Cowie, Benjamin Morgan (DNB01)

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COWIE, BENJAMIN MORGAN (1816–1900), dean of Exeter, born in Bermondsey, Surrey, on 8 June 1816, was the youngest son of Robert Cowie, a merchant and insurance agent, descended from a Cornish family long settled in London. When about eight years old he was placed at a pensionnat at Passy under an instructor named Savary, and was taught mathematics for four years by two Savoyards named Peix and Sardou. He was admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge, as a sizar in July 1833, and as a pensioner on 12 Oct. He graduated B.A. as senior wrangler in 1839, M.A. in 1842, B.D. in 1855, and D.D. in 1880. In 1839 he was chosen second Smith's prize-man, being placed below Percival Frost [q. v. Suppl.], who was second wrangler.

Cowie was admitted a fellow of St. John's College on 19 March. He was admitted a student of Lincoln's Inn on 8 Nov. 1837, but relinquished the study of the law and was ordained deacon in 1841 and priest in 1842 by Joseph Allen, bishop of Ely. He resided for some years in college, and during this period prepared his 'Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts and scarce Books in the Library of St. John's College, Cambridge' (Cambridge, 4to), which was issued by the Cambridge Antiquarian Society in 1843. In that year he vacated his fellowship by marriage, and became curate at St. Paul's, Knightsbridge, under William James Early Bennett [q. v. Suppl.], with whose high-church views he was in sympathy. In 1844 he was appointed principal and senior mathematical lecturer of the recently founded college for civil engineers at Putney, and during his residence there he acted as honorary secretary to the committee of management of St. Mark's College at Chelsea for training parochial schoolmasters, then under the principalship of Derwent Coleridge [q. v.]

Upon the dissolution of the college for civil engineers in 1851 he took up his residence for four or five years at the Manor House, Stoke D'Abernon, Cobham, Surrey. In 1852 and again in 1856 he was chosen select preacher at Cambridge. His sermons, preached at Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, in 1856, were published under the title 'On Sacrifice; the Atonement, Vicarious Oblation, and Example of Christ, and the Punishment of Sin' (Cambridge, 8vo). In 1853 and 1854 he was Hulsean lecturer, and his lectures, entitled 'Scripture Difficulties,' were published in two volumes, the first in 1853 and the second in 1854. In 1855 he was appointed professor of geometry at Gresham College. On 28 Nov. 1856 he was appointed fifth minor canon and succentor of St. Paul's Cathedral, and on 17 March 1857 he was presented to the rectory of St. Lawrence Jewry with St. Mary Magdalene, Milk Street, by the dean and chapter of St. Paul's. He showed his sympathy with high-church tendencies hy developing an elaborate ritual, without showing any marked sympathy with Roman doctrine. He acted as government inspector of schools from 1857 to 1872, and on 14 Jan. 1871 he was appointed chaplain in ordinary to the queen, In 1866 he was Warburton lecturer on prophecy at Lincoln's Inn, publishing his lectures in 1872 under the title 'The Voice of God' (London, 8vo).

In October 1872 he was nominated by Gladstone dean of Manchester, and in 1880 he was chosen prolocutor of the lower house of the convocation of York, an office which he filled for three years. As dean of Manchester Cowie was custodian of the collegiate church, and the restoration of Chetham chapel was due to his efforts. He did good service in Manchester in the cause of education, acting as a governor of the grammar school and as a member of the council of Owens College. In 1879, after the death of Francis Robert Raines [q.v.], he was elected a feoffee of Chetham College. Upon the death of Turner Crossley he undertook the completion of the supplementary catalogue of Chetham's library.

In 1883 Cowie was appointed dean of Exeter. He died in London on 3 May 1900. On 10 Aug. 1843 he was married at Poughill, Cornwall, to his cousin, Gertrude Mary (d. 15 March 1860), second daughter of Thomas Carnsew of Flexbury Hall, Poughill. By her he had several children.

Besides the works already mentioned, Cowie was the author of numerous published sermons, letters, and addresses, and contributed an essay on 'Toleration' to the second series of the 'Church and the Age' (London, 1874, Svo), edited by Archibald Weir and William Dalrymple Maclagan.

[Eagle, June 1900; Times, 4 May 1900; Boase's Collect. Cornub. 1890; Men and Women of the Time, 1899; Hennessy's Novum Report. Eccles. 1898, pp. 65, 267; Crockford's Clerical Directory.]

E. I. C.