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Robert Flockhart
The Street Preacher

Many individuals now scattered widely over the world remember a street preacher in Edinburgh, who, with professional regularity, and more even than professional zeal, employed the hours that he could appropriate to the object, in fulfilling literally the commandment, to go into the 'highways and compel them to come in. Not a few of them, we fear, recollect the old and worn preacher, for he became old in that work, as an enthusiast at whose broad dialect and strange remarks they were amused, rather than as one with whose sincere love for his feliowmen they sympathised. Day by day, in all the changes of season, in all the various kinds of weather that Edinburgh experiences, the preacher, after he became in some measure recognised and tolerated, had his service on every weekday evening, in the square at St. Giles’ Cathedral, and on Sabbath evenings in the space before the Royal Theatre.

Robert Flockhart was born at Dalnottar, near Glasgow, on the 4th February, 1778, and he died in 1867, in his eightieth year. He was a small and rather “spare” man, who bad never apparently been possessed of great physical strength, and yet he went on to a good old age, doing hard work. His father was a nailer, and while the son alleged that he had not the benefit of a good example in his infancy, yet he was kept at school from his fifth to his tenth year, and at home he was compelled to learn the mothers’ and shorter catechisms, and this he says was all the religious instruction he got. Many persons get less, and we conclude that there was a favourable feeling to religion in the family. In his tenth year he was apprenticed to his father’s business of nail making for seven years, but he disliked the trade, and enlisted in the Breadalbane Fencibles. That regiment was, however, particular respecting the maguitude of their men, and Robert Flockhart being only five feet three inches high, was beneath their standard, and discharged. He then joined the 81st Regiment, and having been two weeks on the passage from Newhaven to Chatham, he was six weeks on the voyage from Chatham to Guernsey. His early experiences of the sea were unfavourable. In a short time tha regiment was sent to the Cape of Good Hope, and quartered there for a considerable period. When the 81st Regiment was ordered home, he volunteered into the 22nd Regiment for India, and again the weather was unfavourable, for the ship was four months on the passage from the Cape to Calcutta.

A small work, edited by Dr. Guthrie, of Edinburgh, contains notes of Robert Fiockhart’s life, written by himself, but not commenced, it states, until he had entered on his sixty-seventh year. In these notes he describes his military life both in Africa and in Asia, until a certain period, in dismal colours. He does not particularly specify all the enormous crimes which he charges on himself, but he confesses the habitual breach of every commandment, except perhaps the sixth, of which he does not appear to have been litendly gailty.

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