Edinburgh tours and history articles of various aspects on Edinburgh & Scotland

Posts tagged ‘Free Church of Scotland’

Rev Thomas Guthrie & the Ragged Schools – Exclusively for the Impoverished – Part One

 After seven years in the country parish of Arbilot, Rev Thomas Gurthie was called to serve at Old Greyfriars. His initial impressions of the parish were not good. The Cowgate appalled him. He described it as, “one of loopholed poverty, where men and women were hung with rags, and naked, cracked red ulcered feet oflittle shivering creatures trod the iron streets”.

Guthrie’s heart was stirred to the utmost depths by the wretched poverty he saw around him. Having surveyed the scene and thought how best he could deal with it, Rev Thomas Guthrie devoted his entire energies to the moral, social and educational improvement of his parishioners.

Rev Thomas Guthrie in Grassmarket

Rev Thomas Guthrie with Children from his Parish

Rev Guthrie at that time  belived in the established church of all classes. He was annoyed at the Edinburgh town council laying on seat rents which merely excluded the poor. In 1840 he got a new church and parish close to the Cowgate called St Johns (this is different from the one at the West End of Edinburgh city centre, which is episcopalian). Here he was able to instigate a highly successful experiement. That of allocating one portion of the seating to local parishioners, and allowing the rest to be let to the public at high rates.

He had not however been minister at St Johns for long before the revolution of ecclesiastical arrangements which affected the whole of Scotland, the Great Disruption.

The focus in this article is his work for the poor. On visiting a decaying borough on the south shore of the Firth of Forth he saw a tavern landscape painting depicting the kindness of a Portsmouth cobbler. This man took pity on the ragged children, gathered them in and brought them God and the world. He rescued no less than 500 of these children from misery. From that moment the idea of creating a ragged school became fixed in the mind of the Rev Thomas Guthrie.

To read my second and final piece on this wonderful project click here

Reference Material Used: The Life of Dr Guthrie, mostly from his own lips, published by John S Marr & Sons of Glasgow 1873. pp.30-36, 40-44 & 51-54

Photo source: Rev Thomas Guthrie on a Mission of Mercy

Copyright Fraser Paterson

The Great Disruption – Rev Thomas Guthrie DD

The Rev Thomas Guthrie DD (1803-1873) left the Church of Scotland after the Great Disruption of 1843, and joined the Free Church of Scotland. This event created a massive split in the Church of Scotland, and resulted in the creation of the aforementioned Free Church of Scotland being established.

Rev Thomas Guthrie DD at the time of the Great Disruption

Rev Thomas Guthrie DD at   the time of the Great Disruption

Those who joined the Free Church of Scotland did so for reasons I will let the great Rev Guthrie explain himself, when he referring retrospectively to the Great Disruption in a speech to the Assembly in 1862 he said, “I look upon it as a serious calamity when the civil and church courts come into collision. We may yield to what we think wrong in civil matters, but we cannot yield to what we think wrong in spiritual matters.”

He goes on to state that whilst preparing to preach in a previous ministry of Strathbogie one Sabbath, he was handed a Court of Session interdict by a servant of the law, forbidding him to preach in either the body of a kirk or a graveyard. His response was that he acknowledged the law servants duty, and advised that he would do his. The penalty for breach of this interdict was “to get lodgings free gratis in the Calton jail”!

The Rev Guthrie put the interdict under his foot, and preached the gospel. He defied the law to punish him and did not.

He was one of the most prominent leaders of the Free Church movement. When he preached at Tanfield Hall the cheery tone of his voice was enthusiastically welcomed by the multitude who had attended worship there.

On 18th May 1843 he advised his parishioners, “I am no longer minister at St Johns (Cowgate). I understand that this day there has been a great slaughter in the Old Assembly” (Church of Scotland General Assembly). I know they have resolved to declare my church vacant. They may save themselves the trouble.” Stern words indeed.

The Rev Guthrie never regretted the Great Disruption. He cordially rejoiced in the fruits it had produced. Some twenty years from the final struggle, he stated “The right of a church to rule her proceedings by the ordinances of her own Divine Head are clearer to my eye than ever. We left the establishment for liberty, and liberty is sweet. We laid down our livings for it. We will never repent.”

The Rev Guthrie went on to prove more popular than ever.

The Rev Thomas Guthrie proved in his lifetime not only to be a man of good heart, but also one of very firm belief. Had he been a war leader, he would undoubtedly have led from the front with admirable zeal. He will always be one of my heroes. His grave can be seen at the Grange cemetery in Edinburgh

.Rev Guthrie Grange Cemetery

Rev Thomas Guthrie was inspirational in educational social change in the mid-19th century. Read about his role in the creation of Ragged schools here

Reference Material: The Life of Dr Guthrie, mostly from his own lips, Published by John S Marr & Sons of Glasgow 1873, pp.30-36, 40-44 & 51.54.

Thomas Guthrie in 1843 image taken from here.

The image of his resting place at The Grange is taken from here.

Copyright Fraser Paterson