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

The life of Archibald Hamilton Charteris D.D., LL.D.
by Gordon, Arthur (1912) (pdf)

From Chapter 1

Many lives have been written, and Lord Neaves has sung, of the ‘sons of the manse,’ so often found pre-eminent in their several professions; and none more distinguished than the minister-sons. But this book seeks to perpetuate the memory of a son of the school-house, which also has made many notable contributions to the ranks of the Scottish ministry. It would be strange were it otherwise. Since the day of Knox, and universally since the Scottish Act of Parliament 1696, the goodly vision of the parish school, standing as a rule in close proximity to the parish church, and administered till 1872 by the parish minister and heritors, symbolised the indissoluble link between religion and education, by whose joint influence Scottish character has been built up in all its most vital, precious, solid, and enduring elements.

Archibald Hamilton Charteris was born at Wamphray on 13th December 1835, in Wamphray school-house, where his father was schoolmaster. These two facts are the key to his whole life. To his last day he was a son of the school-house; and, if it were possible, he was also even more devotedly a son of Wamphray; nothing ever took the place of his native parish in his loyal heart. Its simple ways, its isolated ideas, its primitive opinions were all dear to him. Impressions drawn from his early surroundings, his parentage and upbringing, were interwoven with his very nature; no one who knew him and knew Wamphray but felt that he remained all through his life a Wamphray boy. Those who do not know may be tempted to ask what was the great difference between Wamphray and any other quiet little Scottish parish. Situated in Upper Annandale, Dumfriesshire, the parish of Wamphray in those days contained a population of about four hundred and fifty, now reduced to three hundred and sixty-nine. It consists of a fine wide strath or dale, at the bottom of which flows the river Annan. Its eastern boundary is a mountain range whose summits possess elevations of from 800 to 2000 feet. Another ridge not much lower runs parallel to the higher along the centre of the parish, but is cloven by the vale of Wamphray Water debouching to the west. The slopes are beautifully wooded; while three cascades bearing the namc9 of the Pot, the Washing Pan, and Dubb's Caldron give character to the little glen. Such were its outward features. What was it which gave it individuality of another kind?

For one thing, in Dr. Charteris’ youth almost everybody was related to everybody else. An ‘incomer,' a person who neither by birth nor marriage belonged to Wamphray, was nearly unknown. And for another thing, in these early days there was in Wamphray no deep distinction between landlord and tenant. Their laird was indeed their chief, loved and revered, but he was also kinsman to many of the inhabitants, largely one in blood, and certainly one in interest and aim with the people. It was well that young Charteris was born and reared under a fine example of the old regime, where scenery and atmosphere, tales and ballads of the old freebooting times, and traditions of the Covenanters and their persecutions had become part and parcel of the very being of the inhabitants, and combined to give to Wamphray its altogether indescribable old-world charm.

Then, again, none who had known it could ever forget the warm-hearted, simple yet dignified courtesy of the parishioners; whether it were at a winter reunion, when they went happily home through the dark, holding each others’ hands, one of the party—often the schoolmaster— chivalrously walking all the way in the 'sheugh' or ditch with a light to keep the others straight; or whether, in tho lovely summer evenings, they wandered up the glen, listening to Border songs, till they came on the green slopes of the high rounded hills where the sheep were feeding.

The old farm-houses and cottages are still there with all the old friendly hospitality ; the old names are now borne by sons and grandsons. Wamphray is little changed compared with most places. Yet Moffat, the metropolis of the district, is only seven miles off; and even to Wamphray every now and then along the highway (which follows the lines of a Roman road) comes thundering a motor-car, alarming and scandalising the neighbourhood.

The Wamphray estate has passed since the twelfth century to many different lines of proprietors. There were successively the families of Avenel, Graham, Carlyle, Corrie, Kirkpatrick, Boyle, Scott, and Crichton. The Johnstons owned it from 1476 to 1747. After the Johnstone era the Earls of Hopetoun were the lairds for fifty years; Sir W. Fettes, whose money built Fettes College, Edinburgh, was the proprietor for about a dozen years; the Rogersons owned the place for seventy-three years; and the Jardines since 1883. The ancient days of raids by our *auld enemy' from England are happily ended. Only the ballad entitled ‘The Lads of Wamphray' keeps alive the memory of ‘The Galliard gay’ done to death by the Crichtons, and the terrible revenge taken by his clan in 1593. Civil war no longer troubles the parish, as when Charles it. halted and dined at Poldean beside the great monolith when marching into England before the defeat of Worcester Field; or as when the laird of Wamphray espoused the Jacobite cause in 1715, and had to skulk in hiding till his escapade was forgotten; or as when Lord George Murray and Prince Charlie’s Highland followers sought from sympathetic hands refreshment for man and beast upon their march.

Sir Walter Scott has represented their gentle sway in the Fair Maid of Perth, when the typical freebooter, who dealt so harshly with poor, vain Oliver Proudfute, exclaims: ‘You want to know my name! My name is the Devil’s Dick of Hellgarth, well known in Annandale for a gentle Johnstone. I follow the stout laird of Wamphray, who rides with his kinsman the redoubtable Lord of Johnstone.'

John Charteris in Broomhills, Wamphray, who married Margaret Murray, and died in 1810. Their third son was Matthew Charteris, who married Jean Learmonth, and died in 1811. He had two sons and three daughters. The elder son was John Charteris, schoolmaster of Wamphray, who married Jean Hamilton. They were the parents of the subject of this memoir, Archibald Hamilton Charteris, and of two other children—Matthew, born 4th September 1840, M.D., Edinburgh, 1863, and Professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics in the University of Glasgow from 1880 until his death in 1897; and Mary, who died at Edinburgh in 1906.

Archibald Hamilton, the maternal grandfather, hailed from Torthorwald, came to Broomhills Farm in 1814, belonged to the Preston branch of the Hamiltons, a Covenanting family, and used to relate with pride how he rode knee to knee with the poet Robert Burns in the Dumfries Yeomanry. His younger brother James, afterwards minister of New Abbey, was one of the squad who fired over the poet’s grave at his burial, in St. Michael’s churchyard, Dumfries.

John Charteris was generally called ‘the master’ (pronounced ‘maister’), never the ‘Dominie.’ All accounts agree on two points, that he was a splendid specimen of the highest type of the old parochial teacher, a class to which Scotland owed (but seldom paid) an immense debt; and that he was utterly devoid of selfish personal ambition. He might have said with the Shunammite: 'I dwell among mine own people.' Seeing that his son has limned his portrait, the present writer will confine himself to a few pertinent gleanings. Having drunk in all the instruction which Wamphray school provided in his boyhood, John Charteris then attended Applegarth school, where, under a University man, he greatly extended the range of his subjects of study. The beginning of his life-work was made at Kirkmichal; but Wamphray school fell vacant in 1823, and he was appointed assistant and successor. His predecessor retired upon an allowance of £16 a year, deducted from the minimum statutory salary of £23, to Derby. Law and order have done their work, with the Reformed Religion for their weighty sanction; and the Wamphray lads have settled down

To plough the heath, uproot the weed.
Enrich the soil, and drain the mead,
Till flocks and herds in plenty feed
In fertile flowery Annandale.’

The church, which was rebuilt in 1835, stands at a pretty bend above the left bank of Wamphray Water, probably upon an ancient site, and is supposed to cover part of the precincts of a Druidical circle. Two of its parish ministers are specially worth remembering. ‘John Brown of Wamphray’ was ordained in 1655, but suffered banishment to Holland in 1662. He ordained Richard Cameron, the celebrated Covenanter, and was a noted divine, critic, and linguist. Thomas Douglas, the preacher at Drumclog Conventicle, when the dragoons of Claverhouse were put to flight with serious loss, led a charmed life till the Revolution of 1690, and passed his last five years as minister here in peace. These facts throw a significant light on the deep vein of Covenanting feeling latent or patent in Dr. Charteris’ nature.

His lineage must not escape our notice. He never alluded to it, following in this respect the admonition of his father, who used to say: ‘If you do not add further lustre to your name and pedigree, do not mention either.' With the help, however, of a recent edict issued by the Lyon King of Arms to a descendant, who went to Canada and often told her grandson 'there was no better blood in Scotland,’ we can trace his pedigree to an ancestor. Sir John Charteris of Amisfield, in the county of Dumfries, who died in 1615. The family intermarried with the Maxwells and the Douglases of Drumlanrig. Sir John's second son was Robert Charteris of Kelwood, Bodisbeck, and Duchray, who married Barbara, daughter of Robert Maxwell of Dinwoodie. Their son was William Charteris of Duchray, who died in 1684. His son was Alexander Charteris in Mickle Duchray; his eldest son again was which left the magnificent remuneration of the remaining £7, the school fees (probably amounting to £25), and a house and garden. In addition he had the privilege of taking boarders, but no extra accommodation was provided.

By 1834 the £7 salary had risen to £18, the statutory minimum having been raised to £34. Not till 1839 did Mr. Charteris receive that salary. He was repeatedly offered better paid situations, notably through Professor Pillans, but he deliberately elected to remain in his native parish, where we are told the pupils all appeared very much alive to the benefits of education. Well they might be, for in that little hive of industry all willing workers received an education not inferior to that of any High School or Academy in the land. It is not suggested that the standard of Wamphray prevailed in all the parish schools of Scotland, but it did in many. All the children were thoroughly drilled in the ‘three R’s,’ and were likewise taught the Bible and the Shorter Catechism; while those who were fit for the higher branches received such instruction as is impossible now under the burdensome restrictions of the present code. They went forth thoroughly equipped for University studies, and often achieved marvellously successful careers in the wide world. Of course the personal equation counted for much. As Dr. John Pagan, a grateful scholar, has said :—

‘The special interest of Mr. Charteris’ life was the work of his school. Any personal or pecuniary advantage to himself from continuance of attendance at school to qualify for the University or other openings in life had not the slightest influence with him. He would have given his time and his work as cordially and ungrudgingly to any of his pupils, without fee or reward, who gave promise of gifts for professional or commercial life, as be would have given to those who possessed ample means to recognise whatever service he rendered. It seems in these times very wonderful that from a parish with so limited a population, for the fee of five shillings a quarter, pupils could be prepared to pass direct to the University, and at once take a position as good as those who came from the amply endowed and staffed educational institutions in the leading centres of population. He never professed to teach what he did not know, and no gratification was deeper to him than to conduct others into the paths over which he himself had gone.’

Mr. Charteris held advanced views on the higher education of girls. He was a quiet, unassuming man, yet of a strong personality, manifestly pervading the life of the parish for good. Realising that education was not finished when a boy left school at twelve or fourteen, he instituted a Debating Society—locally styled ‘The Gabbing School'— which was attended by all classes, and which greatly elevated the standard of local intelligence among farmers, shepherds, tradesmen, and labourers, who were all active members. It became a centre of social life, and may be said to have antedated the Young Men's Guild. The master's temperament was cool, but he joked heartily and was very witty. He had many laughs, from hearty to satirical. Nobody ‘got the tawse' in school after being promoted to the Latin class. Kindly persuasion was the rule. Above all things the master hated a tale-bearer. He was the inspirer, often the participant, in games, such as football and swimming. His favourite hobby was gardening combined with bee-keeping. An amusing example given of his martyrdom to supposed duty is that on his marriage day he drove to Broomhills after school hours, when the rite was solemnised, and he resumed work in school next morning!

It would be unpardonable to overlook the fact that the many qualities which in his narrow sphere proved Mr. Charteris to be a born leader of men were deeply rooted in personal religion of the old-fashioned Scottish type. That was the main factor in his character. Religious instruction is a very different thing from mere historical and literary teaching about the Bible. It was the former added to the latter which the youth of Wamphray so long enjoyed. Holding the offices of Inspector of Poor and Session Clerk, then almost invariably held by the parish schoolmaster, Mr. Charteris was also an elder of the Parish Church. The Rev. Charles Dickson was minister from 1823 to 1853, a fine preacher, a scholar, and a good business man. He espoused the side of the Non-Intrusion. party, but did not leave the Church of Scotland in 1813, adopting the policy of the middle party, nicknamed by their opponents, from their number, ‘The Forty Thieves.' No doubt his attitude was largely due to a numerously signed petition, framed and promoted by Mr. Charteris, entreating him to consider well the ecclesiastical situation on constitutional lines, and not to be carried away by secession fever or fear of reproach.

Full statistics regarding the success in life of old pupils of the school are not available, but it is known that in Mr. Charteris' time it turned out no fewer than ten ministers, nineteen doctors, eleven teachers, as well as many most successful business men. One wonders whether this record has ever been beaten from so small a population. It is believed that on the benches of no other school in Scotland could there have been found simultaneously seated three boys destined in turn to preside as Moderator over the General Assembly.

Dr. John Pagan of Bothwell, whole-hearted and zealous, was the first; Dr. John Gillespie of Mouswald, ‘the Minister of Agriculture for Scotland,' was the second, equally honoured and admired by king and peasant. His eldest brother David came to Wamphray school after being dux of Dumfries Academy. Dr. Gillespie always warmly acknowledged the gifts of his old schoolmaster, whose son comically records: 'He once made an eloquent speech in the Assembly about my father, in order to contrast me with him!' The third moderator is the subject of this memoir.

His impressions of youthful school-days will be welcome:

‘Until I was six years old I had no regular lessons from my father, but was taught in snatches of time by the elder pupils in the school. At six I began Latin, which I liked, and also English grammar, which I hated. It was a very simple grammar too. It was almost impossible for a child running in and out of the school-room at will to avoid picking up some bits of instruction, and I have beard that I could read the New Testament to my dying grandfather when I was three years old. In later years I have constantly regretted that I was taught so early. My knowledge, such as it is, has always been unsystematic and fragmentary: just miscellaneous “bits."

My remembrances of school are very distinct, and are no doubt compounded of impressions received at various dates. I can see the scene distinctly. My father, always eager and energetic, sometimes in the desk, sometimes moving about, organising classes, or hearing how they got on with the monitors. There were about a dozen “Latin Boys” sitting in a row along from the desk to the stove, who had two lessons from the master every day, and who helped him as monitors for several hours. Their second lesson was partly prepared in school, and they worked at arithmetic and wrote their copy-books at stated hours. 1 do not remember that any of them usurped or claimed any authority. They were recognised as the master’s delegates, and the chief effect on them of their being in some power was that they tried, and were expected, to live up to their responsible positions. All the school was proud of their attainments, and as one by one they went off to College they carried with them the good wishes of all the rest. It may well be supposed that a small school-room with one hundred and twenty pupils of all ages, from the child of six to the young farmer who had come back to fill up some of the gaps in his previous education, and every one doing something—several classes going on at the same time—was not a demurely dull or silent place! I should say there never was a school-room less dull. It was full of energy, suggested and regulated by the master, who scorned the idea of sparing himself, and whose energy was infectious. Some educational theorists say that to have advanced pupils prevents a master from attending to beginners and young children. They do uot take into account the effect of spirit in causing activity. There was no child who was not proud of the prowess of boys and girls who could read Latin and Greek, and who was not willing to find some of those pundits occupied part of every day in giving him some of his lessons. There is an immense loss of such spirit when the teacher does all, or has only professional assistants. The pupil teacher is quite another thing from the teacher pupil. I have seen many schools, and I have never seen one where the average pupil made quicker progress, or where the dull child was more stimulated and helped to do his best, than in Wamphray school when I was a pupil.

Of course most of this was due to “The Master.” It would be absurd in me to try to write of my father as though I were a calm observer of his character and labour; though he was unconscious of his character, and his labours he never felt to be a burden. His whole heart and soul were in his school; his sympathy united him to every one. No man ever brought on small or stupid pupils so well. The little girl who had come to learn the alphabet felt that he loved her, and wanted to help her in her struggles to put names to letters, and the letters together; and she did not think it a hard thing to learn where every one was learning. The big lad, all but ready for College next November, was proudly conscious of the master's gratification when he gave a vigorous translation of Homer, or did not let all the felicity of Horace slip away without imitation. The school was full of working pupils, and the longest day was never tedious. Nothing that could brighten us was forgotten; every comical thing was greeted happily; and through all the day’s work ran a prevailing sense of duty. The work was always closed with prayer: a prayer in simple (frequently scriptural) words, which we could understand; and then there was a rush to the football field, which the kindness of the farmer of Wamphray Gate made us welcome to use. It was true football—only the foot might touch the ball, unless, indeed, some lucky fellow caught it full in the air, and then he had one kick, for which the rest were honourably bound to give him room and no disturbance. He was bound to fling it up and catch it on his toe as it came down.

We were the strongest school in the country parishes of Upper Annandale, and we beat every school in the big matches which were played every winter. Keen objections were sometimes taken by our opponents to Wamphray school reckoning on its lists big lads who bad been “hired" during the previous summer, and were only regular pupils for the winter half-year; but scrupulous correctness was observed in only counting those as “real scholars" for the match who were actually in regular attendance for a term. Our prowess became so famous that other schools sometimes shied at the contest. I remember one day when we were to meet Kirkpatrick Juxta in Poldcan Holm beside the Roman Stone, and at the appointed hour we were there eager for the fray, but no opponent appeared. At last one solitary scout came, who said that they had seen and counted us from among the bushes on the brae at the opposite side of Annan Water, and fearing our strength had gone home. He was asked to join us in a friendly game among ourselves, and did so. During the game, however, he said or did something wrong, and one big boy took him and held him by the waistband of his trousers over the Annan, until he said in a loud voice, while we all crowded round, “Of a’ the lads that I do ken, the Wamphray lads are kings o’ men." And after reciting this braggart motto from the old Border ballad the discomfited scout was sent away to publish over his parish the prowess and the pride of the Wamphray lads. The master himself was afterwards told, and his verdict was that it would have been better to treat the poor stranger more kindly.

But I am wandering from the school. John Paterson’s book of “Wamphray" [Wamphray has been described in a careful book by my cousin and class fellow, John Paterson, who has said much I might have liked to say. He, with the help of Dr. Pagan, has traced the history of the 'Latin' boys who entered professions. (Published by Halliday, Lockerbie, 1906, now out of print.)] tells of the wide curriculum of a Wamphray boy in the school. Before we left school we had read as much Latin and Greek and Mathematics as made it easy for us to pass the junior and enter the second class at the University; though many took the junior from modest diffidence. We could have passed any ordinary examination in Virgil, Livy, and Horace in Latin; on Homer, Anacreon, and several plays of Euripides in Greek. With Euclid we were quite familiarly acquainted, and with Algebra up to the Binomial Theorem. French we could read easily. All the clever girls learned it also; but, although my father had been the favourite pupil of Surenne (a noted teacher in those days, whose books were in wide circulation), the pronunciation which our Annandale tongues made to do duty for French left much to be desired. We read German fairly well. We went through a course of Navigation. We were taught to measure fields and draw plans of the farm we treasured. One of us, having been thoroughly grounded in Mensuration in this way, but with no other training, became the able surveyor of the land of a wide and populous British colony.

It was a great day when the Presbytery came to examine the school. The master gave them books, and, as a rule, left us to our fate, unless some sympathetic minister begged him to show what a class could do. Admiring parents sat round the school-room, and saw how brightly their bairns acquitted themselves. It was a great thing for a school like ours to be governed and examined by educated men. Parish school boards are unable to examine the school; and the government inspector's visit makes naturally a dull, quiet day.

It may be asked where and when my father had learned all that he taught us. I do not know. His early days must have been days of hard work, and his extraordinary memory seemed to let nothing pass away. When we were reading Homer or Euripides or Livy, I, who was beside him in the house and school all day, never once saw him prepare our lesson in Latin or Greek beforehand. Algebra and arithmetic were as natural to him as spelling English words. Our simple faith that he could show us how to work out the geometrical problems that had beaten us in Euclid, how to solve the Quadratic Equations with Surds that had fairly beaten us in Algebra, or how to translate the queer sentences in Horace’s Epistles or in Tacitus, was always justified. I don’t think he ever saw a "crib," unless perhaps in German composition. He was an unassuming scholar and a wonderful teacher, and the parish was proud of him: so well it might be. When the day came that the parish minister (Mr. Wight) told him he was dying, I heard him say: “Well, I have had a healthy and happy life, and if God calls me away I am ready."

If I were asked wherein lay his power as a teacher, I would say — first, in his knowledge; secondly, in his sympathy, for be sympathised with every one in the school, young and old, and every one knew it; and thirdly, in his abundant humour. Not only good humour, but sense of fun which gave him a due regard for proportion, as well as a keen and killing power of exposing absurdity.

It is not mine to analyse my father’s character; but I wish to record my conviction of what his native parish owed to his devoted life. On his grave near the church, where his ancestors had been elders since soon after the Reformation, is a beautiful Iona Cross erected by his pupils, with an inscription written by one of the ablest of them, Dr. John Pagan of Bothwell.

My friend, Mr. John Wight, architect, designed the monument, and made it a link with local memories as well as a Christian symbol, by directing the sculptor to copy at its base a quaint design of the Tree of Life springing from the wounded and chained body of The Serpent. This symbolic carving is on an old stone above the belfry door of Wamphray Parish Church, and was brought there from the old Pre-Reformation Church up the glen.

Among intimate friends Dr. Charteris used to tell of a characteristic counsel given him by his own father on his death-bed, which he never forgot. Perhaps mindful of a kind of preaching that magnified and harshly interpreted the terror of the Lord, while it failed adequately to mirror forth the kindness of His mercy, the old man said: ‘Make it easy for them, Archie! — as easy as you can — when they wish to enter the kingdom.’ ‘The master' did not mean to lower the standard which through life he had himself held so high, or to recommend the Mohammedan excuse: ‘God is minded to make His religion light unto you, for man was created weak.' Rather was he echoing Christ’s words about the easy yoke and the light burden, and hinting at tho omission of man-made commandments, then not seldom insisted on, as of equal Divine authority and obligation.

Like so many men who come to distinction, Dr. Charteris was singularly fortunate in his mother. Called, by her own mother's death, early to play an eldest daughter’s part in hor father's household, superintend servants, cook food, and attend to thorough cleanliness in matters of dairy work and produce, she acquired, and she plainly required, the qualities of the virtuous woman who ’ looketh well to the way of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.’ She was pre-eminently what is called a good manager, perhaps the greater power in guiding the family. She added prudence and reticence to her faculty of decision; was above mixing in parochial gossip or taking part in passing squabbles, could laugh quietly at the funny side of storms in a tea-cup, and ably seconded her husband’s dictum that ‘n professional man should keep all doors open, and when occasion served give a serious advice always to make for peace.’ But she was not a wife and mother merely providing for physical needs: she first impressed on her son's young mind the saving truths of religion and the meaning of the Church of God. The greater part of her reading was about the Church and its ministers; and the gist of her serious conversation, if it did not begin, generally ended on that subject. She first instilled the truth about the duty and privilege of helping Missions into Archibald's heart, and one can picture the pair—the mother and the little boy of six—expectantly trudging the seven miles to Moffat to hear the fervent Dr. Duff tell in glowing language the story of heathen India’s needs, and his great Missionary Institution at Calcutta. Warmly did she welcome the day when a missionary work party was commenced in Wamphray, and gladly did she open her two parlours in the new school-house to receive willing follow-workers. It was the joy and glory of his mother’s life that her son should be a minister and leader in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

A. H. Charteris was baptized in the school, where the Sunday services were held while the Parish Church was being rebuilt. He is described in early days as a most interesting child, rather small for his age, not shy, but very sensitive. He could read a French fable at five. When about eight he tackled from choice Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. One who first knew him then remarked the slight occasional hesitation in his speech which in after-years helped to make his sermons so very effective in delivery, and noticed a certain sedate gravity which gave promise that he would be an earnest student. But we must not imagine him as one of those prodigies of goodness who live with difficulty and die young. He is described as full of animal spirits, fond of running in the Glen barefooted; and with a strong spice of mischief and human frolic; a bright, active youngster who took a leading part in football and other games. He was also a fine swimmer and a plucky rider. His happy and healthy boyhood was passed in a climate favourable to the cultivation of flowers. His cousin and he used to take their Latin books into the garden and learn their lessons there, a liberty conditioned, at times, by the promise to report to the master when tho bees were 'casting' (swarming).

About his future profession he was never in doubt; he always said he would be a minister, and his highest early ambition soared only to being minister of Wamphray. In due course he excelled in the Debating Society, his chief rival there being David Gillespie.

The old school by the roadside, if beautiful for situation, and having the Glen for its playground, was indeed of modest dimensions, when contrasted with the spacious dwelling-house and excellent class-rooms provided in the 'sixties of last century; but it was in the humbler edifice that Mr. Charteris did his great work. That consists of two orthodox cottages solidly built in line, with a small addition added later for boarders. The box-bed, where two professors were born, is proudly pointed out by the worthy blacksmith and his wife who inhabit the ‘but and ben.’ For the old school-room is now the parish smithy, and in the mind of any visitor who recalls the long procession of those whom in other days it sent forth thoroughly equipped for life's warfare, it may well conjure up the lines of Robert Louis Stevenson, peacefully construed concerning home - leavers and homekeepers:—

And as the fervent smith of yore
Beat out the glowing blade.
Nor wielded in the front of war
The weapons that he made,
But in the tower at home
Still plied his ringing trade;
So like a sword the son shall roam
On nobler missions sent;
And as the smith remained at home
In peaceful turret pent,
So sits the while at home
The mother well content.'

It was a first principle with the son through his whole life that everything pertaining to the old home and its dear inmates had the first call, and must be attended to whatever happened. Leisure for many a year he had none to give; but if time were needed it must be found or made, he himself might be absent, a wandering planet, but home was the centre round which he revolved, and to which all his thoughts tended. To his father and mother while they lived there could be no more dutiful son; and when his father died on 11th September 1871—failing sight came upon him before then — Archibald still more was everything to his mother — husband, son, factor, nurse, all in one. Clever active woman though she was, it was her delight to lean upon him for everything. ‘We’ll see what Archibald says,’ was generally her final decision. It was a family joke that never a nail was knocked into the wall between his short though frequent visits.

Mrs. Charteris was very proud of her cottage, which her son had built chiefly to be ready for them when the 'master’ should retire from his school. Alas! it was only just ready for roofing in, when they had to send down to tell the men to stop working the day the ‘master’ died. He had taken a keen delight in watching its erection from his bedroom in the handsome modern school-house, and one day he pathetically said: ‘Oh, Archibald, I would have liked to sleep just one night in the house you are building for me!' But that was not to be. In the spring of the following year Mrs. Charteris and Mary moved into the beautifully situated ‘Trinlen Cottage,’ which henceforth represented home to the whole family circle.

In regard to the spiritual experiences of the lad, on the subjective side little is known, and nothing can here be said about any time in particular when he began to be consciously religious. It would appear that his piety was of that wholesome type which ought to be considered normal in the case of those who have been trained with wise discrimination in spiritual things. There was nothing precocious about it, only the opening and expanding of his whole nature in mind, heart, and soul, and a continual deepening and development under the impression of the great spiritual realities of life here and hereafter. He speaks of the Rev. Charles Dickson’s sermons as 'only formal and far-away discourses, though from an admirable man.' Evidently they did not greatly appeal to him, and at times, perhaps, that active mind and quick eye were counting the cobwebs in Wamphray church. He welcomed the coming of the Rev. George Wight to be assistant in 1853 — he was ordained and became minister of the parish in March 1854—and continued to regard that respected and still surviving minister as a life-long friend. It was during Mr. Wight’s assistantship, at the age of eighteen, that A. H. Charteris ratified his religious choice and received his first communion.

His student friend, Dr. J. Oswald Dykes, the distinguished preacher of Regent Square, London, and first Principal of Westminster (Presbyterian) College, Cambridge, has noted: ‘Dr. Charteris, although at no time a narrow ecclesiastic, and whose personal friendships were unaffected by a difference in Church connection, remained through life a strong National Churchman. In some measure I have thought this might bo traced to the surroundings of his earlier years. Whatever argument maturer reflection brought to sustain his attachment to the Church of Scotland, he probably drew it, to begin with, from sentiments in part hereditary, in part inspired by the spot where he spent his youth. When I chanced, a good many years ago, to pay a hurried visit to Wamphray (a visit which was for me a sort of pious pilgrimage), I took it, in its peaceful, unchanged isolation, for the ideal of an upland Scottish village of the olden time. Withdrawn from traffic, and grouped about its parish kirk, manse, and school-house — the symbol at once and the centre of its higher life — it spoke of higher influences which once bred in the peasantry of Lowland Scotland the best type of their old-fashioned piety and intelligence. I thought I understood better, on seeing the place of his upbringing, a certain cheerful, unspoilt simplicity which to the last made the character as well as demeanour of my friend specially attractive. But I also thought 1 could understand how a strong charm had grown up, associated in his mind with the ancient National Kirk of his native land — a charm inseparable from the traditions of its soil, and drawn from days before the advent of ecclesiastical dissent or division, while as yet the Kirk stood alone to mould the thinking and the manners of her rural parishioners.

You can read the whole book...

The life of Archibald Hamilton Charteris D.D., LL.D.
by Gordon, Arthur (1912) (pdf)

Return to his church service in Home Preacher


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