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Significant Scots
Thomas Gillespie


GILLESPIE, REV. THOMAS, D.D.—Was born in the parish of Closeburn, Dumfries-shire, but in what year we have been unable to ascertain. He received the rudiments of education at the celebrated seminary of Wallacehall, in his own native parish, and afterwards went through the curriculum of the Dumfries Academy, a place noted for its excellence among the educational establishments of Scotland. Having been designed for the church, Mr. Gillespie enrolled as a student in the University of Edinburgh; and after having been distinguished in the Divinity-hall by his talents and scholarship, was licensed as a preacher, and a few years afterwards was presented by the United College, St. Andrews, to the parish of Cults, in the presbytery of Cuper Fife. In this ministerial charge he was the immediate successor of the Rev. David Wilkie, father of the celebrated painter; and on taking possession of his manse, he was grieved to find that, in the process of cleaning and white-washing, the sketches with which Sir David Wilkie, when a little boy, had covered the walls of his nursery, were remorselessly swept away. To a man of Gillespie’s taste and enthusiasm, it seemed as if his entrance into a peaceful home had been preceded by an onslaught of the Vandals; but after settling in Cults, he made many inquiries into the early history of Sir David, which he communicated to Allan Cunningham, the artist’s eloquent biographer. Over the portal of the manse, also, an imitation of Gil Blas, he afterwards carved that couplet of the Latin poet –

"Inveni portum, spes et fortuna valete;
Sat me lusistis, ludite nune alios."

This final good bye to hope and fortune, however, was somewhat premature; for having been appointed assistant and successor to Dr. John Hunter, professor of Humanity in St. Andrews, whose daughter Mr. Gillespie had married, he relinquished the ministerial charge of Cults, and became a resident in the ancient town of St. Andrews.

In his capacity of a country divine, and afterwards as a professor, Mr. Gillespie was distinguished by superior talent, both as an able writer, and ready eloquent speaker. His chief work was a volume of sermons on the "Seasons;" but his contributions to some of our best newspapers and journals, both in prose and verse, showed how high a rank he might have attained as an author had he devoted his labours to this department. But his productions through the press were the light buoyant sallies of an occasional hour of leisure, as a relief from more important occupations, rather than serious and continued efforts; and as such they were read, admired, and forgot, amidst the gay sparkling literature of the hour to which they were contributed. It was in the pulpit, as an eloquent persuasive divine, and in his university chair, as an effective teacher of classical literature, that his whole energies were thrown forth; and when he died, a blank was left both in presbytery and college, which his learned and reverend brethren felt would not soon be filled up. Dr. Gillespie’s death, which was sudden, occurred at Dunino, on the 11th of September, 1644. He was twice married, and his second wife was daughter of the Rev. Dr. Campbell, formerly minister of Cupar, and sister of the Right Hon. Lord John Campbell.


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