This collection comprises principally correspondence - personal, academic and pastoral - of David S. Cairns, 1883 - 1946. It contains letters written and received by Cairns in the course of his work, and regarding the various public bodies with which he was associated. There is also a small group of letters written on his death.
Papers of David Smith Cairns (1862 - 1946), Principal of Christ's College, Aberdeen, and theologian
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 231 MS 3384
- Dates of Creation1883 - 1946
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish.
- Physical Description4 boxes (cubic capacity) No physical characteristics affecting use of collection
- Direct Link
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
David Smith Cairns was born 8 Nov 1862 at Stichill (or Stichel) in Roxburghshire, son of the Rev. Dr David Cairns, minister of the United Presbyterian Church there. He took the Arts degree at Edinburgh University and afterwards studied theology at the United Presbyterian College in Edinburgh, where his uncle, the celebrated John Cairns, was principal. During this time he spent one semester at Marburg University, where he was influenced by the Ritschlian theologian Wilhelm Herrmann. He was ordained in 1892, and appointed minister of the United Presbyterian Church at Ayton, Berwickshire, 1895 - 1907. In 1907 he was appointed to the Chair of Dogmatics and Apologetics at Aberdeen United Free Church College, and in 1923 became principal there. When the College amalgamated with the University of Aberdeen, 1935 - 1936, he was made Professor of Christian Dogmatics, but retired from post in 1937, and moved to Edinburgh shortly afterwards. He died in Edinburgh on 27 Jul 1946.
Cairns was deeply committed to church work and during his life became actively involved with many public movements. He played a leading part in the World Missionary Conference, in Edinburgh in 1910, and afterwards became one of the principal speakers of the Student Christian Movement, in whose services he travelled in the United States and China. In 1918 he received the OBE in recognition of work done for the army during the First World War, and in 1923 was elected Moderator of the United Free Church Assembly. He received the honorary degrees of DD from Aberdeen, 1909, Debrecen (Hungary), 1929, and Edinburgh, 1933; and LL.D from St Andrews, 1937, and Aberdeen, 1938.
Notable amongst his several published works are Christianity in the Modern World (London, 1906), The Reasonableness of the Christian Faith(London, 1919), and the influential The Faith that Rebels: a re-examination of the miracles of Jesus (London, 1928).
His son, David H. Cairns (1904 - 1992), was Professor of Practical Theology at Christ's College, Aberdeen, and lecturer (from 1965, reader) in the Department of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen, 1947 - 1972.
For further details see David S. Cairns and D.M. Baillie, David Cairns: an Autobiography: some recollections of a long life, and selected letters edited by his son and daughter, edited by Alison H. Cairns (London; SCM Press, 1950); D.N.B. 1941 - 1950; Who Was Who, 1941 - 1951; Dictionary of Scottish Church History & Theology, ed. Nigel M. de S. Cameron (Edinburgh: Clark, 1993); and obituary in Aberdeen University Review, 32 (1947 - 1948), 80.
Arranged as received, loosely defined by subject and date. Indexes to some files are stored with the papers.
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Open, subject to signature accepting conditions of use at reader registration sheet
Date and source not recorded - probably deposited c. 1992, after the death of his son, the late David H. Cairns (1904 - 1992).
Other Finding Aids
Very brief collection level description available on Aberdeen University Library Catalogue, accessible online http://www.abdn.ac.uk/diss/library/.
The collection is not fully listed, but an interim summary list is available in the Reading Room, Special Libraries and Archives.
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David S. Cairns and D.M. Baillie, David Cairns: an autobiography: some recollections of a long life, and selected letters edited by his son and daughter, edited by Alison H. Cairns (London; SCM Press, 1950)
This material is original