William Garden Blaikie, Scottish divine, writer, biographer, and temperance reformer, was born on February 5, 1820, in Aberdeen and died on June 11, 1899..
His father, James Ogilvie Blaikie, had been the first provost in Aberdeen of the reformed corporation. After studying at the Marischal College, where Alexander Bain and David Masson were among his contemporaries, he went in 1839 to Edinburgh to complete his theological course under Thomas Chalmers. In 1842 he was presented to the living of Drumblade by Lord Kintore, with whose family he was connected. The Disruption controversy reached its climax immediately afterwards, and Blaikie, whose sympathies were entirely with Chalmers, was one of the 474 ministers who signed the deed of demission and gave up their livings. He was Free Church minister at Pilrig, between Edinburgh and Leith, from 1844 to 1868. Keenly interested in questions of social reform, his first publication was a pamphlet, which was afterwards enlarged into a book called Better Days for Working People. It received public commendation from Lord Brougham, and 60,000 copies were sold. He formed an association for providing better homes for working people, and the Pilrig Model Buildings were erected. He also undertook the editorship of the Free Church Magazine, and then that of the North British Review, which he carried on until 1863. In 1864 he was asked to undertake the Scottish editorship of the Sunday Magazine, and for this magazine much of his most characteristic literary work was done, especially in the editorial notes, then a new feature in magazine literature.
In 1868 Blaikie was called to the chair of apologetics and pastoral theology at New College, Edinburgh. In dealing with the latter subject he was seen at his very best. He had wide experience, a comprehensive grasp of facts, abundant sympathy, an extensive knowledge of men, and a great capacity for teaching. In 1870 he was one of two representatives chosen from the Free Church of Scotland to attend the united general assembly of the Presbyterian churches of the United States. He prolonged his visit to make a thorough acquaintance with American Presbyterianism, and this, followed by a similar tour in Europe, fitted him to become the real founder of the Presbyterian Alliance. Much of his strength in the later years of life was given to this work. In 1892 he was elected to the chairmanship of the general assembly, the last of the moderators who had entered the church before the disruption. In 1897 he resigned his professorship, and died on the 11th of June 1899.
Blaikie was an ardent philanthropist, and an active and intelligent temperance reformer, in days when this was far from easy. He raised 14,000 for the relief of the Waldensian churches. Although he took an active part in the affairs of his denomination, he was not a mere ecclesiastic. He had a keen eye for the evidences of spiritual growth or decline, and emphasized the need of maintaining a high level of spiritual life. He welcomed Moody to Scotland, and the evangelist made his headquarters with him during his first visit.