John Urquhart was a brilliant student born in Edinburgh who studied at the University of St Andrews. He died when he was eighteen year-old.
John was one of the sons of John Urquhart and his wife Ann Mill, and the brother of Anne Urquhart. John Urquhart was a lapidary and watchmaker and had a jeweller's shop in Perth at 54 George Street, and the family lived in Barossa Place, Perth.
John was extraordinarily quick as a child. He went to the Grammar School there when he was eight, and from the beginning he loved his lessons and worked hard. After school, his parents felt he was too young to go to university yet, so he spent a year at Perth Academy studying the sciences, in which he gained first prize, and also a prize for drawing maps. At fourteen, he went to the University of St Andrews, accompanied there by his father and his uncle, the Reverend Mr Orme, the Urquharts' minister in Perth.
John earned a scholarship to the University for £8 a session for four years. He was pleased with this financial help as he was concerned at the cost to his father of sending him to St Andrews. At sixteen, he was showing remarkable intellectual maturity. He decided to become a missionary, and advocated the formation of a University Missionary Society, to cover all Faculties and not just that of Divinity. By the end of its first year, one third of the student body was supporting the Society. After two years, even the Senatus saw merit in it, and both the Principals, Dr Nicol and Dr Haldane, sent donations, and finally the latter became Patron of the St Andrews University Missionary Society.
During his four years at St Andrews University, John Urquhart won many prizes: medals in Junior and Senior Greek; in Latin and Mathematics, prizes in first and second years; a prize for essays read in the Philosophy Class and another for anonymous composition awarded by Dr Chalmers, the Professor of Moral Philosophy; and in his final year, he gained prizes in Natural Philosophy and in the Hebrew, Chaldaic, and Syrian Class. But his highest award was the first prize in Moral Philosophy: he was just eighteen and there were two hundred and fifty students in Dr Chalmers' class, including the greatest array of talent ever gathered at St Andrews.
By his third year at the University John had determined to become a missionary in China and he decided to begin studying the Chinese language. During a stay in London, John worked out a scheme of study for himself which he pursued on his return to St Andrews, taking considerable time and effort to translate the first chapter of St John's Gospel into Chinese.
During the summer of 1826 John took a post as tutor to the son of a Colonel Moreland, at a salary of £50 a year. John's pupil was the Morelands' only son, ten-year-old William, an intelligent boy, who was keen to learn.
In December of the same year, John fell ill. He got progressively weaker; his breathing became affected and he had difficulty in expressing his thoughts. He sent a letter to his parents on the 27th of December, and a week later he felt so ill that he decided to return home to Perth, but he only got as far as the Reverend Greville Ewing's house in Glasgow. His family was alerted and came to see him, but John fell into a coma and died on the 10th of January 1827, aged eighteen years and seven months.