The Rev. Thomas B. W. Niven

Thomas Brown William Niven was born at Balfron in 1834 on the Ides of March but this fateful date had no adverse effect on his future. On the distaff ride he was descended from an ancient Jacobite family of title, attainted after the 1745 rebellion. He was very much a child of the manse; his father was the Rev. Dr. Alexander Niven of Balfron; his paternal grandfather and uncle were successive ministers of Dunkeld; his maternal great- grandfather was the Rev. Dr. Duncan of the Scottish Presbyterian Church, Peter Street, London; and his maternal grandfather, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Brown, after whom he was named, was minister of St. John’s Parish, Glasgow. He was educated privately until he was ready to enter the University of Edinburgh.

Licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Dumbarton on May 18, 1858, he was in charge of the Mission at Renton for, a short time but later in the same year, became Assistant at St. George's, Edinburgh. He was very friendly with the family of the Earl of Stair and was presented by the Earl to the Church and parish of Cranstoun to which he was ordained on October 7, 1859. His next move was to Glasgow Tron on September 3, 1868, but the main of this very onerous charge was too much for his health and he had to seek a quieter parish. After declining several calls, including one to St. Andrew's Church, Montréal, he chose to go to Linlithgow in May 1872 where, in his own words, he had "one of the most beautiful manses and perhaps the noblest old parish church in Scotland".

Mr. Niven accepted a call to the first charge in Pollokshields in 1876, exchanging the amenities of Linlithgow for what was little more than a Mission Station, without a proper church or parish, and this was where he was to stay for the remainder of his active ministry.

One of the most distinguished churchmen of his day, his outstanding work for the Church was recognised by his alma mater when in 1893 that worthy body conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. In 1906 he was called to the highest position in the Church of Scotland, Moderator of the General Assembly.

Dr. Niven took a prominent part in Church affairs, having held office as Convener of the Presbytery of Glasgow's Committee on Law and Church Interests; Convener of the Business Committee of the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr; Joint-Convener of the General Assembly’s Committee on Correspondence with the Synod of the Scottish Church in England; Convener of the Foreign Mission Sub-Committee for China, and Secretary of the West of Scotland Bible Society. He was well versed in the procedures and forms of the Church-Courts and contributed to the "History of the Church of Scotland" edited by Dr. Story.

Dr. Niven retired from Pollokshields Parish Church in 1911 and died on December 17, 1914 aged 80 years.

T B W Niven

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