Kirkintilloch Town and Parish The Rev. David Gemmill
Was the son of Alexander
Gemmill and his wife-Gray. He was bom in the old Post Office building in
the Ledgate, shortly before the American War.
His father was the tailor
and clothier of the district He had a good connection with both gentle
and semple, was of sober and thrifty habit, and came to have
considerable property. He built the Old Post Office land, and acquired
the Black Bull Inn, and nearly all the buildings down to Luggie Bridge.
Young David attended the
parish school, and being of a quick inquisitive disposition, made
considerable progress. When he came to be a lad of twelve, he was called
upon to work beside his father. In this also he manifested his readiness
to learn, and could mount the board and ply the needle almost as deftly
as his father before him. There is the joke that in after days when he
asked the laird of Kincaid to come to his wedding, Ay," he said, I
will, gin ye sort up my coat afore that.
David being a lad of
parts, and ambitious withal, gave attention to reading and the learning
of Latin in the intervals of work. Before his teens were out he was able
to enter the University of Glasgow. After a course in Arts and Theology,
he was licensed by the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1797. In a year
thereafter he was appointed minister of Gourock, and was married to Miss
Alicia Kincaid of Kincaid House.
On his fathers death he
returned to Kirkintilloch, and was elected a magistrate of the old
barony buigh in 1826. Henceforth the minister was merged in the
magistrate. He was Bailie Gemmill, and by this title is he known to
posteritywhy, we cdnnot say. Possibly like the man who used always to
say the deil, and was reminded that he ought to say devil. Na, na,
he replied, deil is mair freenly like. And so bailie seems more
familiar and friendly then the title reverend. But indeed he magnified
his office. He was better known and better liked than any other
authority in the district.
He was a quick, sharp
man. He had a neat dapper figure, and always dressed with knee breeches,
cocked hat, black silk stockings, and buckles. He had much energy, and
great discernment of character. He spoke in the best style of the old
Scotch language, in soft and affectionate tone; was always cheerful, and
particularly kind to the young.
Mr. Robert Maughan, late
schoolmaster, Kingsbams, whose mother, Margaret Fleming, was second
cousin to the Bailie, always visited him along with his parents between
the preachings, and recollects his kindness on these occasions. He
used to take me between his knees, and say, Come awa, Robin, my
bairn. The address to his mother was, Weel, Peggie, my dawtie, hoos
a wi ye?
When he went out he had
always sweeties in his pocket, and the children knew that as well as the
Bailie. When Robin became a youth, and periodically visited the Bailie,
two bottles were put downrum shrub for the lad, and pure Scotch for the
There are many stories
about him. Some of these indicate that he could occasionally be jovial.
He never liked to see the tappit-hen in the pook, the stoup empty.
When an early teetotal lecturer came to Kirkintilloch. he found
difficulty in getting a place to lecture in. He appealed to the Bailie,
and the Bailie appealed to his tenant, the landlord of the Black Bull,
to get the hall. Na, na, he wasna gaun to gie his hall to a body like
that, wha wad put doon drinkin. Why, what dae ye mean? Ill bring in
the half o them for a dram, when the lectures oer. The lecturer got
The Bailie was a warm
supporter of the Kirkintilloch instrumental band. He occasionally
treated the members to refreshments in the Black Bull, and on these
occasions he was escorted home by the band, the Bailie marching at its
head, and the band playing the appropriate tune of 44 Dainty Davie.
Like Nehemiah of old the
Bailie set himself upon a great work. This was the building of St.
Davids Church, opposite his house. The day when the foundation-stone
was laid, by himself, was a great day to the Bailie. He addressed the
people from the wall, and entertained the masons and a numerous company
afterward. The tappit-hen was kept in full feather. There are many who
remember this day of jubilation. My most respected friend Charles
Stirling (Auld Charlie) has said to me again and again :That was a
great dayone of the best of my life. I played the flute that day in the
band, and I had on a white moleskin suit, and had a sicht o the tappit-hen.
The church was completed,
and the Rev. Thomas Duncan settled as minister, and the Bailie began to
fade. He appeared less frequently on the street, and his quick step
He died in 1842, and the
following inscription is on the wall of St. Davids Porch :
Erected in 1870 by the
Managers of St. Davids Church as a tribute of respect to the memory of
the Rev. David Gemmill, chief founder of this Church, who died 8th June,
1842. At one time Minister of the Gospel in Gourock, he afterward
settled in this town, and having been appointed a Justice of the Peace
for the County, and elected Chief Magistrate of the Burgh, he continued
ever to be an active and earnest supporter of all things calculated to
promote the social, moral, and spiritual wellbeing of the people. He
gave the site for this Church, contributed largely of his own means, and
induced others to do the same towards the cost of the Erection; and by
the blessing of God he had the satisfaction of seeing the edifice
completed, and of preaching within its walls.
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