This renowned tenor singer was acknowledged to be the greatest musical artist of his time. Born in Riccarton, Kilmarnock, in the year 1802, he was the youngest of three brothers, all of whom were richly endowed with musical gifts. James, the eldest, was a distinguished teacher of music in Edinburgh, and Robert, who came next, was one of a line of able Precentors, in the Laigh Kirk, Kilmarnock. It was greatly owing to his elder brothers' tuition and care that John got an opportunity to develop his talents.
When but a boy of 10 years, James took him to Edinburgh
for this purpose. At the age of 12, he had progressed sufficiently
to enable him to take part in his brother's concerts, which were
then a feature of the musical life in the Capital. He appeared
regularly at these concerts until he was 16 years of age. When just
out of his teens he received an appointment as Precentor in the
Church of the Revd. Dr. John Brown. As a teacher of singing at this
time, he numbered many of the best families in Edinburgh among his
pupils. Ambitious to rise in the profession he left the Capital for
London, where he placed himself under the best masters. His
subsequent career on the stage is fairly well
It was more or less a series of personal triumphs. At the Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres he captivated the audiences and received the highest praise from the critics. Tom Cook called him "The tenor with the additional keys", and Brahms advised him if he had an eye to his pocket, to Italianize his name and call himself Templetoni. At the Covent Garden Theatre he undertook the prodigious task of memorising and mastering a mass of manuscript music within a week and taking the leading part in Mozart's "Don Giovanni", with unequivocal success. As Madame Malibran's tenor, Templeton earned high encomiums from that gifted lady who was known as "The Queen of Song". In 1842 he visited Paris and was gratified with the warm welcome he received and the evidence shown him that his fame was already established in that city. From 1843 to 1853 he toured the principal cities of Great Britain and America, delighting large audiences with the "Songs of the Homeland" and the story of their authors and composers. "Tally Ho", "Sally in our Alley", "The Bay of Biscay", and the Songs of Burns were his special favourites. He retired at the comparatively early age of 50, spending the remaining years of his life at New Hampton, Middlesex, where he was held in high esteem and respect by his neighbours. He died at the age of 84 and was buried there amid every manifestation of sorrow. Intimate acquaintances of John Templeton have described him as, "a fine specimen of a bygone generation, a through gentleman, and a true friend". A monument erected to his memory stands on Calton Hill, Edinburgh.