James Craik


Born at Kennoway in Fife on 11 October 1802, the son of a clerical schoolmaster, Craik studied at the University of St Andrews and served for ten years as Church of Scotland minister at Scone.

He moved to Glasgow at the age of 41, and was minister of St George's Parish from 1843 until his death on 20 August 1870. The church's central position meant that its congregation was largely composed of the city's old mercantile families.

Craik retained an interest in education and took a leading part in the development of the Church of Scotland Normal School. He served as Moderator of the Church of Scotland in 1863.

THE Reverend James Craik, D.D., Minister of St. George's Parish from 1843 till his death, was born at Kennoway, in Fife, on the 11th October, 1802, and died at Glasgow on the 20th August, 1870.

To understand the position on which Dr. Craik entered when he became a citizen of Glasgow, we must recall what the church and congregation of St. George's then were. Some forty years before, that church had been built just where the city borders had touched some garden ground; but long before 1843, streets and squares of substantial mansions had crept westwards till they joined the old-fashioned villas and country houses which lay beyond Blythswood Hill. The church, however, was still, and for some years continued to be, the most central for the older mercantile families, and of these the congregation was chiefly made up. Scarcely one of the families which for two or three generations before had contributed to make Glasgow what it was, and which then formed, in a certain sense, a mercantile aristocracy, but was represented there. Not a few names amongst them have left permanent memories in Glasgow, of quiet and unobtrusive dignity, of thoughtful and not unlettered intellect, which it would not be well to forget in a generation of more engrossing commercial enterprise. The design of the church is not untypical of the congregation; if it is simple even to baldness, it has at least that dignity which the absence of any triviality ensures.

Dr. Craik came to preside over this congregation after an experience which, more perhaps than any other, ought to draw out what of calm and self-dependent thought and energy there is in any man. His father was one of those clerical parish schoolmasters who did so much to shape the Scottish intellect; and in the Parish School of Kennoway, as afterwards in the University of St. Andrews, he had been trained with his brothers under a system this combined, as few others did, low living with high thinking, earnest endeavour after lofty aims with least effort after mere personal advancement. Of St. Andrews and his student days under Chalmers and Hunter he cherished to the last an almost enthusiastic remembrance. Before coming to Glasgow he had ten years to mature his resources in the calmer atmosphere of the country parish of Scone, in Perthshire. Beginning his Glasgow life at the age of forty-one, in the prime of thought and energy, he entered with enthusiasm on those new labours as a Christian minister in his parish in which his zeal ever found its central inspiration, not forgetting that kindred work which the city - with her enormously-increasing population, her wealth, her tangled social problems, and the mass of hardship and suffering that underlay her prosperity - demanded from all citizens of light and leading.

He cherished no idea more earnestly than this, that a minister of the Church, while suffering nothing to infringe on his sacred functions, should not restrict his work by any narrow view of ecclesiastical duties, but should shape for himself a function as a citizen; should spend his labour freely for all that may raise the intellectual, as well as the religious life of his fellow-citizens - for all that may keep the rich from being engrossed in becoming richer, and the poor from sinking into the hopelessness of drudgery. He took pride in the city, and never thought of repining that his lot was cast in a commercial community, as lack of imagination, and a false estimate of their own intellectual value, lead small-minded men to do. But, on the other hand, repeating the traditions which he had learned in the best school of the Church, he was jealous of anything which should lower the intellectual equipment of the ministry, and strove, with certainly not less success than any of his fellow-clergymen, to keep up a close bond of sympathy between the Church and the higher intellectual life of the city, as represented in the University. His charge of the large parish of St. George's began just when the work of national education was being extended by the grants in aid of schools; and in no part of the city was the encouragement given by the State met so fully as in his own parish, where a few years before, population had increased far beyond the supply of schools. Before his death he was able to point to that parish as one in which voluntary effort had all but overtaken the work of educating the people.

In addition to this, he took a leading part in the development of the Church of Scotland Normal School, which for more than thirty years has sent a constant supply of trained teachers all over Scotland. That institution owed to him its successful issue from a most critical turning-point in its fortunes; and till his death he continued to direct its course, and took a keen pride in its increasing prosperity.

Of that which was the centre of his life - of his service as a minister of the Church, the earnestness of his devotion to her cause, the warmth of his love for her traditions - of his work within his own congregation in the more sacred sphere of friendship, and sympathy, and guidance - this is not the place to speak. But there are not a few amongst those descended from that older generation that gathered round him when he came to Glasgow, who are now doing good and worthy work in wide and diverse scenes, who will not need to be reminded of the intellectual and religious impulse which they owe to his teaching when life was opening out before them, and of the new meaning with which he invested its problems for them.

No man could have thrown himself more heartily into the interests, the welfare, the higher intellectual and religious life of his adopted city than he did; and next to his Church, which gave him her highest honour in raising him to the Chair of Moderator in 1863, he felt that Glasgow claimed with right the best of his work and his allegiance.

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