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A History of the Parish of Neilston
Chapter XVII. — Persons of Eminence


BARON MURE.

This gentleman was held in the highest esteem for his great wisdom and knowledge of affairs, and was eminent in many walks of life. He was distinguished equally as a man of learning and great legal attainments. He sat from 1742-1761 as Member of Parliament for the County, and was created Baron of Exchequer. His influence in all matters affecting the well-being of the kingdom was perhaps greater than that of any other person in the kingdom, as during the middle of last century he dispensed the patronage of the Crown in Scotland. He built the present mansion-house of Caldwell in 1772, from plans by Robert Adam, architect, London. He was Lord Rector of the University of Glasgow, 1774-5, and died in 1776.

WILLIAM MURE

was no less distinguished and eminent in his career than was the Baron, his grandfather. His studies related to subjects of a most abstruse character mostly; as the Chronology of the Egyptian Dynasties, and the Calendar of the Zodiac of Ancient Egypt, which, with his investigations into the Critical History of the Language and Literature of Ancient Greece, and other writings, the Caldwell Papers included, gave him rank amongst the greatest scholars and scientific investigators of modern Europe. He was D.C.L., Vice-Lieutenant of Renfrewshire, and Member of Parliament for the County from 1846 to 1855, and Lord Rector of Glasgow University, 1847-1848. He died, aged about sixty-one years, in London, 1860.

GEORGE C. MONTEATH, M.D.,

second son of the Rev. Dr. Monteath, sometime minister of the parish of Neilston, attained marked eminence in his profession in Glasgow, especially as an oculist, and in the science of optics. In the churchyard of Houston, to which church his father was translated from Neilston, there is a handsome monument erected to his memory, for which Mr. Smith of Jordanhill wrote the following inscription :—

Sacred to the Memory of
GEORGE CUNINGHAME MONTEATH, M D.,
Who died at Glasgow, 21st January, 1828,
Aged Thirty-nine Years.

Distinguished by the highest attainments, and most honourable conduct in his profession, to the humane and arduous duties of which he was devotedly attached. He was respected in public, and beloved in private life.

This tribute of affection is erected by his afflicted widow,

Anne Colhoun Cuninghame.

WILLIAM YOUNG, M.D.,

was distinguished for his knowledge of anatomy and pathology, and after removing from Neilston to Glasgow’, became equally eminent as a physician. In the discharge of his duties as one of the physicians to the Royal Infirmary, he contracted typhus fever, of which he died, in the forty-seventh year of his age. He was much regretted, as he was held in high esteem, and the public prints of the city testified to his great worth.

JOHN ROBERTSON, ENGINEER.

was for several years a foreman in Crofthead mill, then a cotton-spinning mill. He was well-known to be a man of more than ordinary capacity ; and that to his great practical knowledge of mechanics, he united a special aptitude for original contrivances in overcoming difficulties of an engineering character connected with his business. We are informed that the application of his invention to the “ self-acting mule,” made that ingenious machine of greatly increased practical value in the industry of cotton-spinning. And we learn from a cenotaph erected in Neilston churchyard that to his genius was due the invention of the first marine engine on the Clyde. (See page 71 for inscription on this stone.)

JOHN SHANKS, SANITARY ENGINEER.

Founder with his brother, Andrew, of the celebrated firm of Shanks & Co., Tubal Sanitary Engineering Works, Barrhead. This gentleman was the inventor and patentee of many ingenious appliances relating to practical sanitation of every description, when that branch of health knowledge was only beginning to attract attention.

He was a native of Paisley, but came to Barrhead when quite young, and was happy in having his life prolonged sufficiently to see the success of his enterprise, and reap the fruits of his earlier mental efforts and ingenuity.

JAMES RIGG, POET.

spent his early years in connection with calico printing in Barrhead, in one of the branches of which he began an apprenticeship ; but, like many others in the same trade, finding that that business was changing from hand to machine labour, he turned his attention to other industries. For a number of years he was employed as a clerk ; and always a lover of music, he was for a time precentor in churches in Paisley and Barrhead. Latterly, however, he was engaged as a traveller for a firm in Glasgow. From his earliest youth he had been a lover of Nature, especially field botany, in which he became very proficient. Meanwhile, the elements of poetry were finding expression in verses published from time to time, and in his later and riper years, with greatly improved versification, he carried into these studies a fine poetic vein, in which the poet-botanist is beautifully illustrated and exemplified in the two volumes he published, Wild Flower Li/rics and other Poems 1897,1 and Nature Lyrics and Essays, 1902. Bigg died at Chipmill, near Kennishead, 12th December, 1907, aged sixty-six years. Since his death, a monument to his memory has been erected in Neilston Cemetery by one of his late employers, we understand, who was also an admirer of his waitings, which has the following inscription on its base :—

JAMES RIGG,
Poet of the Wild Flowers,
Lies buried here.
A Man of Worth and Genius.
Alex. Gardner, Paisley.

JOHN DAVIDSON, POET AND JOURNALIST,

was a native of Barrhead, where his father was minister of one of the dissenting churches, but left that town when quite young. He was engaged as a teacher in Greenock at one period of his life, in which town he had been educated, and was also for a short time engaged teaching in Paisley. He was a prolific writer on many subjects—ballads, songs, and plays, and a series of remarkable “Testaments.” His poetical and critical powers were of a high order, and his poetically descriptive essays and papers are as ingenious as they are interesting and varied. The mere enumeration of his writings after he settled in London in 1890 and devoted his energies exclusively to literature, show the vast fertility of the poet’s genius. In 188G, he published the drama Bruce; in 1888, Smith: a Tragedy; in 1889, Scaramouch in Naxos; in 1890, Perfervid; after which, he issued two volumes of poems: In a Music Hall, 1891, and then followed the remarkable series of impressions of life in London, under the title of Fleet Street Eclogues, 1893. Following these came quite a succession of works from his busy pen—A Random Itinerary, 1894; Ballads and Songs, 1894; Baptist Lake, 1894; A Full and True Account of the Wonderful Mission of Earl Lavender, 1895; Miss Armstrong and other Circumstances, 1896; in this year also Translation of Copee’s play, “For the Crown,” staged at the Lyceum Theatre, London; Ballads, 1898; Self's the Man: a Tragedy, 1901; Testaments, 1901-2; The Knights of the Maypole, 1902; A Rosary, 1903; The Testament of a Prime Minister; Selected Poems, 1904; and Theatrocrat: a Tragic Play of Church and Stage. In consideration of his contributions to literature he received, in 1905, a Civil List pension of £100. In 1909, the poet’s mind seems to have given way to melancholia, and he could see only darkness and difficulties ahead. On an evening in March of that year he left his home near Penzance, and did not return. In the same year, on 18th September, his body was recovered from the sea; to which again it was committed by his family at the close of the coroner’s investigation, in consequence of a letter he had left in which he expressed a wish to be buried at sea.

E. A. WALTON, R.S.A.

This gentleman is a native of Neilston, having been born in Glan-derston, 10th April, 1860. He early devoted a natural genius for the art, to the study of painting in its various branches, first at Glasgow and subsequently at Dusseldorf. He holds the medals of Paris and Munich, and also Chicago, and has been a Royal Scottish Academician for a number of years. He is an original worker, and his pictures are always famous for fine colour and charm, while he is equally at home in portrait and landscape art. As an artist, he is yet comparatively young, and we hope for a brilliant future for our fellow-parishioner in the art of which he is even now a foremost exponent.

ALEXANDER HORNE, MISSIONARY,

for twenty-three years, was engaged in missionary work in the village of Uplawmoor, previous to the erection of the quoad sacra church there. He was never of very robust constitution, but was imbued with a deeply religious spirit, and possessed a gentle and kindly disposition. His verses, Shadow and Substance, and other Poems, 1874, are a true reflex of his own inner and deeper nature. He died at Uplawmoor, 1881.

JAMES SHAW, TEACHER.

James Shaw, teacher, Tynron, Dumfries, was born at Barrhead, 22nd April, 1826. When about thirteen years of age he was sent to Glasgow to be initiated into pattern designing, and on returning home two years afterwards, began a regular apprenticeship of seven years to the same business at Gateside Printwork, then under the management of Glen & M‘Indoe. At the close of his apprenticeship he went for two or three years as clerk and designer to Cumming, Melville & Co., silk printers, Roebank, Beith. Returning to Barrhead about 1853, he started, with five others, as master printer at Cross-mill, an unfortunate experience, so far as he was concerned. As the business with which he had hitherto been connected was passing through a dull stage, he now, at the age of thirty years, turned his attention to the profession of teaching, and entered the Established Church Training College, Glasgow, in 1855. Shortly after being qualified, he was appointed to the parish school of Tynron, where, with much acceptance, his labours continued for thirty-four years, and where he died, 15th July, 1895. Shaw was no ordinary schoolmaster : to a many-sided mind he added the instincts of a philosopher, which found scope in nearly every department of study—Natural History, Botany, Astronomy, Geology, Antiquities, Philology, Poetry. Had he either been more favourably placed as to his intellectual surroundings or more specialized in his studies, instead of dissipating his energies, he might have attained a different position in literature. A collection of his writings has been compiled into a Memorial Volume of 312 pages, by his friend and former pupil, Professor Hubert Wallace, Edinburgh University, under the title of A Country Schoolmaster, James Shaw, IS1.)'.). In the preface to the work, it is said of Shaw, by one who knew him well :—“He was a large man, fated to play out his life’s drama on a small and dimly lighted stage.”

JAMES SCADLOCK, POET.

James Scadlock was born in Paisley, 7th October, 1775, where his father was a hand-loom weaver. But as he came to our parish in very early life, and remained in it until his death, he may be looked upon as all but a native. After spending only a few months, when a mere boy, with his father at the loom, and a short time as a lad in a stationer’s shop in his native town, he came to Barrhead and took up residence with a relation. Here he began an apprenticeship of seven years as a copperplate engraver in Fereneze Printwork, then under the firm of Finlay, Ure, Bryce k Co. Towards the close of his apprenticeship, having already begun to court the Muse, he made the acquaintance of Tannaliill, Paisley’s sweet singer, with whom, being kindred spirits, a friendship was developed which continued during the whole of the latter’s lifetime. In a dull period in the printing trade of Barrhead, Scadlock went to Perth, where he wrought for a short time. But on business improving, he returned to Barrhead, and, in April, 1808, was married to Mary Ewing. Taking up house in Grahamston, he and his wife continued to reside there until his death, which took place from typhus fever, 4th July, 1818. He was of an amiable disposition, and was a fond admirer of nature in all its aspects, loving to linger among the hills and glens that surrounded his home. His pure and gentle muse frequently found subjects of song among the beauties of our local scenery, in Killoch Glen and by Levernside. He will always take a place among the minor poets of our country.

EX-PROVOST BROWN, UNDERWOOD PARK, PAISLEY.

This gentleman was not a native of our parish, but he was brought to it at a very early age, and was reared and educated in it, at the most impressionable period in his life, and ever afterwards entertained such warm sentiments towards it, that it seems proper to include him among her eminent natives. Robert Brown was born at Rainger Home farm, East Kilbride, 15th July, 1810. In 1815, his parents removed to Nether Capellie farm, Neilston, and the boy’s first duty was to herd on the braes above Glen Killoch till school age. He was educated at Neilston parish school, and seems early to have evinced an aptitude for Latin and Greek and Arithmetic—the intention being that he should proceed to the University. This intention was, however, departed from, and he removed to Paisley in 1827. Subsequently going to Glasgow, he acted for a time as reporter and sub-editor of the Chronicle newspaper, which helped to give a literary bias to his inclinations. In 1834, he was appointed Town Chamberlain to the Burgh of Paisley, and in 1845 was an accountant and share broker in Buchanan Street, Glasgow. Having acquired, in 1850, the property of Ferguslie, he founded the Ferguslie Fire-clay Works. In 1854, he entered the Town Council for the Fourth Ward, and two years after— 1856—had become Provost of Paisley, from which office he retired in 1859. Active, diligent, and accomplished, he now, with more leisure, turned to literary work, for which he had early imbibed a taste, which seemed never to have left him, the result being the publication of quite a series of works : History of the High Church, History of the Grammar School and Academy, History of Burns Clubs, Memoirs of Paisley Poets, and his greatest work, A History of Paisley, closing a busy life on 6th May, 1895.

ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.

It has been stated, on what authority is not said, that the family of this celebrated novelist had at one period some connection with the parish of Neilston. Stevenson is known to have been descended from a Covenanting stock belonging to the West of Scotland, and we are probably indebted to the Covenanting blood that was in his veins for the stirring story, The Pentland Rising. But whether the stock here referred to was the Neilston resident or not, is obscure. The statement, however, is that the novelist’s grandfather at one time resided in Nether Carswell farm in our parish. Nether Carswell is a moorland sheep-farm situated to the south of Neilston, and in the direction of Dunlop.


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