CENTENARIANS.

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Currie
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CENTENARIANS.

Post by Currie » Wed Jun 17, 2020 9:43 am

From the Southern Reporter (Selkirk), Thursday, Aug. 20, 1896.

REMINISCENCES OF A FORFARSHIRE CENTENARIAN.

In the hamlet of Newbigging, on the high road between Newtyle and Meigle, lives a woman who has just entered on her hundredth year almost amid the same scenes and surroundings where, a century before, she first saw the light. Within the walls of a turf-roofed cottage rising above the waving grain she is passing the last of her many years under the care of her daughter-in-law, a woman well advanced in years. Hard work has been Mrs Hill’s portion since ever she was able to “herd the kye,” or “ca’ the pleagh.” Though she has never wandered more than twenty miles from her native place, her knowledge of men and events in the early part of the present century is remarkable, and she talks with wonderful fluency and genuine Scottish accent of many things which happened seventy years ago, or more.

She was at school for a very short time, and, as was the habit then, always carried with her a peat for the school-house fire. She was born near the town of Glamis, on a small holding belonging to her father, and still in possession of his descendants. At night, the family read a chapter from the Bible, their only text-book, and Mrs Hill talks disdainfully of the ‘rubbish that fouk cram their heids wi’ noo-a-days." Her maiden name was Jean Young. She has seen four successive sovereigns on the throne of Great Britain. The jubilee of George III. she speaks of as happening “no langsyne,” though over seventy years have fled since then. At the time of the King’s jubilee she took pert in the dancing and merry-making, remembering distinctly that every householder received as a gift four pounds of beef, and drawing a striking contrast between the jubilee of our Queen and that of her predecessor.

Her married life was comparatively short, and at forty years of age she was left a widow. Of her family of nine, five are yet living—three daughters and two sons—some of whom have already passed the allotted span of three-score years and ten. Up to her eighty-third year she worked at the loom as a “husset” weaver, and only ceased weaving because she fell into the treddle-hole, and was unable to keep her seat. She is thoroughly familiar with every stage of weaving from sowing the lint to making garments from the finished cloth. Her pirn wheel and “flies” she has seen fall to pieces with old age. Speaking with pleasure of her young days, she says that “fouk were mair friendly then, no sic muckle pride and envy,” and remembers that in those times poor people were looked after by their neighbours, each one contributing a little to help, and none ever dreaming of accepting outside relief. At the time of her marriage the price of provisions was very high, excepting beef, which was 3d and 4d per lb. Tea cost 6d for two ounces, a loaf of bread 1s 6d and 1s 8d. Sugar was 8d per lb., and “sweeties” were looked upon as novelties. An old “cutty” lies handy by her bedside, Mrs Hill having learned to smoke as a cure for toothache over seventy years ago. She speaks with remarkable fluency and vigour, when her great age is taken into account, and, though sight and hearing are somewhat impaired, her high spirits have never left her.


More centenarians to come,
Hope that’s interesting,
Alan

Anne H
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by Anne H » Wed Jun 17, 2020 10:01 am

An enjoyable read Alan and could be attributed to many an elder citizen today.

Loved it! =D>
[cheers]
Anne

WilmaM
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by WilmaM » Wed Jun 17, 2020 10:10 am

I wonder what she'd make of the rubbish folks fill their head with now!

nelmit
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by nelmit » Fri Jun 19, 2020 1:11 pm

Really interesting Alan. :D

Kind regards,
Annette

garibaldired
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by garibaldired » Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:40 am

Great read! =D>

Thanks, Alan.

Best wishes,

Meg

Currie
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by Currie » Wed Jun 24, 2020 7:19 am

Thanks everyone.

This week’s episode of ‘Centenarians’ is from the Evening Telegraph, Dundee, Friday, July 4, 1890, and is about ………..

A FIFESHIRE CENTENARIAN.
MRS BALFOUR OF TORRYBURN.

There is little in the small townships which cluster on the banks of the Forth between the great Forth Bridge and Alloa to suggest the progress of the nineteenth century. The villages and hamlets, with their red-tiled roofs and crooked streets, lie as peacefully as they did in the olden time, and all that seems to be required on a quiet June evening to take one back to the days when the hours passed week after week without incident is the “curfew bell” which “tolled the knell of parting day.” In the villages in question many of the residents are quite oblivious to the city life, which seems to fly faster than the weaver's shuttle of Scripture, and while they labour in the fields and the market gardens on the slopes of the Forth they do not show the least sign of that worry which is ever apparent on the faces of those who are pressing on in the modern struggle for existence. The quietness of the life and the healthy situation of the villages tend to longevity, and the census returns show a much larger proportion of very old people than can be expected to be found in the dusty, packed streets of the city. Nowhere have we seen a larger proportion of very old people than in the villages of Culross, Lowvalleyfield, Newmill, and Torryburn. In almost every street sturdy octogenarians are to be met with, and in Torryburn a woman named

JANE WILLIAMSON OR BALFOUR,

widow of Andrew Balfour, completed her 100th year in the end of May last. Mrs Balfour resides with one of her daughters in a house in the main street of Torryburn, The old woman enjoys surprisingly good health, and up til a fortnight ago, when she sustained a slight accident by a fall, she delighted to do the little messages of the humble household. She is at a disadvantage because of her dulness of hearing, but her eyesight, although she is not conscious of having been blessed with second sight, is so good that she can tell the time as indicated on the dial of the old cuckoo clock which hangs on one of the walls of the small but tidy dwelling. Mrs Balfour has been resident in Torryburn all her life. She lost her husband, who was sawyer, in 1869. The husband’s coffin bore that he was 77 years of age. Mrs Balfour was two years older than her husband, which made her 79 in 1869, Adding the years which have elapsed since 1869 gives a total of a century. Although no written documents can be produced, the whole circumstances seem to point to the conclusion that the woman is a genuine centenarian. She has a daughter resident in Lowvalleysfield, who is an octogenarian, and about whose age there is not the least doubt, and people whose ages range from 70 to 80 years state that “Jane Williamson was the mother of children when they were at the school.” Mrs Balfour had eight children, and four of the family are still alive, The surviving grandchildren of the centenarian number 23, and the great-grand children are quite as numerous.

The daughter the old woman resides with is nearly 68 years of age, and the pair are not by any means blessed with a large share of the world’s wealth. Their principal source of income is the trifle drawn weekly for mangling clothes, They have a small annuity, perhaps fully as much as pay the rent of their modest dwelling, from the Paton Fund, and Mr Colville of Craigflower and a few friends in the immediate vicinity of the village are so kind that it may be said that Mrs Balfour and her daughter have never as yet known what it is to want a plain meal. To those who have had the pleasure of visiting the centenarian during the past month, however, it has been apparent that although the modest income derived from mangling is slightly augmented by people in the district, yet a

LITTLE EXTRANEOUS AID

would be exceedingly opportune and acceptable. It would be too much to expect that a fund would be rtaised which would enable the daughter to blot out the sign, “Mangling done here;” but it might be possible to raise such a sum of money as would enable Miss Balfour to do less mangling work, and have more time to devote to her aged mother. On the day the photograph of the above cut was taken

THE CENTENARIAN

stated that she had almost got over the injuries she had sustained by the fall a fortnight previous. She walked out to the garden without any aid whatever, and said she thought that she would soon be able to run the messages as usual. Mrs Balfour has been a hard worker all her days. In addition to looking after her household duties, she worked at the loom for many years—many of the inhabitants being at one time engaged in weaving cotton goods for Glasgow manufacturers.

TORRYBURN

was at one time a place of some importance, and in the end of the last century there were thirteen vessels belonging to the locality, with an aggregate tonnage of upwards of 1000, and giving employment to about 70 seamen. The shipping and weaving industries have all collapsed, however, and the diminution which has taken place in the size of the village during the past 40 years is very marked. The village at one time enjoyed an extended reputation for its witches, and for centuries Torryburn Fair has been an event which has annually been looked forward to with a great amount of interest by the people of West Fife. The glory of the horse races held in connection with the Fair has, like the glory of the once-thriving industries of the village, departed, but the Fair Day is still one of the great days of the year.

The centenarian and her daughter.
https://imgur.com/a/bNO3ILF


More next week hopefully,
Alan

Anne H
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by Anne H » Wed Jun 24, 2020 11:47 am

Thanks Alan. The way it's written makes me feel like I'm right there in the story. Wonderful writers back then.

Anne

Currie
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by Currie » Wed Jul 01, 2020 3:39 pm

Thanks Anne,

This week we have not quite a centenarian as reported in the Evening Telegraph, Dundee, Wednesday, March 1, 1899.

ALMOST A CENTENARIAN.
A REMARKABLE OLD DUNDEE WOMAN.

One of the oldest—if not the very oldest—of Dundee’s citizens is Christina Anderson, a maiden lady who has seen over 90 summers. Christina herself states that her age is 93, but the ticket above her bed in the East Poorhouse Hospital bears the figures 97. In any event she is a wonderful old woman. Until a few days ago she lived in her own house in Ogilvie Street, but a nasty fall compelled her to seek refuge in the hospital, and she now lies happy and contented, and looks forward to the day when she will again take up her household duties, When Christina speaks about this the nurses say very little, and it is easy to see that they are not at all hopeful of her being able to leave the hospital. Learning that there was such an interesting personality under the care of Mr Buglass, an Evening Telegraph reporter called yesterday at the house and had the privilege of talking to Miss Anderson. He found her to be a sweet-faced, gentle creature, with few symptoms of her great age, and quite prepared to enter into an intelligent conversation. Almost the first remark she passed was to the effect that she was charmed with her present surroundings and delighted with the kind treatment she had received at the hands of the officials. She then went on to say that she was born in Dundee, and came of a very long-lived race. In support of the latter remark she quoted the case of her aunt, who had lived till

WITHIN A WEEK OR TWO OF 100,

and had worked at her spinning-jenny until the end. Her father was an Alyth man, and her mother hailed from Dunkeld. They had a family of six daughters and three sons, and Christina was the third girl, “I’m the only ane that’s left,” she said with a sigh, “and it canna be long or I follow them.” However, she says she is in good bodily health, and certainly her memory is clear and retentive. She stated to her visitor that she was born in Session Street. When a young girl she remembered trees growing in the vicinity of the Hawkhill, but generally the town was a dirty place. Her father worked in Brown’s Mill, in Constable Street, and in close proximity was a long stretch of corn land. Dundee’s shipping was then on a very small scale. Asked if she could describe the ships of 80 years ago, the old woman replied, “Ships, did ye say? There were nae big ships then, only bit smackies, wi’ a mast an’ a half.” By and by, Christina entered service and travelled all over the country with her master and mistress, visiting London and many other large centres. She sailed to the Thames in one of the “smackies” she spoke about, and the passage occupied three weeks. Then Miss Anderson distinctly remembers the return of the soldiers from Waterloo, how the town was given over to rejoicing, and how the triumphant soldiers were feted and extolled. She has also very distinct recollections of the great meal famine. When at its worst the price of meal was 3s 6d per peck. There were what were called meal stores in various parts of the city—one being situated at the foot of Bonnethill, another in Hawkhill, and so on. The Hawkhill place was kept by a Friend, and he got nothing but Quaker Scott from the citizens. Christina remembers well

THE TERRIBLE RIOTS

which took place during the meal famine, and she tells in realistic words how the stores were attacked by excited mobs, and in cases levelled with the ground. ‘These were awfu’ days,” remarked the old lady, and one can quite agree with her. The jail at that time was situated in High Street, and numerous arrests were made by the police. Christina herself knew one of the ringleaders, and, according to her story, this “puir lad” was laid in the stocks for his part in the riots. Speaking of the jail led her to mention that she had witnessed several “hangings” in Dundee. Amongst other cases, she remembers those of Balfour, who murdered his wife in Murraygate, and Alfred Woods, a brutal father, who threw his son over a staircase, and so killed him. Both these men paid the penalty of their crimes in front of the Pillars and before large crowds of citizens. Another individual was hanged for stealing, and altogether Christina remembers about half a dozen gruesome cases of the law’s last penalty. Turning to her first railway experiences, Miss Anderson relates how well she recollected the opening of the Newtyle line and the laying down of the Dundee and Arbroath route. In connection with the latter, she says she was well-nigh crushed to death while travelling from Dundee to witness some horse-racing sports on the Links beyond Broughty Ferry Castle. The carriages were crowded and the crushing was “by ordinar’,” but though many were hurt none were seriously injured.

The conversation with the old woman only lasted a few minutes, so that it will be seen she touched on numerous topics in a wonderfully short time. The reporter on leaving the ward was warmly invited by Christina to come to “her ain hoose and hae a cup o’ tea wi’ her some of thae days,” and, acting on a discreet nod from the attendant nurse, agreed to do so, much to the old lady’s satisfaction.



More to come,
Alan

Anne H
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by Anne H » Wed Jul 01, 2020 5:30 pm

Thanks again, Alan. Another wonderful read and what an interesting woman. Fantastic information!

Regards,
Anne

Currie
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Re: CENTENARIANS.

Post by Currie » Wed Jul 08, 2020 9:01 am

Most of the centenarian stories that have much meat on their bones seem to be coming from around Dundee, and most of those are about women. Maybe the Dundee papers were more into that sort of thing, and perhaps the women had more to say, or lived longer. But this week’s story is about a man and is from the Dundee Courier, Monday, February 15, 1892.

THE RECOLLECTIONS OF JAMES NICOLL,
A DUNDEE CENTENARIAN.
“THE OLD MAN OF THE LAW.”
SEVENTY YEARS A MARKET GARDENER.

“I am auld noo; Iam abune a hundor,” said the old man in answer to our inquiry after his health and age.

He looked a hundred or more if he had not exactly completed a full century of years. No one could doubt the great age to which James Nicoll had attained. His thin, shrunken figure, hollow cheeks, and withered face, the lustreless eyes and skinny hands, and rheumatic-stiffened limbs were convincing proofs that we were in presence of a human being whose life has been prolonged far beyond the allotted span. He sat in his old arm chair beside a cheerful fire in the cottage which has been his home for seventy years. In the heyday of vigorous manhood he had settled down here with his young wife, and with health and strength and willing hands they had toiled together for many, many years, and brought up a family in comfort and respectability.

That humble cottage on the Law, modestly peeping over the green hedges that screen it from the road that winds round behind Dudhope House, contains within its walls one who may well be termed the oldest citizen of Dundee—James Nicoll, long known as the most energetic and successful market gardener in the district round Dundee. He thinks that he has lived one hundred years, but his friends are inclined to believe that he still wants three years to complete his centenary. James was born in the parish of Strathmartine in March, 1795, his son assured me. Old James would thus, according to that chronology, be 97 years of age. At all events, 97 is an age to which only a very few ever attain. There are few men alive now who first saw the light in the end of the eighteenth century.

James is now growing very frail. During the winter now passing he has not been able to be out of doors. His eyes are growing dim, and his ears dull of hearing; and he has to aid his feeble limbs with a wooden crutch, with which be can move about the house. His appetite is fairly good, and despite the accompaniments of old age he enjoys life in his own way. He is glad of a visit from an old acquaintance, and very fond of a crack about old times, He takes his smoke, too, and puffs away
vigorously when he gets a “gude gaen pipe between his lips.” All his life be has lived temperately and frugally on oatmeal, “the halesome parritch, chief of Scotia’s food,” brose and bannocks being still the only fare he loves. In fact, he will eat no wheaten bread, tea he cares not a rush for, but give him his cog of porridge and milk, and he asks for nothing better. Surely James is a living illustration of the nutritive and health-giving quality of oatmeal.

I visited old James the other day, and with the assistance of his son and grandson, who could communicate more readily with him than a stranger, I was able to glean some interesting particulars of his history. He was the son of a farm labourer, and his earliest recollections were associated with the hardships and poverty of rural life. He was never much at school, for he had to go out to work in the fields when he was about seven years of age. He was thus early accustomed to hard work and coarse fare. When he was young he was fed on bean meal brose and kail; oatmeal was a luxury reserved for the heads of the family. Hard though the life was, the youngsters had their pleasures, too. It would have been a cheerless life if there had not been some gleams of sunshine thrown into it at times. One of the most exhilarating sports, which he stills remembers with delight, was following the foxhunters. “Sandy Brown, o’ Dichty Water, used to lead us on,” he said. “Sandy was a wild, reckless chap.” Whenever they heard of a “meet,” off the young lads trooped with Sandy Brown at their head, over the country till they came up with the hounds, and then it was over fields and ditches helter-skelter after the chase in a vain endeavour to be “in at the death.”

From herd laddie and halflin be graduated till he was fit to work a pair of horses and could claim to be a full-fledged ploughman. Wages were very small. He worked for £5, with meal and milk, and even when he held the position of foreman his wages were only £8 a year. On most of the farms in and around Dundee he drove the plough, and for one half-year he was engaged on a farm in the parish of Kinnordy at the foot of the Grampians. That seemed, however, to have been the farthest he ever went from his native district in pursuit of his calling.

He was a young man when the French war was going on. He might, as his son remarked, have fought at Waterloo and come home with a pension. He had, however, no ambition to seek a reputation at the cannon’s mouth. But he remembered many things in connection with that long tut! tut! struggle on the Continent. When he was working the hindmost pair on the farm of Craigie to the east of the town there was a ship of war lying in the Tay engaged in the press-gang service. Many stories were current about the nefarious doings of the press-gang, but he never had any actual experience of them himself. Still, the very name of the press-gang was sufficient to strike horror to the heart of a landsman. The officers of the ship were on terms of friendship with his master, Mr Cramond, the farmer of Craigie. When the farmer wanted to frighten his men into obedience he would threaten to send the press-gang for them. That had the salutary effect of preventing the young ploughmen from venturing out at night to visit the town. Mr Cramond had a fine-spirited blood horse of which he was rather proud. When his sailor friends paid him a visit he would allow them to try a ride on the blood horse. With a “jolly tar” on his back the horse galloped round a field, till it came back to the starting point. There it stopped short with a sudden jerk, stretched out its fore feet, ducked its head, and sent the luckless rider flying over its head like a rocket.

A prominent character about Dundee in those days was Lord Panmure. The leading spirit of a coterie of young bloods that had their headquarters in Dundee, the name of Maule of Panmure became a byeword in the community. The vagaries of those young aristocrats were the talk of the town. Many strange stories were circulated concerning their doings, some of which were true, while others were either invented or exaggerated. One of the most audacious and profane exploits with which these worthies are credited was a dramatic recital of the Resurrection. The theatre whereon this blasphemous farce was played was the old Logie Burying-Ground in the Lochee Road. Old James was a ploughman on the farm of Whitefield at the time, and remembers the affair well, although he was not an eye-witness. In fact, it was the talk of the country, and the whole community were utterly scandalised at the daring blasphemy of the actors in that horrid drama. Panmure gets the credit of proposing and planning the “entertainment.” Men were procured, who for the sake of a good “fill fou” and a trifle of money consented to take part in the performance. It was said that a hearse, with a trumpeter on the dickey beside the driver, was driven to the burying-ground. At the sound of the trumpet men covered with white sheets rose up from amongst the gravestones, where they had previously been lying awaiting the signal. The “bloods” were there to witness the spectacle got up in mockery of the solemn scene that the Bible says shall take place at the last day.

Another event in which Panmure took a leading hand was a great steeplechase from the top of the Law to Kilpirnie Castle, near Newtyle. Three riders started-—Panmure’s man, Douglas’ man, and Fotheringham’s man. Heavy stakes were laid between the three gentlemen, and a great deal of excitement was created over the race. Very few spectators assembled to witness the start, but at Kilpirnie an immense crowd gathered to see the riders come in. Douglas’ man won, James said.
He covered the distance in twenty minutes.

Among other local events of which he still retains lingering memories may be mentioned the meal mobs and the political agitation in which Kinloch took a leading part.

In 1823 James rented the croft on the lands of Dudhope, with the cottage in which he still resides. There he began the business of a market gardener which is now carried on by his son. The cottage and ground had formerly been rented by a man named Palmer, but not succeeding he had given it up, and gone somewhere up the Carse of Gowrie. The cottage had at one time an evil reputation. It was said to have been the haunt of a band of desperate robbers known as Wallace’s gang, whose lawless depredations kept the town and country in a state of chronic terror. When James entered on his holding the modern house of Dudhope had not been built, and the fine woods which now surround the mansion were just beginning to be planted. His own holding was completely bare and exposed, but he planted hedges, and adorned, beautified, and laid out the ground into a fine garden. In those days the town, now a large and flourishing city, was then a very small place. All around the slopes on the east and west were corn fields, and Lochee was a mere hamlet. The cottage on the Law was a long way from the town—quite in the country, in fact, “a mile abune Dundee.” The rent was £5 an acre. He kept a cow or two and a horse and cart. There was not much to be made out of the ground for the first two or three years. The soil was ‘‘clayey,” and required a good deal of labour and manure, and the rent was high. The third year of his occupancy was the memorable '26, the disastrous year of the short corn. Nothing grew on his place that season; one basket of potatoes was all he took off the two acres he had sown and planted. The grubs came out of the hill, and between the vermin and the scorching heat every green blade was eaten up. “Grubs!” exclaimed the old man; ‘‘they cam’ oot o’ the hill, an’ were a foot deep on the road down there.”

That must have been a loathsome spectacle, but perhaps the story was a little exaggerated. At all events, he could not pay his rent that year. The ladies of Dudhope, the Gardiners, now all dead, came on him one day as he was looking after his cows and rated him soundly for not paying the rent. “Hoo can I pay rent when I had nae crop,” was the answer he gave. “If it werena that I work wi’ my horse and cart I cudna’ mak’ a livin’.”

He had to toil hard to maintain his family. He got a carter’s badge from the town, and plied his cart about tho town and Harbour driving coals, manure, and anything that came in his way. Often he bought coals from the vessels at the shore, and drove them to Forfar and sold them at a good profit. For many years he used to purchase the contents of tho ashpits in the town and sell the manure to the farmers. Thus he toiled on from year to year, in summer’s heat and winter's cold. He extended his holding, and cultivated the garden with great success. The fruit and vegetables he took to the market in the Nethergate, then to the great Greenmarket of Dundee, where he sold his produce by retail. He devoted his attention to the rearing of cabbage plants, and in that line of the nursery business he attained to great fame. James Nicoll’s plants were long famous in the district round Dundee.

Concerning the events that transpired in Dundee in those days he has still a lively recollection. The first visitation of the cholera was a terrible experience. He remembers when he was selling his produce in the Nethergate of seeing a line of tar barrels burning on the street. The authorities thought the smoke and flame from the tar barrels would help to purify the air and check the spread of the awful scourge. The dead bodies were conveyed to the Howff in carts, and they buried them in a great pit along the south side of the burying-ground. “They were not very particular wi’ them,” James remarked.

Balfour’s execution he remembered well. “It wasna’ richt to hing him,” he thought. He was on the High Street in the crowd that gathered to witness the execution when the rumbling noise was heard that produced such a panic in the crowd. “A’ the carters in Dundee hodit themsels that day.” “What was that for?” “For fear they would be forced to drive the body to Edinburgh to the doctors. They got a man to cart the corpse through Fife. He saw something on the road and died wi’ the fricht.” Such, no doubt, was the effects of superstition on the minds of the people in those days.

The passing of the Reform Bill of ‘32, and the riots, burning of boats, and lawless rowdyism that prevailed during those stormy years, he loves to talk about. In the vigour of manhood he took a keen interest in politics and religion. On politics he held Liberal views, and in ecclesiastical matters he identified himself with the Evangelical and Non-Intrusion party. He knew M‘Cheyne well, and often heard him preach. At this time he was a member of Chapelshade Established Church. He came out at the Disruption, and subsequently he joined Dudhope Free Church. He used to be an extensive reader, and, possessed of great shrewdness and intelligence, he always evinced a deep interest in the affairs of the town and the events transpiring in the world. If a war was going on in any part of the world he watched its progress with absorbing interest. The Crimean War had taken such a hold on his imagination that it appears to him to be quite a recent event.

Although blessed with a vigorous and sound constitution, James has not passed through life without his share of disease and suffering. Rheumatism has been his greatest enemy. For a whole twelvemonth he suffered so much from that incurable disease that he had to sit on a chair night and day. He got better, and was able to move about again, but for the last thirty years he has been entirely laid aside from work. The garden is now managed by his son, but the old man has never ceased to identity himself with the business. His wife died many years ago, but he is still surrounded and cared for by a family of sons and daughters and grandchildren and great grandchildren,
J.S.N.


Hope that’s interesting,
Alan

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