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Caithness Field Club Bulletin
THE EDUCATION OF A MINISTER IN THE LATE 18th CENTURY
Alexander Sage was born in Kildonan, Sutherland, and received his initial education by personal tuition at home from the age of five years to the age of eight studying English, writing Latin and arithmetic. Tutors were usually newly ordained ministers as yet without a parish or training for the ministry
At eight years of age, he was sent to school at Dornoch where he remained for seven years studying in greater depth English, Latin, writing and arithmetic. 0n reaching the age of fifteen he was successful in obtaining a bursary of £9.00 per annum to attend Marischal College, Aberdeen to study for the degree of Arts Master (AM).
To travel to Aberdeen, Sage went on foot. The alternative was by fishing smack from Helmsdale to Banff and thence on foot. He walked from Kildonan first to Tain via the Meikle ferry at Dornoch. From there he went to Invergordon, and crossed by ferry to Cromarty and thence to Ardesier. Continuing via Elgin, Fochabers and Keith he arrived at Aberdeen some five days after leaving Kildonan.
Sage now commenced four years of intensive study, all the lectures being delivered in Latin. The course of his studies were
Year 1 - Greek and Latin
Year 2 - Mathernatics, History, Natural History (biology and zoology)
Year 3 - Mathematies, natural philosophy
Year 4 - Moral philosophy, Logic
Often only one professor would take the students through all their subjects. Aberdeen was the first university to change this. On graduating from Aberdeen, Sage now proceeded at the age of nineteen to the Divinity College, Edinburgh, where he commenced three years of study in Theology. Ecclesiastical history, the Testaments and Hebrew. On successful completion Sage was now at the age of twenty two, licenced and ordained by the Scottish Presbytery as a minister the Reverend Alexander Sage to await a call to a Highland parish to practice his ministry.
Sage was later to become better known for his involvement in the Sutherland Clearances.