Royal and Ancient Burgh of Lauder  
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The Very Rev John Wilson D.D. F.R.S.

Born in Lauder on 11th December 1804, he was the eldest of seven children. His father, Andrew, was a councillor and an elder of the parish church. Educated in the local school, he proved so advanced for his age that he went to University in Edinburgh before the age of fourteen. He spent the next eight years studying a wide range of subjects including languages and medicine.

Aged twenty, he had decided that his calling was to be a missionary and 1828 he was ordained by presbytery. That same summer, he married Margaret Bayne, daughter of the Rev Kenneth Bayne from Greenock. Sailing from Newhaven, they arrived in Bombay in mid-February 1829.

John immediately started to learn the local languages and religions of his new home country, touring the area to make himself acquainted with the local people and their customs. In Bombay, he spread the word of God from his own home, in the streets and wherever people could stop to listen, being prepared to enter into discussion with the leaders of the local religions. He also published a series of pamphlets and set up the "Oriental Christian Spectator" a religious journal which he ran for thirty years.

In addition to the immediate effect of his journal, social historians to this day find his erudite insights into the happenings of those times a source of great interest

As a linguist John Wilson was a man of amazing calibre. Having studied the Classics, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and French at Edinburgh, he soon became proficient in the local languages and the classical eastern languages of Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic. In 1832, convinced of the importamce of Christian Education, he founded the Ambrolie English School, which has grown to become the Wilson High School and Wilson College of today.

His missionary travels took him around Western India in his bullock cart. Wherever he went he showed a natural curiosity for all things local, becoming a keen student of the antiquities of the area. His work on the translation of rock inscriptions at Girnar in Saurashtra gained him the highest award science had to offer at that time a Fellowship of the Royal Society. He became President of the Royal Asiatic Society and Vice Chancellor of the University, but above all he was a Christian Missionary.

He returned to Scotland twice in his life, from 1843 to 1847, and from 1870 to 1871. On his way home for his first visit, he made an extended tour of the Holy Land and produced a great work "The Lands of the Bible", which was for many years the standard work on the subject.

He died in Bombay on 1st December 1875, his final words having been "I have perfect peace, and am content that the Lord should do what seems good to Him."

Now, 200 years after his birth, it is only fitting that we should remember a son of Lauder whose life was one of service to his fellow man.


Rev John Wilson Lauder Scotland