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Archibald Purves

Purves, Archibald
Archibald Purves never became a professor, but would not doubtless have done so had he lived, for he was highly skilled in many languages. When J. J. McKenzie and Herbert A. Bayne, decided to go to Germany to study, he thought it might be good for him to go also. McKenzie and Bayne were well grounded in German with the assistance of General Oscar Malmross, at that time American Consul in Pictou. He was a German by birth, and well educated. The three fellow students went to Leipsic first. Purves afterwards went to Edinburgh, and spent some time there. He feared he could not become a fluent enough speaker for the ministry, and decided to study languages. He continued his studies in Edinburgh during the winters and in Germany in summer time. It was at the latter place that he had an attack of pleurisy. Before he was convalescent he gave up his room to a student who had engaged it for the new term, and went to another boarding house. He caught cold in moving, and "lung fever" as the Germans call it, set in. He went to Leipsic to consult a doctor whom he knew. He was ordered to Davos in the Alps, a resort for those with weak lungs. There he lingered during the winter, and died in March, 1878, while his brother, Mr. David H. Purves, was on his way to be with him at the end. His brother bought a lot in the cemetery, and buried him in Davos.

McGregor, J. Gordon
A noteworthy coincidence in this connection was J. Gordon McGregor's strong desire to accompany the three to Leipsic. When he first crossed the Atlantic, as a Gilchrist Scholar, he was hardly expected to survive the voyage. His heart action was so weak that he was compelled to rest for a year with friends in Edinburgh. He recovered, and afterwards had a distinguished and brilliant career; as a graduate student in Great Britain and in Germany; as Professor of Physics in Dalhousie, succeeding his fellow student, Dr. McKenzie, and as successor to Professor Tait, in the chair of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh.

Professor McGregor was born in Halifax, and was the son of a well known Presbyterian clergyman, Rev. P. G. McGregor, D. D. He took his arts course in Dalhousie, where he earned a first class in every subject of his course, and where he afterwards taught for twenty-two years, closing his career by giving twelve years of eminent service to the Edinburgh University. The end came to him with startling suddenness. On the morning of May 21, 1913, he arose, to all appearances in his ordinary health. He had his bath, and returned to his room to dress. There he was taken suddenly ill; called in his son, and died almost immediately afterwards. Thus ended the checkered career of this quartette of students who crossed the Atlantic together to pursue their studies abroad.

It is distressing to think of these hard working and promising young men thus falling by the way prematurely, McKenzie from inhaling gas during an experiment; Bayne from cancer of the stomach, Purves from rapid consumption and McGregor from heart failure.

It is interesting to conjecture what they might have accomplished had their lives been spared, for they were all men of fine ability, ambition and manhood.

Pictonians at Home and Abroad, 1914


Pictou County

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