The son of a Church of Scotland Minister, Henry
Duncan was born at Lochrutton, near Dumfries, in 1774.
Following two sessions at St Andrews university, when
he was sixteen his father sent him to Liverpool to study banking.
Three years later he abandoned the commercial world to study for
the Ministry at the Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
This highly educated man of many talents, with a flair
for business, could have succeeded in any field he chose. Instead,
he devoted his life to helping the poorest in the land improve their
lot while maintaining their dignity and self respect.
When he was ordained as Minister of Ruthwell Church
in 1799, the Rev Henry Duncan immediately set about helping his
starving parishioners. He brought flax for women to spin in their
cottages and employed men to turn his 50 acre glebe into a model
farm or to work on the roads. Before that, however, he organised
their food supply by reviving the languishing Friendly Society and
importing grain through his brothers in Liverpool. In 1800 he persuaded
the Earl of Mansfield to donate a derelict cottage for the Friendly
Society. From this cottage he distributed food to the parishioners
and it was in this cottage in 1810 that he was to launch the savings
bank movement which spread to 109 organisations in 92 countries.
Dr Henry Duncan was a popular author as well as a
newspaper editor and publisher; examples of his accomplishments
as an artist are on display in the museum. He is known world-wide
for his restoration of the medieval Ruthwell Cross. Geologists know
him as the first person in Britain to identify fossil footprints.
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