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first it was incorporated with Airdrie Circuit. In 1869, however, it was joined to the Wallacetown district. A minister from these places visited the congregation every two or three weeks. Kilsyth, however, having always had a large number of laymen who could conduct public Christian services with propriety, to these the ministry of the chapel was chiefly left. Methodism has never taken any real grip of the Scottish people; but when, in 1871, Kilsyth received a regular ministry and was unite<:;""-- v circuit of which Kirkintilloch and Cumbernauld were parts, better days seemed in store for the little community. The Rev. Samuel Millett was the first minister appointed to the charge. His successors were, Rev. George Hack, 1872-74; Rev. T. A. Seed, 1875-77; Rev. George Parker, 1878-79; Rev. Thomas Lawson, 1880-82; Rev. William S. Tomlinson, 1883-84; Rev. William Milligan, 1885-86; Rev. William Earl, 1887-89; Rev. William Talbot. Mr. Lawson had spent a large part of his life in the West Indies and had seen much of the world. During his kindly and genial ministry the Methodist Church reached the height of its prosperity. Since he left there has been a gradual decline. It was during the ministry of the Rev. William Tomlinson the old chapel was destroyed and the new chapel built. The foundation stone was laid by Sir James King, afterwards Lord Provost of Glasgow. The Rev. William Earl was elected a member of the Burgh School Beard. The present mini ster is the Rev. William Johnston.
Our Scottish Presbyterianism is often ludicrously "splitty." The Congregational Church was the result of a division in the Relief Church, on the occasion of the election of the Rev. Robert Anderson, assistant and successor to his father. The malcontents having wished to start another Relief Church, they were discouraged by the presbytery of the denomination. In the circumstances they built their present chapel and connected themselves with Scottish Congregationalism. The first pastor was the Rev. J. A. Anderson, ordained in 1858. He died after a brief but promising career. His successor was the Rev. J. C. Jago, ordained in March, 1865, who also died, after a short pastorate, in September, 1869. The third minister was the Rev. David Gardner, orJanuary, 1870, who was translated to Parkhead Congregational Church, Glasgow, in the spring of 1873. The fourth minister was the Rev. George Rutherford. He was ordained to the charge, August, 1873. He was a man of extraordinary pastoral activity. All his attempts, however, to build up his congregation having failed, he resigned June, 1885. Mr. Rutherford went to Australia, where he died. Mr. Rutherford was succeeded by the Rev. J. C. Hodge. He was translated to Kilsyth from Kirkwall, and inducted November, 1885. Mr. Noble, the present minister, was inducted this year.
The working of the coal and ironstone mines having caused a great demand for labour about the middle of this century, there began to flock into the parish and neighbourhood large numbers of Irish. In 1862, the numbers were so considerable that Father Gillan of Campsie instituted a Roman Catholic Mission in Arnot's Hall, Charles Street. The influx of Irish continuing to increase with the development of the staple trade of the parish, a chapel and parsonage were built at a cost of ,£2000. The chapel was opened for public worship on St. Patrick's Day, 1867. Since that time there has been a succession of five priests. The first was the Rev. John Galvin, from Bathgate. The second, the Rev. Mr. Breck, from Jedburgh. The third, the Rev. Canon John Murphy, from Dundee. The fourth, the Rev. John Lee,
from Lasswade. The fifth, and present incumbent, is the Rev. Francis James Turner. The ministry of Canon Murphy has been the longest and most faithful. The Catholic population of the parish and immediate district beyond its boundaries is about 1500, and amongst these for seventeen years he worked with great assiduity. His influence increased with the length of his incumbency, and when he was translated to West Calder he received from the people of the parish and district a valuable testimonial. With the exception of the Rev. F. J. Turner, all the other priests have been Irishmen.
Now and again—and it is pleasant to note that the intervals are continually growing longer and longer—there are unseemly exhibitions of ecclesiastical rancour. Upon the whole, however, in a limited field the churches work with as little attrition as will be found in any other similarly constituted parish in Scotland. There are growing manifestations of a kindlier interest in each other's prosperity, and of that love to the brethren which is the witness that the believer has passed from death unto life.
To return to the parochial ministerial succession. The Rev. Alexander Speirs, who succeeded the Rev. Alexander Hill, was a native of Lochwinnoch in Renfrewshire. He was one of a goodly number of students of mark who found their way from the parish school of that village to the university, and who took good positions in the ministry of the Church of Scotland, as well as in other walks of life. The late Dr. Archibald Watson, at one time minister of St. Matthew's parish, Glasgow, and finally of the East Church, Dundee, who, the year before he died—1880—was raised to the Moderatorship of the General Assembly, was a native of this little country village. Dr. Robert Graham, who has 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."