February 1814 to Alexander Brown, and his wife Margaret Buick, in a small “but and ben” near the centre of the hamlet, where his father was a weaver. Alexander was baptised during one of the severest snowstorms for many years. He was poorly, described as a “weary bairn”. His parents carried him to Tarry House, then doing duty in the St Vigean’s Manse, for the baptism. Alexander remained at school until he was thirteen. He followed in his father’s footsteps as a weaver while continuing his studies.

While working at his loom, he studied history, geography and scientific subjects. During 1833 Alexander began attending scientific lectures given by a native of Arbirlot, and author of several published works, George Carey. In 1835 he commenced trigonometry classes run by one Robert Naughty. However, after 3 weeks Naughty confessed that his pupil was more proficient than himself and began coming to his former pupil for instruction! In 1835 Alexander first became known as an astronomer when the Rev. William Allan used Brown’s computations, calculations and diagrams at a lecture to illustrate the path of Halley’s Comet.

About this time Alexander calculated and projected the different elements and planes of the annular eclipse of the sun that occurred on Sunday 15th May 1836, which brought him to the notice of Professor Nichol of Glasgow. In 1840 Alexander accepted an appointment as a clerk in the law office of Lyon & Andson, remaining there for 17 years, until moving to the Arbroath Town Clerk’s office. He worked there until he retired in 1880.

Over the years his scientific interest showed no sign of abating and, with the aid of his St Vigean’s minister, John Muir, he began to study meteorology and to move into higher scientific circles becoming acquainted with the geologist, Hugh Miller and, through a former Arbroathian, Dr John Kyd of Spynie, was introduced to Dr David Brewster of St Andrews. During 1843 Alexander wrote a paper on the extraordinary high tide that affected the East Coast, which Dr Brewster presented to a meeting of the British Association in Dublin, this being the first of many submitted by Brown to that body. Alexander wasn't such a "weary bairn" after all.



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