| Henry Duncan D.D. was the minister of this parish
for nearly 50 years, ending with his death in 1846,3 years after the
Disruption, when he "came out" with nearly 400 other ministers, from the Church
of Scotland. In 1810 he founded the world's first Savings Bank, and you can
visit this today - although now a museum and no longer a Bank, it is charitably
maintained by Lloyds-TSB (the successor to Duncan's bank), and is well worth a
Apart from its intrinsic interest, it has in its keeping a lot of letters sent from Chalmers to Duncan - carefully translated (Chalmers was an awful writer!) and transcribed by the museum's curator - Mrs. Anderson. These mostly concerned the possible use of funds from a local source to build a university at nearby Dumfries - and those concerned very much wanted Chalmers to be the first Principal. While being very sympathetic, and always anxious to advance the cause of education, especially in Theology, he declined the post, saying in a letter to be seen at the Museum, that he"considered himself a fixture" at New College, Edinburgh.
The idea eventually failed, but a college has now been established at Dumfries as part of Glasgow University.
Dr. Duncan was also a keen geologist, and discovered, and presented a paper to the Royal Society, on fossil footprints at Corncockle Quarry, near Lochmaben. A small sample can be seen at the museum.
|In 1818 he restored the Ruthwell Cross, which is arguably the most
discussed mediaeval monument in the world. The Cross is reckoned to date from
the 7th Century and has, in effect, a sermon on the Life of Christ depicted in
some very skilfull carving.
This had been thrown down and broken during the post-Reformation austerities,as an "idolotrous monument". Duncan put it back together, in his garden - the rules about idols in churches not governing the manses! He also deciphered much of the inscription, and the assembly was just about 100% accurate, as amazed experts had to admit when they came to examine the hitherto hidden cross.
The cross was later found to be suffering the ravages of Scottish weather, and a later minister, the Rev. James McFarlane, caused it to be erected in a specially built apse in the church, seen here.
|This is the place where one can see the first Savings Bank museum,
admire the exhibits, including the first 3-lock money chest, and drool over the
collection of manuscripts of Thomas Chalmers' letters - and the replies to them
from Dr. Duncan.
The Bank paid 5% if the money was paid in regularly and left in for 3 years, but reducd to 4% if money was withdrawn. At least 4 shillings pa had to be deposited to earn the interest, and any amount could be paid in, but interest was only paid on whole pounds.
Visitors are welcome, and entry is free. The museum is open daily except Sunday, and lies in the village of Ruthwell, just West of Annan off the A75 trunk road.
Dr. Chalmers wrote and visited the Ruthwell Manse, many times. Here is a copy of a letter he wrote to Dr. Duncan over the question of starting a University in near-by Dunfries. Duncan wanted Chalmers to be its principal, but Chalmers would have none of it! He was, he says in another letter that I have seen, much to "set in my ways at Edinburgh".
"There is one letter in particular from Dr Chalmers at the time when the
plan, which had to be abandoned, of founding a university for Dumfries was
under consideration, which shows the opinion held by Dr Chalmers of his
EDINBURGH, September 11, 1833.
I returned home yesterday and found your letter awaiting me. I fully and entirely acquiesce in its judicious and powerful statements, and am more confident than ever of a right and prosperous result of our joint deliberations when I see a new suggestion so thoroughly competent and so well decided upon. I do hope you will meet with nothing to embarrass you or distract you any further in the settlement of all the needful details. Dr Welsh rejoices in your letter to me, and I can assure you that I am altogether pleased with it.
Ever believe me, with best compliments, my dear Sir, yours most truly,
From "Dr. Duncan of Ruthwell - Founder of Savings Banks" by S.Hall. (his great grand-daughter)
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