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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Rev. Dr. Chalmers' first impressions of Glasgow


ON the translation of the Rev. Dr. M’Gill, Glasgow, to the divinity chair in the University, the Town Council made overtures to Dr. Chalmers, then minister of Kilmany in Fifeshire, and in the prime vigour of his early manhood, and already famous for his powerful eloquence as a preacher. He loved the quiet pastoral beauties of his rural parish, and dreaded the turmoil, bustle, and exacting duties that would devolve upon him in the commercial metropolis of the west; but these fears and scruples were overcome, and he was transferred to his new and larger field of usefulness, being inducted to his new charge on Friday, 21st July, 1815, by Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff, and on the afternoon of the Sabbath following he preached his first sermon to a crowded congregation.

Dr. Chalmers, before the removal of his family to Glasgow, lived in lodgings in the Rottenrow: his first place of abode with his family was in Charlotte Street, and his subsequent residence in Kensington Place. He did not take to Glasgow at first. Writing to a friend eight days after his induction, he says :— "I can give you no satisfaction whatever as to my liking or not liking Glasgow. Were I to judge by my present feelings, I would say I dislike it most violently; but the present state of my mind is not a fair criterion—at a distance from my family, and in a land of strangers; and though beset with polite attentions, feeling that there is positively nothing in them all to replace those warmer and kindlier enjoyments which friendship brings along with it. I have got about a hundred calls in the course of this week, and I foresee a deal of very strange work in the business of a Glasgow minister. What think you of my putting my name to two applications for licences to sell spirits, and two certificates of being qualified to follow out the calling of pedlars, in the course of yesterday?"

In a subsequent letter to the same friend, he says :— "This, sir, is a wonderful place, and I am half-entertained and half-provoked by some of the peculiarities of its people. The peculiarity which bears hardest upon me is the incessant demand they have upon all occasions for the personal attendance of the ministers. They must have four to every funeral, or they do not think it has been genteelly gone through. They must have one or more to all the committees of all the societies. They (the ministers) must fall in at every procession. They must attend examinations innumerable, and eat of the dinners consequent upon these examinations. There seems to be a superstitious charm in the very sight of them, and such is the manifold officiality with which they are covered, that they must be paraded among all the meetings and all the institutions. I gave in to all this at first, but I am beginning to keep a suspicious eye upon these repeated demands ever since. I sat nearly an hour in grave deliberation with a number of others upon a subject connected with the property of the Corporation, and that subject was a gutter, and the question was whether it should be bought and covered up, or let alone, and left to be open. I am gradually separating myself from all this trash."


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