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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 72

Biographical Sketch

Biographical Sketch.

The Rev. Donald M'Naughton Stuart was born on the 5th February 1819, in a hamlet on the banks of the Tay. His early education was obtained in the parish school of Kenmore, which is situated at the place where the Tay issues from its parent loch. The school was conducted by a university man, named Mr Arm-strong, and the curriculum embraced such subjects as Gaelic, English, Latin, Greek, and mathematics. With a view, moreover, to acquiring fluency in speaking English, young page 6 Stuart was sent for two summers into the Lowlands. He was passionately fond of reading, and he more than once, in his old age, acknowledged the benefit he had received from being afforded access to books and newspapers. "Though in my first teens," he said publicly on one occasion, "before I had access to a newspaper, yet I was in no sense a waif, for I was within reach of church and school, and such books as Bunyan's 'Pilgrim,' Boston's 'Fourfold State,' Hervey's 'Meditations,' 'The Scottish Worthies,' one or two histories, and Burns's poems. To these institutions and books I am a debtor to a degree more than I can express. Still, it was a red-letter day in my life when I was asked as a boy to become reader to an old couple who received the Scotsman newspaper from a son who had pushed his fortunes in the South. I then heard for the first time the glowing words of Brougham and Russell, and Peel and Graham, and became acquainted with the questions and discussions which engaged the high court of Parliament. My little world, hitherto bounded by the Grampians, suddenly embraced London and Paris, the Indies, and the Americas. In the Scotsman I found a schoolmaster with more force and greatness than Mr Armstrong, at whose feet I had sat for years." The lad was fired with the ambition to get to college, and, as a means to that end, he did what many other young men in similar circumstances did—he took to teaching. In those days the fruits of this calling were insignificant in the way of pecuniary reward, but the opportunities which they presented of reading and studying were eagerly welcomed by the boy from Kenmore. The field of knowledge which his occupation as reader to the old couple had opened up to him was, at the same time, one which he was anxious at all hazards to retain; and with the object of getting a newspaper so that he might still be able to gain an insight into the doings of the great world, he entered into communication with the editor of the Fife Herald, whom he succeeded in inducing to allow him a copy of that weekly publication in consideration of his furnishing the news of the town in which he resided. The fact of his having such a prize as a newspaper regularly delivered to him made him a personage of im-portance in his town, and he was besieged with requests for a sight of it; so much so that, as he used to relate, he had in the interests of peace to give his landlady a discretionary power in lending it. In 1837 he purchased the goodwill of an "adventure school" in Leven, Fifeshire. He started with one scholar, from whom he received a fee of 3d a week, and, attending to his duties with a diligence that could not have been surpassed had he a roomful of pupils, he met this solitary scholar for six weeks for the full number of regulation hours. Fifty-one years later, when the young teacher of 1837 was revisiting Fifeshir[unclear: e], traced out this solitary pupil, whom be [unclear: fo] he wrote to one of elders in Dunedin, [unclear: no] maiden of 57 years." His earnestness [unclear: attra] general attention, and the attendance at his school increased to such an extent as to [unclear: ea] him in two years' time to enter St. [unclear: Andre] University, where he took his undergrade course of four years—a bursary, [unclear: supplem] by assistance in kind from a friendly [unclear: h] placing him at his ease during this portion [unclear: of] career. At the university his desire to [unclear: k] himself abreast of current events in the world politics, science, and literature lost none of it keenness. "When I went to colle[unclear: ge]," again quote his own words, "my [unclear: f] engagement was to join a firm of six member to secure the celebrated Edinburgh [unclear: Wit] edited by Hugh Miller. We prized the [unclear: p] lections of our professors, but the arrival [unclear: of] newspaper never failed to withdraw us for a hour from science and philosophy. The question sand discussions with which it dealt had irresistible charm. Prizing the newspaper never grudged its cost, or deemed the [unclear: h] devoted to its study as wasted or los[unclear: t]" 1843, while Mr Stuart was at St. Andrew's a important event in his life occurred, this being none other than his expulsion from hi[unclear: s] mater. In the quiet university town, the agnation which was destined to cause th[unclear: e] ruption of the ancient Kirk of Scotland an sharply felt, and the students were natural divided in opinion respecting the movement-some upholding the existing order, and others, the whom Mr Stuart was one, advocating [unclear: refo] the church and in the government of the university. The election of the Lord Rector brought about a crisis. The Reform party [unclear: nomi] Dr Thomas Chalmers as their candidat[unclear: e], opposition to the nominee of the senatus, and secured his election. Mr Stuart voted with the majority. The senatus hastily summone[unclear: d] rebels, as they were termed, and asked the[unclear: m] submit to an admonition for their part in the election. They respectfully declined on the ground that their action was within the [unclear: lin] of the constitution, and thereupon the senatus by a large majority, expelled them. [unclear: The] pulsion touched Mr Stuart and others in [unclear: bo] purse and pride, and entailed many [unclear: grie] consequences, which, however, did [unclear: not] outlive his restoration, and that of his fellows by a Royal Commission. Leaving St. Andrew he entered the New College, Edinburgh, when he pursued his theological studies, and in [unclear: daia] so had the advantage of sitting at the [unclear: feel] Dr Chalmers. In 1844 Mr Stuart received [unclear: a] appointment as classical master in a first-class school near Windsor, and shortly afterwar[unclear: ds] was elevated to the position of principa[unclear: l] did not, however, neglect his studies for the ministry, which he carried on in London made page 7 Drs Lorimer, M'Crie, and Hamilton, subsequently completing them in Edinburgh. From the Free Presbytery of Kelso he obtained his license to preach, and he then received a call to the Presbyterian Church of Falstone, in upper reaches of North Tyne, on the English Border. For 10 years he laboured I with acceptance in this parish, his ministerial work being occasionally relieved by such outdoor recreations as bridge-building and the establishment of district libraries. Always accounting education as second only to religion as a factor in true national prosperity and happiness, he strove to enlarge the range of knowledge of all the families within the bounds of his district. "On becoming a minister in the uplands of dear Northumberland," he said, referring to that period of life, "I set myself to make the acquaintance of the people. I soon found that while some families were both intelligent and pious, taking a generous interest in the state of the nation, there were others, good and kind, but without any interest in the outside church and world; for while the former received reliable news from many lands through their weekly paper, the latter heard nothing of what was occurring in high places, except what chance tramps and travellers brought them. I decided to do my utmost to introduce a weekly paper and a monthly magaine into every family, in the interests of education and religion. I never hesitated to commend my scheme from the pulpit, for I noticed that the intelligent (other things being equal) were the Gospel's best and fastest friends."

In 1858, the steady increase of the population of Dunedin, combined with the thought of the advancing age of the Rev. Dr Burns, forced the conviction upon some of the settlers that the time had come for the establishment of a second Presbyterian Church, and the proposal was heartily supported. The selection of a minister was entrusted to a commission consisting of Dr Bonar (the convener of the Colonial Committee of the Free Church of Scotland), Dr Guthrie, and Professor Miller (of the Edinburgh University), who, in the letter of instructions that was forwarded to them, were informed that it was of the utmost importance that the minister should be "a pious, energetic, and godly man—one who would take a particular interest in securing the hearts of young men for public good, and who would visit and allure the people to church-going habits." The minister, it was farther stated, "would require to be large-minded, prudent, affable, gentle yet firm, and ready for every good work." It was desired also that the clergyman selected should be "vigorous in health, but not a young man—a man rather of some experience in the ministry and in the business of church courts." The choice of the commission fell upon Mr Stuart, respecting whose selection there is a traditionary story to the effect that at the first meeting of the commissioners Dr Guthrie made a remark the substance of which was that "some years previously he felt much interested in a young minister he met while attending an induction at Trinity Church, Newcastle, who had a strong flavour of the Grampians and had the advantage of some travel, and he suggested that Dr Bonar should make inquiries concerning his work and report." The suggestion was acted upon, with the result that at the next meeting it was resolved to offer the appointment to the young minister in question, who, it was thought, possessed the necessary qualifications—as, indeed, his subsequent and prolonged labours among the people to whom he was called showed he possessed in a degree that was beyond expectation.

On January 25, 1860, Mr Stuart, with his wife and three children, arrived in Otago Harbour by the ship Bosworth, from Gravesend, and losing no time in getting into harness began at once to visit the people and perform other pastoral work. His induction into the pastorate of Knox Church did not take place, however, till May 16, the church being opened for divine service 10 days previously. From that time to the present the history of Knox Church may be said to be the history of its revered minister who has just passed away; but not so the converse, for the history of Dr Stuart—as he became in 1872—is much more than the history of Knox Church. His sphere of usefulness extended far beyond the limits of his ministerial work, though his performance of this, in which he was unsparing of his own energies, involved an amount of toil and anxiety that would speedily have broken down the constitution of any but a man of uncommon physical and mental strength. His pastoral duties were, however, undertaken by Dr Stuart with a cheerfulness and unweariedness that could not but be admired however much his self-abnegation might be deprecated; but the ceaseless strain of 29 years' labours in pastoral and public work necessitated action being taken in 1889 to procure for him a colleague who would relieve him of the multifarious duties which he was called upon to perform, and as a result of this action the Rev. A. P. Davidson was inducted in 1890 as co-pastor of Knox Church—a position which he resigned only a few weeks ago. In 1886 Dr Stuart's health had been so very unsatisfactory as to cause great concern to his congregation, but the office-bearers prevailed on him to take a much-needed holiday in the form of a six-months' trip to the old country. He derived great benefit and enjoyment from this visit to the scenes of his boyhood, and to a land that was dear to him as to all others who have left it behind to seek their fortunes in a new country, and on his return to Dunedin in December 1888 he was greeted with touching demonstrations of welcome from all classes of the community. page 8 During his absence the Presbyterian Synod, in which body he was always a commanding figure, paid him the compliment of electing him their moderator for the following year, but a sad bereavement which occurred to mar the pleasure of his home-coming induced him to decline the honourable position which the synod desired to bestow upon him, and which he had held on more than one occasion previously. In the deliberations of the supreme court of the church his utterances, distinguished as they were by breadth of view no less than by simplicity and homeliness of expression, were always received with the greatest respect. The synod's church extension scheme was one which especially engaged his attention, and for some years he was one of the conveners of the committee which was charged with the duty of extending the operations of the church within the bounds of the synod. The interest, too, which he manifested in the foreign missions was not surpassed by that of any of the other members of the synod. It was on his motion, in 1867, that the church first took action in respect to breaking ground among the pagan population of the New Hebrides, and he repeatedly brought under the notice of his congregation the needs of the mission field. In this connection, it may be mentioned that his was one of the controlling minds of the Otago Bible Society, and that at the annual meetings of the auxiliary of the London Bible Society he was always present to show and express sympathy with the objects of the society. The establishment of a Divinity Hall in connection with the Presbyterian Synod was warmly advocated by him, and for the first year he held the position of tutor in the department of church history. The whole of his salary in that capacity he donated to the hall in order to provide two annual prizes, since known as the Stuart prizes, for the encouragement of theological students in the study of church history and pastoral theology. There was, however, no scheme established under the synod having for its end the promotion of the Gospel, the extension of education, and the advancement of humanity which had not a loyal and ardent supporter in Dr Stuart. He was one of the most prominent of the many prominent educationists to whom Otago can proudly point. He always deemed the exclusion of the Bible from the public school curriculum to be a radical defect in the system of primary education, and in his place in the synod and as a leading member of the Bible-in-Schools Association, which existed and flourished for some years, in the pulpit and on the public platform, he lifted his voice on many an occasion against what was regarded by him and many others as the severe secularly of the Education Act. His services in the management of the principal secondary schools of the province were eminent in the highest degree. He was one of a Board of Advice [unclear: wh] were appointed in 1875 to recommend to the Education Board "such measures in connection with the management and organisation of the Boys' High School as might be deemed advisable"; and on the establishment, in 1877 of a Board of Governors, in whom was vested the management of the Boys' and Girls' [unclear: Hig] Schools, Dr Stuart was not only appointed of the first members of the governing body, but he was elected chairman—a position whic[unclear: h], the unanimous desire of his colleagues, he [unclear: hei] continuously from that year down to [unclear: th] a present time. His happy little addresses a the annual ceremonies for the distribution the prizes were generally the features of [unclear: th] functions, at which the reverence of the youthful audiences, most of whom he knew either themselves or through their parents, for "the doctor as they all affectionately styled him, [unclear: nev] failed to be conspicuously shown. It is only few weeks ago that, as the outcome of movement initiated by the Ex-High [unclear: Sct] Girls' Club, a portrait of him—a portrait which he was himself never destined to see—was presented to the Girls' High School by the [unclear: pu] and present pupils of that institution to [unclear: be] memorial for all time of the great and [unclear: unflaggin] interest he took in the school. The university, as well as the high schools, had a friend in Dr Stuart. He was one of those who were most eloquent in urging the establishing college in Dunedin for the purposes of higher education, and upon the incorporation of the University of Otago in 1869 the part which he had taken in the movement that thus bore [unclear: fr] was fittingly recognised by his appointment as one of the members of the original University Council. In 1871, on the appointment of the late Sir John Richardson to the office a chancellor, which was rendered vacant by the death of the Rev. Dr Burns, Dr Stuart was appointed vice-chancellor. He was re-eleted without opposition in 1874 and in 1877, and a the retirement of the late Mr Justice [unclear: Chapm] from the position of chancellor, in which be had succeeded Sir John Richardson, Dr Stuart was in September 1879 unanimously appointed to the chancellorship. His qualifications far that important office were always acknowledged to be of the highest, and on four subsequent occasions, as his term expired, he was re-elected by the undivided voice of the council. He was also for some time a member of the Sen ate the New Zealand University, but he was never reconciled to the surrender by the University of Otago of its power of conferring degrees In 1872, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by his [unclear: al] mater, the University of St. Andrew's, from whose doors, nearly 30 years previously, he had been thrust forth for having the manliness stand by his opinions. All the institutions page 9 which from time to time were formed with philanthropic aims secured his most hearty sympathy. The Patients and Prisoners' Aid Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were bodies whose claims to the support of the public were strongly urged by him as opportunity offered or occasion demanded. The Benevolent Institution and the Hospital obtained a large share of his attention, and a visit from him to these institutions rendered the monotonous life of the inmates, for whom he always had a kindly word, temporarily brighter. The Industrial School also was frequently visited by him, and with the young people there, as with the young people wherever he went, he was a great favourite, although the boys who witnessed the success of one of the weakliest among them, whom the doctor on one occasion allowed to "throw" him in a wrestling bout, probably entertained but a mean opinion of his physical powers.

The life of Dr Stuart was saddened by several trials of the most grievous description. On April 16, 1862, at a time when the various congregational agencies in connection with the congregation had scarcely been brought into fair working order, he was called upon to endure the death of the wife who had been for 12 years his devoted helpmate and fellow worker in the service of the Master. It was when he was at Palstone that Dr Stuart's engagement took placo, but the ceremony which united him to Miss Jessie Robertson was performed in the south of England—in Slough Church—the date being July 1850. At Falstone, also, the three sons of the marriage only one of whom survives, were born. Mrs Stuart was in feeble health when she landed with her husband at Port Chalmers, but she applied herself with diligence to the work that lay before her, and her "many excellent qualities, her good example, and her earnest desire to prove useful soon gained for her," says the historian of Knox Cnurch, "the a steem and confidence of the members of the congregation and of the general community." In little more than two years after her arrival she was, however, summoned to her rest, and then poignant grief that wrung the heart of her bereaved husband—who never throughout the whole of his life spoke of her without a pathetic tremor in his voice—far and near aroused expressions of the deepest sympathy. Twenty-one years later—on the 6th July 1883—another great grief came upon Dr. Stuart, for on that day his second son, Alexander Thomas, a young man of remarkable peomise and possessing natural abilities of a high order, was unexpectedly removed; and on the 12th January 1889 his third son, Mr Donald M Stuart, who also had exhibited in a very marked degree the possession of natural silent expired after a long and painful illness. On the occasion of each of these bereavements the heartfelt sympathy of the community went freely out to Dr Stuart, and doubtless strengthened him to bear the affliction.

The Hen. W. Downie Stewart and Mr Edmund Smith have been appointed executors under the will of Dr Stuart. During the last few days of his life the reverend gentleman burned a large number of the documents he had in his possession, but it is to be hoped that others, which doubtless have a historic value, remain extant. His library he has bequeathed to the library of Knox Church congregation.

Already a great many wreaths have been forwarded to the manse to be placed on Dr Stuart's coffin and grave, the number including one from the Prioress of the Dominican Convent.