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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL




HENRY DUNCAN, D.D.



DR DUNCAN

OF RUTHWELL

FOUNDER OF SAVINGS BANKS

BY
HIS GREAT GRAND-DAUGHTER

SOPHY HALL



OLIPHANT, ANDERSON & FERRIER

EDINBURGH AND LONDON
1910



PRINTED BY

TURNBULL AND SPEARS,
EDINBURGH




11 0-^-^^

_^2_ ._ ^ - V.*' "< * " < ^-" -



" Even if we were to combine Pope's
Man of Ross and Goldsmith's Country
Clergyman into one, we would still have
to search for a third person, learned
and able in authorship, to complete a
parallel picture."

Article on Dr Duncan in
Chambers' s "Eminent Scotsmen."



PREFACE

BEFORE allowing this small tribute to my
great-grandfather's memory to appear, I
should like to express my pleasure in being
able to publish it through Messrs Oliphant,
Anderson & Ferrier of Edinburgh, who
have been so long and so closely associated
with my family. More than a hundred
years ago this firm published the first of the
many books entrusted to them by Dr Duncan.
His life, written by his son, the Rev. George
John Duncan, was also issued by them ; and
now, after a gap of one generation, this
small sketch of mine once more brings the
same family into relations with this house.

My particular thanks are due to Mr
Alexander Cargill, Manager of the Edinburgh
Savings Bank, for his interest in my great-
grandfather's memory. Nearly two years
ago I wrote to Mr Cargill to find out whether
there had been any memorial to commemorate

7



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

Dr Duncan's work in Edinburgh. In his
courteous reply he said, " I am sorry to say
that there is neither stone nor statue, or
indeed a memorial of any kind, erected to his
memory, although I should have rejoiced,
along with several others interested in Savings
Banks, to see in the capital city a memorial to
such a great and good man." Himself an
enthusiast on the subject of thrift, Mr Cargill
has spared neither pains nor trouble in
connection with the Centenary of Scottish
Savings Banks, to be celebrated in Edin-
burgh this year.

Dumfries, the county of Dr Duncan's
adoption, is rich in memorials of him. In the
town the Savings Bank itself is dedicated
to his memory, and his statue is in front,
holding a scroll. This important building, as
it now is, was once represented by a single
room in Chapel Street, Dumfries ; " the
counter or telling table consisted of two
planks placed over a couple of barrels,
lighted by dip candles." In his own parish
an obelisk marks the scene of his many

labours. The beautiful Runic cross he

8



PREFACE



rescued from destruction stands in the
parish church.

Throughout his long and fruitful life,
Dr Duncan laboured to make the people
thrifty and independent. His great con-
ception, the creation of Savings Banks, has
proved a national blessing. He wished for
no recognition ; he asked for no recompense.
His text was, "I must work the works of
Hun that sent me while it is day ; the
night cometh when no man can work."

SOPHY HALL.

LONDON, January 1910.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

PAGE

BIRTH EDUCATION ORDINATION MARRIAGE
RUTHWELL VOLUNTEERS VISIT OF THE
"SOCIETY OF FRIENDS" . . .15

CHAPTER II

POOR LAWS FIRST LITERARY EFFORTS PUBLI-
CATION OF THE " DUMFRIES COURIER " . 45

CHAPTER III

SAVINGS BANKS FOUNDED VISIT TO LONDON

SAVINGS BANK BILL . . .56

CHAPTER IV
HOME LIFE VISITORS TO RUTHWELL MANSE . 76

CHAPTER V

CORRESPONDENCE WITH BROUGHAM EMANCIPA-
TION OF SLAVES CATHOLIC EMANCIPATION
GEOLOGICAL DISCOVERY RUNIC CROSS . 96

CHAPTER VI

DEATH OF MRS DUNCAN LETTERS FROM JOANNA
BAILLIE " THE SACRED PHILOSOPHY OF THE
SEASONS" POEM ON CURLING . .122

II



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL



CHAPTER VII

PAGE

SECOND MARRIAGE FURTHER CORRESPONDENCE
WITH BROUGHAM CHURCH PATRONAGE
DISRUPTION OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND 131



CHAPTER VIII

LEAVING THE MANSE BUILDING OF FREE CHURCH

DEATH 148



12



ILLUSTRATIONS



DR DUNCAN .... Frontispiece

From a picture taken in Edinburgh at the time of
the Disruption

FACING PAGE

DR DUNCAN'S FATHER THE REV. GEORGE

DUNCAN OF LOCHRUTTON . . .18

DR DUNCAN'S MOTHER MRS DUNCAN, NS ANNE

M'MURDO . . . 22

ROBERT BURNS AT RUTHWELL MANSE BURNS,
MRS CRAIG, AND Miss AGNES CRAIG (AFTER-
WARDS MRS HENRY DUNCAN) . . 36

From the painting by Duncan Mackellar, R.S. W., in
the possession of Henry N. Russell, Esq., Glasgow

RUTHWELL SAVINGS BANK Box . . .58

Photograph of the original box in the possession of
J. O. Scott, Esq., Inverness

THE FIRST SAVINGS BANK . . .62

Still standing in Ruthwell village

RUTHWELL MANSE . . . .78

Water-colour sketch by Mrs Hall from an old
drawing

THE RUTHWELL CROSS . . . .114

Restored through Dr Duncan's exertions, and now
standing in Ruthwell Parish Church



FACSIMILE OF LETTER FROM THOMAS CARLYLE . 154
mpa

13



Written expressing sympathy at the time of Dr
Duncan's death



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL



CHAPTER I

BIRTH EDUCATION ORDINATION MARRIAGE
RUTHWELL VOLUNTEERS VISIT OF THE
SOCIETY OFIFRIENDS

IN the year 1774, on the eve of the outbreak
of the American War, in the peaceful little
village of Lochrutton in Kirkcudbright, far
away from the struggles and strife of the
outside world, Henry Duncan was born.
The following pages, if I can trust myself
to write them, will tell his story. A story
of industry, philanthropy, and courage. A
story of a keen observer of the economic
conditions of the day, who made use of that
knowledge with practical effect. A story of
a fearless fighter in the cause of his religion,
and a lifelong champion of the poor. A
disciple of Adam Smith, Henry Duncan
came into the world just two years before
the publication of The Wealth of Nations.
He was the third son of the Rev. George
Duncan of Lochrutton, and his grandfather



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

was also minister of that parish. His mother
was a daughter of Mr William M'Murdo, J.P.,
of Dumfries, and a near relation of the
John M'Murdo who so warmly befriended
the poet Burns during his many vicissitudes.
It was during a visit to him that the poet
wrote on a pane of glass in his home :

" Blest be M'Murdo to his latest day !
No envious cloud o'ercast his evening ray ;
No wrinkle furrowed by the hand of care,
Nor ever sorrow add one silver hair !
O, may no son the father's honour stain,
Nor ever daughter give the mother pain ! "

and it was to his two daughters, Jean and
Phyllis, that two of Burns's most charming
songs were composed Bonnie Jean and
Adown winding Nith. Henry Duncan was
descended, on both sides of his family, from
a clerical ancestry which went back to the
time of the Covenanters, and the story of
their struggles and persecutions absorbed his
boyish imagination.

He had no ambition to excel at games.
He found many other pursuits which were
more congenial to him. The loch from
which the parish derives its name was close
to the manse ; there were woods to explore
and hills to climb, and he strengthened
16



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

his young limbs by many adventures in the
woodlands and hillsides. He took up his
pen at an early age and wrote Latin verses.
Though he was an imaginative boy, he had
a very strong practical vein as well, and he
loved modelling and mechanical work of all
kinds.

To give an illustration of his ingenuity,
there is a story told about his boyhood
which shows his capabilities for working out
and developing his own ideas. A friend
had given him a Virginian nightingale. He
overloaded the little bird with kindness,
as is the wont of boys with their pets, and it
died. This was a great grief to him. The
tiny feathered body was buried with great
pomp, and given a grave out of all propor-
tion to its size quite a mausoleum in fact !
A small building of bricks and mortar was
built close to a little stream near the church.
Upon the lower part of the front touching
the water he carved the face of a man bowed
down with grief. The eyes were bored with
holes, so that the gentle little stream fed
them from behind with an endless flow of
tears which trickled down the stone face.
Not content with this fountain of affliction
he constructed a channel at the back, which,

B 17



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

with the constant lapping of the water
against it, gave a moaning sound like some-
one in the depth of grief. Upon a stone
overhead appeared the following verses of
his own composition :

" Stay, traveller : if a tale of real woe
To gentle pity e'er subdued thy breast,
O stay ! and whilst my tears do ever flow,
Let not thy rising sorrow be supprest.

For, ere mature her youthful blossom glow'd,
Stern death did lovely Philomel destroy :
No more her pleasing plaints, which sweetly flowed,
Shall melt to love, or animate to joy."

The first fourteen years of his life were
spent at home in the somewhat stern atmos-
phere of his father's manse, among the simple
virtuous folk from whom he sprang. His
education, together with that of several of
his brothers, was conducted by a tutor,
and it was only in the winter of 1788 that he
was sent to St Andrews University. It was
common in Scotland at that time to begin
a University career at a very early age.
The great Dr Chalmers was only eleven
and a half when he began his studies there.
There is nothing that throws any interesting
light upon Henry's life at this time. He
was always industrious, fond of books
18




REV. GEORGE DUNCAN OF LOCHRUTTON
(DR DUNCAN'S FATHER)



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

and of study, and he worked hard and
conscientiously, devoting himself principally
to logic and the classics. No special aptitude
for the ministry appears to have shown
itself in those early years, and his father
very wisely left him to choose his own
profession. A near relative, Dr Currie, 1 the
biographer of Burns, and a friend and
correspondent of Mr Creevy, suggested to
his father that, as there was a vacancy in
the offices of Messrs Heywood of Liverpool,
he should avail himself of the chance of
beginning a business career. This appeared
to be specially opportune for the young
student two of his brothers being already
in business in Liverpool and Dr Currie,
moreover, promised to take him under his
wing. After a short interval spent at home
he was launched into the world. His journey,
as was usual at that time, was made by sea
in one of the little vessels trading between
the Mersey and the Nith. On leaving his
father's house the homesick boy composed
a poem in the then fashionable style of
Ossian, which shows a great deal of
literary taste : " . . . Farewell, friends

1 Dr Currie's work iu advancing the use of the ther-
mometer in fevers is well known.



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

of my heart ! I will soon return with the
voice of gladness. The sails opened their
white breasts to the western breeze. I
departed, and the red eyes of grief were
upon me, till I could be seen no more. The
blue hills of my youth vanished slowly, like
the mists of the morning before the hot
beams of the sun. Caledonia ! I go to
dwell with the bold sons of the sea. . . ."

These poetic tendencies do not seem a
good introduction to the mercantile life he
was so shortly to begin. While living in
Liverpool his respites from daybooks and
ledgers were spent in intellectual pursuits.
He was one of the chief organisers of a de-
bating society where the subjects of the day
were freely discussed, and where he would
plunge into the arguments with all the
warmth and heat of ardent youth. A
pamphlet on Socinianism, which was widely
read, was his composition a curious subject
to have attracted a boy of seventeen. His
youthful faith was seriously shaken at this
period of his life, and the future Moderator
of the Church of Scotland found himself
on the verge of a complete loss of belief.
It was only some time later, when he had
the leisure to seriously pursue both sides of
20



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

the subject, that he became finally convinced
of the faith of his fathers, or, to put it into
his own words, " passed from death unto life."
His labours at the bank required the
minutest attention and accuracy. Long
hours spent in the counting-house were
irksome to him. The appointment suited
neither his inclinations nor his tastes.
In a short time the life began to prove
very distasteful to him, and he developed
a decided disposition towards study and
literature. Dr Currie, who had been watch-
ing his progress carefully, was disappointed
with his business progress. He wrote to
Henry's father to say he was " pained "
to observe a certain carelessness in matters
of business, and that he showed " a distressing
want of ambition." Following closely upon
this letter was one from Henry himself to
his father in which he says, with regard to
his duties at the bank : "I have no actual
dislike to it, but I do not feel interested
enough in the business to derive any pleasure
from it, and to discharge my duties as I
ought to do. . . . Besides, the continual
cares and anxieties which a mercantile life
is exposed to, would be to me by no means
compensated by whatever fortune I might
21



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

in a length of years amass. ... I feel that
I could return to my studies with tenfold
ardour ; indeed I feel within myself a great
desire for knowledge." He suggested the
ministry as a more congenial career, and went
so far as to enclose a specimen sermon for
his father to judge of his capabilities. It
would appear, however, that it was from
no real love of the Church of his fathers
that he proposed to take this step, but
rather as an easy way of leading a literary
life and following congenial pursuits of that
nature. His biographer and son, the Rev.
George John Duncan, says : " The signs of
conversion in his case are not to be looked
for in the earlier stages of his history ; and
in choosing the clerical life there seems to
have been nothing spiritual even mingled
with his motives." Yet later on we find
him, when those shadows of mental doubt
had passed away, a deeply attached minister
of the Church of Scotland its doctrines, its
devotions, its discipline, its struggles. He
ever afterwards loved it with a deep and
passionate devotion the devotion that made
him sacrifice all worldly advantages for his
faith at the Disruption. Having gained his
father's consent, he made up his mind to
22




MRS DUNCAN, HC'6 ANNE M f MURDO
(DR DUNCAN'S MOTHER)



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

leave Liverpool. No doubt the three years
he spent there were not wasted, for the
insight into matters of finance which he then
acquired enabled him to place on a practical
basis, from the start, his future scheme for
Savings Banks.

We next meet with Henry Duncan at
the Edinburgh University, where his clerical
education began. He attended the lectures
of the celebrated Dugald Stewart on Moral
Philosophy, the lectures which are described
by Lord Cockburn in his Memorials as being
" like the opening of the Heavens. I felt
that I had a soul. His noble views, unfolded
in glorious sentences, elevated me into a
higher world."

From the time that Dugald Stewart was
presented to the Chair of Moral Philosophy,
his position and influence, as a lecturer and
tutor over that brilliant band of young men
then rising into fame, was nothing short of
marvellous. There is not a memoir of that
time in which his name does not shine forth
with peculiar radiance. Lord John Russell,
one of his old pupils, addressed these verses
to him :

" To distant orbs a guide amid the night,
To nearer worlds a source of life and light,
23



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

Kach sun, resplendent on its proper throne,
Gilds other systems and supports its own.

Thus we see Stewart, on his fame reclined,
Enlighten all the Universe of mind ;
To some for wonder, some for joy appear,
Admired when distant, and beloved when near."

Before leaving the name of Dugald Stewart
I must say a word about his remarkable
wife. Her husband had the highest possible
opinion of the intellect of this gifted, charming
woman, and so much did he rely on her
taste and judgment, that he never finished
any of his works without first submitting
them to her. Though he knew she did not
understand many difficult points of his
philosophy as well as he did, yet " she helped
him to illustrate it by a play of fancy and
feeling which could only come from a woman's
mind." Mrs Stewart was the " Ivy " to whom
the first Lord Dudley, who was Minister for
Foreign Affairs in 1827, addressed so many
of his interesting letters, from the time when
he was Dugald Stewart's pupil in Edinburgh
until 1832. 1 Though none of her replies to
him are published, his letters show what a
remarkable appreciation he must have had
of her qualities of mind. Lord Dudley's

1 Letters to " Ivy " from the first Lord Dudley.
24



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

own description of her to a friend is, " She
has as much knowledge, understanding, and
wit as would set up three foreign ladies as
first-rate talkers in their respective drawing-
rooms, but she is almost as desirous to
conceal as they are to display their talents."
She was a great friend of Mr Duncan's also,
and they frequently corresponded with each
other, and kept up in after life their friend-
ship formed at Edinburgh.

Dugald Stewart was the very embodiment
of intellectual Edinburgh the Edinburgh
of Scott and Jeffrey, of Francis Homer,
of Leyden, of Brougham, of Sydney Smith,
and many others whose names have since
become illustrious in literature and law
the Edinburgh that from the close of the
eighteenth century to the peace of 1815
held its unrivalled own as a brilliant in-
tellectual centre. English parents frequently
sent their sons to be educated there in pre-
ference to the southern universities, and the
town, from its exceptional social and educa-
tional advantages, became much sought after
as a residence. Leyden, the great Oriental
scholar, William Gillespie, and Robert Lundie
were our student's special friends. For Ley-
den he had an enthusiastic admiration. He
25



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

was born at Denholm in Roxburghshire, on
the banks of the River Teviot, and was of
lowly birth. He began his education at a
small school in the neighbourhood, and with
the help of the minister studied Latin.
He grew up to be passionately fond of his
own country and of his native literature,
and he contributed, among other things,
to the Border Minstrelsy. Joining the
Edinburgh University in 1790, he astonished
every one 'Jby his knowledge on almost every
subject. " There is no walk in life, de-
pending on ability, where Leyden could not
have shone," says a contemporary. He had
a good memory, and was a remarkable
linguist. It was said that he knew " only
seventy languages," and this knowledge
enabled him to obtain an appointment in
India, where he deciphered inscriptions that
had previously puzzled all other Oriental
scholars. His enthusiasm for his work was
in a way the cause of his death. Poring
over some old manuscripts in a library at
Batavia in foul damp air, oblivious of
everything except the engrossing work
he loved, he got a chill, contracted
fever, and died at the early age of
thirty-six.

26



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

" Scenes sung by him who sings no more,
His bright and brief career is o'er,
And mute his tuneful strains ;
Quench 'd is his lamp of varied lore,
That loved the light of song to pour ;
A distant and a deadly shore
Has Leyden's cold remains ! "

Scott wrote these lines three years after
Leyden's death. Mr Duncan and Mr Lundie
were the means of rescuing his documents
from the archives of the India Office, and
exerted themselves to obtain a substantial
price for them for the benefit of his family.

Two sessions at Edinburgh were quickly
brought to a close. The two following years
were spent at Glasgow University.

The year 1797 found him again at Edin-
burgh, where he joined the celebrated Specu-
lative Society, " an institution which has
trained more men to public-speaking talent
and liberal thought than all other private in-
stitutions in Scotland." It numbered among
its members most of the distinguished men
who made Edinburgh famous. Brougham,
Francis Homer, and Lord Henry Petty,
afterwards Lord Lansdowne, were the men
with whom he came into closest companion-
ship, and he carried on a correspondence
with Brougham until a few years before his
27



DR DUNCAN OF RUTH WELL

death. This cultivated society could scarcely
fail to inspire and interest him, and he
entered with zeal into the intellectual con-
tests for which it was famous. The French
Revolution made the history of nations,
the politics of the past and present, the
subjects of constant and eager discussion.

After the usual course of examination as
a divinity student, he was admitted by the
Presbytery of Dumfries as a probationer of
the Church of Scotland. No living was then
available for him, and he became, like so
many of his cloth, tutor to the sons of Colonel
Erskine of Mar during his absence abroad,
and lived with his pupils at his house, Dal-
honzie, near Crieff. The parishes of Loch-
niaben and Ruthwell became simultaneously
vacant. Lord Mansfield, in whose gift they
were, very kindly gave him the choice of the
two parishes. The former, from a pecuniary
point of view, was far the most valuable,
but he chose the latter because he thought
he would have greater opportunities for
pursuing and cultivating his literary tastes.
The yearly stipend at Ruthwell was then
less than 100 a year, though it was after-
wards considerably augmented. Mr Duncan
was ordained by the Presbytery of Annan
28 i



in September 1799, at the age of twenty-five.
He seems at this time, in the bloom of his
early manhood, to have been an agreeable,
clever companion, and in every relation
with his fellows he was kind and thoughtful.
There could not be a more attached friend.
His personal appearance was manly and
striking. He had a mass of curly brown
hair, a fine broad forehead, and thoughtful,
penetrating eyes, and a singular sweetness
of expression.

The village of Ruthwell, which for forty-
seven years was hallowed and gladdened
by his presence, is nearly midway between
Dumfries and Annan, and commands from
nearly every point beautiful views of the
Solway. Far away in the distance the purply
grey of the Galloway mountains appears,
while the majestic Criffel towers in the fore-
ground. The effect of the sea beyond the
vast smooth sands of the Solway is like a
thin line of blue. The colour of the sands
is soft and fawn-like, except where the sun
touches it and warms it up into gold. Pity
the poor author who complains of the vast-
ness of it and calls it " naked, flat, and
unrelieved . . ." Stretched out in the
warm June sunlight, that large, smooth,
29



DR DUNCAN OP RUTHWELL

plain sheet of wonderful unbroken sand has
a charm and dignity entirely its own. It
is " unrelieved " ! but who would alter a
grain of those endless sands ?

The village is long and straggling ; the low,
whitewashed cottages stand in straight rows
on either side of the main street, but not in
a long, unbroken line, as in so many Scotch
villages, but sweetly grouped together along
the broad highway. One or two, and then
a space ; three or four, and then a tree. The
gardens of many of them have their little
patch in front gay with flowers ; and the
gleaming whiteness of those whitewashed
cottages gives the effect in the distance of
linen stretched to dry upon a hedge.

He entered upon his parish duties full of
life, full of ambition, eager to be up and
doing. The "ambition" whose absence Dr
Currie deplored was to find vent in a
nobler way than by making money.
He was to have endless scope for his
benevolence. The young minister found
plenty to do for not only was the parish
very poor, but it had been in a measure
neglected through the long illness of his pre-
decessor. The condition of the people was
often deplorable. Under the most favour -
30



DR DUNCAN OF RUTHWELL

able conditions the men's wages seldom ex-
ceeded eight or nine shillings a week, and
this was not by any means certain. The
agricultural depression prevented farmers
from being able to employ the same number
of labourers as formerly, or even employ-
ing them regularly from week to week. A
series of bad harvests had raised the price
of provisions, and he was faced on all sides
by poverty and want. Famine was imminent.
He could not live side by side with such
suffering without doing something to avert
it, and active steps had to be taken at once.

Accordingly he ordered, through his brothers


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