James Waddell (1846-1907)

Lorimer, John Henry, 1856-1936; Reverend Peter H. Waddell
Figure 1. Lorimer, John Henry; Reverend Peter H. Waddell.© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

In 1903, James Waddell wrote to the Glasgow museums donating a painting of his father, Revd Peter Hately Waddell by James Lorimer, a leading artist of the day. His letter says that the painting had been well-received when exhibited in Glasgow and Edinburgh and that his father had been well known as a preacher and as a member of the school board in Glasgow. (1)

James Waddell was born on 26 December 1846 (2) in Girvan the oldest son of the Revd Peter  Hately Waddell and Helen Halcro  Waddell. He attended classes at Glasgow University (3) but did not graduate. This was not unusual at that time. He became a mechanical engineer and worked abroad in Singapore and Java. On 5th February 1881 (4), in Singapore, he married Margaret Little, daughter of a doctor, in the Presbyterian Church. Thereafter his place of work can be defined by the locations of his children’s births(5): Peter Hately Waddell 1881 ; Robert Waddell 1883 ; Mary Campbell Waddell 1885 ; Helen Halcrow Waddell 1887 all in Singapore and Margaret Wardlaw Waddell 1889 in Java . By 1892 he had retired to Glasgow where he made his will. (6) In 1901 he was living in the West End of Glasgow with his wife and family. (7) He died in 1907. (8)

The Rev Peter Hately Waddell LL.D. (1816-1891)

Our donor’s father and the subject of the painting was a colourful character: minister of religion, ardent student of Scottish culture, particularly of the life and works of Robert Burns and author of several books. He was born at Balqhatston, Slamannan on 19 May 1816 the son of Revd James WaddelL and his wife Anne Hately Waddell. (9)  The family moved to Glasgow wherehe attended high school and Glasgow University. He was ordained as a minister at Rhinie in Aberdeenshire. In 1841 he was licensed as a minister in the established Church of Scotland and began his career in Girvan.(10)  In 1843 at the time of the Disruption (11) he joined the Free Church of Scotland as a probationer. However he disagreed on some points of faith and governance with the Free Church, writing pamphlets and letters to Thomas Chalmers and James Guthrie.(12) He left the Free Church in the same year and founded a church in Girvan,  known as Waddell’s Church. He preached there for 19 years.(13 ) He married Helen Halcro in August 1845.(14)

11 Rev Peter Hately Waddell no 95
Figure 2. The Bailie. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries The Mitchell Library Special Collections

In 1861 he moved to Glasgow to a Chapel in Waterloo Street and the expansion of his congregation led to a move to the City Halls. (15) A church was then built for him in east Howard Street.(16)  In  1874 he had to move back to the City Halls where he continued to preach for several months in the year.  (17 ) By all accounts he was an evangelical “Latter Day “ preacher.

While in Girvan he developed and pursued a love of Scottish culture and literature, particularly the writings of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Ossian. He gave the oration in Alloway in 1859 at the centenary of Burns birth. (18) After that he was much in demand as a lecturer in Glasgow. He gave a series of three lectures in 1860 (19) in which he compared Burns as a poet to Shakespeare and, significantly to King David who wrote the Psalms. He addressed the problem of Burns as a moral man and as a poet. This led to criticism from the Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland that he had made a profane comparison.(20)

In 1864 he was the Chairman of a public dinner in Burns’ Cottage in Alloway to mark the Shakespeare tercentenary celebrations.(21) He proposed the toast and he said

Shakespeare was the Glorious Legend, Burns was the Glorious Voice.

In 1868 The Glasgow Herald reported that the Tusculum College, Tennessee, USA had conferred the degree of LL.D. on him. (22)

He was the author of several books. He edited an edition of the poems of Robert Burns published in 1869 in two volumes. (23) The contents can be read on the electronic Scotland website. He also edited an edition of Scott’s Waverly novels with notes and an introduction.(24)

He intended to produce a translation of the Old Testament in the Scottish tongue from the Hebrew but only the Psalms of David were published in 1871 as The Psalms :Frae Hebrew intil Scottis.(25) This translation was unique in that it was a direct translation from the original Hebrew and not a Scottish version of English translations.  It is a scholarly work. He also translated Isaiah (26) but did not attain his objective of translating all of the Old Testament.

He was supportive of education and was a member of the school Board in Glasgow. (27 )

He died on 5th May 1891 at 5 Ashton Terrace, Glasgow.(28)


  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council 1903
  2. Ancestry.co.uk
  3. Glasgow University Archives
  4. Ancestry.co.uk
  5. Ancestry.co.uk
  6. National Records of Scotland Wills and Conformations 1907
  7. National Records of Scotland Census 1901
  8. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1907
  9. Ayrshire Roots www.ayrshireroots.co.uk
  10. Matthew, H.C.G. Peter Hately Waddell in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  11. Hamish McPherson in The Disruption . www.thenational.scot
  12. Protestant Delusion in the nineteenth century: A remonstrance. Google Books
  13. Ayrshire Roots www.ayrshireroots.co.uk
  14. Ancestry.co.uk
  15. The Bailie August 12 1874
  16. ibid
  17. Ibid
  18. ibid
  19. The Glasgow Herald Saturday November 10 1860
  20. The Liverpool Mercury Thursday June 11 1863
  21. The Glasgow Herald Monday April 25 1864
  22. Glasgow Herald Saurday May 2 1868
  23. Matthew, H.C.G. Peter Hately Waddell in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  24. Ibid
  25. Waddell,Peter Hately : The Psalms in Scots. Reprint of Peter Hately Waddell’s   The Psalms: Frae Hebrew intil Scottis. First published 1871. Aberdeen University Press 1989
  26. Waddell,Peter Hately : Isaiah: Frae Hebrew intil Scottis. J Menzies and Co. Edinburgh and Glasgow, 1871
  27. Glasgow Mitchell Library Special Collections
  28. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1891

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