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James Comrie (1816-1902) Literary Philanthropist

In 1902 the Hawkesbury Herald wrote that

No man more truly deserved the name of philanthropist than Mr Comrie … he busied himself during the later years of his life by doing good by stealth. The perfume of good deeds, however, always betrays the doer sooner or later…[1]

James Comrie

Another paper described James Comrie as a ‘literary philanthropist.’[2] What were his activities ‘the perfume of good deeds’ that that led him to be deserving of the designation of ‘philanthropist’ and that of a ‘literary philanthropist’ in particular?[3] How was he able to be a philanthropist of note and “Who was James Comrie?” for he is, to-day, a largely unknown figure.

James Comrie was a Scot, born in Edinburgh 1 May 1816 and he died at Kurrajong Heights at Northfield on 2 November 1902.[4] He was the youngest of eleven children born to Peter and Helen Comrie[5]. James’ father died when he was two years old and he was raised by his pious Presbyterian mother. Though his mother was a ‘strict Presbyterian she had a catholic spirit, and took her children sometimes to hear Dr Thomas McCrie, Christopher Anderson,[6] and Wesleyan ministers’.[7] James himself was to emulate this religious catholicity, interacting and enjoying the company of Christians of all persuasions. His schooling must also have added to his non-sectarian outlook for he attended a Quaker school.

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