On the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd March 1870, the grave closed over the remains of one of the oldest, if not the oldest, person in the parish of Blantyre, and whose death was recorded in the Hamilton Advertiser obituary of the previous Saturday. The account of his life makes interesting reading and gives an indication of how incredible it was to have lived to the age he did.
I refer to Mr William Galbraith. He was born in Cambuslang in 1772, so that he was in his 102nd year. He came reside in the Blantyre works’ village when he was a lad of twelve, entering at that time the employment of Messrs Henry Monteith & Co. In their service he remained for the long period of 72 years, for 50 of which he held one situation, and only relinquished it little more than four years ago, when increasing infirmity dictated to him the necessity of retiring, that he might end his days in ease and peace.
When he had finished his 71st year in the works, he was entertained at a public and numerously attended meeting, where he was presented with a valuable gift from his fellow-workmen. A full report of that interesting event we gave in our columns at the time.
He came to this (Blantyre) parish in 1794, where, according to universal testimony, he has led a quiet, unobtrusive, well-regulated life. He was attached to the Established Church till 1817, when he joined the communion of Muir Street U.P. Church, Hamilton, under the late Mr Carrick. In that church he was ordained an elder in 1840 and remained there till, in 1845, he assisted in the formation of the Blantyre United Presbyterian Church, was inducted senior elder, which office he held till his death, under the Rev. Mr Bannatyne.
He served his earlier years under the famed Papillon, the introducer of Turkey-red dyeing into this country. In 1802 he volunteered, when this country was apprehensive of an invasion by the French under the Great Emperor. He used to relate with pleasure that he had seen the Emperor Alexander of Russia, when that potentate was on a visit to the works, in company with one of the partners, Lord Provost Monteith, which occurred shortly alter the meeting in London of the crowned heads of Europe, after the battle of Waterloo. He “joined in the festive dance and the joyous song” on the village green, in celebration of the proclamation of peace, in 1815, and that when he was in his 33d year.
He had looked upon the green earth and beheld the glorious sun before the United States of America had an existence, and yet lived through the terms of 18 presidents. He lived through 42 years of the reign of the third George, saw the coronation and death of George IV. and William IV., and enjoyed 33 years of the prosperous and happy reign of the good Victoria.
He was born while the two great heroes, Wellington and Napoleon, were still under their nurses’ care, and yet outlived them both by many years. Last Sabbath his decease was taken notice of in very touching and affectionate terms by the Rev. Mr Bannatyne, minister of the church of which he was elder for 23 years. He testified to the excellent character he bore.
As a sincere, consistent Christian, few excelled or equalled him. He was sedate, prudent, and sober-minded. A man of prayer, he loved and was sincerely attached to the meetings which assembled weekly for that holy duty. Family worship was a privilege he valued much and regularly observed, while in his closet he held sweet communion with the Father who seeth in secret. He was commended as godly man. He could not be the sober, steady, consistent man he was had he not possessed much of that godliness which is profitable for the life that now is, as well as for that which is to come. He ever set God before his eyes, endeavouring to realise His presence, and tried to perform those things that are well pleasing in His sight.
He commended him to his people as one to copy, seeing that he had entered into his rest, and in the presence of an incomparably glorious assembly his Lord had placed on his head the crown of righteousness that shall never fade sway.
He was an interesting old man, rendered so on account of his age, his wonderful memory, and his simple, unassuming, contented, truly Christian disposition. Every one loved him; young and old enjoyed his conversation; he was every one’s friend; continually by the bed of the sick and dying, striving to administer comfort and hope to the wayward and the disconsolate.
A correspondent remarks — “And now that the good old man is gone, is it not pleasant to record at the close of such a long life, that he has not left one enemy behind him!” It was a great testimony paid to his worth, to see such a large assembly gather on Wednesday last to follow his remains to their last resting-place. Among those present we observed the ministers of all the churches in the neighbourhood, the session of which he was a member, the managers of the works, and many friends from a distance. We understand that appropriate services will be conducted tomorrow in the church to which he was attached.
“’Tis music to the soldier’s soul
When a nation’s proud acclaim
Greets him, the laurelled conqueror,
In war’s unhallowed game;
But loftier joy that hero boasts,
Who, toiling up life’s road,
By unseen triumphs wins the smiles
Of conscience and of God.”
Shared by Gordon Cook.
Source : Hamilton Advertiser Saturday 26th March 1870 page 2.
Illustration is from a small booklet of Blantyre Works illustrations and photos, a scene William would have been familiar with. (apologies, the illustration is slightly damaged)