In 1905, Rev Thomas Pryde completed 25 years service of ministering in Blantyre. In May 1907, another minister Rev James Campbell of the Anderson United Free Church on Stonefield Road, also celebrated 25 years “on the job”. The marking of this local event was fairly well documented in newspapers, the interesting details of which are explored here.
The semi-jubilee event was celebrated on Thursday 16th May 1907 when a congregational soiree was held in the church. A large turnout appeared, and not just members of the congregation, but some from other churches too. Mr David Dunlop F.E.I.S headmaster of High Blantyre Public School presided.
Mr Campbell had been inducted into the Anderson U.F. Church, then known as Blantyre Free Church on 16th May 1882. The church certainly had mixed fortunes, perhaps due to the age of the congregation for from the 266 on the roll in 1893, only 86 remained by the turn of the century. In recent years though, Mr Campbell had assisted in swelling the congregation to the current 330 people, evidence of his popularity as a minister. Mr Campbell had always taken a keen interest in the Parish and was a member of the School Board. On the platform that evening were many fellow School Board colleagues, his wife and friends. He was a keen bowler too, handy given the manse was practically on the doorstep of the green! There was applause when it was explained that in his time at the church, it had freed itself from debt.
During the event, a brief history of the Anderson Church was explained. This church relates back to the “Disruption” year having been built in 1843. The first minister had been Rev Anderson who at that time was the minister of all Blantyre Parish.
Catastrophe occurred in 1871 when the building was totally destroyed by fire, not just the interior being destroyed, but the roof and the stonework compromised. Amongst the burning embers and collapsed stonework, remarkably was the church bell, salvaged and given pride of place in future plans. Rebuilding happened almost immediately and the new church was opened on 6th October 1872 complete with original bell. It was noted that further extensive construction was taking place in the adjacent Dixon’s Rows at the time. Around 1897, the interior of the church underwent restoration, primarily to modernise and additional side galleries were added to meet the demands of the increased congregation. On plan, this was a suitable arrangement as the footprint of the church resembled a cross.
Mr Dunlop presented Rev Campbell with several gifts including a revolving bookcase, a set of Dr McLaren’s expository works and a purse of gold. Mrs Campbell received a gold bangle. Rev Campbell then gave a short speech, giving thanks for the gifts.
He explained that in his 25 years, there had been 7 leaders of praise, 4 church officers and 310 baptisms. The strong and well balanced choir then sang out a number of hymns and anthems.