Macgill, Stevenson (DNB00)

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MACGILL, STEVENSON (1765–1840), professor of theology at Glasgow, son of Thomas Macgill, a shipbuilder, of Glasgow, was born at Port Glasgow on 19 Jan. 1765. His mother, Frances, daughter of George Welsh, esq., of Lochharet in East Lothian, may have been a descendant of the Rev. John Welch [q. v.], son-in-law of John Knox. Macgill was educated in the parish school at Port Glasgow and Glasgow University, which he entered at the age of ten and took the nine years' course, gaining many distinctions in classics and theology. After acting as a private tutor to the Earl of Buchan, among others, he was licensed to preach by the Paisley presbytery in 1790, and in the following year was presented to the parish of Eastwood, Renfrewshire. He also received an offer of the chair of civil history in the united colleges of St. Salvator and St. Leonard at St. Andrews, together with a small country living, but conscientious scruples prevented his accepting any plurality. In 1790 he contributed the ‘Student's Dream’ anonymously to ‘Macnab's Collection,’ and in 1792 published a tract against the French revolution called ‘The Spirit of the Times.’ In 1797 he was translated to the Tron Church, Glasgow, and the ‘dearth’ which occurred soon afterwards gave abundant scope for his parochial energies. On 23 Aug. 1803 he received the degree of D.D. from the university and Marischal College, Aberdeen. He bestowed considerable attention on the prisons, infirmary, and lunatic asylum, and in 1809 published his ‘Thoughts on Prisons,’ advocating extensive reforms, which were not, however, adopted when the Glasgow prison was built. He insisted upon further church accommodation, urging that lack of it encouraged the growth of dissent, and started an association for mutual instruction in literature and theology, before which he read a series of essays, afterwards published as ‘Letters addressed to a Young Clergyman,’ 1809. A second edition, enlarged and dedicated to Hannah More, was issued in 1820. In 1814 he was elected to the chair of theology in the university of Glasgow, vacated by the death of Dr. Robert Findlay [q. v.]; he demitted his charge of Tron Church on 9 Nov. 1814, and was succeeded by Dr. Thomas Chalmers [q. v.]; and as professor reorganised the study of theology. In 1823 he engaged in a warm dispute with some of his university colleagues, notably Patrick Macfarlan [q. v.], on the question of pluralities, and his views were subsequently adopted by a royal commission on the Scottish universities. Macgill was mainly instrumental in the erection of the monument to Knox in Glasgow Necropolis; in 1828 he was unanimously elected moderator of the general assembly; in January 1834 he was appointed chaplain in ordinary to his majesty by William IV; and in 1835 dean of the Chapel Royal. He died on 18 Aug. 1840, aged 75.

His works, besides those already mentioned, are:

  1. ‘Discourse on Elementary Education,’ 1811, 8vo.
  2. ‘Lectures on Rhetoric and Criticism,’ Edinburgh, 1838.
  3. ‘Sermons,’ with portrait, Glasgow, 1839.
  4. ‘Discourses,’ with biographical memoir, Glasgow, 1844.

[Hew Scott's Fasti, i. 397, ii. 12, iii. 898; Life by Dr. Burns; Biographical Memoir, Glasgow, 1844; Chambers's Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen; Irving's Book of Eminent Scotsmen; Watt's Bibliotheca Britannica; works in British Museum.]

A. F. P.