Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/62

This page has been validated.

He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1797, elected M.P. for the county of Clackmannan in the place of his brother Ralph in 1798, was made governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1801, and a general in 1802. His increasing blindness made it impossible for him ever again to take active service, and obliged him to resign his seat in parliament in 1802. He lived to the age of 87, and died at Airthrey, near Stirling, in November 1827, being at the time the oldest general in the British army. He does not seem to have possessed the abilities of his brother Sir Ralph, but always did well whatever he had to do. As an Indian general of that period Sir John Shore's testimony to his incorruptibility is the highest praise for a time when a command in India was regarded as an opportunity for making a fortune.

[For Robert Abercromby's services see the Royal Military Calendar, 1820, vol. i.; for the campaigns in Mysore see Cornwallis's Correspondence, published 1861; and for his command-in-chief in India the Life of John, Lord Teignmouth, by his son.]

H. M. S.

ABERDEEN, Earls of. [See Gordon.]

ABERGAVENNY. [See Neville.]

ABERNETHY, JOHN (1680–1740), Irish dissenting clergyman, was born at Coleraine, co. Londonderry, Ulster, on 19 Oct. 1680. His father was then presbyterian minister there. His mother was a daughter of Walkinshaw of Walkinshaw, Renfrewshire, Scotland.

In his ninth year, on occasion of his father's being sent to London as representative of the Irish presbyterian church in affairs that concerned them, his mother removed to Londonderry, whilst he was sent to a relative in Ballymena (or Ballymenagh). This was in 1689. To escape the rebellion and turbulence and confusion of the times, the relative proceeded to Scotland, and carried Master John with him, having ‘no opportunity of conveying him to his mother.’ He was thus delivered from the horrors and perils of the famous siege of Derry, in which Mrs. Abernethy lost all her other children. His education was continued in Scotland for three years. He then returned to Coleraine; but in his thirteenth year he is again found in Scotland as a student at the university of Glasgow. He himself condemned the unwisdom of this premature sending of him to the university. His career in Glasgow was a brilliant one. He must have been specially precocious in wit. He took his degree of M.A. with much éclat.

At this time his leanings were towards the study of medicine or physic. He was persuaded by his parents and other friends to devote himself to divinity. Upon this decision he went to Edinburgh university. His distinction at Glasgow college and his social attainments preceded him. He was at once admitted into the innermost circle of the cultured society of Edinburgh. The unvarying tradition is that he excelled as a conversationalist, drawing forth the wonder of grave professors (e.g. of Professor Campbell) and the more perilous homage of fair ladies' bright eyes.

Patriotically and modestly putting aside opportunities presented in Scotland, at the close of his theological course he returned to Coleraine. He there prosecuted his studies privately. In a short time he was licensed by his presbytery to preach the gospel. But being still under twenty-one, he proceeded to Dublin that he might get the advantages of further classical and theological study. When he left for the capital, he was practically under ‘call’ to the (presbyterian) church at Antrim; but having preached in Wood Street, Dublin, that congregation eagerly sought to associate him as co-pastor with the Rev. Mr. Boyse, who was held in high esteem. There was then competition between the two congregations. According to use and wont the synod was left to decide. In the interval the competition was complicated by a third ‘call’ on the death of his venerable father, from his father's congregation of Coleraine. The synod determined in favour of Antrim, and he was there ordained on 8 Aug. 1703. His admiring biographer (Duchal) tells of such quantity and quality of work done in Antrim as few could have achieved. He toiled and witnessed as a primitive apostle might have done. By the mass of his intellect, united with unequalled alertness of perception and fluency of expression, he was marked out for a debater; and perhaps no ecclesiastical courts in Christendom afford finer opportunities for an able debater than the synods and general assemblies of the presbyterian churches. But he was more than a debater. His whole soul and heart were fired with zeal on behalf of his ignorant and superstitious fellow-countrymen; and it is clear on perusal of the ‘Records’ that he lifted the entire Irish presbyterian church to a higher level of duty than ever before.

When he had been nine years in Antrim, he was called to Londonderry, but rejoiced when the synod retained him in his original charge. In 1712 the darkest shadow of his life fell broad and black upon him—the death of his wife, whose maiden name