Wodrow, Robert (DNB00)

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WODROW, ROBERT (1679–1734), ecclesiastical historian, second son of James Wodrow, professor of divinity in the university of Glasgow, by Margaret, daughter of William Hair, a small proprietor in Kilbarchan parish, Renfrewshire, was born at Glasgow in 1679. In 1691 he entered the university of Glasgow, where, after taking the degree of M.A., and while attending the theological classes, he was on 18 Jan. 1697 appointed university librarian, an office which he held for four years. After resigning the librarianship he went to reside in the house of a relative, Sir John Maxwell of Nether Pollock, lord of session under the title of Lord Pollock; and while there he was, 6 Jan. 1703, licensed to preach by the presbytery of Paisley, with the view, probably, of qualifying him for presentation to the parish of Eastwood, near Glasgow, which was in the gift of Lord Pollock, and to which he was presented on the death of the incumbent in the following summer, the ordination taking place on 28 Oct. Notwithstanding calls from Glasgow in 1712, and from Stirling in 1717 and again in 1726, he preferred the quietude of Eastwood, and remained there till his death, 21 March 1734. He was buried at Eastwood. He married, in 1708, Margaret, daughter of Patrick Warner, minister of Irvine, and granddaughter of William Guthrie, minister of Fenwick; he had sixteen children, ten sons and six daughters, of whom Robert succeeded him at Eastwood, Patrick—the ‘auld Wodrow’ of Burns's ‘Twa Herds’ who ‘lang has wrought mischief’—became minister of Tarbolton, and James became minister of Dunlop and afterwards of Stevenston.

Though specially devoted to historical and antiquarian studies, Wodrow not only enjoyed great popularity as a preacher, but took an ardent interest in ecclesiastical politics. On the union of the kingdoms in 1707 he was nominated by the Paisley presbytery one of a committee to consult with the assembly's commission at Edinburgh as to the methods to be adopted for guarding the interests of the presbyterian kirk, and on the accession of George I in 1714 he took an active part in the fruitless endeavour to obtain the abolition of the law of patronage. He, however, systematically discouraged every attempt to avoid compliance with the law of patronage while it remained in force, and in 1731 he assisted Principal Hadow in drawing up the act of the assembly anent the method of planting of vacant churches, the passing of which in the following year gave rise to the associate presbytery, which was to develop into the secession church, and latterly, after union with the relief church, into the united presbyterian church.

In 1721–2 Wodrow published, in two volumes, ‘The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution’ (Edinburgh, fol.), of which a second edition, with a memoir by Robert Burns, D.D., appeared at Glasgow in four volumes, 1828–30. It displays enormous labour, and contains a most detailed and, considering the immense difficulties of his task, a remarkably authentic, though not by any means an impartial or sufficient, account of the covenanting persecution. It was approved by the general assembly of the kirk, and dedicated to George I, who recognised its semi-official character by, on 26 April 1725, authorising the payment out of the exchequer of 100 guineas to the author. In defence of the episcopal side of the dispute, Alexander Bruce, a member of the faculty of advocates, projected a work to be entitled ‘An Impartial History of the Affairs in Church and State in Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution.’ He had, however, only begun to collect materials for it when it was interrupted by his death in 1734, and although it was undertaken by Bishop Robert Keith (1681–1757) [q. v.], only the first volume, bringing the narrative down to 1568, appeared.

Wodrow was also the author of:

  1. ‘The Oath of Abnegation considered in a Letter to a Friend,’ 1712.

And he left in manuscript:

  1. A ‘Life’ of his father, James Wodrow, professor of divinity in the university of Glasgow, which was published in 1828.
  2. A series of ‘Memoirs of Reformers and Ministers of the Church of Scotland,’ which is preserved in the library of the university of Glasgow, and of which two volumes were printed by the Maitland Club, 1834–45, under the title ‘Collections upon the Lives of the Reformers and most eminent Ministers of the Church of Scotland,’ and another volume, having special reference to ministers in the north-east of Scotland, by the New Spalding Club in 1890.
  3. ‘Analecta; or, Materials for a History of remarkable Providences, mostly relating to Scotch Ministers and Christians,’ in the library of the faculty of advocates, Edinburgh, and printed in four volumes by the Maitland Club, 1842–3, containing a good deal of interesting gossip and anecdotes relating to the author's own time, but much of it by no means trustworthy.
  4. Twenty-four volumes of correspondence, partly preserved in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, and partly in the possession of the church of Scotland, of which three volumes were published in 1842–3.

In 1841 the Wodrow Society was established at Edinburgh for the publication of works of the early writers of the church of Scotland; it was dissolved in 1847 after publishing twelve works.

[Life prefixed to the second edition of Wodrow's History; Hew Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot.]

T. F. H.