Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Park, John (1804-1865)

PARK, JOHN (1804–1865), divine and poet, son of John Park, wine merchant, was born at Greenock on 14 Jan. 1804. He studied for the ministry at Aberdeen and at Glasgow University, where he formed a friendship with the son of the minister at Greenock, Alexander Scott, afterwards Edward Irving's assistant and principal of Owens College, Manchester. Licensed as a probationer in 1831, he was in turn assistant to Dr. Steele at West Church, Greenock, and to Dr. Grigor of Bonhill, Dumbartonshire. In 1832 he was ordained minister of Rodney Street Presbyterian Church, Liverpool, and in 1843 he became minister of Glencairn, Dumfriesshire. In 1854 he was transferred to the first charge of St. Andrews, and the St. Andrews University conferred on him the degree of D.D. He died suddenly from paralysis on 8 April 1865, and is buried in the grounds of the ruined cathedral.

Park was a man of versatile tastes and ability, and in Scotland he is widely known as a song writer and composer. One song, ‘O gin I were where Gadie rins,’ is the most popular of several versions written to the same chorus. Park gathered the tune from a country girl in Aberdeenshire. Other popular airs of his own composition are known as ‘Montgomery's Mistress’ and ‘The Miller's Daughter.’ Park played several musical instruments, and was also no mean artist. He published none of his songs in his lifetime. After his death his works were published under the title of ‘Songs composed and in part written by the late Rev. John Park,’ Leeds, 1876. This volume contains a portrait, and an introduction by Principal Shairp. It has twenty-seven songs of which both words and music are by Park, and thirty-seven settings by him of words from the great poets. A volume of ‘Lectures and Sermons’ appeared posthumously, Edinburgh, 1865. In 1842 Park visited Wordsworth at Rydal Mount, and a diary of the visit was privately printed by his nephew, Mr. Allan Park Paton, under the title of ‘A Greenockian's Visit to Wordsworth,’ Greenock, 1887. Mr. Paton contemplates publishing further selections from Park's manuscripts and journals, which include an account of a visit to Turner the artist.

[Introductory notice by Principal Shairp as above; Edwards's Modern Scottish Poets; Rogers's Scottish Minstrel; memorial tablet over Park's grave; Presbytery and Session Records; private information from Park's nephews, Rev. J. A. H. Paton of Duddingston, and Mr. Allan P. Paton of Greenock.]

J. C. H.