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Thomas Gowan

(1631—1683) Presbyterian minister and philosopher


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Thomas Gowan was born in Scotland in a region then called Caldermuir, to the south of present-day West Calder. He died in Antrim in the north of Ireland on 15 September 1683. Gowan studied at Edinburgh (MA, 1655), where his teacher, James Wyseman, had been a regent since 1636 and would have taught a traditional scholastic curriculum. After training for the Presbyterian ministry Gowan settled in Ireland and was ordained in 1658 to the parish of Donnagh, Co. Monaghan. With the return of episcopacy in 1661 he was deposed for non-conformity, but continued his ministry among the Presbyterian population of Glaslough without the benefit of tithe income. Between 1666 and 1671 he was seconded to Connor in Co. Antrim, where he conducted an academy or philosophy school, implementing a scheme mooted a decade earlier by Sir John Clotworthy, first Viscount Massarene, a leading Ulster dissenter. While at Connor he engaged in regular supply preaching and was admitted to membership of the Antrim Meeting or Presbytery. In 1671 or 1672 the academy was transferred to Antrim. After protracted negotiations, Gowan also took on the duties of minister at Antrim, but without benefit of a regular meeting house or a secure salary. For a time, he had a dispensation to preach in the established church after the regular service, the Presbyterians stipulating that their members ‘be not ensnared to countenance the liturgie, nor profane the Sabbath by attending att the church doore when it is reading’ (Antrim minutes, 11 March 1673). In 1676 Gowan additionally became chaplain in the household of Sir John Skeffington, second Viscount Massarene, at Antrim Castle, in succession to the English dissenter, John Howe.

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From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Philosophy.


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