Ayrshire Towns and Parishes

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Letters from the Anderson & Gilmour Family Papers


Two Letters from the Rev. Alex MacDonald, who wed Mary Anderson, dau. of Rev. George Anderson, whose partial data is listed in the "Anderson Book," as Sec. F.

1) Dated Harrogate Hydropathic, Harrogate, England
23d July, 1900.

My dear friends, If you received the paper which I sent you, you would have learned of the great and irreparable loss which I have sustained in the death, on 26th June, of my darling Isabella. With that event the sun of my life has set, and henceforth I can look for nothing but the evening twilight, until God shall by his grace qualify me for meeting her in that better land in which there is no night.

We had been only three days at home after a months enjoyable holiday spent in London, Eastbourne and Ayr when on the evening of Sabbath 17th June, my beloved one was struck down, in a moment, by appoplexy, never to rise again. She was then the very picture of health, and her naturally happy, sunny temperament was shining in all its brightness. She was engaged at the moment in her usual Sabbath evening work, of instructing and reading with the girl in the kitchen. I had preached that day from Eph. I.9.10. After a period of abstinence from preaching on account of relaxed throat and weakness of heart. She was delighted to find that my voice was as clear and strong and in former days, and that I felt none the worse of the effort. I found her in the study when I came in from Church. She put her arms round my neck, and with all the warmth of her loving disposition hugged me, and said, "Oh, my darling, I am delighted to have heard yourself again, that that you got on so well." Alas, that was the last time she was do do it. She had periods of consciousness and clear-mindedness on to Saturday, 23d June, during which she spoke to me of her knowing Jesus, and not being afraid to enter the dark valley. I am very thankful for this. On the 23rd a second shock sealed her lips for ever. When I asked her early on the morning of the 24th how she felt, and if she knew me, instead of replying with a smile, as on other mornings "Aleck, my dear husband," she simply shook her head. She was however so far conscious, as long as she had power to swallow, that when asked if she would take nourishment, she would either nod or shake her head. She lingered on till ten in the morning of the 26th, when she peacefully and without a struggle, fell asleep. We had often sung together "Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep," then she came to know it. About 3 hours before her death I groaned aloud as I stood by the bed. This roused her as if from sleep. She opened her eyes, looked up enquiringly, smiled, and lifting her left hand - the only hand she could move, all the right side being paralyzed since the 23rd - she placed it in my hand. That smile never left her face, and was perceptible even while lying in her coffin.

We had 2 trained nurses to attend on her, the Dr. visited her daily. Annie - Mrs. Kennedy [sister to Isabelle]- arrived from Ayr on the 20th. She knew her; but next day…[page break - end of sentence was apparently lost]. She always called her Jeanie, and said something in which the word "joy" was all that we could make out.
She was buried at
Ardclach [population 700, in Nairnshire, near Elgin] on 29th June - the Friday of our Communion - amid the lamentations of the whole parish. Her kind genial disposition had endeared her to all; and her sudden removal touched a chord of sympathy in every heart.

Annie stayed with me till Tuesday, 3rd July. It was when I arrived at home, after driving her to the station. And finding none before me, but the servant, that I felt my loneliness, and saw intenser meaning in the words of Christ, "ye shall be scattered every man to his own, and shall leave me alone." 

I am thankful that all this happened at home, and not while we were among strangers. It is remarkable that this should be so; for early in May we were within an ace of starting for America: but his plan was not carried out, as I saw it would give us too little time, so as to be back for our communion. Next, we spoke of going to the Isle of Man, then of going to Wales, and at the last moment decided on going to London and the south of England. This was to be followed by a visit of a week to Ayr on our return journey from London. She saw all her sisters and their families - Katie and Jessie in Essex, Annie and Mary at Ayr. Our stay at Ayr was limited to two nights, as I had got word that the man on whom I depended to preach for me on the 14th of June could not do so. Thus providence had provided that her last illness and death should be at home, and that she should see her nearest relations a few days before being called home. Several times she said to me, "Thank you, dearie, for giving me this trip. Our married life, has be been all one honeymoon; but this is the best honeymoon we ever had."

Among the letters that had accumulated during our absence was one from you. When I handed it to her to read, she said,"I have something to do just now, I'll read it again." But she never did read it.

Though feeling pretty well in health, and my throat much better, yet my medical adviser asked me to come here for a month for rest and change of surroundings. I am also drinking its mineral waters, which are not very palatable. It is an expensive gay place, and not at all in keeping with my sadness, on account of losing my beloved one, who was one of the bonniest and best of wives. She was indeed a great gift from the Lord to me. Though He had the best right to her, having loved her with an everlasting love, I am very thankful he gave her to me, and left her with me for nearly 28 years. Ah, these years are now but as a happy dream.
I have asked Jane Brown [Isabelle's sister] - Jeanie's their daughter - to become my housekeeper, but as she is holidaying in Ireland, I have not heard from her yet. If she does not come, Anny has kindly promised to let me have her own daughter, Jane, for a time. With kind regards for all your home-circle, and all the friends round about you, to whom please give a reading of this letter. I am yours very sincerely, Alex. MacDonald.

2) Dated: United Free Church Manse, Ardclach, Nairn, Scotland,
24th April, 1905.

My dear friends, I was very glad to receive your long, kind, and interesting letter of 17th Novr. last, and I am ashamed at my delay in answering it. It contained sad news, as almost every letter which gives an account of individuals during a year's time does, especially the deaths of Marion's daughter [Alice Mary Powers Jerome, d. Irasburg 1904], and Uncle Gavin [Anderson]'s daughter and her husband [LeRoy & Jennie Dexter]. The poor orphans, I pity them. I am sorry to have to record similar news. Lauchlan Morrison,
Ayr - Mary Anderson's husband - died suddenly last Thursday [4/20/1905] and is to be buried today. Had it been on any other day of the week, I would have been present. I am sending you a paper in which you may see a paragraph regarding him and some circumstances connected with his death. He had a shock on the street, near the New Bridge, and died in five minutes. He left no family. He had a good business, and Mary should be well provided for. That has been the only death so far as I know, among our friends since I last wrote you. My mother is in her 89th year and able to knit and move about as well as attend church.

I hear regularly from the Kennedys, McConnells, and Turners. The last mentioned has lately been promoted to a station near London. I saw them when in in London last August, and was glad to find Jessie and her two children more comfortable than they were in their previous place. The McConnells intend to give up their farm in September. He makes a good income by his pen writing on agricultural subjects. Hugh [Isabelle's brother] is with a farmer at Tarbolton and doing well. William [another brother] is still vegetating on his pension of 3 hundred dollars at Rothesay where his wife keeps a large house for boarding visitors. He is as fat as a Bailie. There is no change for poor Jack [F-6 in Anderson book, with no data whatever]. I was enquiring about George in London, but his sisters had no trace of him though they believe he is still there [reputed to have been a sea captain]. James [ probably Kennedy, son of Isabelle's sister Annie] has never given any account of himself since I last saw you. 
Jeanie's son - Robert Brown - after going to South Africa with a young wife, and staying there nearly two years, never got a day's work. He returned after spending his money, and the last I heard of him is that he was acting as engineer at a Brick-work in the neighbourhood of London. His sister Annie [Agnes] is matron of a Hospital in South Africa. She went out as a trained nurse during the war. The youngest daughter [Bella] is teacher of cookery in some schools in England where she earns a good wage. The other two [Sheena, Jeanie] are married in
Glasgow. I had no time to call on them the last time I was there, in the West Church with my brother, but I called at the office of the husband of one of them and learned they were well. Jane has had no children as yet. The coal-pits in which they are all interested don't seem to make them much return.
I was pleased to hear of Aunt Katie [Catherine Anderson Cameron] and the measure of health bestowed on her, and I hope she will long enjoy it, together with the soul comfort which flows from faith in Christ and communion with God in prayer. That is always like spring promising and prophesying of summer being nigh, and a summer which shall be perpetual. I am glad to hear of Mrs. [Robert ] Esdon [Hellen Anderson] and her family and that they are now fit to work their place. I am familiar with her for over 30 years through her portrait which stands on the mantel-shelf in one of my bedrooms along with one of my late darling Isabella. I was especially interested in hearing of the marriages of so many of those whom I had seen almost as babies and young children 20 and 15 years ago. I wish them all God's blessing on the unions which they have formed. John Armour and James will soon be able to take the world easier with their families growing up around them. Long may they be spared together. I wish Clarence every success in his work, and hope to hear of him soon as a master-builder. I fancy the reason why Tom and Lawrence are still bachelors is that their tastes are so much alike that if they love any one it is sure to be one and the same girl. She cannot take them both, and the one is too true to the other to rob him of the treasure. It is time they were taking a trip to the home-country. If they do, I hope they will make my house their head-quarters, and possibly between this and the native counties of their forefathers they may meet with what may suit each of them.
The weather here is still bitterly cold, with showers of hail and easterly or northerly winds. Vegetation makes little progress and farmers have not yet finished the sowing of oats. The past winter was comparatively mile, never more than three inches of snow and that not lasting not more than a few days at a time. I got over my winter work of visiting my congregation about the end of March, and did not get many bad days during the whole four months. My voice has been for a long time as strong as ever, and my throat gives me no trouble except when I smoke too much. I have not had a day's sickness since I last wrote you. The division which has risen in Scotland over the decision of the House of Lords in the Church case, of which you may see accounts in the papers, has given me very little trouble, though very determined efforts have been made by outsiders to divide my congregation. The Royal Commission has now issued its Report regarding the Church case. It is very favourable to the section of the Church to which I belong. In a few days that Report will be considered by Parliament, and legislation is likely to follow which will bring order out of confusion, and peace out of strife. This is much needed, for the injury already done to religion by the unseemly strife, is more than can be remedied in more than a generation. It all arose out of the Free Church uniting in 1900 with the United Presbyterian Church. Twenty six out of eleven hundred ministers opposed the Union. They went to the Law Courts claiming to be the Free Church, and to have a right to all the property of the Free Church. The court of Session in Scotland unanimously decided against them. They appealed to the House of Lords, and on 1st of August last, the Law Lords by 5 to 2 decided in their favour. There has been nothing ever since but driving ministers and congregations who adhered to the Union out of the Churches which they or their fathers had built and maintained, to make way for mere fragments of Anti-Unionists who call themselves the Free Church. Many are in consequence worshipping on the hillside in country parishes. The King issued a Royal Commission of enquiry which has now reported. The result is likely to be that the United Church will repossess the greatest share of the buildings and accumulated funds while the "Wee Frees" as they are called will get a proportion thereof, according to their number and their capacity to execute the Trust. If the King had not thus interfered, there would have been civil war and blood shed in the country. We are now waiting patiently to see what Parliament will do.
Had my darling Isabella been spared to me, we would have seen you in your home again before now. I often visit her grave and there have my thoughts of "Lang syne" and dreams of the bright future when "we shall meet on that beautiful shore." My present wife is well and all that a wife should be, so we live comfortably together: but she is not the wife of my youth. Hoping this will find you and all friends well. With kind regards for Mr. Urie, James Anderson, and all friends, I am yours sincerely, Alex. MacDonald.
Also, kind regards to Rev. Mr. Taylor and family. Kindest regards to the Grahams, hoping he can laugh still as heartily as ever. A.M.






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