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William Pinkerton (1801–1834)

We beg to call the attention of our readers to an advertisement in this day's paper, notifying the sale of the library of the late Rev. William Pinkerton, consisting of about a thousand volumes in theological and general literature in the English, Latin, Greek, French, Italian, German, and Spanish languages. It will be sold by public auction by Mr. Blackman, at his auction and commission rooms, King Street, on the evenings of Friday and Saturday, the 3d and 4th of April next, at seven o'clock, for the benefit of Mr. Pinkerton's widow, who proposes to return to Scotland with her child, an infant of about two years of age, by the ship Bristol, in a few weeks hence.

Mr. Pinkerton arrived in the colony in the year 1831, to conduct the English department in the Australian College, in conjunction with the Rev. Mr. Carmichael, and the Rev. Mr Anderson, now Minister of the Scots Church, Launceston. For a twelvemonth, however, after his arrival, he was induced to officiate as Minister of the Scots Church, Maitland; especially as it was found that the business of the Institution could be conducted satisfactorily, for some time after its commencement, by his two associates and the Rev. Mr. McGarvie, who was then co-operating with them. 

Mr. Pinkerton returned to Sydney in July, 1833, and continued to conduct the English department in the Institution, and to discharge the duties of Acting-Minister of the Scots Church, during the temporary absence of Dr. Lang in England, till his death, which took place in the month of May following, in the 34th year of his age. 

Mr. Pinkerton's abilities as an instructor of youth were of a superior order; and the number of pupils in the Institution accordingly increased considerably during the short period he was connected with it. His talents as a preacher were not less eminent, and he had improved his natural abilities by a liberal education; having added to a competent knowledge of the ancient and dead languages, an extensive acquaintance with those of modern Europe. His style was vigorous and impressive, though occasionally too highly laboured. He firmly held and uniformly preached the doctrine of justification by faith alone, through the atonement made for sinners by our Lord Jesus Christ; "and the common people heard him gladly." 

Mr. Pinkerton's parents were of the Episcopal Church; but he had early attached himself to the Presbyterian communion, under the ministry of the celebrated Dr. Chalmers, Professor of Theology in the University of Edinburgh, who was then one of the Ministers of the city of Glasgow. He studied with a view to the Christian ministry at the University of Glasgow; and as his passion for books was as strong as his knowledge of general literature was thorough and extensive, while the circumstances of his parents, who occupied a highly respectable standing in society, enabled him to gratify that passion, and thereby to increase his literary stores almost indefinitely; he had accumulated, at a comparatively early period of his life, a much more extensive and valuable library than most Ministers of the Gospel are either able or anxious to acquire. But his relations being unexpectedly visited with a sudden reverse of fortune, he was under the necessity of disposing of his library, like the late celebrated scholar and historian Mr. Roscoe of Liverpool; the books now offered for sale being but a small portion of those Mr. P. once possessed, with a few additions purchased in the colony. 

It appeared from a post-mortem examination, that the disease of which Mr. Pinkerton died had been an affection of the liver of long standing. It was attended with the most unremitting and excruciating pains; which, although the effort was sometimes too great for him, he bore with Christian fortitude and patient resignation. His medical attendant was Dr. Bland, whose unwearied and disinterested kindness to his afflicted patient was above all praise. By other individuals, indeed, from whom, in such circumstances, and especially in the absence, of other friends, he was entitled to expect brotherly-kindness and christian sympathy, he was strangely and unaccountably neglected during his long and painful illness; insomuch, that he might have said at last, "I was sick, and ye visited me not." But so far from manifesting any resentful feelings on the subject, his only anxiety was to discover whether he had himself unconsciously given offence, either to provoke or to merit so much unkindness. In short, Mr. P. was a christian man, and he especially evinced that character towards the close of his short but eventful career. "He walked with God, and was not, for God took him." 

Entirely devoid of every thing like avariciousness or worldlymindedness, and ever ready to spend the last shilling he possessed to advance the cause with which he was identified, Mr. Pinkerton had made no provision whatever for his wife and child, and when expressing his sincere thanks to the former very shortly before his death, for all the kindness she had shewn him, he added, "Mary, I have nothing to leave you; and I have none to leave you with but the Almighty!" It were doubtless to be wished that there were some provision in the colonies, as there is in some parts of the Mother Country, in Scotland for instance, in the shape of a Widows' fund, for those who may be left behind him by the good soldier of Jesus Christ, who sinks not into the arms of death in the midst of his comfortable woolpacks, nor is cheered when he thinks of his widowed wife and his fatherless children, with the bleating of his sheep, and the lowing of his heifers, but who falls, as it were, on the field of battle, "with his martial cloak around him." Something of the kind will doubtless be done when the company of such soldiers. becomes somewhat more numerous than it has hitherto been in this colony, and when the spirit of worldlymindedness, which has hitherto had possession of the colony, begins to take her flight, from the pinnacles of our colonial temples. In the present instance, however, we must trust to the good providence of that God, who "tempers the wind to the shorn lamb."

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Citation details

'Pinkerton, William (1801–1834)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 21 May 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]




9 May, 1834 (aged ~ 33)
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

liver dysfunction

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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