STUART, Donald MacNaughton
A new biography of Stuart, Donald McNaughton appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Donald MacNaughton Stuart was born on 5 February 1819 in Kenmore Parish, Perthshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Stuart, a farmer, and of Janet, née MacNaughton. He was educated at the parish school and began teaching in order to put himself through St. Andrew's University. In 1843 he was involved in the upset following the Disruption and was one of those who organised the election of Thomas Chalmers – the noted Presbyterian divine – as Lord Rector of the University. The senate expelled the students concerned but they were soon reinstated by a Royal Commission. He continued his theological studies at New College, Edinburgh, and in London. The Kelso Presbytery licensed him to preach and, about July 1849, he was inducted at Falstone Presbyterian Church, North Tyne, where he remained for 10 years. In November 1859 Stuart was appointed to the second (Knox) Presbyterian Church in Dunedin. He arrived at Port Chalmers in the Bosworth on 27 February 1860 and relieved Dr Burns until Knox Church was opened. On 6 May 1860 he was inducted at Knox Church, where he remained for the rest of his life. Early in his career Stuart formed a most successful Bible class which he conducted until 1891. During the 1860s he undertook many pastoral journeys through the Otago country districts and became extremely popular among the diggers on the goldfields.
Stuart took an active interest in many fields beyond the Church; he was interested in all aspects of education and strongly condemned the 1877 Act because it neglected Bible studies. He spoke feelingly on this subject from his pulpit and was for many years a leading member of the Bible-in-Schools League. As a result of his advocacy, the Presbyterian Synod established a Divinity Hall in Dunedin and Stuart was tutor in Church history there during its first year. It was characteristic of the man that he donated his salary from the position to endow the Stuart prizes in Church history and pastoral theology. He was a member of the Board of Advice which sat in 1875 to recommend reforms for the Boys' High School; and, two years later, was appointed to the Board of Governors of Otago Boys' and Otago Girls' High Schools, and was chairman until his death. Stuart was an original member of the Council of Otago University and was Chancellor from 1879 until 1894. Although never entirely reconciled to the surrender of the University's right to grant degrees, he served on the Senate of the University of New Zealand from 1873 until 1881. In 1872 he was awarded an honorary D.D. from St. Andrews University. He was also a keen supporter of the Patients' and Prisoners' Aid Society, the hospital, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the benevolent institution, and the industrial school. From 1879 onwards the Church authorities endeavoured to persuade him to have a permanent assistant to help him in his parish work. In 1889 the Rev. A. P. Davidson was appointed, taking up his duties in the following year.
In July 1850, at Slough, Stuart married Jessie Robertson, the daughter of the headmaster of a school where he had taught in his undergraduate days. She died in Dunedin on 16 April 1862 leaving three sons. Stuart died at the Manse, George Street, Dunedin, on 12 May 1894.
Six feet two inches in height, Stuart had a commanding presence which was enhanced by a shepherd's plaid invariably slung across his shoulder. Apart from high status in his own denomination, Stuart won a unique place among the community at large through his Christian unselfishness and kindly tolerance.