In our New College Library Hall display for September 2018, we’re celebrating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the World Council of Churches. Inaugurated in 1948, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is one of the leaders of the modern ecumenical movement, working towards the goal of Christian unity. The WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 500 million Christians. New College Library contains nearly a thousand WCC publications, including many unique or rare pamphlets. In the New College Library Archives, we hold the papers of several individuals and organisations who worked with the WCC, including Rev J.H. Oldham, Rev Robert Mackie and Rev. Tom Allen. Continue reading
Those with an interest in Scottish church history are likely to be very familiar with Thomas Chalmers and the role he played in the Disruption of 1843 but how many know much of his West Port experiment? Continue reading
It was some months ago that among the many sermons and talks given by Rev Tom Allan (1916-1965), one entitled ‘The Myth of Robert Burns’ caught my eye (ref. AA6.2.18). While the Kirk and Burns were not exactly best pals, there has been many an Ayrshire minister who would definitely subscribe to the term ‘Burnsian’. The question was, with a title such as this, on which side was the Ayrshire born Tom Allan going to stand?
The talk (definitely not a sermon) opens by observing that the 25th of January, Burns Night, is also ‘the day set aside in the remembrance of St Paul.’ As Allan writes,
“Indeed, if we were to pursue the speculation on these two notable anniversaries, it would not be difficult to argue that there is much in the character of the Scottish people which has emerged through the conflict of the genius which inspired Paul of Tarsus with the genius which inspired Robert Burns. And it is certain that the life of the Poet himself can only be understood in the light of that conflict.”
He goes on to state,
“It is doubtful if there has been any character in Scottish History – or in any other history for that matter – about whom men have so willingly suspended their critical faculties. For a great multitude of otherwise rational people, the cult of Robert Burns is taken as seriously as it is possible for a cult to be taken. He has become a mythical figure in the manner of the ancient gods, and tonight, all over the world, men and women are meeting in their yearly pilgrimage to the holy place.”
Allan certainly seems to be taking the Kirk’s tone something which is underlined in his comments on ‘two old and dusty volumes in the Library of the University’ he consulted while preparing his talk. He goes on to state that the myth he intends to examine is that of ‘Burns the Saint’ and ‘Burns the Poet’ because
“I sincerely believe that we are doing Burns an injustice which he himself would probably have treated as a colossal joke unless we try to see this man as he really was, and try to estimate his poetry as it really is.”
As far as ‘Burns the Saint’ goes, the talk deals with the reality of his morality, the manner in which ‘the popular Burns orator… attempts to clothe this very human man in the robes of sainthood’, and the excuses others make for his behaviour: whether it is to blame him as a child of his time, society or indeed the Church for it. He concludes,
“There is little of nobility in the life of Robert Burns: there is much that is tragic. It is not ours to judge him. Neither is it ours to worship him for qualities he never possessed.”
When he turns to examine the myth of ‘Burns the Poet’, Tom Allan observes that Burns’ writing is at its best when in his native Ayrshire dialect. Interestingly, he questions how many people could truly say that they understood every word of even the best-loved poems such as ‘Tam o’ Shanter’. He takes a swipe at some other poems such as the ‘Ode to General Washington’s Birthday’ for being ‘woefully artificial’ and ‘bombastic, insincere and trivial.’ However, it is when Allan draws to the conclusion of his talk that his genial side, for which he was renowned, makes itself known. He states that it is Burns’ satiric verse, his narrative poems and songs which are the best of his compositions, the last of these being described as ‘incomparable’.
“Here in the Songs I could almost submit myself to the myth of Robert Burns. Here at last is sincerity and tenderness and a great compassion and a bewitching sadness and an irresistible appeal.”
He might have been a man of the Kirk but this is certainly not the conclusion of a man agin the National Bard.
The papers of Rev Tom Allan (ref. AA6) are available for consultation in New College Library and the catalogue for the collection can be found here: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/86134
Kirsty M. Stewart, New College Collections Curator
Images of The Myth of Robert Burns by Rev Tom Allan (ref. AA6/2/18) [PDF – 1.3MB]
Currently on display at New College Library for the British Association for Jewish Studies Conference to Edinburgh at New College is this lovely manuscript item from New College’s historic archive collections, originally coming from the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
This is the first page of an illuminated Hebrew manuscript known as Rashi’s Commentary on Deuteronomy. Rashi was Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105), an acclaimed French medieval scholar, whose explanations of scriptures were valued for their precision and simplicity.
The New College Library archives hold the papers of Old Testament and Hebrew and Semitic Languages scholars such as Prof Oliver S Rankin (1885-1956), which contains many writings in German, teaching notes and notes on Jewish festivals, Prof John Duncan (1796-1870) and Prof Norman W Porteous (1898-2003). These papers are important sources for researching Christian academic engagement with the Jewish people and Jewish-Christian Relations. Continue reading
A guest post from Eleanor Rideout, Helpdesk Assistant – New College Library
One of my favourite things about working with historical collections is the unexpected find, like this letter of Henry Cockburn to William Playfair discovered while shelving.
9 Dec 41
My Dear Playfair
No one can rejoice more cordially than I do; & chiefly on your account. It will do you so much honor, – to say nothing of anything else. It is the best recipe for all your ailments. Get it up while I have eyes to see, – & God bless you.
New College is currently deep under scaffolding for cleaning works so a message to the original architect stood out. Henry Cockburn’s name is also familiar – he was a prominent advocate for conservation in Edinburgh and nearby Cockburn Street is named for him.
I had hoped that Cockburn’s excitement was about New College itself, but swiftly realised that the key date of the 1843 Disruption rather prevented this. Checking Playfair’s entry in the Dictionary of Scottish Architects showed that at this time he was working on Donaldson’s Hospital. Getting final design approval seem to have been a difficult process but on 7 December 1841 his plans were finally accepted.
Cockburn for one was impressed: even before work was completed in 1852 he described the building as ‘of itself sufficient to adorn a city’. He lived to 1854, so did indeed get to see the result with his own eyes.
 David Walker, ‘The Donaldson’s Hospital Competition and the Palace of Westminster’, Architectural History, Vol. 27 (1984)
 Henry Cockburn, A letter to the Lord Provost on the best ways of spoiling the beauty of Edinburgh (1849)
During my initial survey of the New College Collections, it was immediately evident, although not surprising, that the majority of the archives stemmed from the work of men or their institutions. What it did mean, though, was that those collections which belonged to women stood out all the more.
Leaving aside the archives of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity in which women missionaries play a significant role, there are three collections with a female provenance which immediately spring to mind.
The first of these are the papers of Betty Darling Gibson (1889-1973), who worked on the International Review of Missions with Joe Oldham (ref. GD5: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/85273). The second would be the papers of Margaret Duncan Campbell (ref. GD 37: (http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk/repositories/5/resources/86251) while the third would be the papers of Rachel Kay or Wilson (c.1750-1815) (ref. MS WIL 3).
With this last collection, what struck me was that the author of the manuscripts was only referred to as “Mrs James Wilson, wife of James Wilson, ship’s captain, Leith”. As with Betty Gibson, whose biographical details were hard to find in the shadow of her friend and colleague Joe Oldham, I was keen to give Mrs Wilson her given name and dates for the record. Her contribution to history is a curious set of journals recording her religious experiences, including her attendance at church, interlaced with family history, notable events in her own family life and what she saw as evidence of God’s influence on her own life and the life of her family past and present.
The journals run to six notebooks, each of around 50 pages of manuscript, starting around 1771 and finishing in 1812, three years before she died. There are also a couple of loose sheets, which do not appear to belong to any of the extant notebooks.
Accompanying the documents are two letters giving a bit of background to the manuscripts. The first is from April 1947 from Mr J Ritchie, ‘Nethercraigs’, Tighnabruaich, to his cousin Agnes Moncrieff Leys née Sandys. This letter gives a lot of information such as some of the experiences of James Wilson as a ship-captain: including being captured by Americans during the American War of Independence and then being detained in France for 18 months after which he was ‘persuaded to remain at home and join his father-in-law’s business’.
“My husband came safely home in the month June in 1780 when being detained Eighteen month. My father proposed to him to drop this line of life in giving over all thoughts in proceeding again to sea and to become Maltster and brewer also from my fathers inability from his years of carring on his business by himself…” (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no1, page 43 – image below)
The letter also states that Rachel had about 13 children, ‘of whom she expressly states 9 died in infancy or early youth. This sad mortality was due not to any constitutional weakness, but to small-pox, scarlet fever and measles, which could not then be treated as they can now.’ Ritchie goes on to say that the Wilsons belonged to the Antiburgher section of the Secession Church and were fond of listening to the preacher Rev Adam Gib (1714-1788), and that of the surviving children, David Wilson (1782-), later became minister of the United Secession church in Kilmarnock. Making the personal connection, Ritchie states, ‘I remember being very hospitably entertained by his widow when I was a small boy.’
The manuscripts were eventually passed to New College Library in 1952 by a Miss G Woodward, librarian, who received them from Mrs Hilda Brochet Abercromby, sister of Agnes Leys who by then had passed away. It is clear from annotations made in the manuscripts that family members had read them with a good deal of interest.
At the end of the first notebook, Rachel writes
“By this time I was with Child of twains and although subject to many threatning complaints yet my Shepherd who carries the lambs in his armes and Gently leads thos that are with young suffered no evil to befall he brought me in safety forward to the full time when in the 15 of March 1783 I was safely delivered of two living sons.” [William Wilson and John Frazer Wilson] (ref. MS WIL 3 notebook no 1, page 48 – see image below)
Perhaps Mrs Wilson’s manuscripts are not the most valuable or beautiful of those which we hold but they do give a clear and striking voice to a woman of both the 18th and 19th centuries.
Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator
Since I started working with the New College Collections, one of my main aims has been to get the archives catalogues, which sit in a papery, five binder splendour in Library Hall, online. Up until now, with a few exceptions, it has only been possible to consult these catalogues in New College Library itself.
Created sometime in the 1990s, the archives catalogues and attendant indexes are a useful finding aid, however they do not meet archival descriptive standards and could not be added into the catalogue without a lot of extra work.
Bearing this in mind and the resources available, I have created PDF files of the catalogues, divided them by collection, added cover sheets with outline information and then created skeleton catalogue entries online containing a link to the appropriate PDF.
So far, I am probably about half way, with c.250 catalogue entries now available through the University’s Archives Online website: http://archives.collections.ed.ac.uk . The additions run alphabetically by collection reference (which in most cases is directly related to the collection provenance) from MS ADE (Adelpho-Theological Society) to MS BOW (Rev Archibald Bowie) and through from MS BOX 1.1 (Associate Burgher Theological Hall) to MS BOX 54 (Papers of James Fraser of Brea). There are also the more recently catalogued collections in AA4 to AA7 (Very Rev Prof John McIntyre, Very Rev Prof James Whyte, Rev Tom Allan and Rev Prof Alec C Cheyne), the Chalmers Papers (MS CHA), and those allocated a GD reference number some years ago such as the Oldham papers (MS OLD or GD2), papers of Rev Robert Murray McCheyne (MS MACCH or GD16), the Martin Papers (MS MAR or GD14), and the Denney Papers (MS DEN or GD27).
It should be noted that the MS BOX series is a miscellany, which seems to have come almost entirely from the Library of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In an attempt to make its contents more visible to users, it has been divided up into c.190 separate entries, highlighting where possible names of people, organisations and places, relevant dates and in some instances topics.
Admittedly, this solution is imperfect but it is most definitely a step forward. Only another 300 or so entries to go!
Kirsty M Stewart
New College Collections Curator
A post from guest curator Amy Plender, PhD student, School of Divinity
The theme of this month’s student led display at New College Library is diary writing, particularly diarists writing about their experience of missions overseas. The display features items from the New College Library collections relating to Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (1813-1843) who was appointed by the Church of Scotland to be part of a deputation to visit Jewish communities in Europe and the Middle East, with a view to future mission activity. Further details of his papers are available on the University’s Archives Online catalogue.
This diary was used for daily entries on McCheyne’s travels, with small sketches as well as notes on personal devotional techniques headed ‘Personal Reformation’. It also has a biographical section on the ‘Story of Robert Laing’ (perhaps a friend or fellow missionary), and an appendix on another missionary’s account of the trip. Continue reading
Our colleague, Patrick Murray, has begun work cataloguing the W. F. Jackson collection, initially, as part of the Funk Cataloguing Project. This collection has been at New College for many decades but with the need to fill in accurate data about the material, it was soon apparent that no one knew very much about William Foakes Jackson or W. J. Jackson as he had carefully and clearly inscribed in each book.
The closest match that could be found was a Frederick John Foakes-Jackson, who was an eminent scholar of Judaism, something which connected with the first tranche of books. However, after that the trail went cold and, as the archivist, I was asked if I could give any advice on where to look next.
Away from the office, searches on Google, ScotlandsPeople and Ancestry.co.uk all drew a blank on proffering a sibling or son to Frederick John Foakes Jackson, who might have owned and donated these books.
In the New College Library Archives, there are boxes of library correspondence from throughout the 20th century some of which relate to the deposit of collections (ref. AA.2.1). As these records are in varying states of arrangement I decided to look at some of W. F. Jackson’s books for any other clues before delving into the correspondence.
The first couple of books seemed devoid of any details about the owner but, unexpectedly, out of the fourth book I looked at fell a scrap of an envelope on which was written: ‘[-] F Jackson, Suffolk House, 18 Suffolk Road, Edinburgh’ and postmarked 1929. The key to it all.
A quick visit to ScotlandsPeople searching for the death certificate for a W. F. Jackson after 1929 and there was William Fulton Jackson, in 1931, passing away at Suffolk House, 18, Suffolk Road, Edinburgh. That narrowed down the correspondence search nicely and quite quickly I found a note from his niece, Janet Cameron, depositing the records at New College Library (ref. AA.2.1.104a).
Transcript of letter:
18 Suffolk Road,
6th June 1934
Dear Dr Mitchell Hunter,
It was the desire of my uncle, the late Mr W. F. Jackson, that should I wish to dispose of any of his books, his “Eastern Collection” be gifted to the Library of the Church of Scotland.
As I understand these books will be acceptable, I hereby formally make the Gift, and I trust it will be convenient to keep them together as one collection, to be called the “W. F. Jackson” collection, and that they will be found useful by many students of our own Church.
Janet Inglis Cameron
Dr, Mitchell Hunter,
Church of Scotland.
To the railway historian, the name William Fulton Jackson will be familiar. He was born in 1855 to John Jackson, a grain merchant, and Mary Fulton, in 73, South Wellington Street, Glasgow. In 1883 he married Maggie McJannet Lattimer, at her home in 14, St James Street, Glasgow. In 1891 he was listed as a railway clerk living in Coltbridge Avenue, Edinburgh and by the 1901 census, he had become the General Manager of the North British Railway Company, living at 24, Royal Terrace, Edinburgh. It appears that Jackson was appointed as General Manager in 1899, after his predecessor, John Conacher, stepped down in the wake of a boardroom scandal.
Further internet searches revealed that some of his photograph albums had been deposited at Glasgow University Archives, and that he was an active member of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA).
The 1911 census provides us with a mystery, outwith our remit, in that on the night the census was taken he and many others were staying in the same place as Arthur Conan Doyle and his family: “Rothsay” in Bournemouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England. Is this a connection or a coincidence?
Whatever the answer, after many years of this valuable collection of books being known as the “Foakes Jackson Collection” and thanks to an envelope scrap, finally we are able to give the real W. F. Jackson – William Fulton Jackson, Esq., the credit he is due.
Kirsty M. Stewart, New College Collections Curator
As the books in the W.F. Jackson collection are catalogued their entries will become available on the University of Edinburgh’s discovery service: http://discovered.ed.ac.uk
*With apologies to hip-hop duo, “OutKast”.
I have been making my way through the manuscripts collection in an effort to identify material, see what conservation needs there are and generally acquaint myself with the collections. This week I have been struck by the quantity of material from the 1600s, which has, of course, come about as a result of the Covenanters. While a good proportion of the manuscripts are sermons there are a few which are copies of letters or the last words of Presbyterian martyrs.
My heart was in my mouth when I opened one such volume (ref. MSS NOT) and found that in several places pages had been cut out. As I went through the notebook in search of the name of the person who had carefully copied down sermons by Laurence Charteris and James Good, Latin tracts and proclamations, my heart resumed its usual position when, quite unusually, I found an explanation for the missing pages:
“Nota: I lent this book to Mr Samuel Nairne when he was passing his tryalls for the Ministrie which he keept four years & some more; & when removed from the parish of Moonzie and went to Arroll, he tooke the booke with him; And all the thankes I got was the cutting out of thir leaves as is to be seen in the following part hereof Which was neither done lyke a Gentleman nor a Minister. Whereupon I ame resolved here after to take heed to whom I lend the use of my booke, especially of a manuscript.”
While the notebook’s author is as yet unknown, the reference to Samuel Nairne dates it to around 1690 and one can assume that the author was living in the parish of Moonzie or nearby.
The inside cover of the notebook tells us that it was later owned by a James MacGregor. However, at another point in the notebook, where Samuel Nairne had been busy with a blade, James wrote the following:
“Fhuair Seumas McGriogair an leabhar so am Peairt am Bliadhna ar Tighearna 1778 ar son 2sc[illin]”
Translation: “James MacGregor bought this book in Perth in the Year of our Lord 1778 for 2 pence.”
Not only does this give us more about the provenance of the book but also shows that James MacGregor was literate in Gaelic.
Missing pages can be frustrating and sometimes even heartbreaking but for our unknown Fife scribe their absence was clearly just plain annoying: annoying enough to write about it.
Kirsty M Stewart, New College Collection Curator
Information on Samuel Nairn from Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae , vol 5, p 169: SAMUEL NAIRNE, M.A. ; ord. before 22nd July 1690 ; trans, to Errol 12th Jan. 1692.