The Rev. Dr David Malcom LL.D , academic, minister , teacher and forgotten poet of Madderty and Crieff ( 1763 – 1833 )
I have always admired College Buildings at the top end of East High Street partly because of its distinctive architecture but also on account if its unusual history . A story written by author and artist Constance Frederika Gordon Cumming many years ago relates that the building was built by a Dr Malcolm to “ educate medical students ” . Its later usage as a boarding school known as St Margaret’s College confuses matters even further ! Even in the present age of post codes and general anonymity Crieffites still refer to it as “ College Buildings ”. Who then was Dr Malcolm and to which “ college “ do we refer ?
My investigation into Dr Malcolm begin in the confused mode ! I had received a copy of Perthshire in Bygone Days from a respected long established inhabitant of the town . I have become attuned to being the repository for a fascinating assortment of historical nick nacks and this one indeed proved quite fascinating . Published in 1879 ( Whittingham , London ) , it was sub titled “ One Hundred Biographical Essays ” and the author was a PR Drummond FSA. It was dedicated to the “ Presidents and Members of the Perthshire Societies of Edinburgh , Glasgow and Dundee . ” To my delight it included a piece on “ Dr Malcolm , Madderty “ but surprise , surprise , it was included within a section headed “Perthshire Poets” I was becoming quite intrigued at this stage According to the author Malcolm was born in the house attached to the school house in Madderty in 1763 , the son of the local school master and session clerk of the local kirk . The genalogist in me felt this somewhat bare so I checked out the old parish registers of Madderty and discovered that he had been born not in 1763 but on the 29th of April 1765 and baptised on the 10th of May of that year . ” Mr John Malcolm and Jean Murray in schoolhouse had son born and baptised and named between 1 and 2 afternoon - David ” In 18th century Scotland , the minister , doctor and the dominie were top of the tree in the local social stakes and young David seems to have benefitted from his father’s comparitive prosperity . My researches revealed that young David was not alone in the schoolhouse . The prolific Malcolms produced some eight bairns - five boys and three girls . David was the third oldest behind sister Mary and brother John . The large family did not seem to hinder John Malcolm giving the best of opportunities to young David . After a sound start under the tutelage of his father , David moved to Edinburgh “ where he obtained distinguished academical honours ” It seemed that he had more than just a flair for languages but was anxious to become a minister , a decision which appears to have been endorsed by his supportive father . He was so proficient in Greek , Latin and Hebrew that he applied , as it happened unsuccessfully , for Chair of Oriental Languages at Oxford University at the age of thirty . The power of the family was such that David returned to Madderty where he not only assisted his father in the school but was “ licensed “ as a preacher and appeared regularly in the local pulpit .
After his father’s death his attributes as a teacher came to the fore . It was at this time that David built what we know as College Buildings in East High Street . They were built as three separate houses and it was his intention to start an “ academy ” . For some reason this did not materialise and the houses were let out . Eventually the school got under way and seems to have been quite successful . Malcolm authored the “ Genealogical History of the House of Drummond ”, a work of considerable research which was published by Henry Drummond the London banker . His ambition to be a poet was realised when his “ The Sorrows of Love ” was published . Despite his great intellectual and academic abilities it is generally considered that as a poet he was somewhat indifferent . Malcolm did not marry and on the death of his father it was his mother who helped run the boarding school in College Buildings . His biographer PR Drummond who had been a pupil of the school gives a quite depressing account of life within its hallowed walls .
“ After the family troubles began , poor old Mrs Malcolm got blamed regardless , and the boarders were absolutely driven away by the filthy state in which the house was kept .Charles Penney , the last of his race , called one day at William Oswald’s , and being treated to a piece of bread and butter , unfortunatley let it fall , but picking it up smartly , he explained , “ What ! the buttered side up ? If it had been in our ain dirty hole , it was down as sure as death ! ”
Despite the obvious inadequacies of the school , Malcolm continued to lead a varied an intersting life . He was made an LL.D ( Doctor of Laws ) of Edinburgh University in 1814 and was appointed on of the Chaplains in Ordinary in Scotland to the Prince of Wales , later to be George lV . He also acted as part time factor to Miss Preston of Ferntower prior to her marriage to Sir David Baird . She of course was the owner of the lands and farms in Madderty where David had grown up. His biography is sad in that a person of such intelligence and intellectual ability failed to have the necessary acumen to achieve success commercially Perhaps he should have stuck to what he did best . His attempts to receive recognition as a poet in reality failed despite the second edition of his poems being published . The school in Malcolm’s College Buildings slumped out of existence . He died on the 25th of May 1833 and was buried in the churchyard at Madderty . No stone marks the last resting place of a man who deserves to be remembered