I WILL now refer more particularly than I have yet done to my worthy Aunt
Sarah of Clackmannan, my mother's eldest sister, and Uncle Henry. She had
a passionate love for the place of her birth—Bankhead, of Tullibole; and
many were the stories she used to tell us of the folks round about
there—in Hood's Hill, Coldrain, the Gelvin, etc.; and so vivid were the
pictures of some of the scenes she described, that you got to have quite
an interest in the whole locality.
She was an exceedingly cheerful
person, and her merry laugh could be heard a great way off; and so much
was she esteemed, generally, in the town of her adoption, that there
wasn't one in it, I believe, but would have done her a kind turn if they
had had it in their power.
She attended the ministry of the Rev. Mr.
Balfour (the present Lord Advocate's father), and from both him and Mrs.
Balfour she ever received the greatest kindness. She used frequently to
speak of the faithful visits paid her, along with others, of Mrs. Bruce of
Kennet (Lord Burleigh's mother), and the many excellent tracts she left
with them. She died, as I have already mentioned, in 1862, aged
Uncle Henry lived with her till his death in 1833. Besides
being of a decidedly poetical turn of mind, he was very
fond of painting, and, though self-taught, produced some most creditable
pictures, some of which adorned their rooms. One, particularly, of Alva
House and the Wood Hill, in oil, was a very well-executed painting indeed,
and a most faithful representation of the scene.
The farm of Bankhead was sold by my Grandfather Wilson
to Lord Moncreiff about the year 1820. My brother in Dollar being anxious
to become possessed of the property which once belonged to his
forefathers, bought it back from Lord Moncreiff in 1859, and held
possession of it for twenty-one years. In 1880 he sold it to the late
Robert Mowbray, Esq., of Naemoor, to whose family it now belongs.
SOJOURN IN DUNFERMLINE.
the year 1835 I left school, and commenced the business of life. I went to
Dunfermline, and served a three years' apprenticeship to the drapery
trade, with Mr. David Inglis, Bridge Street; and was afterwards about a
year in Stewart & M'Donald's, in Glasgow.
During my sojourn in Dunfermline, I had the pleasure (along with my
companions who lived in the same apartments with me) of getting introduced
to some very nice, kind families; amongst others, I may mention Mr. Joseph
Paton, Wooer's Alley; Mr. Bonar, builder; Mr. Hay, St. Margaret Street;
Mrs. Auld, High Street, etc.
Mr. Joseph Paton
(Sir Noel Paton's father) was a great antiquarian, and his house was
filled with a most valuable collection of old armour, antique furniture,
etc., and visitors came from far and near to see his collection, and were
always made welcome. Mrs. Paton was one of the kindest and most motherly
of ladies, and many a happy evening we spent in their house.
Mr. Paton, I recollect, was very anxious that Robert
Wright and I (both Dollar lads) should make a thorough search about the
nooks and corners of Castle Campbell, and see if no old relic could be
discovered; and I remember well of taking down to him a bit of an old
saddle I found in one of the dungeons of the keep, and of which I was sure
I had made 'a great find;' but, to my great mortification, it turned out
to be a bit of a very modern saddle indeed, and all my high expectations
regarding it were suddenly blighted.
ruins of the old Palace and old Abbey Church of the ancient city of
Dunfermline (connected as it is with the earliest of the kings and queens
of our Scottish history, as also those of more recent date) are very well
worth seeing; and to any one who has not been there, I would say, 'Go and
During my sojourn there, forty-five
years ago, its celebrity as the seat of the manufacture of linen and
woollen damask tablecloths, covers, etc., was world-wide, and it was then
a very thriving town indeed, and some very extensive businesses were being
carried on in it. Since then it has made great strides, and some very
large manufactories have been built, and great fortunes realized, by some
of its citizens who were then boys.
William M'Laren (of W. & J. M'Laren) was one of the older hands in Mr.
Inglis's shop during my apprenticeship; and Mr. John M'Laren had just-
left for a situation in Edinburgh, previous to my entering. Mr. William
Shaw of Milnathort (now of Neilson, Shaw, & M'Gregor, Glasgow), and
Messrs. Robert and William Wright of Dollar, and I lived together in the
same apartments during our apprenticeships; and Mr. William Mathieson, Mr.
Thomas Bonar, Mr. Noel Paton (now Sir Noel), Mr. John Cooper, Mr. James
Meidrum, and Messrs. Robert and John Hay, were amongst our most intimate
acquaintances. Mr. Shaw was an apprentice with Colville & Robertson,
drapers; and Messrs.. Robert and William Wright were apprentices with Mr.
Thomas Stevenson, writer.
Colville & Robertson, Thomas Beveridge, David Reid (afterwards Reid &
Davie), J. & A. Duncanson, David Inglis, David Anderson, and William
Finlayson, were the principal drapers of those days—all of whom have now
passed away. To give an idea how extensively manufacturing was carried on
in Dunfermline at the time of which I write, I will here give a list of
the firms then in existence, which I am enabled to do through the kindness
of an old and esteemed friend in Dunfermline. John Kinell, Golf- drum;
Robert Balfour, Golfdrum; William Hutton, Golf- drum; David Dewar & Co.,
Woodhead Street; Philip & Law, Woodhead Street; John Cowper, Pittencrieff
Street; Hay & Shoolbred, Pittencrieff Street; David Inglis, Bridge Street;
James '& Alexander Beugo, High Street; William Hunt & Son, High Street;
George Inglis & Son, East Port Street; James Inglis, East Port Street;
James Blackwood, East Port Street; William & John Swan, Queen Anne Street;
John Darling, Knabbie Street; James Kirkland, Knabbie Street; James &
Thomas Spence & Co., St. Catherine's Wynd; David Williamson, Moodie
Street; Adam & William Bowie, Moodie Street; James Hall & Co., Moodie
Street; Thomas Wilson & Sons, Newrow; James Alexander, Canmore Street;
Robert & George Birrel, St. Margaret Street; Alexander Bogie, St. Margaret
Street; George Burt & Sons, Back of Dam; David Hogg, New- row; Robert &
James Kerr, Bruce Street; William Kinnes, Canmore Street; Andrew Peebles,
Guildhall Street; Thomas & John Russell, Maygate; Erskine Beveridge, St.
Leonard's Works. As showing the great changes that take place in half a
century, the friend who has supplied me with this list (most of whom I
remember well) informs me that every one on it has now passed away.
The greater part of the fabrics were at that time
wrought on the hand-loom, by weavers throughout the town. This is all
changed now, and the weaving is nearly all done in large factories on the
power-loom, giving e:nployment to some four or five thousand women.
Messrs. Rutherford's thread mills were at that time
being carried on with great spirit, their thread having quite a name
throughout the country.
Mr. Taylor, Kirkgate,
Mr. Gibb, Maygate, Mr. Husband, Queen Anne Street, Mr. Henry Russell, High
Street, Mr. William Drummond, High Street, Messrs. J. & A. Beugo, High
Street, Mr. Samson, Bridge Street, and Mr. David Blelloch, Maygate, were
the principal grocers, the last two only of whom are now left.
The Rev. Mr. Young was minister of Queen Anne Street
U.P. Church; Rev. John Law, Rev. G. B. Brand, Rev. William Daiziell, Rev.
Mr. Cuthbertsou, and Rev. Mr. M'Michael, of other five Dissenting
churches; and the Rev. Peter Chalmers, under whom I sat, was minister of
the Abbey Church. All the seven have now passed away.
The principal writers were, Mr. Thomas Stevenson, Mr.
M'Donald, fiscal, Mr. Strachan, Mr. William Beveridge, sen., Mr. James
Smith Ronaldson, Mr. William Warren, and Mr. Henry Bardiner - the last
only, of whom is now left.
Mr. Gavin Steele,
druggist, had his shop in Chalmers Street, and lived for some time in the
same apartments with us in the same street.
Mr. John Miller, Bridge Street, and Messrs. William Clark and James Bonar,
High Street, were the principal booksellers.
ANNULAR ECLIPSE OF THE SUN ON 15TH MAY 1836.
There was one great event that took place during my
sojourn in Dunfermline, which I think may not be uninteresting to refer to
for a little, as the like of it will not be seen in Scotland again for
more than a hundred years, and that was an almost total eclipse of the
sun. This wonderful phenomenon took place on a Sabbath day, the 15th May
1836, and engrossed the attention of the people far more than the sermons
that were preached that day; and, indeed, it was itself a great sermon, as
showing how the wonderful works of the Great Creator far transcend any
piece of human mechanism and skill, and that the movements of the mighty
universe of God are so perfectly controlled by Him, that the time when
this eclipse was to begin, and when it was to end, were foretold to a
moment, and (although the same event had not happened for nearly two
hundred years before) were found to be perfectly correct.
No piece of human clockwork can at all compare to the
great clockwork of the heavens, for, although circling through space with
inconceivable speed, those mighty worlds by which we are surrounded, and
the one in which we ourselves dwell, never vary in, the precision of their
movements by a single hairbreadth, but are at the appointed spot at the
appointed time, guided by the unerring hand of the Great Jehovah. Our
astronomers, therefore, can say with perfect certainty, this or that
eclipse, or this or that transit of a planet over the sun's disc, shall
begin and end on such a day, in such an hour, and at such a minute, and
have not the slightest fear of their predictions being wrong. Watches and
clocks may and do vary, but the clockwork of the heavens, never. Truly we
can say with the Psalmist David, and with much more emphasis than he (from
our more perfect knowledge of the heavens than existed in his day), 'When
we consider the heavens, the works of Thy bands, the sun, moon, and stars,
which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or
the son of man, that Thou graciously condescendest to visit him?'
What a wonderful body the sun is, which was on this
occasion almost entirely hid from our view—one million and a quarter times
bigger than this world! We can write it down in figures, but the mind
cannot grasp the idea of such an enormous body, and we wonder how there
can be room in the heavens to contain it. But when we think that there are
hundreds of thousands of such suns as ours, with worlds, no doubt,
revolving around them, like our own, we are utterly lost in amazement and
overwhelmed with awe, and feel that this little world of ours—which we
used to think so big—is as but a drop in the ocean of immensity. Yet how
cheering it is to know that the same Creator who formed and upholds this
great system of suns and worlds, created and upholds the smallest
animalcule in a drop of water, and that a sparrow cannot fall to the
ground without His knowledge; and who, moreover, when His creatures in
this world sinned and rebelled against Him, sent His Son Jesus Christ into
it to die for them and atone for their guilt. '0 the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His
judgments, and His ways past finding out!'
moon, during this eclipse, went right over the centre of the sun; and had
it been only a very little bigger, or a little nearer us, the sun would
have been entirely hid from our view. Although it was generally called
'total,' therefore (and it was as nearly so as it almost ever can be),
there was still a streak of light— like a silver thread—right round the
sun, which gave a very faint glimmer of light; but so faint, that the
darkness was very awe-inspiring, and the stars in great numbers were quite
It was through the kindness of Mrs.
Anderson of Viewfield (a very old friend of my mother's) that I got into
Mr. Inglis's shop, and during my whole three years' sojourn in Dunfermline
received the greatest kindness from her. I sat in her seat in the Abbey
Church, and was very frequently in Viewfield. It was from her garden I
viewed this great eclipse. Mrs. Wyld, her only daughter, was then a young
lady of great promise, and much esteemed by every one who knew her. Mrs.
Anderson died in June 1865, aged eighty-three years, and was buried in the
During my residence in
Dunfermline there were two public 'characters' who were well known
throughout the whole town—' Daft Archie,' and Bobbie Gow. We sometimes
used to think that Archie 'was more rogue than fool.' He was at times
rather violent, and not one to be much tampered with. Bobbie, on the other
hand, was a harmless, innocent imbecile, always in a happy mood, and at
times very amusing.
Before passing from my
sojourn in Dunfermline, it may be interesting to refer to the means of
locomotion in those days. The occasional route from Dollar to Dunfermline
was to walk to Alloa, get the steamer from there to Charleston, and thence
to Dunfermline by a horse railway. But the more frequent route was by
Saline on 'Shanks Naigie;' and many is the time I tramped the solitary
journey between the two places— distance 12 miles. How different from
now-a-days, when we can be whisked about from place to place at the rate
of 40 miles an hour, and take journeys of many hundreds of miles without a