Miscellany | Published:


Nature volume 24, pages 361364 | Download Citation



JOHN DUNCAN, the Alford weaver-botanist, has at last passed away, and his dust now lies under the earth whose beautiful children he knew and loved so well. He expired a little after noon on the 9th instant, in his eighty-seventh year, and was buried on the 16th in the old churchyard at Alford, in a selected spot, where a monument will soon be raised to his memory by the free-will offerings of those who admired his high character and pure-minded enthusiasm for science. The poor old man has not lived long to enjoy the comforts lately provided for him, but it is pleasant to think that this aged and unselfish student of nature passed the last days of his long and silent life in comparative affluence, and that he now rests in no pauper's grave. His life was so recently sketched in these pages (NATURE, vol. xxiii. p. 269) that it is unnecessary here again to rehearse it. In December last, when it was ascertained that, after an unusually laborious life, winning his daily bread by weaving, carried on till beyond his eighty-fifth year, he had through failing strength been at last reluctantly forced to fall on the parish for bare support, an appeal was made in his favour by Mr. Jolly, H.M. Inspector of Schools, in the newspaper press throughout the country, and in our own columns. The response was speedy and ample, so that in a very short time a sum of 326l. was spontaneously sent for his relief, with every expression of admiration and regret from all parts of the land, and from most of our most eminent scientific men, whose kindly appreciation of his scientific labours was not unfrequently very aptly and memorably put. His pride and appreciation of all this kindness were genuine, deep, and child-like, and were expressed not seldom in piquant and touching terms; so that his numerous friends have the great satisfaction of thinking, that by their means, though he has departed sooner than was anticipated, they have helped to comfort the evening of his days. His constitution was of the healthiest type, and his tenacity of life remarkable in a frame so exhausted, and he only passed away when the last particle of the expiring taper was slowly consumed. As already told in NATURE (vol. xxiv. p. 6), the money raised in John Duncan's behoof has been vested in seven trustees, under a trust-deed executed during his life. By its provisions his valuable books on botany and other sciences are bequeathed to the parish library of Alford for the use of the district; and all remaining funds are to be safely invested and the interest to be devoted for all time to the foundation of certain prizes, to be called by his name, for the promotion of the study of natural science, especially botany, amongst the children in certain parishes in and round the Vale of Alford. A memoir of the old man is now being written by Mr. Jolly, and will be anticipated with interest.

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