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Kirkintilloch Town and Parish

In ancient times, when the poor were supported by voluntary contributions, it was customary to carry cripples from one farm-house to another, each family giving the vagrant an “awmous,” and conveying him or her to the nearest neighbour, who had then to assume the same responsibility. Nothing but the idea that it was an incumbent duty on all classes of the community to contribute directly to the relief of the necessitous poor, could have made them submit to such an amount of drudgery and inconvenience.

A “lame” man was being conveyed—in these circumstances—on a stretcher, by two men, across a grass field in which were a number of cows and a bull. The bull no sooner saw the cavalcade than he charged it at once. The two bearers dropped their burden in terror and took to their heels, thinking that the lame man would, of necessity, have to sustain the animal’s attack, but so far from that being the case, the cripple man also ran, and fairly outstripped the other two. The bull thus rendered good service in exposing a sham, and the would-be lame man ceased to be a burden on Kirkintilloch parish.

In the early part of this century a decent simple-minded elderly weaver in Kirkintilloch was walking out from Glasgow, carrying a jar of “barm” or yeast. At the farm-house, near Springburn, called the “Troch Stane," the jar suddenly burst with a loud report, and the contents were plentifully bespattered over the face and clothes of the bearer. It instantaneously occurred to him that some one had fired at, and shot him, and such was the terror which the idea conveyed to him, that he sunk down on the road, and lay as immovable as if he had actually been fatally wounded. A friend of his came up very soon, and in great surprise asked him what was the matter with him. “Oh, man,” said the weaver, “I’m shot.” His friend felt him all over, and said, “Hoots, nonsense; there’s naething wrang wi’ye.” The weaver, drawing his hand across his brow,, and holding it up to his friend, with part of the yeast on it, said solemnly and earnestly, “Man, it’s as sure’s death; there’s my brains.”

A minister in Kirkintilloch, visiting one of his parishioners who was sick, and whose wife was tending him, was engaged in prayer with them, and while so occupied, the Kirkintilloch brass band went past, playing loudly. Concluding shortly, he looked around, and was surprised to find the woman absent. She soon appeared, however, and said, with great simplicity, “Oh! ye’re dune; ye’ve shairly been shorter than the last time. I was keen to see hoo oor Jock would look in his new claes, an’ I thocht I would be back before ye was dune.”

Lest our readers should fancy that this good woman had a type of mind peculiar to Kirkintilloch, we give a few anecdotes of a clergyman, who was evidently possessed of the same liberal spirit.

The Rev. William Porteous, was parish minister of Kilbuho from 1785 till 1813. The name “Kilbuho” has occurred in the course of this work. It is near Biggar, and belonged to the Flemings at one time. As their retainers of Biggar, Lenzie, and Kirkintilloch, were doubtless marshalled together under their lord’s banner at Bannockburn, it is but fair that their descendants should share the same anecdotes; it is all in the family, as it were.

On stormy Sabbath days the number of hearers who found their way to the secluded valley in which the church stood were few, and therefore, Mr. Porteous was in the practice of preaching to them in the kitchen of the manse. He was thoroughly earnest and devout in his respect to his Creator, and in his performance of religious exercises, but being a confirmed bachelor, parsimonious in his disposition, and taking a deep interest in the management of domestic affairs, he was sometimes led, in the time of worship, to pause and refer to passing incidents in a manner truly ludicrous and almost profane. When preaching in the kitchen he would stop all at once in the midst of his discourse and say to a hearer, “Nannie, as ye are nearest the fire, steer aboot the kail pat;” or, addressing his sister, who kept his house, would say, “As the wather is cauld, pit a few more peats on the fire;” or, “As my discoorse is drawing to a close, clap the potato pat on the swee.”

When performing family worship in the kitchen, his interjaculatory commands and observations were still more frequent. He would even suspend his prayer and put a question regarding the feeding of the hens, the milking of the cows, or the preparing of the parritch; and having received an answer would resume the work of devotion. The same strange procedure was sometimes observed during his diets of visiting and examination. On one occasion, while engaged in devotional exercises in the house of a farmer, he abruptly put the following question to the astonished agriculturalist, “By the by, John, doo ye ken hoo to ring a soo’s nose?”

On another occasion he held a diet of examination in the house of one of his parishioners, and among other neighbours that attended was Mr. Thomas Core, the famed customer weaver of South-side, who had a short time before been entrusted with the weaving of a plaid for the minister. Mr. Core did not arrive till the devotional part of the work had commenced, but no sooner did he shew face than Mr. Porteous stopped and said, “Come awa', Tammas, hae ye no* got my plaid woven yet?—man! ye’re lang aboot it.”

Mr. Porteous’s income was small, and while his ministerial duties were not neglected, he had a constant eye on the dairy, the hen roost, and the crops. The glebe, in fact, was to a great extent cultivated with his own hands, as he took a principal part in the work of sowing, hoeing, mowing, reaping, etc. While engaged in the labour of the field he was generally in a sad state of dkshabille, and, therefore, at such times was much annoyed at receiving visits from strangers. One day he was busily employed in binding and stooking, divested of hat, wig, coat, and vest, when one of his co-presbyters unexpectedly made a descent on his domains. No sooner was he descried than Mr. Porteous ensconced himself in a stook, and remained there till the intruder withdrew.

One summer the heat was oppressive. The hay crop could no longer remain uncut, and, therefore, one morning Mr. Porteous rose early and commenced the work of mowing, but was soon drenched with perspiration. He was not to be baffled. He stript off one piece of dress after another till he had reduced himself to his shirt, and, in this primitive state, plied the scythe with vigour. Mr. Davidson, who occupied the adjoining farm of Mitchelhill, on taking a turn across his fields, observed the minister busy at work in this strange fashion, and resolved to give him a surprise. On reaching home he requested one of his servant-maids to carry the newspaper, which the minister was in the habit of getting weekly, to the manse, and if she saw him by the way to deliver it to himself. The damsel obeyed orders, and as the minister was intently engaged with his work, he did not observe her approach. No sooner did she announce her errand than he turned round in wrath, and exclaimed, “Avaunt thee, thou intruding harlot, thou wicked Jezebel, approach me not!” So saying he threw down the scythe, and retreated to the place where his clothes were deposited. The maid, having laid down the newspaper on the field, withdrew; and it was observed that Mr. Porteous ever afterwards pursued his agricultural toils in a more becoming guise.

Mr. Porteous sometimes, though rarely, invited a party of his friends to an entertainment at the manse. His invitations were generally accepted, for, though his viands were homely and meagre enough, his conversation was racy and instructive, and the curiosity, particularly of the ladies, was gratified by a peep into the interior of his domicile, and a “swatch” of the oddities of his housekeeping. On one occasion he invited several of his acquaintances at Biggar to dinner, among whom was Miss Rachael Bowie, who was in the habit of often referring to what then took place. They went early, she said, to enjoy a stroll among the mountains, and when they came in sight of the manse, they were surprised to see the minister and his sister armed with cudgels driving a cow furiously up and down. After arriving at the manse, and waiting a short time, the cause of the violent exercise with hawky was made apparent.

The minister had confidently calculated that the cow would calve previous to the day fixed for the dinner, and would thus supply him with the principal dish, in the shape of roasted veal. But “the best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.” The day arrived, and hawky gave no signs of parturition. Not a single article had been provided of which a substitute could be made, and in this dilemma the cow had been turned out and subjected to a course of rough treatment in order to bring about the desired result, but without effect. The guests, after being regaled with a piece of bread and cheese, had to return to Biggar with rather empty stomachs, but not without a good laugh at the parsimony and eccentricities of their reverend friend.

A minister of Crosmichael, in Fife, frequently talked from the pulpit to his hearers with amusing, and, indeed, irreverent familiarity. Expounding a passage in Exodus one day he proceeded thus :—“And the Lord said unto Moses* —sneck that door! I’m thinking if ye had to sit beside the door yersel’ ye wadna be sae ready leaving it open. It was just beside that door that Yedam Tam son, the bellman, got his death o’ cauld; and I’m sure, honest man, he didna let it stay muckle open. 'And the Lord said unto Moses ’ —I see a man aneath the laft wi’ his hat on. I’m sure, man, ye’re clear o’ the soogh o’ the door there. Keep aff your bannet, Thomas, and if your bare pow be cauld, ye maun just get a grey worsted Wig, like mysel’. They’re no’ dear—plenty o’ them at Bob Gillespie’s for tenpence apiece.” The reverend gentleman then proceeded with his discourse.

A country schoolmaster, who found it difficult to make his pupils observe the difference in reading between a comma and a full stop, adopted a plan of his own, which, he flattered himself, would make them proficient in the art of punctuation. Thus, in reading, when they came to a comma, they were to say “tick,” and read on; to a colon, or semi-colon, “tick, tick,” and when a full stop, “tick, tick, tick.”

Our worthy dominie received notice that the parish minister was to pay a visit of examination to the school, and, as he was desirous that his pupils should show to the best advantage, he gave them an extra drill the day before the examination. "Now,” said he, addressing the pupils, “when you read before the minister to-morrow, you must leave out the ‘ticks,’ but think them as you go along, for the sake of elocution.”

Next day came, and with it the minister. It so happened, however, that the first boy called up by the minister had been absent the day before, and in the hurry the master had forgotten to give him instructions how to act. The minister asked the boy to read a chapter in the Old Testament, which he pointed out. The boy complied, and in his best accent began—“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying—tick—speak unto the children of Israel— tick—saying—tick—and thus shalt thou say unto them— tick, tick, tick!”

This unfortunate sally, in his own style, acted like a shower-bath on the dominie, whilst the minister and his friend almost choked with laughter.

A minister in Kirkintilloch who had agreed to preach in Campsie, walked over there on a warm summer morning, and as there was a refreshing breeze, the dust of the road was flying in clouds. By the time he reached Campsie he began to wonder if his countenance might not have assumed a darker hue than usual in consequence of the dust, and the first thing he did on getting into the session-house was to look for a mirror wherein to see the actual state of his physiognomy. Not finding one he said to the beadle, who was in attendance, “Sandie, I would be the better of a glass.” Sandie made no answer, but went out, and was absent for a considerable time. At last he made his appearance, and with a countenance beaming with intelligence, produced a small bottle from his pocket in which was half a gill of whisky, which he laid on the table, with the remark, “I had an unco defeeculty to get it, sir, but I managed it.”

A young couple had just been married in the manse, and the clergyman, after the ceremony was over, jocularly said to the bridegroom, “Noo, John, ye maun gie her a' her ain way,” to which he replied, “I'll gie her a’ her ain way, but I’ll tak’ guid care she gets nane o' mine, sir.”

The late Rev. Mr. Forman, not long after his induction to Kirkintilloch, was getting some work done in his garden by his beadle, who demanded payment. On Mr. Forman stating that he got such services done gratis in his last parish, the beadle said, ‘‘Na, na, that's no’ the way here, it's pay and be paid.”

The following anecdote has attained a world-wide circulation:—An inhabitant of the old town who had been drinking heavily one night, staggered into the old church burying-ground, and fell into a partially made grave, where he passed the remainder of the night sound asleep. A mail-coach started in the early morning quite adjacent to the spot, and the guard blew a loud blast on his horn. This awaked the sleeper, but, confused and drowsy, he could not comprehend at first where he was, far less how he got there; but getting up and looking around he at last gathered that he was lying in the church-yard, and, coupling this with the blast of the trumpet, conceived that it was the day of judgment. Expecting companions, but seeing none, he was heard to mutter to himself: “A puir turn-oot for Kirkintilloch! only mysel*.”

A curious character who lived in Kilsyth many years ago will still be remembered by some—Sandy Lairdoch. Sandy was esteemed “silly” or “had a slate off,” and eked out a precarious livelihood by going messages, or doing “orra” jobs for people, but disliked settled or regular work.

The parish minister had given Sandy a suit of his old black clothes, and they met together on the road a few days afterwards, Sandy looking highly respectable and reverend in his sable habiliment. The minister said to him, “Sandy, now that you are decently clad, I would like to see you in church regularly, and it is not seemly for a man like you to be going about idle. Could you not get something to do— is there nothing you could work at? Sandy looked for a minute at his interrogator, and then, shrugging his shoulders, replied—“Ha, ha! us black-coated lads dinna like to work muckle, I’m thinkin!”

Robert Clacher, or “Rab,” as he was called, was a well-known wit in Kirkintilloch many years ago. He was wheeling a barrow-load of coals down the Cowgate one hot day in summer, and had paused to take a rest by sitting on his load, his face l>eing bathed in perspiration. The Rev Mr. Forman passing at the time said to him, “Well, Robert, you're earning your bread by the sweat of your brow.” “Oo, ay,” replied Rab, “but you earn yours by the win* o’ your moo.”

One of the inmates of Woodilee went regularly on Sundays to a church in Kirkintilloch. The beadle of the church being his friend, he was in the habit of going to his house an hour before the service began, and always brought the rather singular gift of a dumpling to his friend’s children. One Sunday the dumpling was not produced, and the two chums went to church as usual. The minister was just seated in the pulpit, and the beadle was walking along the passage when he heard from above a sound of “Hist.” Looking up, he beheld his friend leaning over the front of the gallery, who followed up his call by saying:—“Here’s the dumpling, I forgot it,” and forthwith dropped the article on the astonished officer, who, however, had the presence of mind to catch it as it fell, so that no catastrophe occurred except to the risible faculties of the spectators.

An auctioneer in a small town in the north of Scotland had his house next door to his business premises. While engaged with some of his clients one morning, his little son entered, and said loudly, “Faither, your parritch is ready.” On getting to his house, the father said to his boy, “You’re no’ to come rinnin’ in and cryin’ oot before a’ the folk, ‘Your parritch is ready,’ you should say, ‘There’s a gentleman waitin’ for you.’” Next morning the boy came in at the accustomed hour, and briskly said, “Faither, there’s a gentleman waitin’ for you.” His parent, however, was engrossed in attendance on several customers, and paid no attention to the summons, when the boy, after waiting about ten minutes, rather enlivened the audience by rushing in and bawling out, “Faither, if ye dinna come quick, the gentleman ’ll be quite cauld.”

Some men had begun to sink a pit, and, while so engaged, a “natural” of the district came and asked them what they were “howkin* there for. The foreman, who knew him, answered “We’re sinkin’ a pit doon to Australia, whaur the gold is.” “Ay, man,” said the other; “but would ye no’ be better to sail to Australia, and howk up; ye would ha’e nae bather then wi’ the dirt: it would jist fa’ awa’ frae ye.”

The Rev. Mr. Horn, of Corstorphine, was examining a class of boys upon the names by which the Devil is known in Scripture. One gave “Beelzebub,” another “Satan,” when there was a pause. At last one little fellow held up his hand, and Mr. Horn said, “Well, my man, what other name?” “Hornie,” answered the boy, and the subject for the time was, of course, exhausted.

Professor John Hill, of Edinburgh, walked each morning on the Calton Hill. Tom Jackson, a reputed idiot, was generally on the road before him, and the professor, annoyed by what he regarded as an intrusion, said to him one morning, “Tom, how long may one live without brains?” “I dinna ken, sir,” responded Tom; “how lang ha’e ye lived yerser.”

The Rev. Professor Kidd, of Aberdeen, was alike humorous and eccentric. The worthy doctor was much annoyed by drowsy hearers. There was one man, clothed with a red waistcoat, who had got a seat directly under the doctors eye. This man began first of all to nod, showing that, if not fairly asleep, he was at least on the highway to it. “Waken that man,” suddenly exclaimed the doctor. The man was pinched and wakened up accordingly by his neighbours. But he was awakened only to fall asleep again, and more determinedly than before. “ I say again, waken that red-breasted sinner, there,” shouted the doctor a second time, and a second time was the sleeper roused from his slumbers by his neighbouring and more watchful fellow-worshippers. But in a twinkling he was fast asleep a third time, and his worthy pastor’s patience being fairly exhausted, he grasped a small pocket Bible lying at his hand, and sending it at the sleeper with unerring aim, hit him on the side of the head. “Now,” says he, “sir, if you will not hear the word of God, you shall feel it.” There was not a minister in the kingdom who could have ventured to give so striking a reproof.

The Rev, Dr. Blair, of Haddington, called one forenoon on one of his parishioners, a woman who worked in the fields, and had that morning found a horse-shoe. The doctor remarked, “ Jenny, you're in luck to-day with your horse-shoe.” “ Weel, weel,” replied she, “ see what learning does. I’ve been wonderin' a1 morning whether it was a horse or a mear’s, an* I ne'er wad hae fand it oot mysel\”

Dr. David Johnston, minister of North Leith, in the course of visiting his parish, entered the house of a Secession elder. “I cannot receive you,” said the householder, “for I abhor the State religion, and assert the great voluntary principle.” Mildly replied Dr. Johnston; “Jerusalem has twelve gates, and all lead to the temple; I hope we’ll meet there.” “There’s my hand, sir,” said the objector, “and God bless you.”

The Rev. Mr. B- while a student in the arts classes appeared in his usual place one morning quite unprepared» having been “on pleasure bent” the night before.

He was a young, clever, scholarly, and shrewd fellow, and as he had made good appearances previously, he was unwilling to say non paratus, and thereby lose all chance of a prize. He was by no means daunted, however. He knew that Professor R- invariably looked down on his book after calling the name of a student, and took his measures accordingly. He always had with him a little blackthorn stick, and no sooner did the professor call his name and look down, than Mr. B-flourished the stick around his head, shilelah fashion, the class simultaneously bursting into laughter.

The professor, supposing that it was something in the student’s appearance that had provoked the mirth, looked up, glared in wrath and astonishment, and gave the young men a ten minutes lecture on their rudeness and want of courtesy. He then quietly said, “Go on, Mr. B-when the same pantomime was performed, and the same merriment followed.

The professor then renewed his angry remonstrances, and in closing, addressed Mr. B-, no doubt to that gentleman's intense relief—“In view of these interruptions I will not ask you to proceed. I dismiss the class.”

About fifty years ago an elderly man in Kirkintilloch was hearing a novel read by one of his family. The heroine of the story was killed by a catastrophe in the usual manner, and the old listener became so deeply affected as to shed tears. One of his sons said to him that he need not take the matter so deeply to heart as it was only a novel. “Novel or no novel,” replied the father, “the lady lost her life.”

A man whose wife had died, employed a friend to write to some of her relations announcing her death. There was 90me difficulty about the way in which his feelings were to be described. The bereaved man assured him that it must be something very lamentable, and asked what he would suggest. “He is like a dove mourning for its mate; ”but that was not considered strong enough.“ Like a sparrow on the housetop alone,” was next suggested: that was better, but not quite the thing. “ Like a bear bereft of her whelps,”’ was next proposed. “Ay, put that down, it’s the very thing.”

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