DR JAMES JAMIESON, F.R.C.S.E.,
Chairman of Council, Border Counties Association.
AMONGST Borderers who
have done notable work in spheres beyond the Tweed, few, if any, are
more entitled to honourable mention in the pages of this magazine than
Dr James Jamieson.
Born in the pleasant little village of Bowden, that nestles so coyly on
the south of the Eildons, he received his early education in the parish
school there, until he reached his thirteenth year, afterwards
continuing his training in an advanced school in Galashiels.
That the doctor has never lost touch with the school of his earlier days
is shown by his generous institution of a prize, which is competed for
by the pupils annually.
Thomas Aird also was born in Bowden, and on the occasion of his
centenary in July, 1902, the Border Counties’ Association visited the
village to unveil a memorial tablet which they had placed on the house
where he first saw the light. Next to the pleasure which the large crowd
of visitors had in listening to the magnificent oration delivered by Sir
James Crichton Browne, was their admiration of the beautiful decoration
of the village.
Flags waved from every house, and met your eye at every turn of the
road; while bannerettes streamed from gaily festooned pole; placed at
intervals in the open spaces. Few knew that all this gay bunting was
obtained through Dr Jamieson, and that it had been forwarded from
Edinburgh a few days before by him to do honour to the occasion.
But we must hark back to the time when the subject of our sketch was
only fifteen years old, and had just arrived in Edinburgh to become an
apprentice in the dispensary of Dr Alexander, who was a well-known
practitioner in the city. Although so young, our friend even then began
to show the qualities of industry, method, and perseverance, for which
he is now so distinguished. Dr Alexander was not blind to this power of
application, and ere long he suggested to the lad that he should attend
classes in the College of Surgeons with a view to taking a medical
This meant very hard work, dispensing all day, and studying during the
evening; but with a brave resolution young Jamieson worked away, and ere
long he was fairly launched upon a medical student’s career.
It may be mentioned here that this dispensary training has been
invaluable to Dr Jamieson all through his professional life; inasmuch,
that the thorough knowledge of the properties of drugs and pharmacy
which he possesses is far beyond the attainments, or even the
requirements, of most practitioners.
While attending the Infirmary, Jamieson must have shown himself the
possessor of faculties of no ordinary kind, for he soon had the good
-fortune to catch the eye of the late Professor Spence, who always
watched his career with interest.
When barely twenty-three years old, Jamieson rounded off a splendid
record of work and study by taking the double qualification of L.R.C.P.E.
and L.R.C.S.E., and immediately thereafter be began his professional
career by becoming assistant to bis old friend Dr Alexander.
With that saving sense of humour which is one of the characteristics of
Dr Jamieson, he tells an amusing experience he had at this time. In the
course of his duty he was asked by his senior to attend a lady who was
ailing; but when this lady saw the boyish appearance of her would-be
medical attendant, she said:—“Run awa’ hame, my laddie, and tell your
maister that I dinna want laddies to attend to mel” This happened forty
years ago, and it may be interesting to know that Dr Jamieson is still
that worthy lady’s medical attendant.
All through life he has been fond of travel both by sea and land. It is
difficult to say whether this was the cause, or is the effect of a
sojourn of four years which he made in Chili, South America.
This began in 1866, when, in order to widen his horizon—just like young
doctors who nowadays go as surgeons on a P. and 0. steamer— he obtained
the appointment of surgeon to a large mining district in Chenaral.
But the heart of our friend was in Scotland, and in 1870 he returned to
Edinburgh, where he was happily married to Miss Boyd, the daughter of
the late Dr Boyd, of Slamannan.
Dr Jamieson first met this young lady in 1863, when he accompanied
Professor Spence to assist at an operation performed on a patient of her
father’s, and her magnetism proved sufficiently strong to draw the young
doctor from the fascinations of the new world, across the wide Atlantic
Sea, to settle as a general practitioner in the grey metropolis of the
Dr Jamieson has always been a student, rejoicing in science for its own
sake, not merely for the reputation which it brings. It is quite
characteristic, therefore, to find that, notwithstanding a large and
increasing practice, he found time to attend such classes as enabled him
to take the Fellowship of the Royal College or Surgeons in 1880, and a
University degree of M.D. three years later.
As, happily, this sketch is only an appreciation, not a biography, it is
not necessary to enter upon all the details of a busy life; sufficient
if we record some points which may enable the reader to see the doctor
in person, and as identified with Border interests.
Dr Chalmers was in the habit of asking with reference to anyone whose
name was brought before him:—“Is he a man of wecht?” Notably, Dr
Jamieson is a man of “wecht” in more senses than one, but in addition to
a splendid physique, he has mental gifts and an emotional temperament,
which mark him out as a man of broad toleration and wide sympathy.
The present writer is not a member of the brotherhood, and therefore
does not know the fascination or the mystery of the craft that has so
many eminent craftsmen, but he has been told that Dr Jamieson was a
loyal Freemason, although, since he was raised to a mystic height
represented by 32°, he has become a less active brother; which, in the
eyes of a novice, seems a very natural result of reaching the Fahrenheit
Literature also has great charms for him, especially Border literature,
of which he possesses a splendid collection. He also has numerous
scrap-books filled with all sorts of cuttings pertaining to his
favourite district and elsewhere. Like many of his profession, he is a
great reader, and fond of reading aloud, which he does well.
The Reading Club to the Blind which was established in Edinburgh a few
years ago, has in Dr Jamieson one of its staunchest supporters, and it
is quite refreshing to witness the keen interest depicted on the faces
of the members when he is reading some favourite book or ballad to them.
Our friend would be no typical Scotsman if the Kirk and what it
represents did not hold a high place in his thoughts and occupy some of
his time. So we find him a loyal member of the Session of St Giles’
Church, the broadminded minister of which—Dr J. Cameron Lees —being one
of his most esteemed friends.
Dr Jamieson has been long a member of the Edinburgh Borderers’ Union,
and also of the Border Counties Association, of which he is one of the
few remaining original members. From being an active member of the
last-named Association, he was chosen, and found to be an equally active
colleague to the chairman of the Council. Mr Mack, of Covevheuch,
Berwickshire. On this esteemed gentleman’s death he became sole
chairman. It is quite a pleasure to sit at the Council table with Dr
Jamieson and see the way in which he can place his finger on every
detail pertaining to matters in which the three Counties are concerned.
Here it is that you see his promptitude and first-class business methods
in full operation.
There is not a school in county town or quiet village, or pastoral glen,
but it is familiarly known to our chaiiman, and we have often thought
that it would cheer the hearts of the teachers—who do such splendid work
in the outposts of the educational field—if they saw how anxiously their
interests in the prizes and bursaries open to their schools were
anticipated and considered by the Council under the guidance of their
' It may not be out of place to say here, that we sometimes fear that
the work of this excellent Association is not so well-known as it should
be. If it were so, we believe that Bor--derers at home and abroad would
be only too anxious to identify themselves with it by be-•coming
members. It is quite characteristic of Dr Jamieson to find that, he has
already enrolled both of his sons as life members. Let us hope many will
follow his example.
When the annual examination of the candidates for school bursaries takes
place at St Boswells or elsewhere, Dr Jamieson makes it a point to be
present, and we can vouch for it, that his genial presence and
sympathetic words of encouragement give a mighty impulse to all the
young Borderers forward to do their best for the honour of their school.
Dr Jamieson does this and many similar duties as matters of course, and
I fear, when he finds them publicly recorded, he will probably give the
recorder “a bad quarter of an hour.” But surely it is well that the veil
should be lifted now and then, so that Borderers “hereabout and far
awa’” may see how the affairs in which they have an interest are managed
by those to whom they are committed.
In this loyalty of Southland men and women to the interests emanating
from their homeland, we seem to feel the pulse of home-hunger that
throbs in the breast of mankind all over the world.
The exigencies of modern life find Scotsmen outspanned everywhere. But
in the heart of each there still remains that deep-rooted attachment to
their native land, with its burns, and lochs, and glens, and mountains,
that is only to be met with in strong natures.
Even from the most successful of such wanderers there ofttimes comes the
"I sigh for Scotia’s shores
As I gaze across the sea,
But I canna get a glimpse
Of my ain countrie.”
But it is not from expatriated ones alone that the craving for home and
the old associations comes with such emotional urgency. The lad who left
his ' quiet village or drowsy county town, and has pushed his way
through obstacles and trials until he has become a prosperous merchant
or a skilled professional man, often hears above the city’s noise the
sound of the river as it rushed over the cauld near the mill; and sees,
beyond the cold grey streets, the old familiar faces of schoolmates, and
the sentinel forms of the mountains that guard the home of his boyhood.
Then it is that he recalls the words of Burns, aud applies them to his
own corner of the land with all the yearning of a patriot:—
"That I, for pair auld Scotland’s sake,
Some usefu’ plan or book might make.
Or sing a sang at least I"
And thus it is that the men of whom Dr Jamieson is a type, find time
amid the whirl of life to help the young people who dwell amid the
homesteads of their beloved Borderland.
One of Dr Jamieson’s distinctive traits is his fondness for travelling,
whether by sea or land. His two sons are now launched upon the world as
doctor and dentist respectively, and thus it comes that the doctor and
his esteemed wife, when “all the world is out of town,” can steal away
alone to sail ’mid western lochs or rest in southern glens, where, with
a favourite author, in the shadow of some historic tower, they seek
fresh inspiration for their life’s work.
That they may succeed in their quest is the fervent wish of all who know
how important that work is! - Duncan Fraser.