Rev. Stewart Wright – was a minister of Blantyre Old Parish Church for 16 years from 1871 until 1887. He was the second minister to preach from the current Old Parish Church.
Stewart Wright was admitted to this charge on 3rd August 1871. Born at Inverary on 15th October 1829, he was the fifth son of James Wright who at one point was provost of the Argyleshire town. Mr. Wright received his education at Inverary, Irvine Academy and the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
He was licensed by Glasgow Presbytery and was for a time assistant at St. Mathews, Glasgow. On 23rd May 1855 he was ordained and inducted to the charge of St. George’s in the Fields. Thereafter he was chaplain at Madras from 1858 – 1865 and at Bangalore from 1865 – 1871.
On 3rd January 1856 Mr. Wright had married Alice, the daughter of the Rev. Colin Smith D.D., the minister of Inverary. They had twelve of a family – 4 boys and 8 girls: at least 4 of the family died in infancy or early childhood something, which must have been heartbreaking beyond words.
There can be very little doubt that the Rev. Stewart Wright was highly thought of in this parish and we must bear in mind that his work here must have been very difficult especially after that awful Monday morning of the 22nd October, 1877 when “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” over two hundred men and boys were killed in the Blantyre Pit Explosion. It fell to Mr. Wright to minister to the desperate needs of the people – some 106 widows, 300 fatherless children and about 50 other bereaved relatives. He described himself as “a stricken shepherd amongst a stricken flock”. He will be remembered for his untiring efforts during that calamity including being the first to call for funds to be raised for the surviving victims. Such was his standing in this regard, he was appointed Chairperson of the Fund Committee to administer and distribute those monetary donations to the destitute families.
In the 1875 Valuation Book, he is noted as being the owner of the Manse at High Blantyre and also the Glebe (Manse) Land. The assessor valued the manse as being worth a rent of £25/year and the land at £22/year, something that reflects how substantial this house and land was by comparison to the properties around it.
We note in passing at this point that on 29th June 1880 a new “Chapel of Ease” was opened in Blantyre. Later to become known as Stonefield Parish this “Chapel of Ease” remained under Blantyre Parish Church until 1890 when it was raised to a “Quoad Sacra” Parish with its own Kirk Session.
He is not on the 1871 census, as he was still in India but came to Blantyre a few months after. In the 1881 census, Stewart is 51 years old; living at the manse with wife Alice aged 46. With them were 6 children. Mary HS Wright 21, Jeanie GS Wright 17, William NS Wright 12, Elizabeth S Wright 12, Flora MS Wright 10, Dora S Wright 8. The 4 eldest children were all born in India. Flora in Bridge of Allan and only little Dora was a Blantyre girl. In 1881, the family had lodgers at the manse, which was sizeable. Mr. Michael Brogan aged 41 was an umployed engine man formerly working at Colin Dunlops Colliery. Mr Ralph Fairbarin aged 33 a labourer at aforementioned colliery, Helen Simpson a 21-year old domestic servant and Jane M Birrell, a 19-year old nanny for children William, Elizabeth and Dora.
Rev Wright was also the author of “The Annals of Blantyre” book first published during 1885 and it is through that remarkable account that we know of many incidental tales of people and events in Blantyre during that era.
He was a remarkable well-travelled man who gave us such a unique looks at Blantyre’s past. A year later in 1886 his 4th child, a daughter Elizabeth Stewart Wright died aged 17 and was buried in High Blantyre Cemetery. Losing a fifth child of the twelve he had may have pushed Stewart’s heartache to breaking point, and he may have questioned the work of god upon such instances.
His health failing, Stewart died shortly after on the 29th November 1887 aged 58. He was buried next to his daughter. Seven other family memebers including his wife would later be buried beside them. Stewart’s will was read on 21st March 1888, his estate worth £619 9s 5d left entirely to his surviving widow, Alice (d1913).
His daughter Dora Stewart Wright died in 1932 and was buried in High Blantyre Cemetery aged 59. His son William Stewart Wright died on 20th April 1944 aged 56.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c)
Photos courtesy of : Gravestones.com