- Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847)
Born in Anstruther> in Fife on March 17, 1780, Chalmers was educated at St Andrews University> (he began there at the age of 11) and at the age of 23 he was both minister at Kilmeny and a science lecturer at the university. In 1815 he became minister of the Tron parish church in Glasgow (which is now the Tron Theatre>). In the new industrial society, education, social care and charity with self-help were part of his Christian doctrine. He reorganised parochial poor relief and established schools and district churches. Chalmers was a prolific writer and preaching on occasions in London brought him additional fame.
In 1823 he was appointed to the chair of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews University and in 1838 he became professor of theology at the University of Edinburgh.
In 1832 Chalmers became Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland> and in 1834 he proposed the Veto Act which gave parishes the right to reject a minister put forward by the local patron of the church. His dislike of patronage led in the 1840s to a crisis in the Church of Scotland about the extent of patronage and influence of wealthy parishioners in the church.
This led to the so-called Disruption of 1843 in which he led a third of the ministers (474 in total - all of them were included in the famous painting above which is to be seen at the Museum of Scotland) out of the established church to create the "Free Church of Scotland">. It was funded by every church member paying one penny a week to the local church. Thanks to Chalmers' planning and organisational ability, nearly every presbytery had a minister of the new church as an alternative to the established kirk. The Free Church was particularly strong in the Highlands, where its strict religious principles are still felt to this day.
Chalmers became the first Moderator of the new church. The ministers who had walked out were left without a church or a manse but within two years 500 churches had been built as well as schools, since supportive schoolmasters (appointed by the local church) had been driven out as well.
Chalmers died in 1847 but not before he had seen the successful creation of the new church.
Return to the Index of Famous Scots>
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
News & Views>
All Features Index>
Search This Site>
Scottish Pictorial Calendar>
Places to Visit>