Ebenezer Scroggie

1792 - 1836

Edinburgh merchant who provided Charles Dickens with the inspiration for the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Born in Kirkcaldy, a cousin of economist Adam Smith (1723-90), Scroggie became a successful merchant, vintner and Town Councillor (or Baillie) in Edinburgh. He held the first contract to supply whisky to the Royal Navy in Leith and was also responsible for supplying the drink for King George IV's visit to Edinburgh in 1822.

Scroggie was known as a dandy and terrible philanderer who had several sexual liaisons which made him the talk of the town. He was a jovial and kindly man, not the mean-spirited miser with which he was associated. The error came about when author Charles Dickens was walking in Edinburgh in the evening following a public reading of his work in the summer of 1841. He explored the Canongate Kirkyard and noted Scroggie's memorial, which described him as a 'meal man', that is a corn dealer. In the twilight, Dickens mis-read this as a 'mean man' and noted in his diary the shock of this description even amongst traditionally parsimonious Scots. Thus the character Ebenezer Scrooge came into being in A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, and Scroggie forever acquired an ill-deserved reputation. His gravestone can no longer be seen, having been lost in the 1930s.

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