AND THE DISRUPTION PICTURE
(The picture can be seen here)
A MEMORIAL of the First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland
By DONALD MACKINNON, Portree, Skye.
THE proposal that a Picture of the Disruption should be
painted seems to have originated with Mr. D. 0. Hill, Secretary of the Royal
Scottish Academy of Painting, who, a few days after the historical event had
taken place, approached Dr Robert Gordon of the High Church, Edinburgh, on the
matter, and showed him a sketch which he had prepared. Dr Gordon appreciated
the importance of the proposed Picture, but suggested that it should represent
"something that would signify the Completion of the Disruption, such as The
Signing of the Deed of Demission."
The suggestion carried such conviction to the mind of the artist that he at once adopted it, and remodelled the plan of his Picture to show the ministers of the Disruption "in the very act of their heroic sacrifice." Dr Chalmers, having heard of the project, wrote to Mr Hill, encouraging him to proceed; with his work. Lord Cockburn also urged him most earnestly to grapple with the great task which he took in hand, saying that he felt that, "since the days of Knox (if even in Knox's days) there never had been an event so well worthy of being transmitted to posterity by the artist's hands."
Mr Hill was eminently qualified for the execution of his self-imposed task. Apart altogether from the fact that he was a distinguished member of his own profession, he was a seriously minded Free Churchman of profound convictions, who had lived through the Ten Years' Conflict, and had been an eye-witness of the signing of The Act of Separation and Deed of Demission. He had thus, as a writer in the Daily Review of 25th May, 1866, put it, his heart as well as his hand in his subject. Enormous difficulties beset his undertaking. The task of obtaining portraits of, or sittings from, those who took part in the historic scene in the Assembly on 23rd May, 1843, residing as they did in different parts of the country, required no ordinary energy and zeal. But such was his enthusiasm that almost all the figures in the Picture were painted from life. Then there was the difficulty of the place of meeting, which was Tanfield Hall. The artist had no grand and stately old hall to aid him in making a picture. He had only a vast, ungraceful and gloomy barn-like structure, with a dingy brown roof of plain wooden boards so low as almost to touch the heads of the audience. Nor had he the rich and colourful uniforms and picturesque dresses and costumes which assist an artist who paints a Royal Wedding, a State Banquet or a Coronation. He had nothing but a wide expanse of black ministerial cloth, unrelieved except by an equally monotonous array of white cravats. A glance at the Picture shows how Mr Hill succeeded, in spite of all the difficulties with which he was faced, in producing a remarkable painting. He lightened the gloom of the hall by making gleams of sunshine stream in on the great assemblage through windows in the roof. Here and there, in the tiers of ministers, ladies in bright dresses and artistic bonnets gave the artist an opportunity of relieving the sombreness of the scene by patches of colour. In the foreground, too, for the same purpose, the steps leading to the platform are covered with scarlet cloth, and documents, books, sacramental vessels and flowers in rich profusion are skilfully introduced.
With a loving and absorbing enthusiasm that never flagged, Mr Hill devoted the best part of twenty-three years to his colossal undertaking. "During those years," wrote a correspondent in the Scotsman, "he has forfeited the ready applause which the sensational artist may count upon; he has forfeited the handsome emoluments which the fashionable artist may command; and, harder than all, he has foregone during a great portion of his life the fame that would certainly have been his had he divided his talents, time and thought amongst smaller tasks. But he has remained true to his one great purpose, and has sacrificed every consideration to it."
When the Picture was first exhibited, Sir George Harvey, the President of the Scottish Academy, said: "The painting is unique of its kind; I know of nothing like it existing; and strongly feel that, but for Mr Hill's enthusiasm, it could never have been produced, requiring as it did such an amount of heroic self-denial and continuous labour - of a kind which few could give, and which no one unacquainted with, the production of figure-pictures of a much more subordinate character could possibly imagine."
The great Picture was first shown to the public on 24th
May, 1866, in the Calton Convening Rooms, Edinburgh.
As already indicated, the subject of the picture is The Signing of the Deed of Demission, by which three hundred and eighty-six ministers of the Church of Scotland, on 23rd May, 1843, voluntarily gave up their homes and their livings rather than surrender the Spiritual Independence of their Church. The signing took place in presence of over three thousand persons, "who hung in silence on the scene." After special devotional exercises, the members were called up, ten at a time, in the order of Presbyteries. The solemn work went on during the forenoon, and again in the afternoon, and was continued in the evening until all the ministers present had adhibited their names. Subsequent signatures brought up the number to four hundred and seventy-four, fully one-third of the ministry of the unbroken Church.
On 24th May, the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission was sent to the Assembly sitting in St Andrew's Church. There it was declared that the ministers who had signed it were no longer ministers of the Establishment, or entitled to receive a Presentation. They were not, however, deposed. The Disruption was now complete. A historian of the Church of Scotland writes of her condition after the "Disruption" thus:
"The Church was left miserably weak, like a man bled within an ace of his death." The signing occupied many hours, and thus many of' the ministers and men in the Assembly had an opportunity afforded them of forming themselves into groups to converse on matters of engrossing interest to the welfare of the newly formed Church. The artist took note of this break in their otherwise all-absorbing concern, and made use of it afterwards in the composition of his Picture. He added to the interest of the Picture by showing the Church, at her birth, "in the attitude of buckling on her armour" for the prosecution of the great work to which she felt an imperative call, although as yet she was in a houseless and homeless condition. We have thus in this famous Picture an artistic memorial of the Fathers of the Free Church, not only in the very act of their great sacrifice for conscience' sake, but also in their magnanimous resolution to promote the 'building of Churches, Manses, Colleges' and Schools, to prosecute with zeal and energy Home Indian, Jewish and Colonial Missions, and to undertake other schemes of Christian usefulness.
For all these schemes the necessary funds had to be supplied. With a will, passion and consistency unparalleled in the annals of any Church the people contributed so liberally that the success which attended the gigantic undertakings of the Church might almost be characterised as phenomenal. This unheard-of liberality on the part of the people of the Free Church is commemorated in the Picture by the introduction of a number of large-hearted and open-handed givers to the various schemes of the Church. Representatives of the many ladies throughout Scotland who manifested their interest in, or gave their co-operation to, the building up of their Church are also included. Mr Hill did not forget the presence in Tanfield Hall of deputations from the Presbyterian Churches in England and Ireland, of syrnpathising members of the Relief and, Secession Churches, which, by their Union four years in this same Hall, became the United Presbyterian, and of other phases of Scottish dissent, and of a number of distinguished foreign divines, who had been attracted to Edinburgh by news of the coming Disruption. All these the artist contrived include in his Picture. Even the interest which the Disruption and what it involved stirred up at the time in the outside world is faintly indicated in the Picture by the figures at the roof windows, which were said to have been crowded during the sittings of the Assembly. Such, in brief outline, is the story which the picture attempts to unfold. We now give, however imperfectly, the plan and arrangement of the Picture, from the artist's point of view.
The chief personage in the vast assembly is, of course, Dr Chalmers, who occupies the Moderatorial Chair on a raised platform in the upper part of the Picture. Mr Hill skilfully contrived to keep him in the background, and yet he made him the centre of attraction. Composed and dignified, he watches the ministers at the table below in the very act of sacrificing joyfully their Churches, Manses, and, in his own words, "many things dear to nature," for the sake of the Crown-rights of the Redeemer. He was the inspiring leader of the Free Church. His name and memory are dear to all intelligent and loyal Free Churchmen.. On his right (i.e., on the spectator's left) is Dr David Welsh, the Moderator of the undivided Church of Scotland, who had read and tabled, on the fatal day of 18th May, the Protest, which was never answered, a copy of which he holds in his hand. A highly cultured and scholarly man, he was a fast friend of Dr Chalmers. On the Moderator's left is Sir James Forrest of Comiston, then Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and between them, at the back, is Sir William Johnston, who was afterwards Lnrd Provost of the Capital. Sir James Forrest and Sir William Johnston were both Disruption elders. Surrounding Dr Chalmers are a number of ministers and laymen connected with his public and domestic life.
Standing behind the Lord Provost's chair is the Rev. Andrew Melville of Logie (a descendant of James Melville, the Scottish Reformer), who presided at Dr Chalmers' ordination at Kilmany on 12th May, 1803. Beside him, on his right, is the Rev. William Tasker, minister of the Chalmers Territorial Church, West Port, Edinburgh. The tall gentleman to the left of Mr Melville is James Wilson of Woodville, the naturalist, who, on Dr Chalmers' death, took over the financial affairs of the work in the West Port. Standing behind the Moderator's Chair are Dr John Bruce (on the spectator's left) of St Andrew's, Edinburgh, who was one of Dr Chalmers' most intimate friends, and Dr William Hanna (on the spectator's right), with his arm resting on the Chair, his son-in-law and his biographer. Dr Chalmers' other sons-in-law, the Rev. John MacKenzie (Son of Sir George S. MacKenzie, Baronet, of Coull, Rossshire), minister of Dunkeld, and Mr William Wood, C.A., are standing on the left of Dr Hanna.
Behind Dr. John Bruce is Mr Charles Chalmers of Merchiston (Dr Chalmers' brother). On his left are Mr William Collins, the Glasgow publisher, who was one of Dr Chalmers' most liberal supporters in the early days of Church extension, and Mr Thomas Constable, the Edinburgh publisher. Both these gentlemen were Dr Chalmers' publishers. Immediately behind them, in the top row and underneath the clock, are Mr Alexander Patterson, the Missionary of Kilmany, one of Dr Chalmers' earliest, converts in Kilmany; the Rev. Alexander Simpson Patterson, D.D. (directly under the clock), of Hutchesontown, Glasgow; and the Rev. Robert Reid, who was ordained, in 1842, at Chalmers' Church, Glasgow.
To the right of Dr Chalmers is a group of eminent scientists, their proximity to the Moderator serving to indicate his position in the world of science. They are Dr John Fleming (resting on the arm of the Moderatorial Chair), Professor of Natural Philosophy in King's College, Aberdeen; who was appointed, in 1845, to the Chair of Natural Science in New College, Edinburgh; the Rev. John Forbes, D.D., LL.D. (behind Dr Welsh), minister of St Paul's, Glasgow, a profound mathematician; the Rev Robert Lorimer, LL.D., Haddington; and Sir David Brewster, Principal of Edinburgh University, who, like Dr Chalmers, had the rare distinction of being one of the corresponding members of the Institute of France. Between Sir David Brewster, who is, holding an open volume in his hand, and the pillar on the spectator's left, are the following:- Mr Graham Spiers, Sheriff of Midlothian; the Rev. John Sym, minister of Old Greyfriars', Edinburgh; Mr Earle Monteith, Sheriff of Fife; the Rev. Robert Buchanan, D.D. (his hand, holding a quill, rests on a pile of books), the learned historian of the Ten Years' Conflict; the Rev. James Henderson, D.D., of St Enoch's, Glasgow (in the background between Dr Buchanan and Sheriff Earle Monteith); Mr Dunlop of Craigton, formerly Lord Provost of Glasgow; and the Rev. Nathaniel Paterson, D.D. (sitting in front of the pillar), a lineal descendant of Old Mortality, who devoted his life to the arduous work of preserving the inscriptions on the tombstones of the Covenanters, and author of The Manse Garden.
Immediately above Dr Paterson is Mr John Blackie, the
founder of the publishing house of that name in Glasgow, and a liberal donor to
the Church. And above him is his son, the Hon. John Blackie, Lord Provost of
Glasgow. The group of ladies immediately behind the Sheriffs of Midlothian and
Fife consists of Mrs Chalmers and her daughters, their order, from left to
right of the spectator, being as follows:-Miss Margaret Chalmers' (afterwards
Mrs Wood); Mrs Chalmers; Mrs MacKenzie (wife of the Rev. John MacKenzie); Miss
Grace Chalmers; and Miss Fanny Chalmers, who is half hidden behind Principal
Fairbairn of the Free Church College, Glasgow. Standing behind the first three
ladies are the Rev. William Symington, D.D., author of Messiah, The Prince; the
Rev. Andrew Symington, D.D. (cousin of the former), Paisley; and the Rev.
William Henry Goold, D.D., all of the Reformed Presbyterian or Cameronian
Church. Dr Goold took a leading part in the Union of the Reformed Presbyterian
Church and the Free Church in 1876.
On the left of Dr Chalmers, between Sir James Forrest and the pillar on the spectator's right, are five distinguisbed and revered divines. First of all there is Dr Robert Gordon of the High Church, Edinburgh. Of him one of the Court of Session Judges remarked: "The cause that claims Gordon must have good at its root." Beside him is the Rev. Henry Grey, D.D., of St Mary's, Edinburgh, a leader in the Evangelical Revival in his day. Next to him is the Rev. Dr Duncan of Ruthwell, well known as the Founder of the Savings Bank. Sitting next to him is the Rev. Angus Makellar, D.D., minister at Pencaitland, who was elected Moderator of the General, Assembly of 1840 by a majority of forty-eight over Dr Alexander Hill of Dailly, Ayrshire (afterwards Professor of Divinity in Glasgow University).
Standing against the pillar is Dr Candlish, w'ho is reading from the roll, which he holds in his hand, the names of those who are about to make "the great sacrifice." Behind these, and almost hidden by them, are the Rev. James Grierson, D.D., of Errol (behind Sir James Forrest's chair); Professor MacLagan of Aberdeen; the Rev. James Foote, D.D., Aberdeen;- the Rev. Robert James Brown, DD, Professor of Greek at Marischal College, Aberdeen, whose adherence to the Free Church cost him his professorship; the Rev. William Findlater of Durness, Sutherland, who, with his son, the Rev. Eric J. Findlater of Lochearnhead, although a post-Disruption minister, suffered untold hardships during the year of the Disruption (the latter is standing right behind his father in the Picture); and the Rev. Alexander Stewart of Cromarty, with his plaid across his shoulder, who was called to St George's, Edinburgh, in 1847, as successor to Dr Candlish, but died very soon after.
The head appearing from behind the pillar is that of the Rev. John Harper of Bannockburn. In the front row of the upper platform, to the right of the spectator, are the Rev. George Muirhead, D.D., of Cramond, the oldest minister present in the Disruption Assembly, having been ordained in 1788. Next to him , is Principal Cunningham, and seated beside him is Dr James Begg of Liberton, and then Dr Thomas Guthrie. These three, together with Mr Maitland Makgill Crichton, Laird qf Ranheillour, who is next to Dr Guthrie, were the men who fought in the forefront of the battle during the TenYears' Conflict. In front of Makgill Crichton may be seen D. 0. Hill, the artist himself, conspicuous by his flowing locks. The old gentleman, showing a wide expanse of grey waistcoat and resting on the front of the platform, behind Hill, is Dr George Bell. Behind those seated in the front row, beginning at the pillar, are the Rev. John Dempster of Denny; the Rev. Christopher Greig of St Ninian's; Mr Howison Crawford of Crawfordland, a Disruption elder, and an active friend of the Church; the Rev. Charles John Brown, D.D., minister of the New North, Edinburgh; the Rev. Andrew Gray, Perth; the Rev. John MacNaughton, D.D., minister of the High Church, Paisley, and afterwards of Belfast; the Rev. John MacFarlane, D.D., minister of Dalkeith; and Dr Benjamin Bell, whose head appears above that of Dr George Bell. In the third row, on the upper platform, are the Rev. William Chalmers (leaning against the pillar), minister at Dailly, Ayrshrie, who afterwards became Principal of the English Presbyterian College, London; the Rev. David Wilson, minister at Irvine; and the Rev. Alexander Beith, D.D., once minister at Glenelg, ,and minister of the North Church, Stirling, at the Disuption, author of A Highland Tour with Dr Candlish and other works.
The third in this row from Dr Beith is the Rev. David Landsborough, D.D., minister at ,Stevenstown, Ayrshire, author of several books on Natural History, including one on the Natural History of Arran. Beyond the pillar on the spectator's left are the Rev. James Brewster, ,D.D. (brother of Principal Sir David Brewster), minister at Craig; General Munro of Teaninich (standing against the pillar behind Dr Brewster), a Disruption elder; the Rev. James Lumsden, D.D., minister at Barry, afterwards Professor of Systematic Theology at the Free Church College, Aberdeen; the Rev. William Nixon, D.D., Montrose; the Rev. William Wilson, D.D., Carmyllie, afterwards minister of the Mariners' Church, Dundee; the Rev. William Arnot, minister of St Peter's Glasgow, who succeeded Dr Gordon as minister of the High Church, Edinburgh; Mr John George Wood, W.S., who became, in the Free Church, Secretary to the Committee on Jewish Missions; and the Rev. Hugh Fraser, the venerable minister of Ardchattan, Argylishire, whose wife was Maria Helen Campbell of the historic house of Barcaldine. In front of Mr Fraser is his brilliant son, Professor Alexander Campbell Fraser, LL.D., D.C.L., Litt.D., with his arm resting on the front of the platform. Between old Mr Fraser and Mr Wood, but behind, is the Rev. Joseph Thorburn, afterwards minister of the Free High Church, Inverness.
Let us now come to the central scene of the Picture, the
Signing of the Act of Separation and the Deed of Demission, which was the last
official act completing the Disruption. The table in the foreground is in great
part surrounded by those holding official positions in the Assembly. The
bearded minister at the end of the table, on the left of the spectator, is the
Rev. Patrick Clason, D.D., who, on 18th May, was appointed one of the Clerks of
the Assembly. He is represented scrutinising some sheets, which he is holding
in his hands. Opposite him at the other end of the table is the Rev. Thomas
Pitcairn, D.D., who was Joint Clerk, also appointed on 18th May. Sitting behind
Dr Clason is Alexander Murray Dunlop, Esq., Member of Parliament for Greenock,
who holds in his hand a copy of the Claim of Right, drawn up by himself. It has
been said that he was to the Free Church what Johnston of Warriston was to the
Covenanters. The Claim of Right consisted of a formal appeal to the Crown,
narrating the grievances of the Church, and claiming, under the constitution of
Scotland, a right to be protected from the encroachments of the Civil Court.
The answer of the Crown was unfavourable, and the Church was rent in twain. On
Mr Dunlop's right is the Right Honourable James Moncreiff, Member of Parliament
and Lord Advocate. Looking over Dunlop's right shoulder is the Rev. Sir Henry
Wellwood Moncreiff, Baronet. The two Moncreiffs were sons of Lord Moncreiff,
and grandsons of Sir Harry Moncreiff, Baronet, minister of the West Kirk,
Edinburgh, on whom, after the death of the Rev. John Erskine, D.D., the
leadership of the Evangelical party in the Assembly devolved. The Hon. James
Crauford, Lord Ardmillan, is sitting on the left of Mr Dunlop. He was one of
the Senators of the College of Justice, Solicitor-General for Scotland, and a
prominent Disruption elder. Standing behind Dr Clason is Mr James Crawford,
W.S., Depute Clerk of Assembly, who was greatly beloved in the Church. On Dr
Clason's left are Mr William Fraser, W.S., and Mr John Hunter, Craigcrook, each
of whom is looking down at the sheets which Clason holds. These two, with Mr
John Hamilton, Advocate, who is standing on Mr Hunter's left, and the Rev. John
Jeffray, who is watching the minister in the act of signing the Deed of
Demission, were the official witnesses to the Deed. Advocate Hamilton, by his
pamphlets and correspondence, contributed "to ripen the Church for the
Mr Jeffray was "the Bezaleel of the Disruption." "His services," wrote Dr Beith of Stirling, " were truly valuable. Everything that the comfort of the multitude who might be looked for when the day came required, every accommodation for officials of every name, for the leaders, for the ordinary body of members, clerical and lay, had been provided to the full. All hearts were filled with admiration and thankfulness, Mr Jeffray receiving his due meed of praise." Sitting on the right of Dr Pitcairn, at the other end of the table, are Mr Robert Paul and Mr James Bridges, elders, who were "unwearied in devising and carrying out good schemes," and "acted in the capacity of Treasurers of Funds and Conveners of Committees in the multifarious doings preceding and following the Disruption." Dr Patrick MacFarlan of Greenock is represented in the very act of resigning the highest living in the Church, and "what was to his Conservative feelings much dearer and harder to part with his position as an honoured member of his beloved Establishment." He was the fourth in a succession of ministers from father to son since the Revolution. Warden was the family name, but Dr, MacFarlan's father, the Rev. John Warden, minister of the Canongate, Edinburgh, on succeeding to the estate of Ballancleroch, assumed the name of MacFarlan.
Beside Dr MacFarlan, ready to sign, are distinguished
fathers and brethren. Standing on his right and on Advocate Hamilton's left is
the Rev. Thomas Brown, D.D., who succeeded Dr Chalmers in St John's, Glasgow.
Those next to him in order (from the left to the right of the spectator) are:-
the Rev. John Smyth, D.D., St George's, Glasgow; the Rev. James M'Cosh, LL.D.,
Brechin, afterwards Professor of Logic in Queen's College, Belfast, and finally
President of Princeton College, New Jersey, U.S.A.; the Rev. John Kirk,
Arbirlot, where he succeeded Dr Guthrie; the Rev. James Gibson, D.D. (behind Mr
Kirk), Kingston, Glasgow, and afterwards Professor in the Free Church College,
Glasgow; the Rev. John MacDonald, D.D., minister of Ferintosh, the well-known
Apostle of the North; the Rev. David Dewar, minister of Fochabers, who, as
Moderator of the Presbytery of Strathbogie, occupied a prominent position
during the Marnoch Case; the Rev. Adam Cairns, D.D., minister at Cupar-Fife,
who, in 1853, went to Melbourne, "where he was a power to be reckoned with in
the ecclesiastical and social life of the community," and where, in the home of
his widow, on 22nd December, 1907, Principal Rainy passed away; the Rev. James
Sommerville, D.D., the patriarchal minister of Drumelzier, who, with tottering
steps and pen in stiffened hand, waits patiently for his turn to sign the Deed
of Demission; the Rev. William H. Burns, D.D. (behind Dr Sommerville), Kilsyth,
whose name will always be remembered in connection with the Revivals which
preceded the Disruption; the Rev. Alexander James Campbell, D.D., Melrose, who
afterwards emigrated to Geelong, Victoria, and was Moderator of the General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria in 1867; the Rev. John Aikman
Wallace, minister at Hawick; the Rev.
Horatius Bonar, D.D., known in all branches of the Church of Christ through
his hymns; the Rev. Alexander N. Somerville, D.D., Glasgow, the world-wide
Evangelist, who, during the last nineteen years of his life, was the
representative of the Barony of Somerville, but preferred no claim.
Mr George Dalzell, W.S., who is engaged in conversation with Mr Robert Paul (sitting at the table beside Dr Pitcairn) on some matter of business affecting the welfare of the Church; the Rev. Thomas Davidson, Kilmallie, Inverness-shire; the Rev. Hugh MacKay MacKenzie, Tongue, who, with his son, the Revs William MacKenzie, so suffered in health from the hardships of the Disruption that they died within a month of each other in the summer of 1845; and the Rev. Peter MacBride of Rothesay, sandwiched in between Mr MacKenzie, Tongue, and the Rev. Roderick MacLeod of Snizort, Skye.
Directly in front of the Rev. Thoderick MacLeod are the
Rev. Alexander G. McGillivray, minister at Mains and Strathmartine, and the
Rev. Angus M. McGillivray, minister at Dairsie, sons of the Rev. Duncan
McGillivray, minister at Lairg. -The sons are represented in the Picture
supporting their father in his extreme feebleness to the table to exhibit with
a dying hand his signature to the Deed of Demission. Behind these, the tall
gentleman, standing against the upper platform, directly underneath Principal
Cunningham, is Gavin Anderson, Officer of Assembly.
Seated at the corner of the Clerks' table, beside Dr Pitcairn, is Dr Duff of the Bengal Mission of the :Church of Scotland. Although he was not present in body at the Disruption Assembly, he was there in spirit. Like Dr Duff, all the other missionaries of the Church "came out" at the Disruption. To the left of Dr Duff are the Rev. Julius Wood, D.D., of Dumfries (then in Malta), and the Rev. John Anderson of the Madras Mission. Facing Dr Julius Wood are Judge Ross, Deputy Governor of Bengal; Colonel Morrison, Bengal; and Dhanjiobai Nauroji, the Parsee convert, one of the first fruits of the Bombay Mission. Standing behind the Parsee is the Rev. John Wilson, D.D., F.R.S., of Bombay, who was, at his death, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bombay. The Rev. William King Tweedie., D.D., Edinburgh, Convener of the Foreign Missions Committee, is behind Dr Wilson, and holds in his hand the paper, Friends of India.
In the foreground, on the spectator's right hand, the group, congregated around a large atlas opened at the map of Palestine, is intended to represent the Committee on Jewish Mission. The portly gentleman in the armchair is Professor Alexander Black of Marischal College, Aberdeen, who was sent, with the Rev. Robert Murray MacCheyne of Dundee and others, by the Church of Scotland in 1839 on a mission of inquiry to the Jews. He was afterwards Professor of New Testament Exegesis in New College, Edinburgh. On his right is Rabbi Duncan; then Dr Moody-Stuart of St Luke's, Edinburgh; and then Professor Sachs, Aberdeen. The last in this group is Dr Alexander Keith of St Cyrus, the author of many books on prophecy, who is deeply engrossed in conversation with Rabbi Duncan. The boy in the centre of the group is Adolph Saphir, the first of the Jewish converts at Pesth in Hungary, who became Presbyterian minister at Greenwich. In behind Professor Black's chair is Mr William Nelson, publisher, Edinburgh, and beside him is the Rev. Andrew Cameron, D.D., who was on the staff of The Witness at the Disruption, and afterwards editor of the Free Church Magazine, and other religious periodicals. He emigrated to Melbourne, where he started a weekly religious newspaper-The Southern Cross.
On Dr Cameron's left, in the front row, is
Dr Andrew Bonar, with a copy
of the Memoir of Robert Murray MacCheyne open in his hand. Next to him is the
Rev. Thomas MacLauchlam, LL.D., Edinburgh, who holds in his hands a roll of
papers, inscribed Highlands and Islands, to show his connection with the
Highland Conimittee. The last in this right-hand front row is Mr George
Meldrum, W.S., Depute Clerk of the Assembly.
Standing conspicuously in the second row in this right-hand corner of the Picture is the Rev. Robert MacDonald of Blairgowrie, holding in his hand a draft of the scheme for building five hundred schools. On his left, in the same row, are five distinguished educationists - Dr Gunn of the High School, Edinburgh; Mr Dalgleish of Dreghorn College; Mr Gibson, Head of Merchiston Castle School; Mr Oliphant, Rector of the "Free Church Training College; and Professor Patrick MacDougall (at the extreme right of the Picture), of the Chair of Moral Philosophy, Edinburgh University, who was the bosom friend of Dr Chalmers. Right above Professor MacDougall are three ladies - Mrs Dingwall Fordyce of Bruckley; Mrs Lundie Duncan; and Miss Abercrombie (at the extreme right of the Picture). The first two were generous promoters of Mr MacDonald's School Schemes, and the third was the Secretary of the Ladies' Schools in the Highlands and Islands. The gentleman next to Mrs Dingwall Fordyce is Mr David Stow of Glasgow, the originator, along with Dr Welsh, of Normal Schools. The fourth to the right of Mr Stow is Mr John Maitland, in whose hands the artist has placed a large plan of the Free Church Offices, in memory of one of his many gifts to the Church. To Mr Maitland's right is Mr David Cousin, the Edinburgh City Architect, discussing with the former the plan of the offices spread out in front of them.
In the seat above are a number of foreign divines. The extreme end of their seat (on the spectator's right) is occupied by two ladies - Lady Huxne (at the end and then Mrs Hanna (Dr Chalmers' daughter). Following in order the fine of divines downwards from Mrs Hanna we have: Dr Capadose of the Hague, Dr Merle D'Aubigne of Geneva; Rev Dr Adolph Sydow, Potsdam, Chaplain to the King of Prussia, who, it is said, on the request of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, wrote for them an account of the Disruption;. the Rev. Jabez Bunting, DD., of the Wesleyan Methodists, London, a warm friend of Dr Chalmers the Rev. Frederick Monod, Paris; and Professor Sach of Bonn. Behind Sach and Monod is the Rev. Jacob Abbott, and beside him, on his left, is Dr Lyman Beecher, both of the United States. On Dr Lyman Beecher's left is the venerable Dr Henry Cooke of Belfast, to whom the cause, during the Ten Year Conflict, was much indebted, and who addressed the first General Assembly of the Free Church.
Turning to the left-hand side (from the spectator's point of view) of the Picture, we have in the foreground the portraits of several personages who occupied distinguished positions in the events which led to the Disruption, and in the early history of the Free Church. The figure, in the foreground, is the Marquis of Breadalbane, who is holding in his hand a roll of Highland Churches, Manses, and Schools. He often advocated the rights and claims of the Church in the House of Lords, and gave liberally to her schemes. Standing in the second row, beside the two ladies (at the extreme end of the Picture), is his friend, the Right Honourable the Earl of Dalhousie, then the Honourable Fox Maule, M.P., who often spoke on behalf of the cause of the Church in the House of Commons. On the right of his Lordship is Lord Rutherfurd, one of the Judges of the Supreme Court.. He was leading counsel and adviser of the Church in her conflicts with the Civil Courts. On the morning after the Disruption, he presented his friend, Dr Welsh. with five hundred pounds with which to begin a Library for the Church. Half seen between Fox Maule and Lord Rutherfurd is Sir Andrew Agnew Baronet, of Lochawe, the zealous and unwearied advocate of the sanctity of the Sabbath in the House of Commons. At the Glasgow Assembly in October,. 1843, he stated that it was her zeal for the Sabbath that drew him to the Free Church. On Lord Rutherfurd's left is Sir Thomas MacDougall Brisbane, Baronet, of Makerston, for long President of the Royal Society Next to him, on his left, is Mr Campbell of Tillichewan, "whose gifts to all good objects were not less remarkable for their munificence than for the non-ostentatious and single-hearted simplicity with which they were administered". Beside Mr Campbell is Mr Nathaniel Stevenson of Glasgow. Standing on his left, in the following order, are:- Professor George Smeaton, Professor James Buchanan, and Professor James Bannerman, all of New College, Edinburgh. Next to the Professors, in the same row, are four representatives of the Relief and Secession Churches. They are:- Dr Heugh of Glasgow; Dr John Brown of Edinburgh; Dr M'Michael of Dunfermline; and Dr (afterwards Principal) Cairns of Berwick. Dr Brown is represented as shaking hands with the venerable Dr. William Thomson of Perth (brother of Dr Andrew Thomson of St George's, Edinburgh). The three seated figures, in the front row, behind Lord Breadalbane, are:- Dr. Thomas M'Crie, London, who afterwards became Principal of the Theological College of the English Presbyterian Church, London; Dr James Hamilton of Regent Square Church, London; and the Rev. D. T. K. Drummond, Edinburgh, an Episcopalian clergyman, who manifested the warmest sympathy with the Evangelical outlook of the Free Church.
To the left of Lord Breadalbane are:- Mr White of Overtoun, Dumbarton, and Mr Macfie of Langhouse. The five gentlemen seated together behind the kilted Highlander, formed the Irish delegation to represent their Church at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and; having to determine which was that Church, had no difficulty in finding it in Tanfield Hall. The five Irish delegates are shown in the Picture in the following order, from left to right of the spectator:- Mr Denham of Londonderry, seated to the left (spectator's right) of Lord Breadalbane; Mr Hazlitt, Mayor of Londonderry; Professor Gibson, Belfast; the Rev. Dr Morgan, Belfast; and Mr MacLure of Londonderry. They all addressed the Assembly, and, it is said, that those who heard Dr Chalmers' reply to their addresses never forgot the deep impression it made on the Assembly.
On the spectator's left, in the third row of heads,. are four of the Senators of the College of Justice, whose judicial opinions, in the cases tried in the Civil Courts before the Disruption, were in accordance with the views of those who afterwards formed the Free Church. They are:- Lord Fullerton, Lord Cockburn, Lord Moncreiff and Lord Jeffrey, the last of whom, on hearing of the Disruption, burst into tears, exclaiming: "I am proud of my country. There is not another country upon earth where such a deed could have been done." Next to Lord Jeffrey, on his left, is Lady Foulis In front of her is Sheriff Watson, Aberdeen, his face fringed with whiskers, and on his left is Professor John Stuart Blackie, whose picturesque form the artist introduced into his Picture probably in virtue of his intense Scottish nationalism; he was not a Free Churchman. Beside him is the portly Rev. Walter Wood of Elie, Fife. In front of him is Sir George Harvey, the President of the Royal Scottish Academy, the painter of many works illustrative of passages of the history of the Church in Scotland, such as The Covenanters' Preaching and Leaving the Manse. Beside him is his minister, the .Rev. Lindsay Alexander, D.D., of St Augustine Church, Edinburgh. Conspicuous in the foreground, in front of Dr Duff, is Mr. Hugh Miller, with his plaid, who is represented taking notes.
He was editor of The Witness. His "figure does not bulk more prominently
in the Picture than did his remarkable writings in the controversy evolving the
Disruption, of which it may be said emphatically he was one of the greatest
leaders." On the opposite side of the Picture, also in the foreground, is
Sergeant MacKenzie, who acted as one of the Officers of the Assembly. He was
Pipe-Major of the 42nd Highlanders at Waterloo, where he behaved with great
gallantry. Beside him, seated in front of Mr Murray Dunlop, is Mr Hately, the
Assembly precentor. He did not, however, as often reported, lead the Praise on
the opening day of the Assembly. His daughter, in her Memorial of her father,
writes: "He was really at his usual work in Constable's on that day (18th.
May), and only snatched a few minutes to run along Thistle Street and join the
cheering crowds, as the band of heroes slowly passed down Hanover Street on
their way to Tanfield. He was their leader of Psalmody next day, however, and
on to the end of his life". Many of the Psalm tunes, which we still sing, were
composed by Mr Hately.
As already noted, Mr Hill introduced into his Picture many ladies to indicate the part played by the women, whether of the Mansion or the Manse, in furthering the cause of the Free Church at home and abroad. Some of these have been mentioned already, and their place in the Picture noted. High up in the right-hand corner of the Picture may be seen the Duchess of Gordon, dressed in black. The ladies to her right, in a line downwards, are:- the Marchioness of Breadalbane, the Hon. Mrs Fox Maule, the Lady Mary Hamilton, the lady Christian Maule, Mrs Main,. Mrs Cunningham of Craigends, and Miss Brewster (Mrs Gordon). The lady, in front of Miss Brewster, is Mrs Macintyre. On the left of the Duchess of Gordon, at the extreme end of the row, is the Hon. Miss Charlotte MacKenzie of Seaforth. It may be mentioned in passing that behind these ladies are Mr Carment of Rosskeen and Mr Williamson of Huntly. In the left-hand corner of the Picture, in the third row from the front, are six ladies, whose names are, beginning at the extreme left of spectator:- the Lady Emma Campbell of Argyll; Mrs Candlish (wife of Dr Candlish); Lady Moncreiff; Mrs Hog of Newliston; Mrs Graham Spiers; and Mrs Stewart Monteith. In the row above these, at the extreme end, is "the benevolent" Miss Hunter Blair, and above her is Miss Gardiner. Seated with her are :- Miss Makellar (daughter of Dr Makellar of Pencaitland); Miss Agnes Abercrombie and Miss Harriet Abercrombie, daughters of Dr John Abercrombie, an Edinburgh doctor, who devoted himself with enthusiasm to the Free Church; Mrs Julius Wood, who at the disruption, her husband, Dr Julius Wood, being came "out" with her family, not doubting the step her husband would take on his return; and Mrs. Turnbull of Huntingtower.
There are a number of anachronisms in the Picture.
For instance, Dr Duff of the Indian Mission, who sits conspicuously at the end of the Clerks' table, was in India at the Disruption, as were also his brother missionaries who appear in the Picture. "Rabbi" Duncan was missionary to the Jews at Pesth when the Disruption took place, and did not return to Edinburgh until November, 1843.
The little boy, who is beside Sir James Forrest, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, was not present at the Assembly. He was a grandson of the Rev. Andrew Melville, standing behind the Lord Provost's chair, and also a grandson of Dr Patrick MacFarlan of Greenock. Mr Hill represents him as looking down at his maternal grandfather signing the Deed of Demission. The boy thus represented was in after years well known in the Free Church Assembly as Dr Andrew Melville, one of her Principal Clerks. Many of the ministers commemorated appear, not as they were in 1843, but as they looked in after life.
Dr Duff, Dr Clason and others were painted by the artist with the white hair and beards which adorned them in later years.
The canvas, to which the artist transferred the portraits (four hundred and fifty in all) of those eminent and devoted men, raised up by God to witness for the great and fundamental principle of the Sole and Supreme Headship of the Lord Jesus Christ over His own Church, and of those who sympathised with them at home and abroad for their witness, measures 11 feet 4 inches by 5 feet. As a work of art, it is a triumph.. "A more remarkable work of the kind does not exist." Soon after it was first exhibited to the public, and a movement was set on foot in the Free Church for acquiring it. The Church rose to the occasion and purchased the Picture, which, after it had been exhibited in Glasgow, Greenock and elsewhere, was housed in the Presbytery Hall in the Offices of the Church in Edinburgh. When the Assembly met at Inverness in 1888, under the Moderatorship of Dr Aird of Creich, who, although a Disruption minister and present at the Disruption Assembly, has no place in the Picture, an exhibition of Disruption and other historical relics was held in one of the rooms of the temporary Assembly Hall erected in Ardross Terrace, overlooking the Ness. The Disruption Picture, which was lent for the exhibition, and for the safe conveyance of which to Inverness special arrangements were made by the railway officials, was the chief attraction, and was seen, for the first time, by thousands of Free Church people in the Highlands and Islands, who only knew of its existence through photographs. In its permanent home in the Presbytery Hall in Edinburgh, it is open to public view all the year round, and many visitors to the Scottish capital make a point of seeing it.
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