Free Church of Scotland Ministers (1843-1900): Obituaries P

Obituaries: P


Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died June 19, 1900)
Author: Rev. Homer Young, M.A., Gourock
Source: The Free Church Monthly, September, 1900, Obituary, p.215

Mr. Panton was born at Cargill, in Perthshire, in September 1849. His youth and early manhood were spent at the village of Thornton, and afterwards at Tayport, in Fife, where his father held posts in connection with the railway.

Both his father and mother were Christians of the best type, his father being an elder of the Free Church, first at Markinch, and afterwards at Newport. In the memorable revival which swept over Scotland and elsewhere about forty years ago, they took the deepest interest.

That at least one of the sons of such parents should have turned his attention towards the vocation and work of the Christian ministry was a thing almost to be expected; and when James announced to them his desire and purpose of doing so, their hearts were filled with a deep joy. There were many difficulties in the way; but by the blessing of God, and through the lad’s own moral courage, industry, and faith, these were overcome.

After the regular course of study at St. Andrews University and the New College, Edinburgh, he was licensed to preach the gospel, and in the end of the year 1878 he received a unanimous call to become minister of the Free Church at Langholm, and was ordained on the thirtieth of January 1879. There he lived a life of calm saintliness and of stainless honour. He had strong convictions on temperance and other subjects, and he was neither afraid nor ashamed to express them. But he possessed in a singular degree that tender and holy solicitude for the salvation of men which makes a man always speak the truth in love. More, perhaps, than any man whom I ever knew did he bear about with him continually the burden of souls. He laboured for the pulpit with great conscientiousness, and his sermons were always characterized by deep spiritual insight, searchingness, and power. The two branches of his work in which he took special delight were the Sabbath school and the Bible class. For children he had a real love, and for the young men and women of Langholm he sometimes spent whole nights in prayer. Many of these, in the days to come, will doubtless speak of him to each other with that hush of awe and reverence with which we ever name the names of those who have helped to make God’s presence and grace on earth very real to us, and who, now that they are with us no more, often lift our thoughts and affections heavenward.

The last occasion on which he addressed the congregation was at the ordinary prayer-meeting, immediately after he had learned of the serious nature of his illness, and the thoughts to which he then gave expression were based on those words of the Apostle John, from which he had so often and so tenderly sought to administer comfort to others: “Let not your heart be troubled.” On the last Sabbath on which he preached he spoke in the morning from the words, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” There was something singularly appropriate in such an ending to his public ministry, for it showed that the thoughts of his last days were not different from those on which his mind habitually dwelt before the shadow of death was thrown suddenly across his path, and he knew that his days on earth were numbered.

During the course of his painful illness, which was of a malignant internal nature, he showed great calmness, patience, and fortitude. His thoughts were ever circling round his wife, who nursed him day and night, and round his children, for whose sakes he would fain have lived. But when matters became hopeless, he often expressed the wish “to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.”

Mr. Panton was twice married—first to a daughter of the late James Smith, Esq., Cullen Villa, Dundee, who died in 1880; and afterwards to the only daughter of John Barrie, Esq., Hartsgarth, Newcastleton, by whom he had three children, one son and two daughters, for whom, and for Mrs. Panton, much sympathy has been expressed by all classes in the community. He sleeps by the banks of Wauchope.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, June 1, 1867, p.138

This eminent minister of our Church was born in Ayr in 1810, where his father was engaged as an engineer and iron-founder. He was educated at Ayr Academy; and while there, gave such proofs of his ability and power of application as warranted the expectations that were more than fulfilled in his distinguished academic career. Brought up under the ministry of Mr. Peebles of Newton-on-Ayr, his thoughts were early directed to the ministry. With this view he entered the University of Glasgow in 1825, and took and maintained a most prominent place as a student. In classics he had scarcely an equal. He was the fellow-student and rival of the present Lord Justice General, and graduated in this department of study with the highest honours. At the close of his curriculum he received from Sir David Sandford the singularly high testimony, “That no man ever left the College of Glasgow with a more splendid reputation.” In 1833 he was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow, and for two years thereafter laboured as assistant to Dr. Menzies in the East Parish of Greenock. In 1835 he was ordained to the quoad sacra parish of Levern, in the Presbytery of Paisley, and in 1838 received from the Duke of Hamilton the presentation to the first charge of the large and important parish of Lesmahagow.

There he laboured with great assiduity and success, diligently preaching Christ, and by his evangelical teaching laying the foundation of that attachment to Free Church principles which has since characterized the people of that district. The value of his services during the five years preceding the Disruption was great. The blight of moderatism rested on almost the whole Presbytery of Lanark; and, with the minister of Carnwath, Dr. Parker had to maintain the conflict in the face of a phalanx of enemies. At the Disruption he was the only parish minister in the Presbytery of Lanark who resigned his charge. He threw himself with all his heart into the great work of building up the cause of the Free Church, not only in Lesmahagow, but throughout the whole district. There are few of the congregations in the Presbytery of Lanark but are more or less indebted to him; while that of Douglas was established chiefly through his instrumentality.

From 1843 to 1855 he was busy consolidating his large and increasing congregation, and resisted frequent efforts that were made to transfer his services to a more prominent sphere. In the last-named year he accepted the call to the congregation of Wellpark in the east end of Glasgow. That distinguished friend of the Free Church, the late Hugh Tennent of Wellpark, had built at his own expense the very handsome structure in which that congregation now meets. The membership, however, was only 97. Dr. Parker’s pulpit and pastoral work told immediately; and the numbers speedily increased till the communion-roll numbered 840, and every seat in the church was let. Few of our new city congregations made such rapid progress, and the district was one in which the personal piety and public labours of the minister of Wellpark were greatly needed.

Two years ago, Dr. Parker was appointed by the General Assembly Convener of the Committee entrusted with the preparation of a Record of Disruption Ministers. He undertook this work with his wonted zeal, and up to, nay, beyond the measure of his strength laboured to complete it. With this view he visited large portions of the Church, from the south to the most distant Shetlands, collecting material. At the time of his death he had made considerable progress, and it is greatly to be regretted that he was not, in the providence of God, spared to see it finished. It will be difficult to find a man who, with like sympathies, will have such patience in collecting, and such skill in arranging the details of this great work. Amid failing health he was enthusiastic in his endeavours to bring together everything that was likely to prove interesting in connection with the history of our Disruption ministers. Though he knew the perilous condition in which he was placed, he fondly hoped that be would be spared to finish what was certain to prove a monument to the value of the principles of spiritual independence, and the men who, in a great crisis, resolutely maintained them. But the hand of death was on him.

For more than two years before his decease he gave symptoms of being threatened with a most intractable malady. Rest, change of residence, and the first medical skill, seemed to have little effect in staying its progress, though within two months of his death it was hoped that it might be overcome. He suddenly, however, broke down, and after a week’s illness, during which he showed clearly the strength of his hope through the Redeemer, he quietly fell asleep in the presence of his family and the reverend brethren who had come to assist him on the Fast-day, as the bell of his own church was ringing for the afternoon service. It was the anniversary of the day on which, nineteen years before, he had been inducted to the parish of Lesmahagow. He died in the fifty-seventh year of his age, and the thirty-fourth of his ministry.

As a preacher, Dr. Parker was impressive and effective. His ministrations were characterized by energy and fervour. He was ever found blending the doctrinal exposition of the truth with striking and forcible application of it to practical experience. Of late years, his own weakened frame and family affliction seemed to tinge his utterances with a richer unction—as he pled with men to be reconciled to God, and prepare for sharing in the glories of the redeemed.

As we have said, he was most deeply interested in his work in connection with the Records of Disruption Ministers—he saw before him the prospect of saving from oblivion much that could not fail to interest and instruct posterity. He judged rightly that, while the conflict of principles had received full justice from the hands of the distinguished author of the “Ten Years’ Conflict,” there were personal features of the struggle scarcely less valuable as testimonies to the power of those principles. Let us hope that he may, in this work, find a successor who may be able to take full advantage of his labour, and be benefited by his example.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died December 28, 1889)
Author: Rev. W. F. Goldie, Stirling
Source: The Free Church Monthly, May, 1890, Obituary, p.148

The subject of this notice was born at Milton of Culloden, in the vicinity of the famous battlefield, on 5th July 1824. His ancestors had been for generations highly-respected farmers in that district. His parents were among the excellent of the earth. His father was for many years an elder in East Free Church, Inverness, under the ministry of the Rev. David Sutherland. At Inverness Academy Alexander Paterson stood well to the front, winning two silver medals, one for mathematics and another for Latin. At King’s College, Aberdeen, he was a distinguished student, and stood first in mathematics. One of his class-fellows was the present vice-chancellor and principal of the university, Dr. Geddes. In 1847 he took his degree of M.A. Having completed a successful curriculum of divinity at the New College, Edinburgh, he was licensed to preach the gospel in 1852. His first work was to take charge, for six months, of the recently-formed congregation of South Church Elgin, the induction of the minister-elect being delayed by illness. A popular preacher, with a thorough command of Gaelic, his next appointment was to supply the pulpit of Hope Street Gaelic Church, Glasgow, during the time that Dr. McGillivray was laid aside from active duty.

In 1853 Mr. Paterson was ordained to St. Stephen’s Church, Perth, and after two years’ labour in that congregation he was translated to Dunblane. He was now well known as an eloquent preacher of the gospel, and it seemed as if he were to take the place which some had predicted he would reach. But after twelve years of arduous and successful work his health gave way, and he was under the very painful necessity of resigning his charge, as there was little hope of his recovery so long as the burden of it remained upon his mind. After six years of retirement and rest, his health was so far restored that he was asked to take charge of the station at Gargunnock, in the Presbytery of Stirling, where he did excellent work.

In 1878 he was inducted to the new charge of Bainsford, a suburb of Falkirk. Beginning with thirty members in a schoolroom, there was on 28th December last (when he died) a congregation of about three hundred members, with a large church and a commodious hall free of debt. Mr. Paterson was a modest, retiring man; he shrank sensitively from everything like egotism; and it was only intimate friends who had anything like an adequate idea of his sterling qualities, his kindly nature, his great humility, and his genuine piety. Although taking no prominent part in ecclesiastical affairs, he was deeply interested in them, and no man could sooner see the merits of a case or form a sounder judgment concerning it. Most orthodox as to the faith and the church—a Free Churchman to the backbone—he was charitable and catholic in spirit and in judgement. His reminiscences of the conflict between Evangelicals and Moderates in the north country were most interesting, and now that he is gone, one regrets that he had not put them on permanent record.

If the preaching of his earlier years was too declamatory for quiet, severe tastes, it was just what the popular mind demanded. It was thoroughly scriptural and evangelical both in spirit and in matter. The whole man—body, soul, and spirit—was thrown into the sermon. After his recovery from illness it was evident that he had acquired an even deeper insight of the truth and a terser style. He still spoke with his former rapidity and fervour, never halting or hesitating until he came to the golden Amen. You felt that the subject had been stated in a most satisfactory manner. Some of his sermonettes on a verse or portion of the chater read were singularly felicitous and effective. It was Highland preaching at its best. Some who are well able of judging say that his Gaelic preaching was second to none, and that had his ministrations been confined to that tongue, he would have been the foremost preacher in the Highlands. He has, however, left his mark wherever he has ministered, and is spoken of with warm affection.

The field at Bainsford was a difficult and trying one yet with indifferent health he laboured assiduously in pastoral visitation, in tender care of the afflicted, and in specially seeking to reclaim the lost to the Church and to Christ. None but his family knew how earnestly he prayed for his people. His last days were largely spent in that way. So quiet and undemonstrative, he would certainly have wondered at the mourning that has been made for him. His widow, son, and two daughters have met with the sincerest sympathy. One regrets that such men are not made to know in their lifetime a little of the love which others have for them, and of the appreciation in which their services are held, for it might encourage them.

We cannot, in closing, do better than quote the searching words spoken from the pulpit by his neighbour, the Rev. J. B. Johnstone of Falkirk. “Others who have known him longer and better than I will be better able to speak of him. But this I can say, that according to universal testimony, he was a good man, a most faithful and devoted pastor, his people lay very near to his heart. He continued to pray for them almost literally with his last breath. I am not an old man, but I have seen many death-beds, and I have never seen a lighter death-bed than his. It was a joy to see it. During his last days he often was unconscious, but whenever consciousness returned, his mind always found its way back to the centre of all things, the Cross; and the doctrines which gave him most peace were just the two doctrines of atonement through the blood of Christ and the doctrine of substitution—Christ the sacrifice in the room and stead of us sinners.”

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died February 3,1871)
Author: Rev. Peter Hope
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, April 1, 1871, p.79

Our sister Church in England has sustained another heavy loss. One of her most able and devoted ministers has fallen at his post. In the very prime of his vigorous manhood, and in the midst of his usefulness, Mr. Paterson of Manchester has been called away. And the whole Church, which he loved so well, and for whose prosperity he laboured so zealously, now mourns that removal, which might seem to the eye of sense to be so mysterious and untimely, but which, we know, has come from the hand of One who cannot err, and who does all things well. This is not the place for indiscriminate or extravagant eulogy; but the strong expressions of regret which we hear on every side tell of the estimation in which he was held, and of the profound sense entertained of the value of his services to the English Presbyterian Church. Though not strictly a Free Church minister during the last years of his life, he was always so in spirit and sympathy; and it will be deemed quite fitting that expression should be given in the Record to the deep sorrow which his decease has excited here as well as in England, and to our feelings of sincere condolence with his bereaved family, with the congregation which laments his departure, and with the Church which feels the loss throughout all her borders.

John C. Paterson was born at Ecclefechan, Dumfries-shire, in the year 1826, so that at his death he had only completed his forty-fourth year. He attended the parish school in Hoddam, then taught by Mr. Johnstone, now of Dunfermline, of whom he always spoke with the utmost respect and affection. During his college course the Ten Years’ Conflict was proceeding with ever deepening interest; and when the Disruption approached, all his convictions and all his feelings were ardently enlisted on the side of the Evangelical Party. Any hesitation which he may have previously felt as to the choice of a profession now entirely disappeared, and he deliberately adopted the high calling of the gospel ministry in the Free Church of Scotland. While yet a student, he threw himself with characteristic ardour into the cause of the Free Church in his native district, and rendered important services to more than one congregation. On receiving license, he was called to Half-Morton, where he ministered for six years; and then to St. Andrew’s Church, Manchester, where he found a sphere which gave more scope to his energies. How he laboured there, how successfully he built up that now large and flourishing congregation; how he attached to the Church and to himself quite a remarkable number of young Scotchmen; what a genial and kindly influence he exercised upon them and all around; how soon and how extensively he made himself felt in Manchester and throughout the Church; how unweariedly he toiled for the welfare of ministers and congregations, and for the promotion of all good objects; how fertile he was in resources, how sagacious in counsel, and how prompt and vigorous in action; how hopeful and fearless, how blind to difficulties, and how clear-sighted with respect to everything else; — all this is well and widely known. And when the summons to depart came to him, it found him, we learn, calmly and consciously resting on the finished work of his Redeemer. May the Lord sanctify this sore bereavement to the widow and the fatherless, to the congregation and the Church, and to the many friends who have been startled and stunned by the intelligence that one so full of hope and life and energy is gone — that the strong and ardent John C. Paterson is with us no more!

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died April 21, 1895)
Author: Rev. D. C. MacGregor, Wimbledon
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, October, 1895, Obituary, p.248

The outward facts of Charles Paton’s life may be given in a few lines. He was born in Ayrshire in 1861. As his father, who is now the respected session-clerk at Troon, belonged to the teaching profession, the family enjoyed educational advantages, of which Charles from his boyhood availed himself to the full. Both at the University and the Free Church College of Glasgow he showed himself a diligent and successful student, with a mind of no ordinary grasp and clearness. In the Divinity Hall, where one of his class-fellows was John McNeill, he was respected alike by professors and students, as much for his mental gifts as for his consistent and beautiful character.

After licence, he worked for two years and a half as missionary in connection with the Free Parish Church at Rothesay. In the autumn of 1889, he came to St. Monans, where it soon appeared that he had found his sphere. In the following spring he received a unanimous call, and was ordained there on April 17, 1890. The sermon preached on the occasion was on the text, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of word;” and assuredly it was in that spirit that Paton addressed himself to his work. He had five years of it. Last April, after a few days’ illness and almost before those around him had time to apprehend danger, he received his discharge, and entered into the rest that remains.

Paton was of middle height; of spare, somewhat stooping figure; pale; brown haired; eyes a light grey, with a peculiar wistfulness and a transparent honesty in their expression. Naturally shy, and having, moreover, certain defects both of utterance and hearing, he made no great impression upon those who met or heard him for the first time; indeed, the first impression, as apparently in St. Paul’s case, was apt to be that of almost a kind of feebleness. If you talked with him, or listened, you soon found out your mistake; a mind of uncommon frcshness and force was in contact with your own. But there was something more than this. No one could know the man—his humility, his patience, his sympathy and tenderness, his unwearied work for others—without loving him. The lamentation, on his funeral day, of the warm-hearted fisher-folk to whom he had ministered—that scene in the church, which none who witnessed it will ever forget—showed what those who knew him best thought of the pastor and friend they had lost.

What was it that gave this young minister power? The answer may be helpful to some of his comrades. I believe it lay greatly in his utter selflessness. Charles Paton’s life was a very simple thing. There was one thing in it, and one only—do his Master’s work. By the side of that, the consideration of ease, relief, or saving of trouble for himself—to say nothing of positive advantage, reputation, and such like—simply did not exist. In this I say deliberately I have never known any one like him. Sometimes he seemed to carry this self-effacement almost to excess. I have found fault with him for thinking too little of himself, and hardly doing his own powers and capacities justice, even while I felt how his pure unworldliness shamed us all. Yet he could assert himself, too, when it was necessary. He had a shrewd judgment, and was thoroughly independent. One instance I particularly recall where he differed, gently but decidedly, from the opinion of one on whom he often leaned, and where after-events made it as clear as day that our dear friend was right. The inner secret and spring of all this was never in doubt. In an age when there is much talk of holiness, and any clear indisputable attainment of it is just as difficult and as rare as ever, the world had in Charles Paton a genuine epistle of Christ. That was the constant impression he made as he walked among us; that is the memory he has left behind. With a strange fitness the last text he ever preached on, when the shadows of the end were already closing in, seemed to put in words the whole purpose of this faithful, unpretending, but truly heroic life: “Go thou thy way till end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.”

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died December 25, 1871)
Author: Rev. Neil Livingston, Stair, Ayrshire
The Free Church Monthly Record, May 1, 1872, p.104

This much esteemed minister spent his early years in one of the suburbs of Glasgow. His father belonged to the congregation of the late Rev. Mr. Currie of Stockwell Church in that city, but along with his pastor and many congregations of the Old Seceders joined the Established Church some years prior to the Disruption. His son Joseph had, however, anticipated that step by previously attaching himself to the congregation of St. John’s, Glasgow, then under the charge of the venerable Dr. Brown. Yet throughout life his mind showed traces of his original connection, and was strongly imbued with that solid piety, gravity of thought, and soundness of doctrine for which that connection was notable. There is nothing special to relate of his college course in Glasgow but he seems to have exhibited in youth the same style of character as in riper years—sedateness, a sensitive and retiring disposition, and religious earnestness, more especially in the reflective form, being prominent features. He took the degree of A.M.

After taking license, Mr. Patrick officiated for some time as missionary for Dr. Henderson of St. Enoch’s, Glasgow, through whose recommendation he was engaged as assisaant to the parish minister of Dron in Perthshire. During the two or three years thus spent, we find him maintaining intercourse with some of those eminent men whose names have become as household words, James Halley, William Burns, McCheyne of Dundee, and others, many of whose letters to him are still preserved.

The Disruption occurred, and terminated Mr. Patrick’s employment at Dron. Standing proof against the temptations presented by vacant charges, and to which so many yielded from whom other things might have been expected, he decidedly cast in his lot with the Free Church, and was ordained in 1844 to the charge of Ochiltree, in the Presbytery of Ayr, where he continued till his death. It was originally intended that Ochiltree, Stair, and Tarbolton should form one congregation, meeting at a central point for all; and the first post-Disruption communion was observed in the open air, under that arrangement. But the increase of adherents and other causes very soon resulted in relinquishing this plan. Ochiltree became a distinct charge; and Tarbolton, though forming one pastorate with Stair till 1861, had a separate church and organization. A remarkable providence in relation to Ochiltree may be mentioned here. There appeared no prospect of obtaining a site, and for a time faith and steadfastness were called to struggle with discouragement. But unexpectedly a considerable property around the village was brought to public sale, and that not as a whole but in moderate lots, several of which thus fell into the hands of friends. The result was that sites were obtained in positions which could not have been more eligible though the entire neighbourhood had been available for selection. That for the manse, the gift of the late Alexander Ross Esq. of Edinburgh, formerly of India, is free of rent, and so ample as to constitute a small glebe.

During twenty-two years Mr. Patrick continued in the regular and diligent discharge of his pastoral duties. He did not enter much into public business; and except in preparing for the press two or three occasional sermons, and a few papers for magazines, devoted but little of his time to literary work. But no man could be more devoted to the duties of his charge. With his pulpit preparations, his household visits, the instruction of the young of his flock, and the godly upbringing of his own family, his whole time and heart were constantly occupied. In public duty his most prominent gift was prayer, in which he was excelled by few. His sermons were of the good standard Scottish type, with their heads, particulars, and points of application; these, however, being moderate in number and well-proportioned in length,—

“In doctrine incorrupt, in language plain.”

He took much pleasure in his congregational school, an institution which is not without its fame, having sent forth in proportion to its numbers a more than average band of successful students and teachers. He delighted also in tracing out the religious history of the parish in distant times, and telling of the series of evangelical ministers which it enjoyed when so much of Ayrshire was overrun with Moderatism, Socinianism, and semi-infidelity.

In 1866, it was God’s will that a dark cloud should overshadow Mr. Patrick’s mind and compel his retirement from active duty. This visitation continued for several years, and the proposal of appointing a colleague was beginning to be seriously entertained, when symptoms of improvement appeared and became gradually more decided, till during the last year of his life his malady had in a great measure disappeared. During that year he had been taking a gradually increasing part in pulpit and other duties, and hopes were entertained of a perfect restoration. But it has pleased the Great Disposer to order it otherwise. His last pulpit service was in the Free Church, Lochwinnoch, at an evening meeting; text, Mark 10:32, “And as they followed, they were afraid.” From the peculiarity of the text and of the circumstances, with the unexpected energy of delivery, a strong impression is said to have been produced. Soon after returning home, a cold which had been hanging upon him for some time, but was not considered serious, took deadly effect. The writer of this notice was startled by a message on Sabbath afternoon that Mr. Patrick was considered dying. Before being able to reach him he had become unable to do more than utter a single word or lift up his hands in response to the Scripture passages repeated in his hearing. Among his attempts at utterance, the words “perfect peace” were heard with peculiar distinctness and force. His assistant, Mr. Neil McCallum, watched with the family during the night. In singing a hymn, Mr. Patrick made a feeble attempt to join. Towards morning he became insensible, and breathed his last about ten o’clock, being the 25th December.

Mr. Patrick has left a widow and family of three, a fourth having died in boyhood. The eldest is a well-known Divinity student, now terminating his course in the Free Church College, Edinburgh.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died July 9, 1897)
Author: Rev. David M. W. Laird, Durris
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, November, 1897, Obituary, p.273

Mr. Patterson was born at Dalton, near Dumfries, in the year 1856. He came of an old Covenanting stock, and his mother, who still survives, early devoted him to the Lord’s service. After his school days at Dumfries Academy, where he gained the medal as dux of the school, he attended the University of Edinburgh, doing his class work there most conscientiously. During his theological course at the New College, he engaged in mission work in the slums of Edinburgh. By his college discourses and his prayers in the class prayer-meetings, he impressed his professors and his comrades as a very devout and spiritually-minded man.

For a few months after he was licensed to preach he was assistant to the late Mr. Reid of Banchory-Ternan, near Aberdeen, where he did excellent work. Though fifteen years have passed, many of the older people still remember him with kindness, and speak of the heartfelt sincerity of his prayers and the richness of his prayer-meeting addresses.

In 1883 he was called to be colleague-pastor in the Free Church of Pitsligo, on the north coast of Aberdeenshire, four miles west of Fraserburgh. The grey old fishing village in which the church is situated is called Rosehearty, and there he laboured for the twelve short years of his ministerial life. The whole work of the congregation from the first devolved upon Mr. Patterson, and in carrying it on he showed how high was his ideal of the Christian ministry. There was not much outwardly to encourage in the severe climate of the north-east, the small income, the somewhat isolated community, and the frequent losses sustained through bad fishing seasons; but Mr. Patterson found in his people and his work all that he desired. His flock were mostly connected with the fishing industry, and as often happens with those “who go down to the sea in ships,” they were unusually thoughtful and serious. There was something about Mr. Patterson’s ordinary discourse and occasional addresses to fishermen in various parts of Scotland, among whom he often did mission work in summer, which suggested Richard Baxter’s phrase, “as a dying man to dying men”. His pulpit style was arresting and forcible. Seldom has a pastor been more devoted to his own congregation. His people were always in his heart and in his thoughts. He was instant in prayer, that the Word of God might do great things among them, and he was often cheered by evident tokens that his labour in the Lord was not in vain. In pastoral visitation and care of the young he was unwearied. Though it might cut short a much-needed holiday, he was sure to hasten back to Rosehearty if he heard of any acute sickness or sad bereavement. The singular attachment of his people, and the many tokens he got of the working of God’s grace among them, were the reward of his fidelity to duty as a good minister of Jesus Christ.

In 1893 he married Miss Mabel Raleigh of Edinburgh, and her bright presence made the somewhat sombre manse cheerful, and gave him support and comfort in his work. But it was not to be for long. He had already had a few warnings that his health was not very robust, when suddenly, about three years ago, his constitution completely broke down. His medical advisers had to pronounce the sad verdict that he could never preach again, and so, with deep sorrow, he had to resign his charge and take leave of his attached flock. Since his retirement he lived in Edinburgh, lovingly cared for by his wife and her friends. For a time he seemed to revive a little, but repeated attacks of influenza laid him low, and on the ninth of July this year he entered into rest. Those who saw him in his last days were glad to witness his firm hope in Christ, and the resignation with which he said, “Thy will be done.” When told that he was going home, he said with a smile, “I am very glad; my soul is in perfect peace, resting on Christ.” Though to us his work may appear to be only half done, to God it has seemed otherwise, and He has early called His servant home. So the tired body is at rest, and the willing spirit serves day and night in the heavenly temple.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died August 14, 1895)
Author: Rev. Alex. Cumming, Forfar
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, April, 1896, Obituary, p.93

Mr. Patteson was ordained and settled in an Irish charge in 1842. Having a chivalrous disposition and generous impulses, he was greatly stirred by the events of 1843, and the Disruption made his heart glow with admiration and sympathy. His presbytery, sharing the same enthusiasm, overcame their natural unwillingness to transfer one so recently inducted into one of their own charges, and agreed to place in his hands the call to Kinnettles, where he accordingly became Free Church minister in October 16, 1845. For many years Mr. Patteson wrought with vigour and success in his new sphere. He was also clerk of the Presbytery of Forfar from May 1857 till September 1884. Latterly, his own declining strength, and the closing of a public work in his neighbourhood, with the consequent removal of many members of the congregation, seriously affected the prosperity of the Kinnettles Free Chrch. But the older people in Forfar, who had heard him before his strength failed, have spoken to me with great warmth and high appreciation of his preaching, remarking especially on the impressive quickening effect of his sermons. I have heard them speak with very grateful remembrance of the benefit they derived, and tell how gladly they welcomed his appearance in the pulpit.

Mr. Patteson was a well-informed man, and widely read in general literature. His richly-stored ready memory, along with his sparkling wit and genial humour, made him a delightful companion. He had abundance of gracious charity, but his tolerance was by no means indiscriminate. He had a wealth of eloquent language and incisive thought, was accustomed to speak his mind with much force, and without respect of persons, on all that he considered unfair, ungenerous, or ungodly. He was a man of singularly warm heart and tender affection. His wit, no doubt, had sometimes a sharp enough edge, but he was more given to heal than to wound. Many things, not to be mentioned here, showed him to be brave, generous, and helpful in spirit and in action. I have often had to admire his kindheartedness as evinced by the pleasure it gave him to tell of the lovable or honourable features he found in those he had met, or with whom he had intercourse—rich and poor.

Mr. Patteson was of the old school, and not very favourable to certain recent developments. He was a great admirer of the late Robertson Smith, however, from the beginning of his struggle. Above all, he was a lover of truth; a trifle slow, perhaps, to recognize it under new forms, but loyally ready to own it when the evidence was adequate. His preaching was very earnest and evangelical; the preaching of one who prepared with much thoughtful prayer, and whose great desire it was to win his hearers to the Saviour, and build them up in sound faith and habits of holy living. Being a most loving father in a very affectionate home, he seemed to bear about with him much of a fatherly tenderness in his pastoral visitation and pulpit work. Having a healthy and vigorous intellect, much general knowledge, a genial disposition, and abundant stores of anecdote, his conversation was very varied, entertaining, and instructive. But one could hardly fail to notice that whatever the subject of conversation, and however lively his interest in it might be, no man could more heartily than he did welcome the introduction of the great matters, or enter on the consideration of these with more devoutness and relish.

During his last years Mr. Patteson’s strength was extremely reduced, and for many months before his death he was afflicted with great weakness and severe pain, both of these being borne with admirable patience and cheerfulness. I must not speak of the exquisite ministrations Mr. Patteson enjoyed from the members of his own family; and can only mention the fact that he spoke often and very warmly of the abilities and usefulness, and the numberless kind and most considerate attentions, of the Rev. Mr. Wilson, his assistant, who, in terms of the act of last Assembly, has been appointed ordained probationer at Kinnettles.

At the celebration of Mr. Patteson’s jubilee, at the meetings held in connection with his retirement from active service, and at his funeral, the public interest shown was such as to give clear evidence of his having won a very high measure of esteem and affection in the whole neighbourhood, and among all denominations.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


The Record of the Free Church of Scotland, February 1, 1864, p.451

This able minister of the New Testament was called to his rest on the evening of Sabbath, 10th January. Mr. Paxton had been ill for some weeks previously of fever. He appeared to have surmounted the attack; but two days before his death, he relapsed, and continued to sink until the malady terminated fatally. Mr. Paxton was a nephew of the late Dr. Paxton, Professor of Divinity in the Original Secession Church. He was ordained to the ministry in that Church in 1846. His first charge was in Kirriemuir; his next in East Campbell Street, Glasgow, where he ministered with great acceptance to a large congregation. In 1852 he joined the Free Church along with the body to which he belonged. Six years ago, he accepted a call to the congregation at Musselburgh. There had been a protracted vacancy, and a good deal of division in the congregation; but with the practical wisdom which characterized him, Mr. Paxton was able to restore harmony and peace, which remained unbroken till the day of his death.

Only the more intimate friends of Mr. Paxton knew his many excellences and accomplishments. He possessed that sensitive, sympathetic nature, which, though full of loving affections, often shields itself beneath an exterior of apparent coldness; and, as a consequence, the full range and capacity of his social nature was known only to those who had the privilege of his intimate friendship. He was a man of high honour and true independence. As a theologian he was well read, and had accumulated varied and ample stores, from which he could ever draw, along with steady, conscientious week-by-week study, for the services of the sanctuary. His mind was clear, quick, discriminating, and judicious. As a preacher he possessed a free and unembarrassed eloquence; his delivery was lively and impressive; his language was simple, yet felicitous; his fancy chastened, yet breaking out in occasional figure and similitude, in illustration of the truth he was expounding; while the matter of his discourses, which exhibited a fine blending of the practical and the doctrinal, was singularly apposite, scriptural, and rich. In his death the pulpit of the Free Church has sustained a great loss. Mr. Paxton leaves a widow in delicate health, and a numerous family to lament him.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died January 19, 1883)
Author: Rev. John George MacNeill, Portnahaven
Source: The Free Church Monthly, July 2, 1883, Brief Biographies, p.213

In the death of the venerable servant of God, the Rev. James Pearson, who has been lately called to his rest, the Presbytery of Islay has lost its last Disruption minister and its dearly-beloved father. The outstanding events of his personal history may be briefly stated. He was born on the 20th of August 1801; entered the University of Glasgow when he was seventeen years of age; finished his divinity studies in his twenty-seventh year; was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow; and ordained at Bowmore by the Presbytery of Islay as minister of Kilmeny in May 1829. He prosecuted his studies with perseverance and success. Throughout life he cherished the warmest affection for the memory of Professor Macgill. His student days were the dawn of a transition period in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland. In the first decades of this century the character and writings of a few most eminent men exerted an ennobling and an elevating influence upon his life and subsequent career. Dr. Andrew Thomson, with his penetrating intellect and great argumentative power, Dr. Thomas Chalmers, with his marvellous genius, massive eloquence, and fervid oratory, Dr. John Love, with his dignified solidity and depth of spiritual thought and feeling, and Dr. Macgill’s faithful personal intercourse with his students, seem to have awakened in his mind ineradicable convictions of life and duty. New currents of life and thought, the out-force of quickened souls, had begun to create a new theology and a new Christianity in divinity halls, pulpits, and pews. Amidst all these educational forces and moral activities Mr. Pearson became an accomplished classical scholar. In church history his information was extensive and accurate. The Holy Scriptures, in the original languages, he knew intimately and critically. But all his varied talents he kept under the control of a fine judgment and cultured taste. His elegant conversational powers, methodical habits, and punctual fulfilment of engagements, distinguished him as a model Christian gentleman. Although early brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, on such important subjects he maintained a discreet reticence. As a preacher, his knowledge of divine truth was most profound. His sermons were truly evangelical, characterized by vigour of thought, refined diction, deep reverence, intense earnestness, faithful application, and winning appeal. The substance of all his discourse was Christ and him crucified, as the fact of the ages, the focus of revelation, the fountain of living waters, and the centre of all the divine counsels. To the Calvinistic system of theology and to its ablest expounders he gave his unqualified adhesion. The Rev. James Pearson was notably a man of prayer. His public prayers were enstamped with holy awe, impressive solemnity and unction. Like the hidden small beginnings of a river, the fountain-head beats and bubbles, and bursting into life and motion, removes all obstructions, broadens and deepens till it becomes a majestic river, capable of carrying on its living, heaving bosom, the fleets of empire; so the social devotions of our revered departed father embraced the individual and the family, the congregation and the Church, the home and the foreign missions. The pen is felt to be a feeble instrument to do justice to this most mysterious but noblest phase of his godly life. As a pastor he was assiduous in the discharge of the arduous duties of rural pastoral visitation, catechising annually all the families of his widely-dispersed flock. At the bedside of the sick and dying his ministrations were peculiarly faithful and welcome. A ministry of such devotedness, extending over a period of fifty years, could not fail in being the means of adding many to the Church of such as are saved. His blameless character and consistent life were a tower of strength to the Free Church in Islay. As a friend he was true and genuine, singularly unselfish, given to hospitality, and a lover of good men. He was humble in spirit, utterly devoid of vanity, and absolutely incapable of meanness. Some of the most popular Highland worthies occupied his pulpit, such as Dr. Macdonald, Ferintosh; the Rev. Peter Macbride, Rothesay; the Rev. Francis Macbean, Fort Augustus; the Rev. John Macrae, Carloway; the Rev. Peter Maclean, Stornoway, etc.; so that his much-attached people had often been privileged to hear the ablest and most successful evangelical preachers of their day.

When Mr. Pearson attained the jubilee of his ministry, the Presbytery and his numerous friends were most desirous of having this interesting event publicly commemorated; but from motives which all concerned highly respected, he declined to allow it to be celebrated.

He heartily engaged in the Ten Years’ Conflict, attended the decisive meeting of the Convocation in St. George’s Church, on the 17th of November 1842, when and where that fearless band of Non-intrusionists crossed the Rubicon. He was a member of the memorable Assembly of 1843, and joined in the procession to Tanfield Hall—a noble deed of self-sacrifice for the cause of Christ, which, in all its engrandeuring elements and in its far-reaching issues, comes next in national importance to the Scottish Reformation from Popery. That day was one of the most vivid and pleasing recollections of his life, when the dead-weights of Moderatism and the Erastian chains of an enslaved State Church were now shaken off, leaving behind them the old Moderates in blank dismay and dumb bewilderment. Thenceforth he became identified with spiritual-minded brethren, who in congeniality of spirit, unanimity of action, and unity of aim were one. With few exceptions, Mr. Pearson’s congregation followed him out of the Establishment. At this eventful period of his ministry, and with a young family, he cheerfully bore the hardships and privations incidental to the years following the Disruption. Amidst all those outward trials many tokens of the Master’s gracious presence produced an inward peaceful resignation and believing trust. He never left his first charge, although invited to do so. In the fine expressive face, kindly eye, and well-built forehead, there could be recognized a man in whom a sanctified mind held sway over bodily ailments and physical conditions. Except one unmarried daughter, who has been the devoted attendant of his old age, the whole of his family predeceased him. He fell asleep in Jesus on the 19th day of January 1883, in the eighty-second year of his age, and fifty-fourth of his ministry. His removal to a sinless sphere of life has left a blank in many a heart, and makes them feel that heaven now is sweeter, and that the sore but blessed bereavements of the life that now is are only a fitting preparation for the inheritance of the saints in light. Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth: for the faithful fail from among the children of men.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


Within the last few days notice has been received of the death of two very useful and honoured Jewish missionaries —one in the service of the British Society, the other in the service of the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, but both the fruit of our own mission many years ago. Dr. Herrman Philip died last week after a short illness in Borne. His labours among the Jews there are well known, and every visitor to whom he got access he sought to interest in the Ghetto and its inhabitants and schools. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church, much loved and respected. Often he had a weekly prayer-meeting in his house, and at that the service of praise was specially interesting, as he had a love for sacred music, and especially for the old Hebrew anthems. He took part in many good works, and rendered valued help to not a few friends, who associate his name and his kindly aid with their daily search for objects of attention in that renowned city of historical interest. It was through the teaching of the late Dr. Duncan when missionary at Pesth that Dr. Philip was led to see and renounce the errors of Judaism. After that he came to Edinburgh to study as a medical missionary, and was baptized by Dr. Moody Stuart in St. Luke’s Church. He has now closed a life devoted to bringing his brethren of Israel to the knowledge of the Saviour, and his work for the Master will not be forgotten.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died November 18, 1891)
Author: Rev. J. Connell, Dreghorn
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, March, 1892, Obituary, p.72

The Rev. William Pinkerton was a native of West Kilbride, wherein his father was parochial teacher. There his youth was spent, and the foundation laid for the future of his life’s work. For some time before he entered the University of Glasgow he was teacher of a side or adventure school at Crossroads, in the parish of Dreghorn, and to this day he is spoken of by the now few survivors of that district and time with grateful feelings of respect for the fidelity and enthusiasm of his service there.

In due time the youthful teacher entered college, and passed through the usual curriculum of study preparatory to the theological course required of students who aspire to the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ and his salvation. Two sessions of this studies were fulfilled in the pre-Disruption, and two in the post-Disruption Free Church of Scotland, under the late Dr. Chalmers.

Licensed as a probationer, his probationary term was a short one. The Kilwinning congregation of the Free Church, originated under the earnest and fervent zeal of the late esteemed Dr. David Landsborough of Saltcoats, and cherished by the local Presbytery, became entitled to a settled ministry. A church had been built, and so, after several candidates had been heard by the congregation, Mr. Pinkerton was unanimously elected, and in due time was called and ordained to the ministry and pastoral charge thereof on 24th September 1846.

The ministry then begun was, all throughout its forty-four years’ continuance, an earnest and faithful one. The doctrine taught was “the doctrine which is according to godliness;” and this not only from the pulpit, but also “from house to house” as well. There was nothing dark or dubious in Mr. Pinkerton’s dealings with man’s ruin by the fall, with redemption by the vicarious obedience and death of Jesus Christ, and with the need of regeneration by the Spirit of God, but, on the contrary, a “handling of the word of God” honestly, and by “the manifestation of the truth ” commending himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. In a word, it was a ministry full and faithful from first to last.

Nor was this ministry confined to the people of his congregation, for he “preached the gospel in the regions beyond.” I believe that there is not a Row nor Square of dwellers throughout the parish which had not its share of his care and service for at least forty years of his now closed ministry.

Two years ago Mr. Pinkerton’s health and vigour began to decline, necessitating the application to the General Assembly of 1890 for a colleague and successor in the charge. The Assembly granted the application, and Mr. Pinkerton and his family at once removed from the district to Glasgow. For a time he was able to give occasional service in this and that congregation; but at length he was wholly confined to his bed, and on the 18th of November 1891 he was called to the higher service in the glory.

He is survived by a widow and two daughters, the elder of whom is resident in Southern India.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died June 25, 1900)
Author: Rev. George Dodds, B.D., Liberton
Source: The Free Church Monthly, December, 1900, Obituary, p.288

James Pirie left Aberdeen Grammar School in 1841, where he had been a very distinguished pupil of the famous Dr. Melvin. That distinction, as well as his affection for his old master, were recognized in 1873, when the publishers of the Latin Prose asked him to edit the new edition of the supplementary volume prepared by that great teacher. The university career which followed fulfilled the promise of his earlier years. After entering Marischal College as “Cargill bursar,” he stood sixth in mathematics at the end of the second year, winning also the prize for Latin composition, and another prize for his epitome of the lectures in the class of natural and civil history. The close of his third year saw him again sixth prizeman in mathematics and third in natural philosophy; and when his university career closed he was fourth in the graduation list of those who were honourably distinguished.

After an equally distinguished course of study in divinity, he made up his mind to continue his studies in Germany—a thing which in those days was a far greater proof of a passion for pure learning than it is now—and, as he has published himself, through the help of a friend he went to Berlin, where he received an impulse, whose effects were lifelong, from the sanctity and benevolence as much as from the genius and scholarship of the revered Neander, of whom it was said that “his life was a more powerful argument on behalf of Christianity than even his writings.”

On his return from Germany he was asked by the Colonial Committee to go to Canada; and though the work there must have offered no room for his scholarly instincts, he loyally accepted the call of his church, and spent three years at Hamilton, near Niagara, where his familiarity with the German language made him useful to the many Germans who were settled in the neighbourhood. He returned from Canada broken down in health, and hardly fit for work of any kind; but having been appointed assistant at Bowden to Mr. Jolly, the venerable Disruption minister of that Roxburghshire village, he was completely restored to health in the bracing air of the Eildons. He was chosen colleague and successor there in 1857, and remained minister of Bowden for twenty-one years, until 1878, when the Jewish Committee asked him to put his knowledge of modern languages at the disposal of the church for the work of Jewish missions on the Continent. He served the committee first at Prague, and afterwards, on the death of the gifted and devoted Dr. Edwards, at Breslau, where he died on June 25th of the present year.

The years of Mr. Pirie’s life as a home minister— the only part of his life with which we are sufficiently familiar—fell into that period of Free Church history when the strain of carrying on a church like ours in a small village was very heavy. The first enthusiasm of the spirit of 1843 had somewhat cooled down. The half-hearted followers of the Free Church who had unresistingly and unintelligently been swept by the current into the new circumstances had just had time enough—like neighbour Pliable –to realize how little these circumstances were to their liking, and were going back. Death, too, had been busy in Free Church ranks, and places were made vacant which were never filled; so that the young minister of Bowden had often to work not only with a far too empty purse, but with a wounded spirit. There were, of course, the great compensations which are never wanting to the man to whom it is better to be with God in the wilderness than to be anywhere else without Him. And there was also a very special love and devotion of a faithful flock—a devotion perhaps somewhat shy to express itself, but which, from the silent lives of those Border folk, was uttering itself in higher ways. There were godly men and women not a few, who at nightfall, inside those white windows flecked with the shadows of the flowers, made their humble home into a sanctuary, and unfailingly prayed for the inward strengthening of the man of God who dwelt among them. They knew that their minister was one of the most brilliant ornaments of a northern university—and though only a few could appreciate all that that meant, most understood that at least it must have brought its temptation and that their minister was a servant of Jesus Christ because he had heard above the claims of a scholar’s life the call of the Lord, “What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.”

The story of a life like this has been often repeated in the Free Church. Men like Mr. Pirie, with learning enough to fill a university chair, devotion enough for the mission field, culture enough for association with the choicest men and women, have spent themselves in small spheres. Perhaps it is only to our disproportionate vision that they look small. Things we call small may yet come to be of cosmic significance. From Mr. Pirie’s small congregation and Bible classes there have gone forth to many parts of the world men and women who love to recount, when they meet, the memories of his work for them, and who freely confess that it has taken years to tell the privilege it was to have been brought by his fine taste and wide knowledge into contact with some of the finest things in literature, the noblest things in history, the purest things in character, and the loftiest in spiritual life, and who remember nothing in all their relations with him in which he did not display the delicacy of the scholar, the dignity of the Christian gentleman, and the faithfulness of the servant of Christ.

Mr. Pirie married, in 1861, Barbara Ann Lawson, younger daughter of John Lawson, Esq., of Cairnmuir, Peeblesshire, and sister of Lady Boyd of Maxpoffle, Roxburghshire, a lady of great gifts and saintly character. She was spared to be the devoted partner of his long ministry, and sustained him amid its many trials and changes until her death fourteen months before his own. They are survived by one son—who is in America—and four daughters. The eldest daughter is the wife of the American missionary in Prague, and another is married to Professor Miskovsky of Oberlin University, Ohio, United States of America. One of the two unmarried daughters was with her father during the months of his loneliness, and nursed him during the brief illness in which he passed to the land of rest.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died January 5, 1894)
Author: Rev. J. Morgan, Edinburgh
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, December, 1894, Obituary, p.287

Mr. Pirie was a native of Grange, in Strathbogie, where his father was a small farmer. After receiving his primary education in his native parish, he found his way to the Normal School in Edinburgh. For some years he taught a school at Roslin. He must have caught the fire and fervour of Disruption times in Banffshire, however, for he found his way to the University, and at length to the New College. While at the Divinity Hall, he began mission work in the Cowgate in connection with New North Free Church. He gathered the fruits of his work into Mary’s Old Chapel. So successful was he in this enterprise that it developed into what is now the Cowgate congregation, one of the most genuine and successful of all our territorial churches. It became a sanctioned charge, and Mr. Pirie was ordained its first minister in 1859.

For many years thereafter Mr. Pirie exercised his ministry in this hard and trying, but singularly fruitful field. There was very large ingathering, especially during that revival time in the earlier years of his Cowgate work. He gathered in and built up a very large congregation. But the strain of work and anxiety increased accordingly. He had in his very success not a few things to discourage and disappoint him. In view of all this, he was led to accept a call to the Presbyterian Church in Norwich. In making this change he found out, and himself frankly admitted, that he had made a mistake. After two years’ work in England, he returned again to Edinburgh, and with heroic courage and determination set himself to build up a new mission church in the Leith Walk district. He had to begin work from the very foundation; and hard and trying work it was! But he succeeded in gathering a congregation, and building the Guthrie Memorial Church. Just when he was triumphing over his initial difficulties, and getting things into good working order, his health and vigour began to fail. The loss of a much-loved daughter was also a severe blow to him. He had arranged to apply to the Assembly for a colleague and successor. On his way to his prayer-meeting he was struck down with awful suddenness, and passed peacefully away shortly after. He died in harness, at his post.

To Mr. Pirie belongs the high honour, accorded to very few, of having added two congregations to the Free Church. “His works do follow him.”

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died February 28, 1892)
Author: Rev. R. Fordyce, Hawick
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly, June, 1892, Obituary, p.150

At his father’s residence, Allonby, Cumberland, whither he had retired on sick leave only a month before, the subject of this notice gently passed away on the morning of Sabbath, February 28, having lately completed the thirty-fifth year of his life and the tenth of his ministry. In a life so brief, and a ministry so short, in a retired and inconspicuous sphere, there is not much of wide and public interest to chronicle. Yet it is well to note that it is largely by characters and ministries inconspicuous and unheard of like his that the cause of our Church, and of Christ and the gospel, is being maintained and advanced throughout the rural parts of our land. Such men, at their departure, deserve the Church’s generous recognition.

Like most good men, Mr. Pitt owed a great deal to a goodly parentage. His father followed the sea, rose early to the position of captain, and after a long and prosperous career in command of large vessels, recently retired. An Englishman by birth and blood, he grew up in the Church of England, and continues attached to her communion. His wife, Mr. Pitt’s mother, was Scotch, deeply imbued with the religious feeling and stirring ecclesiastical history of Scotland, and at the Disruption attached herself with great enthusiasm to the Free Church, and reared the family in her communion. Thomas, the future minister, was born at Greenock on Christmas day 1856. When he was eight years old the family removed to Dollar, where he enjoyed the high educational advantages of the academy. Eight years later they repaired to Glasgow, where he entered the university in 1873, and in due course obtained his M.A. degree. There also in these student days he underwent, in connection with Mr. D. L. Moody’s first visit, the great spiritual change of conversion; and in 1877 entered Glasgow Free Church College to study for the ministry. Four years after, he was able to write to his absent father that the long eight years’ course of training was successfully ended; and ere another year had run, he was licenced, called and settled at Denholm.

The powers he brought to the work were not those that command immediate popularity. They were of the order that wax with years, and slowly but surely win their way. We place first a singularly fine and attractive character—sensitively honourable and upright, most generous and self-forgetting, and genial, gentle, lowly-minded, and modest almost to a fault. He had also a refined mind and cultured tastes, with an aptitude and inclination for literary composition which bore fruit in his pulpit style and in varied contributions to religious periodicals. But the potent factor in his ministry was doubtless his deep, decided, all-pervading piety. This, rendered tender and mellow by presentiments of an early decease, lent to his walk and work a growing pathos and power of which all about him felt the influence. Till a month before his death he held to his post, labouring devotedly to the very last. At that time, by his own request, the Presbytery visited his congregation. He was unable to leave the manse, but with great composure conferred with the brethren in private, and genially presided at his table. The state of the congregation was found highly satisfactory, all bearing witness to the devotedness, acceptance, and spiritual influence of his ministry. In a day or two he left, knowing that he was in the grip of a fatal malady, and four weeks after, his brief career on earth was closed. His excellent mother predeceased him by a few years, and he rests by her side in Cavers churchyard. He is survived by his estimable father, and by two sisters who shared his manse, and were invaluable helpers in his work. A pet scheme of his and theirs—the erection of a church hall—was suspended by his illness, but is now to be completed as a “Pitt Memorial.” A tablet to be placed in it will tell the story of his brief but beautiful and fruitful career; and in the hearts of his flock, co-presbyters, and friends it will abide in tender and affectionate memory.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(From a Calcutta Paper)
The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, January 1, 1868

The last Australian mail brought intelligence of the death of the Rev. John Pourie, minister of the Free Church of Scotland in Calcutta. It is not too much to say that, during the last ten years, he was the most accomplished and popular preacher, the most unwearied and beloved pastor, and the most active philanthropist in the city. And yet it is eminently characteristic of the man, that to the majority of our readers out of Calcutta he should be unknown. Few public men have so illustrated in their life the truth, “In quietness shall be your strength.” It was to the advantage of Mr. Pourie that he did not enter on the work of the ministry without some practical knowledge of the outside world. In addition to the silent fascination of his character, this gave him a hold over men immersed in the cares of business, and often indifferent to the demands of the higher life, which we have never seen equalled.

After a career at college, during which his ability and the geniality of his nature won the hearts and the respect alike of professors and students, he devoted himself to missionary work in India. It is much to say of any man that he was a worthy colleague of Dr. Duff and Dr. Wilson, a successor fit to rank with men like Ewart, Mackay, Macdonald, and Hislop, who have given the Scotch Mission so important a place in the history of India. But Mr. Pourie ably kept up the “apostolical succession,” alike in the missionary college and in the congregation which invited him to fill their pulpit. He accepted the invitation, bringing with him a missionary zeal, and continuing, in another form, his missionary work, in a way which is an example to every chaplain in the country. He found himself at the head of a body of men who have proved the most liberal supporters of Christian work in India. In the twenty-three and a half years, from the establishment of this church to the close of 1866, its members have contributed or raised no less than £72,208, or at the rate of more than £3000 a year. Much of this liberality was due to the silent influence of Mr. Pourie. In the nine years since he took charge of the congregation in 1857, there has been raised the sum of Rs. 250,088, of which Rs. 158,643 was for congregational purposes, and Rs. 91,445 for the mission. He so knit the mission and the congregation together, that the latter, besides supporting the converts who were unprovided for, took under its charge the whole burden of the large evangelistic operations outside of Calcutta.

What he was as a personal friend to many, and a pastor to all, it is not for us here to say. While he thus kept up his missionary work, he was emphatically a city missionary to many of the degraded and poor Christians who abound in the lanes and gullies of Calcutta, too often uncared for. He was all that the Anglican means by a parish priest, and yet, as a Presbyterian of loving nature and polished abilities, no priest, but the guide, the friend, and the teacher of the many who every Sunday crowded the pretty church in Wellesley Square. Not the least serious of his duties, and not the least successfully discharged, was that of receiving, counselling, and attaching to himself for ever the many young Scotchmen who land in India without a friend, and are too often tempted by the indifference around them to forget their religion altogether.

But it was especially in the pulpit that Mr. Pourie exercised an influence. He brought forth, from the treasures of a cultured scholarship, extensive reading, considerable knowledge of the world, and, above all, much spiritual experience, sermons which to his Scotch hearers were model productions, even as those of Bishop Cotton are from an English point of view. Nor were his hearers Presbyterians alone. The same genial nature and spiritual power which attracted them were hostile to all sectarianism, and drew to his feet many others who sought for words of spirit and life. It is right that men who saturate Indian progress with holy and elevating influences such as radiated from every act of Mr. Pourie, should not be allowed to pass away without a record of their worth. More than any man we have known, Mr. Pourie illustrated Matthew Arnold’s idea of culture, if that idea be spiritualized. He had sweetness, he had light, and he had strength, all in an exquisite combination. It is rare to find in these days, either in the Church or out of it, men at once of power and of grace; but the labours of such a man Calcutta enjoyed in Mr. Pourie for nearly ten years. He has passed away at the early age of forty-three—too soon, to human eyes, for the work he had to do, and the many who loved him. The resemblance of his character to that of Bishop Cotton was striking, and India can ill afford to lose two such men within so short a time.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


The Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record, February 1, 1867, p.42

The Rev. William Primrose, who died in the eighty-third year of his age, and the sixtieth of his ministry, was ordained pastor of the congregation connected with the Original Burgher Associate Synod in Aberdeen, in 1806. After the lapse of thirty-three years, minister and people joined the Establishment, and received the name of “Melville Church,” and in 1843 they cast in their lot with the Free Church. He was most assiduous in the discharge of his duties to his congregation, and most exemplary in his attendance on the Church Courts, in the business of which he always manifested a warm interest. In his pulpit ministrations, to clear conception and correct expression, he added a solemnity and warmth of delivery that convinced his hearers that he was dealing with a theme with the importance of which he himself was deeply impressed. His habits upon the whole were retired and studious, but among his friends his conversation was cheerful and instructive. He continued to discharge his public duties till within the last four years, when his eyes began to fail; but his mental powers continued unimpaired, as he conducted family worship on the very evening of his release; when, having finished his course, kept the faith, and fought the good fight, he was called to receive the crown of righteousness.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died November 15,1876)

Author: Rev. W. Welsh, Broughton

The Free Church Monthly March 1, 1877, p.68

Mr. Proudfoot was born in Skirling in 1797, was ordained minister of Culter in 1827, and died at Lower Norwood, near London, in November 1876. He had a refined taste, having great delight in the beauties of nature and poetry; and he himself wrote some short poems which proved his imaginative power.

At college he had as friends some students of the same style of mind, amongst whom may be mentioned Henry Scott Riddel and Robert Hogg, a nephew of the Ettrick Shepherd, who inherited some of his uncle’s genius, and died young.

Brought up in a pious home, he was devoted to the ministry; and after having passed through his college career, he, by his high character and excellent talents, earned the respect of all and especially of the ablest and best clergy in the district. In circumstances most honourable to the patron, Mr. Dickson of Hartree, and himself, he was appointed minister of Culter, and gained by his labours a great hold over his people and the regard of all the surrounding parishes.

It might have been expected that one with his quiet temperament and literary tastes, living in a beautiful parish with several resident heritors who were his intimate friends, most of whom were opposed to popular rights and the claims of the Church, would have kept clear of the questions which before the Disruption stirred so many hearts. It was not so. He, like many others of the same character, was deeply moved. When the day of trial came he was firmly rooted in the parish. His manse had been beautified by his own hands, and he had a family of eight young children. He lived in a Moderate district; and yet, having espoused the great principles of the Disruption, whilst some around him failed, he stood firm.

He was present at the Convocation, and having the feeling after he had adhibited his name to both series of resolutions that he had given up everything, fearing that he would not get a footing in his own parish or even in Scotland, and that he might be forced to go to some of the colonies, he set out on foot for Culter greatly burdened in mind; but found complete relief by the way when, on entering a house, the thought came home to him with power that God, who had so graciously provided for him hitherto, would do so to the end. And so it was. A great portion of his people adhered to him, and those whom he left behind continued to respect and love him. With talents of no mean order, with great dignity of character, with a loving and sympathizing heart, and with Christian wisdom, he discharged the whole duties of the ministry till he was overtaken by the infirmities of old age, and was felt to be a power for good throughout the district.

When he left for London two years ago, he being no longer able for any pastoral work, all mourned his departure as a great loss. After some years of feeble and declining health, his Master called him home; and his remains, being brought from London, were laid in the churchyard of the parish where he had laboured so long and faithfully.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page


(Died May 30, 1883)
Author: Rev. Hugh MacMillan, D.D., LL.D.
Source: The Free Church Monthly, , 1883, Brief Biographies, p.277

It is with much sorrow that we have to record the death of the above-mentioned beloved and well-known minister of our Church. His was one of those quiet, uneventful lives, which afford few materials for the biographer. Its annals tell more of steady hard work and growing usefulness in the same uniform grooves, than of stirring incidents which excite public attention. But not the less on that account was it influential for good, and does it deserve a brief chronicle here.

Mr. Purves was born on the 5th March 1808 in the village of Stenton, East Lothian, of a sturdy race of farmers, from whom he inherited the robust constitution, the honest simplicity of manner, and the power of hard work, which so signally characterized him. He received an excellent education at the parish school, from which at the usual period he went to the University of Edinburgh. During the winter sessions he worked very hard, manfully supporting himself by private teaching; and in the summer vacations he took charge of the school where he himself had been educated. His college career was eminently successful. He occupied a high place in the philosophical and mathematical competitions, and obtained the gold medal in the moral philosophy class, over the heads of men who have since made their mark in the world. To the renowned Christopher North and to Dr. Chalmers, under whose tuition he completed his theological training, he was indebted not only for much intellectual stimulus, but also for that power of clear and dignified expression of his thoughts which he retained to the very last. Even at this early period he was distinguished for his remarkable gift of ready utterance, combined with appropriate and often felicitous language; a gift which, when enriched by much varied culture, lent a great charm in after years to his sermons, and made him the heart and life of a public meeting or a congregational soiree: while even his ordinary letters were always models of careful and elegant composition. His intimate college friends were Principal Cairns, the late Dr. Nelson of Greenock, and Mr. Welsh of Broughton, who always cherished for him the sincerest regard.

So highly was his personal character esteemed in his native place, that he was chosen as an elder of the Established Church at the unusually early age of eighteen years; and after more than a dozen years’ faithful service as head-master of the parish school, he was presented by the grateful parents and pupils with a valuable gold watch. From Stenton he went in 1838 to Abbotshall, Kirkcaldy, as parish teacher of the Links school, and remained in that position till the Disruption, discharging at the same time the duties of session-clerk of Abbotshall under the Rev. A.O. Laird, later of St. John’s, Dundee. And it is an early testimony to his catholicity of spirit and freedom from sectarian bigotry, that he was allowed to retain his post as session-clerk for nearly a year after the Disruption took place. In 1843 he was licensed to preach the gospel, and immediately received two competing calls—one from Aberdour, and the other from Lochee. He chose the former sphere; and in that quiet and beautiful village, for which he ever entertained a warm partiality, he laboured faithfully and ably for ten years. Besides his own immediate pastoral work, he gave much help, in a quiet and unostentatious way, in organizing and confirming new churches in the county, and throughout the whole of Scotland. The Free Church needed during that trying formative period the aid of all her sons, and none gave their time and labour more ungrudgingly and enthusiastically than did Mr. Purves, although his name was seldom seen in the public prints or mentioned in the courts of the Church. From Aberdour, to the great regret of his attached people, he was translated in 1853 to Maxwelltown, Dumfries, where he spent the rest of his life. In course of time a large and important congregation was formed; and the old humble structure of the Disruption proving too small, a capacious and beautiful church was erected, in which he continued to preach with much acceptance and success without any help till 1879, when his labours were lightened by the appointment of an assistant. Such are the leading incidents in the quiet life of our departed friend.

It would be difficult to give to a stranger an adequate idea of the value of the long devoted ministry of Mr. Purves in Dumfries. From the very first he took a firm hold of the place. His preaching was eminently faithful and interesting, full of Christ crucified, the wisdom and the power of God, warm from his own loving heart, and living with his own rich experience; while his pastoral labours deepened and widened the impression which his sermons produced. With a frank open countenance and a warm sympathetic nature, no one was more welcome in the homes of rich and poor. Each member of the congregation felt that he had a personal friend in his minister; and not only to his own flock, but also to thousands outside, his many amiable and lovable qualities endeared him. He practically knew nothing of the distinctions and differences that separate human beings from each other; and while loyal and devoted to his own Church and principles, he was ever ready to visit the sick and sorrowful belonging to other congregations, and to cooperate with all of whatever name or denomination who desired in any capacity to do the Master’s work. In this sense he was everybody’s minister, making his presence felt far and wide, and binding together the scattered religious elements of the district with the cords of love. By his co-presbyters, as well as by ministers of all denominations, he was regarded with a feeling almost of veneration; so highly were his sound sense and ripe experience valued in commencing any scheme for the social or moral elevation of the community, and so deeply was his gentle and peace loving spirit felt in sweetening the bitterness of ecclesiastical controversy and of sectarian jealousy and strife. His own congregation repeatedly manifested their affection and esteem for him by valuable gifts and testimonials; while he constantly received proofs of the success of his ministry, and of the value of his pastoral labours, not only from his own people, but also from those with whom he had no official connection, but to whom he had imparted consolation in that hour of need which makes brothers of us all. A long life of devoted work for his Lord, such as his, could not fail to have been productive of untold good. He exercised both by his ministerial labours and by his consistent Christian character a cumulative influence, which was never greater than at the time when he was called to his rest; and he was the centre and mainspring of a moral and spiritual power that was felt throughout the whole town and neighbourhood, the force of which will assuredly not pass away with his removal.

And as he lived so he died. By a remarkable coincidence he gave out, when preaching with his accustomed power in his own pulpit on the Sabbath before his death, the fifty-fifth Paraphrase, the words of which could be applied most appropriately to himself. He had indeed fought the good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith, and now he was ready to receive the crown of righteousness. God took him away with the least possible wrench to his tender and loving nature; not by the slow pain of dying, but by what might well be called a quiet translation. While residing during the General Assembly meetings with his wife and son under the hospitable roof of Mr. Cowan of Montpellier, Edinburgh, the angel of death smote him on the side in a sudden spasm of the heart on Wednesday morning, 30th May; and almost instantly, before he wist that it was true which was done by the angel, the fetters of earth fell from off his spirit, and he passed under the guidance of the celestial messenger through the iron gate into the New Jerusalem. He had in his measure Stephen’s death and Stephen’s burial. Devout men—a great multitude from many parts of the country — carried him to his grave, on one of the loveliest days of the past summer, in the picturesque church-yard of St. Cuthbert’s, under the shadow of the great rock of Edinburgh Castle, and made great lamentation over him. He blessed many with a loving heart, and their blessings have followed him to the tomb, and their hearts will long and tenderly cherish his dear memory. Few men indeed have been so universally beloved and mourned.

I first met Mr. Purves many years ago, when I had charge for a short time of the romantic station at New Abbey in the neighbourhood of Dumfries, and ever since I had the privilege of enjoying his friendship. The more I knew him the more was I charmed with his genial ways, with his broad charity and kindliness, seeing something good in everything, and something lovable in every person. He had a vigorous intellect, combined with fervent zeal, lighted up and warmed by a large measure of Christian hope. Fond of music, he could sing with exquisite taste the songs of Zion and the plaintive airs of his native land. He appreciated the humorous as well as the solemn side of things; and while always maintaining the dignity of his high calling, he knew how to share and increase the innocent mirth of the happy, as well as to pour the balm of consolation into the hearts of the sorrowful. He was animated always by a divine principle that made him steadfast and courageous, unassuming and unselfish, the very model of a cheerful and happy Christian, diffusing an inspiring atmosphere of joy around him wherever he went, and making the world fairer and happier by his presence and his work in it.

Mr. Purves has left behind him a widow and several grown-up children, one of whom is the young and able Free Church minister of Gourock. For them a very wide circle of friends feel the deepest sympathy in their irreparable loss.

Return to Index of Obituaries                                                                                                                                 Return to Top of page