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David Balfour was a gentleman of St. Andrews, who was born in 1574, the son of David Balfour and consort Johanne (Joanna, Jean). He first married Agnete "Dunchesia" then Maria "Escylleae (i.e. Eskilsdatter). His third wife was Johanne Willums who survived him and by whom he had the daughters Agnete and Elizabeth, baptised 1620 and 1623 respectively. Balfour studied abroad, returned to Scotland for a time, and then entered Danish service as a shipbuilder in 1597, becoming a master ship builder from 1601. One of his first ships was "Hunden Torst" which he built in 1602. This was used on the Greenland Expeditions of Sir John Cunningham [SSNE 1497] in 1605 -1606 when Denmark tried to reclaim their trans-oceanic possessions. In December 1604 Balfour was engaged in building a ship in Norway and king Christian IV ensured that 200 daler were released to him to continue his work. Balfour had some difficulties with supplies as in May 1605 he complained to Christian IV that the quality of the wooden nails he was obtaining in Norway were not up to standard and he got permission to obtain nails from the Netherlands. He was imprisoned 1612, allegedly on false accusations, and released 1616 after intervention by James VI/I. Thereafter he was in service as a shipbuilder by 3 November 1616, andreappointed master shipbuilder on 2 July 1617. His financial situation was not always secure as in 1621 he appealed to Christian IV to help him obtain an overdue debt from one Jens Block, and Block was threatened with imprisonment if he did not pay. He obtained the title deed of a plot at Christianshavn with the obligation of constructing a house 11 February 1624, confirmed for his widow 5 July 1634. His stepson (unnamed) went to Kolberg and Rugenwalde to fetch beams, probably in 1630, and William Haversack was sent to Pomerania and Prussia to acquire timber (passport dated 10 April 1631). Balfour was in litigation with the city of Copenhagen about Gronnegaards Havn by 25 February 1632. Balfour obliged himself to build a ship in Norway on 20 December 1604 and constructed the Trost by 1605. He also worked as a shipbuilder at Itzehoe (Holstein) in 1611 and as supervisor of the construction at Flensburg of a vessel for the king in February 1620. Again, he obliged himself in October 1623 to build a man-of-war for delivery by August 1624 and by January 1625 to construct two vessels by July of that year. In September the following year he agreed to build two vessels. He tended to work with Dutch ship's carpenters and had constructed the Hummeren by 7 February 1628. By 1631 he had completed Tre Lover at Christianshavn, and was to construct the Crocodilen for Richard Hawick, but did not honour his contract before his death in 1634. His son Henry (of his first or second marriage) wanted to study shipbuilding in Britain and was recommended by Christian IV to go there on 25 November 1616.


There is presently a street called David Balfours Gade in Amager (Copenhagen).


Sources:Norske Rigsregistranter, vol.4, (1870); vol.5, (1874), p.127; T. Riis, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Odense, 1988), II, p.54; M. Bellamy, 'Danish Naval Administration and Shipbuilding in the reign of Christian IV, 1596-1648', Ph.D. thesis, Glasgow, 1997.

Service record

Arrived 1597-01-01
Departed 1634-12-31
Capacity SHIPBUILDING, purpose NAVAL