James Begg

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Rev. James Begg, 1808 - 1883 by Robert Adamson & David Octavius Hill - Free Church minister
Rev James Begg D.D., George Square by John Moffat

Very Rev Dr James Begg DD (31 October 1808 in New Monkland, Lanarkshire, Scotland – 29 September 1883) was a Free Church of Scotland minister[1] who served as Moderator of the General Assembly 1865/66.


Liberton Kirk
Newington Free Church, now known as the King's Hall in Edinburgh

He was born in the manse at New Monkland the son of Rev Begg of the Church of Scotland, he studied Divinity at Glasgow University and was ordained by the Church of Scotland at Maxwelltown in Dumfriesshire in 1830. In 1831 he became assistant to Rev Dr Jones at Lady Glenorchy's Church in Edinburgh, and in 1832 moved to the Middle Parish Church in Paisley before being translated back to Edinburgh to serve Liberton parish in 1835.[2]

Begg left the established Church of Scotland at the Disruption of 1843, he then became minister in the Free Church of Scotland at Newington, Edinburgh,[3] The church was one of the first built in Edinburgh after the Disruption and was designed by David Cousin in 1843.[4] Begg was then living at 15 Minto Street;[5] the church later secured a manse for him at 34 Blacket Place. In 1865 he succeeded Very Rev Patrick Fairbairn as Moderator of the General Assembly.[6]

Begg was a key figure in the foundation of the Scottish Reformation Society in 1850 and the Protestant Alliance, and was known not just for anti-Roman Catholicism but also his concern for working and living conditions,[7] he was editor for The Bulwark or The Reformation Journal for 21 years from its beginning July, 1851.[8] He also wrote frequently to The Witness, Hugh Miller's newspaper.

Together with Thomas Chalmers, Begg was a major influence behind the colony houses of Edinburgh,[9] which were built between 1850 and 1910 as homes for artisans and skilled working-class families by philanthropic model dwellings companies. In the late 1850s, alarm at the high illegitimacy rates in the northeast counties led Begg to launch a moral crusade against the accommodation of unmarried male farm servants in bothies.[10]

Newington Free Church was later renamed St Paul's Newington (or New St Paul's) it is now best known as a music venue under the name of The King's Hall.[11]

Artistic Recognition[edit]

In 1869 he was portrayed by Sir Daniel Macnee.[12]


Not to be confused with James A. Begg (1800-1868), Scottish writer on prophecy and promulgator of the seventh-day Sabbathm born in Paisley.
  • Handbook of Popery James Begg (the Younger.) - 1852
  • Happy Homes for Working Men, and How to Get Them (London, 1866)
  • Free Church Principles
  • A Treatise for the Times on Worship
  • The Bothy System


He married twice: Margaret Campbell in 1835 and Maria Faithfull in 1846.


  1. ^ Wylie, James Aitken (1881). Disruption worthies : a memorial of 1843, with an historical sketch of the free church of Scotland from 1843 down to the present time. Edinburgh: T. C. Jack. pp. 23–30. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  2. ^ Ewings Annals of the Free Church of Scotland
  3. ^ Gallagher, Tom (1987). Glasgow - The Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland. Manchester University Press. p. 34. ISBN 0-7190-2396-3.
  4. ^ Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh by Gifford McWilliam and Walker
  5. ^ Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1845
  6. ^  Blaikie, William Garden (1885). "Begg, James". In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 4. London: Smith, Elder & Co. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  7. ^ Fraser, Hamish (2000). Scottish Popular Politics: From Radicalism to Labour. Polygon. p. 73. ISBN 1-902930-11-8.
  8. ^ Brown, Stewart (2008). Providence and Empire. Longman. p. 183. ISBN 0-582-29960-8.
  9. ^ Gifford, J. Edinburgh (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of Scotland). Yale University Press. p. 420. ISBN 0-300-09672-0.
  10. ^ Carter, Ian (1979), Farm Life in Northeast Scotland 1840 - 1914: The Poor Man's Country, John Donald Publishers Ltd., p.120
  11. ^ https://canmore.org.uk/site/74049/edinburgh-south-clerk-street-saint-pauls-newington-church
  12. ^ https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/1816/rev-james-begg-1808-1883-free-church-minister

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]