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since 1847 been minister of the parish of Kilbarchan, in Renfrewshire, a distinguished student and preacher, is also a native. Others might be mentioned, but these are sufficient to illustrate the intimate connection which subsisted in these past days between the university and the old parish school.
Mr. Speirs was born in 1826, and was one of a numerous family. Two of his brothers rose to some eminence. One became a lawyer, and the other a medical practitioner. Alexander, after leaving school, entered the University of Glasgow in 1846. He secured both in Arts and Divinity, the character of a painstaking and fairly successful student. He received licence from the Presbytery of Glasgow in 1853. Shortly afterwards he was appointed assistant to the late Dr. Barr, of St. Enoch's, Glasgow, The parish of Gorbals having become vacant, and the right of appointment having fallen into the hands of the presbytery, that court, along with the concurrence of the people, issued a presentation to the parish in favour of Mr. Speirs, and he was ordained minister of Gorbals, August, 1854.
Mr. Speirs, if he had been an ordinary minister, would have thought twice before accepting the presentation. But he was a strong, resolute man, never daunted by difficulties, never cowed by men. The position of things was extraordinary. The church, in consequence of some legal technicalities, had, during the incumbency of his predecessor, been sold. The Gorbals consequently presented a unique spectacle-it was a parish without a church. The work was carried on in temporary premises. The circumstances roused all the ardour of Mr. Speirs' nature. With the most manful resolution he cast himself into the breach. He was not wholly successful. He did not succeed in recovering the buildings, but he did what was better, he threw life into a dispirited people, he rallied the scattered members of the congregation, and gathered into the church a goodly number of parishioners. If the Gorbals is now one of the most flourishing of Glasgow churches it is not a little owing to the endeavours of Mr. Speirs.
Whilst Mr. Speirs was engaged in these arduous labours, in 1861, he was sent by the Presbytery of Glasgow to supply the pulpit of Kilsyth, which had now become vacant, upon a Sunday for which the presbytery were responsible. Although Mr. Speirs merely appeared for the purpose of discharging the official duty that was laid upon him, the parishioners of Kilsyth were so satisfied with the services that they at once moved the Crown to issue a presentation in his favour. The settlement was of the most harmonious character. In Kilsyth he remained till his death, in 1870. He was thus cut down in the very midst of his years and in the manhood of his age.
Mr. Speirs was of medium height, broad shouldered, stoutly built, and of a sallow complexion. His disposition was open and frank. His temperament ardent and impulsive. His voice was powerful but unrefined. He was full of force. His preaching was trenchant, powerful, epigrammatic. His expositions of Scripture passages linger in the minds of the people. He often used great plainness of speech. His literary culture and knowledge of poetry were both considerable. His discourses were of varied excellence. When he prepared carefully, however, and discarded the manuscript; he always made a great impression. So masculine and masterful, he was coming rapidly to be a power in the parish when the parishioners were called to mourn his untimely end, for most truly could it be said of him, “his sun had gone down while it was yet day."
After the death of Mr. Speirs, a leet of clergymen preached before the congregation. When the vote came to be taken it was found that the Rev. Robert Hope Brown had the majority, and he was consequently, in 1871, inducted minister of the parish. Mr. Hope Brown was born on the 19th January, 1842, at Kirkbill of Craigie, Ayrshire, that farm being at the time tenanted by his father. He was the youngest of a large family. He received his elementary education at the parish school of Craigie. He was afterwards removed to the parish school of Kirkmahoe, Dumfries, of which parish his brother-in-law, the Rev. David Hogg, author of the “ Life of Allan Cunningham,” and the “Life and Times of the Rev. John Wightman, D.D.," was the minister. After completing his secondary education by a two years' attendance at Dumfries Academy, he entered Glasgow University, in the session 1856-7. After a four years' course in Arts, and a course in Divinity of equal length, he was licensed, May, 1864, a preacher of the Gospel, by the Presbytery of Dumfries. Very soon after Mr. Hope Brown was appointed assistant to the Rev. Peter Chalmers, D.D., minister of the first charge of the Abbey parish, Dunfermline. Having served in this capacity for fully two years, he was elected assistant and successor to the Rev. Richard Logan of St. Andrew's Church, Dundee. In that sphere he proved himself a most acceptable minister, and laboured with much diligence and success. During his incumbency he married Miss Duncanson, of Dunfermline, by whom he is survived.
The people of Kilsyth having heard good accounts of his zeal, and being satisfied with his pulpit appearances, preferred him to others, who have since risen to the highest places in the Church, and gave him a very cordial welcome. Having received an accident while riding, he retired from the parish in the fall of 1880, and died at Dunfermline on the roth October, 1884. The number of his years was 42. During his incumbency the mineral in the glebe and under the church and graveyard was disposed of to W. Baird & Co. The sum received for the first was funded for the advantage of the benefice, but the sums obtained for the church and graveyard minerals were appropriated by the heritors. Mr. Hope Brown took a lively interest in the volunteer movement, and whilst at college was a member of the University Corps. Never robust, his closing years were a struggle with ill-health. As it had been with Douglas and Speirs, so was it with him ; this cause prevented him doing what would have been his best in the service of the parish. He will always be held in good remembrance for his kindness of heart, and his labours of love. Many of the poor still survive who can say of him, “Yea he did it, he did it unto me.”
Amongst the natives of Kilsyth, who have done it credit and risen to distinction, Dr. James Jeffray, Professor of Anatomy in the University of Glasgow, is deserving of honourable mention. He left no works on medical science behind him. His fame rests on his varied medical attainments and his singular power of luminous exposition. He was a handsome man, and his attractive conversation and address made him for a long period of years one of the most popular of the Glasgow professors. He was born in Kilsyth in 1763. His father was John Jeffray, a merchant in Kilsyth, and his mother was Agnes Buchanan. Her father, John Buchanan, was one of the original feuars from James, Viscount Kilsyth. The feu charter was dated 1669, and is still in the hands of the family. James Jeffray was educated at Glasgow University. It would appear that whilst at college he had himself to provide the means necessary for prosecuting his studies, for he was first tutor in the family of a Mr. Brisbane, and then in the family of Sir John Maxwell of Pollok, with whom he travelled on the Continent. In his young years he was a dramatic enthusiast, and formed one of an amateur class for the study and representation of plays. They met in a room of the Old Bishop's Castle near the cathedral, where they received instruction from a professional player. To the end of his life he retained a lively interest in high-class acting. It was said that it was his Continental travels and love of the histrionic art which gave that polish to his manners and lucidity to his expositions which made him to be so much sought after as a man and a professor. After he got his diploma he settled in Paisley. Being of a robust constitution he was able to ride into Glasgow nearly every day. Dr. Jeffray, in 1792, was appointed assistant to Dr. Hamilton, the father of the famous Sir William Hamilton, Professor of Logic in Edinburgh University. At Dr. Hamilton's death he was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Btany. Some time afterwards he had to teach surgery in addition to the subjects he already taught. At the first the medical classes were small, but after a time the numbers greatly increased. This increase was owing to the great demand for medical men, occasioned by the Napoleonic wars. The work getting wholly beyond his ability to cope with it, Dr, Burns was appointed Professor of Surgery, and Sir William Hooker Professor of Botany. For many years Dr. Jeffray had crowded classes, and an enviable reputation as an anatomical professor. He possessed a considerable amount of literary culture, and was a pronounced Tory. He was strongly opposed to the Reform Bill of 1832. His first wife was Mary Bris