Diary of Tam Turnip

Writing under the name of Tam Turnip, a Blantyre man published his diary in the Fifeshire Advertiser in 1913 remembering back to the 1850s and 60s. An extract written in old Scots tongue follows:

19th March, 1913. Editor, — I need hardly tell ye that it’s a hunner years this very day since David Livingstone was born at Blantyre. Every correspondent can tell ye that, but there’s mebbe no’ anither in Fife that has as close a connection wi’ the great explorer an’ his calf country as I hae mysel’ — no’ that I was born in “Blanter” (as we ca’d it), like Dauvit; but I was brocht up there frae sax tae saxteen, an’ I gaed tae the nicht schule at Blanter Mills, whaur the great missioner begood his eddication.”

“My faither was a shoemaker, an’ oor hoose was in Stonefield, near the Glesca Road, between High Blanter an’ Low Blanter, with a stane-throw o’ whaur the Livingstone Memorial Kirk is built.”

“I min’ fine o’ the Doctor comin’ hame frae Africa the first time. Let me see! Aboot 57 years syne, I wad be ten past. It was atween ’Xmas an’ the New Year. Hard frost an’ awfu’ cauld. My faither was curlin’ on the Clyde Blanter Mill Dam. I was faur ower keen on the ice that day tae tak’ ony notice o’ the great explorer comin’ in a carriage frae his mither’s hoose, three miles east at Hamilton, tae the Blanter Mill Literary an’ Scientific Association soiree, so I didna see him, but I heard he made a sensible speech, so did the chairman, Mr Hanna, and Mr Dunn, the cashier. I aye min’ o’ the cashier; he was sae big, 6 ft. 3. “

“When the Volunteers formed, a couple o’ years efter a Glesca firm contracted tae mak’ the uniforms at so much a suit. The big cashier was the first tae get measured. The tailor asked his name, an’ when telt it was Dunn, he gave a sigh an’ remarked, “Weel, if the Volunteers are a’ your size, we’re Dunn too!” 

  “The Livingstone family were members o’ the “Wee Kirk” (Congregational) in Hamilton, an’ walked regularly there every Sunday. They took their lunch wi’ them, an’ went to a Mr Naismith’s hoose between services, an’, wi’ characteristic Scotch independence the mother would accept nothing but sufficient boiling water tae infuse the tea, with which she was always provided. Years after, when I had grown man-muckle, I took the notion o’ bein’ a precentor. Faith said it was nae use, I didna hae a “lug,” an’ that if a butcher gaun by heard me singin’ he wad come in tae see if we had ony calves tae sell. But faither was wrang. I persevered, and was appointed precentor o’ the Morrisonian Church in Hamilton, an offshoot o’ the “Wee Kirk.” The Rev. Dr Fergus Ferguson cam’ tae oor soiree, an’, describin’ the arrival o’ the Livingstone family when he was preachin’ in the “Wee Kirk,” he said it looked a bit thin till the Livingstones cam’ in frae Blanter an’ filled their pew. The family numbered seven, wi’ Dauvit in the middle. Then the wee kirkie lookit weel filled.”

   “Dr Livingstone was said to be a bit of a humorist, but he did not let himself go in public. His brother Charles was certainty fond of a joke. At the Wee Kirk reception given to the Doctor and his brother, David delivered a fine broad-minded speech, saying he did not know which Church he loved most, and he was quite certain he ought not to dislike any; and his brother, who was educated in America, was ordained by a Presbytery, although a Congregationalist. When Charles spoke he minimised the denominational differences in Scotland, and alluded to the remark that Scotchmen were to be found everywhere in the United States — where he had been — they found Scotchmen everywhere except in the States’ prison. (Laughter and applause.) They left legible marks behind them where they went, being in this respect unlike a certain editor of whom he had heard, who was so short-sighted that what he wrote with his pen he rubbed out with his nose. (Great laughter.) “

   “The last I remember of the Livingstones before I left Blanter was from a big-voiced, burly minister, the Rev. Adam Dunlop, who came from the Wee Kirk to lecture in Blanter Mills School, and, after working up his subject of self-culture and our feelings to a great pitch, he drew down thunders of applause by describing a heroic character and declaring with great emphasis. “And that’s your own David Livingstone.’’ 

  ” That the centenary celebrations may give a great impetus to the work for which Livingstone gave his life, is the sincere wish of   TAM TURNIP.”

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