Papers of Professor David H. Cairns (1904 - 1992)

Scope and Content

GB 231 MS 3409 This small collection of David Cairns' unpublished manuscripts and letters offers a valuable insight into twentieth century Scottish theology, and will provide a useful source for future research work in this area. Items of particular interest, identified by Cairns before his death, include a record of a conversation held between Karl Barth, David H. Cairns, and his father, David S. Cairns, which helped Cairns to dispel the slur a year or two ago, one person was inputting to our Church in being pro-Nazi in the '30s; examples of sermons which he preached during the period 1948 - 1968; and a copy of his inaugural lecture at Christ's College in 1948. There are, additionally, theological reviews and summaries of Cairns' and others' work, including R.R. Niebuhr, H.D. Lewis, Heinrich Ott, James Ayre, A. Thomson, Karl Heim, Lesslie Newbigin, Walther Kunneth and J.C. Von Hoffmann.

GB 231 MS 3653 Typescript volume of poetry by David H. Cairns (1904 - 1992)

Administrative / Biographical History

David H. Cairns was born in 1904, the son of David S. Cairns (1862 - 1946), theologian and Principal of Christ's College, Aberdeen 1923 - 1935. He began studying at Aberdeen University in 1922, but transferred to Balliol College, Oxford in 1924, where he graduated BA in 1928. He returned to Aberdeen to study theology at Christ's College, 1928 - 1931, followed by a period of further study at Zurich, Montpellier, and Tubingen. On returning to Scotland in 1933 he became assistant to George Macleod at Govan Old Parish, Glasgow, and in 1935 was ordained, and inducted to Holy Trinity Church, Bridge of Allan. He resigned his charge and served as an army chaplain from 1940 - 1945. After the war he was appointed Professor of Practical Theology at Christ's College, Aberdeen, and lecturer (from 1965, reader) in Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen. He held both positions concurrently from 1947 until his retirement in 1972. He died on 17 Oct 1992.

David Cairns published several works, most notably The Image of God in Man (London, 1953; A Gospel Without Myth ? Bultmann's challenge to the preacher (London, 1960); God Up There ? a study in divine transcendence (Edinburgh; St Andrew Press, 1967); and In Remembrance of Me: Aspects of the Lord's Supper (London; Bles, 1967). He also translated works by Brunner and Gollwitzer, and was Kerr Lecturer at Glasgow and Cunningham Lecturer at Edinburgh. He was awarded the degree of DD from Edinburgh University in 1953.

For further details see Reverend Professor David Cairns in Aberdeen University Faculty of Divinity Alumni Association, Summer 1990, 1 - 2; his obituary in Aberdeen University Review, 55 (1993 - 1994), 105; and obituary of his father, David S. Cairns, in Aberdeen University Review, 32 (1947 - 1948), 80.


Cairns' original order has been retained

Conditions Governing Access

Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet

Acquisition Information

Deposited in the University in Feb 1993, by Professor David Ferguson, Dept. of Theology and Church History, University of Aberdeen.

Other Finding Aids

Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online

The collection is not fully listed, but an interim summary list is available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives.

Alternative Form Available

No copies known

Conditions Governing Use

Subject to the condition of the original, copies may be supplied for private research use only on receipt of a signed undertaking to comply with current copyright legislation.

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Head of Special Libraries and Archives (e-mail: and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. Where possible, assistance will be given in identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Appraisal Information

A letter written by Cairns in 1991 suggests that he had intended to weed the files before their deposit in the University. It is not clear from the papers that survive if this was done or not.


No accruals expected

Related Material

Papers of David S. Cairns (1862 - 1946), 1883 - 1946 (ref. GB 231 MS 3384) Papers of David S. Cairns (1862 - 1946), 1883 - 1946 (ref. GB 231 MS 3384) Records of the United Free Church College, Aberdeen, 1825 - 1956 (ref. GB 231 MS 3241 - details of additional Christ's College deposits are given at this location).

Related papers and letters of David Cairns and his father, David S. Cairns are deposited at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.


No known publications using this material

Additional Information

This material is original