One of the principal
labours of Mr. Burns in his retired life was the “care of the churches.”
At Wemyss Bay and St. Silas’s in Glasgow, with its mission church and
schools at Partick, he was labouring to present the Church of England to
the Scottish people as a thoroughly Protestant, Evangelical, and
Scriptural Church, and to show that its services and ordinances of
Divine worship, and its ministrations among the people, could, without
any breach of Christian charity, be carried on in the absence of
Episcopal rule. But in the vacancies that from time to time occurred in
the churches of which he was patron, it required a vast amount of care
to guard against appointing any one who would not make a right use of
his freedom from the control of Episcopal authority, or who would not
faithfully preach the doctrines and, so far as circumstances would
admit, observe the rites and ceremonies of the Church.
In order to complete the history of Mr. Burns’ connection with English
Episcopalians in Scotland, we must go back to the period at which we
left off in a previous chapter.
'When, in 1849, it was found that certain English bishops were
supporting the assumptions of the Scottish bishops, it was resolved to
meet the threatened danger in the House of Peers. A petition was drawn
up, and influentially signed, and a deputation (consisting of Lord
Elibank, Sir James Baird, Brodie of Brodie, Evan Baillie of Dochfour,
George Burns, Arthur Kinnaird, Burnley, Gribble, Drummond, and Miles,
among others) was appointed to visit London. The deputation had
interviews with prelates and peers, and especially with Lord Brougham,
who undertook to present the petition.
On the 22nd of May this was done, and the debate lasted for four and a
half hours. The two archbishops, and many of the bishops at once
expressed their entire concurrence in the prayer of the petition, and
stated that they would not object to license in their dioceses clergymen
“duly qualified in soundness of doctrine and character, who, having
officiated in English chapels in Scotland separate from the Scottish
Episcopal Church, do not possess a testimonial from a Scottish bishop.”
The animated discussion in the House of Lords led to no decisive result,
but it gave publicity to the subject, and so iar did good to the cause
that Mr. Bums had so much at heart.
For some years matters went on quietly and progressively, with little to
call for remark, until the year 1856, when Bishop Gobat, of Jerusalem,
paid a visit to Scotland, and without stint or reserve gave his aid to
the English Episcopalians there. This brought upon him the most violent
abuse, alike from quarters where he expected it, and where he did not.
In a letter to Mr. John Burns, referring to the bitterness of the attack
made upon him, he says :—
If I had previously had any hesitation about preaching the gospel in the
towns where the Scottish bishops happen to reside, their subsequent
conduct would not have failed to convince me of the absolute necessity
of faithful servants of God going to carry light where the shades of
such men are eclipsing the brightness of the gospel. And I hope and pray
that Evangelical bishops and other ministers of the Church of England
may have grace to go and continue with power the work which has been
begun in weakness, until the Scottish Episcopal Church either ceases to
exist or returns to the truth of God’s Holy Word.
In the autumn, of 1866, the Archbishop of Canterbury with much pomp and
circumstance laid the foundation-stone in Inverness of a Cathedral for
the “diocese”—so called—“of Moray and Boss in the Episcopal Church of
In doing so he appeared in the capacity of a Dissenter—inasmuch as the
Episcopal Church of Scotland is a dissenting community, just as much as
the Wesleyans or the Independents or the Roman Catholics are in England,
the Established Church in Scotland being Presbyterian.
Not content with placing himself in this extraordinary and anomalous
position, his Grace made a speech in which he said, “I rejoice to he
able to give testimony to my anxious desire to seal the union and
communion between the Episcopal Church in Scotland and the Church of
England. That Episcopal Church is the only true representative of the
Church of England in Scotland.”
Here was an opportunity that Mr. Drummond was not likely to let pass.
Having ascertained from the Archbishop that his speech was correctly
reported, Mr. Drummond, in a series of powerful letters, brought forward
the whole question of Scottish Episcopacy and of the position of English
We cannot enter into the controversy here further than to quote some of
the arguments used hy Mr. Drummond to test the conclusion at which the
Archbishop had arrived, that the Scotch Episcopal Church was “ the only
true representative of the Church of England in Scotland.”
1. The Scotch Episcopal Church is purely a voluntary and dissenting
2. She has laws of her own, differing from and independent of those
which govern our Church.
3. She may alter these laws whenever she pleases, without regard to any
civil or ecclesiastical judicature in the kingdom. She has done so three
times during this century.
4. These laws enforce a discipline altogether foreign to that which
prevails in our Church, giving to the seven Scotch bishops, as a court
from which their clergy bind themselves not to appeal, the power of—‘ 1.
Admonition; 2. Suspension; 3. Deprivation of a pastoral charge; 4.
5. These laws sanction, in congregations already using it, and permit
its introduction into any new congregation, a communion office which Dr.
Blalceney, in his work on the ‘ Book of Common Prayer’ (already a
standard work), characterises as ‘an instance of decided retrogression
6. The Scotch Episcopal Church formally adopted the Thirty-nine Articles
in 1804. But how? The Bishop Skinner of that day wrote privately to an
eminent layman of his Church that they were to be ‘subscribed by Scotch
Episcopalians only as Articles of Union, whereby we express our
approbation of what the Church of England has intended by them.’ To this
end he prepared a preamble, modifying Articles 17, 25, 35, 30, and 37.
His correspondent, however, induced him to abandon this, and to accept
his own proposal instead—viz., to subscribe the Articles as they are,
‘every subscriber explaining them to himself! ’ Bishop Jolly,
nevertheless, when he signed them frankly declared, ‘We must be candidly
understood as taking them in unison with that book (“A Layman’s
Account,” &c.), and not think any expressions with regard to the Lord’s
Supper inimical to our practice at the altar in the use of the Scotch
7. Lord Romilly, in his recent judgment in the case of the Bishop of
Natal v. Mr. Gladstone and others, refers to churches ‘ rejecting, as
the Episcopal Church in Scotland is compelled to do, the Thirty-seventh
Article of the Church of England.’
8. So recently as 1850, the Scotch bishops, in Synod assembled, took
into consideration the case of Gorham r. Bishop of Exeter, and solemnly
declared—‘ We do not consider the sentence in the case referred to as
having any authority to bind us.’ Thus ignoring a decision by which your
Grace and all the members of our Church are bound, regarding a vital
question in one of the most important of the sendees of the Church of
9. The above handling of the English Liturgy and Articles has never been
repudiated by the Scotch Episcopal Church; and cannot be, so long as her
canons sanction tlie use of a communion office involving a priestly
miracle which has been deliberately excluded from our office, and as
long as the Thirty-seventh Article is by the same canons a dead letter.
These were nuts which the Archbishop did not crack. In his concluding
letter, however, he said: “There can he little use in diverging further
into collateral topics. My original position was, that a Church governed
by bishops, and using the Liturgy of the Church of England as well as
accepting her Articles as its confession, was a more true representative
of the Church of England in Scotland than certain congregations which
were under no bishop, and which also used the Liturgy and accepted the
Articles of the Church of England.”
This, of course, was not the original position of the Primate; between
“the only true representative” and “the more true representative” there
is an enormous difference.
The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Record, and other influential
papers, took up the question warmly, and the English Episcopalians
gained by the controversy.
Incidentally we may introduce here a letter from Mr. Burns’s old friend
the well-known Bev. Dr. Guthrie, in which a curious illustration of the
“uncertainty of evidence ”—wide of the mark at present—is given, and
also the strong opinion of the good Doctor on the matter at issue.
1, Salisbury Road, Edinburgh, Nov. 13, 1800.
My dear Mr. Burns,—We were delighted to have a letter from you—it was
almost as good as a crack amid the loveliness of Wemyss Bay. Thank Mr.
John for his kindness in sending us such a full-charged box of luscious
figs. I have been reading Whately’s ‘ Life,’ and one of his best bonmots
turns on a fig. He was dining at the Vice-regal Lodge. He knew he was no
favourite there, and let them know that, calling out as he sought to be
helped to some of that fruit—‘A fin for the Archbishop!’
As to the Archbishop of Canterbury, he has done foolishly and unkindly,
both. I have no sympathy with the writers of the Times, who find fault
with him as if he had been unlawfully poaching on the preserves of a
Presbyterian Establishment—that is all stuff. But he was made to speak
very foolishly when he spoke of the hinds and ploughmen and cottars of
the Carse of Gowrie thirsting for Episcopacy ; and I think he spoke
wickedly when he represented the Scotch Episcopalians in Scotland as the
true representatives of the Church of England—that was a most unkind and
unfair kick at those who, from their very attachment to the sound and
Catholic doctrines of the Church of England, had refused to connect
themselves with Scotch Episcopacy. Whatever there may be in that, I am
pretty sure the Archbishop now wishes that he had not crossed the
I have, to my own and my wife’s great entertainment, discovered that
that good story of the Archbishop I read in your letter, and not in the
Life ! I am engaged reading the Life, and thought it was there I read
it. Is not that funny ? It shows the uncertainty of evidence.
Yours, with affectionate esteem,
In 1870, a question, which had long been under consideration, arose as
to the propriety of obtaining the services, permanently or occasionally,
of a Colonial bishop to perform the functions of his office for the
English Episcopalians in Scotland, instead of sending candidates for
Confirmation to Carlisle and other English dioceses. The name of a
certain bishop having been brought forward, the opinion of Dr. A. J.
Stephens, Q.C., the famous ecclesiastical lawyer, was asked. He gave it
in these words: “The Bishop of can, after his resignation of that See,
accept, without any disqualification, the office of Bishop over
congregations in Scotland, members of the Church of England.”
Public opinion was much divided upon the project. Hany of the English
Episcopalians in Scotland considered that “their strength was to sit
still.” Hitherto they had been on the defensive, contending for the
enjoyment of a liberty guaranteed by law and the Act of Union. To move
in the direction contemplated would be to place themselves as an
assaulting party on the Scotch Episcopalians, to awaken fresh and more
bitter enmity and opposition, and to enter on a conflict destructive of
much of the peaceful and, as they thought, righteous position they held.
The times, too, were out of joint. The ecclesiastical atmosphere was
showing unmistakable signs of a gathering storm : the Church of Ireland
would in tlit' following year be a free Church ; the Ritual Commission
was soon to publish its report; important cases before the Privy Council
were pending. It might benefit the cause of the Ritualists if the
English Episcopalians in Scotland were to throw down the gauntlet and
openly ignore the Church in Scotland, which the ^Ritualistic party were
looking to as their flying point.
There were, in addition, many weak points in the case of the Scotch
Evangelicals, the chief of wdrich were—(1) the position of hishops
consecrated by, and hound in allegiance to, the see of Canterbury, when
the late Primate, and the one then in office, had declared the Scotch
Episcopal to he the only Episcopal Church in Scotland acknowledged by
the Church of England; (2) although there was a bishop ready to come
forward and accept the position, there might he insuperable difficulty
in finding a successor; and (3) to have a bishop presiding while under
reproof and remonstrance from Canterbury, would tend to place the
congregations in the light of separatists from the Church of England,
and shut out all English clergymen from assisting them.
In view of these points, the feeling of Mr. Burns on the question is
given in the following letter to Mr. Burnley:—
Wemyss House, July 19, 1870.
My dear Burnley,—I have been giving tlie proposal to establish a
Bishopric a great deal of thought, and I think it right to say that,
irrespective altogether of the fitness of any particular man to fill the
office, my mind is by no means made up as to the advantage of the step
itself, and therefore I feel bound to say that those who propose
carrying the measure into effect must not count on our rendering
assistance. Your view may be far more sound and correct under the
circumstances than mine, but according to the light I have, and the
aspect of things present and future, I should do wrong if I withheld my
opinion, more especially now that yon intend going to London, on the
subject. Were I to do so, you and others might possibly think that you
had been misled. I wish particularly to avoid that as respects John and
myself. He is not here, hut I think I am expressing his sentiments as
well as my own.
Yours most sincerely,
Mr. John Burns’ concurrence in his father’s views is expressed in the
following letter :—
Castle Wemyss, July, 1870.
My dear Father,— . . . There are two sides to this question of a Bishop,
and I am not inclined to admit that we cannot thrive without one. ... I
have not the slightest dread of our chapels being closed by want of men
willing to fill them, there being no legal enactment against clergymen
of the Church of England doing so, and it would he showing poor faith
were we to think otherwise. No doubt to get a good bishop might be a
good thing as far as Confirmation and the rites of the Church are
concerned, but how are we to be sure of a successor, because we would
always have to look to getting a bishop who had been consecrated for a
purpose other than coming to Scotland.
I do not wish in any way to influence the opinion of others, but 1 think
that the matter should be carefully considered apart from the natural
wish of some to be under episcopal authority, which personally I do not
The mere discussion of the appointment of a bishop gave rise to much
bitter feeling, and the opponents of the scheme not only sought to wreck
it, but to wreck at the same time the whole position of the English
Episcopalians in Scotland.
In course of time, however, Mr. Burns, although still failing to see the
necessity of any such appointment, felt that it was undesirable for him
to stand aloof, and eventually he and his colleagues fought on in the
face of the most hitter opposition, and in the thick atmosphere of
controversy. For themselves they did not care; they felt that . their
position was unassailable, backed as it was by Acts of Parliament and
the Act of Union. At the same time they considered it would be highly
desirable for the sake of the clergymen who assisted them, and who were
subject to the interference and the private remonstrance of their
bishops, against whose wishes they were in opposition, to have a case
prepared, and the opinion of the best ecclesiastical lawyers obtained.
The good offices of Lord Shaftesbury, and his friend Mr. Alexander
Haldane, Barrister of the Inner Temple, were secured; a case was
submitted to Dr. A. J. Stephens, directing his attention to all the Acts
of the Legislature of Scotland before the Union, bearing upon the
subject, and to a number of Acts of the United Kingdom, and he was
requested to advise—
“1. Whether a bishop who has held a see in England, Ireland, India, or
the Colonies, will, in accepting the office of bishop over the
congregations of members of the Church of England, protected and allowed
in Scotland, commit any act of secession or disqualification in
reference to the Church of England?
“2. Would the congregations cease to he congregations of the Church of
England, and their members to be members of the Church of England?
“3. Would such action destroy the legal status of these congregations?”
Dr. Stephens went fully into the law of the case, and concluded his
opinion in these words :—
“I am therefore of opinion that all the questions which have now been
submitted to me must be answered in the negative.”
This opinion was published far and wide, and it removed many false
impressions, some of which were due to ignorance and some to prejudice.
Mr. Haldane, in a letter to Mr. Burns, said:—
The opinion of my friend Archibald John Stephens, Q.C., has produced a
great effect, and has cleared away the cobwebs of many bewildered
prelates and sacerdotalists, as to the Scotch Episcopal Church. I had
long felt confident that the law only wanted to be clearly set forth in
order to settle the question.
A case had been laid by a certain Colonial bishop before Sir Bounded
Palmer, whose ultra-Church prejudices were well known, and referring to
this, Mr. Haldane continues :—
Sir Roundell Palmer was approached, and his opinion was finally one that
concurred with Stephens’s on the Statute Law, although he raised a
conundrum about Canon Law, with which we have nothing to do. It was then
that I drew the case which brought out the Statute Law of the old Scotch
Parliament, confirmed by the British Parliament, and especially by the
recital in the Duke of Buccleuch’s Act, which blows to atoms all the
nonsense that has been talked, of the change in favour of the Scotch
Episcopalians effected by the Duke.
A review of all the statutes from 1689 to 1864 had resulted in the proof
that “ there was no Episcopal Church in Scotland recognised as a
corporate body, and that Scotch dioceses and territorial ecclesiastical
jurisdiction existed only in the imagination of sacerdotal churchmen.”
Dr. Guthrie, who watched the progress of the controversy with unflagging
interest, wrote to Mr. Burns : —
Glasgow, April 21, 1871.
My dear Mr. Burns,— ... I read the opinion of Stephens with much
interest. You should have a bishop. If you won’t take the bull by the
horns, and do what the Canon Law of the Catholic Church acknowledges
valid in difficult circumstances, namely, set aside, by a solemn act of
the Church, one or more for that office, Mcllvaine of Ohio might float
you over the bar. ... I was taken, and my lorded, for a bishop at the
royal wedding, and did not repudiate; it was not worth while—besides, we
Presbyterians hold every pastor to be a bishop. If we can make out a run
to Wemyss Bay, it will be a great pleasure to Mrs. Guthrie and me.
As we shall not henceforth dwell further on this ecclesiastical
controversy, it may be well to state in this place the events following.
1877, after fortifying themselves with the best legal advice that could
be obtained—advice which coincided with the opinion given by Dr. A. J.
Stephens in 1871, and reiterated by him in other 11 cases submitted to
him—the English Episcopalians in Scotland determined to have a bishop of
their own, and upon Mr. Burns and his son, Mr. John Burns, the burden of
the negotiations fell.
The position of affairs had become intolerable ; the members of the
Church had to take their children for confirmation to Carlisle and the
diocese of Durham, but the system was cumbersome and inconvenient. That,
however, could have been borne, but after Waldegrave, Villiers, Baring,
and others of the same type passed away from those dioceses, bishops of
other views occupied the sees, and determined to exclude the candidates
from the privileges they had hitherto enjoyed. Meetings were therefore
held, here, there, and everywhere in Scotland, and eventually Bishop
Beckles, formerly Bishop of Sierra Leone, was invited to take the
spiritual oversight of the English Episcopalians, an invitation he
accepted without hesitation, as he held an “appointment” as vicar in
London, from which he could free himself during the months of May and
June, to “visit the different congregations, and perform the rites of
his office in such places and at such times as might be required."
For a time there was great rejoicing among the Schismatics, as they were
called, although not a few rejoiced with trembling. Among these was the
Rev. T. M. Macdonald, of Kersal Rectory, Manchester, an old friend of
Mr. Burns, and a frequent preacher in the Wemyss Bay Church, who wrote
to him as follows :—
March 2, 1877.
My dear Friend,—I was intending to write a letter of condolence, that
the mitre had fallen from your head on to that of Bishop Becldes, but as
I see the indignant query of the Guardian, ‘who appointed Bishop
Beetles?’ has received an answer in the Record that three Lay
Archbishops have done the deed; and as I regard J. B. as your
representative in the case, I beg to offer my congratulations on your
promotion to Archiepiscopal dignity, with the addition of a suffragan
under your direction, who, I trust, will be as dutiful in his Episcopal
place at your feet, as it lias always been my privilege to be as a
The appointment of Bishop Beckles will relieve the position of English
Episcopalians in Scotland of an anomaly which was of growing
inconvenience, as the generation of young people who were of an age for
Confirmation was passing on into another. In this point of view, and as
completing the Episcopal Establishment of English Episcopalians in
Scotland, I am very glad of the arrangement. One drawback is in the
probable future, when it is doubtful if a successor can be found ; but,
as you say, I thought it doubtful that any bishop could be found so free
from Bench atmosphere to entertain the thought of coming—and sc my
doubts may be groundless respecting the future, as it proves to be
respecting the present. And in any case, the future may well be left to
care for itself; or rather, it may be left to Him whose cause, as I
believe, is identified with the faithful refusal of English
Episcopalians in Scotland to compromise their loyalty to His truth by
accepting the superintendence of the Scotch bishops.
The arrangement with Bishop Beckles terminated under the agreement made
with him for a certain period, and from that time to the present, the
English Episcopalians in Scotland have dispensed with a bishop of their
own. In recent years, Dr. J. C. Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool, has
rendered to the candidates for confirmation the good services formerly
performed by Bishops Waldegrave, Villiers, and Baring.
We must now go back in the narrative in order to connect the personal
history of Mr. Burns, and some of his friends, with these Church
In 1858, the Rev. C. P. Miles, who, hacked by Mr. Burns, had in his time
“fought a whole regiment of Scotch bishops,” resigned the living of St.
Jude’s. It was a great sorrow to Mr. Burns, and he wrote :—
Punoon, July 6, 1858.
My dear Miles,— . . . Your letter saddened, but I cannot say surprised,
me. Change upon change is constantly occurring here, and so it will
continue until we arrive at that rest that remaineth for the people of
God. Throughout the fifteen years we have been associated, I have never
entertained anything but hind feelings towards you, and between us
nothing has ever occurred to ruffle our intercourse. . . .
Since you are to leave us, I am truly happy to think that the proposed
appointment in Malta seems one well adapted for your habits of mind, and
you for it; and if it be ordered that you are to go there, I pray God
that He may make you eminently useful. . . . I shall reserve anything
more I have to say, and I have much to say, until we meet.
Yours very truly,
So long as life lasted, the friendship between Canon Miles and Mr. Burns
remained firm and steadfast, and it was a mutual gratification, as well
as a help to them, to open out freely to one another in correspondence
between the intervals of their meeting. Let us take a glance into the
minds of these two men, hy selecting a passage or two from that mass of
correspondence. Mr. Miles, solicitous for the spiritual welfare of some
mutual friends, writes :—
Their very doubts and fears are the evidence, not of a sceptical
rejection of the blessed hope of the gospel, but rather of the sincerity
with which they desire to realise all the peace and consolation promised
to the children of God.
Again, Mr. Miles, when mourning the loss of his aged mother, to whom he
was tenderly attached, acknowledges a letter from his friend Mr. Burns,
and says: —
It was not so much the religious truth you conveyed that gave me
comfort, for, as you may understand, my memory is almost over-loaded
with Scripture, and my constant habit for many years past of quoting
texts for the guidance and consolation of others, has made the Divine
promises as familiar to me as they are applicable and precious to us
all. But it was your sympathy that touched me. It penetrated into my
soul, for whilst springing out of Christian love, and pointing to the
only source of strength and joy and peace, it was in harmony with
nature—that is, your expressions of kindness did not jar upon my natural
feelings of distress. Some imagine that advanced age lessens the bond
that binds a son to an affectionate mother; my experience is to the
contrary. She had been the object of my solicitude for many years : for
more than sixty years I had been lovingly associated with her. How.
could it be otherwise than a wrench when, in the dispensation of Divine
providence, she was withdrawn from my embrace! I have felt her death
deeply; the promises of the gospel do not assuage my grief—my grief is
natural, and I mourn, and I must continue to mourn, the loss of a
The old Glasgow days never grew old in the memory of Canon Miles. In one
of his letters, written many years afterwards, he says :—
My memory is so deeply impressed, fissured, if I may use the term, by
recollections of Glasgow and its neighbourhood, that even sleep is not
powerful enough to efface the pictures; for my very dreams are often of
people and of scenes that belong to the Clyde.
To the cordial affection of Canon Miles, the hearts of Mr. and Mrs.
Burns responded warmly. The following extract from a long letter written
by Mr. Burns on the 1st of January, 1875, may he taken as an
I write this first effusion of the year in response to your kind letter
received at our breakfast table this morning. You never uttered a truer
word than when you say our friendship has been unbroken since the first
day we met. I may add what I have often said and felt, that the
sympathies and structure of our minds in many respects are analogous. It
needs not words to find it out. And now for my wife. I think you and she
must have sprung from the same character of molecules: you are
‘Treasurer, Organiser, Secretary, and Clerk, nay, also errand boy’; she
all her life has been everything—Collector, Treasurer, President,
Secretary, and, in fact, totality of Committee for all manner of
institutions. So you two are identical, as you and I are.
The filling up of occasional vacancies in the two churches of which he
was the joint patron was always an anxiety to Mr. Burns. He felt the
responsibility of appointing men who were to minister in holy things,
and of placing them in the peculiar position they were to occupy. To one
who was invited to accept the charge, he wrote :—
I wish to put in my entreaty with as much earnestness as I can express,
that you will give this most important matter your favourable
consideration. That you will be very earnest in prayer for guidance I
have no doubt, and with our blessed God and Father, who knows we need
instruction, I leave it. Our case is one of urgency, and our position
one of great importance, and with the blessing of the Holy Spirit
resting on the faithful ministration of the servant of Christ, I think
would be one of much usefulness and comfort. The people are tractable
English Episcopalians, ready to be guided, I hope, into the way of all
truth, if faithfully and also wisely dealt with. I am deeply impressed
with the importance of doing everything that can be done to lay before
you the whole oi our case, and then leaving it, where it is already, in
In October, 1869, Mr. Burns withdrew from the Vestry of St. Silas’s, on
the grounds that the debt on the Church was entirely discharged ; that
he was rarely in Glasgow, except for a very brief period in winter; and
that he had arrived at a time of life which pointed to the propriety of
the step he was taking.
The supply of the pulpit in his Wemyss Bay Church throughout the summer
months of each year was Mr. Burns’s special care. Each minister who came
had a nicely furnished parsonage, every attention, and a ready welcome
to Wemyss House and the Castle.*
To record Mr. Burns’ anecdotal reminiscences of these clergymen, the
large majority of whom were personal friends, would till a hulky volume;
we can therefore only cull a few specimens, and that almost at random.
The first who officiated was the Rev. Thomas Tate, grandson of the Tate
who ran in harness with Brady in hymnology. Mr. Tate’s father was
appointed Rector of Edmonton, but soon after the living came into his
possession he died. The gift was in the hands of the Bean and Chapter of
St. Paul’s, and every canon in rotation had the privilege of giving a
nomination. After the death of Tate, the nomination fell to Sydney
Mr. Tate told me (says Mr. Burns), that very soon after his father’s
death Sydney Smith went to the rectory at Edmonton, and to the surprise
of every one at once announced his intention to remain to lunch. He then
expressed his wish to see the widow of Mr. Tate, but she, so recently
bereaved, begged to be excused. But Smith would not hear of a refusal,
and after some delay Mrs. Tate, from her led, put in an appearance.
After lunch Smith called for wine, remarking that he had a toast which
he was anxious to propose. After a curious preamble he said, ‘ I have
risen to propose a toast, and I am anxious to propose it in this place,
and under these circumstances. I give you the health of the new Rector
of Edmonton.’ No one saw the point of his toast, and Mrs. Tate thought
his conduct was most unfeeling, until lie added, ‘ The health of the new
Rector of Edmonton, the Rev. Thomas Tate,’ and then mother and son
almost fainted with surprise and joy.
Another of the Wemyss Bay clergymen was the Rev. Dr. Daniel Foley, a
very able and genial man, Professor of the Celtic Language in Trinity
College, Dublin. Mr. Burns has many stories to tell of him. He says :—
Dr. Foley was very much with us. Amongst his many accomplishments was
this, that he was a good swimmer, and a remarkable diver. He taught my
son James to swim, and sometimes he would catch hold of him and take him
down to the bottom ot the sea.
On one occasion when a clergyman was staying with us, Foley took him out
swimming, and after cautioning him as to what to do when under water,
dived with him unexpectedly to the bottom. When he came up he said, ‘Oh,
Dan, you’ve nearly killed me! You forget that I’ve only got one lung.’
Foley had a remarkably powerful voice, and could make himself heard by
thousands of people in the open air. When Mr. Gladstone’s intention of
disestablishing the Irish Church was looming over Parliament, Dan Foley
and some others were appointed as a deputation to visit Scotland for the
purpose of opposing his proposed scheme. A large meeting was called for
Glasgow, in the hope that the matter would be taken up warmly. I said to
Foley, ‘ They’ll do nothing of the kind.’ He replied, ‘ Surely
Protestant Scotland will stand up for the defence of the Protestant
Church in Ireland!’ I answered, ‘Protestant Scotland will do nothing of
the kind. You will get a large meeting in the City Hall, and you and the
rest of the deputation will be cheered to the echo when you deliver your
addresses, and there the matter will end.’ The result was exactly as I
With respect to Dan Foley’s (living, when he was visiting the mission
stations in the islands off Cape Clear, an accident happened to the
boat, and he was thrown into the water. He had on a heavy great-coat and
cumbrous boots, and after being long in the water, and his powers of
swimming taxed to the utmost, he began to sink, and, when sinking into
the deep, all the transactions of his life seemed to come vividly and
leisurely to his memory, as though they were being actually repeated. I
have often thought of this story of Foley’s in connection with the last
judgment. Every man must give an account, and it would seem that it is
possible in a moment of time for all the cells of memory to be unlocked.
It always gave a charm to the summer months of the year to have the
society of the Wemyss Bay clergy at Wemyss House.
Mr. Burns greatly relished the high spirits and sparkling humour of John
Bardsley, the present Bishop of Sodor and Man, which came out in writing
as well as in speech, as the following letter, forwarding as a present a
handsome walking-stick with a crook, will testify :—
George Burns, Episcopo Wemyensi.
My dear. Bishop,—Let me respectfully welcome thy return to a diocese
which, needing thy presence, has long mourned its absent lord. To me it
hath, I confess, often been matter of surprise that thy faithful clergy
have not, as in other things, made thee equal to thy mitred brethren by
the possession of a pastoral staff; that marked omission I hasten to
supply, and in the future, whether it be thy wish with outstretched hand
to hook back thy straying sheep, or, crook in hand, with uplifted palm
and triple digits to bless the woolly Hock, at such times, standing by
thee, I loyally promise never to wink with mine eye, but in all ways to
attend tliee as becometh faithful allegiance.
Presbeter Johannes oculus episcopi Weiiyensis.
For Dean Close, of Carlisle, Mr. Burns had a very great regard.
Referring to their intercourse, he says :—
In the later years of our married life, when going to London, we divided
the journey into three stages—leaving Glasgow at 2, and arriving in
Carlisle about 5.30, in time for dinner at the Railway Station Hotel,
where we always went; we remained in Carlisle until one o’clock the
following day, when we left for Crewe or Stafford, and on the third day
we arrived in London. It was always my habit, when remaining at Carlisle
till one o’clock, to go to the Deanery to see Dean Close. He was full of
pleasantry and lively anecdote ; he would greet me, when walking towards
the Deanery, with ‘ Here’s my inspector come back to look after me.’
One of his latest letters to Mr. Burns, written in February, 1873, was
as follows :—
My dear Friend,— . . . Don’t ask an old man of seventy-six to go a
preaching; I get sensibly older and less able to go about. I must, if
alive, preach in London in April at Whitehall, a duty which, while I
have a leg to stand on, with God’s help I will attempt.
Awful times ! no rest for a weary soul. The hot fires of controversy dry
up Christian love and spiritual progress.
Yours most truly,
The well-known Hugh MacNeile, Dean of Ripon, was one of the preachers in
Wemyss Bay Church
towards the close of his career. In 1869, in response to an invitation
from Mr. Burns, he wrote :—
I am neither younger nor stronger since I saw you. so that if there be
but one clergyman at a time, and if he has to read the whole of our
service twice and preach twice every Sunday, I dare not undertake it. I
would gladly preach twice if I had not to read, but I would not venture
to make myself responsible for both. Twenty years ago it would have made
Of course an extra clergyman was found to undertake the routine duties.
Referring to this visit, Mr. Burns says :—
One evening my son was going out for a sail, and I, Hugh MacNeile, and
others joined him. On board, MacNeile was laughing in an amusing fashion
to himself; I asked the cause of his merriment. ‘ I am laughing to think
that I, a wretched sailor, should have found myself voluntarily on board
a yacht.’ ‘You cannot be a worse sailor than I am,’ I said. ‘ Very well,
then, let us make a compact—you will not go yachting again unless I
accompany you, and I will not unless you accompany me,’ and the bargain
When Hugh MacNeile held a Thursday-evening lectureship in Liverpool, I
and my wife went on one occasion to hear him. He was discoursing upon
the history of Jonah, and in the course of his remarks he said: ‘One of
those serpents in the grass who call themselves Freethinkers, once said
to a woman who was attempting to vindicate the inspiration of Scripture,
“Are you such a fool as to believe that the whale swallowed Jonah?”
“Yes, I do believe it,” she answered, “and if the Scriptures had said
that Jonah swallowed the whale, I should have believed that.” ’It is not
necessary to say that MacNeile did not give this illustration of the
woman’s credulity as an example of faith.'
Time would fail to tell of the Rev. Fielding Quid, Kector of Tattenhall,
in Cheshire, who was contemporary at Fojde College with the Lawrences,
the Indian heroes—a man with all the fervour of Irish eloquence and a
most attractive preacher. He often took the services at Wemyss Bay, and
Mr. Burns says :—
I remember one of Quid’s sermons on Jonah and liis mission to Nineveh ;
a kind of refrain ran through the discourse in these simple words, ‘Who
can tell!’ I hardly ever hear the expression without hearing again that
Or of Canon Savage, of Nuneaton, a very intimate friend, of whom Mr.
Burns narrates :—
Before he went to Nuneaton, he was Rector of Tamworth, Sir Robert Peel’s
place, with whom he was intimate. He told me a number of things about
Peel’s habits, amongst them that he had an utter abhorrence of
cockroaches, and once, when a cockroach appeared creeping upon the
floor, Savage saw Sir Robert jump up upon a chair to avoid it, and would
not come down until the cockroach had ceased to be.
One of Canon Savage’s curates was the Rev. Sholto Douglas, the present
Incumbent of St. Silas’.
Another of the Wemyss Bay clergymen was the Rev. G. Pakenham Despard.
He was (says Mr. Burns), if not the originator, one of the earliest
connected with the Mission to Tierra del Fuego. He interested himself in
it shortly after the death of Allen Gardiner. Despard came to Glasgow
concerning the matter, and stayed in our house for a considerable time.
My wife took a keen interest in the Mission, and was the means of
greatly promoting its prosperity. "When Despard left us, he went to
Dublin to organise a society there. Archbishop Whately was very kind to
him, and before taking leave, Despard called to pay his respects and say
farewell. Incidentally he said to the Archbishop, ‘How would you
recommend me to commence this Mission?’ Whately, in his abrupt way,
answered, ‘Tell the people to wash their faces.’
A singularly disinterested man was Despard; he gave up a large income to
devote himself to the Mission work.
After serving the Mission in Tierra del Fuego for a long time, he went
to Australia, and was appointed to a church there, where he kept up a
correspondence with us.
In one of his letters, mitten from Australia in 1863, Mr. Despard
foreshadowed the present volume. “Your last letter was very encouraging
and worthy of your Christian principles, and the style of it and of the
conversations I have had with you makes me wish and propose that, as a
tribute of adoring gratitude to God, you should employ the otium of your
retired life in composing an autobiography— being God’s dealings with a
Christian man of business during fifty years. You will communicate to
your fellow-saints in glory this record when they no longer need the
support of it in their struggle of faith against sight; why not give it
to fellow-saints when they do need this and every other help in their
much tempted, much burdened life?”
Mr. Burns did not accede to the request, and never wrote a page of
autobiography. More than twenty years elapsed before the question of a
biography came before him again.
The proceedings in Wemyss Bay Church were not always looked upon with
favour by the neighbouring Presbyterians, as the following incident
related by Mr. Burns will show :—
My son John brought home with him a bottle of water from the river
Jordan, and in 1801 his first-born was baptised in the name of George
Arbuthnot. Bishop Gobat of Jerusalem, who was staying with John at the
time, performed the ceremony, using the Jordan water. It was late in the
season, and very cold, and consequently all the gas was lighted in the
church (at that time a wooden structure) in order to heat it. A friend,
who was then minister of the Free Church in the neighbourhood, told me
that one of his elders was passing the church, and afterwards said to
him, ‘Did I not tell you that they were Papists? I saw all the candles
lighted up.’ The minister was always on friendly terms with us in Church
Mr. Burns warmly sympathised with the establishment of a bishopric at
Jerusalem, and during Bishop Gobat’s visit to Wemyss Bay, he took the
opportunity of asking him many questions concerning the movement and the
actors in it.
I asked him particularly (says Mr. Burns) about the habits of the late
King of Prussia, who had been very much caricatured in Punch and
elsewhere as being too fond of Madame Cliqnol’s champagne. Gobat said,
‘I’ll tell you what happened to myself. At that time the king had a
weekly dinner on Thursday which consisted almost entirely of the family,
but he kindly invited me as a guest. The King of Saxony was also
present. I paid particular attention to the King of Prussia’s habits,
which were neither more nor less than were consistent with those of an
Englishman of rank at a dinner party. I noticed particularly that he
partook moderately of whatever wine was served, champagne included.
After dinner we all went on the balcony (it was at Potsdam), and he
became quite hilarious, and began cuffing the King of Saxony to and fro,
and pretending to try and throw him over the railing. If I had not
particularly noticed what occurred at the dinner-table, I should have
been apt to conclude that there was some truth in Punch's strictures.
In all matters connected with his care of the churches, Mr. Burns found
a true and constant friend in the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, of whom he was
wont to tell many pleasant stories. Here is one :—
When we were at Dunoon, we were very intimate with the Rev. Mr. Baine,
the Vicar of Ware, who used to preach sometimes in Mr. Burnley’s church.
Baine told me that once he went to the Lock Hospital on a Sunday to hear
Capel Molyneux preach. Arthur Kinnaird was the head and front of that
institution, and was always most active in putting strangers into pews.
Mr. Baine was standing with others in the passages, when Kinnaird took
hold of him and led him to a comfortable seat; upon which Mr. Baine
slipped a shilling into his hand. Kinnaird turned round promptly and
pleasantly, and returning the shilling, said, ‘We’re not allowed to take
any money here! ’