[From Manx Quarterly, #12 June 1913]
The centenary of Finch Hill Congregational Sunday-school, Douglas, was celebrated on Sunday and Monday, May 18 and 19. The Rev D. Inglis, B,.A., whose pastorate of the church for over 30 years until his removal to Hest Bank, Lancaster, last Year, is remembered with affection; was the special preacher. Excellent sermons were preached on Sunday morning and evening, and in the afternoon the rev. gentleman, under the chairmanship of Mr H. J. Corlett, H.K., gave a practical and abundantly-illustrated address to the children. The scholars from St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church were present.
On Monday evening, Mr Inglis gave an address on " The Sunday-school and its history," and spoke ofhis associations with the school at Finch Hill.
The Rev D. Inglis, B.A., said: When you asked me to come and preach, although there were difficulties in the way, owing to another anniversary engagement elsewhere, I felt that I could not refuse. So great a part of my life has been bound- up with you and your work. When I came to Douglas more than thirty years ago, I found an excellent school, well staffed, and a band of workers with whom and with whose successors my relations have always . been of the happiest and most harmonious kind. At the present time, in my new home, I have very congenial and pleasant work, but no church or school can ever be to me just what you have been, and it is certain that I can never again serve another church for thirty years ; and so it is in accordance- with the fitness of things that I should be here to help you to celebrate your Centenary. I am also glad to be with you on account of my wife. She began her work as a teacher in the school at a very early age, and continued for the long period of forty-eight years. She has, therefore, had a longer connection with it as an active worker than any other person now alive. When she became a teacher there was no Finch-hill, and both church and school met in the old chapel in Athol-street. Her first class of little girls sat in the gallery, occupying one pew, while the teacher stood facing them in the pew below. It may interest you to know that one of those girls is Mrs Gilmore, who is now and has been for many years a member of our church ; and another is her sister, Mrs Ward. who takes a keen and living interest in the Charlton-road Church, Manchester. Beginning with a young class, my wife gradually moved up the school, until she became teacher of the senior girls' class, which position she held for a long time. Her old scholars are scattered in many lands, and, happily, there is a considerable number of them in active association with the church and school to-day. There is one thing in connection with her relation to the school which is unique. She was a scholar before she became a teacher, and was never in any class but one, that of the late Miss Robertson.
Now Miss Robertson was one of the first two teachers in the school. Beginning her work 100 years ago, she continued very nearly to the time of her death in 1873. So the teaching career of those two persons covered the extraordinary period of ninety-nine years. That is a remarkable record, and I have never heard of anything which could be regarded as a parallel to it. Going back now to the beginning of things, it may interest you to know that the founder of the school was the Rev. Samuel Haining, who was my wife's grandfather. His name is, I suppose, quite unknown to the present generation, and it is hardly likely that even the oldest living member of the church can remember him. In his own day he was a notable man. and took a prominent part in the philanthropic and religious life and work of the town. He was the founder not only of the Sunday-school. but of the church as well. A native of Kirkcudbrightshire, his first visit to this Isle was paid during a holiday while a student at Edinburgh University. In those days there were no Ben-my-Chrees or Vikings to bring people swiftly across, and holiday-makers were few and far between. There is a tradition in the family that on one occasion, owing to contrary winds, he took seven days to make the passage from the mainland. During his first visit he was convinced that there was room for a Congregational-or as he preferred to call it, an Independent Church. He, therefore, resolved that when his course of study was completed, he would endeavour to supply the need. In the year 1808, accordingly, his work was begun in a room in Fort-street. A congregation gradually gathered round him, and after a few years the Chapel in Athol-street was built for him, where he exercised his ministry until his death in 1846. You will readily understand that in the early days the stipend was small and quite unequal to the maintenance of a wife and family, and so he provided for them by keeping a school. As he was a man of learning and ability, he had no difficulty in finding pupils, and some notable men received their education from him. The late High-Bailiff Harris, on more thaw one occasion, spoke to me about those far-off day-, and his regard for and indebtedness to his old schoolmaster. Another of his pupils was the Hon. J. K. Ward. Besides being founder of our church and school, he was also one of the founders of the auxiliary to the British and Foreign Bible Society, which is still vigorously carrying on its beneficent work. He also took an active part in establishing a Lancasterian Day and Sunday-school. The building erected was the one in Athol-street which has so long been in the occupation of St George's Church. It was built by public subscription, and was meant to be carried on on undenominational lines, and Mr Haining way one of the original trustees. It is for that reason that I am a Trustee to-day. I am bound to say the duties have not been onerous, for I have never been summoned to a meeting, nor have I been asked to accept responsibility for anything the trustees have done. We often hear of the desirability of the various churches drawing closer together. and steps in that direction are sometimes made in a hesitating, kind of way. You may possibly like to know that during the early part of last century the Congregational minister of this town and some of the Anglican clergy were on terms of warm friendship. At that time the largest congregation was that of St Barnabas' and the incumbent was Dr Carpenter,- a member of the same family of which Bishop Boyd Carpenter is such a distinguished representative. Dr Carpenter wielded immense influence in the town, and his congregation filled the church. At that time services in St Barnabas' were held morning and afternoon, while the services in Athol-street Chapel were morning and evening. For years Dr. Carpenter paid for a Pew, and his wife and family regularly attended Mr Haining's ministry on Sunday evenings. Notwithstanding all the talk about re-union. I hardly think such a thing would be possible to-day. You will easily understand that' the two men were warm friends, and in some respects were much alike. Both were men of ability, but they had a strain of guilelessness, which made them liable to be taken in by anyone who came with a tale of want, and their wives had to be on the watch to prevent the carrying away of things necessary for family life. On one occasion when Mrs Carpenter went up to her bedroom she found the blankets gone ; her husband had carried them off to supply the need of a poor family in his congregation. Still another indication of the relations between State Churchmen and Free Churchmen may be referred to. When Mr Haining was stricken with his last illness, Bishop Short was on the point of leaving the island, and one of his last acts before doing so was to call and see the invalid and bid him farewell. Perhaps it may be worth mentioning that Mr Haining was the author of the first guide to the Isle of Man, published in 1822. Several editions were issued in his lifetime, and on his work succeeding writers have freely drawn. Having said so much about the founder of the school.
I pass, on to remark about the superintendents. Unhappily, I do not possess a complete list of them, and I am afraid no such list exists. One of the superintendents, in the early days was John Calvin. The name is a great and venerable, one. but it need hardly be said that he did not derive from the Genevan reformer. From what I have heard of him, he seems to have been a man of a singularly mild and gentle disposition. how long he held office I do not know, but probably it was up to the time of his removal to Liverpool where his latter days were spent. His wife, however, was buried in the Old Churchyard at Braddan. I remember many years ago seeing and reading the inscription on the tombstone. but the last time I looked for it the inscription was either defaced or the stone destroyed, as many another has been owing to the invading crowds on summer Sunday mornings, The next name of which I have any record is that of Thomas Richards, a countryman of your present pastor. He will be remembered by some of the older people. The common testimony about him is that he was one of the most genial and popular. of men. If his epitaph had to be written, it might be in the words, "A man greatly beloved.".
Following Mr Richards came Thomas Cubbon. I can hardly realise, as I stand here, that it is twenty years since he was called away to his rest. I well remember the keen anxiety prevailing when we heard of his serious illness, and when he passed away we all felt the loss to be one of the greatest our church had ever sustained. I never knew a man of more unbending integrity or one who kept more faithfully to principle. Possibly that may have been the reason why he was not very popular in certain quarters, and I do not think he ever received the recognition which a man of his ' fine and disinterested public spirit richly merited. After Mr Cubbon came Mr Todhunter, under whose energetic superintendency the old Schoolroom was built. He was followed by Mr Evans, and then came Mr Christian. It is a little embarrassing to speak about these gentlemen, who are all, happily, still among you. On Mr Todhunter's behalf, may I express the hope that life may have for him a quiet and happy eventide. As to Mr Evans, it is a joy to find that his eye is not dim, nor his natural force abated, and that he is still able and willing to give so much of his time to the public service. For Mr Christian the general wish will be that for many a day he may hold the office he has held so long. With each of these gentlemen I have been on terms of friendship, and never an unkind word has been spoken, and no minister need wish for more loyal friends and fellow-workers.
Having spoken of the superintendents, I wish now to say a word of two about the Teachers, some of whom have long since passed away from this life on earth. At the first meeting of the school, one hundred years ago, there were two teachers-Miss Robertson and Miss Colley -and they had just five scholars between them. From such small beginnings the school has grown. When I first came to live here, Miss Robertson's name was often on the people's lips ; she had left behind her a most fragrant memory. One of her characteristics as a teacher was her care that her scholars should learn as much scripture as possible by heart. On one occasion a scholar had repeated three chapters of the gospel of St John, and seemed to think rather well of the performance, and so the teacher said it was a mere nothing many years before there were two boys in the school John and Henry Robinson who could repeat the whole of the Gospel. I am glad of the opportunity of mentioning these two names. John Robinson I never knew, but his brother, Henry, was one of the conspicuous figures in our church for some years after my pastorate began, and he was held in high regard and esteem by the minister and the people alike. I have already told you that Miss Robertson continued at her post up to nearly the time of her death, and was a teacher for about sixty years. She seems to have been a woman of great force of character, and she laid a strong grip upon the minds and affections of her scholars. There are still a few of them left in the congregation, and I think they would agree that long as her set vice lasted, it was not a day too long. And the reason was that her heart was always young, and she had no greater joy than in gathering the young people round her, not only in the school, but also in her home. We sometimes hear of teachers and others, after some years of work, saying that the time had come for them to retire. It depends on who the person is. There are some who ought to retire before they begin, and there are others whose service you never wish to lose. If any of you are beginning to speak in this way, then perhaps you will remember the first teacher in the school and say it will be time to think of retiring when we have been fifty or sixty years in harness. The next teacher to be mentioned is Mr Tomlinson, who taught the young men's class for so many years. As you all know, he was one of the shyest an4 most reserved of men. It was an ordeal for him to have to speak to strangers, and even people he knew fairly well he did not care to talk to any more than he could help. I believe it was more or less of a trial to one of his nervous disposition to meet and talk to the young men, and that made it the more to his credit that he discharged the duty so long. He had no recreations and no companions, and all his spare time was given to the task in which he delighted the study of the Scriptures. It was his great desire to read them in the original tongues, and so he began the study of Greek ; receiving some help from my predecessor, Mr Williamson, but for the most part he carried on the study in private and alone. He went on patiently and perseveringly, till he could read his Greek Testament with ease. He read it through many times, until he was almost as familiar with it as with the English version. Remarkable as that was, he did something else more remarkable still. He began the study of Hebrew. He never got a lesson in it from anybody, but with the help of grammar and dictionary, acquired a knowledge of it for himself. It was long before I knew what he was about, and then I found it out by accident. Happening to call one day, I found him busy reading a Hebrew Psalm. By that time he was able to read with a fair amount of ease. Before he died he had read his Hebrew Bible from cover to cover two or three times over. I venture to think that in no Sunday-school in the country were the young men instructed by a teacher with a profounder or more accurate knowledge of Holy Scripture. In such ã survey of the past as I am making, it is fitting that mention should be made of Mrs Barber. Most of you remember both her and her husband, and few members of our church have ever been better loved. They were never very well off, but they were princely givers, and if all Christians were to give on. the same scale there would never be any want of money to carry on the work of God either at home or abroad. For some reason Mrs Barber never cared to teach girls. She always had a class of boys, and liked the boys best. Anyhow, she got on remarkably well with them. Her class was one about which the superintendent never needed to have any anxiety. He knew she would never fail to be at her post, and the work well done. There is one other teacher's name I should like to mention-Archibald Matheson. He had not a great number of years granted him after coming here to live, but it was long enough to impress us all with the fineness of his Christian character. As a teacher he had great influence over his boys, and he was especially noted for giving their minds a bent in a Missionary direction. His long residence in China had made him keenly sympathetic to missionary work, and I believe he had much to do with turning the thoughts to China of our own missionary representative now at work in that land.
Valuable as superintendents and teachers are, more important still are the scholars in the school; and it may be well to mention a few of the more notable, whose names are inscribed on your roll. You are all familiar with the name of the hon. J. K. Ward. He attained high distinction in Canada, and his career is one in which Manx people take a legitimate pride. He was an ardent lover of his native Isle, and visited it at not infrequent intervals till well past four score. His benefactions, as you all know, have been on a generous scale. If a list of the eminent Manxmen of the past hundred years were made, his name would stand high on that list. And he was a scholar in our Sunday-school. At the time when what you call the new school was built, thirteen years ago, I received a letter from him, from which I propose to read an extract :
The first recollection I have of the very little Sunday-school connected with Mr Haining's chapel was when presided over by Mr John Calvin. . . The children were seated in the body of the chapel. Sometimes a part of the gallery served as a schoolroom. Having spent most of my days under the tuition of Mr Haining, and his son James, I have a lively recollection of my old master and his family. . . . My first experience with Mr Haining, seventy years ago, was when he was assistant with Mr May, who kept a school in Back Castle-street. Your High-Bailiff, Mr Harris, is, I believe, the only one left of the many scholars who were there at the time when Mr Haining opened a school himself in a room leading out of Prospect-hill ; this was in 1830. I might say, in passing, that one of my most intimate school-fellows at this time was the late Dr Oliver, who was one of the founders of the Manx Society.
That extract will, I think, be welcome to you for the light it throws on a bygone time, and also because it shows you that you have the right to claim Mr Ward as having been a scholar in our Sunday school. Taking a long leap forward, I may be allowed to refer to the fact that nine years ago, when I completed twenty-five years of service, letters came to me from many parts of the world. No letter was more welcome than an Australian one from Dr Stewart Cowen, in which he recalled the days when he and his brother (now a leading physician in Melbourne) were scholars in the school. I believe you could find representatives in every British Colony, and many other lands. There is one fact which gives me peculiar pleasure, and that is that we are so well represented in the Mission Field.
It seems like yesterday since Alec. Hough was ordained for service in Samoa, and Tom Caren the following year for service in China. They are both our own home-growth-attending church and school from their early boyhood. You will remember how Mr Hough told us that it was when ten years of age, in one of our services, that the resolve was made from which he never wavered to go as a missionary. You may also remember how Mr Caren told us that it was at another of our services that a like resolve was registered in his heart. It was a great joy, two years ago, to see Mr Hough and his wife (another old scholar), and I am sure you are all looking forward to Mr Caren's return on furlough, which will soon be due. Whatever else Finch-hill School is, or is not, it ought at least to be a missionary school. You Will be untrue to your own past if you are not, and unfaithful to those who in your name and as your representatives are at work in the mission field. I do not, however, anticipate anything of that kind. On the contrary, it is my hope that your missionary interest will grow, and that others may follow in the steps of those who have already gone to far-off lands to tell the story of redeeming love. I have said nothing, and do not intend to say anything, on the material side of your work and progress, although I might do so-how, e.g., the old school has been transformed into a primary school and gymnasium, and how the new School, at the cost of hard work and sacrifice, cheerfully borne, was built. No doubt it would be quite possible to make further improvements. "There's nothing puffeck," says Jemmy the Red. But you have fine premises, and there are not many schools anywhere which have a better material equipment. All the more - reason why you should aim at malting your school better than it has ever been.
To rest on your oars and take things in easy fashion would be the most unworthy and fatal of all policies.. You can no more live on the past than the body can be nourished by the bread partaken of last week. We have been looking backward to-night, and we give Cod thanks for all the good and true men and women who have made your history. The forward look must now take the place of the backward one. A new chapter is opening in your history and you would do well to begin it with the words of Joshua in your minds, "There remaineth yet much land to be possessed." The desire in hearts must be to do more and better work than the people who have gone before you. That is how you are going to prove yourselves worthy to stand in the same line of succession. During the last few years the school has been re-organised, and you are working on modern lines. That is all to the good. -It must not be forgotten. however, that organisation is not the life of church or school. It is only 'a means to an end. Don't spend too much time in talk about organisation, but get to work with it; take. and use it for the winning of the young people for the Kingdom of God.. The Editor of the "British Weekly " has been reminding us all that the church lives by dying and rising again. One generation passes and it is for us to see by God's help and grace, that the coming generation is the best and godliest our country has ever known. There is a great battle going on with the world's sin, materialism, and unbelief. The hearts of many are full of anxiety and heaviness, wondering what the outcome is going to be. The result depends on the work done among the young. The future of the best and highest life of our country and of the Christian church in it will be largely determined by work done in the Sunday Schools. What we need for success is burning love and loyalty on the part, not only of teachers, but of all the members of the church, and constant waiting on God for power from on high. If we comply with the conditions we may look into the future without a fear. You will be fighting under a Leader who will make the victory secure. With such a faith in your heart turn your faces to the future in the spirit of one of the hymns sung yesterday :
Fight the good fight with all thy might,
Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right.
Lay hold on life and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.
see also Manx Quarterly #24