Duncan Shaw (minister)

Duncan Shaw (27 January 1925 – 20 February 2018) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister, historian, and author. He served as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1987 to 1988.[1][2][3]

Duncan Shaw
Moderator of the General Assembly
ChurchChurch of Scotland
In office1987 to 1988
PredecessorRobert Craig
SuccessorJames A. Whyte
Ordination29 July 1951
Personal details
Born27 January 1925
Died20 February 2018(2018-02-20) (aged 93)
OccupationChurch minister and historian

Early life and education

Shaw was born on 27 January 1925 in Edinburgh, Scotland: he grew up in a tenement flat in the Meadowbank area of the city.[1] He was educated at Broughton High School, a state school in Broughton, Edinburgh.[1] After leaving school, he was a law apprentice.[3]

In February 1943, at the age of 18, Shaw enlisted into the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) to serve during the Second World War.[2][3] He went on to hold every rank between lance corporal and Warrant Officer Class 1 (the most senior non-commissioned rank).[2] He served in the United Kingdom and in India, before being demobbed in October 1947.[3] It was while serving in the British Army that he first grew a handlebar moustache for which he was noted for wearing.[1]

Returning to Scotland after the war, Shaw decided to join the ministry rather than continue his legal career.[1] From 1947 to 1951, he studied at the University of Edinburgh.[2] He continued his studies at Edinburgh: he undertook research for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Scottish history under the supervision of Professor Gordon Donaldson.[3] His doctoral thesis was titled "The origin and development of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1560-1600", and was completed in 1962.[4] He was awarded a Doctor of Theology (ThDr) degree by the Charles University in Prague in 1969.[3]

Ordained ministry

Shaw was ordained for the Church of Scotland and installed as minister of St Margaret's Church, Dumbiedykes, Edinburgh on 29 July 1951.[1][3] He tended to serve in churched in working-class communities.[1] He moved to become minister of St Christopher's Church, Craigentinny, Edinburgh in 1959, and served there until he retired in 3 January 1997.[1][3]


Shaw was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in succession to Robert Craig.[2] He served as moderator from 1987 to 1988.[1] He invited Margaret Thatcher, the then prime minister, to address the Assembly when it met in May 1988: her address was known as the Sermon on the Mound.[1]

Personal life

In 1955, Shaw married Ilse Pieter (died 1989). Together they had three children. In 1991, he married for a second time to Anna Libera Dallapiccola, a professor at the University of Heidelberg.[1]

In 2005, Shaw helped re-establish the Clan Shaw of Argyll and the Isles: he appointed its Representer (equivalent to clan chief) by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. The clan had been annihilated by Clan Campbell in 1614.[3] He had previously tried an failed to claim the Barony of Craigentinny.[1]

Shaw died in Edinburgh on 20 February 2018, aged 93.[3]

Selected works

  • Shaw, Duncan (1964). General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, 1560-1600. Edinburgh: St Andrew Press. ISBN 978-0715201244.
  • Shaw, Duncan (1975). John Knox: a quartercentenary reappraisal: lectures given at the University of Edinburgh on the four hundredth anniversary of the death of John Knox. Edinburgh: St Andrew Press. ISBN 978-0715202463.
  • Cowan, Ian B.; Shaw, Duncan, eds. (1983). The Renaissance and Reformation in Scotland: essays in honour of Gordon Donaldson. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. ISBN 978-0707302614.
  • Shaw, Duncan (2012). Renaissance and Zwinglian influences in sixteenth century Scotland. Edinburgh: Edina Press. ISBN 978-0957120204.
  • Shaw, Duncan (2015). The Clan Shaw of Argyll and the Isles: MacGillechainnich of Dalriada. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. ISBN 978-0902054523.


  1. "The Very Rev Duncan Shaw". The Times. 23 March 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  2. "Obituary: Duncan Shaw, minister who arranged Mrs Thatcher's Sermon on the Mound". The Herald. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  3. "Obituary: Dr Duncan Shaw, General Assembly Moderator who helped bring about 'The Sermon on the Mound'". The Scotsman. 5 March 2018. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  4. Shaw, Duncan (1962). "The origin and development of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1560-1600". E-Thesis Online Service. The British Library Board. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
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