E. E. Anderson

Reminiscences of Mearns - E. E. Anderson

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EE AndersonIn 1919, a book entitled “Sparks from an Old Anvil” was published by Stephen and Pollok of Ayr. The author was listed as An Octogenarian (E. E. Anderson).

Ellen Elizabeth Anderson’s book is described as “Memories of Ayr and Ayr Folk and Fragmentary Jottings”. It is in the fragmentary jottings that she records her memories associated with Mearns.

Ellen was very well read and in the fragmentary jottings in her book are memories of reading the essays of John Wilson, Professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University. Professor Wilson was educated in his early years at the Manse of Mearns and wrote in Blackwoods Magazine under the pen name of Christopher North.


She writes:

Blackwood Magazine“Among the various subjects, none appeals to me more directly than that of literature.  It is difficult to convey to twentieth century readers a due appreciation of the enormous strides in book production that have bridged the years between 1850 and 1918. With what eagerness we awaited the issue of the monthlies!”

“It was later in the fifties that we rose to full appreciation of the beloved “ Maga" of the Blackwoods, We eschewed politics, and so in this respect the recognised organ of the Tories, with its clever articles on questions of the day, had no special attraction for us. But there remained bright literary articles and passages scintillating with wit from the pen of Professor Wilson as “Christopher North."

The Noctes furnished a feast of good things, and the delightful humour of the many stories attributed to him not only served to enlighten the dinner tables of the Mearns, but whetted our appetites for further gems in the pages of " Maga."

The Professor had received part of his education in the Mearns Manse, and loved to revisit the friends and scenes of his boyhood.  It was said of him that always on leaving he was careful to roll his stick in the ‘Mearns glaur’ to last till his return.”


As a young woman she was familiar with the area of Mearns and gives this description of the village:

“The village, as I knew it then, had a quaint interest of its own.  Though distant from Glasgow but a few miles, it was fifty years behind the city.  The simplicity of life and manners was both picturesque and not a little attractive, and a notable feature was the perfect bonhomie that existed between gentle and simple, though the respectful attitude was never overstepped.  It was a kind of patriarchal community of a most pleasing type.”


She had a connection with the Pollok family of the Broom Estate and  visited there. The following describes her visits and the references in the text suggest this would have been in the mid to late 1850’s:


Broom“Broom, a very comfortable country house with spacious grounds (in later years the home of Mr. Charles Gairdner, of the Union Bank, to whom was entrusted the winding-up of the affairs of the Western Bank), belonged to the Pollok family, and princely hospitality was dispensed within its walls. Click here to learn more about the Polloks.

At these friendly dinners, keen curlers would discuss with animation the progress and finish of the day's games, and invariably the evening would close with a few rubbers of whist.  A walk to the curling pond was part of the ladies' programme, and the exciting "Soop it up” and all the vocabulary of the "roaring" game, gave us a pleasant participation in the victory of the winning side.

The staid and dignified old butler maintained a countenance of the utmost gravity as he handed round the dishes to his old cronies, his master's honoured guests, for the laird's rink included several of the village worthies, and all were invited.  He never allowed the under-butler to place the principal dishes on the table as these were of generous proportions and consequently heavy for the old man to carry. His mistress sighed with relief as the lordly dishes were safely deposited.

On these festive occasions the young members of the household were always present, and it was long before I learned the secret of an almost inaudible whisper as the old man filled each glass with the appropriate wine and came in turn to the young daughter of the house.  Not for worlds would he have passed her by, but the enigmatical whisper, as he bent down and made a show of filling her glass, was " Dinna tak' it. Miss Mary, dinna tak it!" And as often as this amusing comedy was repeated, the wine was as decorously declined.”



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