William MacGregor – Famous Egyptologist
Born on 16th May, 1848 of a wealthy Scottish shipping family, William MacGregor. Educated at Rugby School and then went onto exeter College Oxford where he graduated as a B.A. in 1871 and an M.A in 1874.
In 1877 – 78 he moved to St Matthias’ in Liverpool serving as vicar of that parish, before returning later that same year to take over from Brooke Lambert as Vicar of Tamworth, an office he held until 1887.
William MacGregor, a very godly man with immense faith devoted his life to the people of Tamworth and spent the first 10 years of his ministry visiting the poor and squalid homes where typhoid was often rampant. He campaigned tirelessly for every home to have clean water and sanitation despite the strong opposition from the town’s wealthy inhabitants.
He welcomes children and orphans from the Tamworth Workhouse (later St. Editha’s Hospital) into his home to holiday. A lifelong bachelor, he loved children and encouraged them to save in a Penny Bank.
He brought in 2 curates to help him and personally financed these.
In 1880 he founded the first hospital at his own expense and acted as honorary secretary for many years, his interest in the hospital never waned.
William MacGregor was Chairman of the Tamworth Herald from 1906-28, he started a free library and a coffee house (for teetotallers) and established a working men’s club as a place where a working man could take his wife for a social evening.
He built two churches, at Glascote and Hopwas and had the bells of St Editha’s re-cast. He also occasionally served as a magistrate.
On one occasion a young boy was brought before him for playing football in the road, the boy informed him that there was no where else to play so William macGregor purchased a plot of land near the railway arches – Bolehall Park (now known as macGregor Park) which he gave to the young people of the town.
He started a Mothers’ Union and employed a home nurse to visit and help poor mothers with infants at home. He then started a girls’ club where they could not only learn needlework and religion but have a place to read and chat.
The poor people of Tamworth appealed to William macGregor to help them start a Co-operative Society where they could purchase food cheaply and share in the profits. In 1885 he sourced the premises in Colehill and acted as guarantor. The local shopkeepers were enraged and feared that this cut-price Co-op would affect their livlihoods. They wrote to the Bishop in anger, people stopped attending church in protest and Mt MacGregor was subjected to abuse. In 1887 this sad episode caused him to resign as vicar but he decided that he would continue spending the rest of his life going good in his own way.
He went on to found St george’s Club and Institute for young men. The club had rooms for classes and even a fine baths. For a quarter of a century the institute was used for the social, physical and educational benefit of the town’s young people.
Less well know was William MacGregor’s involvement with Freemasonry, an organisation whose fraternal and charitable values would have readily resonated with his own. He joined Marmion Lodge No 1060 (who, as Tamworth’s oldest Masonic Lodge, still meet today at 29 Lichfield Street) in March 1873 and played an active role in the Lodge, becoming its Worshipful Master in 1898.”
In later life he suffered a serious lung illness which caused him to convalesce abroad in Egypt. here he became enchanted with the Land of the Pharaohs and began studying their art. he became an eminent Egyptologist and amassed the most valuable private collection which he housed in a special museum which he had built at Bolehall Manor, his home. At least two of the mummies he brought back from Egypt are believed to be buried in locla soil as they had begun to deteriorate.
He was also a noted authority and publicist on greek Pottery which earned him the Fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries.
As he got older he endowed Tamworth Castle with certain collections but decided to sell the majority privately. The MacGregor collection was sold at Sotheby’s for huge amounts to galleries and museums all over the world. The sale catalogue describes him as ‘one of the most important collectors of Egyptology’, the catalogue can be viewed today at the British Museum.
Mr MacGregor had an abiding love of history and his concern for the proper maintenance of Tamworth Castle was deep and practical.
In 1899 he addressed the 350 invited guests at an official luncheon to celebrate the acquisition of the Tamworth Assembly Rooms.
He not only cared about the buildings in Tamworth but the welfare of its people, particularly the young. he wanted them to have a sense of pride and citizenship.
he was 89 years of age when he died on 26th february, 1937 at his home, Bolehall Manor, a house he had built for himself on land bordering the River Anker. His civic life and dedicated service to the people of Tamworth spanned some 60 years, a man in advance of his time.