Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/203

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


WILLIAM M'GAVIN. 573


to Mr John Neilson, printer and bookseller; a situation highly congenial to his taste, and which afforded him the means of cultivating his mind to a considerable extent. Among various persons of talent and information who frequented Mr Neilson's shop was the unfortunate Alexander Wilson, poet, and afterwards the distinguished ornithologist, who, finding it necessary to remove to America, was assisted to no small extent by Mr M'Gavin. The popular opinions of that period were adopted in all their latitude by Mr M'Gavin ; many fugitive pieces by him upon the question of parliamentary reform and other exciting topics, were received with approbation by those who professed similar senti- ments ; but it is not known that he took any more active part in the politics of the time.

The duty of reading proof-sheets in his master's shop was the circumstance which first led Mr M'Gavin to study the English language carefully ; and, considering the limited nature of his education, it is surprising that he should have been able to attract notice as an author under the age of twenty. .

In 1793, having left Mr Neilson's shop, he was found qualified to assist his elder brother in the management of a school, where writing, arithmetic, and mathematics were taught. Of this seminary he afterwards became sole master ; but he ultimately abandoned teaching as a pursuit not agreeable to his genius or temper, and in 1798, was engaged as book-keeper and clerk by Mr David Lamb, an American cotton merchant, to whose two sons he at the same time acted as tutor. Some years afterwards, on Mr Lamb removing to America, Mr M'Gavin became his partner ; the business was carried on in Glasgow. In 1805, Mr M'Gavin married Miss Isabella Campbell of Paisley. As his busi- ness was of a light nature, and Mrs M'Gavin brought him no children, he en- joyed more leisure for the cultivation of his mind than falls to the lot of most merchants in the busy capital of the west of Scotland. At a later period, after the death of his original patron, he entered into partnership with the son of that gentleman, and carried on what is called a West India business under the firm of M'Gavin and Lamb. This ultimately proving unprofitable, he was in- duced, in 1822, to undertake the Glasgow agency of the British Linen Com- pany's bank, which he conducted without intermission till his death.

Mr M'Gavin was brought up by his parents in the strictest tenets of the presbyterian faith, as professed by the congregations of original anti-burghers. About the year 1800, a conscientious dissent from the views of this body re- specting church government induced him to join the Rev. Mr Ramsay in the formation of an independent or congregational church. In this communion he began to exercise a gift of preaching, with which he was endowed in a re- markable degree, receiving from Mr Ramsay the ordination which was considered necessary for the pastoral office by this body of Christians. Eventually, circumstances so much reduced the society, as to make it cease to answer what he conceived to be the design and use of a church namely, " not only the edification of its own members, but the public exhibition of their spirit and practice, for manifesting the glory of the grace of God, and promoting the salvation of men." For this reason, in 1808, he joined the kindred congrega- tion of Mr Greville Ewing in the Nile Street meeting-house, Glasgow, where he was soon afterwards invested with the office of deacon. Here he might have also continued to preach, if he had been willing ; but he was now unable, from the pressure of business, to give the duty that attention which he deemed necessary, and accordingly resisted Mr Ewing's frequent and urgent solicitations, though he occasionally consented to perform public worship in the neighbouring vil- lages, or in places where he thought such ministrations eminently necessary.

Being a man of uncommon industry, and equally great benevolence, Mr