MACGEORGE, ROBERT JACKSON, journalist, author, editor, and clergyman of the Episcopal Church of Scotland; b. 19 Dec. 1808 in the parish of Gorbals (now part of Glasgow), Scotland, the son of Andrew Macgeorge, “a well known and much respected solicitor of Glasgow,” and Elizabeth Jackson; m. first 13 June 1841 Elizabeth Stevenson MacBrayne (d. 1842), and they had one daughter; m. secondly 4 Sept. 1844 Elizabeth Macintosh Grant, and they had one daughter; d. 14 May 1884 in Orcadia, Rothesay, Scotland.
Robert Jackson Macgeorge was educated at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh before becoming a law clerk, poet, and dramatist. In 1830 he wrote a farce, “The students,” and a drama, “A legend of Carrick,” which were performed in Glasgow the same year. He submitted material to Fraser’s Magazine for Town and Country as well as the Scottish Monthly Magazine, and, when poor health sent him abroad, accounts of his travels in Asia appeared in the Scottish Literary Gazette. In 1839 Macgeorge was ordained deacon in the Scottish episcopal church and was priested the following year. He served briefly in Glasgow before immigrating to Canada West in September 1841. Bishop John Strachan* was pleased with the new arrival and Macgeorge took over the incumbency of Streetsville (now part of Mississauga), where he was to remain until 1858. His literary interests, however, quickly reappeared.
Macgeorge soon became editor of the Streetsville Weekly Review and under his direction it became one of the most widely read, popular, and oft-quoted journals in the province. Using the pseudonym “Solomon of Streetsville,” Macgeorge, with “good-natured sarcasm and ridicule,” attacked newspapers, politicians, and vendors of patent medicine. An excellent example of his pungent comments appeared on 25 Nov. 1854 concerning Canadian newspapers: “The base banner under which they fight, bears the motto, ‘Expediency is our God! Railroads are our politics!’” He also contributed articles on literary topics to the Globe and Leader (Toronto), and had several songs published, using music by James Paton Clarke*. He found time to edit an Anglican journal, the Church (after 5 Aug. 1852 the Canadian Churchman). In 1848 he printed “a little volume of poems by Canadian authors,” The Canadian Christian offering, which contained five of his own poems; a volume of his writings, Tales, sketches and lyrics, appeared ten years later.
He was also involved in the Anglo-American Magazine. Founded in 1852 by Thomas Maclear* to counterbalance the flood of American journals entering Canada, the magazine was edited by Macgeorge in association with Gilbert Auchinleck. Appearing with literary, scientific, and news items, Macgeorge’s contributions included “The chronicles of Dreepdaily,” “The purser’s cabin,” “The editor’s shanty,” and a few poems. Despite Macgeorge’s “abilities as a miscellaneous writer” the depressed economy signalled a brief life for the journal and in December 1855 it ceased publication, having had “many subscribers but few subscriptions.”
Understandably this extensive literary involvement interfered with Macgeorge’s parish work, and in 1858, when he was in Scotland, owing, it was said, to his wife’s illness, a delegation from Streetsville complained to Strachan. On 26 December the bishop wrote to Macgeorge in Glasgow stating that his return to Streetsville would not be “profitable or satisfactory” to himself or his parishioners. Concluding his letter by saying that he was grievously disappointed in Macgeorge’s career, Strachan offered him a country church where there would be much more to do. Macgeorge did not return to Canada. The next year he accepted appointment as incumbent of the newly formed congregation of St John the Evangelist, Oban, Scotland, where he served with great success. He was subsequently appointed synod clerk, dean of the united diocese of Argyll and The Isles (1876), and honorary canon of Cumbrae Cathedral. Failing health finally forced him to retire in 1880.
A man who came to Canada ostensibly as a rural clergyman and was felt to be a failure in this role became “a willing and liberal contributor to the pages of almost every literary periodical published in Upper Canada, during his sojourn in the country.” He was described in 1862 by Henry James Morgan* thus: “Mr. Macgeorge is one of nature’s own children; he is a man above the ordinary height; his locks quite silvery, his form erect. . . . [He] is a gentleman of true genius, and though his pen seems at times to rush, in spite of the hand that wields it and the soul that moves it[,] into the ludicrous, yet a more sober and pure-minded man than Mr Macgeorge, we venture to say is not to be found in Canada. Though a consistent, honest churchman, as some would think, a high churchman, yet a more amiable Christian and large-minded man we have seldom met. . . .”
Robert Jackson Macgeorge was the author of The increase of Christ: a sermon preached before the diocesan synod of Argyll and the Isles, 16th September, 1868 (Glasgow, 1868); The perfect law of liberty: a sermon, preached at Trinity Church, Streetsville, on Sunday, XIIth July, M. DCCC. XLVI (Toronto, 1846); The Son revealing the Father: funeral sermon of the Right Rev. A. Swing . . . (Glasgow, 1873); Tales, sketches and lyrics (Toronto, 1858); and the editor of The Canadian Christian offering (Toronto, 1848).
General Register Office (Edinburgh), Register of births and baptisms for the parish of Gorbals, December 1808 and January 1809; Register of marriages for the parish of Barony, 13 June 1841. Church (Toronto, Cobourg, [Ont.]), 26 March, 26 Aug. 1842; 13 Sept. 1844. Frederic Boase, Modern English biography . . . (6v., Truro, Eng., 1892–1921; repr. London, 1965). Dominion annual register, 1884. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis; Sketches of celebrated Canadians. W. P. Bull, From Strachan to Owen: how the Church of England was planted and tended in British North America (Toronto, 1937). J. J. Talman, “Three Scottish-Canadian newspaper editor poets,” CHR, 28 (1947): 166–77 .