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Oor Ain Folk
Chapter XVI


'Oor Ain Laddies'—What to do with the Boys—David the Boat-builder—An Eventful Career—Alexander the Merchant—An Early Start—Long Hours and Hard Work—A Swarm from the Parent Hive—The Merchant's Distinguished Career: his Character—Robert the Financier—Connection with the Volunteer Movement—My own Career—The Supposed 'Black Sheep'—Tom the Planter: aCannie, Couthie Bachelor—John the Student: his Brilliant Promise and Early Lamented Death — Willie the Banker : his Early Death—George the Minister—Henry the 'Shargar o' the Klekin'—A Typical Family—Colonising Tendencies of the Race—The Old Folks' Letters—Unique Circular Notes—Strange Use for a Tract.

'What shall we do with our boys?' was no doubt as anxious a problem to solve with my father and mother as it is now in many a manse and humble home. With the strong good sense which distinguished him, however, my father determined just to 'cut his coat according to his cloth.' With the miserably inadequate salary of a Free Church country minister of the time, it was obviously impossible that he could put his boys to college; and so in family conclave it was resolved to give the lads a trade, at all events, which might stand them in good stead in after life.

Accordingly, my eldest brother David was apprenticed to a boatbuilder in the neighbouring town of Montrose, and one of my earliest boyish recollections is the delight we experienced in lying among the shavings in the workshop, which was near the suspension bridge, and fishing through a knot-hole in the pine flooring for 'podlies' in the water beneath. The workshop was erected on piles, and overhung part of the harbour, and the lapping water beneath kept rhythm with the swish of saw and plane overhead.

The story of how the worthy minister and his wife toiled and struggled, sacrificed, worked, and prayed, to give their lads an honest start in the world, is to me, looking back now over the vanished years, full of pathos and deep interest. I think it may be taken as fairly typical of the gallant and heroic fight with fortune which was waged in many a middle-class home in Scotland at that time. As such it has its value, and while I must not weary the patience of my readers by amplifying details too much, I think I may be pardoned if I very briefly sketch in broad outline the respective careers of my large bevy of brothers.

David, the eldest, had vicissitudes of fortune enough to fill a three-volume novel. After learning his trade he went to sea as ship's carpenter; was one of the first 'to take up a claim' on the breaking out of the famous gold discoveries in Australia at Ballarat and Bendigo. His adventures on 'the diggings' were in themselves a romance. At one time he possessed some 7000. This he entrusted to the commander of his ship, Captain Brown, who had been working as a mate with him on the gold-fields, who had also amassed a decent sum, and was about to return home with it. Poor Brown, there is every reason to believe, must have 'fallen among thieves' and met a fate all too common in those lawless times. At any rate, he was never afterwards heard of, and my brother's hardly-earned hoard disappeared with him. Next David took to various pursuits, from contracting to butchering; worked at his trade in Sydney in the fifties; went to China, where he did gallant service as a volunteer at the taking of the Winter Palace at Pekin; finally, he settled down in Montrose with an honest partner, where he carried on the business of a coachbuilder; married, reared a family of boys and girls who are all now doing well in the world, and some years ago died, honoured, beloved, and esteemed for his genuine Christian character by all who knew him.

The next in rotation was Alexander, a loyal, loving soul, possessed of more than ordinary perseverance and force of character; and his story, too, would be worth the telling, had I time and space at my disposal

At the early age of thirteen he was taken from the village school and sent up to Edinburgh, to the drudgery and long hours of a fashionable drapery establishment, to learn the mysteries of 'the soft-goods' trade. The poor boy had to be at the shop long before eight on the cold, dark, winter mornings to sweep out the premises, dust the counters, and do the usual 'hard graft' which, however necessary and honourable, must yet have been, before the era of eight-hours movements, trades-unions, and all the social ameliorations of the present day, almost too much for the tender frame of a boy of thirteen. It was rarely indeed that he saw the inside of the bedclothes before twelve at night; but he must have been plucky, persevering, and hardy, because he won the good-will and esteem of his employers, and the hearty liking of all his fellow-employees. After his long, hard apprenticeship he took a leading position in the counting-house, and the arduous training he had passed through stood him in good stead in after years.

His was indeed a noble character. One of the first uses he made of his increased emoluments was to help his struggling parents; and the welcome additions to the common purse sent by him and my brother David enabled our parents to give the rest of the boys better educational advantages. After many anxious prayerful plannings and schemings, it was decided that Robert and myself should be sent up to Edinburgh under the charge of our only sister, to attend some of the schools there.

A house was accordingly taken in the top fiat of one of the common-stair tenements for which Scottish towns are famous. Our street led down directly to the Queen's Park. The home was plainly furnished; and here for some years Alick and Jeannie played the part of a vicarious father and mother to Robert and myself, and eventually Tom and John, the next two on the long list, were added to this swarm from the parent hive.

Dear me! how memories throng upon me as I write. A goodly volume could be written of my student life in Edinburgh, but I must reserve that, as Rudyard Kipling might say, for 'another story.'

Suffice it to say that Alick became chief bookkeeper in the Free Church Offices, was offered a post of great confidence in a leading Calcutta firm, which he accepted, and went to India. Here his career was one of rapid advancement, of great public usefulness and full of honour. He soon became one of the leading and most trusted merchants in Calcutta; was called to the Council of the Viceroy as representative of the commercial interests; was elected to the honourable position of President of the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce; and after a long career of distinguished activity in every useful and beneficent direction, he retired with a handsome competence to enjoy the delights of home with his sweet wife and dear children; but alas! he did not live long to enjoy these gracious gifts. After a brief and painful illness he 'fell asleep' some years ago, mourned by many devoted friends, both in high and humble station, in nearly every part of Her Majesty's dominions. There never breathed a kindlier man. He was almost entirely self-educated, but he was as pure-minded, humble, and lovable a Christian gentleman as ever broke bread.

To his generosity I owe most of my own education, and at a critical time in my life it was to his loving care and counsel that I owe, under the good providence of God, whatever of worldly success has crowned my own rather eventful career.

My brother Robert still lives, thank God. He is a rich and honoured man, and he has been a true-hearted, loving son and brother all his days. May they be 'long in the land.' He is well known on the London Stock Exchange, and has taken a lifelong interest in the great volunteer movement in England. He recently retired with the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel; and one of the London dailies in noting the fact comments as follows on 10th April 1891—

(This resignation deprives the volunteer service of a very able officer, who has always taken very great interest in its welfare, and has displayed much activity and energy in supporting the movement. We believe that Major Inglis now resigns because he is of opinion that it will be to the interest of the service if he makes room for younger and more active men. We may add that the gallant officer served in the Queen's Edinburgh Rifle Brigade from 1860 to 1866; and in the London Irish Rifles (Hon. Colonel H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, K.P., etc. etc.) from 1867 until now. We have no doubt the regiment will much regret the severance of his connection with it'

As to myself little need be said. I have been repeatedly urged to tell the story of my life which has been full of adventure and change. Perhaps I may some day. It has been one long record of mercies and kindnesses; and though at one time, I believe, sundry shortsighted critics predicted that I would come to no good, and put me down as 'the minister's black sheep,' there were not wanting kindly hearts who responded with the more cheering prophecy that I would yield 'as good a clip' as any of them in the long-run. 'So mote it be.'

Thomas Chalmers, the next to myself, is the only bachelor of the family. He learned the trade of a practical engineer. Graduating in the village blacksmith's shop, then in a local millwright's, he afterwards served a long apprenticeship in St. Margaret's Locomotive Works, near Edinburgh; then worked for a time at marine engineering at Plymouth, and took charge as engineer of an expedition despatched to St. Vigo Bay, to try to recover some sunken Spanish treasure galleons. This not resulting in a success he went out to India, where he was for many years a successful tea-planter; and he has now retired to enjoy a comfortable leisure in his native village, where he leads the life of a cannie country gentleman, and dispenses hospitality in the very house in which he was born, with all the kindliness and heartiness for which his father and grandfather before him were famed.

John was next on the list. In some respects he was perhaps the best equipped, intellectually, of the whole family. He was set apart by the old couple for the ministry. He passed through his university course with distinction; took the degree of Master of Arts; received his theological training in the Free Church College, and while yet very young was appointed to the charge of the Scottish Orphanage in Bombay as Principal. After a short time he entered the service of the Government of India, and was appointed Inspector for the important educational district of Koy Bareilly. Here, during the deadly cholera season of 1878, my gallant young brother fell a victim to that terrible scourge, and died nobly doing his duty. His young wife — a niece of the celebrated George Gilfillan—and her infant daughter had been sent away up to the hill station of Nynee Tal, while poor Jack remained at his post in Fyzabad. The station doctor was weary and worn with incessant service, and Jack one evening insisted on the doctor resting while he took his rounds for him through the bazaars. To this his medical friend would not agree; but they went out together to minister to the poor stricken people in the crowded, tainted city. Possibly poor Jack was sickening for the disease even then. Very likely the long hot season had predisposed him to catch the contagion. He was never one to spare himself, and having been a powerful athlete in his student days, he may have imagined himself stronger than he really was. At all events he fell a victim to the dreaded scourge, and in a few hours a fresh mound in the English cemetery alone marked the spot of his final earthly rest. Such tragedies are common in India. Ah me! how well I remember the tall, manly, athletic form; the kindly brown eye and ready smile; the strong, nervous hand-grip, and the womanly tenderness and loving care, when I lay a helpless cripple in the cosy, home-like bungalow which owned Jack as master. A sweet-faced, low-voiced widow, with a gentle, wistful-eyed daughter, just budding into winsome womanhood, also remember dear Jack, and look forward to the meeting by and by. Willie, the next, lies in a lonely grave by the great Australian inland river. He had taken an honourable position on the London Stock Exchange, but his health breaking down, he came out to Australia. After entering the service of one of the leading banks there, he accepted the position of branch manager in the far back, pastoral, riverside town of Wilcannis. Here he was joined by his goodhearted, loyal, loving wife and her four children. The first year of their stay there, however, proved too much for poor Willie's enfeebled frame. The temperature is frequently over 100 in the shade, and my poor brother fell a victim to sunstroke.

Next on the list is George. He has manifested the hereditary bent and is now a minister of the New Zealand Presbyterian Church. After passing through a creditable collegiate course in Edinburgh, he studied for two years under the venerable Principal Hodge and Dr. M'Cosh at Princeton College, U.S., travelled to Australia through India, and is now the honoured and beloved pastor of a large farming district in Otago. A clever wife and two fine boys help to make his snug manse bright and cheerful; and he too is a living refutation of the stupid libel that 'ministers' sons always turn out badly.'

My youngest brother Henry is married and doing well in London; and so far the manse boys, 'by the good hand of their father's God upon them,' have proved themselves fair average specimens of the myriad sons of the manse, who have gone out into the world from many a mossy howe, to sustain the good repute of their fathers, and uphold the fair fame of dear auld mither Scotland.

I take the foregoing necessarily brief review to be typical of the colonising tendencies of our race. Here is a family of boys, all of whom left the quiet home circle and made their way in the world. After I had left home to go to Edinburgh, we generally tried to be all at home every Christmas, at least as many as could gather together, but after I was fourteen years of age, I do not remember that the whole family were ever all assembled together at one time under the same roof. It was the same with my cousins. We got scattered abroad to the very ends of the earth, and I have met at various times near blood relations in New Zealand, Australia, India, the Straits Settlements, in Africa, and elsewhere; while in Brazil, Canada, Cape Colony, China, America, and the Islands of the Pacific there are representatives of 'oor vera ain folk,' all playing a creditable part in the conduct of affairs, and keeping up the good name and credit of the clan.

We were, in sooth, a happy and united family though often separated by distance and pursuing widely-different avocations. So long as the good old father and mother lived, their letters were a common bond of union. It was a beautiful trait in their character this letter-writing. The old folks looked on it as a duty, and it was performed with religious fidelity. Every fortnight, until latterly, when the weariness of age crept over the nimble brain and fingers, my dear mother managed to write to all her surviving boys. My father's letters too were frequent, and oh how welcome! Both were splendidly gifted in the epistolary ard we heard all about each other in these frequent epistles, and there ever breathed through them such a kindly 'hame owre' spirit that they were indeed sacramental, and cast a spell of loyal affection to the dear writers and to each other of the scattered family, which withstood all the usual effects of absence and distance, divided aims, and widely-differing pursuits.

At one time there were four of us in India together, and on the suggestion of my brother Jack we wrote a joint letter as a sort of New Year's card, which we forwarded to the others of the family, and this gave such pleasure to the old folks that it became' a yearly custom. Thinking the custom a good one, and that it may prove a little interesting, I give here two specimens verb, et lit of this somewhat unique correspondence.

I hope that the reader may make some allowances as he runs his eye through what was certainly never intended for publication of this sort; my only excuse for now reprinting these old circular letters is the belief that others may perhaps be fired to follow our example; and if the pleasure given to some loved ones be even measurably near to what our random letters gave, I will not have given the hint for naught.

The first is as follows:—

Write your Name and pass it on to the Chief o' the Clan.

1st January 1874.

Faizabad, Oudh. My dear Jim, Tom, Alick, Jessie, Robbie, Ethel, Baby, Bob, Ellen, Will, Hen, George, Davie, Annie—a* yer bairns, for I dinna ken their names—Andrew, Jeanie, Nelly, Bob, Tatie Tarn, Curly Pow—an' a' the rest, for I forgot them too—Lizzie, Papa an' Mamma—the twa Patriarchs— a very Happy New Year to you all, an' mony o' them.

Always your very affectionate brither, uncle, half-uncle, an' son, Jack.

In Gunn, Radhanogger, Hooks,
Bhangolpore.

Ditto, ditto, also, likewise, and in repetition,—Lang may ye lauch at the doctor, an' hae mair o* the warP and the flesh than the deevil, an' hae mony another fit o' indigestion owre Xmas pudden an' New Year's cake.

Jim.

Brechin Castle Shanty,
Tnkdah, Darjeeling.

My dearly beloved parents, brethren, sistern, and relations,—I wish yon all the same as Jack and Jim. May you all have more of this world's gear than I have at present, and long may you live to enjoy it. Success to the bachelors : may they soon become scarce, and yet at the same time increase, and never forget the old folks.—Your loving relative,

Tom Chalmers.

15 Elysium Bow, Calcutta.

All of us here, both big and little, wish the dear old folks at Edzell, and all our other relatives in Scotland, England, India, or elsewhere, very many happy returns of the New Year, and every other good wish.

A. B. Inglis.
Jessie Inglis.
Robbie A Inglis.
Ethel M. Inglis.
Hugh M. Inglis X his mark

South Penge Park,
Surrey, England.

'Ta same owre here, but she snaws.'

R. W; Inglis.
Ellen Inglis.

Hairywirm Dookit,
Bayswater, London.

Like the auld wife's parrotj we 'dinna speak muckle, but we're deevils to think,' and are aye thinkin' aboot ye a'.

W. B. Inglis.
H. Inglis.

Edinburgh University. Here's health, strength, long life, and happiness to ye a'.

Geo. B. Inglis.

17 Armit's Buildings,
Montrose.

In continuation of the foregoing sentiments, we heartily join.

David Inglis.
Anne Inglis.
Maggie Jane Inglis.
Alexander Brand Inglis.
Robert Inglis.

Brechin, 10th February 1874.

This has travelled far,
And now is near its hame;
To all the good express'd
We add our hand and name.

Andrew Simpson.
Jane Simpson.
Nelly Simpson.
Robert Inglis Simpson.
Catherine Jane Simpson.
Rose Adelaide Simpson.
Andrew Melville Simpson.
Lizzie Simpson.

The next was written a full decade after the foregoing, and the observant reader will see that in the interim death had been busy, and that our hitherto happy and united family was beginning to feel the common fate of all merely earthly associations and institutions.

1st January 1884,
Warepa, Otago, N.Z.

My dear Mamma, and all the Members of the Family, big and little,—

We wish you much happiness throughout the coming year. We trust that Grannie will be long spared to us yet, and aye hae a competent portion o' the guid things o' this life, and be able to gie a shillin' or twa to puir folk. May prosperity attend oor clan, and may we a' walk in the footsteps of our dear father, gone to his reward.

Geo. B. Inglis.
Milly P. Inglis.

Amid all the inevitable changes of life, let our loving sympathy for each other know no change. We owe much to the dear ones that are gone: we can best pay it by showing love to those that are still with us. Fair fa' ye a'

Craigo, Eedmyre,
Sydney, N.S.W., 20-2-84
Jas. Inglis.
Mary Inglis.

So fa' ye, Tomas. The foregoing foreigners seem to be rather sentimental, and as there is not much fun in me just now, I heartily endorse the aforesaid sentimental sentiments, and hope Mamma will be long spared to receive a paper like this, with the signatures of all her sons, and perhaps one more daughter, as I hope I am not to remain the only 'Bloomin' Bachelor.'

Tukdah, Darjeeling,
India, 80th March 1884
Thos. C. Inglis.

This Family Letter for Mamma only reached London this week after a journey from New Zealand to Australia, thence to India, and then home. Our household here all unite very heartily in wishing Mamma (she is Grannie to most of us) many happy returns of the New Year, and hope she may be long spared to her Children and Grandchildren, and that she may be able to come South and see the latest.

May prosperity attend oor clan, and may we a' walk in the footsteps of our dear father, gone to his reward.

Geo. B. Inglis.
Milly P. Inglis.

Amid all the inevitable changes of life, let our loving sympathy for each other know no change. We owe much to the dear ones that are gone: we can best pay it by showing love to those that are still with us. Fair fa' ye a'

Craigo, Eedmyre,
Sydney, N.S.W., 20-2-84.
Jas. Inglis.
Mary Inglis.

So fa' ye, Tomas. The foregoing foreigners seem to be rather sentimental, and as there is not much fun in me just now, I heartily endorse the aforesaid sentimental sentiments, and hope Mamma will be long spared to receive a paper like this, with the signatures of all her sons, and perhaps one more daughter, as I hope I am not to remain the only 'Bloomin' Bachelor.'

Tukdah, Darjeeling,
India, 80th March 1884.
Thos. C. Inglis.

This Family Letter for Mamma only reached London this week after a journey from New Zealand to Australia, thence to India, and then home. Our household here all unite very heartily in wishing Mamma (she is Grannie to most of us) many happy returns of the New Year, and hope she may be long spared to her Children and Grandchildren, and that she may be able to come South and see the latest additions to the number of the latter in the course of a few weeks.

Coombehurot,
Lunham Road,
Upper Norwood,
24th April 1884.

A. R Inglis.
Jessie Anne Inglis.
K. A. Inglis.
Ethel Margaret Inglis.
Frances H. L. Inglis.
Charles Elliot Inglis.
Emily Gertrude Inglis.
Arthur Loveday Inglis.
Colin Stuart Inglis X his mark.

Craigendowie, Reigate, Surrey,
28th April 1884.

Here's t'ye, Grannie ! Lang may yer lum reek.

R. W. Inglis.
Ellen Inglis.

'Oakfield,' Selhurst Road,
South Norwood, S.E.,

All here entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the elder members of the Clan, and hope that Dear Mamma and Grannie (two in one) will long be spared to be a blessing to all of us.

W. B. Inglis.
Mary Inglis.
Helen Margaret Inglis
Robert Andrew Inglis
William Andrew Inglis
Mary Lilian Jane Inglis

6 Stotham Grove,
Green Lane, N., London,
29th April 1884.

We also join in hearty good wishes for dear Mamma's welfare, and hope that her proverbial teuchness may long stand her in good stead.

'When bendin' doon wi' auld gray hairs,
Beneath the load of years and cares,
May He who made thee still support thee,
And views beyond the grave comfort thee,
Our worthy family, far and near,
God bless them a' wi' grace and gear.'

Henry Inglis.
Amy Catherine Inglis.

28 Bridge Street, Montrose,
2nd May 1884.

Dear Grannie—The branches are far spread, part o' the stem gone. May the half that remains long continue to thrive!

David Inglis.
Anne Inglis.
Maggie Jane Inglis.
A. B. Inglis.
Robert Inglis.
James Inglis.
Tom C. Inglis.
John K. Inglis X his mark.
Helen Ann Inglis X her mark.

Brechin,
6th May 1884.

Dear Grannie—George's paper has just come our length; we heartily join our good wishes to the rest, and may ye lang come rinnin7 (for ye dinna walk) up the brae to read the paper, and say, 'Fat's dam' the day, lassie?'

A. Simpson.
Jane Inglis Simpson.
Robert Inglis Simpson.
Catherine Jane Simpson.
Rosie A. Simpson.
Andrew M. Simpson.


55 Sonthesk Street,
Brechin, 7th May 1884.

Long may Grannie reign, the head and centre of a prosperous, united, and happy family!

Marion W. Inglis.
Ruby C. Inglis.

My mother's letters were generally racy and humorous, though permeated through and through with the most intense piety, and full of earnest appeals to our religious feelings. Sometimes she would, in our opinion, devote just a little more space than we thought desirable to these exhortations and give too little local and family news. She was a great believer in the efficacy of tracts, and, with true Scottish economy, wishful always to take the full value of her postage stamp, she would enclose up to the full postal allowance leaflets and printed extracts, if her written epistle was not up to the regulation weight. On one occasion she had given me rather scanty village news as I thought, and rather too many of 'Peter Drummond's leaflets for letters.' It so happened that my letter reached me out in camp, in my Indian home, and a poor man from one of the villages had come to me with a sick cow, for which he wanted me to act as doctor. I had made up a bolus for the cow, and for want of a better envelope, I took the coloured leaflet, which I explained to the gaping rustic was a powerful English charm, and would help the work of the medicine. Wrapping my bolus therefore in the thin pink paper on which the tract was printed, the drug was administered, paper and all, and I am glad to be able to chronicle that the cow speedily recovered from her ailment. I wrote a humorous account of this to my old mother, gently chiding her at the same time for giving me too much tract and too little news. The only response, however, was a bigger and thicker packet of tracts by a following mail, and round the parcel was a direction written in the well-known caligraphy of the dear old lady:

'Thae's for yersel', my man, an' no' for the coo!'

Note to Thomas Chalmers Inglis, p. 259.

Since these pages were written, my honest kind-hearted brother has passed away to the silent land. He never recovered from the effects of his early Indian pioneering experiences, and sank peacefully to rest, surrounded by loving friends, in October 1893, just as this book was preparing for press.


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