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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Right Kemp, The Reverend Dr John (1744-1805)

'Clarinda's' minister. He went from the Trinity Gask to the Tollbooth Church, Edinburgh in 1779, and held this charge until his death. He received the degree of D.D. from Harvard University, U.S.A. in 1793. He married three times. His first wife was Beatrix, daughter of Andrew Simpson, an Edinburgh merchant. By her he had four children. His second wife was Lady Mary Anne Carnegie, youngest daughter of George, Earl of Northesk. He married her in 1797, and she died the following year. His third wife was Lady Elizabeth Hope, seventh daughter of John, Earl of Hopetoun. He married her in 1799. She died in 1801. Among Dr Kemp's publications was Observations on the Islands of Shetland (1801).

Towards the end of his life, this man, who had been so censorious of the affair between his most famous parishioner and Burns, was himself involved in a scandal which only death saved saved from ruining him. He became a kind of father-confessor to Lady Colquhoun of Luss, whose daughter his son David, a weaver had married. Sir James Colquhoun and 26th of Luss, took an action for divorce from his wife, on the grounds of her association with Dr. Kemp. But in April 1805 both Sir James and Dr Kemp died. The preliminary proceedings, however, excited the interest of John Ramsay of Ochertyre, who kept asking his cousin, Mrs Dundas, for the latest news about the case from Edinburgh. He commented:

'An intrigue with a Lady that has been near 30 years married was never I suppose heard of in the commissary court. The love of the suitors for Penelope whose husband had been away for 20 years, appears incredible to us moderns. It would seem however they courted her for power and pelf, of which she had the disposal... father confessors were better suited to popery than to presbytery or semi-methodism.' And again: 'Lady Colquhon might have made religion her darling luxury, without trusting too much to a protestant father confessor, whose son, under that guise, stole the heart of her fair amiable daughter! The popish ones had no sonds bred wabsters to spread their nets.'

The Rev George William Auriol Hay Drummond (1761 — 1807) in A Town Eclogue (Edinburgh 1804), satirised Kemp, who was also Secretary of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, as Maskall:

"Pent in a close, stampt with religious name,
Vile Maskall skulks in everlasting shame...
Seduce a daughter from her driv'ling sire
Doom to a weaver's arms the well-born miss,
Then greet the mother with a holy kiss."
Buy the Burns Encyclopedia online
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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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