of PreachersNew ChurchThe Congregationalists Clerical Succession
The Roman Catholic ChurchCanon MurphyRev. Alex. Speirs Loch win nochDr.
Watson, DundeeDr. Graham,'Kilbarchan The GorbalsA Congregation
without a ChurchInducted to Kilsyth Personal Appearance Rev.
Robert Hope BrownAuthor of Life of Allan Cunningham Ordained to St.
Andrews Parish, DundeeInducted to KilsythHedid it unto meProfessor
JeffrayAppointed to Anatomy ChairRev. R. H. Stevenson, D.D.Rob
RoyPulpit Power OverworkModeratorDr. Archibald Scott.
The Relief Church, now
the United Presbyterian Church, and the Free Church were direct
offshoots from the parish church. These two denominations are
representatives of two great crises in the history of the Church of
Scotland. The other churches in the town of Kilsyth are the Methodist,
the Congregational, and the Roman Catholic. These, again, have no
connection with the National Church, but have histories that are
peculiar to themselves.
A Methodist congregation
was first formed in Kilsyth by a few brethren who gathered together for
worship in the Old Market Street Hall. In 1847, they erected a chapel at
the end of Church Street on the site now occupied by their present
building. The church was small and dingy, and for a time it seemed as if
the life of the little struggling congregation would come to an end; At
first it was incorporated with Airdrie Circuit. In 1869, however, it was
joined to the Wallacetown district. A minister from these places visited
the congregation every two or three weeks. Kilsyth, however, having
always had a large number of laymen who could conduct public Christian
services with propriety, to these the ministry of the chapel was chiefly
left. Methodism has never taken any real grip of the Scottish people;
but when, in 1871, Kilsyth received a regular ministry and was united to
a circuit of which Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld were parts, better days
seemed in store for the little community. The Rev. Samuel Millett was
the first minister appointed to the charge. His successors were, Rev.
George Hack, 1872-74; Rev. T. A. Seed, 1875-77; Rev. George Parker,
1878-79; Rev. Thomas Lawson, 1880-82; Rev. William S. Tomlinson,
1883-84; Rev. William Milligan, 1885-86; Rev. William Earl, 1887-89;
Rev. William Talbot. Mr. Lawson had spent a large part of his life in
the West Indies and had seen much of the world. During his kindly and
genial ministry the Methodist Church reached the height of its
prosperity. Since he left there has been a gradual decline. It was
during the ministry of the Rev. William Tomlinson the old chapel was
destroyed and the new chapel built. The foundation stone was laid by Sir
James King, afterwards Lord Provost of Glasgow. The Rev. William Earl
was elected a member of the Burgh School Board. The present minister is
the Rev. William Johnston.
Presbyterianism is often ludicrously splitty. The Congregational
Church was the result of a division in the Relief Church, on the
occasion of the election of the Rev. Robert Anderson, assistant and
successor to his father. The malcontent .having wished to start another
Relief Church, they were discouraged by the presbytery of the
denomination. In the circumstances they built their present chapel and
connected themselves with Scottish. Congregationalism. The first pastor
was the Rev. J. A. Anderson, ordained in 1858. He died after a brief but
promising career. His successor was the Rev. J. C. Jago, ordained in
March, 1865, who also died, after a short pastorate, in September, 1869.
The third minister was the Rev. David Gardner, ordained January, 1870,
who was translated to Parkhead Congregational Church, Glasgow, in the
spring of 1873. The fourth minister was the Rev. George Rutherford. He
was ordained to the charge, August, 1873. He was a man of extraordinary
pastoral activity. All his attempts, however, to build up his
congregation having failed, he resigned June, 1885. Mr. Rutherford went
to Australia, where he died. Mr. Rutherford was succeeded by the Rev. J.
C. Hodge. He was translated to Kilsyth from Kirkwall, and inducted
November, 1885. Mr. Noble, the present minister, was inducted this year.
The working of the coal
and ironstone mines having caused a great demand for labour about the
middle of this century, there began to flock into the parish and
neighbourhood large numbers of Irish. In 1862, the numbers were so
considerable that Father Gillan of Campsie instituted a Roman Catholic
Mission in Arnots Hall, Charles Street. The influx of Irish continuing
to increase with the development of the staple trade of the parish, a
chapel and parsonage were built at a cost of £2000. The chapel was
opened for public worship on St. Patricks Day, 1867. Since that time
there has been a succession of five priests. The first was the Rev. John
Galvin, from Bathgate. The second, the Rev. Mr. Breck, from Jedburgh.
The third, the Rev. Canon John Murphy, from Dundee. The fourth, the Rev.
John Leie, from Lasswade. The fifth, and present incumbent, is the Rev.
Francis James Turner. The ministry of Canon Murphy has been the longest
and most faithful. The Catholic population of the parish and immediate
district beyond its boundaries is about 1500, and amongst these for
seventeen years he worked with great assiduity. His influence increased
with the length of his incumbency* and when he was translated to West
Calder he received from the people of the parish and district a valuable
testimonial. With the exception of the Rev. F. J. Turner, all the other
priests have been Irishmen.
Now and againand it is
pleasant to note that the intervals are continually growing longer and
longerthere are unseemly exhibitions of ecclesiastical rancour. Upon
the whole, however, in a limited field the churches work with as little
attrition as will be found in any other -similarly constituted parish in
Scotland. There are growing manifestations of a kindlier interest in
each others prosperity, and of that love to the brethren which is the
witness that the believer has passed from death unto life.
To return to the
parochial ministerial succession. The Rev. Alexander Speirs, who
succeeded the Rev. Alexander Hill, was a native of Lochwinnoch in
Renfrewshire. He was one of a goodly number of students of mark who
found their way from the parish school of that village to the
university, and who took good positions in the ministry of the Church of
Scotland, as well as in other walks of life. The late Dr. Archibald
Watson, at one time minister of St Matthews parish, Glasgow, and
finally of the East Church, Dundee who, the year before he died1880was
raised to the Moderatorship of the General Assembly, was a native of
this little country village. Dr. Robert Graham who had since 1847 been
minister of the parish of Kilbarchan, in Renfrewshire, a distinguished
student and preacher, is also a native. Others might be mentioned, but
these are sufficient to illustrate the intimate connection which
subsisted in these past days between the university and the old parish
Mr. Speirs was born in
1826, and was one of a numerous family. Two of his brothers rose to some
eminence. One became a lawyer, and the other a medical practitioner.
Alexander, after leaving school, entered the University of Glasgow in
1846. He secured both in Arts and Divinity, the character of a
painstaking and fairly successful student. He received licence from the
Presbytery of Glasgow in 1853. Shortly afterwards he was appointed
assistant to the late Dn Barr, of St, Enochs, Glasgow, The parish of
Gorbals having become vacant, and the right of appointment having fallen
into the hands of the presbytery, that court, along with the concurrence
of the people, issued a presentation to the parish in favour of Mr.
Speirs, and he was ordained minister of Gorbals, August, 1854.
Mr. Speirs, if he had
been an ordinary minister, would have thought twice before accepting the
presentation. But he was a strong, resolute man, never daunted by
difficulties, never cowed by men. The position of things was
extraordinary. The church, in consequence of some legal technicalities,
had, during the incumbency of his predecessor, been sold. The Gorbals
consequently presented a unique spectacleit was a parish without a
church. The work was carried on in temporary premises. The circumstances
roused all the ardour of Mr. Speirs nature. With the most manful
resolution he cast himself into the breach. He was not wholly
successful. He did not succeed in recovering the buildings, but h$ did
what was better, he threw life into a dispirited people, he rallied the
scattered members of the congregation, and gathered into the church a
goodly number of parishioners. If the Gorbals is now one of the most
flourishing of Glasgow churches it is not a little owing to the
endeavours of Mr. Speirs.
Whilst Mr. Speirs was
engaged in these arduous labours, in 1861, he was sent by the Presbytery
of . Glasgow to supply the pulpit of Kilsyth, which had now become
vacant, upon a Sunday for which the presbytery were responsible.
Although Mr. Speirs merely appeared for the purpose of discharging the
official duty that was laid upon him, the parishioners of Kilsyth were
so satisfied with the services that they at once moved the Crown to
issue a presentation in his favour. The settlement was of the most
harmonious character. In Kilsyth he remained till his death, in 1870. He
was thus cut down in the very midst of his years and in the manhood of
Mr. Speirs was of medium
height, broad shouldered, stoutly built, and of a sallow complexion. His
disposition was open and frank. His temperament ardent and impulsive.
His voice was powerful but unrefined. He was full of force. His
preaching was trenchant, powerful, epigrammatic. His expositions of
Scripture passages linger in the minds of the people. He ofteti used
.great plainness of speech. His literary culture and knowledge of poetry
were both considerable. His discourses were of varied excellence. When
he prepared carefully, however, and discarded the manuscript* he always
made a great impression. So masculine and masterful, he was coming
rapidly to be a power in the parish when the parishioners were called to
mourn his untimely end, for most truly could it be said of him, his sun
had gone down while it was yet day.
After the death of Mr.
Speirs, a leet of clergymen preached before the congregation. When the
vote came to be taken it was found that the Rev. Robert Hope Brown had
the majority, and he was consequently, in 1871, inducted minister of the
parish. Mr. Hope Brown was born on the 19th January, 1842, at Kirkhill
of Craigie, Ayrshire, that farm being at the time tenanted by his
father. He was the youngest of a large family. He received his
elementary education at the parish school of Craigie. He was afterwards
removed to the parish school of Kirkmahoe, Dumfries, of which parish his
brother-in-law, the Rev. David Hogg, author of the Life of Allan
Cunningham, and the Life and Times of the Rev. John Wightman, D.D.,
was the minister. After completing his secondary education by a two
years attendance at Dumfries Academy, he entered Glasgow University, in
the session 1856-7. After a four years course in Arts, and a course in
Divinity of equal length, he was licensed, May, 1864, a preacher of the
Gospel, by the Presbytery of Dumfries. Very soon after Mr. Hope Brown
was appointed assistant to the Rev. Peter Chalmers, D.D., minister of
the first charge of the Abbey parish, Dunfermline. Having served in this
capacity for fully two years, he was elected assistant and successor to
the Rev. Richard Logan of .St. Andrews Church, Dundee, In that sphere
he proved himself a most acceptable minister, and laboured with much
diligence and success. During his incumbency he married Miss Duncanson,
of Dunfermline, by whom he is survived.
The people of Kilsyth
having heard good accounts of his zeal, and being satisfied with his
pulpit appearances, preferred him to others, who have since risen to the
highest places in the Church, and gave him a very cordial welcome.
Having received an accident while riding, he retired from the parish in
the fall of 1880, and died at Dunfermline on the 10th October, 1884. The
number of his years was 42. During his incumbency the mineral in the
glebe and under the church and graveyard was disposed of to W. Baird &
Co. The sum received for the first was funded for the advantage of the
benefice, but the sums obtained for the church and graveyard minerals
were appropriated by the heritors. Mr. Hope Brown took a lively interest
in the volunteer movement, and whilst at college was a member of the
University Corps. Never robust, his closing years were a struggle with
ill-health. As it had been with Douglas and Speirs, so was it with him;
this cause prevented him doing what would have been his best in the
service of the parish. He will always be held in good remembrance for
his kindness of heart, and his labours of love. Many of the poor still
survive who can say of him, Yea he did it, he did it unto me. Amongst
the natives of Kilsyth, who have done it credit and risen to
distinction, Dr. James Jeffray, Professor of Anatomy in the University
of Glasgow, is deserving of honourable mention. He left no works on
medical science behind him. His fame rests on his varied medical
attainments and his singular power of luminous exposition. He was a
handsome man, and his attractive conversation and address made him for a
long period of years one of the most popular of the Glasgow professors.
He was bom in Kilsyth in 1763. His father was John Jeffray, a merchant
in Kilsyth, and his mother was Agnes Buchanan. Her father, John
Buchanan, was one of the original feuars from James, Viscount Kilsyth.
The feu charter was dated 1669, and is still in the hands of the family.
James Jeffray was
educated at Glasgow University. It would appear that whilst at college
he had himself to provide the means necessary for prosecuting his
studies, for he was first tutor in the family of a Mr. Brisbane, and
then in the family of Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, with whom he travelled
on the Continent. In his young years he was a dramatic enthusiast, and
formed one of an amateur class for the study and representation of
plays. They met in a room of the Old Bishops Castle near the cathedral,
where they received instruction from a professional player. To the end
of his life he retained a lively interest in high-class acting. It was
said that it was his Continental travels and love of the histrionic art
which gave that polish to his manners and lucidity to his expositions
which made him to be so much sought after as a man and a professor.
After he got his diploma he settled in Paisley. Being of a robust
constitution he was able to ride into Glasgow nearly every day. Dr.
Jeffray, in 1792, was appointed assistant to Dr. Hamilton, the father of
the famous Sir William Hamilton, Professor of Logic in Edinburgh
University. At Dr. Hamiltons death he was appointed Professor of
Anatomy and Botany. Some time afterwards he had to teach surgery in
addition to the subjects he already taught. At the first the medical
classes were small, but after a time the numbers greatly increased. This
increase was owing to the great demand for medical men, occasioned by
the Napoleonic wars. The work getting wholly beyond his ability to cope
with it, Dr, Burns was appointed Professor of Surgery, and Sir William
Hooker Professor of Botany. For many years Dr. Jeffray had crowded
classes, and an enviable reputation as an anatomical professor. He
possessed a considerable amount of literary culture, and was a
pronounced Tory. He was strongly opposed to the Reform Bill of 1832. His
first wife was Mary Brisbane. To that lady he was married in 1800, and
by her he had one daughter, who became the wife of John Ayton of
Inchdairny, Fifeshire. To his second wife he was married in September,
1809. He died in the spring of the year 1848, at the advanced age of 85
The name of the Very Rev.
Robert Horne Stevenson may very well follow in this chapter that of
Professor Jeffray. Like Dr. Jeffray, Dr. Stevenson has left behind him
no literary works, but like him also he was held in good esteem amongst
the members of the profession to which he belonged, and attained to the
enjoyment of the highest honours which it was in their power to bestow.
He was a descendant of that John Stevenson of Gart* clash, near
Kirkintilloch, who organised a body of farmers and accompanied the
Kilsyth outpost to the battle of Sheriffmuir, to watch Rob Roy, who
was expected to take advantage of the unprotected state of the district,
and make a plundering raid on the valley of the Kelvin. Things often
turn out curiously; the Highland reiver drew his men apart from the
engagement, but Stevenson allowed himself to be sucked into the vortex
of the battle, and was killed.
Robert Horne Stevenson
was born 27th October, 1812, and was educated at the parish school of
Campsie and the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. In him there was
the sound mind in the sound body. He was equally distinguished as a
student and athlete. To the last he had a fine presence, and the
progress of the years only added dignity to his carriage. People thought
him gruff, and somewhat harsh in his manner, and censorious in his
judgments, but those who came into intimate contact with him knew that
these things were not so. His father, John Stevenson, was tenant of
Netherinch from 1832 to 1853. His mother, Margaret Horne, was the
daughter of the good man of Braes o Yetts. Robert was the second son of
the family. In 1840, he was appointed assistant and successor at Crieff.
Having cultivated, with good effect, the power of extempore preaching,
his primary pulpit attempts were greatly appreciated, and he filled the
church u to the top of the pulpit stairs. In the Church courts his
power of ready reply, and the clearness of his speaking brought him into
considerable notice. He was a strong and consistent defender of the
Constitutional Party during the non-intrusion controversy, and it is
quite possible, in the enthusiasm of his youth, he may have said more
than was prudent, for when he was licensed by the Presbytery of
Auchterarder, one of the members urged against him his ardent politics.
When 43 came, as may well be supposed, the young minister was in great
demand. Within the space of a fortnight he had the offer of eighteen
vacant parishes. He accepted St. Georges, Edinburgh. Throwing himself
heart and soul into the building up of the Church, he made too heavy a
pull on his constitution, robust though it was. The breakdown of his
health was of such a serious kind that it never was wholly repaired. He
was compelled to take things more quietly. But the energy of his best
days was not forgotten, and, in 1871, he was appointed by the Church
moderator of the General Assembly. Next year, Edinburgh made him a D.D.
When, in 1879, he resigned his charge, strange to say he was succeeded
by Dr. Archibald Scott, whose uncle, Malcolm Scott, succeeded John
Stevenson in the farm of Netherinch. Mr. Scott farmed Netherinch from
1854 to 1873. There can be no doubt whatsoever that this pleasant farm
in Kelvin valley will yet be closely associated, not with the name of
one, but of two moderators. When Dr. Stevenson retired from St.
Georges, he gave several committees the advantage of his mature
counsel. He took particular interest in the work of the Scottish Bible
Board, technically called Her Majestys Printers for Scotland. He was
also one of the Edinburgh Ecclesiastical Commissioners. He married a
great-grand-daughter of the first William Cadell of Banton, one of the
founders of the Carron Company, and daughter of Robert Cadell of Ratho,
the friend of Sir Walter Scott, and publisher of his works. Dr,
Stevenson died on the 15th November, 1886,
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