DESCENDED from Covenanting stock, and son of a small tenant-farmer, Dr. Howie
was born in the parish of Kilwinning in 1836, and educated at Irvine Academy and
Glasgow University, where, after carrying off the Breadalbane Scholarship in
Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and seven other prizes, he graduated first
in the M.A. list. A week after receiving licence to preach he was elected
minister of the Wynd Church, Glasgow, his predecessor being Mr. McColl. He began
in 1860 with 110 members, and in three years and a half had a membership of 750.
In 1864 he moved off with a number of supporters and founded Trinity Free Church
in Charlotte Street, which soon had 1100 members. At the same time he founded in
the east-end and the south-side missions which developed into the Fairbairn
Memorial and Cunninghame Free Churches. Next, in 1872, he accepted a call to go
and found a church in Govan, and the result was the building of St. Mary's Free
Church, which at the time of the union with the U.P. Church had a membership of
1310, and from which have sprung a number of other congregations. During the 44
years of his active ministry Dr. Howie received upwards of 7,600 into the
membership of the three congregations to which he personally ministered.
At his personal semi-jubilee in 1885 he was presented with handsome tokens of esteem, and at that of the congregation in 1897 he was presented with his portrait. Among his many works, controversial and other, Dr. Howie is perhaps best known for the zeal with which he carried out the great church-planting scheme started in 1895, which resulted in the addition of some twenty new churches to the list of places of worship in Glasgow and its suburbs. He has from first to last been more or less identified with the providing of buildings for upwards of 40 new congregations which have now a combined membership of upwards of 21,000. For ten years he was convener of the Home Mission Committee, and in 1902 was Moderator of the General Assembly of the United Free Church, which met that year in Glasgow. He was one of the representatives of that church at the coronation of King Edward, and subsequently attended the Royal Levee and Banquet at Holyrood, on which occasion, without previous notice, he had the honour of a personal presentation to the King by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. On the occasion of his leaving Glasgow to take up residence in London. Dr. Howie was entertained at a reception in the Christian Institute, Glasgow, on 6th November, 1908, and was presented with an address, a silver bowl, and a cheque for £200 from the Presbytery and other friends.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)