Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Reminiscences connected chiefly with Inveresk and Musselburgh
And Sketches of Family Histories by the Rev. W. H. Langhorne, M.A. (1893)


It is a frequent occasion of disappointment and regret to persons desirous of acquainting themselves with transactions of the past, in which they may be interested, that reliable information is no longer procurable, the records of them having either failed to be written or been lost

A single generation may suffice to obliterate the memory of that immediately preceding, in places especially where from any cause the population has shifted to other localities.

Of this, a striking instance came a few years ago within my own cognisance. It was that of an extensive and wealthy parish, a considerable area of which had, half a century before, been appropriated for docks, and now inhabited by the labouring class. The ancient churchyard had been for many years closed, and a proposal was made for laying it out as a recreation ground for the parishioners.

No step could of course be taken to further the project, before consulting with the survivors of families who might desire to have their tombstones and mural monuments left where they had been placed, and notice was accordingly given in the leading newspapers with the unexpected and W almost incredible result, that only one reply from a distant ^ part of the country was received, expressing the writer’s wish that the grave of his family might remain for the present untouched.

There must have been thousands of burials in the course of years, but beyond the names, in many cases illegible, upon the stones, their bearers were as *clean forgotten as a dead man out of mind.1

The truth is, each generation is necessarily and almost exclusively occupied with its own affairs and interests, every day bringing with it calls that must be responded to, and there are few who care to disturb the ashes of the departed, mercifully permitted in many cases to moulder in oblivion.

The instance just mentioned might doubtless find a parallel in other localities. Improvements connected with the widening of old, and the laying out of new thoroughfares, and above all with the construction of railways, have frequently necessitated the removal of the entire contents of graveyards with their memorial stones.

There remain indeed the Church Registers, but these were often mutilated in the course of centuries, and are perhaps in certain places so ill-cared for as to be of little use, and it is much to be desired that they were transferred from their present receptacles to safer and more central repositories, where they might be referred to without entailing the necessity of a wide correspondence, or expensive journeys, as has been with great advantage done in Scotland, the Register Office in Edinburgh supplying on payment of a small fee, and by return of post, such information as may be in existence.

Irreparable mischief has also been occasioned within the present generation, by the removal, in so-called restorations, of memorials, which are in numberless instances the only available means of identifying persons or families whose descendants no longer reside in their original homes. In some churches the mural tablets have been replaced at such a height under the tower or other dark spot, as to be undecipherable without the help of a ladder1 and a lantern. I know of one church in which a clean sweep was made of them all, the stones being left in a heap outside, for the use presumably of masons in the repair of the churchyard enclosure.

Another instance occurs to me of an ornamental screen, which was erected by subscription thirty years ago to the memory of a former incumbent, being relegated to a cemetery chapel for the reason that it was out of keeping with the *style" of the new chancel.

‘Is it not distressing/ complains my old friend Mr. Norwood, Vicar of Wrenbury, in his spirited and forcible address at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, held in London in the year 1885, that such vandalism should now be possible! . . . But some people are insensible to the resuscitating and realising power of monuments in education and religion, and to their aid in the right interpretation of history. I am reminded of Chaucer’s Monk, who seems to have been no Antiquary—

“This ilke Monke let olde things pace And held after the New World the trace.”

My own experiences of this kind have lain chiefly among country scenes and country churches, and I declare, with the keenest pain, and in abject helplessness, I have seen them removed without number for forty years. We have lost our old village history, which was hardly preserved anywhere but in the fabrics, monuments, and heraldry of churches. Just think of what we have lost by sheer demolition

If one were to suggest that ‘they do things better in France/ he would be liable to be assailed with ridicule. But foreign nations have in recent years taken steps for the preservation of buildings of antiquarian interest, by declaring them to be ‘ national monuments/ thus protecting them from the arbitrary treatment, to which, upon the strength of a 'faculty' often granted without inquiry, upon the payment of a five-pound note, they have been subjected in England.

Particulars relating to persons and events, which are recorded in writing or stored in the memory of the aged,' can scarcely fail, the objects being worthy, to be interesting and instructive. If left unnoticed, a few more years may suffice to consign them to oblivion, and it is to preserve such as have come within my own cognisance, that I have compiled these Reminiscences.

I have availed myself of an enforced leisure, to peruse a number of letters and documents which have come into my possession, referring to matters of which I used to hear much in early life from my parents and others.

An old clergyman, well known in Edinburgh for his historical writings, and who had been assistant in Fife to Bishop Low, one of the relics of the last century when Episcopacy was sunk in obscurity, was wont, in his frequent visits to my father, to discourse upon matters connected with that period, and upon old Scotch family traditions, and I have reproduced as much of what I heard him say, as I can recollect.

Sir John David Hope, with whom I was in correspondence until a few weeks before his death, also assisted me in certain parts of these memoirs. His unexpected departure warns me that no time is to be lost in gathering up the fragments that remain.

As regards other contributors, I may mention my elder brother, Thomas, Vicar of Elsfield, the Rev. William Bruce of Dunimarle, Mrs. Robert Cunliffe (Lsetitia Williams); Mrs. Wyer (Jane Russell), Mrs. Percival (Louisa Wedderbum), Mrs. Wedderbum Ogilvie (Cassie Ramsay), Miss S. A. Terrot, daughter of the Bishop, and Dr. Fleming.

‘The characters I have endeavoured to portray were a hardy, independent race of robust constitution, both of body and mind, and I look back upon them with a feeling of reverence and affection.

At a period when comparatively few books were printed, and there was scarcely a magazine in circulation, and newspapers costing fourpence were published once a week, and postage was too expensive for the luxury of much correspondence, and families were isolated by reason of the difficulties of travelling, men argued out questions for themselves which the present generation are often saved the trouble of doing, leaving that to professional writers in the countless magazines, reviews, and publications, which have recently come into existence. They were thus distinguished by an originality which is wanting in their descendants.

There was also greater simplicity in all classes, greater deference shown to the elders, and greater respect for parental authority. But childhood and youth happily see the better side of life, and age is seldom unmindful of the ‘ reverentia pueris debita.’ As we become better acquainted with the world, we grow in suspiciousness, and doubt and hesitation take the place of confidence and trust.

I have in these Reminiscences adhered to what I know myself, or can state upon good authority, but, where biographies of friends have been already written, have availed myself of the information they convey as far as appeared necessary or suitable for my purpose.

Whether the reminiscences I have set down are "memorabilia," readers will judge for themselves. I might have let them pass had not two or three friends, to whom I related several of them, suggested that they would furnish material for a readable book. It is however scarcely to be expected that merely personal aud youthful recollections should yield an interest except for a limited number; but as they cover a lengthened period, I have endeavoured to connect them with the history and characteristics of the times, and thus engage a wider circle of readers.

The press teems with biographies of persons more or less distinguished in their day and generation, some of undue length, which, unless they are enlivened with personal recollections, become heavy and laboured. Only for such as have taken part in events of general public import, can a spun-out ‘Life’ be a fitting monument; and even they are soon forgotten, and their memorial is perished with them. An American gentleman’s observation struck me as painfully true, that in every country, his own especially, the fame and reputation of to-day will have vanished to-morrow, except in rare instances.

Recollections, like the ever-changing figures in a kaleidoscope, are liable to run into and overlap one another. But I have as far as possible observed chronological sequence, although the recalling of persons and events suggests incidents which, though separated perhaps by years, cannot conveniently be separated in a record of this kind.

As allusion is so frequently made to the Scottish Episcopal Church, in which my grandfather and father served for a century, a sketch of its history will form an appropriate introduction, and this may involve also occasional reference to the state of the country during the period these memoranda cover.

I should be lacking in that courtesy which our forefathers exhibited in a more conspicuous manner than their descendants, if I failed to acknowledge the readiness with which information has been supplied by persons with whom I have no acquaintance, but who I thought might have it in their power to correct or add to my own reminiscences, or to those which came down from the old time before me. I have received replies from different parts of the world where relatives are settled, from Australia, Virginia, Eussia, Poland, and Scotland. * Mark Twain * was believed in our family to be in some way connected, but not knowing where he was to be found, I wrote to him, addressing my letter simply, ‘Mark Twain, U.S.A’ This was on the 26th of July. On August 18th, that is, three weeks later, I received his reply dated ‘Bad, Nauheim, Germany' of which the subjoined is a copy. I insert it for the sake of its touching close. I was named Langhome from a valued friend of my father, but he was not a relative, but a comrade of my father’s youth in Virginia. I merely served by my name as a remembrance of that loved and lost comradeship of a vanished day. Yours sincerely, S. Langhorne Clemens' Let those who decry the Post Office make a note of this incident.

I ought perhaps to add, although this is a private matter, that I compiled these memoirs chiefly with my mother’s assistance, as she liked to recall the friends and events of her early life, her only regret being that she had not taken note at the time, of circumstances of which I would have been glad to be more particularly informed, her excellent memory failing her in certain instances. She formed a valued link between what is to the existing generation a distant past, and the present, when nearly everything has been changed. As she has not been spared to read her own reminiscences, I dedicate them to her revered memory.

Download Reminiscences connected chiefly with Inveresk and Musselburgh here

Return to Inverek Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus