National Records of Scotland

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Thomas Guthrie (1803-1873)

Thomas Guthrie (1803-1873)

Free Church of Scotland minister and philanthropist

Thomas Guthrie studied at Edinburgh and Paris. He was Minister of Old Greyfriars from 1837-40 and of St John's from 1840-64. He joined the Free Church, which he helped to found, in 1843 and was its moderator in 1862. He used his gift for oratory in the cause of temperance and other social reforms, and in favour of compulsory education, which he believed would reduce juvenile crime. He published his book 'Plea for Ragged Schools, or Prevention is Better Than Cure' in 1847.

Birth in 1803

Thomas Guthrie was born on 12 July 1703, the son of Bailie David Guthrie in Brechin and Clementina Cay. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Brechin gives the date of baptism before the congregation as 17 July.

Baptism entry for Thomas Guthrie

Birth entry for Thomas Guthrie in the OPR for Brechin (35 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 275/4, page 163

Marriage in 1830

Thomas Guthrie, minister of Arbirlot, married Anne Burns, daughter of the Reverend James Burns of Brechin, on 6 October 1830. There are two entries in the OPRs relating to this marriage. The first, dated 2 October 1830, in the OPR for Brechin (her parish) shows that their banns had been published and no objections offered.

Marriage entry for Thomas Guthrie - Brechin

Marriage entry for Thomas Guthrie in the OPR for Brechin (66 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 275/8

The second entry in the OPR for Arbirlot where he was the minister gives their names and the date of marriage.

Marriage entry for Thomas Guthrie - Arbirlot

Marriage entry for Thomas Guthrie in the OPR for Arbirlot (17 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 271/4, page 110

1841 to 1871 censuses

In 1841 Thomas Guthrie, 35, minister, was living with his wife, four children and two servants at 18 Brown Square in the parish of Old Greyfriars, Edinburgh (National Records of Scotland, 1841/685-1/73/11)

In 1851 his wife Anne, Free Church minister’s wife, is head of household, parish of St Cuthbert’s (National Records of Scotland, 1851/685-2/62/9)

In 1861 Clementina Guthrie, minister’s daughter, is the first person listed at 1 Salisbury Road in the Newington district of Edinburgh but she is described as daughter rather than head of household (National Records of Scotland, 1861/685-5/66/14)

In 1871 Thomas Guthrie, 66, Minister of Free St John's is living at 1 Salisbury Road. The household includes his wife, three children, three grandchildren and three servants.

1871 census entry for Thomas Guthrie

Household of Thomas Guthrie in the 1871 census for Newington in Edinburgh (49 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1871/685-5/4

Testament of Thomas Guthrie

National Records of Scotland, SC70/4/144 pp 650-697

Thomas Guthrie died on 24 February 1873 at St Leonards in Sussex. His funeral was held in Edinburgh on 28 February and he was interred at the Grange Cemetery.

In his will he orders that 'in the event of my leaving material for an autobiography I direct such to be placed in the hands of my sons David and Charles John'. The 'Autobiography of Thomas Guthrie, DD and Memoir by his sons David K Guthrie and Charles J Guthrie' (London,1874-1875) was duly published. He also instructs his executors to 'hand over to the new College of the Free Church at Edinburgh my copy of the Covenant received by me from Miss Margaret Bruce to be preserved by them in all time coming'. This was a copy of the National Covenant of 1637, which has been viewed as one of the catalysts of the religious wars that ravaged the British Isles in the mid seventeenth century. Thomas married Anne Burns, and they had the following children: David Kelly, James, Thomas, Alexander, Charles John, Christina, Helen, Anne, and Clementina.

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