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Dr Duncan of Ruthwell
Founder of Savings Banks by his great grand-daughter Sophy Hall (1910)

"Even if we were to combine Pope's
Man of Ross and Goldsmith's Country
Clergyman into one, we would still have
to search for a third person, learned
and able in authorship, to complete a
parallel picture."

Article on Dr Duncan in
Chambers's "Eminent Scotsmen."


Dr Duncan

BEFORE allowing this small tribute to my great-grandfather's memory to appear, I should like to express my pleasure in being able to publish it through Messrs Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier of Edinburgh, who have been so long and so closely associated with my family. More than a hundred years ago this firm published the first of the many books entrusted to them by Dr Duncan. His life, written by his son, the Rev. George John Duncan, was also issued by them; and now, after a gap of one generation, this small sketch of mine once more brings the same family into relations with this house. My particular thanks are due to Mr Alexander Cargill, Manager of the Edinburgh Savings Bank, for his interest in my great grandfather's memory. Nearly two years ago I wrote to Mr Cargill to find out whether there had been any memorial to commemorate Dr Duncan's work in Edinburgh. In his courteous reply he said,

"I am sorry to say that there is neither stone nor statue, or indeed a memorial of any kind, erected to his memory, although I should have rejoiced, along with several others interested in Savings Banks, to see in the capital city a memorial to such a great and good man."

Himself an enthusiast on the subject of thrift, Mr Cargill has spared neither pains nor trouble in connection with the Centenary of Scottish Savings Banks, to be celebrated in Edinburgh this year.

Dumfries, the county of Dr Duncan's adoption, is rich in memorials of him. In the town the Savings Bank itself is dedicated to his memory, and his statue is in front, holding a scroll. This important building, as it now is, was once represented by a single room in Chapel Street, Dumfrie; "the counter or telling table consisted of two planks placed over a couple of barrels, lighted by dip candles." In his own parish an obelisk marks the scene of his many labours. The beautiful Runic cross he rescued from destruction stands in the parish church.

Throughout his long and fruitful life, Dr Duncan laboured to make the people thrifty and independent. His great conception, the creation of Savings Banks, has proved a national blessing. He wished for no recognition; he asked for no recompense. His text was, "I must work the works of Him that sent me while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work."


LONDON, January 1910.


Chapter I
Birth—Education—Ordination—Marriage—Ruthwell Volunteers—Visit of the "Society of Friends".
Chapter II
Poor Laws—First Literary Efforts—Publication of the "Dumfries Courier".
Chapter III
Savings Banks founded—Visit to London—Savings Bank Bill.
Chapter IV
Home Life—Visitors to Ruthwell Manse.
Chapter V
Correspondence with Brougham—Emancipation of Slaves—Catholic Emancipation —Geological Discovery—Runic Cross.
Chapter VI
Death of Mrs Duncan—Letters from Joanna Baillie—"The Sacred Philosophy of the Seasons"—Poem on Curling.
Chapter VII
Second Marriage—Further Correspondence with Brougham—Church Patronage— Disruption of the Church of Scotland.
Chapter VIII
Leaving the Manse:—Building ok Free Church—Death

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