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Significant Scots
James Jamieson



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 degree.

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 north.

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 freezing-point!

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 chairman.

' 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 plaintive cry:

"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.


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