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Thursday, 9 October 2008

Rev Dr Henry Duncan

Henry Duncan

Born the son of a church minister, near Dumfries in on the 8th October 1774, the young Henry attended Dumfries Academy, which is where I also went to school. After school he went to St Andrews University at the age of 16 years, but when a relative offered the chance of employment in a bank in Liverpool he went there after only two terms at university. Here he honed the commercial skills which were to lead to his establishment, years later, of the First Savings Bank.

Henry lasted only 3 years as a banker, and returned to university to train for the ministry. After qualifying, he returned to preach at Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, where his ministry spanned a half century. We have learned in the last few Blog entries of his restoration of the Ruthwell Cross, his establishment of the First Savings Bank, his discovery of the first fossil footprint, and his establishment of two local newspapers.

He married twice. His first wife Agnes bore him a son George, and when she died he went on to marry Mary the widow of a friend.

Henry was a great writer and his circle of friends included the likes of Thomas Carlyle, James Hogg, Sir Robert Owen, Sir David Brewster.

The garden of the manse was something of a showpiece which Henry's skills had developed. People would visit to see his garden and also the model farm he made, behind Ruthwell Manse.


An accomplished artist and sculptor, Henry painted local scenes as well as making a replica scale sculpture of the Ruthwell Cross which can be seen in the Savings Bank Museum.

Henry Duncan died, of a stroke, at the age of 71 in 1846, whilst preaching a sermon in a neighbouring Church.

So ended the life of a uniquely talented man who gave the world so much. He and his family are buried in the graveyard of Ruthwell Church.

1 comment:

FishHawk said...

My first wife's maiden name is Duncan. I wonder if she might be a relative, but "Duncan" is a fairly common Scottish name--isn't it?