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The Schoolhouse, Ednam

John Gibson Smith was the schoolmaster in Ednam from 1834 unti 1864

John Gibson Smith, though not a native of Ednam, (he was born in Biggar in 1816) came to Ednam as its schoolmaster in 1834 where he quickly earned the respect of the children and their parents. He was an excellent teacher and, as his predecessor had been a failure, the community welcomed this strict but popular newcomer. His reputation was such that some 20 to 30 children chose to travel from Kelso daily to attend his school. He had two great hobbies – gardening and poetry – about both he was very knowledgeable. He is reputed to have been a cheery, happy man yet many of his poems are rather sombre and belie this image of him. In 1862, "The Old Graveyard," a 240 page volume of his poems was published In the 1851 census he is listed as "widower". Research indicates that he married Wilhelmina Thomson in 1834 (the year in which he became Ednam's schoolmaster, and sadly Wilhelmina died in 1841. Although only aged 18 at the time of his appointment he was already highly educated and had held positions of responsibility. In 1851 he married Mary Waddell from Oban and had a large family of 8 children.

Because of ill-health John Smith resigned as schoolmaster and the family emigrated to Invercargill in New Zealand .The eight children - John Gibson Smith born in 1852; Christian Macdonald Smith 2/5/54; Mary Ann Smith 7/2/56; Jane Graham Smith 6/9/57; James Waddell Smith 23/6/59; David Mcrae Smith 1/12/61; William Chrichton Smith 2/1/64. Seven of his eight childrenof were born in Ednam. Their last child, Margaret Jamieson Smith 11/12/66 was born in New Zealand. Many of his children became teachers also. In New Zealand he continued to wrie much more poetry in his spare time. He is buried, with his wife Mary, at Eastern Cemetery, Invercargill, New Zealand.


The Late John Gibson Smith His funeral service in Invercargill New Zealand

The funeral of the late J. G. Smith took place on Friday afternoon, and, although the weather was extremely boisterous, a large number of citizens assembled to pay their last respects to one who had been for so many years a prominent figure amongst them. Old residents, those familiar with the town and its people since it first had a "local habitation and ft name," were represented by not a few faces that have been familiar on its street* for the past quarter of a century and more. The members of the present Education Board, in whose service the deceased had spent the last twelve year* of his life, attended in a body, having adjourned the meeting of that day and closed the offices in order that they and their officials might pay the last tribute to their late treasurer and colleague. The Rev. G. Lindsay, of St. Paul´s, conducted very impressively the simpie Presbyterian service in the house and at the grave, and the coffin was borne from the house to the hearse, and from the hearse to the "narrow house appointed for all living," by Mr James Smith (son), Mr Alex. Lindsay (son-in-law), and Messrs John Neill, J. A. Mitchell, V. B. Scandrett, and Robert Gilmour, old friends of the departed and of the family. After the grave had been filled in, the chief mourners and pallbearers placed upon the little mound a large number of beautiful wreaths and floral devices, the gifts of friends, and that had previously graced the coffin — a befitting conclusion to the obsequies of one who had for a long lifetime been passionately fond of flowers, and of every soft and loveable feature of Nature.

At St. Paul´s yesterday morning Mr Lindsay took the last verse of the Book of Daniel, and preached therefrom a very appropriate and earnest sermon. In the prayers h« also made special reference to the deceased and to the bereaved family ; while the hymns selected were full of expressions applicable to the occasion, and after the Benediction the choir sang the hymn beginning, "Days and moments quickly flying." At the end of his discourse Mr Lindsay said : — "ln closing I wish to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of the late Mr J. G. Smith. Although for some years past, through declining health, he had not been able to take advantage of the sanctuary services, yet to some of the older members of this congregation his reverent appearance as a worshipper within these walls will be easily recalled. Mr Smith was a man of unblemished character. There was a kind thoughtfulness about his disposition that made him greatly esteemed as a friend. Especially did his literary tastes and ability make his friendship sought after by those who could value the stores of knowledge which he was ever ready to unfold to them in prose or verse. There was a sunniness of temperament and buoyancy of spirit in his nature that showed itself up to the very last.. One could not feel otherwise than cheerful and happy in his company. In these later days his mind often went back te his earlier years ; to the Psalms and Paraphrases and Scripture passages, learnt in the long ago, which he would at times repeat to those about him, One of his last utterances to me was a reference to the Sabbath morning Bible class — an expression of satisfaction with the good attendance. I cannot do better than close this brief reference to our departed friend by reciting a few of his own verses, entitled Unchangeable, Unchanging Thou"

The brightest gem this world contain,
Will turn to vile and worthless clay,
The fairest flower that stars the plain,
Will pale its beauty in decay.
The mighty monarch of the wood
Its lofty head will lowly bow,
Earth´s glories all shall fade away
Unchangeable. Unchanging Thou

The star that shed their twinkling light
Will from the vault of azure fall,
The sun his radiant beams shall hide
And gloom and darkness cover all.
The heavens themselves shall pass away,
The crown bereft from nature's brow;
Mount, stream, and sea shall cease to be,
Unchangeable, Unchanging Thou.

And man his empires rise and fall
Where cities stood the desert reigns,
His Gods are sepulchred in dust
And silence fa11s his sacred fanes.
Change is the note that time hath rung
From the Creation´s dawn till now
But ´mid the wreck, one rock remains,
Unchangeable, Unchanglng Thou

When doubts and fears obscure the soul,
With peace and joy away have fled
When thought, like ocean waves, is tossed,
When hope is dark, and faith is dead.
One star is there— it shines on high
And gems the night's refulgent brow
One star — the word — the truth sublime,
Unchangeable, Unchanging Thou.

John Gibson Smith - schoolmaster - Obituary

The announcement in another column of the decease of Mr John G. Smith, treasurer to the Southland Education Board, will take many people by surprise, for although he had reached a ripe age yet his wellknown figure was constantly to be seen at his post in the Education Board's office. About a month ago, however, he had to ask for leave of absence in consequence of feeling unwell, and during the past, fortnight he has been confined to his room. The cause of death was rather natural decay than disease. He suffered no pain, and his intellectual faculties were bright and vigorous to the last. In conversation with his medical adviser and an intimate friend a day or two ago he was quoting from Burns and Hogg with a memory as perfect as that of either of his listeners.

Mr Smith was a native of Tweedside, and as a boy he made rapid progress at school and soon thoroughly mastered the Greek and Latin languages. To these he subsequently added a knowledge of French, German and Italian. He chose the profession of a teacher, and after occupying various responsible positions he was appointed to the headmastership of the parish school of Ednam in Scotland. This position he filled with the utmost success, and it was only on account of ill-health and at the earnest solicitation of a relative that he vacated it and came to New Zealand. He arrived in Invercargill in l864, and although a stranger in a strange land (for those on whom he relied had left the town) he put a stout heart to a stey brae, and successfully brought up a large family. His first public appointment in this colony was to the mastership of the Longbush school. Here he enjoyed the pleasures of a rustic life to his heart's content.

He next received the appointment of secretary to the Southland Education Board on the separation of this district from Otago when the Education Act of 1878 came into force. About six years ago, owing to the great increase of work, he resigned the secretaryship and had since performed the duties of treasurer to the Board. Mr Smith was not unknown in the literary world, having published a work on the Ancient Manners, Customs, and Amusements of the Scottish Borders, and in 1861 he published a volume of poetry which added to the author's reputation. He was a constant contributor to various periodicals in the Home Country and all the poetry which he wrote in the land of his adoption made its first appearance in the Otago Witness, where it was always welcomed by those from his native land. In 1851 Mr Smith married Miss Mary Waddell, eldest daughter of Mr James Waddell, of Oban. He is survived hy his wife and family, all of whom are grown up. Mr Smith rendered good service to the Southlaud Horticultural Society as a committeeman in bygone years, was often a contributor to its exhibitions and frequently fulfilled to the satisfaction of all the arduous duties of judge. The deceased gentleman was to his intimate friends a link between the present and past generations.

He remembered the Disruption of 1845 and the memorable clay when the ministers, headed by the Rev. Dr Chalmers, gave up their benefices for the sake of their principles, ami entered the Free Church of Scotland. At this time he was an elder of the Established Church at Ednam. Earlier than this event was the passing of the Reform Act of I83-, which extended the franchise to many of Scotland's yeomanry and citizens. The registration of voters under tiiat Act created a good deal of excitement and interest, and strenuous efforts were made, both by Whig and Tory, to secure the enrolment of the names of those favourable to their respective parties. Mr Smith's name was one of the first enrolled, and he has often interested and amused his circle by recounting the incidents of the first election under that Act. He has now passed away at a ripe old age, leaving behind him, besides his immediate relatives, a large number of friends who sincerely regret his demise. He was a sterling friend, an unassuming educated gentleman, and indeed a grand old man.

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