James Anderson was born at Livingston, near Bathgate on 20th June 1785 where his father William, was a farmer. Educated at the Edinburgh University, he graduated M.A. on 17th April 1813; was licensed by the Presbytery of Dunblane on 6th February 1816 and having been presented by the tutor of Charles, Lord Blantyre on 30th March 1832 he was ordained here on 13 September that same year.
1832 was a big year for the 47 year old minister. He was neither a young man, nor a young preacher when he succeeded in Blantyre. James had been welcomed into Blantyre following the sudden death of Dr. Hodgson, the previous minister at Blantyre Church, High Blantyre. Also, he was married on 28th December that year to Mary. S. Archer. They went on to start a family, one daughter Margaret Stewart Anderson, born 11th December 1834. Sadly their little one died on 5th June 1836, aged only 1 and a half. Two sons followed. William (b1839 – d1920) who became minister of the Free Church at Boyndie near Banff, and James (b1843 – d1877).
Although not much of a orator, the Rev. James Anderson was gifted with personal goodness and amiability and he was highly respected by the big congregation in High Blantyre.
The period in the Church of Scotland between 1833 and 1843 was known as “The disruption.” This was a difference of opinion in how the church should be governed and things came to a head in 1843 when 474 ministers walked out of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and declared for a free church in which the congregation would select their minister instead of the “Patronage” system, under which the local land owner or feu superior had the right to select the minister of his choice, the congregation having no say in the matter. When the Disruption occured within the Church of Scotland in 1843, the Rev. James Anderson “went out” and “having joined the Free Secession and signed the Deed of Demission, he was declared to be “no longer a minister of this Church”. That was on 27th June, 1843. Many of the High Blantyre congregation went with him. Fondly remembering this time later in 1885, a local woman recalled, “Oh Sir, if ever a pure Christian walked this earth, it was Mr Anderson.” Opinion however, was divided for several decades following the 1843 walkout, with some people feeling that Mr Anderson had deserted the Blantyre Parish Church, others feeling he had saved religion in Blantyre.
In 1844, a new church was built in Stonefield Road and named “Blantyre Free Church”. Mrs Ann Hutton of Calderbank (later Calderglen) was a heritor of the town and keenly supported Anderson in his opposition to the Patronage system. She donated the princely sum of £100 to the building of the new church and it was claimed that without her financial support, the project would not have commenced. Besides this, she gave £25 for the slating of the roof and £50 to pay off other trade debts. Mrs Hutton also presented the church with a bell and gave a further £100 later for the construction of a manse.
This church burned down in 1871 and was replaced by a more substantial church in 1872 along with a beautiful, new stone manse house at the rear. The bell from the previous church was placed into the steeple. This was known as the Blantyre United Free Church but later in 1929 took the name of Anderson Church, named after Rev Anderson. Affected by subsidence, the steeple was demolished to make safe, giving the church an unusual appearance with a flat topped “steeple” not much higher than the roof itself. It is unknown what became of the bell. That church closed in 1977, and a year later in 1978, was destroyed by fire. Today, all that remains is the church hall, now a funeral parlour.
To those loyal worshippers, Rev James Anderson continued to minister until his death on 7th May, 1860, in the 28th year of his ministry, passing away before any fire.
Coincidentally, the minister who succeeded Rev Anderson at the Old Parish Church in 1843 was the Rev Paterson. Both men died on the same day and they were buried on the same day, side by side in the old churchyard at Kirkton.