« PreviousContinue »
THOMAS CHALMERS, D.D., LL.D.
BIRTHPLACE-GENEALOGY-CHILDHOOD COLLEGE LIFE-LICENSE.
Two hundred years ago the small borough towns which stud the south-east coast of the county of Fife were flourishing seaports, their numerous dye-works, and malt-steeps, and saltpans, giving token of a busy internal industry, while they carried on a large and profitable trade with Holland, France, and Spain. Anstruther, one of these towns, had not reached its highest point of prosperity when James Melville was its minister; and yet he tells us, that when, in 1588, a public collection was made for the French Refugee Protestants, 500 merks-one-twentieth part of what the whole of Scotland contributed-was raised in Anstruther and the three small landward parishes which at that time were annexed to it. The union, first of the two crowns, and afterwards of the two kingdoms, opened up the intercourse with France to Scotland's wealthier neighbour, and cut off that coasting contraband * See Autobiography and Diary of James Melville, p. 265. VOL. I.
trade, as well as that exporting of malt and salt to England, in which Anstruther, and the other Fifeshire seaports, were extensively engaged. Under the many depressing influences to which during the course of last century they were subjected, their commercial prosperity waned away almost to extinction. They were however destined, during that very period, to win a far higher distinction than they lost; for to three of them, and these lying within a few miles of each other along the coast, belongs the honour of having given birth to three of the most distinguished of Scotsmen; Kirkaldy having been the birthplace of Dr. Adam Smith, Largo of Sir John Leslie, and Anstruther of the subject of this Memoir.
With the county of Fife Dr. Chalmers' family had for some generations been connected. His great-grandfather, Mr. James Chalmers, son of John Chalmers, laird of Pitmedden, was ordained as minister of the parish of Elie in the year 1701. In the following year he married Agnes Merchiston, daughter of the Episcopal Clergyman of Kirkpatrick-Juxta, who had been ejected from his living at the period of the Revolution. Undistinguished by any superiority of talent, the simple kindliness of Mr. Chalmers' disposition endeared him to his parishioners, and there still lingers in the neighbourhood a remembrance of the familiar and affectionate intercourse which was carried on between minister and people. What the minister himself wanted in energy was amply made up by the vigorous activity of his wife. Brought up in the school of adversity, she had learned the lesson of a most thrifty economy. The estate of Radernie, purchased by her savings out of a slender income, which had to bear the burden of twelve children's education, still remains in the possession of one of her descendants, while in the after history of more than one member of her family the care with which she had watched over their infancy and education brought forth its pleasant fruits. Her