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Henry Duncan


Henry Duncan was the son of George Duncan, minister of Lochrutton, Kirkcudbrightshire.  After a short spell working in business in Liverpool he was ordained as minister for the Church of Scotland at Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire in 1798.  Duncan was elected Moderator of the General Assembly in 1839.  At the Disruption in 1843 he joined the new Free Church of Scotland and left the manse at Ruthwell. 


The Disruption was a schism or split in the Church of Scotland.  One issue was the right of the church to govern itself with no interference from the civil authorities.  Another was patronage - the right of a patron to appoint a minister of their choice in a parish.  In May 1843, one in three ministers in the Church of Scotland broke away and formed the Free Church of Scotland.  Henry Duncan became minister at the new Free Church at Mount Kedar, Mouswald and within two years had built a church and manse.  The church no longer exists but where it once stood is a monument to Henry Duncan.


Henry Duncan was a man of many interests and great talents.  Throughout his life, Duncan was concerned with the social welfare of the poor in his parish and spent time travelling and lecturing to raise funds.  He founded the Dumfries Courier in 1809, founded the world's first savings bank in 1810 for his parishioners in Ruthwell, instituted an Auxiliary Bible Society and a Missionary Society in Dumfries and founded the Dumfries Standard in 1843. In 1823 Duncan restored and re-erected the 8th century Ruthwell Cross which had been destroyed by Presbyterians in 1642.  A noted antiquarian, Duncan discovered the first fossil footprints in Britain, at Corncockle Moor in 1828, and wrote the first scientific report of fossil tracks, published in 1831. 

Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
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