SKINNER, JOHN (1721-1807), author of Tullochgorum and The Ewie wi' the Crookit horn, was an Episcopalian minister in the parish of Longside, Aberdeenshire. He held this charge for more than sixty-four years. The son of an Aberdeenshire schoolmaster, born at Balfour in 1721, he had been intended for the Presbyterian ministry, but, after passing through Marischal College, Aberdeen, and teaching for a few years, he took orders in the Episcopal Church, and was appointed to the charge of Longside in 1712. There was a considerable remnant of Episcopacy in Aberdeenshire, but very soon after Skinner joined it it became, in consequence of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745, a much persecuted remnant. The young pastor's church was burnt ; his house was plundered; for some years he had to minister to his congregation by stealth ; and in 1753 information was lodged that he had broken the law by officiating to more than four persons besides his own family, and he suffered imprisonment for six months. After 1760 the penal laws were less strictly enforced, but throughout the century the lot of the Episcopalian ministers in Scotland was far from comfortable, and only the humblest provisions for church services were tolerated. Skinner's robust nature, however, made light of all privations; and his kindliness, humour, conviviality, ready wit, and generous force of character made him personally a favourite far and near outside the bounds of his own denomination. In 1789 he was presented with the freedom of the town in whose jail be had been a prisoner for conscience sake. It is by his songs, limited in quantity, but some of them of the very highest quality, that Skinner is generally known. An interesting correspondence took place between him and Burns, who considered Tullochgorum "the best Scotch song Scotland ever saw," and addressed the reverend poet with touching respect. His best songs had stolen into print ; a collection was not published till 1809, under the title of Amusements of Leisure hours. Such literally they seem to have been. Throughout his life he was a vigorous student, and in spite of his scanty resources established a more than local reputation for scholarship, while, according to his latest biographer, he had a paramount influence on the doctrinal views of his clerical brethren in the north. He published in 1788 an Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, in the form of letters; and other works in the same form, which best suited his easy unaffected strength, were collected and published by his son after his death (June 1807), having previously had a wide circulation in manuscript. His prose style has the happiness, ease, and lucid force of a natural master of language. The reasoning of his answer to Beattie's Essay on Truth is an evidence of his robust clearness of intellect.
A minutely accurate biography of Skinner, in connexion with the history of Episcopacy in the north of Scotland, was published by the Rev. 'V. Walker in 1883. An edition of his songs and poems by Mr H. G. Reid, 1859, contains an interesting memoir.