The Rise And Progress Of Coatbridge And Surrounding Neighbourhood.
Andrew Miller, Dundyvan Iron Works, Glasgow 1864
CHAPTER XXIII. - MINISTERS.
“In the mind of the politician, the mechanist, the man of trade, or any of the numerous classes who spend their intellectual energies on the things of time and sense, the expected result of their operations' must occupy the first place, since it furnishes the only efficient motive for their exertions. But the defender of religious truth acts in obedience to the principles of duty, and leaves the result with God. The men who are by office the especial standard-bearers in the army of Christ, are bound to * contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,' whether their efforts are likely to be accounted the greatest or the least in the annals of human achievements." - BISHOP HOPKINS.The Parish Church of Old Monkland,
"How like an image of repose it looks;
That ancient, holy, and sequestered pile.
Silence abides in each tree-shaded aisle,
On moss green'd pediments and tombstones grey.
And spectral silence pointeth to decay."
As was before mentioned, the present church was built about the year 1790; a portion of its ancient predecessor still stands in the old burying ground, inside of which is the last resting-place of the members of the Douglas family of Rosehall. There are still a few very aged residents in the parish, who remember the old church standing, when the Rev. Robert Park, a native of the parish of Dollar, was the minister, and who died at an advanced age, in 1785. An aged lady, named Mrs Crawford, who was born, and has resided in the parish for upwards of fourscore years, is one of that number, and has a vivid recollection of the taking down of the old, and the building of the present, church. When the workmen at the former were removing the belfry stairs, they came upon the skeleton of a man, firmly built into the wall, in an upright position; it was surmised and generally credited at the time that the man had been buried alive, and that this was the punishment inflicted by the Free Masons, in olden times, when any member of the order was found guilty of divulging its secrets. What a terrible fate! but as it is only a story, it must be taken for what it is worth. In the days of the "Monks of old" this parish must "have been a favourite spot for these holy men, as is indicated by its name - the land of Monks or Monkland. A number of years ago the late sexton of the Parish Church, while digging a grave close to the precincts of the old church, came upon the supposed remains of one of these holy fathers, as a crosier and other symbols of the monastic order were found lying beside the human relics.
In 1786 the Rev. John Bower, a native of Dumfriesshire, was ordained pastor of the church. In early life Mr Bower had. been trained by his father, who was a blacksmith, to the same trade, and of this he often boasted in after years, when visiting his parishioners, by whom he was highly respected. In the early part of his ministry the peasantry and other classes of the inhabitants of the district were strongly imbued with the superstitious belief in ghosts, witches, and fairies. Each wood or grassy knoll had its peculiar story - but still the people had a zealous regard for religion. In Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, published in 1793, Mr Bower compiled that portion connected with the parish of Old Monkland. With regard to the people and manners he thus writes:- "With a few exceptions, the whole people adhere to the church, and are regular in attending on religious ordinances. About 800 communicants are usually at the Lord's Supper. In the present manner of dispensing that holy ordinance there is great need of a reform. Owing to the crowds that assemble, much irregularity takes place." It is curious to note his opinion on Sabbath schools at that period. " Sunday schools seem not to be unexceptionable institutions, for how pious soever may be the intention of their promoters, they undoubtedly weaken the authority of parents, and tend to make them negligent in their duty." This latter assertion may now be considered a fallacy; the benefits of Sabbath schools, to the young, are considered to be second only to the pulpit instructions. With reference to the irregularities that occurred on the sacramental Sabbaths, the same language could have been applied to these events for fifty years afterwards, as the scenes witnessed year after year, on such occasions, might have rivalled, in some particulars, the Scottish bard's description of "The Holy Fair." Happily, for some years past, the sacred day is more becomingly observed, and the remarks applicable to former times cannot now be said to apply.
Mr Bower, in his annual visitations among the parishioners, had no easy task to perform in counteracting the instilled superstitious notions so prevalent at that period. The colliers, as a class, were scarcely liberated from their serfdom or bondage, and they were therefore rude, and ignorant of the Gospel truths. What, indeed, could be expected from them, when they had little or no opportunity of giving their children education? for no sooner were they able to perform the lighter duties connected with coal working, than they were taken down the pits. The females also had to bear their share of the work in these pits, which undoubtedly tended to degrade and demoralise them, the latter especially; and when the mothers had to undergo such training, what could be expected from the children? Illegitimacy prevailed to a great extent, and many instances of the prevalence of that vice could be given, but one will suffice to show the hardened nature of those with whom Mr Bower had to come in contact: Jenny Greenhorn, a young woman, had given birth to her third illegitimate child. It was born in the pit, and was found lying dead beneath a heap of dross, having, as was thought, been suffocated by the mother. Mr Bower called upon her to make inquiries regarding the occurrence, and, after eliciting from her the name of the father, and other particulars, he asked her name. "Jenny Greenhorn, sir." "Aye, Greenhorn aneuch; but where was the child born, Jenny?" "In the room, sir." "And wha was in the kitchen at the time?" Jenny looked up with a stare of astonishment, and exclaimed, "Dae ye hear the auld fiile ? wha ever heard o' a kitchen in a coal pit ?" Jenny was apprehended for the crime, and tried at the Justiciary Court, Glasgow, and was sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. With such rough specimens of humanity, a suitable admonition or a kind advice was all that could be given; and in this respect Mr B. was every way qualified, being kind and courteous. To all who came under his ministrations he was more like a personal friend in soothing their afflictions. His visits to the sick and bereaved were always acceptable, for his language and manner were kind and conciliating. Mr Bower died in 1821, deeply regretted, having discharged the duties of parish minister for 36 years.
He was succeeded by the Rev. William Thomson, a native of Kilmarnock, who was inducted the following year. Like his predecessor, Mr Thomson took a warm interest in all that related to the welfare of his flock. He had a genial humour in his manner and address that made him sincerely beloved. He died in 1841, and was succeeded by the present minister, the Rev. John Johnston, who was born at Greenock in 1815, his father being a cooper in that town. Mr Johnston received the rudiments of his education at various schools in Greenock, the Grammar School in particular. In 1830 he entered the Glasgow College, where he went through the usual curriculum, and passed with honour, taking out his degree of B.A. in 1835, and M.A. in 1836. It is worthy of notice that, in the following session of 1837-38, Mr Johnston, from his high scholastic attainments, was selected, on the death of the Greek Professor, Sir Daniel K. Sandford, to fill the Greek chair in the Glasgow University, one of the highest honours that could be paid to a student. In consequence of the troubled state of matters in connection with the church about that period, he delayed taking licence till May, 1841, and in December of that year was elected minister of the parish church of Old Monkland, and ordained in March, 1842. Mr Johnston has all along faithfully and laboriously (when health permitted) discharged the important duties of his office zealously, and has hitherto taken a very active part in all the church judicatories of which he is a member. His high character and talent secure for him a prominent place in all matters connected with the church. He is now in the 22d year of his ministry.
The U.P. Church. The Rev. William Stirling of the U.P. Church was born in 1811, in the parish of Kilsyth. His father was a farmer, and, in his boyhood, Mr Stirling attended the school in Banton, a mining village two miles to the east of Kilsyth. In October, 1826, when about 15 years of age, he entered the Glasgow College, where he studied for five sessions, and was admitted to the Belief Divinity Hall in Paisley, at that time presided over by the late Rev. Dr Thomson. Having studied there for four sessions, he was, in May, 1836, licensed to preach the Gospel by the Belief Presbytery of St Ninian's, and, after a probationary period of eighteen months, he received a call from the newly formed congregation of Coatbridge, in December, 1837. Having accepted the call, he was duly elected, and, on the 27th March, 1838, ordained to the pastoral charge of that congregation. Mr Stirling is now in the 26th year of his ministry, and during that period he has exerted himself and done much good among all classes. As a consistent total abstainer, he has advocated the cause from pulpit and platform, and thus aided by his talents its excellent tenets. As a lecturer on liberal subjects he is greatly admired. Quiet and retiring in manner, he holds on the "even tenor of his way " in the diligent and faithful discharge of his duties, and anxiously promoting the cause of truth. He is beloved and respected by all classes and creeds. There axe three Sunday schools in connection with the church, with an average attendance of 400 scholars.
The first pastor of the Gartsherrie (Quoad Sacra) Church was the Rev. James M'Latchie (now Dr M'Latchie of Edinburgh), a native of Ayrshire, who was elected minister to this charge on 24th November, 1837. On his leaving, he was succeeded by the Rev. James Gray Wood, a native of the parish of Wiston, in the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire (his father was minister of the united parishes of Wiston and Roberton), who was elected on 29th July, 1841, and left in the Utter end of 1843, and was succeeded by the Rev. John Fraser, who came from Glasgow, and was elected 30th January, 1844. He did not survive his appointment a year, for after a lingering illness of several months he died, 25th December, 1845, deeply lamented by his flock, who erected a tablet to his memory over the place where his remains lie interred in Gartsherrie Churchyard. The next in succession was the present pastor, the Rev. Bryce Johnston Bell, who was born in 1815, in the parish of Mouswald, Dumfriesshire. Shortly after this his father removed to the parish of Closeburn, where he had leased the farms of Rosebank and Kirkbog, the latter being the residence. In early youth, Mr Bell received his education at the Wallace Hall Academy, Closeburn, and at the age of fifteen entered the University of Edinburgh, where he studied for eight years, and in May, 1840, was licensed by the Presbytery of Penpont. For some time after this he remained at home, and only officiated occasionally. On 24th September, 1846, he was duly elected to the charge of the Gartsherrie Church, so that he is now in the 18th year of his ministry. There are three Sabbath schools in connection with the church, the average attendance of scholars being about 300. The St John's Episcopal Chapel was duly consecrated in the month of May, 1843. The following is a report of that ceremony, as giving in the Church of England Magazine for June:- "This neat and commodious edifice was consecrated on Thursday, 4th May, by the Right Rev. the Bishop of the Diocese. The petition for its consecration and relative documents were presented to the Bishop by the Rev. H, Kennedy, the incumbent of the chapel, in the name of the trustees. The Rev. G. Almond of St Mary's, Glasgow (who acted as chaplain in the absence of the Dean), read the deed of consecration, which was then signed in the usual way. The morning service was read by the Rev. W. Wilson of Trinity Chapel, Ayr (now Bishop of the diocese), and the Rev. R. Montgomery of St Jude's, Glasgow, preached an appropriate sermon from 2 Chron. vi. 40. The Rev. Messrs Wade of Paisley, Keane of Christ's Church, and Henderson of Hamilton were also present, and took part in the services. From the foregoing it will be observed that the first incumbent of this chapel was the Rev. Mr Kennedy, who left in 1847, and was succeeded by the Rev. Robert Aitken (now of Penzance, Cornwall), an eloquent divine, who left in 1849, and was succeeded by his son, the late Rev. Chas. Aitken. On his leaving in 1852 he was succeeded by the Rev. L. Leyland (now of Lanark), who also left in 1853, and was succeeded by the Rev. J. E. Pattison, now of Banff, who left in 1861. The present incumbent is the Rev. R J. Jonas, a native of London, late Hebrew teacher in the University of Oxford, and is the author of "Travels through Syria and Palestine," his experience of a seven years' sojourn in the Holy Land. Mr Jonas was nominated to the St John's in May, 1861, by Colonel Buchanan of Drumpeller, who is the patron and liberal supporter of the church, guarantees the clergyman's stipend, and has made ample provision for the future endowment of the church.
For a few years previous to the building of the St Patrick's Chapel the members of that congregation were under the ministrations of the Rev. William Welsh, of Airdrie. When the two districts were divided, in 1844, Mr Welsh was appointed to Coatbridge. He was a native of County Cork, Ireland, and received his education in the Irish College at Paris. In the winter of 1845, while in the discharge of his duties among his flock, during a severe epidemic fever, he was seized with the disease, when visiting a family about three miles north of the town, and with difficulty reached home, and died in a few days. For more than a year after his death there was no regularly appointed clergyman. The present minister, the Rev. Michael O'Keeffe, was appointed to the charge in 1847. He was born in County Limerick, Ireland, in 1821, and educated in Drimcondra College, Dublin; ordained in 1845, and for two years officiated in Glasgow. He has now been sixteen years in charge of the St Patrick Chapel Congregation. Those under his ministrations number upwards of 5000 of the population; this may give an idea of the laborious work connected with such a numerous flock. There axe about 500 children attending the Sabbath school.
The first pastor in connection with the Free Church Congregation was th6 Rev. Samuel Connell, a native of Duntocher, who was ordained to the charge on 12th September, 1844. He left in 1858 for Glasgow, and for about a year the church was vacant, when the Rev. William Graham of Glasgow, assistant to the Rev. Mr Trail, Free Tron Church, was duly elected to the charge, and ordained 18th August, 1859. He left in 1861, and was succeeded by the present minister, the Rev. John Henderson, a native of the parish of Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire, who was born in 1834 at Womanrigg Farm, his father being a farmer. In early youth he received his education at the Dumfries Academy, and, at the age of sixteen, altered the Edinburgh University, where he studied for four years, and was then admitted to the New College, where he studied other four sessions, graduated M.A., and was licensed in February, 1859. Shortly afterwards he was appointed assistant to the Rev. Mr Adam, South Free Church, Aberdeen, where he laboured for upwards of six months, and was then appointed Town Missionary in Rothesay; and, after a period of eighteen months, he was elected pastor to the Free Church, Coatbridge, and ordained 12th September, 1861.
The Rev. Mr Inglis, pastor of the Evangelical Union Church, was inducted to the charge in 1861. He is a native of Kilmarnock, was born in 1821, and was educated in that town, and studied in the Theological Academy there, an institution which was established by that denomination under Mr Morison, their founder, in 1843.
The Crosshill Chapel Congregation, in the west district, had for their first pastor the Rev. Andrew Gray, a native of Glasgow, whose father was a blacksmith in Gallowgate, and who was ordained in 1835. For two years previous, Mr Gray acted as missionary. He left in 1843, and went to Dumbarton, and was succeeded by the Rev. Matthew Graham, who came from the Scottish Church at Whitehaven, England, and was inducted to the charge that year; but in 1855 he resigned, in consequence of the delicate state of his health, and died in the course of a few months. His successor is the present minister, Rev. Hugh Ramsay, who was born in 1828, at Bankhead Farm, parish of London, Ayrshire. His father was a farmer, who shortly afterwards removed with his family to this district. Mr Ramsay was, therefore, educated at the schools here, and in 1846 entered the University of St Andrew's, where he passed through the usual curriculum with high honours, and was licensed in July, 1854, by the Presbytery of Hamilton. A few weeks afterwards he was appointed minister of Gartmore Chapel, in Perthshire, and continued there till 1856, when he was duly elected by the congregation of Crosshill to be their pastor, and ordained accordingly in July. The Sabbath school has an average attendance of 240 scholars.
When the Episcopal Chapel was erected in 1851, the Rev. James W. Reid (now Incumbent of Christ Church, Glasgow), son of Dr Reid of Glasgow, was appointed minister, who left in 1854, and was succeeded by the Rev. James Davidson of Aberdeen. He left in 1856, and was succeeded by the present Incumbent, the Rev. William Hay, who was born at Turiff, Aberdeen, in 1829. In early youth he was trained in the Grammar School, and afterwards the Marischal College of that city; also Trinity College, and latterly Glenalmond, Perthshire, where he studied Theology, was ordained to the ministry in 1855, and appointed incumbent of the Episcopal Chapel, Baillieston, in 1856.
The United Presbyterian Church, lately erected at Baillieston. The members of that denomination have had occasional preachers only, and therefore the record of the reverend gentleman who may be ordained to that charge, lies in the future.
The missionaries at present connected with the mid district are three in number; the senior of these is Mr Robert Barnes, in connection with the U.P. Church (Rev. Wm. Stirling's). He was born in Kilmarnock, in 1798; his father being a market gardener in that town, where Mr Barnes, in early youth, received but a very limited education, and, when very young, was apprenticed, and served his time to the same occupation as his father, in the nursery department. Though toiling hard early and late, he took advantage of every opportunity to improve himself and instruct others. For eighteen years he was foreman in the Braehead Nursery Gardens, and from the prominent part he took, and earnest endeavours in promoting the cause of religious education, he was, in 1845, appointed town missionary in Kilmarnock, where he remained till 1847, when he was selected for missionary to the U.P. Church, Coatbridge. Since that period he has laboured assiduously in the district. To the sick and bereaved his visits are ever welcome, Quiet and unassuming in manner, anxious in the discharge of his duties, and earnest in the cause of his Heavenly Master; with these essential qualities as a missionary, he is respected and esteemed by all classes of the community.
The Rev. David Galloway, in connection with the Gartsherrie Church, is a native of Fifeshire, and was educated at the College of St Andrew's, Fife, where he took out his degree of B.A. He was appointed missionary to that church in October, 1859.
The Rev. James Hamilton, M.A., assistant and missionary in connection with the Parish Church of Old Monkland, was born in 1834, at Bench, Avondale, and educated at Drumclog School, in his native parish; passed through his college curriculum in Glasgow University, and was licensed as a preacher of the gospel in connection with the Church of Scotland in May, 1861, by the Presbytery of Hamilton, and received his present appointment in March, 1862. Since writing the foregoing, Mr Hamilton has been appointed assistant and successor to the Rev. Mr Weir, of the second charge in Campbelton.
CHAPTER XXIV. PHYSICIANS." A wise physician, skill'd our wounds to heal,
Is more than armies to the public weal"
The present century was more than twenty years old before the district could boast of a resident disciple of Esculapius. Previous to that period the natives, when suffering from those diseases which flesh is heir to, had either to get medical assistance from the towns to the east or west, or quietly submit to be doctored by the " unco skilly auld wives." Of this class there were a few famed for their superior skill and treatment in such cases; a fame or name acquired not only by long practice, but also in the study of that celebrated book entitled "Buchan's Domestic Medicine." An aged dame of this school, who died a few years ago, in the 85th year of her age, has been heard to boast that she had enjoyed more practice in the medical line than many a city practitioner, and had ushered into the world upwards of six score of children, which was considered excellent practice for the population. But as the latter increased, so did their requirements for attention and attendance by medical practitioners; and to those of the past let us now advert. In the Baillieston division, Dr Robert Mann, a licentiate of the College of Edinburgh, settled down about the year 1821. He was highly esteemed for his skill among children; and, after a long practice of nearly 40 years, died in 1858, at the age of 69 years. The first medical gentleman in the village of Langloan was Dr Kirk, a son of the then under-factor to Mr Colt of Gartsherrie; but, after a brief period, he left and went to America. He was succeeded by Dr Robert Lawson, son of Captain Lawson of Cooperhead, a young man of great promise, who died somewhat suddenly in 1829. Dr Matthew Stevenson, a native of Kilsyth, and licentiate of Glasgow College, commenced practice in 1831, and left in 1836.
Dr James Tennant, a native of the parish of New Monkland, whose father was proprietor of Bredenhill estate; in other words, he was a gentleman farmer. In early life Mr Tennant was educated at the parish school, which he left for the Glasgow University, and passed the usual curriculum for medical students. About the year 1831 he commenced to practise in this district. Previously he seldom followed his profession; but, having become surety for a friend to a considerable amount, he was called upon to pay it, and the estate of Bredenhill, and all he possessed, was sold to meet the demand. Thus ruined, he began the world anew, and continued to practise, respected for his integrity and kind disposition, till he died in 1855, at the advanced age of 82 years. In his latter years his work was principally done by his brethren of the profession, who always respected, and assisted when necessary, their elder brother; and many in the district, whom he attended, still remember, with kindly feelings, the good old doctor. Such is an outline of the professionals of the past.
Let us now say a few words regarding those who are still in our midst, doing duty to the suffering and afflicted. The first on the list is Joseph Wilson, born in 1804, at the farm of Knowhead, in the parish of Glassford, where his father was a farmer. In early youth he was educated at the parish school, and entered the Glasgow University in 1822, where he studied four years, both in the classical and medical classes, and received the diploma of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, in 1827, and shortly afterwards commenced as a practitioner in Coatbridge, where he still continues, aided by an assistant, a nephew of his own.
The next in seniority is James Dickson, who is a native of Linlithgowshire, born in 1809 in the village of Blackburn, at the schools of which, in early youth, he received his education. In 1826 he commenced his medical studies in the University of Glasgow; and, having passed through the usual curriculum, he received his diploma in 1832 from the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, and shortly afterwards began as a practitioner in the Baillieston, or western division of the district. Robert Stewart was born at Bartebeith, Kirkintilloch, in 1812, and received his early education at the parish school of Chryston, where he passed through the usual course of grammar school studies. In 1828 he entered the University of Glasgow, where he attended the various classes necessary to qualify him for the profession. Being desirous of adding to his professional knowledge, he acted as a private assistant for a considerable time in several medical institutions in Glasgow, under eminent professors, and graduated as M.D., with high honours, in 1839, and immediately afterwards commenced practice in Coatbridge. During his career he has earned for himself a high reputation in the profession. For many years past his practice has been such as to require a young and energetic assistant. To enumerate those who have been, in his service, or give details regarding them, would be superfluous. Many of them are now practising with both honour and profit in other districts. The present assistant, Alexander Allison, is a native of Hillhead, parish of Avondale, born in 1840. In early youth he was educated at the parish school, and also the Hamilton Academy. In 1856, he entered the Glasgow University, from which he graduated as M.D. in May, 1862; and, in August following, passed the Board as a licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.
Robert Wilson, born in 1815, in Glasgow, where he was also educated. After completing his medical curriculum at the University there, he acted for three years as private assistant to Dr Mackenzie, the eminent oculist, and received the diploma of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, in 1839, and during the course of the following year commenced practice in Coatbridge.
Charles Adam is a native of Old Monkland Parish, born at Calder Iron Works, in 1827. His father was a mining contractor. In early youth he received the principal part of his education, under various masters, at Calder Works School. In 1844 he entered the Glasgow University, where he studied six sessions, four medical and two classical, and graduated with honour as M.D. in 1850, and shortly afterwards commenced practice in Coatbridge.
Robert Munro was born in 1836, in Coatbridge, where his father carried on the business of an iron founder. About eight years afterwards his father removed to Goodoakhill, in the Shotts Parish; he therefore received his youthful education at Murdieston School. In 1855 he entered the Andersonian University, Glasgow, where he studied for two sessions, allowed two to elapse, then entered again, and, after the usual curriculum, received the diploma of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in 1862, and commenced practice soon after in his native town.
George Willis, surgeon, Baillieston, a native of England, is a licentiate of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow, and has been a practitioner in Baillieston for the last ten years.
As a conclusion to the foregoing sketches of our medical practitioners, we may add that although the iron works and collieries emit great quantities of smoke daily, the district cannot be said to be an unhealthy one, although a great revolution must have taken place in the quality of the atmosphere since these works were erected; and still, if such has a deleterious effect, it must be of a very mild description, as the general appearance of the population is not of the milk and water cast which prevails in crowded towns, but rather the reverse. In Sinclair's statistical account of the district in 1793, the following is given on this subject:- "Though there is no instance of remarkable longevity, it must be concluded that the situation is healthy. Local diseases are unknown; fevers and consumptions are most frequent, the former prevails after harvest if the weather has been hot" &c. In March, 1832, that fearful disease, cholera, broke out, and carried off many victims. Its ravages were great among the inhabitants at Calder .Iron Works, Greenend, Coatdyke, Faskine, and Langloan, and it lasted till about the middle of May following. The contagion was said to have been brought to the district by a boatman from Kirkintilloch, who was the first that died. Amidst all the fears and alarm that prevailed, there were many narrow escapes recorded, and, among the rest, that of a very respectable weaver, which we here insert; it was said to be a "cholera chase." The weaver had occasion to go to Glasgow, and before setting out on his return journey he had a dram in the city. Now a dram without a smoke, to the weaver, was "even down pizhen." There being no fire in the dram-shop, he came out minus his smoke; the consequence was, that in trudging along the Gallowgate, he felt a certain squeamishness, and stood for a moment at the corner of a street, uncertain as to what might be the result. At this alarming moment up comes a man " wi' a black coat on, and a cane in his haun," and says, " What's the matter with you?" "0 nothing," was the reply, "but the want o' a smoke ?" "I think," says the gentleman in black, "ye'll better go with me to the Cholera Hospital?" " Will I feth," roared the man, "I'll see you hanged first," So, taking to his heels, and running with all his speed, he stopped not, nor once looked behind, till he reached Park-head, where, thinking himself out of harm's way, he gently opened a door, and inquired, "Mistress, hae ye ony Brods o' Health here?" "I dinna ken," quoth she. "That's a very gude sign then; will I get a licht o' my pipe wi' ye?" "Ou aye." This was what he wanted before he left the Gallowgate, and after a gude whiff he was jist as weel as e'er he was, only a wee forfoughten wi' the race he had, and the narrow escape frae that man in the black coat, and the Cholera Hospital.
(About this period, a man named Watson, residing at Calder Iron Works, was seized with cholera, and had a narrow escape from being buried alive. He was supposed to be dead, the coffin was ordered, and he dressed and laid out in his grave clothes; the house was ordered to be fumigated after the funeral. After a few hours, while his daughter was sitting by the fireside alone, he rose up and asked for a drink; the girl looked round, and replied, "Ye canna get a drink, faither, for ye're deed." The man recovered, and lived for many years afterwards)
In November, 1848, the district was again visited by .the same scourge. It commenced in the Bank Buildings, Coatbridge, on the side of the Monkland Canal, extended rapidly, and was most virulent in Marystone, at Carnbroe Iron Works, and several other places. .The physicians had to get additional assistance, and a Cholera Hospital was erected on the south side of the Monkland Canal, at Pottery, capable of accommodating upwards of thirty patients. The Board of Health met daily, for some time, in the Coatbridge Inn, to receive the reports, and organise measures for the suppression of the disease. Houses were fumigated, and white-washed; quantities of tar were poured out upon the streets, and set fire to, and all measures adopted, that human skill could suggest, to purify the tainted atmosphere. Still, hundreds were carried off in the district during its course. It continued till the end of February, and left as it came, in the same mysterious manner, leaving behind many sad and sorrowing households; some, indeed, with none left to mourn - all gone - the cholera had done its work.
In 1855 the same disease made its appearance, but not in such a virulent form as that of '32 or '48, and it soon passed away. Other diseases, such as scarlatina, fever, &c., have prevailed occasionally during the last few years; but it has been remarked by one of our medical staff of upwards of thirty years' experience, that the mining population, during a strike, have hitherto required little or no medical attention, and quite the reverse when both work and wages are abundant; so that if this be applicable to one class of workmen, the same may be applied to all Temperance in all things is a good maxim, and if practised, would relieve many from troubles and afflictions to which they are subjected by their own excesses; but human nature is human nature, and the disciples of Esculapius have still their duty to perform.
It has been written "That poetry is a creation, the essence of which is passion. Of all poetry passion is the marrow, the life, the soul—and why ? simply because by its means alone are our sympathies awakened, and our minds laid open to the deepest and most lasting impressions ; and because by it the active faculty of the poet must be influenced before these impressions can be conveyed, or these sympathies awakened."
" It mounts from lowly earth to heaven,
And comes from heaven again."
As a poet of no mean order stands the name of Janet Hamilton, whose writings, whether in prose or poetry, have won for her a fame for which the district may be justly proud. We therefore extract the following sketch of this lady from the Hamilton Advertiser, in 1863, shortly before that lady's writings, in poetry and in prose, were published in a neat volume :-
"Many of our readers are familiar with the name of Janet Hamilton; but the majority of them will be inclined to ask, Who and what is Janet Hamilton? Janet Hamilton is a lady - we beg her pardon ; for though she is a lady in the best sense of the term, she will not thank us for the epithet - close on the borders of threescore and ten. She is as fine a specimen as we ever saw of a plain, hard-headed, warm-hearted, sturdy auld Scotch wife. She has still a sturdy and stark look, which tells that, in the days of her prime, she must have been a braw buirdly woman. The cares of a wife and mother, and old age, have had their effect upon her, and too much study of books has almost deprived her of sight; but the strong intellect, and unimpaired good sense which she displays in conversation, protect her from being treated or spoken of as a puir body. Janet Hamilton is a shoemaker's daughter, and a shoemaker's wife, at present living in Langloan, near Coatbridge. She is a very remarkable example of the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties. She never was at school, but her mother taught her to read the Bible. This power to read the Scriptures was the key by which she has been enabled to unlock the treasure-house of English literature, and to appreciate many of its most precious stores. At an early age she became a shoemaker's wife, and the mother of a large family. A strange life her's must have been - a queer mixture of rubbing and scrubbing, reading and dreaming, mending and musing, porridge and poetry. But while she frequented Helicon, she did not neglect her home. Until she was fifty years of age she read and wrote, mused and sung, merely to please herself. The cares of her family kept her from thinking of fame. But then, when her sons and daughters were able to do for themselves, and even to help the mother, she was induced to think of giving some of her thoughts to the public; and, in Cassell's Working Man's Friend, some eighteen months ago, she made her debut as an author. Since then she has published much that has been read and admired by first-rate judges of English literature. Her difficulties were at first very great, and her perseverance was greater. Often at night, when others slept, she thought and composed, retaining the result in her memory till daylight and her husband's leisure admitted of its being committed to writing. This, however, was soon found to be too hard work. The strain on the memory was too severe; and she felt that she must by some means acquire the power of writing. A woman of her years could not think of going to school; and she was more accustomed to help herself than to be helped by others. She set to work, and, after a time, succeeded in being able to write in neat characters, so shaped that at a little distance they might readily be mistaken for printed Greek. These she can read herself with facility, and a few of her more intimate friends can also decipher them, but with difficulty. She was, after this invention, able to relieve her memory by writing her compositions in Hamiltonian, and could wait on her husband or her son's convenience to get them transferred to legible English writing.
"She has written prose and poetry in about equal proportions; but it is as a poet that she is best known to our readers. From what has been said, it will not be denied that she is a wonderful woman, and therefore worthy of admiration and respect. We think, moreover, that she is a true poet, and entitled to notice as such, independently of all other considerations. There is a polish and a correctness in some of her poems that many a poet of no mean eminence might envy. 'The Drunkard's Wife' - 'The Child of France' - 'Girls at Play' - 'Lines to the Calder where it passes Rosehall' - are beautiful in themselves; but considered as the productions of a poor shoemaker's wife on the verge of seventy, who never was at school, and who taught herself to write after she was fifty, they are truly marvellous.
"We give a few verses from the 'Drunkard's Wife':-
"O Jeanie, my woman, whaur is't ye are gawn,
Wi' ae bairn on your arm, and ane in yer haun?
There's snaw on the grun', and nae shoon on yer feet,
An' ye speak na' a word, but just murmur and greet.
Your ae drugget coat is baith scrimpy and worn,
And your auld lillac tonsh is baith dirty and torn;
And round your lean haffets, ance sonsy and fair,
Hings tautit and tousy your bonny broun hair.
Waesucks for ye, Jeanie, I kent ye fu' weel,
When a lass, ye were couthie, and cantie, and leal,
Wi' cheeks like the roses ; your bonnie blue e'e
Aye glancin' and dancin' wi' daffin an' glee.
They tauld ye that Davie was keen o' the drink,
That siller ne'er stayed in his pouches a blink;
An' a' he got haud o' he wared on the dram,
An' ae pay ne'er ser't till anither ane cam."
"There is no character more useful or honourable than that of a reformer, whatever be his country or station. Human society is at all times fallible, and therefore subject to errors and abuses in every department, and those, who by the pen, the platform, or any other medium of effort, awaken public attention to pressing evils, point out the remedy, or even attempt to do so, belong to the number that merit the gratitude of their species."
The subject of the following sketch, (my father) the late William Miller, Coatbridge, died in November, 1862, at the advanced age of 65 years. He was a man of very superior abilities, and a thorough staunch reformer. In early years he took a very active and prominent part in the local political struggles of 1819-20, and was well known as the Secretary for the Lanarkshire Radicals. At that period a deep-rooted discontent prevailed in the public mind - when the question of reform was the leading topic - it was a time of great excitement, and one holding such a conspicuous position as secretary to the agitation, could scarcely hope to escape from the Government officials. The town of Airdrie, and surrounding district, was considered one of the great hotbeds of these so-called rebels, or reformers, and strong patrols of military were stationed for the purpose of suppressing any outbreak on the part of the Radicals. Mr Miller was one of the few who were apprehended as ringleaders; twice did he suffer imprisonment for periods of not less than six weeks, in Hamilton prison, and again, a third time, for three months in the prison of Glasgow. When taken at each time out of the town of Airdrie, he was escorted by cavalry and infantry, as a guard; the authorities, it was said, being under the apprehension that a rescue would be attempted. While in Glasgow prison, he had for a companion, in the same cell, poor Wilson of Strathaven, who shortly afterwards, and about the same period as Baird and Hardie, suffered the extreme penalty of the law. After a judicial examination in Glasgow, Mr Miller was acquitted of the serious charges of high treason and sedition, but before being released, sureties to the amount of several hundred pounds sterling were required, and he was brought back to Airdrie to enable him to get parties to sign the deed. On that occasion the town was crowded by an excited multitude; the streets in every direction, near the Royal Hotel, where the prisoner was lodged, presented a moving mass of people, and Captain Smith, who afterwards became the great Sir Harry Smith, the hero of Alliwal, was in command of the artillery stationed in the town - head quarters being the hotel - who, on seeing such a dense crowd, requested Mr Miller to go out on the balcony and advise the multitude to disperse. This he accordingly did, and after a short address, in which he advised them strongly to go home, he concluded with a request for three cheers for the good old cause, which was responded to vigorously, they then dispersed in good order.
(Captain Smith, on seeing the multitude disperse so rapidly, remarked to one of his " sub's," that Mr Miller was, if inclined, a dangerous man to the Government, and so young too. He then turned round, shook hands with the young reformer, and thanked him for what he had done.)
Shortly afterwards the deed of security was signed, by the late Dr Clarke, of Wester Moffat, and Dr Tennant, of Bredenhill. On being released from custody, Mr Miller went and resided with some friends in the Upper Ward till the political storm blew over, when he returned to Airdrie, and became a teacher, which he followed up for upwards of sixteen years, and during that period took an active part in municipal affairs, and was connected with several newspapers in Glasgow, to which he contributed many papers both in prose and poetry. He ultimately removed to Coatbridge, where he resided till his death - a period of nearly 25 years. His company was much courted, and in 1845, and other years, when the civic dignitaries were chosen, he was elected as Provost of the Mock Burgh.
(In the original there follows several pages of verse by William Miller, not reproduced here)