Rev George Gunn was born in Edinburgh on 3rd June 1851. His father, also named George, and his mother Margaret had already had two children, George and Margaret, but had lost both in infancy, so George grew up as the eldest of seven - with five brothers and a sister.
George's grandfather, John, had come from Caithness at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and became a well-known businessman in Edinburgh. His son, George, (it was a family tradition to call the eldest son George), worked in the newspaper industry with the 'Edinburgh Evening Courant'. He had been involved with the newspaper for 26 years, and had been sub-editor for the previous ten years. Just prior to his son's birth he had been covering 'The Great Exhibition' which was opened by Queen Victoria on May 1st 1851.
George was born on June 3rd. In the autumn of 1860, George (Snr) took ill, and died on May 19th 1861, George (Jnr) being just ten years old.
George's mother, Margaret, was a Bryce; one of a family of highly respected gunmakers in Edinburgh. She, in fact, outlived both Georges, father and son, and a younger son, John.
George found himself, then, at the age of ten, the male head of the family, his youngest brother being only six months old.
George was at the High School, but was not able to stay there long enough to gain proficiency in his mathematical sciences. He made a lot of friends at the school and kept in touch with them for the rest of his life.
Lack of education was to prove a struggle, but struggle he did, and, with much burning of the midnight oil, and many greetings of the morning sun, George made up for the deficiencies of the earlier years. Indeed, in later years, he became a successful private tutor and also a teacher in public schools.
George liked to play cricket, and was considered a good prospect in his early years. He also enjoyed fishing, and could often be seen at some of the local streams such as Gogar Burn, Bavelaw Burn and the River Almond.
As soon as he was fourteen years of age, he went, as an apprentice, to a firm of solicitors in George Street. He had found this post by his own efforts, searching the local newspaper for suitable vacancies. His hours of work were from 9.30am till 5pm, but it was frequently midnight before he reached home after a hard day's work.
His masters, from very early on, valued and respected him and they allowed him to take time off during the day to attend the classes at the University, but he had to make up the time in the evenings.
His Arts course was punctuated by the three examinations necessary, at that time, for the Master of Arts degree. He passed them all, and by so doing was awarded the MA degree which at one time must have seemed well nigh unattainable.
His apprenticeship then came to an end, and he went into teaching.
Throughout this time, he had not only supported himself at college, but had also greatly supported the household from his earnings and his bursary. Indeed, he looked upon his family as his first responsibility, always.
His ambition had always been to be a minister. It was a very difficult road, and at many a time the idea must have seemed almost impossible, but George, still determined, entered Divinity Hall, not in the spirit of seeking a profession, but in the acceptance of answering a call stirring within his own heart. His life now became harder than ever; during the next five years he was never without five hours teaching per day. About half was in public schools. Both as a schoolmaster and as a private tutor he was a great success, being respected by fellow teachers and pupils alike.
George lived in the family home on the North side of Edinburgh, and it was a long walk across the city to one of his schools which was out in Morningside. Thereafter to the University for his various classes, and, at night, a weary walk to the homes of his different private pupils, some of whom were older than himself. Then, laborious study, not only for his college classes, but also his preparation for the tuition of the following day.
And yet, at this time, he still had time for others. One of his younger brothers, who had been educated away from home, had lost a year's education through ill health.
Despite this, he had been promoted to a higher class. One result of this was that he found himself far behind his classmates in Latin. The Classics Master knew no other punishment than the cane and the young lad suffered inhuman punishment, daily, and, of course, for want of explanation did not improve. George, in order to save him, rose an hour earlier than usual, at about 4am, and in a few weeks supplied the lad with written explanations of every exercise in the Latin composition book - some one hundred and thirty in all. The only condition attached to this was that every boy in the class should have access to them, so that all might have the same chance. The outcome was a particularly happy one, as there was no more punishment and the master could never understand the sudden and extraordinary proficiency of that class, in particular.
At this time George and Robert Louis Stevenson became friends. They were in the same classes at University, and were in the habit of walking home together. Their families both sat in St Stephen's Church and the two young men attended the young communicants class together. They became close and might have done more together if George had had more leisure time; but it was not to be and they eventually went their separate ways.
Sunday was his day of rest; or rather he found recreation in a change of work. He went to church twice and was also a Sunday School teacher, as well as being involved in other church activities.