David Masterton (1811-1862)

David Masterton (1811-1862)

Teacher and lunatic

David Masterton was born in Aberdour, trained as a teacher, and was living in Glasgow in 1851. He later "became furious" and was committed to Montrose Lunatic Asylum. He became the subject of court proceedings in a test case to determine who should pay for his continuing upkeep after his financial resources had become exhausted.


David Masterton was the fifth son of John Masterton, labourer, and Mary Stevenson which places him as part of one of the groups of Mastertons in Dunfermline that I have labelled Dunfermline (4). A fuller genealogy of David Masterton can be found at this link

Caledonian Mercury

14 March 1857

Friday, March 13.
(Before Lord Handyside.)

Counsel for the Pursuer, (Inspector of Burntisland) - Mr Macfarlane. George Cotton, S.S.C., Agent
Counsel for the Defender, Flockhart (Inspector of Aberdour) - Mr Fraser. A. Howden, W.S., Agent.
Counsel for the Defender, Adamson (Inspector of the city parish of Glasgow) - Mr A. Moncrieff. James Burness, S.S.C., Agent.
Counsel for the Defender, Milne (Inspector of Montrose) - Mr A.R. Clark. James Morgan, S.S.C., Agent.

This is a very interesting and important case relating to some points in the poor-law not hitherto decided. The subject in dispute is the liability for the maintenance of David Masterton, now a pauper lunatic in the Royal Asylum, Montrose. The lunatic was not a pauper at the period of his confinement in the Asylum, nor did he become so for more than five years thereafter. The pursuer of the action is the inspector of the poor of the parish whence the lunatic was taken to Montrose by legal warrant, he has made disbursements on behalf of the lunatic, and it is admitted that he is entitled to be relieved therefrom; the difficulty is as to the parish which is bound so to relieve him. The defenders are the Inspectors of the parish of Aberdour, where the lunatic was born; of Glasgow, where he had acquired and possessed an industrial settlement at the time he became furious; and of Montrose, where for upwards of five years he was maintained out of his own funds in the Lunatic Asylum, and where he has now become destitute.

The points chiefly involved are these: - 1. Whether, by five years confinement in a lunatic asylum an insane person, not receiving parochial relief, acquires a residential settlement in the parish where the asylum is situated; and 2. Whether a lunatic can lose an industrial settlement, which he possessed at the date of his insanity, so as to throw him back on his birth settlement. Mr Fraser, Mr Clark, and Mr Moncrieff were heard to-day, and the Lord Ordinary made avizandum, expressing his opinion that the case was a nice one, one in which it was very difficult to get any ruling principle. We shall report the facts and the argument fully when judgement is pronounced.

Caledonian Mercury
14 March, 1857