Robert Wilson Brown.
Schoolmaster, Jamestown, Balloch. Buried Alexandria. Not the one in Acts 27 v6, of course! [RLM] Margaret from Wester Auchincarroch. 12 children! Married 1860.
MBM: Grandfather Robert Wilson Brown. 1833-1920.
My maternal grandfather was a great character, well known to us over many years. Our two grandmothers died in early life and were therefor unknown to us. Robert Wilson Brown came of farming stock in Dumfriesshire and was born in the Parish of Applegarth there, where his forebears are buried in the churchyard of the lovely little Kirk.
His father was a schoolmaster at Sandyholme. He was born in 1793 and died in 1877, "killed by a cart" according to his death certificate. I have visited the present school at Sandyholme on the British Railway line north of Lockerbie. The class then was studying Walter Scott and recited "Young Lochinvar" for me, in which the Fosters and Fenwichs they rode and they ran. Children of these names were in the classroom. All the children were interested to learn that my great-grandfather had been dominie there a century and more ago.
Robert my grandfather qualified as a teacher at the old Glasgow University then in High Street (Gilmour Hall 1870, first site). He was appointed headmaster at Jamestown, near Balloch on Loch Lomond. He wooed and won Margaret McAlister of Auchincarroch (born 1840) and married her in 1860. She produced 12 children; 7 died in infancy. They appear to have been a gay young couple, fond of dancing and skating on the Loch, when frozen.
He was a good Greek and Latin Scholar, and took a great interest in the careers of his pupils. As well as a schoolmaster he was a Registrar for the area and a member of the Gas Board, taking an active part in the affairs of the District. My brother and I remember him as a great gardening enthusiast, producing rare species of carnations, honey from bee hives and lots of soft fruits in the garden of the house he had built of red sandstone at Balloch on the River Leven, called "Applegarth" after his home parish.
I well remember as a little girl, being walked all the way along the towpath by the River Leven to Alexandria to see Lord John Sanger's Circus and, on another occasion, to see the wonderful new sensation: 'Moving Pictures' at the Town Hall. There I was, standing on a seat in the Gallery, watching the exploits of Pearl Whyte as enthralled as my old grandfather.
We used to visit him by train every other weekend, so we got to know him and his surroundings very well. As we got older we would cycle over Stockiemuir to Balloch and so were enabled to explore the Loch Lomond side extensively.
My grandfather often accompanied us on holiday in the West Highlands. We would join the lovely run to Connal Ferry and Arisaig, via Cranlarich Junction, where everyone alighted for a cup of tea. During the journey the Guard would throw out the daily newspapers to little figures who came running across the fields when the train hooted its horn.
Grandfather liked talking to the locals. I remember him asking a venerable old man with a long white beard, near Appin, "You'll be a Prince Charlie's man?" "Aye, to the backbone", was the reply. "He died a drunkard's death", said my grandfather, at which the Ancient flared up and looked like striking out. On another meeting with a local, driving cattle and calling to them in Gaelic and English. Why the two languages asks my grandfather. "Well, ye see, the calves havn't learned the English yet!"
MBM: When we knew our grandfather he was nearing eighty years. He had mellowed since his strict schoolmasters days and had build his house at Balloch in 1884-85 when he left Jamestown School House.
My grandmother Margaret McAlister died when I was a baby in 1901. My mother used to take us every other weekend from Partick and later from Scotstoun to visit "Applegarth". We came to know the house and garden well. My grandfather was an enthusiastic and energetic gardener and specialised in bees and carnations - the former the menace of our young lives as the hives were placed beside the rasps and gooseberries which we ate surreptitiously. The carnations he cultured, producing lovely varieties with coloured edges.
The old boy had a very ready wit and told lots of stories about his young days as a trainee teacher attending the College in High Street and school in Paisley. He was appointed to Jamestown in 1864, married Margaret McAlister 20 years of age in 1860. They seemed to be a gay pair, dancing and skating. Grandfather won a pair of antlers awarded to the first one to reach Inchmore from the mainland.
He seems to have taken part in everything connected with the life of Jamestown and Alexandria which flourished in these days on dye works. Children were employed part time at the works with half days at school.
My mother, who was with her brothers and sisters at my grandfathers school, tells of these children coming to school with hands discoloured by dyes - yellow, etc. The family members of the classes were treated very severely: "Come out and be punished. You should have known better!" said the Dominie.
My grandfather was for ever sewing on his coat tail buttons, which the mischievous boys cut off when the Dominie sat on their desks inspecting work.
When we knew him he was very austere and not quite so strict. I used to be asked by him at 7 a.m. to go for a walk before breakfast down by the Levenside. This river flowing swiftly out of Loch Lomond was accessible thro' a door at the bottom of the gardens. Many a time I trotted beside the old man down to Alexandria, to see a Circus on one occasion and on another well remembered one to the Town Hall, where we stood on the back seat and marvelled at the exploits of Pearl White - our first movies. The Annual Fair at Ballochbugle was a great event at which Grandfather accompanied us on Hobby Horses enjoying it all as much as we did.
He had an old friend, long Dominie at Gartochavon, who was a visitor who fascinated us and the generation before us, as my mother used to relate about one occasion when her brothers cut of all the buttons on his gaiters. She had to sew them all on again, of course!
John Neill, from "The Records and Reminiscences of Bonhill Parish, 1912 (Falkirk Public Library), page 146:
Robert Brown, a native of Applegarth, Dumfriesshire, was the son of a parish schoolmaster. He was educated at the Old College in High Street, Glasgow. He passed out of Glasgow Normal Training College in 1850. His first appointment was in Paisley, from which in 1852 he came to Jamestown. Under the old parish schoolmaster the pupils' satchel simply contained the wee spell, the big spell, the New Testament, the Bible, Gray's arithmetic and a copy book. But under the new master matters soon changed, and the satchel became heavier and more up-to-date. Mr. Brown being possessed of high scholarly attainments during the next 40 years did much to further the education of the youth of the parish. On the passing of the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages Act of 1854, Mr. Brown became Registrar, which office he still held in 1912, when the Book of Records and Reminiscences of Bonhill was published.
This is the text of a very old and fragile letter, folded into six and one piece missing. "BISODOL" pencilled in, (as a destination?). Signed by a McAlister, Auchencarroch, Bonhill. Unfortunately I cannot decifer the first name. No date. It was the wedding announcement for Robert Brown and Margaret McAlister, and is something of a spoof.
"Engaged" to Sail
The tiddy well built sure sailing Brig "Margaret", Robert Brown Commander, time of sailing not yet fixed, but due notice will be given by the Captain.
She has several times been attacked by Crafts sailing under Britich Colours, but she has always given them a broadside that sent them overboard, but only to renew the attack at some other time, she being worth the pains of standing cuts and scars for, were it possible of taking her out of the hands of the Commander. She has likewise been attacked by the Pirate Ship Archibald, Commanded by Captain Lang, sailing under foreign colours, who says he belongs to the Australian Coast, but on his approach, she showed fight, and sent a shot through his mizzen mast and damaged his rigging, he turned to the leeward and ran, his timbers were not made of British oak so he could not withstand the shock.
She has been several times attacked by this foreign "Pirate", but has always sent him to the right about, now on her approach he takes in his sails and lowers his colours, and puts aloft the white flag of distress, but would fain attack again, but knows to well her warlike powers to open his port holes without the word of command.
This same Pirate has tried to get the assistance of Crafts of the British Nation, to aid him in taking her into tow, but they not relishing the idea of "Pirating" and believing in the adage of every man for himself, have unfurled their flag, opened their sails to the wind and given chase, and will follow up until she is brought safe into Harbour, when she will lie at anchor, never more to venture forth upon the rough and tempestuous seas.
?? McAlister Auchencarroch Bonhill
See also "My Grandfather the Dominie - A Page of Family History" by Roy Brown, printed in Peterhead Academy Magazine, in archive.