Thomas Guthrie

Thomas Guthrie


Philanthropist, Preacher & Reformer

Born Brechin, Angus Scotland he studied at Edinburgh University from the age of twelve and later in Paris. In 1827 practiced as a minister in Arbirlot, Angus but later took charge of Greyfriar's Kirk in Edinburgh.

He possessed a commanding presence in speaking and his oratory style was effective and picturesque and he became the most popular preacher in Scotland in his day. A kind hearted man, he was shocked by the poverty and deprivation in Edinburgh and worked to set up better schools, housing and working conditions.

He highlighted the link between poverty, ignorance, disease and crime and wrote 'A Plea for Ragged Schools' and advocated for non -sectarian schools.

The Ragged School
, situated in Ramsay Lane was established in 1847 by Guthrie and allowed 45 of Edinburgh's most destitute children to receive an education, food and shelter.

During the Disruption of 1843 Guthrie and most of his congregation left the established Church and formed the Free St. John's Church at Castlehill.

During this time many ministers suffered severe hardship, being thrown out of their manses and the church. Guthrie was active in raising over £116,000 for the building of manses to help them and he campaigned against landlords who refused land to build Free Churches.

His work became known throughout the land and he appeared before a House of Commons Committe to be consulted on ' Criminal and Destitute Juveniles'
His book 'The Gospel in Ezekiel' sold over 50,000 copies, which is testiment to his popularity.

He noted that alcohol was the cause of many problems in society and abstained from drinking himself and was involved in the Forbes - MacKenzie Act set to reduce public house opening hours.

In 1857 his work ' The City: its sins and sorrows' described his life's mission and his reasons for setting out on the path he did. He became Modetator the Free Church General Assembly in 1862 and retired in 1865. He died at the age of seventy in 1873 and is buried in Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh.