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occupied the Lanarkshire property of Loanhead for nearly a century. The James of 1740 or thereabouts sold Loanhead and settled at Walston in the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. The eldest of his seven sons rivalled his kinsman, “the Beetle of Yarrow,” in size and strength, and was known as “King of Covington,” where stood his farm. It was at Covington that Burns supped and slept on his memorable journey to Edinburgh, and on the following morning he breakfasted with James Stodart, another of the seven brothers, proceeding to Carnwath, where he lunched with John Stodart, the banker there. William was the second of these brothers. He was born in 1740, and in 1782 married Christian Naismith, whose forefathers deserve a word of chronicle.
Two staunch Covenanters head the roll, James and John Naismith. The former was minister first of Dalmellington, and then of Hamilton, from 1641 to 1662. He was a man of note, trusted by the Scots Parliament for various duties, and, says Wodrow, “he was reckoned a very good man and a good preacher.” He proved himself of sterling gold in the furnace of persecution, for he was thrown into prison in 1660, the year of the Restoration, one of the first to suffer for the Covenant. Persecuted for a time, he was at
A LINE OF NAISMITHS.
length driven from his charge ; but so far as we know, both he and his brother John, in spite of twenty-eight troubled years, lived to a good old age. John too suffered imprisonment, although not until the reign of James II., and both were harassed by repeated fines. A daughter of the Reverend James Naismith married her cousin, who was John Naismith's son, and this couple, John and Janet Naismith, lived at Allanton, and brought up in godly fashion, and in the memory of grandparents of such honourable record, a son, John Naismith, afterwards of Drumloch. He married in 1731, and his family consisted of a son and three daughters, of whom the youngest was the Christian Naismith of our story. Mr William Stodart died a few years after his marriage, and his wife survived him for only a short time. When she died, their little girls, Helen, Marion, and Margaret, were adopted by relatives on both sides. The uncle Naismith took Helen, an aunt married to Mr Hamilton of Airbless gave Marion a home, and Mr Stodart welcomed the little Margaret to Walston. The Drumloch house was hospitable, and there the sisters often met. Helen, the eldest, grew up in the congenial atmosphere, a tall and graceful girl, dark-haired and dark-eyed, her face beaming with kindly smiles, a great reader and a cheerful talker. An old
servant described her as “a pairfit sant.” But although of orderly habits, she was not fond of dress, and rather eschewed society, which interfered with her reading and distracted her thoughts. Her uncle was a man of ability, loving Greek, Latin, and French, and having some taste for research. He was able to help Sir John Sinclair in The Statistical Account of Scotland,' and wrote several books himself. We are told that, like his forefathers, he was a man of goodly presence.
From time to time Helen went to Airbless to visit her aunt and sister, and there, amongst the occasional guests, she met Alexander Blackie. He contrived to make himself agreeable to the gentle Helen, and an attachment grew up between them. The young banker was handsome, well-built, self-confident, and so far successful. The touches of dogmatism which mark the manner of youth offend only the old, and if to these he added some flashes of quick temper, the uncles and aunts alone took warning. So in 1805 the young people were married, and took
ир house in Charlotte Street, in Glasgow. Here in 1807 their eldest daughter, Christina, was born, and on July 28, 1809, their eldest son, John Stuart Blackie. Friends gathered to his christening, and amongst them was the cousin from
Kelso, now a young doctor, assisting his father, and in due time to succeed him—and after him the baby was christened John Stuart. Some homage, too, was doubtless paid to the memory of a line of Naismiths, from John the Covenanter to John the scholarly Laird of Drumloch.
Soon after the christening, Mr Blackie was appointed manager of the Commercial Bank at Aberdeen, and thither they removed and settled in Marischal Street about the close of 1809. As John grew from infancy to childhood the banker's nursery filled, but only five of his first family reached maturity.
From his earliest years John developed from within outwards, accepting no guidance of a coercive character, and flatly declining to be taught the alphabet until he affected letters. His father made many futile attempts, but he refused to be wiled from the attic, where he and his sisters revelled in improvised sports, sometimes theatrical, often oratorical. He filled the house with noise, a kindly, merry child, much liked by his nurses, whom he harangued from the top of a chest of drawers. His father was fond of Shakespeare, and John picked up scraps by ear, and declaimed them in the nursery with abundant gesture. But the psalms and hymns carefully administered on Sundays found less response,
until the metrical version of the nineteenth psalm pleased his ear, and he learnt it by heart. This seems to have been the only mental feat which he performed in his childhood. But already his character showed its bent, and his mother wrote when he was about eight years old—
John is all consideration. He is possessed of a good deal of the milk of human kindness. He is rapid in all his movements and methodical to a fault. Nothing that can be done to-day is put off till to-morrow. He is now happy in the present, anything new rather vexes than delights him. His character will depend much on the society he forms in after-life. And she adds, her perspicuity something clouded by her failures on Sundays,—
If it is good, I expect to see him a fine young man, pushing, and fond of money, but not with much religion about him.
At this time he did not know his alphabet, and a lady experienced in teaching was asked to beguile him through this displeasing portal into the halls of learning. She thought to teach him with a box of ivory letters, and arranged them as toys full of promise ; but John flung them out of the window, and declined to be fooled into lessons.
In the same year, however, a new school was opened in Aberdeen. Professional society had