Adam ‘Vasilevich’ Armstrong

Adam ‘Vasilevich’ Armstrong was born in 1761, the eldest son of William Armstrong, the Schoolmaster of Hobkirk. He attended Hawick Grammar School and was the Dux (top pupil in their year) of 1777. After school he went to Edinburgh University.

He worked as a tutor for the Robson-Scotts of Belford, and later for Admiral Greig (cousin of Dr Charters of Wilton, and future father in law to Mary Somerville).

Together with Greig, he went to Russia, were he ‘achieved distinction in the Imperial Government of Alexander 1’ and was appointed Senior Mining Director of the Olonets Ironworks in Petrozavodsk and Chief of their St Petersburg works. He also gave himself the middle name of ‘Vasilevich’ which translates from Russian as ‘son of William’.

Sometime later, Adam travelled back to Britain to bring Charles Gascoigne, the manager of the Carron Ironworks to Russia with him. After Gascoigne’s death in 1806, Armstrong took over for him.

He married Isabella Lindsay, the daughter of Dr Lindsay of Jedburgh, and through doing so became the Proprietor of Mary Queen of Scots House. Isabella had been a love interest of Robert Burns when he visited Jedburgh on his Border Tour of 1787 and her marriage to Armstrong occurred only 24 days after she and Burns last saw each other. Together they had four children: 2 sons called John and Robert Lindsay, and another 2; however, their names and gender (most likely girls) are unknown.

Adam Armstrong died from a severe cold that he caught whilst traveling from St Petersburg, back to Petrozavodsk. He was known to express his concerns for the welfare of the, often very poor, workers of the Olonets Ironworks. To this end his daughter-in-law in his memory donated 3000 Roubles to help workers and their families that were associated with the Olonets Ironworks. Armstrong himself is buried in an unknown location in St Petersburg, but his name is recorded on his parent’s gravestone in Hobkirk kirkyard.

By Haru Nagato Apthorp