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The Scottish Nation
Howie


HOWIE, JOHN, the original compiler of the ‘Scots Worthies,’ was born at Lochgoin, in the parish of Fenwick, Ayrshire, in 1736. His fore-fathers had taken up their abode in the moors of Fenwick during the twelfth century. They were of the persecuted Waldenses, so many of whom were about that period forced to flee from France, and seek an asylum in Scotland. Possessed of a predilection for literary pursuits, and gradually augmenting his extensive fund of knowledge by additions to a well-selected library, John Howie opportunely took up the task of recording the lives of the martyrs and confessors of Scotland – “Her Worthies,” “He was,” says Mr. M’Gavin, “a plain unlettered peasant. His ancestors had occupied the same farm for ages, and some of them suffered much in the persecuting period, particularly his great-grandfather, whose house was robbed and plundered twelve times, but he always escaped with his life, and died in peace, three years after the Revolution.” The ‘Biographia Scoticana, or a Brief Historical Account of the most Eminent Scots Worthies who testified or suffered for th4e cause of Reformation in Scotland,’ compiled by John Howie of Lochgoin, was first published in 1781. An enlarged edition, with notes, by William M’Gavin, Esq., was brought out at Glasgow, in 1827. John Howie, who belonged to the religious body named Cameronians, or the Reformed Presbytery, died in 1793, aged fifty-seven, and was buried in Fenwick churchyard.

      His son, Mr. Thomas Howie, succeeded him as tenant in Lochgoin. We are informed by a local writer that in a small apartment at the southern extremity of the steading is deposited an extensive library, accumulated chiefly by the author of the ‘Scots Worthies.’ The visitor of an antiquarian turn of mind, will feel gratified on inspecting many theological works of an early date. There are several specimens of the typography of Christopher Barker, an early printer who has pretty generally obtained the credit of having printed the first newspaper established in Britain. There are also some MS. volumes in the handwriting of the author of the ‘Scots Worthies.’ His books are interspersed with occasional notes, written apparently in short-hand. The manuscript volumes in Lochgoin are chiefly composed of sermons, of which copious notes must have been taken. His antique MSS. Are written in a fair, perpendicular, old-fashioned hand; and are characterised by a precision and regularity only surpassed by letter-press. One of the volumes alluded to is occupied with a commentary on the Scriptures. This work was written by a young minister, a Mr. Wilson. John Howie would appear to have made a pilgrimage to the place where Mr. Wilson’s parents resided, for the purpose of procuring a perusal of the work – the author having died a short time previously. Before returning the book, he carefully copied the whole; and the volume, bound in stout boards, still exists – a monument of the writer’s patience and industry.


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