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William Gilchrist
A New Zealand Borderer


THERE is a never-ceasing element of interest in the sketches of men who in different callings of life have made their mark on the sands of time, and who, by the services they have rendered to their fellows, have made their influence felt amidst the community where they have lived.

The Border Magazine has from time to time borne eloquent testimony to the worth of many Borderers who have gone abroad. Writing as I do from New Zealand, I feel that I can best give practical expression to the pleasure and satisfaction I experience in perusing the “B. M.”. pages each month by endeavouring to outline briefly the life and work of a Borderer whose zeal, usefulness, and influence in his own locality tend to produce in the daily lives of his fellow-men a higher ideal. 'These qualities are only equalled by his deep sympathy with human nature, his self-denial, thoroughness, natural modesty, and characteristic patriotism.

William Gilchrist is a native of Galloway, that countryside which has been rendered famous in recent years by the writings of S. R. Crockett, but he was still a little boy when he removed with his parents to Walkerburn, Peeblesshire, about- the end of the “sixties,” where he got all his schooling a.t the little parish school under Mr Thomas Weir, whose retiral was mentioned in the Border Magazine some time ago. Mr Gilchrist’s father was gamekeeper to the late Mr James Dalziel of Tweedholm Mills, and lived in the little cottage close to Tweed Bridge. After leaving school young Willie was apprenticed to the grocery and provision trade with Mr George Anderson, Innerleithen, and on completing his term he became confidential clerk and manager, in which capacity he remained until failing health made it advisable for him to go abroad.

While resident in Innerleithen, Mr Gilchrist took an active interest in the social life of the community. Church agencies, Mutual Improvement Association, Reading-room, Ac., found in him tui able and willing helper, and those who can recall the St Ronan’s of twenty-five years ago have kindly remembrances of him.

Some years previous to the time mentioned the present writer, also a St Ronan’s Borderer, had sailed for New Zealand and settled in Gore, one <Jf its most southern tov ns. Encouraged by the cheery optimism of the former emigrant* Mr Gilchrist set sail in the ship “Dunedin” for the land of the Southern Cross. Arriving at the home of his “towney’’ in Maori-laud, employment was soon obtained with Messrs Hunter and Brett, merchants in Gore, whom he served with great acceptance for over a year. Then he transferred his services for a more lucrative appointment in the then more important and exciting town of Kait&ngita.

At that time great inducements were offered to young men of scholarly attainments to enter the service of the Southland Education Board, to take charge of the many new schools which were being erected in this rapidly growing district. Mr Gilchrist, becoming tired of commercial life, applied for, and obtained, an appointment as teacher of the Shotover Public School. From thence he removed to Millers Flat, thus still keeping near to Queenstown, the queen of all that is beautiful in lake and mountain scenery all the world over. Here Mr Gilchrist remained for four years, and it was amidst the exquisitely beautiful surrounding of the Lakes District that our friend mot the lady who afterwards became his helpmeet in life.

Ever studious, and jossessing energy rare in one who could not be called a physical giant, this country teacher was steadily adding to his educational qualifications, which were instrumental in securing for him an appointment-to a larger school at Thornbury. This town is situated in a fertile district about twenty miles from Invercargill, which Mark Twain calls the city of magnificent distances, referring to the great width of its streets.

A year or two later finds Mr Gilchrist an applicant for the position of headmaster of the East Gore School, and, being well and favourably known there, and having a warm personal friend in the chairman of committee, he was successful in securing this responsible position. This appointment he has now held for eighteen years to the entire satisfaction of successive committees, and to the great advantage of the pupils, as is abundantly verified in the records of the school, and in the later performances of many distinguished scholars.

In a wide sense Mr Gilchrist is a “man o’ pairta” In the local Presbyterian Giurch he has long filled the position of Clerk of Deacons’ Court and Managers’ Committee; he is also an elder of session and Superintendent of Sunday School, in all of which branches of Christian work his influence is pronouncedly felt, and his counsel and wisdom have been frequently referred to as of immense assistance and value in times of difficulty.

Socially he is much sought after by literary and debating societies, for which he frequently lectures and given addresses on Scottish life in the Borderland. He also conducts, as '‘Uncle Phil,” the wonderfully popular young folk’s column in the local evening newspaper, “Mataura Ensign,” which has correspondents all over the Dominion and includes the wife of the editor of the “B. M.”

Educationally and professionally the subject of this sketch is reputed for his comprehensive knowledge, mastery of details, and ability to impart his knowledge to others. Jn art, science, and nature study he has in recent years added considerably to his accomplishments, and his characteristic enthusiasm and thoroughness has often impressed his friends. When they expostulate with him for overwork he is accustomed to reply:—“Time without work is too heavy and monotonous on my hands.” Whilst the growth in numbers and importance of the East Gore School has been steady and sustained, the success of the headmaster in his teaching has been no less brilliant and phenomenal. Since 1897 his pupils have won in bursaries a sum amounting to a little over 1200. Four of these pupils became in turn Dux of the Invercargill High School, a much-coveted honour.

Should, perchance, any readers “O’er the Border” find themselves in Gores little enquiry will be needed to direct them to the home of one of the best-known, highly-respected, and estimable of her citizens, whom it is a pleasure and a privilege to know, and who, I feel sure, would cordially extend a hearty welcome to any visitor from his native soil.

A. Aitkin.


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