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The Scottish Nation

LOW, DAVID, D.D. and LL.D., a distinguished prelate of the Scottish Episcopalian church, the son of a tradesman, was born in Brechin, in November 1768. He was educated in his native town and at Marischal college, Aberdeen, and during the college vacations he was employed as tutor to the family of Mr. Carnegie of Balnamoon, chief heritor of the parish of Menmuir, by whose influence he was appointed parochial schoolmaster, and was admitted by the presbytery to the office, June 15, 1785. He afterwards studied under Bishop Gleig at Stirling, and, on his recommendation, became tutor to the family of Mr. Patullo of Balhouffie, in the east of Fifeshire, where he remained about eighteen months. On December 5, 1787, he was ordained a deacon, and appointed to the charge of a small non-juring congregation at Perth. After being fifteen months there, he was, on Feb. 4, 1789, admitted to full orders, and, in September of the same year, was settled as pastor of the Episcopal congregation at Pittenweem. For nearly sixty-six years he fulfilled the duties of the ministerial office in that town, officiating every third Sunday at Crail, till 1805, when St. John’s chapel was built on the grounds of the priory at Pittenweem. ON Nov. 14, 1819, he was consecrated bishop of the four united dioceses of Ross, Moray, Argyle, and the Isles, and in 1820, the degree of LL.D. was conferred on him by Marischal college, his alma mater. In 1847, he effected the disjunction of Argyle and the Isles from his Episcopal charge, and their erection into a separate see, executing “a deed, by which property to the amount of £8,000 was conveyed to trustees for the new diocese, the annual income arising from which being appropriated for ever towards the support of the bishops of that see; formally relinquishing, at the same time, to the new bishop, all the income hitherto received by himself as a member of the Episcopal college.” In 1848, he received from two of the American colleges the honorary degree of doctor in divinity. The increasing infirmities of advancing age induced him, on Dec. 19, 1850, to resign his diocesan authority, and the Rev. Robert Eden, rector of Lee in Essex, was consecrated, March 9, 1851, his successor as bishop of Ross and Moray.

Three of Bishop Low’s charges to his clergy were published at their request, but otherwise he did not distinguish himself as an author. He was no controversialist, and his theology was simply “evangelic truth and apostolic order.”

Bishop Low has been truly called “a bishop of a primitive type.” He was the last survivor of the Scottish Episcopal clergy, who, on principle, declined to pray for the reigning family, till the death of Prince Charles Edward, in 1788, released them from their allegiance to the house of Stuart. He lived and died in the old priory of Pittenweem, in a state of celibate simplicity, and out of an income never exceeding, including a small patrimony, from £400 to £500 a- year, set apart fully two-thirds for objects connected with his church. While denying himself all but the barest necessaries of life, and turning the envelopes of his correspondents to enclose his answers to them, he yet was enabled to devote £8,000 to the endowment of a bishopric, and gave nearly £3,000 more to other ecclesiastical objects.

“His appearance,” says Lord Lindsay, in a graceful obituary notice, which appeared shortly after the bishop’s death, “was most striking – thin, attenuated, but active – his eye sparkling with intelligence – his whole appearance that of a venerable French abbé of the old régime. His mind was eminently buoyant and youthful, and his memory was a fount of the most interesting historical information, especially in connexion with the Jacobite and cavalier party, to which he belonged by early association and strong political and religious predilection. Born and bred in a district pre-eminently (at that time) devoted to the cause of the Stuarts, almost under the shadow of Edzell castle, the ancient stronghold of the Lindsays in Forfarshire, and having lived much from time to time, in his early years, in the Western Highlands, among the Stuarts of Ballachulish and Appin, he had enjoyed a familiar intercourse with the veterans of 1715 and 1745, and detailed the minutest events and adventures of those times with a freshness and a graphic force which afforded infinite delight to his younger auditors. Nor was his traditional knowledge limited to the last century – it extended to the wars of Claverhouse and Montrose, to Bothwell Brig, and to the (attempted) introduction of the service-book in 1637, and was of the most accurate description, the bishop being well-nigh as familiar with the relationships, intermarriages, and sympathies of families who flourished 150 or 200 years ago as he was with those of his own parishioners. The most valuable of these traditions have been collected and embodied by Mr. Robert Chambers, in his Histories of the Rebellions in 1638=60, 1689, 1715, and 1745. Of the bishop’s anecdotes of old Scottish manners – of which he possessed a most abundant and curious store – few, it is to be feared, are preserved, although some were likewise taken down by Mr. Chambers, and published by him in a collection of Scottish anecdotes several years ago. But the above form the least of the late bishop’s claims to regret and remembrance. A most kind and noble heart gave a charm to his daily intercourse inexpressible by words, while the devotion of his every thought to the cause of religion and the special interests of the Episcopal church of Scotland, gave a consistent dignity, amounting to grandeur, to his whole life and conversation.”

He died January 26, 1855, in his 88th year. Among his other public benefactions he left £1,200 to St. John’s chapel, Pittenweem, which was laid out in the purchase of lands, now yielding about £60 of free yearly rent. A memoir of Bishop Low, by the Rev. W. Blatch, was published at London, in 1 vol. 12mo, in 1855. A smaller Biographical Sketch by Matthew Foster Conolly, town-clerk of Anstruther, formerly agent and churchwarden of the bishop, appeared at Edinburgh in 1859.

LOW, DAVID, an eminent professor of agriculture, was the eldest son of Alexander Low of Laws, Berwickshire, a gentleman extensively employed in the management of landed property, both as a general adviser and a land agent. The subject of this notice, born in 1786, was educated at Perth academy, and studied at the university of Edinburgh. Close application to his studies affected his health, which led to his spending one winter in Portugal, as he afterwards did a second season in Italy. On his return to Scotland he assisted his father, who occupied extensive farms in Berwickshire, in the duties of his profession and the general management of his land. He showed great facilities for business, and a special aptitude for the profession of a land agent and valuator.

In 1817 Mr. Low first appeared as an author. The termination of the war with France, two years before, had produced a sudden and great lowering of prices of farm produce throughout the country, and created a serious embarrassment among the farmers generally. In these circumstances Mr. Low published a work entitled ‘Observations on the present state of Landed Property, and on the Prospects of the Landholder and the Farmer,’ which was written with the view of “impressing upon the attention of the landed gentlemen the good policy of endeavouring to preserve, as far as a lenient exaction of rents could effect the object, those funds of the tenants which were destined to cultivation and the business of the farm.”

About 1825 Mr. Low removed to Edinburgh, where he afterwards permanently resided. In 1826 the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture was commenced, mainly at his suggestion. The first number contains two articles from his pen, and the first volume no fewer than sixteen. In 1828 he became editor of the Journal. Much of the high character to which that periodical attained was due to t he value of his own communications, and the general ability with which it was conducted. In 1831 he was appointed successor to Mr. Coventry as professor of agriculture in the university of Edinburgh. In 1832 he was succeeded in the editorship of the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture by Mr. MacGillvray.

Soon after his appointment to the chair of agriculture, Mr. Low directed his attention to the formation of a museum to illustrate his lectures. He presented a memorial to the Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Manufactures in Scotland, pointing out the advantages which would result from the establishment of an agricultural museum, accessible to farmers and others interested in rural economy, and expressing the hope that the Board would “see fit to assign a sum sufficient for the purpose of forming an agricultural museum in Edinburgh.” The Board, however, did not consider the object to fall within their sphere, and Mr. Low, in consequence, applied to the government, during the time that Lord Viscount Althorp was the chancellor of the exchequer. The answer returned was favourable. The communication, dated December 17, 1833, was signed by Mr. Spring Rice, afterwards Lord Monteagle. It stated that the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, “being prepared to acknowledge the utility of such an establishment, by which the science of agriculture may be advanced by promoting the study of it, with all the aid of illustration and experiment, and especially in connexion with the science of chemistry, they have resolved to recommend to his majesty that an annual issue of £300 should be made for the purpose, for five successive years, out of the funds of the trustees for improving fisheries and manufactures in Scotland, to be paid to the professor of agriculture for the time being, and to be applied by him, under the authority of this Board, for such purposes connected with an agricultural museum, as shall be authorized by this Board, upon a specific estimate and proposal to be laid before my lords, by the professor of agriculture, at the commencement of each successive year for that purpose.”

“So satisfied was Mr. Low of the importance of the museum,” says an obituary notice of him which appeared in the North British Agriculturist, “and of its being indispensable to the success of his agricultural teaching, that immediately on entering on the duties of his chair, he had commenced the formation of the museum. His private collection of implements formed the nucleus. He obtained, besides, specimens of plants, seeds, soils, &c., and numerous drawings of machines, farm-buildings, and the like. He also employed Mr. Shiels, R.S.A., to travel all over England, Scotland, and Ireland, to take the portraits of the best specimens of the different breeds of the domesticated animals, for the purpose of illustrating the form of the animals and the principles of breeding. The result was a very superior museum, specially rich in the collection of animal portraits, but, unfortunately, it was little followed up by further efforts, which might have rendered it more complete and beneficial to the university and the agriculturists of Scotland. The entire sum expended on the museum was nearly £3,000. Of this, £1,500 was given by government, and £300 out of the Reid fund belonging to the university. The remainder was paid by Professor Low himself. The attendance at his class was, in consequence of the formation of the museum, largely increased, and a desire was evinced on the part of practical agriculturists to take advantage of the system in the education of their sons. From seventy to ninety was the average attendance in the earlier part of the professor’s career, and not a little of the enlightened zeal on behalf of improved practice and the extension of agricultural education which began to prevail among the more intelligent farmers of Scotland was mainly due to the influence of the teaching of Professor Low.”

One of the most arduous and important parts of his professional duties was in connexion with arbitrations; and, in his awards, there were always presented indications of a careful and impartial investigation. He was also much engaged in the valuation of farms with the view of a renewal of lease. During those intervals when not professionally engaged, his scientific studies engrossed his attention. To chemistry especially he was greatly devoted. For years he had a laboratory at his residence at Craigleith, near Edinburgh, and afterwards at Mayfield, employing an assistant to aid him in carrying out his investigations.

Professor Low died in January 1859. Besides his connexion with the agricultural societies of Great Britain, he was a member of the Royal Academy of Agriculture of Sweden, and of the Royal Economical Society of Saxony; Honorary and Corresponding Member of the Economical Society of Leipzig and of the Society of Agriculture and Botany of Utrecht; Corresponding Member of the ‘Conseil Royale d’Agriculture de France,’ of the ‘Société Royale et Centrale,’ &c., &c. He was an accomplished French scholar, and corresponded with many men of science both in France and Germany.

His works are:

Observations on the Present State of Landed Property, and on the Prospects of the Landholder and the Farmer. Edinburgh, 1817.
The Elements of Practical Agriculture, 1834. Translated into French and German.
The Breeds of the Domesticated Animals of the British Islands. 2 vols. 4to, 1842. Illustrated with coloured plates of the animals painted by Mr. Shiels, R.S.A., for the Agricultural Museum, the portraits reduced by Nicholson. Longman & Co., London, £16 16s. Translated for the French government immediately upon its appearance.
The Domesticated Animals of the British Islands, &c., with Observations on the Principles and Practice of Breeding. 1845, being a fuller treatise than that appended to the illustrated edition.
Landed Property, and the Economy of Estates. 1846.
An Inquiry into the Nature of the Simple Bodies of Chemistry. 1844, 2d edit. 1848, 3d edit. 1856.
An Appeal to the Common Sense of the Country regarding the Condition of the Working Classes.
Various Contributions to the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture, from 1826 to 1832.

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