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Daniel McNaughtan - Learning Right From Wrong

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Daniel McNaughtan was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to a poor dressmaker named Ada. Births were not required to be recorded in the Scottish Register Office until 1855, so the actual date of Daniel's birth is unknown. It has been estimated that he was born as early as 1812 or as late as the spring of 1813. Daniel was raised by his mother until her death in 1821 when he went to live with his father. His father, also named Daniel, was a respected businessman who owned several properties in addition to the wood turning (fashioning wooden pieces or blocks into various shapes) shop where he worked on Stockwell Street in Glasgow.

Daniel's stepmother resented his presence, but the ten year old became an apprentice to his father as a wood turner and proved to be very talented at the trade. After more than four years, Daniel became a journeyman (one level up from apprentice) and spent the next few years perfecting his craft. Daniel had a gentle temperament and a good work ethic, which made him a favorite among the other shopkeepers on Stockwell Street. When Daniel turned eighteen he was ready to become a partner with his father. His stepmother preferred that her own sons be given the business, so he remained only an employee.

Daniel continued working but at night went to school to prepare himself for a career on the stage. He studied the works of English playwright William Shakespeare (1564–1616) and several English dramatists until he was a competent actor. In 1832, at the age of nineteen, Daniel had enough money saved from work to pursue his theatrical career. He took the stage name of Mr. Knight and joined several others in a series of readings and recitations in the Glasgow Trades Hall. Joining a band of touring actors, Daniel found himself at various towns in western Scotland. The touring ended unsuccessfully and he returned to Glasgow three years later. He had become an accomplished reader and an effective public speaker but finances forced him to return to the more profitable trade of wood turner.

In 1835 McNaughtan opened his own small shop on Stockwell Street, just a few yards from his father's shop. He continued his education in science and the arts and taught himself French, wrote poetry, and enjoyed quoting Shakespeare to his fellow craftsmen. McNaughtan's skills kept him working steadily and his shop was busy. Most of Glasgow, however, was experiencing an economic recession and the trades were particularly hard hit. By the early 1840s, Great Britain was in a depression and even McNaughtan could not keep his shop going full time.

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