Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Waddell, Peter Hately
WADDELL, PETER HATELY (1817–1891), Scottish divine, son of James Waddell of Balquhatston, Stirlingshire, was born at Balquhatston House, Slamannan, on 19 May 1817. His father soon afterwards disposed of the property and removed to Glasgow, and Waddell was educated in the high school and at the university of Glasgow. He was a student of divinity at the time of the disruption in 1843, and then cast in his lot with the seceders, who afterwards formed the free church of Scotland. Having been licensed as a preacher, in 1843 he was ordained as minister of Rhynie, Aberdeenshire, and in the following year he removed to Girvan, Ayrshire, to the pastorate of a small free-church congregation. His attachment to the free church was loosened when he found that its members intended to retain in the entirety the rigid definitions contained in the Westminster ‘confession of faith.’ He had outgrown his early Calvinistic training, and, finding himself at variance with the church of his adoption, he voluntarily resigned his charge, and founded an independent chapel at Girvan styled ‘the Church of the Future,’ defining his aims and intentions in a discourse with the same title, published in Glasgow in 1861. Many of his congregation left the free church and joined with him. Waddell remained at Girvan till 1862, when he went to Glasgow, and began preaching in the city hall as an independent minister. He soon gathered a large congregation, and in 1870 a church was erected for him in East Howard Street, Glasgow. Financial difficulties led to the abandonment of this building, and Waddell once more gathered a congregation by preaching in the Trades Hall. In 1888, at the request of friends and adherents, he joined the established church. Advancing years compelled him to retire from the ministry in October 1890, and he then began to make selections from his published works to form a volume. The task was not completed when his death took place at Ashton Terrace, Dowanhill, on 5 May 1891.
Waddell was an orator of very exceptional power. His skill as a dialectician was displayed in a series of lectures on Ronan’s ‘Life of Jesus,’ delivered in Glasgow City Hall before large audiences in 1863, and afterwards published. His profound admiration for Burns led to his issuing a new edition of the poems with an elaborate criticism (Glasgow, 1867–9, 4to). He presided at the meeting held in Burns’s cottage on 25 Jan. 1859 in celebration of the centenary of the poet’s birth, and then delivered an impassioned eulogy on Burns. His chief historical work was a volume entitled ‘Ossian and the Clyde’ (Glasgow, 1875, 4to), in which he sought to confirm the authenticity of the Ossianic poems by the identification of topographical references that could not be know to Macpherson. He also contributed a remarkable series of letters to a Glasgow journal on Ptolemy’s map of Egypt, showing that the discoveries of Speke and Grant had been foreshadowed by the old geographer. He took a keen interest in educational matters, and was a member of the first two school boards in Glasgow. His most original contribution to literature was a translation of the Psalms of David from the Hebrew into the Scottish language, under the title ‘The Psalms: frae Hebrew intil Scottis’ (Edinburgh, 1871, 4to), in which he showed his profound linguistic knowledge. This work was followed in 1879 by a similar translation of Isaiah. In the early part of his career he attracted much notice by lectures which he delivered in London and the principal Scottish towns. Between 1882 and 1885 he edited the Waverley novels with notes and an introduction. He graduated D.D. from an American university.
Besides the works mentioned, Waddell was the author of ‘The Sojourn of a Sceptic in the Land of Darkness and Uncertainty’ (Edinburgh, 1847, 16mo) and of ‘Behold the Man: a Tragedy for the Closet, in five acts,’ Glasgow, 1872, 8vo (in verse).
[Selections from the published writings of Dr. P. Hately Waddell, privately printed 1892; Glasgow Herald, 6 May 1891; private information.]