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THE ENGLISH CHAIR AT THE UNIVERSITY., Issue 8015, 18 September 1889
THE ENGLISH CHAIR AT THE UNIVERSITY.
The Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland held a pro re nata meeting last night, the object being to consider the appointment of Professor Gilray to the chair of English Language and Literature in the University of Otago. Between forty and fifty clergy and elders were present, and the Moderator (the Rev. J. Baird) presided. In the absence of the Rev. Mr Finlayson, the Rev. J. M. Sutherland was appointed clerk pro tern. ~ The business was opened by the L-ierk s reading a circular issued by the moderator summoning the meeting “to consider the appointment of Professor Gilray to the chair of English in the University of Otago.” The Rev. A. Cameron asked if that was the only circular that had been issued. Dr Stuart said he understood that by the concurrence of the moderator a circular had also been sent out by Mr Smith to the olddrßi The Rev. A. Cameron said he had received another circular, which convened a pro re nata meeting “ to receive a communication from the Church Board of Property respecting the appointment of a professor to the Chair of English.” Seeing that two circulars had been issued, he held that they must consider which of them they were to approve of; if the one he had read, then all they could do was to receive the communication, He would move—“ That the action of the moderator in summoning a prorenata meeting be not approved of.” The Rev. W. Will moved as an amendraont—“That the Synod sustain the action of the moderator in calling the meeting. He admitted that the meeting was not strictly regular, but it was considered that It would be a cruel thing to keep over fifty men in suspense for another six weeks as to the result of their applications for the vacant Rev. J. Chisholm seconded the amendment, agreeing with the last speaker’s Dr Stuart explained that the object of sending out the second circular was simply to inform elders, who, Mr Cameron assured him, would not be likely to hear of the meeting, that the meeting would be held, and was purely to meet what was admitted to be a difficulty. . _ , , . . Mr J. T. Mackerras said that, it not too late, he would second Mr Camerons motion. He did not wish to insinuate that there waa an intention to steal a march, but he would ask what would be lost by deferring consideration for a month, when the regular meeting of the Synod would be held. Was the present meeting a representation of the Synod ? He would urge that members at a distance should have an opportunity of giving their views on the subject. No Tresbvtery had requested that that pro re nata meeting should be held, and there were a number of elders who had received no notice at all of the meeting, and he regarded those points as fatal. If four months or so were to elapse before the general meeting of Synod it would be all right to decide the matter at once, but as it was only a month would elapse. The Rev, R. Waddell said he was in a difficulty: he wished to see the question postponed, but he did not wish to see that meeting declared illegal. He would like to see a decision postponed on the ground that member* wanted time to consider the testimonials. Be had only seen the testimonials of two candidates, and there were many members who had not seen any of the testimonials. He did cot wish to nullify the meeting by a mere vote of a technical kind, Unit on the proper ground that they were mot prepared to consider the applications. After further discussion the motion was withdrawn, and the amendment was carried on the voices. The Clerk read the following communication from the Church Board of Property High street, Dunedin, September, 1889. Rev, James Baird, Moderator of Synod. Dear Sir,-I have the honor to inform you 4hat, in accordance with a resolution of Synod massed In February last, a meeting of the Church Board was held for the purpose of conferring with the Synod commissioners relative to ti. ' steps to be taken respecting the appointment oi a professor of English Language and Literature in the Otago University, when a printed form of instructions for candidates was prepared and approved, and arrangements made for advertising in the Home and colonial papers. In response to the advertisement fifty-one applica+.ion# were received, the bulk of them being from the Home Country. A meeting of the Board was convened for the purpose of considering the said applications, when it was remitted to a sub-committee who •were requested to ask the Revs. Drs Watt and Dunlop to assist them in the matter. A meeting of the Board was convened to receive the report of the Committee, and the following Synod commissioners were also present:—Revs. Will, Gibb, Chisholm, Messrs Begg, Paterson, and Fitzgerald, also Rev, Dr Dunlop. The Chancellor reported that the Subcommittee had met, and, after very careful consideration of all the applications, had selected ceven names, which were enumerated. In order to give an opportunity for investigation, copies of applications with accompanying certificates of each of the selected candidates were handed to all who were present, and the meeting was adjourned for a week. . . At the adjourned meeting the commissioners —viz,, Revs. Chisholm, Will, and Gibb, Messrs Begg and Fitzgerald—expressed their opinion that Professor Gilray, of University College, Dundee, was best qualified for the post. A letter was read from Mr Paterson regretting his inability to be present, but intimating that after careful consideration he had concluded that Professor Gilray was the beet qualified for the appointment. . . After the retirement of the commissioners the Board unanimously passed a resolution appointing Professor Gilray to the chair, subject to the concurrence of the Synod. I am therefore instructed to request that you will convene a pro re nata meeting of Synod to obtain the concurrence of that body to the appointment in question.—l am, etc., B. Smith, Church Factor.
The Rev. W, Will said that the Synod’s Committee appeared before the Board simply as individual members of the Synod, giving: whatever advice they might be requested to give and taking whatever part they were requested to take in the proceedings. He must say that no members of the Synod could have been more kindly received or more courteously treated by the Board than they were. Their opinions were very fairly considered, and the utmost respect was shown to them up to about the close. The Board and the members of the Synod were unanimous in coming to the conclusion that, notwithstanding strong predilections in favor of another candidate, they were abut up to the appointment of_ Mr Gilray as the moat eligible candidate. There was a strong feeling in favor of a local candidate, and for his part he would have been glad to have seen him appointed and ; not to have advertised, but he felt—and he thought they all felt—that if they were to respect the principle to which they committed themselves when they advertised in the Home prpers, they were shut up to the conviction that they must recognise Mr Gilray as the most eligible candidate. They: concurred all through as to the eligibility of Mr Gilray. The speaker volunteered, and he thought he was backed up by the members of the Synod, to tell the Board that if; they proceeded fco appoint anyone before, obtaining the concurrence of the bynod to tho appointment they would involve the ; church in a serious difficulty. After that; caution he was surprised to see the length j to which the Board went; though he was ( alad to sea in their communication that the appointment was made “ subject to the concurrence of the Synod.” He regarded it as merely a recommendation to the Synod for their concurrence that Mr Gilray was the man that should be appointed ; while, as he had stated, the whole of the applications were open for the consideration of the Synod.—(Applause.) . . . Mr W. S. Fitzgerald regretted that he (found it necessary to make a personal .expjamation. Bo did not hold himself bound to make a decision strictly in accordance with the testimonials that were laid before them ; be did not feel warranted in ignoring whatever personal knowledge they might have regarding any of the candidates; he did not express an opinion in accordance with the terms that were stated in the Board s_ communication. His opinion went in a -different direction altogether. He would aay this, however, that Or Stuart, as chairman of the meeting, asked him if he, •dissented. He said ‘‘Certainly not. Occupying the peculiar position that Mr Will had expressed, and being in a decided •minority, he did not dissent, and he joined •in taking the measures which brought the ipiatter before the Synod,
Dr Stuart said it was perhaps desirable that he should state the grounds on which the Board had made the appointment. He might state that he had a note from Mr Begg asking him to apologise for his absence through illness, and intimating that he entirely concurred in the recommendation of Mr Gilray. He had before him the testimonials of Thomas Gilray, of University College, Dundee, on which it was resolved to appoint him. The speaker then read at great length extracts from the testimonials, which were given from nearly thirty professors and principals of Scottish universities, all of whom wrote in the very highest terms of Mr Gilray’s qualifications for the office. It was not his (the speaker’s) place to bring the claims of the other applicants before them, but he thought he had the concurrence of Mr Cargill and Dr Watt when he said that out of the fifty applicants there were thirty, any one of whom would grace the chair. He was more than surprised at the high academical training and experience of many of the applicants, among whom he might instance Professor Bulger (of Aberdeen), their own Mr Wilson, Mr Churton Collins, Mr Downie (of Fifeshire), and Mr Dunlop (of Trinity College, Ireland). Whatever might be his own private wishes, those associated with him had tried to bring the best qualified man before the Synod, and he agreed that, all things considered, the candidate most specially eligible was Thomas G ilray, of University College, Dundee. —(Applause.) In answer to a question the speaker said that Mr Gilray is thirty-seven years of age. At the suggestion of the Rev. W. Will the meeting went into committee in order to discuss the matter in a conversational manner. The Rev. W. Will submitted for consideration the following resolution: —“ The Synod, having regard to the expressed opinion of the Committee appointed to advise the Church Board of Property anent the filling up of the vacant Chair of English Language and Literature in the University of Otago, acquiesces in the selection of Professor Gilray as the most eligible candidate, and hereby declares its concurrence if the said Board should see fit to duly appoint him,” After discussion as to the use of the term “ selected,” Mr K. Ramsay complained that the Synod had been led into a trap by Mr Will’s proposal to go into committee, and that their time had been shamelessly wasted. To prevent a continuance of the waste of time he moved that the Synod resume, — (Applause.) The motion was carried, and the Synod resumed. The Rev. J. Ryley moved—“ That the Synod having heard the testimonials of Professor Gilray, resolves to concur in his appointment by the Church Board of Property to the professorship of English Language and Literature in the University of Otago.” So far as he could judge they could not get a better man than the gentleman nominated by the Church Board of Property. The Rev. J. Clark seconded the motion. The Rev. J. Gibb moved as an amendment ment of Professor Gilray be deferred until the regular meeting of the Synod at the end of October.” He came there prepared to support the appointment, but owing to the waste of time a great number of members had gone away, and he saw no option but to defer the matter. He was at first inclined to support the local candidate, and he would like to have had an opportunity of stating his reasons for departing from that position, but it would be simply absurd to enter on a statement of that kind at that time of night, The Rev. R. Waddell seconded the amendment, but would like, Mr Gibb would accept it, to make an addition to the amendment. He had himself framed an amendment in these words : “ That the consideration of the recommendation of the Board of Property be postponed until the regular meeting of the Synod, and that in the meantime, In view of certain new facts that have arisen, the Board be requested to reconsider their decision.”—(No,) If he had time he would like to refer to those new facts which ware currently reported, but jn the meantime he would content himself with seconding the amendment, and he did so because it was quite evident that very few members of the Synod were present, and they should conserve the rights of all members, This was a most important question, and it seemed to him clearly out of place that a few members of Synod should at half-past ten o’clock at night make an appointment of a professor to the University. They had heard the testimonials of one candidate, but they had a right to hear all the testimonials and to give an opinion upon them; and as no harm, so far as ho could see, would result from postponing the consideration he could conceive of no objection to it. It would only be a matter of a few weeks, and no great harm could come to the candidates from delay, and certainly no harm could come to the appointment. Mr K. Ramsay said that, with all respect to the Synod, he was pretty certain that not more than 20 or 25 per cent, of its members would take the trouble to look through all the testimonials; and he was quite certain that if the amendment were carried, upon the meeting of the Synod the whole question would be referred to a committee to look over the testimonials and consult with the Board. Let them be honest with themselves: it was simply now a contest between two individuals—a local candidate and Professor Gilray. It was not in justice to the other candidates that delay was asked. They had had ample time to consider the testimonials, and even now it was proper that they should come to a decision. Dr Stuart thought that it was the duty of Mr Waddell to state to the Synod the new facts which wore currently reported or had come to light in connection with the appointment.—(Applause.) The Rev. R. Waddell said he did not vouch for the accuracy of the report, but it was reported that Professor Gilray’s success as a teacher had not been particularly brilliant, although in every other respect he was all that could be desired. The Rev. J. Gjpp said it was an immense mistake. —(Hear, hear.) Dr Dunlop said that in the interests of generosity and truth he desired to m&ke a statement. He had carefully avoided anything like partisanship in this matter; but when things were said such as had been reported his blood ran a little warm.— (Hear, hear.) He knew a little more of recent date about Professor Gilray than any of the gentlemen from whom the present reports emanated, and ho referred the Synod to Professor Carnellie’s testimonial as to Professor success as a teacher. He had known very distinguished professors who were very undistinguished teachers; but he knew that Professor Carnellie’s testimonial was honest, and could be relied upon,—(Hear, hear.) The Rev. R. Waddell said that if the Board had had the facta before them and had investigated them he waa perfectly satisfied. But Dr Copland had stated publicly through the papers that rumors of this kind were going about, and if they had not been investigated he thought there wps reason for delay. Dr Stuart stated that a_ gentleman connected with education in this town had told him this same thing. He (Dr Stuart) told him that he could not go sneaking about behind people’s backs asking for gossip about this man (hear, hear) but if he would send q> communication to him he would lay it before tfao trustees. No communication came. One of the gentlemen from whom the reports probably emanated called at his bouse, but made no allegation; and another gentleman called apd said that he regretted very much that he bad beep misinformed. Mr Ramsay thought It was very upfoptm nate that Mr Waddell should have referred there to statements that were made outside. He did not think the Synod should take any pi statements made by persons who had nos fcfaa courage to make them publicly. (Applause.j) ff.6 would go further, and say that it wap .their duty to take the greatest care of the reputation of this gentleman who had come forward pa ,& candidate, and it was certainly their duty to opt their foot down and refuse to discuss there apy idle rumor that the man in the street might rpake.—(Applause.) Mr Mackerbas appealed to to the Synod to consider the absent members,—(Cries of “Vote.-”) The was then put, when there voted:—For the amepdmept, 14; for the motion, 16. The result wfs Received with some applause.
| Mr Ryley’s proposition having been carried as a substantive motion, the Synod
THE ENGLISH CHAIR AT THE UNIVERSITY., Issue 8015, 18 September 1889
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