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William and Louisa Anderson
Part I - Early Days in Scotland, 1812-1839 - Chapter 1


The autobiographical reminiscences of his early days, and a MS. journal extending from 1831 to 1840, which Mr. Anderson left behind him, contain a full record of the formative years of his life. The key to the understanding of his marked individuality is supplied by these records. In Jamaica and in Calabar he remained what the hard discipline of orphanhood, poverty and toil, the efforts at self-culture, and the influences of nature and early friendships, helped to make him. What he owed to heredity it is impossible to say. I have heard it stated that he came of Covenanting ancestors. Although both his parents were delicate, he must have descended from a hardy stock. A youth of weak vitality could hardly have survived unscathed the experiences through which William Anderson passed after his father's death—long hours of monotonous toil sustained by insufficient nourishment.

He told me that in form and feature he resembled his mother. He seems to have derived his intellect chiefly from his father. At any rate, his intellectual and moral life was shaped by his father; and his father's teaching, example, and prayers remained amongst the most powerful influences of his life. At a later date he owed much to the Rev. A. Elliot of Ford, and in a less degree to the Rev. Messrs. Law and Sandy, whose names are often mentioned by him with affectionate respect. The scenes amid which his early days were passed—Ford, Gorebridge, Fala, and Dalkeith—imprinted themselves indelibly on hi* memory, and formed the permanent background of his whole subsequent career. They were the home of his spirit, and in Jamaica and in Calabar he ever and anon recalled them in imagination; while in his various visits to Scotland, and during the last six years of his life, he embraced every opportunity of revisiting the old familiar haunts and the surviving friends of his youth.

Mr. Anderson's long life links a bygone age to our own. And so these records of his early days have a value as a transcript of the religious and social life of Dalkeith and the surrounding villages of Midlothian during the first half of this century. We learn something of the day and the Sabbath schools, of the village libraries, of the "tent" preachings at the Communion seasons, of the social gatherings called "soirees," of the movements of the time --political and temperance reform, etc.—as we read the jottings of the youthful William Anderson, with his observant eve and keen interest in all that was going on around him and in the wider world beyond.

CHAPTER I 1812-1817

Parentage—Buckholmside—Dalkeith—Ford— Newbattle Tollhouse

I WAS born at Buckholmside, a suburb of Galashiels, on the 15th of April 1812.

My father's name was William Anderson, my mother's was Mary Lang. He was a native of Hawick; she belonged to Galashiels. My father's parents died when he was but young, leaving himself and a sister named Ellen, who was older than he, to struggle with the ills of orphanage. Before my birth my father had lived respectively at Hawick, Newcastleton in Liddisdale, and Galashiels—or perhaps Buckholmside.

In his youth my father learned the hosier trade. He seems to have followed alternately the business of hosier, teacher, and merchant. He had been an elder in the then Burgher congregations of Hawick, Selkirk, Newcastleton, and Galashiels. At Newcastleton he had a chief hand in the erection of the place of worship now occupied by the U.P. congregation there; and at Galashiels he was the chief instrument under Providence in setting afoot the cause of the Secession Church. Before the formation of the Galashiels congregation he attended the ministry and was a member of the session of the well-known late Rev. Dr. Lawson. [A copy of Dr. Lawson's Helps to a Devout Life, presented to Mr. Anderson by the Rev. John Lawson, Selkirk, has inscribed on it an "Extract from Minutes of Session of First United J'resbyterian Church, Selkirk." of date 14th October 1804, referring to Mr. Anderson's father: ''It being intimated to the congregation that William Anderson is in providence come to reside in this congregation,—that if any had objections to his taking his at as an elder, they might bring them forward. Intimation being made this day, that if any had objections they might appear. None appearing, he is therefore entered on the list of the eldership."]

My father was twice married—first, in 1792, to Margaret Graham, who died in the early part of 1809; and second, in 1810, to my mother. His first wife had no children; my mother had three, namely—myself; Elizabeth, who was a year and a half older; and Agnes, who is a year and a half younger than 1. Elizabeth died in February 1813, when a little more than two years old. Her remains slumber in Galashiels Churchyard.

My mother appears to have been in a delicate state of health from the time when my eldest sister was born. Chiefly, if not solely, on this account, my father removed from Galashiels to Dalkeith at Whitsunday 1813. At Whitsunday 1814, still for the benefit of her health, and partly that she might be near her sister, Mrs. Potts, whose husband was a manufacturer of woollen fabrics, he removed from Dalkeith to Ford (Pathhead). There my mother died in the month of November the same year. Her remains were consigned to the dust in Cranston Old Churchyard.

While resident at Ford my father attended the ministry of the Rev. George Sandy, Gorebridge. He did not leave Ford, however, before setting afloat the Secession interest there.

The share which Mr. Anderson's father had in the formation of a Secession church at Ford is described in an address which the Rev. G. Sandy gave at the first congregational soiree in Ford Church, on the evening of Tuesday, June 28th, 1837. William Anderson was a delighted listener to the tribute paid to his father's memory, and transcribed the address from memory into his Journal. As it is the only clear glimpse we get from a source other than the son's fond recollections of his father, of the manner of man William Anderson senior was, it may be worth quoting. Mr. Sandy said—

"Let me call your attention to a few facts connected with your history as a congregation. Twenty years ago the congregation assembling in this place of worship was in connection with the Relief Synod. From various causes, however, the Relief minister, Mr. Strang, found it necessary to resign his charge. People wondered what the Relief congregation would do; but they did nothing, and a dead stillness spread all around. In a short time, however, it began to be rumoured that several individuals were designing to make application for supply of sermon to the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh. I had at the time a friend, a member of my congregation, who lived not more than twenty [Mr. S. should have said sixty (W.A.)] yards from the place where I now stand. That friend had experienced a great many of life's vicissitudes, if changes of circumstances and places of abode may be so called. He had a fine turn for ecclesiastical business, and had been chosen by several congregations to rule over them in the eldership. He had been instrumental in forming a congregation and building a church at Galashiels; he was the means of much good in the congregation of Mr. Henderson at Hawick; and with him originated the church at Liddisdale, of which our friend Mr. Law was many years minister. I remember his telling me, shortly after he came to reside in the locality in which Providence has cast my lot, that the people in Liddisdale were very backward in subscribing for the building of their place of worship. At one period he was in a state of deep depression on this account, and was considering whether he ought not to abandon his project, when these words came forcibly into his mind: 'The silver and the gold are Mine; arise and build the house.' He then took courage, feeling that duty is ours, and that results are God's; he went again among the people collecting contributions, and the results were satisfactory.

"But, sir, to return to your own congregation, I knew that my friend would not allow the fine opportunity which now presented itself for the furtherance of the interests of the Christian denomination to which he belonged to pass unimproved. He was well acquainted with the forms of procedure in our Church courts; and he drew up a petition for supply of sermon from the Associate Presbytery. Supply was granted, and a congregation was soon organised in connection with our Synod. The late Dr. Belfrage of Slateford dispensed the Lord's Supper for the first time to the congregation in its present connection. The name of the individual to whom 1 have referred was William Anderson—on whose history I have dwelt so long because it is intimately connected with your history as a congregation, and indeed forms part of it. He was a man of whom our venerated tutor, the late Dr. Lawson, used to say that 'he had done very much for the cause of Christ in the world.' He gave striking evidence as to how much good may be accomplished by an active Christian even in humble life; and his praise is still in the churches of Galashiels, Selkirk, Hawick, and Ford."

Some time after my mother's death—probably at Whitsunday 1815 — my father returned to Dalkeith. His sister Ellen, who had never been married, came from Hawick to keep his house.

There are just two things connected with our stay in Dalkeith at that time of which I have a recollection. The first is my aunt's arrival from the South ; the second is, that being out one clay at play, and passing a girl just my own size, who was standing with her back to a wall, I went forward to her, looked her in the face, and, in all probability partly out of sport and partly out of mischief, I brought my brow, which was certainly the harder of the two, into collision with hers. The moment I did so, poor girl, her nostrils streamed with blood! Home I fled as fast as I could run. I imagined I was pursued, but in this I was mistaken. I never learned that any report of the matter reached my father's ears, but conscience tormented me greatly for my misdeed. I was long anxious to .see the poor injured girl again, that I might be sure I had not killed her, but was always afraid to go near the scene of my misconduct. The remembrance of that blow, or butt, has cost me many a pang of remorse. How often in after life, in Scotland, in Jamaica, and in Old Calabar, I regretted that action, and wished to ascertain who it was I injured, that I might make some reparation for the wrong!

It must have been at Whitsunday 1816 that we went to Newbattle Tollhouse. I do not remember the time when I could not read; but, as I presume I must have been taught somewhere and at some time, I have always supposed that it must have been in that small cottage— the Tollhouse—where I acquired that key of knowledge, ability to read. I well remember that one day while there my father brought me from Dalkeith what appeared to me to be a very pretty thin box of some kind. On endeavouring to open the lid, behold it was a book—a very good book, entitled The Proverbs of Solomon. This book I know I read—perhaps I should say I was made to read—over and over again during the twelve months we lived at the Toll-bar.

In the autumn of that year I remember that a number of gentlemen in black paid my father a visit one day. I recognised only one—the Rev. Mr. Sand)'. I soon learned that the gentlemen were ministers on their way to the meeting of Synod, and that one of them was my father's old friend and pastor, the Rev. Dr. Lawson of Selkirk.

While here my father carried on the hosier business. He attended the ministry of the late Rev. Dr. Thomas Brown of Dalkeith, to whose place of worship I accompanied him each Sabbath. We occupied the ground pew immediately on the left of the pulpit. It was while staying here that I began to preach. I used to mount a stool and imitate Dr. (then Mr.) Brown to the best of my power.

I spent a melancholy week or ten days here on one occasion. My father was on a visit to his Hawick friends during that time. It was the first time he had been absent from me, and the period appeared so long that I thought he would never return. To my great joy, however, one day after I had begun to despair of ever seeing him again, I espied him coming up the Path. I ran to meet him. He received me very tenderly, and listened with emotion to the rehearsal of the gloomy forebodings which had wrung my childish heart during his long absence.

The Tollhouse stands, or stood, in a lonely position close by New battle churchyard. I used to attend all the funeral's. It is probable that I heard some ghost stories while we lived there. At all events, it was while here that I felt first afraid to go out alone in the dark.

It was here, too, I first saw Death. It was, indeed, only the death of a common hoi, but it took a powerful hold of mv imagination. The poor creature had been ill of what Aunt Ellen called bax or nax, I have forgot which. At her end she put her bill in the ground, whirled round two or three times, then dropped down dead. The conclusion to which I was led by this occurrence was, that death being a common event to all animals, it must come to all in a uniform way; that all mortal creatures—man among the rest—on death's approach must whirl round and round, and then expire!


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