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REV. ANDREW URQUHART, M.A., J.P., PORTPATRICK

(Died March 10, 1890)
Author: Professor Candlish, D.D., Glasgow
Source: The Free Church Monthly, May, 1890, Obituary, p.150


In the death of the senior minister of Portpatrick there has passed away the last of the Disruption ministers of Galloway, a man of fine Christian character, who, during a ministry of more than half a century, exerted a powerful influence for good in the south-west of Scotland. He was the oldest son of the Rev. Robert Urquhart, minister of Kilbirnie, where he was born in July 1805. Entering the University of Glasgow in 1818, he passed through the arts and divinity courses, and besides the subjects proper to these, he studied chemistry with much zeal, one of his fellow-students being afterwards Professor Johnstone of Durham, author of “The Chemistry of Common Life,” and other works, and another, with whom he formed a close and lifelong friendship, being Dr. Candlish of St. George’s, Edinburgh.

After leaving college he was engaged for a time in private teaching in Edinburgh, and in 1831 went to Portpatrick as assistant to the Rev. Dr. McKenzie, where he was ordained in 1832, with a stipend of £40 a year, becoming sole minister on Dr. McKenzie’s death in 1830. From the first he took a great interest in the town, then a place of more stir and traffic than now; and the accommodation in the parish church proving insufficient, a beautiful new one was built, mainly at Mr. Urquhart’s instance, by General Hunter Blair of Dunskey, the principal heritor.

Being by conviction a strenuous supporter of the freedom of the Church and the rights of the Christian people, Mr. Urquhart took a firm and decided part in the conflict in which his Presbytery, as well as others, was involved with the Court of Session; and in 1843 he left the Establishment along with the greater part of his congregation, and experienced a large share of the trials and difficulties which that step entailed. Of these he felt most keenly the breaches of friendship which took place, especially that with General Hunter Blair. These breaches were not due to him, for he never allowed mere difference of views and public conduct to affect personal relations. His father remained in the Established Church, but with the firm conviction that Andrew could only be doing what he thought right in coming out; and one of his sisters was married to the late Rev. Dr. Watson of Dundee : yet the affection of the family circle remained unbroken. In the course of a few years he had the happiness of seeing all breaches healed, even the minister whose deposition by the Assembly he had had to intimate on the street of Stranraer, in the face of an interdict, had welcomed him to his bed-side in his last illness. Mr. Urquhart’s own account of his reconciliation with General Hunter Blair forms one of the most beautiful and touching narratives in the “Annals of the Disruption.” In the same place an account given of the difficulties that had to be met in the erection of the first Free Church at Portpatrick, General Hunter Blair having not only refused a site but put all possible obstacles in the way of the building. In spite of this, however, a church was built, and afterwards a manse and two schools were set up. Being most diligent and faithful in his ministerial work, and free from all sectarian bigotry Mr. Urquhart not only kept his own congregation warmly attached to him, but exercised a quiet but persuasive and powerful influence far beyond its limits. He bore a leading part in forming and upbuilding various congregations in the Presbytery of Stranraer and Wigtown, and he took a hearty interest in all that concerned the welfare of the community, especially in relation to religion and morality, of which the Lord-Lieutenant of the county showed his appreciation by appointing him a Justice of the Peace. Mr. Urquhart had a very exact and scholarly mind, a refined taste, and an unfailing candour that could not bear to see a cause that he approved supported by untrue arguments. To those who knew him intimately, the most striking thing about him was his constant habit of asking guidance from above as well as from friends, and then a blessing on the course suggested, thus living in an atmosphere of prayer. The course of his ministry was outwardly uneventful, and except the publication of an occasional sermon and communications to the local press, he made no contribution to literature but his preaching was highly appreciated, and his worth felt by all who knew him.

In 1882 the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination was commemorated in a most interesting way by tributes of esteem and affection from his congregation, his Presbytery, and the general community. The parish minister gave the use of the church for the social meeting, and the Roman Catholic priest contributed to the presentation. In his domestic life Mr. Urquhart had many sad bereavements. The death of his first wife and of all his three sons was felt keenly by his loving and sensitive nature, but borne with meek patience and Christian resignation. His health never was very robust, and though most assiduous in pastoral visitation of his flock and services in fostering other congregations, he found himself latterly unable for the full discharge of his duties and in 1885 the Rev. John Brownlie, now his successor, was ordained as colleague. In the summer of 1888 he had a serious illness, from which there seemed little hope of his recovery; but he rallied and, though very weak and almost totally blind, he continued vigorous in mind, and serene and cheerful in spirit, till he passed away peacefully on the morning of Monday, 10th March.

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