A Wesleyan pioneer of the temperance movement in Scotland, he was born in Dundee on 28 July 1866 and educated at West End Academy. In 1901 he established the Scottish Prohibition Party and was elected to Dundee City Council on that ticket. He stood unsuccessfully in the 1908 Dundee bi-election, which saw Winston Churchill returned, but after a number of failed attempts was succssful in winning the seat in 1922, helping to oust Churchill. His attempt with the support of the Independent Labour Party to get a Prohibition bill through Parliament was unsuccessful, though legislation restricting the sale of alcohol to those over 18 was passed in 1923. He was the only person to enter the Commons on a Prohibition ticket and lost the seat to Dingle Foot in 1932.
He died on 1 February 1947.