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Famous Scots - Nathaniel Paterson

The eldest son of Walter Paterson, stone engraver of Balmaclellan and Mary Locke, Nathaniel Paterson was born on 3rd July 1787 at Kells in Kirkcudbright. He was born the grandson of Robert Paterson, a staunch supporter of the Covenanters who had made it his mission in life to travel the countryside setting up and repairing memorials to Covenanters who had lost their lives for the cause. Sir Walter Scott has immortalised Robert Paterson as ‘Old Mortality’.

After completing his education at Balmaclellan School, Nathaniel studied divinity at Edinburgh University. On leaving university he was given license by the Presbytery of Linlithgow on 24th April 1816 and tutored at Lilburn Tower in Northumberland until he was ordained at Galashiels on 30th August 1821 where he was appointed minister against the wishes of the congregation by the local land-owners.


Nathaniel married Margaret Laidlaw (1800-1864) on 8th February 1825 and after encountering early problems he happily remained in Galashiels until, on the 23rd October 1833 the Magistrates and Town Council of Glasgow offered him the position of minister at St Andrews Church on Greendyke Street, immediately adjacent to the Glasgow Green. He took up his position of minister on 20th February 1834 in the face of stiff opposition and resentment from his congregation who were angered by his appointment. This time too it seemed Nathaniel could please no one, with his quaint country accent and uncontrollable gestures during preaching. Doctor Paterson was constantly patronised by the more philosophical members of the Whistling Kirk’s congregation who wanted him removed.

Once again he managed win over the congregation but by 1843 things came to a head and those who could no longer accept the control lay patrons imposed on church appointments, swept out of the General Assembly and declared themselves the Free Church of Scotland. A famous painting by David Octavius Hill exists representing those ministers who signed the Act of Separation and the Deed of Demission at Tanfield Hall - the good Reverend Nathaniel Paterson D.D. can be recognised sitting in front of the pillar.

On his return to Glasgow almost his entire congregation came out in support and together they joined the Free Church of Scotland. They worshipped in the hall of the Black Bull Inn on Trongate until 1844 when a new Church was opened in Hanover Square. He was appointed Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church in 1850. Nathaniel Paterson had many interests outside his ministry and is said to have been the inventor of the Riddle Lifeboat. He published many works such as ‘The Manse Garden’ (Glasgow 1836) and ‘The Cry of the Perishing’ (Edinburgh, 1842). Dr. Nathaniel Paterson died at Helensburgh on 25th April 1871. 

Headstone Photograph

Further Information

Title: DR , DD

Firstname: NATHANIEL


Date of Death: 25th Apr 1871

Age at Death: 84

Cemetery: Sothern Necropolis

  Caledonia Road

Town: Glasgow

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.