Rev William MacGregor
Rev William MacGregor 1848 – 1937
Rev William MacGregor 1848 – 1937
The Towns Greatest Benefactor
Born in Liverpool to a wealthy shipping family Rev William MacGregor studied at Rugby School and Exeter College Oxford where he obtained a B.A. in 1871 and an M.A. in 1874.
He was ordained as a deacon at Lichfield in1872, and as a priest in 1873 became the curate at Hopwas. After a period as a priest in Liverpool at the age of 30 he moved back toTamworth to become the Vicar of the town.
For the next nine years he dedicated his life to the town and its church. . He renovated the church of St Editha’s, had the bells re cast and added a further two. He also had new churches build at Glascote & Hopwas, and won the honour of naming the Hopwas Church after St Chad . His family plot can be viewed in the churchyard there, where his own ashes were placed.
A vicar in those times was expected to take tea with the Gentry and middle classes but William MacGregor would rather go uninvited into the squalid cottages of the poor and sick. He was so appalled by the state of the streets and as typhoid rampaged through the poor quarters, MacGregor campaigned to get clean water and proper drainage to those parts of the town, much to the disapproval of the landlords of the area who threatened to withhold their support for the church as a reprisal for interfering in their business. He gave £300 towards the purchase of the castle. He saw the need to build a hospital and gave £300 to start the project but it is believed the final amount he gave was over £1000. The hospital was in such demand that within a week of opening all the beds were full and a waiting list created. MacGregor then set up a Provident Society where medical care would be available to all the family, classes were set up to educate people in basic home nursing , first aid and to care for themselves, .
MacGregor also wanted to improve the minds of his people and set up a free library, discussion and reading groups for that purpose. Alongside these he created a Mothers Union, a parish visitor to help mothers at home, and a club for girls so they could learn religion and needlework. But there were also rooms for socialising, reading or playing. Christmas time would see him invite young people from the local workhouse to share his dinner with him
In 1885 his health failed him and he developed a serious lung infection, in those days without modern medication the only hope was to go abroad to warmer claims. And so MacGregor travelled east to Egypt. After several months his health improved and he returned to Tamworth.
MacGregor was encouraged to resume his ministry and once more threw his energies into improving the lives of the poor with 2 new projects namely co founding the Co-operative Society and the St Georges Club with its bath and institute, holding classes and societies. The yearly camp was a wonderful treat for the young boys of the town.
The Co-operative once again upset many of the town’s parishioners some of whom even refused to attend church. Business owners vilified him when they saw their profits hit he suffered much abuse both verbally and in writing the Press hounded him but despite this both the Co-operative and St Georges Club prospered. .
MacGregor resigned from the church in 1887 but continued his works within the town. To maintain his health he wintered in Egypt where his fascination with their history saw him became a renowned Egyptologist and collector of Greek pottery He undertook several archeological digs and brought many artefacts back to Tamworth most of which now reside in The British Museum in London.
Many of the young boys he mentored at the St Georges Club went on to become leading lights within the town becoming businessmen, councillors, social reformers and scholars all of whom held him high esteem and would gather yearly to help him celebrate his birthday.
.As comes to us all sadly William MacGregor passed away in 1937 at the age of 89 but his name lives on as several sites within the Bolehall area are named after him and his home of Bolehall Manor still stands, now becoming a club.
Tamworth Heritage Trust has fitted a Blue plaque to Bolehall Manor Club to commemorate Macgregor’s legacy.
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