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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 father’s 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 posterity—why, 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, hoo’s 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 down—rum shrub for the lad, and pure Scotch for the Bailie.

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 gi’e 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 lecture’s o’er.” The lecturer got the hall.

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. David’s 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 day—one 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 slackened.

He died in 1842, and the following inscription is on the wall of St. David’s Porch :—

“Erected in 1870 by the Managers of St. David’s 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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