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Kay's Edinburgh Portraits
Rev. Dr. Thomas Davidson, late of the Tolbooth Church, Edinburgh


This gentleman's own name was Randall, Davidson having been assumed by him on his accession to his uncle's property of Muirhouse, situated in the parish of Cramond, and shire of Edinburgh. He was the son of the Rev. Thomas Randall, minister of Inchture, (afterwards one of the ministers of Stirling,) whose father and grandfather were also clergymen of the Church of Scotland.

Mr. Davidson was born at Inchture in 1747, and passed through the academical classes at the College of Glasgow. He afterwards studied for a short time at the University of Leyden, where his attention was more particularly devoted to Biblical criticism.

During his residence in Holland, Mr. Davidson was licensed to preach the gospel according to the Presbyterian form ; and his first sermon was delivered at Amsterdam. In 1771, his father having been translated to Stirling, Mr. Davidson was ordained to the parish of Inchture, where he remained only two years, having, in 1773, been called to the Outer High Church of Glasgow; from thence he was transferred to Lady Yester's Church, Edinburgh; and again translated to the Tolbooth Church in 1785.

Dr. Davidson was a sound, practical, and zealous preacher; and, much as he was esteemed in the pulpit, was no less respected by his congregation, and all who knew him, for those domestic and private excellences, which so much endear their possessor to society.

To all public charities he contributed largely, and was generally among the first to stimulate by his example. Even when his income was circumscribed, a tenth part of it was regularly devoted to the poor; and when he subsequently succeeded to a valuable inheritance, the event seemed only to elevate him in proportion as it placed within his reach the means of extending the range of his charities.

Another amiable trait in the character of Dr. Davidson, was the interest which he took in the success of the students of divinity, with whom circumstances might bring him into contact. To such as he found labouring under pecuniary disadvantages his hand was always open; and there are many respectable ministers in the church who can bear testimony to his generous and fatherly attentions. In religious matters, and in the courts connected with the church, he took a sincere interest; but Avas by no means inclined to push himself prominently before the public. In cases of emergency, or when he conceived that duty called him, none could be more resolute or firm of purpose. A characteristic instance of this is related in the funeral sermon preached in the Tolbooth Church, on the demise of Dr. Davidson, by the Eev. George Muirhead, D.D., minister of Cramond. " He had been for some time in a valetudinary state, and went very little from home ; and he was so unwell that day, that he resolved not to attend the meeting of Presbytery. But conceiving it to be his duty (when he understood that there was to be some discussion about projected alterations in the churches contained in the building of St. Giles's) to attend, even at the risk of injuring his health, he came forward, and in a speech of some length, in which he alluded to his own situation as about to leave the world, so as to have no personal interest in the projected changes, and in which he declared himself not unfriendly to building churches in the New Town, and to repairing and ornamenting St. Giles's, he earnestly remonstrated against diminishing the number of churches in the Old Town, proving that the number of churches there was altogether inadequate for the number of its inhabitants ; and that it was not to be supposed that the class who inhabited the houses of the Old Town could get accommodation in the churches built or building in the New Town. It was very affecting, and at the same time gratifying, to behold the venerable father of the Presbytery thus solemnly taking farewell of the public concerns of the church on earth, with the glory of the church of heaven full in his view; and to perceive that, while the frail tabernacle of the body was evidently coming down, there was no want of mental vigour, and no want of deep interest in what respected the spiritual improvement of the community with which he had been so long connected."

Dr. Davidson died at Muirhouse on the evening of Sabbath, 28th October, 1827, and was succeeded in the Tolbooth Church by the Rev. James Marshall, sometime minister of the Outer Church of Glasgow.

Only three of Dr. Davidson's sermons were published, and these were delivered on public occasions. One of them, preached before the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr, on the propitiation of Christ, has been much admired.

Dr. Davidson was twice married. By his first wife, a sister of the late Provost Anderson, bookseller in Stirling, among other children, he had a son, Captain William Davidson, who succeeded him in his estates. By his second wife, a sister of Lord Cockburn, he had several children.

Besides the estate of Muirhouse, Dr. Davidson was proprietor of the Old Barony of Hatton, which had belonged to the Lauderdale family, and which, having been acquired by the Duchess of Portland, was sold in lots; and a considerable portion of it, including the old mansion-house and patronage of the parish of Ratho, was purchased by him. The residence of Dr. Davidson in Edinburgh was successively in Windmill Street, Princes Street, and Heriot Row.


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