Provost Macpherson of Kingussie

By Rory Mor


A hundred years ago or so, there appeared a book of great importance to Macphersons everywhere - Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times. Its author was Alexander Macpherson, then Provost of Kingussie, and his pride and enthusiasm for his subject is evident on every page. The book is literally a compilation of practically everything that was known about the Macphersons of Badenoch at that time - clearly a labour of love yet an enormous accomplishment. The author was a man who was totally involved in his community and its affairs - commercial, political, religious and social. He was in his early fifties at the time and I wonder how many of us could emulate that task today even with all our word processors and photocopiers.

The title appearing above is taken from from an article that appeared in The Celtic Monthly for October 1895 (No. 10 Vol III), a monthly edited by John Mackay of Kingston, Glasgow. The photograph to the right is taken from a full-page portrait of Provost Macpherson that accompanied the article. That article also provided the following information about the Provost's career.

"Sprung from the Phoness branch of the Sliochd Ghilliosa - the oldest cadet family of the House of Cluny, represented in the main line by Sir George Macpherson Grant, Bart. - and having descent from the Macdonalds of Aberarder, the Mackintoshes of Balnespick, the Macgregors and Macfarlanes of Rannoch, the subject of this notice - truly 'a Highlander of Highlanders and a Macpherson of Macphersons' - was born in the Parish of Alvie, in 1839.

"Having prosecuted his education at the Parish School of Kingussie and the University of Edinburgh, Mr. Macpherson passed as a Law Agent, and, after residing in Edinburgh for fully twenty years, was, by a singularly happy arrangement, appointed Agent of the British Linen Bank at Kingussie, in 1875.

"Once settled in Badenoch, Mr. Macpherson speedily attained a position of much influence - by his varied ability and sterling qualities securing the confidence and respect of all classes of the community. Besides the duties of his bank agency and an extensive legal practice, he is factor for his chief, Cluny Macpherson, and also for Colonel Macpherson of Glentruim, whose joint estates form a magnificent stretch of the Macpherson country. Himself a JP. for the county, he is Depute Clerk of the Peace for the Badenoch district, and acts as law agent and auditor of various public bodies in the locality.

"Mr. Macpherson has been unwearied in his efforts to further the material and social interests of his native district, throwing himself with enthusiasm into many a scheme for its benefit. For the second time, he has been elected Provost of Kingussie. The capital of Badenoch promises to become one of the most fashionable health resorts in the Highlands; and whatever attraction has been added to its amenities within recent years, had the hearty support of the Provost. He is President of the Committee of the Victoria Hall and Public Library; Chieftain of the Kingussie Camanachd Club; Vice-President of the Kingussie Curling, Golf, and Bowling Clubs, etc., etc.

"Mr. Macpherson is one of the most active and prominent laymen of the Church of Scotland. In early life he became imbued with the genial, evangelical, broad-churchism, which was then chiefly associated with the names of Principal Tulloch and Norman Macleod. During his stay in Edinburgh, he was for some years an elder in the Parish Church of Morningside, under the Ministry of Dr. Marshall Lang, now of the Barony Church, Glasgow, and subsequently of Professor Taylor of the University of Edinburgh. Since 1875 he has been an elder in the Parish Church of Kingussie, but, of his devoted work in that capacity, nothing will be said here, for nothing could be said adequately. He is, of course, a member of Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly. He presided at the opening of the Conference of the Church of Scotland, held at Inverness in October, 1892, of which he afterwards compiled a full report.

Glimpses Widely Accepted

"The history and antiquities of Badenoch had been strangely neglected until Mr. Macpherson turned his attention in that direction. But, thanks to his labours, things are different now. In 1893 appeared his portly and beautiful volume Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times, published by the well-known firm of William Blackwood and Sons. Out of the almost numberless reviews of this work which we have read -- all in terms of high praise -- we may be permitted to quote a few lines from a long review in the Spectator of 4th August, 1894, as a specimen of the whole: -- "There is a fine look of old-world literature about this very large, handsome, and interesting volume of local history. . . . There is nearly all the difference between it and a compact present-day volume of 'impressions,' that there is between an old fashioned country-house and a modern 'desirable' villa. . . .. Let Mr. Macpherson reduce his book, and especially the latter part of it, and his second edition ought to be one of the most valuable works dealing with the Celtic Scotland of today - and still more of yesterday - that have ever appeared."

He has contributed articles to Good Words, Scottish Church, Scots' Magazine, Life and Work, Celtic Magazine, Highland Monthly, Celtic Monthly, and other publications. He is also a frequent contributor to the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness. Mr. Macpherson is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and a member of the Institute of Bankers in Scotland.

We believe that the name of this loyal and patriotic clansmen will be remembered as long as the sons of Tir nam beann [land of the peaks, i.e., the Highlands] cherish the tales of the days of old.

Alexander Macpherson died in 1902 just nine years after publishing his great gift to those that came after him..

Glimpses of Church and Social Life in the Highlands in Olden Times is available here. This is a large document of 670 pages, 3.3 MByte. It is suggested that you download the document (right click the link and choose "Save target as") rather than try to read it on-line