The History of Leith

April 13, 2005

The Mitchell Monument (South Leith Parish Church)

(On East Wall of South Aisle.)
This tasteful Memorial may be thus described. It is wrought in fine Caen stone, and is in three parts. The middle panel shows two cherubs holding between them an open scroll on which is inscribed the following panegyric on Dr. Mitchell :— “To the Glory of God, and the loving memory of the Very Rev. James Mitchell, D.D., Minister of this Church and Parish for forty years, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1901 : an accomplished scholar and linguist, an eloquent preacher and expositor of the Word of God: a diligent and wise Pastor, an unwearied counsellor of the perplexed a genial and sympathetic friend: he tendered acceptable service on the Educational and Charitable Boards of this Town, and was for many years Chairman of the Leith Hospital.”
Above it there is a beautifully constructed recess in which stands a matronly figure with a child in her arms and another at her feet. She represents Charity, a quality which was largely exemplified in. the life and character of him to whose memory the memorial is dedicated. Underneath in a wreath of laurel, with the legend “ Blessed are the Peacemakers,” is a bronze portrait of Dr. Mitchell. Although the artist did not know him, and only worked from a photograph, the result is a good likeness. After another generation, no one will be able to appreciate it except from the point of view of art.
THE Rev. JAMES MITCHELL, D.D., was born in October 1830 at the Manse of Garvoek, Kincardineshire, of which Parish his father, also James Mitchell, was minister. He was educated at the Grammar School of Aberdeen, He then passed to Marischal College, where he graduated M.A. in 1850. After studying in the Divinity Hall of Aberdeen University, he was licensed by the Presbytery of Fordoun in May 1854. He served as assistant for a year at St. Enoch’s Parish Church, Glasgow. He was called to Peterhead in 1855, and ordained to the ministry in August 1855. Alter a ministry there of nine years, which left a great impression, he was translated to the Parish of South Leith in March, 1864. At that time South Leith was a Collegiate Charge, the minister of the Second Charge from 1843 to 1873 being the Rev. Henry Duff, clerk of the Presbytery of Edinburgh. The grandson of Mr Duff is Professor Latta, who occupies the Chair of Logic in the University of Glasgow. On the death of Mr Duff the Second Charge was abolished, and Dr. Mitchell, who had been Minister of the First Charge since 1864, became sole minister of the church.
Dr. Mitchell was thrice married, his only child being a daughter of the first wife, Georgina, daughter of James Skelton, Sheriff-Substitute of Aberdeen. His second wife was a daughter of Rev. Charles Haycock of Pytchley House, Northamptonshire. She died in 1867. In 1875 he married as his third wile, Janet, daughter of James Scales, merchant in Leith.
Dr. Mitchell received the degree of D.D. from the University of Aberdeen in 1881. The highest honour which the Church could bestow on him was the Moderatorship, which he received in 1901. He retired from the charge in 1904, and lived till his death at 14 Abercrombie Place, Edinburgh.
Dr. Mitchell travelled extensively on the Continent, and was Convener of the Continental Chaplaincy Committee for many years.
During his ministry a considerable restoration of the church took place, and the organ was installed. Had the Doctor been more interested in architecture, more might have been made of our fine old church, but he was altogether either ignorant of, or more probably, indifferent to it.
Source-South Leith Records 1922

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