Dalrymple, William (1723-1814) (DNB00)

DALRYMPLE, WILLIAM, D.D. (1723–1814), religious writer, was a younger son of James Dalrymple, sheriff-clerk of Ayr. He was born at Ayr on 29 Aug. 1723, and being destined for the Scotch church he was ordained minister of the second charge in his native town in 1746, from which he was translated to the first charge in 1756. He received the degree of D.D. from the university of St. Andrews in 1779, was elected moderator of the general assembly of the church of Scotland in 1781, and died in his ninety-first year on 28 Jan. 1814, having been one of the ministers of Ayr for the extraordinary period of sixty-eight years. Although the author of several religious works, he is chiefly memorable for the beautiful tribute paid to his character by Burns in the satirical poem entitled ‘The Kirk's Alarm:’—

D'rymple mild, D'rymple mild,
Though your heart's like a child,
And your life like the new-driven snaw,
Yet that winna save ye,
Auld Satan must have ye,
For preaching that three's ane an' twa.

The lines, of course, indicate that he was accused of holding unsound views on the subject of the Trinity; and the warm admiration which he expressed in the introduction to his ‘History of Christ’ of a similar work on the death of Christ by his colleague Dr. McGill naturally exposed him to a good deal of criticism when the latter publication brought upon its author a prosecution in the church courts for heresy. Such were, however, the simple piety, meekness, and habitual benevolence of Dr. Dalrymple, that he was universally beloved by his parishioners, and no active proceedings were ever taken against him. As an example of his unbounded charity it is recorded of him that, meeting a beggar in the country who was almost naked, he took off his own coat and waistcoat and gave the latter to the man; then, putting on his coat again, buttoned it about him and walked home. Gilbert Burns also informs us that when a schoolmaster at Ayr once, under the influence of drink, said disrespectful things of Dr. Dalrymple, so strongly was the outrage resented by the people that he was obliged to leave the place and go to London. Dr. Dalrymple had a large family, and has many descendants now alive, but only by daughters.

[Hew Scott's Fasti Eccl. Scot.; Chambers's Life of Burns; Robert Burns, by a Scotchwoman, 28–35.]

J. G.