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Significant Scots
William Gillespie


GILLESPIE, (REV.) WILLIAM, minister of Kells in Galloway, was the oldest son of the Rev. John Gillespie, who preceded him in that charge; and was born in the manse of the parish, February 18, 1776. After receiving the rudiments of education at the parish school, he entered the university of Edinburgh, in 1792, and was appointed tutor to Mr Don, afterwards Sir Alexander Don, bart., in whose company he was introduced to the most cultivated society. While acting in this capacity, and at the same time prosecuting his theological studies, he amused himself by writing verses, and at this time commenced his poem entitled the "Progress of Refinement," which was not completed or published till some years afterwards. Among other clubs and societies of which he was a member, may be instanced the Academy of Physics, which comprehended Brougham, Jeffrey, and other young men of the highest abilities, and of which an account has already been given in our article, Dr Thomas Brown. In 1801, having for some time completed his studies, and obtained a license as a preacher, he was ordained helper and successor to his father, with the unanimous approbation of the parish. Soon after, he was invited by his former pupil, Mr Don, to accompany him in making the tour of Europe; and he had actually left home for the purpose, when the project was stopped by intelligence of the renewal of the war with France. In 1805, Mr Gillespie published "the Progress of Refinement, an allegorical poem," intended to describe the advance of society in Britain, from its infancy to maturity, but which met with little success. It was generally confessed that, though Mr Gillespie treated every subject in poetry with much taste and no little feeling, he had not a sufficient draught of inspiration, or that vivid fervour of thought which is so called, to reach the highest rank as a versifier. In 1806, by the death of his father, he succeeded to the full charge of the parish of Kells. For some years afterwards, he seems to have contented himself in a great measure with discharging his duties as a clergyman, only making occasional contributions to periodical works, or communicating information to the Highland Society, of which he was a zealous and useful member. At length, in 1815, he published, in an octavo volume, "Consolation and other Poems," which, however, received only the same limited measure of applause which had already been bestowed upon his Progress of Refinement. Mr Gillespie, in July 1825, married Miss Charlotte Hoggan; but being almost immediately after seized with erysipelas, which ended in general inflammation, he died, October 15, in the fiftieth year of his age. As the character of this accomplished person had been of the most amiable kind, his death was very generally and very sincerely mourned: his biographer, Mr Murray, in his Literary History of Galloway, states the remarkable fact, that, amidst the many wet eyes which surrounded his grave, "even the sexton – a character not in general noted for soft feelings – when covering the remains of his beloved pastor, sobbed and wept to such a degree that he was hardly able to proceed with his trying duty."


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