First name
Social status

Text source

David Melvin was born near Dundee, the son of George Melvin and his consort Jacomima. Melvin paid taxes amounting to "3rd fjerding" in 1645 (for himself, his wife, a servant and two maids) and again in 1657. In 1648 he lived in a house rented from Admiral and lensman John Cunningham [SSNE 1479] of Finnmark. Records show that he sold victuals to skippers at Elsinore on 22/7/1628 and traded across Scandinavia and the Baltic, including at Aalborg 1643. On at least two occasions, December 1638 and March 1639, Crown Prince Christian (V) issued protection passes to David Melville [Melvin]. The passes were to ensure that Melvin, his ship and crew, would not be treated any differently to other Danish subjects trading with Britain due to the rising unrest in that country. The following year he bought, along with one Albert Douglas, a ship in Stockholm in 1640 and a man of his name certainly had contact with the Scottish community in Sweden having co-signed a letter with some of them in the 1670s [see below]. Later he exported with a skipper of London, 16 lasts of barley from Naestved to Newcastle on 28/5/1642 and with a skipper of Rudkobing, 2 lasts of herring (Norwegian?) from Naestved to Rudkobing on 8/9/1642. Melvin was authorized on 11/6/1645 to export malt and other victuals to Norway from Koge and Holbaek in Scottish ships; He also sent a vessel to Scotland about 1646 which was taken prize by a British captain, and Frederik III asked 1/12/1661 Charles II for its restitution. Melvin was appointed postmaster of Elsinore on 6/9/1660, and a councillor there on 31/1/1661. He thereafter established a horse-mill at Elsinore by 12/3/1662. Throughout 1661 David Melvin was granted the assignation of the Fredrikstad customs for the provisions he delivered to Kronborg and the Elsinore provisions store. On 14 March 1665 a new provisions store was being built in Elsinore and a contract signed with Melvin for 60,000 rdl towards it. From the store 10-12 ships were to be provisioned and used to protect the Sound and the large and small belts. On 28 December 1668, Melvin sent a letter to Lord Arlington noting that the English in Hamburg were to receive compensation for their ships burnt during the second Anglo-Dutch War. However, the Hamburgers were not pleased with this and intended to retaliate, leading Melvin to speculate that the good relations between the English and the Danes might persuade them to to re-establish at Gluckstadt or Kendsborg. However, we know that this did not occur. Among the many letters of the Russell papers in Edinburgh, there are some from David Melvin of Elsinore. In June 1685, Melvin sent more letters to Andrew Russell [SSNE 143] in Rotterdam to be forwarded on to Scotland. He noted that James Cassills [SSNE 7147] was trying to leave among 100 sail, but none could get out due to contrary winds. Further, in that letter he expected the arrival of another Scottish skipper, Mr Thomas Gourlay [SSNE 7148]. In his letter to Russell of 11 July 1685, Melvin added an appology for troubling Russell (whom he had never met) with forwarding his mail to Scotland, but observed that the regular post failed him. He added "you may judge me impertinent to trouble you as being so neere a stranger to you, but if you please to inquire att any of our Scots masters, whether it be Mr [James] Cassils, Mr [John] Gib or Thomas Gourlay they all know me and use my house when they pass through this place".Melvin continued to write to Russell requesting that he forward letters to Scotland. He appears to have been quite appologetic about the trouble he was putting Russell to. On one dated 24 July 1686 he added "Pardon the freedom I take with you, I presume somewhat on Messers Thomson who is [sic] my good friends and I know they will thank you for it". From these letters it seems that a good relationship was struck up with Russell directing his orders for his skippers passing Elsinore to Melvin. Indeed by 23 October, Melvin was writing letters to Russell making it clear that he had open access to Russells orders for Gib. Further, Melvin kept Russell informed of the movement of copper shipped by the Thomson brothers (Patrick [SSNE 6475] and James [SSNE 6332]) as well as Scottish bound shipping in the Baltic. On 15 January 1687 he forwarded letters and news of the Thomson's activities in Sweden and informed Russell that the Swedish post had been prevented from arriving earlier due to ice in the Sound. In his private life, Melvin married Sara Muttum [SSNE 6228] who had been born at 'Liie' in England in 1591. With her he paid for part of the choir screen in St Olai church in 1652. She died on 4/5/1665 without any children. Melvin set up an epitaph for her in St Olai. Melvin also had a pew in St Olai by 1664. His second wife Margrete Jacobsdatter, was born in Copenhagen and died on 8/3/1689. With her Melvin had children including Rasmus Melvin [SSNE 1162] plus one or two others who died young. Melvin also undertook responsibility for other members of the Scottish diaspora. He became Guardian for Hans Jack's daughter Maria (Maren) Lisbet [SSNE 6229] on 28/5/1651 and for James Strachan's widow Sidsele Bendsdatter on 3/8/1660. A house bearing the title "Raadmand David Mellvins Gaard, Anno 1694" can still be seen at Strandgade 70 in Elsinore (with thanks to Peter Young who alerted us to it).


Sources: E. Marquard (ed.), Prins Christian, (V)'s Breve; Kancellibreve i Uddrag 1626-1642, (Copenhagen, 1952), I, p.446, 12 December 1638 and p.466, 31 March 1639; P.W. Becker, ed, Samlinger til Danmarks Historie under kong Frederik den Tredies Regering af udenlandske archiver (2 vols, Copenhagen, 1857), II, pp.303, 416; S Nyg√•rd, (ed), Fortegnelse over kongelige resolutioner gennem rentkammeret, 1660-1719, I, nos.37, 48, 52, 85, 161, 180; Danish Rigsarkiv, Sjaell. Reg., fol.651 v; National Archives of Scotland, Russell Papers, RH15/106/576/3, 6. 17 June and 11 July 1685; RH15/106/609/2-7, February -October 1686; RH15/106/636. David Melvin to Andrew Russell, 15 January 1687; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, pp.198, 218-219 and 235; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.7, 76, 80-81, 83, 146, 153, 156, 192, 221-222, 350. 


The reference to David Melvin in Sweden comes from a letter regarding Alexander Buchan [SSNE 815]. Alexander Buchan traded in Sweden from about 1640. He appears to have had connections with other Scots in Sweden including Hans Kinnemond [SSNE 1630], and William Strang [SSNE 807]. In the Swedish Riksarkiv, Biographica Microcard, E01278 4/6, E01540 2/11AND 3/11 [and in connection with the affairs of Hans Kinnemond] there are two letters from 2 November 1653 and another from 1671 "atested as a correct translation" (from English to Swedish) by William Smith [SSNE 7165] and David Melvin. This is probably the same man.



Service record

Arrived 1628-01-01
Departed 1694-12-31