Dundee Free Church Newspaper Letters

We Should Celebrate Robert Murray McCheyne



Letter: We should celebrate Robert McCheyne

The Courier & Advertiser 14 Jun 2016

What a brilliant piece of journalism your Impact 200 series on the men and women of Tayside and Fife who have inspired, challenged and influenced us in the past 200 years, has been.
It was fascinating to see and read about who was on it and what they did.
Such talent from such a small area of the world.
Of course, there will be arguments about who is on and who has been left off.
For example, it was good to see Rev George Gilfillan in at number four but why no mention of his more famous compatriot, Rev Robert Murray McCheyne, whose memoirs sold by the million and whose grave, even today, is visited by people from all over the world? Some people regard him as being one of the key figures in the Balfour Declaration which in turn was key in the formation of the modern state of Israel. He was the minister of St Peter’s Free Church of which your number 23, William McGonagall was a member.
Another minister of note was Islay Burns who is considered one of the founding fathers of the modern Chinese church, the largest in the world.
Another missing Dundee hero from the 19th Century was the soldier Robert Annan who became a folk hero in Dundee and rescued nine people from drowning in the Tay, before himself drowning. He was the first commoner given a civic funeral in Dundee and until the 1950s was commemorated by an Annan memorial service.
The famous Annan eternity stone can still be seen outside the newly refurbished St Peter’s. Thanks again for a superb series.

Rev David A. Robertson. St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee.



  1. The Balfour Declaration was one of the worst decisions of any British government. The British government made a promise about territory over which, at the time, it had no control and without any consultation of the people actually living there. It was based on the absurd notion that Palestine was a land without people. The Balfour Declaration was no more than a late example of British colonialism at its worst. If the European Union today were to make a promise to African or Middle Eastern refugees that they could have a “homeland” in Britain we would be rightly aghast. So also we should be aghast at the promise made in the Balfour Declaration.

    1. On that one Mike we will have to disagree! Your analysis is a wee bit simplistic…..the idea of the Jews being back in Israel is not equivalent to African refugees being given a homeland in Britain….

  2. Quite agree with your assessment of M’Cheyne; but you’ve confused Islay Burns with his brother, William Chalmer Burns. It was the latter who was the missionary to China, and had a significanty itinernant ministry from his arrival in 1847 in Hong Kong (he was 32) until his death in Manchuria in 1868, just after his 53rd birthday. Islay wrote his brother’s memoir after William’s death; Islay himself died shortly thereafter.

    William still has a St P’s connection, though, as he was the one who did the “locum” while M’Cheyne was in Palestine — a very significant moment, as it happens!

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