Sir Edgar MacCulloch 1808 - 1896
Sir Edgar MacCulloch was born at Anne’s Place St Peter Port 1st June 1808. He was the only son of Thomas MacCulloch and Harriet Le Marchant Rowley. His mother was the only daughter of Thomas Rowley and Maritha De Saumarez. Edgar was related to Lord de Saumarez on his maternal side and had one sister .
Mr. MacCulloch was educated at the Reverend Phillip Haye’s school in La Plaiderie,at the time considered the island’s leading school for boys . He continued his education at the age of sixteen for two years at an academy in Brussels. He finished is education by spending two years in France. On his return to the island he served as a full gunner in the Royal Guernsey Militia Artillery for many years .
He lived with his parents at their house in 39, The Pollet and was able to follow his interest of antiquarian studies with the help of his parents. He lived there after they died and never married. An early example of his interests was a drawing of the frescoes in the Castel Church which he made at the time of their discovery in 1839.
He was a devoted church member and took part in the restoration of St Peter Port Church. He also took an active part in the building of St Barnabas and St Stephen’s Churches. He paid out of his own pocket for the restoration of the font at St Martin’s Church, which was being used at the time as a farmyard trough.
The first mention in local records of MacCulloch’s public life was his appointment as Rector’s warden at the town church, the position he held up until his appointment to the Royal Court as a Jurat in 1844 . He formed part of the committee that was responsible for erecting Victoria Tower in 1848, and at the time of his death he was the only surviving member. A plaque on the entrance acknowledges his work.
In 1850 he succeeded Peter le Lievre as president of the Mechanic’s Institution. He was elected Lieutenant Bailiff in 1869 and persuaded the states to purchase Sainte Apolline’s Chapel in 1873. He was concerned that its use a cow stable was inappropriate and that the building should be preserved. The Chapel is the Island’s first ancient moment and prompted the establishment of the Ancient Monument’s Committee.
Five years later he played a key role in founding the Guernsey Society of Natural Science, now La Societe Guernsiaise and became its first president. Its main objective, the preservation of the local patois, was a cause close to his heart. The former home of Sir Edgar MacCulloch at the Pollet was recognized with a plaque in 1982, the centenary year of Societe. His portrait was also featured in a special stamp issued by Guernsey Post.
In 1884 MacCulloch was appointed Bailiff and resigned in 1895 after nearly eleven years service due to poor health. He was the last non-lawyer to the hold the post
Edgar’s achievements and great qualities were acknowledged when he was knighted on 8th May 1886. In the same year he persuaded the states to donate £200 to supplement private contributions to build the model yacht pond. He wanted to provide the youth of the island with ‘healthy, innocent and amusing education.’
Sir Edgar was considered ‘a leading authority and a leading mind in all questions of education. He constantly identified himself with having never missed the opportunity to encourage the young to improve their minds.’
He collected details of local customs, beliefs, traditions and superstitions, published posthumously as Guernsey Folklore, (now a very rare book), and wrote ‘ A desire to preserve, before they were entirely forgotten, some of the traditional stories, and other matters connected with folklore of my native island, induced me to collect and record them.’
Sir Edgar MacCulloch died on 31st July, 1896 and was buried in Candie Cemetery. He passed away in his home at the age of 88 of excessive weakness. As well as his passion for antiquarian studies he is also remembered for 51 years connected with Guernsey Judiciary and Legislature.
Sir Edgar MacCulloch (1808–1896), Kt, Bailiff of Guernsey (1884–1895) painting by Frank Brooks. Painted in 1885, located in Royal Court, Guernsey.