An Account of
the Funeral of Thomas Chalmers
WHEN the sudden and solemn event was announced to it, the General Assembly of the Free Church unanimously resolved to adjourn all business; but to remain convened till, as an Assembly, it had the melancholy satisfaction of rendering the last office of friendship to the departed. The funeral took place on Friday, the 4th June, and we extract from the Witness the following account of it
"The General Assembly of the Free Church met in Free St Andrews Church at twelve o cloclc - together with the members of deputations to the Assembly from the Presbyterian Churches of England and Ireland, and also the ministers from foreign parts attending the Assembly; the Moderator, Dr. Keith, and Dr. Clason, conducted the devotional exercises. The ministers and elders not members of Assembly, and deacons, assembled in Free St. George's Church at the same hour; the devotional exercises here were conducted by Dr. Henry Grey and Dr. Buchanan of Glasgow. The probationers and students met in the hall of the New College, also at twelve, where Dr. Cunningham conducted the devotions. A little before one, a large body of citizens, desirous of testifying respect to the memory of the deceased, by joining in the procession, assembled on the south side of Charlotte Square ; as did also the Magistrates and Town-Council of the city, in St. George's Church, in the same square. At one o clock, the General Assembly left Free St. Andrew's Church, the Moderator and Office-bearers in front, in gowns and bands, preceded by the two officers of Assembly, dressed in deep mourning, with hanging crapes, and white rods in their hands, and walking four abreast, proceeded to the Lothian Road, where they halted at about a hundred yards in advance of Free St. George's Church. The members of Assembly were followed by the Professors in the New College, in their gowns and bands. The ministers and elders not members of Assembly, now left Free St Georges Church, walking four abreast, preceded by four beadles, two and two, dressed in deep mourning, and with black rods in their hands, and took their place in the procession immediately behind the Professors. Next came the ministers of other denominations. These were followed by the probationers and students, walking also four abreast, and preceded by two officers dressed in the manner last described. Next in the procession came the Rector and Masters of the High School in their gowns, and preceded by the Janitor in his official costume; and following in their rear were the Rector, Teachers, and Students of the Edinburgh Normal School, with other Free Church teachers in Edinburgh and neighbourhood. Forming the rear of the procession came the large body of citizens, who had assembled in Charlotte Square, walking four abreast. Thus formed, the procession moved along the Lothian Road, headed by the Magistrates and Town-Council in their robes, the pavement being occupied with solemnized spectators, and every window, being crowded with faces. At the Main Point the Committee and congregation of the Territorial Church, West Port, were drawn up, and, as the procession passed, they fell into the rear. The procession moved on by the Links to Churchill; and having arrive& within fifty yards of the gate leading to the house of the deceased, it halted. Here the members of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and the Professors, fell out of their places, and repaired to the house, where the private friends of the deceased were already assembled, and where devotional exercises were conducted by the Rev. Mr. Addis, minister of Morningside Free Church. At Morningside the procession was joined by the office-bearers and congregation of Morningside Free Clwrch, and by the pupils of Merchieton Academy. After an interval of about half. an hour, the hearse containing the body of the lamented dead, drawn by four horses, attended by grooms, was led up to the procession, which now began to move slowly off towards the place of interment in the New Cemetery at Grange.
"Dust to dust; the grave now holds all that was mortal of Thomas Chalmers. Never before did we witness such a funeral; nay, never before, in at least the memory of man, did Scotland witness such a funeral. Greatness of the mere extrinsic type can always command a showy pageant; but mere extrinsic greatness never yet succeeded in purchasing the tears of a people; and the spectacle of yesterday in which the trappings of grief, worn not as idle signs, but as the representatives of a real sorrow, were borne by well.nigh half the population of the metropolis, and blackened the public ways for furlong after furlong, and mile after mile - was such as Scotland has rarely witnessed and which mere rank or wealth, when at the highest or the fullest, were never yet able to buy. It was a solemn tribute, spontaneously paid to departed goodness and greatness by the public mind.
"The day was one of those gloomy days, not unfrequunt in early summer, which steeps the landscape In a sombre neutral tint of gray - a sort of diluted gloom - and volumes of mist, unvariegated, blank and diffuse of outline, flew low athwart the hills or lay folded on the distant horizon. A chill breeze from the east murmured drearily through the trees that line the cemetery on the south and west, and rustled amid the low ornamental shrubs that vary and adorn its surface. We felt as if the garish sunshine would have associated ill with the occasion. A continuous range of burial vaults, elevated some twenty feet over the level, with a screen of Gothic architecture in front, fenced by a parapet, and laid out into a broad roadway atop, runs along the cemetery from side to side, and was covered at an early hour by many thousand spectators, mostly well-dressed females. All the neighbouring roads, with the various streets through which the procession passed, from Morningside on to Lauriston, and from Lauriston to the burying-ground, - a distance, by this circuitous route, of considerably more than two miles, - were lined thick with people. We are confident we rather underestimate than exaggerate their numbers, when we state that the spectators of the funeral must have rather exceeded than fallen short of a hundred thousand persons. As the procession approached, the shops on both sides, with scarce any exceptions, were shut up, and business suspended. There was no part of the street or road through which it passed sufficiently open, or nearly so, to give a view of the whole. The spectator merely saw file after file pass by in what seemed endless succession. In the cemetery, which is of great extent, the whole was at once seen for the first time, and the appearance was that of an army. The figures dwindled in the distance, in receding towards the open grave along the long winding walk, as in those magnificent pictures of Martin, in which even the littleness of men is made to enhance the greatness of their works and the array of their aggregated numbers. And still the open gateway continued to give ingress to the dingy, living tide, that seemed to flow unceasingly inwards, like some perennial stream that disembogues its waters into a lake. The party- coloured thousands on the eminence above, all in silence, and many of them in tears - the far-stretching lines of the mourners below - the effect, amid the general black, of the scarlet cloaks of the magistracy, - for the Magistrates of Edinburgh, with much good taste and feeling, had come in their robes of office, and attended by its officials and insignia, to manifest their spontaneous respect for the memory of the greatest of their countrymen, - the slow, measured tramp, that, with the rustle of the breeze formed the only sounds audible in so vast an a.ssemblage, - all conspired to compose a scene solemn and impressive in the highest degree, and of which the recollection will long survive in the memory of the spectators. There was a moral sublimity in the spectacle. It spoke more emphatically than by words, of the dignity of intrinsic excellence, and of the height to which a true man may attain. It was the dust of a Presbyterian minister which the coffin contained; and yet they were burying him amid the tears of a nation, and with more than kingly honours."
Home | Biography | Literature | Letters | Interests | Links | Quotes | Photo-Wallet