Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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RECTOR, n. Gen.Sc. usages:

1. The headmaster of a grammar school or Academy (Suppl.). Sc. 1709  W. Steven Hist. High School Edb. 81:
The rector of the school receive annually Three hundred merks of salary.
Gsw. 1741  Burgh Rec. Gsw. (1911) 84:
He had a letter from Mr. Purdie, headmaster and rector of the Grammar School.
Fif. 1762  Caled. Mercury (24 July):
There is a Vacancy in the Office of Rector of the Grammar School of Kirkcaldy.
Ayr. 1779  A. McKay Hist. Kilmarnock (1909) 159:
He is the first of the parish schoolmasters officially designated “Rector of the Grammar School”.
Dmf. 1804  A. Steel Annan (1933) 183:
The Magistrates and Council decide, while the Endowment of the said Academy shall not exceed ¥50 per annum in money, there shall only be a Rector and two other teachers.
Edb. 1837  Penny Cycl. IX. 278:
The Edinburgh Academy . . . was founded in 1824, and consisted of a rector and four other classical masters.
Ags. 1865  J. C. Jessop Educ. in Ags. (1931) 199:
Mr Andrew Robertson, now Rector of the High School of Brechin.
Sc. 1958  Scotsman (19 Dec.) 5:
The rectors of four well-known Scottish schools form the proposed short-leet for the post of rector of Aberdeen Grammar School.
Abd. 1960  Stat. Acc.3 (Aberdeenshire) 482:
The status and designation of “Academy” was granted to Ellon Secondary School, and that of “Rector” to the headmaster, only a few years ago.

2. The elected head of a medieval university, whose office has survived various vicissitudes in the 18th c. in the four older Scottish Universities and is now regulated by the Scottish Universities Acts of 1858 and 1889 which enjoin a triennial election by all matriculated students, exclude the candidature of members of the university staff, and appoint the elected person (now gen. a distinguished public figure) as President of the University Court. His chief duties are to represent the students on this body and to deliver a “rectorial address” to his constituents at his inauguration (see quots. and Lord, 2., Combs. (33), Nation, and Procurator, 2. (22)). Sc. 1709  R. Wodrow Corresp. (1842) I. 19:
There were some insinuations of lesser moment made, that you had not the badges of a University, a Chancellor, Rector, Seal.
Sc. 1726  Caled. Mercury (18 Oct.):
The University of Glasgow sate here, and restored the ancient Rights and Privileges of the Students in the Election of the Rector, which some years ago they had been deprived of.
Sc. 1776  Weekly Mag. (8 Aug.) 210:
The rector is the next great officer, to whose care is committed the privileges, discipline, and statutes of the University [St. Andrews].
Sc. 1795  Stat. Acc.1 XXI. App. 23, 59:
The rector and dean are chosen annually; much in the same manner as they were from the first foundation of the University [Glasgow]. The rector always names the principal and professors to be his assessors . . . The rector of the University [King's, Aberdeen] is the person next in dignity to the chancellor, and is called Lord Rector. . . . The rector is to be chosen by all the suppositi of the University [Marischal, Aberdeen], divided into four nations.
Sc. 1861  Aberdeen Jnl. (20 March):
The Rector thereafter ascended to the desk, upon which he placed the manuscript of his address, during which time the uproar continued unabated.
Sc. 1884  Sir A. Grant Univ. Edb. II. 106:
Mr Gladstone thus became [in 1859] the first elected Lord Rector of the University of Edinburgh.
Sc. 1910  J. Kerr Sc. Education 333:
By the Act of 1858 larger powers were given to the Senatus, and the University Court and General Council were instituted. Henceforth in Glasgow and Aberdeen the Rector was as hitherto elected by the matriculated students divided into four “nations”, but in Edinburgh and St Andrews in such manner as the commissioners might determine.
Sc. 1958  Univ. Edb. Gazette 19. 169:
Although the office of Rector had existed in the seventeenth century, the Act [of 1858] restored this dignity under entirely new conditions, since the Rector was now to be elected by the matriculated students. A University Court, presided over by the Rector, was set up with the intention that it should become the supreme authority in the everyday administrative routine of the University.

Hence derivs.: (1) rectoral, pertaining to a Rector; †(2) Rectorate, the office of Rector; (3) rectorial, (i) adj. = (1); (ii) n., the canvassing and ceremonial connected with the election of a Rector. Gen.Sc. Also attrib.; (4) Rectorship, = (2). (1) Sc. 1754  Session Papers, Petition T. Tullidelph (5 March) 4:
The University Meeting requested the Rector to hold a Rectoral Court against the next Day [at St Andrews].
(2) Sc. 1865  Carlyle Life in London (Froude 1885) II. 296:
My Rectorate [at Edinburgh], it seems, is a thing settled.
(3) Sc. 1749  St Andrews Univ. Minutes MS. (8 April):
Principal Murison caused put the Rectorial robes on Principal Tullidelph, administered to him the oath de fideli and delivered to him the Rectorial books and thereupon quitted the chair.
Sc. 1830  Rep. Comm. Univ. Scot. App. 317:
The Procuratores Nationum, who seem to have at one time taken a part in the election, have for many years, in consequence of a resolution of the Rectorial Court, ceased to do so. . . . The Rector and his Assessors . . . constitute a Court, and have frequently exercised control over the University.
Sc. 1843  Rep. St Andrews Univ. Comm. (1845) App. xi. 2:
Your Memorialists were at the late Rectorial election the constituents of those intrants who made choice of the Rev. Dr. Chalmers as Lord Rector of this University [St Andrews].
wm.Sc. 1904  H. Foulis Erchie xv.:
It was the day of the Rectorial Election, and the dust of far-flung pease-meal — favourite missile of the student — filled the air all over the classic slopes of Gilmorehill.
Sc. 1932  Sir Walter's Post Bag (Partington) 263:
He [Scott] had been twice previously (1822 and 1824) defeated in the Glasgow Rectorial Election.
Sc. 1956  St Andrews Alumnus Chronicle (Jan.) 10:
In 1642 . . . the “viri rectorales”, the men eligible for the Rectorial office, were increased in number by the inclusion of the “public” professors. . . . In theory the Rector governed, advised by a co-opted body known as the Rectorial Court.
(ii) Sc. 1899  The Student (2 Nov.) 41:
One student writes protesting against the enormities of the Rectorial.
Sc. 1920  Glasgow Herald (27 Nov.) 6:
The Scottish Universities to whose noisy “Rectorials” Viscount Bryce made reference, have no monopoly in uproar.
Sc. 1952  C. Brogan Glasgow Story 139:
A Rectorial is a free-for-all, with no respect for persons.
(4) Sc. 1830  Rep. Comm. Univ. Scot. 238:
It has been stated also, that during two successive Rectorships, the only attendance has been once in two years.
Sc. 1877  Gladstone in Letters Dr. J. Brown (1909) 356:
When I quitted the Edinburgh Rectorship I did not expect to put on the harness elsewhere, and when I was solicited to stand at Glasgow I stipulated for a total exemption from duty.
Sc. 1890  The Student (19 Nov.) 67:
The Lord Rector's address is the feature of the Rectorship which the student most looks forward to.
Sc. 1956  St Andrews Alumnus Chronicle (Jan.) 10:
The history of the Rectorship [in St Andrews] in earlier times is a story of persistent and finally successful attempts to curtail the franchise and make the office the preserve of a limited section of the University.

3. Applied in Scotland since 1890 to the clergyman in charge of a full congregation of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Sc. 1951  F. Goldie Hist. Episc. Ch. Scot. 98:
A number of changes in nomenclature were agreed to: — . . . the title “Rector” was substituted for “Incumbent”, “Provincial Synod” was substituted for “General Synod”.

[O.Sc. rector, of a school, c.1100, in St Andrews University, 1411, in Latin sources.]

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"Rector n.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 15 Dec 2017 <>



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