The Contribution of St Mary’s College to Scottish Theology and Church Life

Monday 21 December 2015

“Thank you so much for your wonderful exhibition to go with Saturday’s conference on the impact of St Mary’s on Scottish theology and church life. It was superbly chosen and displayed and I think for many people who came one of the undoubted highlights of the day.” (Very Rev Dr Ian Bradley, Principal of St Mary’s College)

A day conference on ‘The Contribution of St Mary’s College to Scottish Theology and Church Life’ was held in St Mary’s on Saturday 5 December. The Library was delighted to be able to display some of the archives and books relating to those significant figures from the College’s past who were the subject of papers given by friends and associates of the College, which has been home to the study of Divinity since 1579.

St Marys papal bull_1
Decorated section from top left hand corner of the papal bull founding St Mary’s College in 1538, UYSM110/B1/P1/2
Seal matrix_1
The matrix of the seal of the college dating from c 1580 (image reversed) UYSM103

After a welcome from the current Principal of St Mary’s, the Very Revd Dr Ian Bradley, the first paper was given by Dr Steven Reid of Glasgow University. An old friend of Special Collections, familiar with our archival collections since his undergraduate days as a student volunteer, taught by us in MLitt Palaeography classes, and a user of muniments in his doctoral research, Steven talked about St Mary’s before the Reformation and under the Principalship of Andrew Melville. We had on display the seal of the College and the bull of Pope Paul III which established a College of clerics, scholars and presbyters, with a church or chapel, under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for the teaching of grammar, logic, natural philosophy, theology and medicine, canon and civil law, with the right to grant its own degrees, 12 February 1537/8.

Andrew Melville, Principal of St Mary’s College 1580-1606 GPS/Mel/1

The only known likeness of Andrew Melville, which seems to have come from Sedan, France, where he spent the final years of his life as Professor of Biblical Theology at the University from 1611-1622, lay on the table beside Melville’s copy of the ‘Commentaries of John Calvin on the five books of Moses’ (Geneva, 1564) Typ SwG.B64SC, and a printed set of theses examined by Melville, submitted by Christopher Hansen Dalby who graduated Master of Theology on 10 April 1595 Typ BE.D95WJ.

Dr Scott Spurlock of Glasgow talked about Samuel Rutherford, and we chose to bring out a manuscript of dictates of the lectures he delivered in St Andrews in 1648, taken down by William Tullideph, who was later himself Principal of St Leonard’s College from 1691-5 msBS540.R8. Also on show was The Due Right of Presbyteries or a Peaceable Plea for the Government of the Church of Scotland. Hay BX8915.R9. It is from the Hay Fleming collection, which contains many works by Rutherford amongst the books on Scottish Theology and Church History, a wonderful collection where discoveries remain to be made as cataloguing progresses.

This has been referred to as ‘the Lex Rex of church government’ and was published in the same year, 1644.
A Discourse proving that the Apostles were no Enthusiasts (London, 1730) r BR114.C2D30
A Discourse proving that the Apostles were no Enthusiasts (London, 1730) r BR114.C2D30

Before lunch, Dr Christian Maurer from Freiburg focused on Professor Archibald Campbell. There is little archival material in our collections relating to him, but we were able to produce two printed books: the important ‘An enquiry into the original of moral virtue’, in a copy of the 1733 edition which was presented to the University by the author Typ BE.D33HC, and A Discourse proving that the Apostles were no Enthusiasts (London, 1730) r BR114.C2D30, in which he asserted his authorship of the 1728 edition of his Enquiry, which had been published as his own work by the man to whom Campbell had entrusted its publication!

During the lunch break the 35 delegates were able to enjoy time with the Special Collections display in the appropriate and atmospheric surroundings of the St Mary’s College Hall, with the paintings of Principals of the College looking on.

l. to r.: portraits of John Tulloch, Samuel Rutherford and Archibald Campbell in St Mary’s College Hall
group photo 1_1
Gabriel and Dr Bill Hyland deep in conversation
group photo 2_1
Professors Mark Elliott (St Andrews) and David Fergusson (Edinburgh) were clearly very interested in the display!
Part of letter of George Hill to Dundas, 6 May 1804, msDA816.D8/2/4796

After lunch, Professor Mark Elliott talked about Principal George Hill. Hill had been a student at the United College, graduating MA aged 14. He was successively Professor of Greek and of Divinity before becoming Principal of St Mary’s in 1791, a post that he held until his death in 1819. Mark had been using the papers of Henry Dundas and Robert Saunders Dundas, 1st and 2nd Viscounts Melville, Chancellors of the University in our Martyrs Kirk Reading Room, in preparation for his paper, and chose three letters from Hill from 1804-5 to have on display: one referring to the Bill of Suspension on the election of joint professors to the chair of Medicine, with a full account given of all the proceedings, and listing the names and ages of the surviving sons of George Hill; and two making observations on the state of party politics in the United College and the dispute over the election to the chair of Natural Philosophy in 1804/5. msDA816.D8/2/4802, 4804

Last page of letter from Elizabeth Garrett, 3 Nov 1862, whose father had visited the University to meet with Tulloch as Vice-Chancellor and who had taken his lack of objection to his daughter’s taking classes to indicate that this would be permitted by the Senatus msdep7/incoming 1862/162

Professor Stewart Brown of Edinburgh University spoke on Principal John Tulloch, perhaps the most significant Churchman of his age, Principal of St Mary’s from 1854-1886 and senior principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University from 1859-1886. We featured correspondence showing Tulloch in his role as University administrator, reacting to the attempt of Elizabeth Garrett to study medicine in 1862 msdep7 Incoming letters 1862/161-66 and a set of lecture notes taken down by a student of Tulloch’s in Systematic Theology, 1884-5 msBT19.T8. There were also a volume of pamphlets including his inaugural address on the opening of the College session in November 1854, StA LF1119.A3T8E55.

Professor David Fergusson of Edinburgh University gave an appraisal of Professor D.M. Baillie, and we produced a photograph, obituary notice and newsletter relating to the death, in 1954, of ‘one of the most distinguished scholars and the best beloved teacher in our University’. There was also his manuscript notebook of lectures on The Doctrine of Atonement, 1952.

Opening page of Lecture notes by Donald Baillie, 1952
Revd George Simpson Duncan in uniform as Presbyterian Chaplain at GHQ under Field-Marshal Haig in France, 1915-18. He was appointed as Professor of Biblical Criticism in 1919 and Principal of St Mary’s in 1940.

The concluding remarks of Ian Bradley included reference to Principal George S Duncan, so we included a private memoir by Duncan on the attitude towards religion of the British Soldiers in France ms37090/3/60. We were delighted to have been able to support the Divinity event, which was attended by a number of distinguished scholars, alumni and students.



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3 thoughts on "The Contribution of St Mary’s College to Scottish Theology and Church Life"

  • Karenmca
    Monday 21 December 2015, 12.19pm

    Did Principal Haldane get a mention?

    • St Andrews Special Collections
      Monday 21 December 2015, 12.39pm

      No, Principal Robert Haldane (1820-1854) wasn't one of the principals covered by those present at the conference. There were too many to cover in one day!

  • Chaplain W D
    Chaplain W D
    Friday 15 February 2019, 1.54pm

    Very nice article. Excellent researched and quite in depth on the Padre. Chaplain CDR W. Dinkins USN (RET)


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