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Rev Dr James McClure Glasgow (1805 - 1890):
Cleric, Presbyterian minister; linguist

James McClure Glasgow was born on 27 May 1805 near Clough, County Antrim and was educated at Ballymena Grammar School, the Academy of Rev John Paul DD in Carrickfergus and at the (Royal) Belfast Academical Institution where he gained medals in mathematics and natural philosophy. He was licensed as a probationer by the Presbytery of Belfast on 14 December 1834 and was called to the Presbyterian congregation of Castledawson on 6 October 1835. Following the union of the Synod of Ulster and the Associate Synod to form the Presbyterian Church in Ireland on 10 July 1840 the first act of the first General Assembly was the “setting apart of two missionaries, for the first time, to carry the light of God’s truth to heathen lands”. James Glasgow accepted the call and on 29 August 1840 boarded the Athlone bound for Liverpool. Meanwhile he had married Mary Wightman on 27 June 1840 in Fisherwick Place Presbyterian Church, Belfast and “proceeded after the ceremony which took place at 1 o’clock on a visit to Rev A Crawford of Randalstown” little knowing that Alexander Crawford’s ninth child would subsequently marry the Glasgows’ fourth daughter.

On 4 September 1840 Rev James Glasgow together with his new wife, and Rev Alexander Kerr and his new wife, sailed from Liverpool on the Wave arriving in Bombay on 26 February 1841. During the voyage Mrs Glasgow suffered from severe seasickness, possibly due to her being pregnant. The ship was becalmed in the Indian Ocean and to while away the hours James Glasgow taught his wife calculus.

The Glasgows and the Kerrs spent almost three months in Bombay where on 16 March 1841 Margaret Jane Glasgow was born. Leaving Bombay the two missionary families sailed to Gogha and travelled on to Rajkot in Gujarat arriving on 3 June 1841. Margaret Jane Glasgow died on 11 June 1841 and was buried in the Anglican cemetery in Rajkot. James Glasgow spent the next 11 years in Rajkot and the surrounding area of Gujarat establishing missionary outposts and translating tracts into Gujarati. A second daughter, Jane Henrie was born but sadly died on 14 April 1845 aged only three months and is also buried in the Anglican cemetery. A third daughter, Mary Elizabeth was born in 1845 and a fourth daughter, Annie Coulson, was born in 1848.

In 1851 the Glasgow family returned to Ulster on furlough where a fifth daughter, Harriet was born. James returned alone to India in 1854 where he continued his missionary work for a further 10 years. He was elected an honorary Doctor of Divinity by Princeton University in 1856. Many references to him are still found in Gujarat –churches, schools and homes are named after him. Upon his return to Belfast in 1864 he was appointed Professor of Living Oriental Languages at both Magee College, Londonderry and Assembly’s College, Belfast. His towering intellect and profound scholarship were combined with an almost child-like simplicity and straightforwardness of character.

His publications include The Psalms of David, Translated into Gujarati Verse, for the use of Native Churches and Families (Surat Mission Press, 1856) and The Apocalypse - Translated & Expounded (Edinburgh, T&T Clarke, 1873). He translated Dr Robert Stewart’s Family Worship and The Bible into Gujarati as well as many other writings in both English and Gujarati. He was a government examiner in Gujarati for the Indian Civil Service. In 1869 he was elected a member of the Belfast Literary Society and in 1872 was elected its President.

Three of his five children survived into adulthood: Mary, “Minnie”, never married and died in 1874; Annie married William Crawford (as mentioned above; he was later knighted), who was to become Managing Director of York Street Flax Spinning Company and Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Harriet married John Acheson, also a linen manufacturer, being Proprietor of the Bannview Weaving Factory, Portadown. 

In Belfast, James and Mary Glasgow lived at number 82 (now number 86) University Street, until 1878, when they moved to be near their daughter Harriet and son-in-law John Acheson in Portadown. Mary died on 19 February 1885. James retired from his professorial posts in 1889 and died in Portadown on 30 June 1890. They are buried with their daughter “Minnie” in Balmoral Cemetery.

Born: 27 May 1805
Died: 30 June 1890
Alastair J Rankin