The Reverend David Garrow (1715-1805) was born and raised near the village of Aberlour in northern Scotland. He studied at King’s College, Aberdeen, graduating in 1736 with a Master of Arts degree, and was then ordained into the Church of England. In 1747 he started at Monken Hadley in Hertfordshire The Priory, a boarding school which prepared boys for commercial careers such as the East India Company, and served as headmaster for the rest of his working life. He married Sarah Lowndes (1723-1789) in 1748 and together they raised a family of 5 children to adulthood, Edward, Eleanora, Jane, Joseph and William. Eleanora stayed home and cared for her parents, and the others had highly successful careers in England and India. It is interesting to note that the person who became Sir William Garrow was their third child to be named William, the first two dying as infants.
The career of the Reverend David Garrow is described in his obituary which appeared in “The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle” of April 1805. In addition to describing his successes as a schoolmaster, husband and father, the article describes his last years with these words.
“He felt his own gradual decay; and the loss of memory affected him so much that he avoided society, even that of his old neighbours, and, latterly, of his relatives, who were unremitting in their respectful attentions to the good old man who, when able to walk out in his village, generally used a long stick, presented to him by one of his family, which he called a Madagascar spear; and as he wore his own hair, turned to silver locks, he reminded those who met him of one of the Patriarchs, as described in Holy Writ, particularly when to his neighbour’s address of salutation, he answered, with a benevolent as well as a cheerful countenance, “God bless you!”
Two mezzotint portraits of the Reverend David Garrow can be found in the National Portrait Gallery, both dated 1787, one by Charles Howard Hodges and one by Robert Laurie. both based on the painting by George Romney shown above. The original painting belongs to to a descendant of Mr Garrow and has not previously been available for public view.
The history of this Romney portrait is an interesting one. It was sent out of London for safekeeping, together with other family pictures, during the Second World War, and stored in a depository in York. Unfortunately the depository was bombed, and a number of pictures, including one of William Garrow by George Romney (1785) were destroyed. (A black and white photograph of this painting is held the British Museum.) George Romney’s portrait of the Reverend David Garrow was damaged by the heat of the fire, and has just been restored. Now it is possible to see the colors and artistic treatment of George Romney’s work, and make a comparison with the mezzotint renderings of Hodges and Laurie.
A more detailed account of the Reverend David Garrow can be found in the biography, Sir William Garrow, His Life, Times and Fight for Justice.