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John Clay - A Scottish Farmer
Chapter XII - His Last Eight Years


When he left Kerchesters in 1896 he moved to Edinburgh and bought 8 Magdala Crescent. The house has a beautiful outlook towards the Pentland Hills;on the southwest is Donaldson's Hospital and the Hills beyond Murrayfield. The deaf and dumb children were a constant source of pleasure and amusement, and many an hour the household watched them from the drawing-room windows. It would be natural to think that a man moving from the country where he had led a wonderfully active life would be unhappy in town, but he expressed no regret. In a humorous way he would say the only mistake in the move was the mixing of the port and he never knew whether he was giving you 1863, 1881 or 1887. Unfortunately the dates had not been sealed on the corks. In fact in his seventy-second year he found Kerchesters too strenuous for him. The labor of the farm had changed for the worse. It was a wide-lying place and the difficulties grew yearly, and as he said himself, his temper did not wax more mellow with age. And so he left after fifty-seven years of his father's and his own tenancy. Two men were at the sale in 1839 himself and Mr. Robert Oliver of Lochside, who is still living (January, 1906). He still had Plenderleith and Wedderlie. Plenderleith was vacated in 1898 and he farmed Wedderlie till his death. His attachment to Wedderlie was pathetic and he went there for the summers or part of them as long as he was able. He kept up a vigorous town life. He took to golf and went everywhere. He was a member of Barn-ton and Murrayfield. He visited Musselburgh and North Berwick. He made trips to Ireland. Nowhere did he enjoy a day more than at Goswick, where he met his old Berwick friends. He kept his old hunter at Wedderlie and had many a glorious ride across the hills; in fact his first serious illness an attack of pleurisy was brought on by his traveling from Gordon Station to Edinburgh after an exciting hunt on a wet day without changing his clothes. He joined the Waverley Curling Club and was an ardent player. He took a sitting in St. George's Free Church and was elected to an eldership shortly afterwards.

As stated in a former chapter, he took a long trip to the United States in 1897. There he got a fine reception, the railroads extending courtesies to him at every turn. In fact he had a sort of triumphal march through the West. He was called back somewhat suddenly by the illness of his daughter, Mrs. Muirhead. She died a year afterwards and his sorrow for her lasted to the end.

In June, 1902, he was taken ill with stone in the kidney. The agony was intense. Finally through the efforts of his physician, Dr. Gulland, it was alleviated, but it left him stranded and he practically kept to his bed and the sofa ever afterwards. In the spring of 1903 he made a trip to Pawston in North Northumberland. His enjoyment was intense. He went back from there never to leave his home again. The grand constitution, helped by Gulland and Nurse Williamson, whose devotion was untiring, kept the ship afloat till September 3rd, 1904, and then it sank into the realms of oblivion.

Aside from his business his leading characteristic in Edinburgh was his extreme hospitality. Nothing pleased him better than to have his old friends come and see him. James Hope, East Barns, and William Kirkwood, Musselburgh, his old school companions, were the prize visitors. Then came his nephew James Stedman, Middle-town, Fountainhall, whose knowledge of passing events was simply marvellous. The most regular caller was his old friend James Swan, of John Swan & Sons, who when he was in town called every Sunday afternoon at 2x55, almost to the moment. He and his father had dealt with the Swans for over sixty years, a splendid record for both sides, and the last verse in the chapter was written by James Swan at the Wedderlie sale and valuation.

His last instructions were to take his remains and the mourners out to Sprouston by a special train, and he lies in the old Churchyard amid scenes which he loved so well.


 


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