Edinburgh Bookshelf

Kay's Originals Vol. 2


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 267 The annual gathering of the Blue-Gowns was usually deemed an interesting sight, and the church was generally well attended. The impatience of the old men for the finale of the procedure frequently occasioned scenes of a risible nature, amply justifying the good-humoured sarcasm of the Author of Waverley. The following paragraph, however, from a newspaper in 1817, records an instance of genuine philanthropy that would do credit to a much higher “ order ’) than that of the Bedesmen :- “June 7 .-BZue-Gown Benevoknce.-On Wednesday morning, while the Blue-Gowns were receiving their usual allowance of blue cloth and money, in the Canongate Church, Edinburgh, a very interesting and gratifying scene occurred. Among them was a woman who has seven children, but whose husband (formerly a Blue-Gown) died about a fortnight ago. She came to solicit her husband‘s gown, and a little pecuniary aid, but was only allowed 2s 6d. At that moment, one of the Blue-Gowns, who has been deaf and dumb from his birth, had just received his gown for the first time. A person present made signs to him that the woman had received none-that she had seven children who were almost naked, and wished he would give his gown to her ; and it was truly gratifying to see with what readiness the poor fellow ran and put it into her arms, and made signs that she should make it into clothes for her children. In order to try him, the gown was taken from the woman and given back to him, but he refused it with the greatest indignation, and when the woman got it seemed overjoyed.” The generous Blue-Gown, James Mathewson, was one of the very few of his order who latterly frequented the streets of Edinburgh.l No. CCLX. SIR HENRY MONCREIFF WELLWOOD, BART., ONE OF THE MINISTERS OF THE WEST CHURCH, EDINBURGH. THIS distinguished clergyman was one of the very few men of title whom the annals of the Church of Scotland record. Descended from a family of antiquity, he was born at Blackford, near Stirling, in 1750. His father, Sir William Moncreiff, Bart., a man of “singular merits and virtues,” was minister of that parish, and greatly beloved by his parishioners. Brought up with the tenderest care, and the utmost attention to his religious instruction, SIR HENRY made.early choice of the clerical profession, and had entered on his theological course at the University of Glasgow, when the sudden and lamented death of his father interrupted his studies for a season. Deeply grieved by this unexpected event, the parishioners of Blackford gave a decided proof of their affection for their late pastor, by resolving that no other A well-known worthy of this privileged class, who “ground music out of a box,” waa said to possess property which yielded him an annual income of nearly SUO. Nay more, though wellnigh fourscore, and blind, he led a blooming young bride to the altar.
Volume 9 Page 356
  Enlarge Enlarge  
268 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. than his son should fill his place; and they appointed an assistant till Sir Henry should be qualified.’ Sir Henry then repaired to the University of Edinburgh ; and, on attaining the proper age, although he had not completed the full term of attendance required at the Divinity Hall, he was licensed to preach, and ordained to the charge of Blackford in 1771. He was not, however, allowed to remain long in the obscurity of his native parish, his talents, while a student at Edinburgh, having singled him out for the first vacancy that might occur in the city. In 1775 he was accordingly translated to the extensive charge of St. Cuthbert’s, where he continued during the subsequent years of his ministry. The life of Sir Henry was devotedly spent in the practical duties of his sacred office, and in zealously forwarding the general interests of the Church. As a preacher, he was I‘ strong and masculine ” in his eloquence, but very seldom indulged in the pathetic ; yet there was often, particularly towards the close of his life, a tenderness in his modes of expression, as well as in the accents of his voice, which came home to the heart with the energy of pathos itself.” In the Church Courts he took an active and decided part, and from his character and talents soon became a powerful leader in opposition to the party, who, under Dr. Robertson, had obtained nearly entire supremacy in the General Assembly. Sir Henry was proposed as Moderator in 1780, in opposition to Dr. Spens of Wemyss ; and so strong had the minority then become, that his opponent was only elected by a majority of six votes. In 1785, being again nominated, he was unanimously chosen. Sir Henry acted as Collector for the Widow’s Fund during a period of more than forty years. He felt deeply interested in the welfare of this institution : and to his excellent management it is indebted for much of its prosperity. He was also one of the original members of the Society of the Sons of the Clergy ; and on all occasions a sincere friend to every practical scheme for the amelioration of society. His office of Collector for the Widows’ Fund affording him a thorough knowledge of the pecuniary circumstances of the clergy, many of whom, in poor and distant parishes, were living on very inadequate incomes, he pressed the subject warmly on the attention of the General Assembly-drew up a plan for augmenting the livings-and, though his scheme was not adopted by Parliament, his exertions may justly be considered as having led to the Act by which a minimum salary has been fixed throughout the bounds of the Church.’ Sir Henry seems to have left himself almost no leisure for literary pursuits. His chief productions were-“ Discourses on the Evidences of the Jewish and Christian Revelations ;” two volumes of Sermons; a “Life of John Erskine, D.D;” and a “Life of Dr. [Robert Henry, the Historian,” prefixed to the last volume of his History, which was edited by Sir Henry, as his executor. He This arrangement took place in 1768. 1 This was rather an extraordinary stretch of the law affecting settlements. With the consent of the patron and all concerned, the parish waa actually kept zracant for nearly four years. His father died on the 9th December 1767, and Sir Henry was not inducted till the 15th August 1771.
Volume 9 Page 357
  Enlarge Enlarge