Browse Category Hands Across The Sea


My family has had a long connection with Dalserf, ever since the fourteenth century when King Robert the Bruce gave the lands to my ancestor, Walter Fitzgilbert, as a reward for his faithful services.

The focal point of the village is the handsome church, built in 1655 and to this day, a living place of worship as well as a picturesque landmark.

I am therefore delighted that Mrs O’Niell is writing this book, which will provide a vivid record of life in Dalserf throughout the centuries.


‘Hands across the sea, my dear,’ replied Mrs Greenhill. ‘Hands across the sea.’ Teacup in hand, she smiled and shrugged a bit as if to say, ‘It’s as simple as that.’

I had asked Mrs Greenhill why the entire village of Dalserf, Scotland, had turned out for the wedding of two strangers from Texas. After all, she was there when my husband Charles and I married in Dalserf Parish Church in 1985. Ten years later, Mrs Greenhill offered her explanation at a tea party my mother and I were giving at the Popinjay Hotel in Rosebank. But what exactly had she meant by ‘hands across the sea’? All I could think of was World War I . . . Yanks and Brits . . . the song ‘Over There’. Our conversation shifted to another subject, but I never forgot her reply.

For our fifteenth wedding anniversary, Charles and I decided we should return to Scotland to renew our vows. After the ceremony, we gave a dinner party for the villagers at the Popinjay. When we walked into the dining room, a table laden with beautifully wrapped presents greeted us. What was going on? Our friends explained that it was our crystal anniversary, and that these were all gifts of crystal for us. We were overwhelmed.

Back home in Houston, I developed a few photographs taken at the party, copies of which I had promised to send to the villagers in a ‘small tape-bound booklet’. Then I thought, why not include some of the wedding pictures, especially the one of the whole village, with the men in their kilts and the women in their hats? What about a picture of the stained glass windows in Dalserf church, the ones that had been dedicated to the memory of my grandfather? Maybe I should include his photograph as well, since he had emigrated from the village in 1905, just a lad of thirteen. Staring at his picture in a World War I uniform, I started wondering: What was it like for him to sail to America? And what did he leave behind in Dalserf? What did he see as he walked around the village back then? Where did he go to school? What was it like for his father to work as a coal miner? What did his family have for breakfast—and dinner? He had never spoken of any of these things.

The impossibility of ever answering these questions (my grandfather died in 1962) saddened and frustrated me. Then one day I called the Lanark Gazette about reproducing a newspaper photograph of our wedding for the ‘booklet’. During our conversation I casually asked the chief reporter, ‘You don’t know anything about mining in the Dalserf area around 1900, do you?’ ‘Yes, quite a bit,’ he replied, promising to write a short story describing the life of a miner. He also referred me to a book on mining, and when I called the publisher in Ayr to order it, the person who answered the telephone just happened to be an author—an agricultural expert who knew all about fruit growing in the Clyde Valley in my grandfather’s time. It turned out that the author of the mining book was actually a friend of his—would I like his address? And would I like a lead on a collection of old photographs of coal miners?

It seemed that a local historian had bequeathed his photograph collection to a new mining museum in Coalburn. The man who volunteered to organise the pictures for the museum was also the publisher of a magazine on Clydesdale horses, which he and his wife bred and showed.

And so began an article on the magnificent animals indigenous to the Clyde Valley. I began to believe that, with the help of writers in Scotland, it would be possible to recreate the Dalserf my grandfather knew.

Life, of course, intervened. The tragedy of the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, and then the unexpected death of my mother in 2002, brought messages and flowers from our Scottish friends. Our eighteen-year-old nephew Austin died in 2003, just two months after he told Charles and me how much he wanted to go to Scotland with us. When I called the minister of Dalserf Parish Church for solace, I began to understand the meaning of ‘hands across the sea’.

Meanwhile, my Scottish project slowly moved forward, espe­cially during the two years we spent remodelling our house in Houston. Happily, that challenging event allowed us to use stained glass from Dalserf Parish Church in our kitchen window. I began gathering vintage photographs to accompany the articles. Then I asked everyone I could think of who knew my grandfather to write about their memo­ries of him. The librarian at Ellis Island encouraged me to tell my grandfather’s story, and so I asked him to contribute an article about the emigration process. The word book had stealthily replaced booklet in my conversation. As I organised the pictures and proofread the articles, I continued to gather more material.

Our friends in Dalserf and Edinburgh, experts in their fields, proved to be major contributors to my understanding of what life was like at the turn of the century in that wee village. The minister, a scholar at heart, wrote about religion, and his wife, a head teacher, wrote about education. A great friend, who had overseen the installation of the church windows in memory of my grandfather, wrote about the architecture of the period. In the mail came his original pencil sketches of the old buildings as well as a pastel painting of the Clyde Valley. An essay on the sport of curling, recipes from church teas, and an oral interview with a villager born in 1899 added to the picture of what my grandfather left behind. The story of the village in antique maps, written by the son of my first Scottish friend, gave me a sense of place made visible through time.

One map I wanted to reproduce in the book was an old ­Ordnance Survey map, so I called the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in Glasgow for permission to use it. The director unexpectedly answered. Having volunteered to research the landscape of Dalserf, beginning with the geology of the area, he later explained his enthusiasm: ‘It seemed like the nice thing to do—and I like to write about landscape.’ When the minister of Dalserf church sent me a book on Anne, 3rd Duchess of Hamilton, I got in touch with the author through her publisher. She immediately responded and agreed to write an article about Anne’s relationship to the church. In what we both considered a hands-across-the-sea gesture, she resourcefully and energetically tracked down the mysterious original donor of the 1895 stained glass windows.

Boldly, I asked the editor of Scottish Field magazine to write about wildlife, but instead he offered to write about Baronald, the manor house built by his family around 1890. In modern times, Baronald became known as the Cartland Bridge Hotel, the place where, coincidentally, Charles and I had held our wedding reception. The ­editor eventually referred me to a wildlife writer in Edinburgh who not only wrote an article, but also educated me about the beautiful antique prints of birds and animals at the Natural History Museum in London. Meanwhile, a reporter in ­Glasgow, who had written a story for the Sunday Post about my family’s ties with Dalserf, ­offered to contribute a piece on daily life in the village when my grandfather lived there.

Wondering what transportation in Dalserf was like in bygone days, I located an archivist with Strathmore Transport. An independent historian about to ­retire, he expanded on that subject to include how my grandfather’s family would have travelled to ­America, and researched the actual ocean voyage as well as the ship that took them there. The author of the piece on nineteenth-­century Scottish music also found the illustrated ­covers of sheet music of the ­period for me, and even made sense of some indistinct ­Scottish songs sung by my family years ago. ­Ultimately, every question I had was ­answered by enthusiastic, kind, and ­talented people in the UK. Finally, all the ­articles and all the images had been ­assembled.

But what to call the book? It should have been obvious, but I suppose I needed it spelled out for me. One day, while leaning on a glass counter in an antique shop in Houston, I looked down and saw a postcard from World War I. Embroidered in silk was an image of two hands clasped beneath a British and an American flag. The caption? ‘Hands Across the Sea’. I surrendered to the inevitability of that title. Then I became curious about the origin of the phrase. The earliest reference I could find was a John Philip Sousa march called ‘Hands Across the Sea’, composed in 1899, when my grandfather was seven years old. Evidently Sousa was inspired by the line ‘Let us swear an eternal friendship.’ But I was determined to find out exactly what Mrs Greenhill meant that day at the Popinjay, when she echoed the words on the postcard.

When I called her, Mrs Greenhill said that ‘hands across the sea’ did bring back memories of wartime, when American boys came over to fight and help them out. And, as I found out when compiling the book, the saying did reflect a historical relationship between the two countries: an ongoing affection for Americans felt by people in the UK and, on our part, a love for our mother country. But Mrs Greenhill was talking about how excited the villagers were when they learned that Charles and I were coming all the way from America to their little village to be married. There had never been anything like it before in Dalserf. And since we had invited no one from home to come to our wedding, all the villagers wanted to come together that day to be there for us. ‘Hands across the sea’, in Mrs Greenhill’s heartfelt words, meant that ‘we did not want you to be alone on your wedding day.’

This book is an acknowledgement of that friendship, a gift from the heart to all our Scottish friends, for adopting us as their ‘own Charles and Diana—from Texas’.

Diana O’Niell

Houston, Texas

May 2006

A Glorious Day

Diana O’Niell

The story of Charles and Diana’s wedding in Scotland began one summer night in a telephone conversation between the engaged couple. Where to have a small, quiet ceremony, with just the two of us? How to avoid all the fuss and stress of a big wed­ding? Not in Houston, Texas, my home town and where we both lived. Not in New Orleans, where Charles was born and grew up. So, with my sense of the absurd, I mentioned to Charles the far-fetched idea of marrying in my grandfather’s church in Scotland, which was over 3,000 miles away.

To my surprise, Charles, who as a geologist routinely used his creativity to find oil in unlikely places, had no trouble in making the leap from absurdity to reality. He liked the idea: ‘Let’s do it!’ Then both of us began to sense the romance and excitement of going to the tiny village of Dalserf, Scotland. The modest yet historic old church, which my mother and I had visited on a trip a few years back, would be the perfect place for an intimate, low-key wedding. The anonymity appealed to us as well. After all, no one in Dalserf would remember my family, since my grandfather had emigrated in 19o5—and this was eighty years later.

Soon Charles had found out exactly how to get married in Scotland: the forms, the fees, the timing. We had to post banns (sounded mysterious). We had to have premarital counselling (at ages forty and forty-four!) from the minister. Wait a minute—we had to find a minister. We called Edinburgh for John Craig, whom my mother and I had met at Dalserf Parish Church on our trip, and he persuaded his good friend the Reverend Donald Macdonald to perform the ceremony. We next called the church and reserved the date of 3 August with the Reverend Dr D. Cameron McPherson. We made the decision to invite no one; it would be just the two of us, that was all. Well, we did say that Cameron could announce the wedding in church and ask the villagers to come (how many were there—five or six or so?). Cameron and his wife Sharon offered to help us in any way they could, even though they had never met us. So we also asked Sharon to book a place for a small reception and to order a cake for us. I bought a dress and planned a three-week honey­moon in Scotland.

We thought no more about our quiet little wedding until we flew to Edinburgh and got settled in at the Caledonian Hotel. Walking down the Royal Mile, we came to the shop of antique-map dealer Carson Clark, who had befriended my mother and me on our previous trip. After I introduced him to Charles, we invited Carson and his son Paul to the wedding. The next day we drove to Dalserf—Charles for the first time—in order to finally meet Sharon, who lived at the manse. But where was it? As we proceeded down the lane that leads to the church, no one was about. We knocked on one of the colourful painted doors of the seventeenth-century cottages. A man named Andrew ­Newlands opened the door and said, ‘You must be Charles and Diana. The villagers are all in town buying a wedding present for you. We’re going to have your wedding videotaped, too, but it’s supposed to be a ­surprise.’ Charles and I gave each other a ‘What’s going on?’ look and asked for ­directions to the manse.

When we arrived at Dalserf Manse, Sharon had tea ready for us upstairs in the drawing room, which overlooked a storybook vista: the lush wooded hills of the Clyde Valley, with the green fields of Dalserf glebe in the foreground. From its agricultural bounty in times gone by, the glebe had provided ­income for the ministers at Dalserf. In the nineteenth century, the side window of the drawing room would have allowed a glimpse of the baronial towers of Mauldslie Castle, nestled in the trees. After offering us a cup of tea, Sharon presented us with an album she had made with a sample of the wedding invitations she had mailed to all the villagers, along with their ­formal handwritten replies. There was a photograph of the Cartland Bridge Hotel, where she thought we might have our reception. As we were chatting, villager Betty Grove came up the driveway carrying the rather large wedding cake she had baked. After she left, Sharon took us to see the Cartland Bridge Hotel, then to Larkhall to meet the photographer and the florist who had helped with her own wedding. Sharon insisted on decorating the church herself, with daisies and yellow chrysanthemums. We just followed right along after Sharon, who had planned the entire event as a surprise for Charles and me. This was too good to be true; it was, after all, Wednesday—three days before the wedding.

On Thursday we had to go to Larkhall to pick up our marriage schedule, and we noticed our names on banns (a public wedding announcement) posted in a window. We talked to an official there who gave us the document, but only after much consternation over how to describe the minister’s occupation. After a ­telephone call to Mr Macdonald, he decided on ‘principal clerk to the General ­Assembly of the Church of Scotland (retired)’. We drove to Hamilton to hand-­deliver the marriage schedule to Mr Macdonald, wondering what form our ­‘counselling’ was going to take. We need not have worried, because he put us at ease at once when he made several of his renowned jokes. Mr Macdonald was charming and witty, and treated us like old friends.

We then drove to Rosebank to meet Cameron and Sharon, her parents and aunt, and his ­father at the Popinjay Hotel for lunch. Referring to our new friendship, the elder McPherson said, ‘This is what life is all about, isn’t it?’ All of a sudden the press arrived at the Popinjay. A reporter and a photographer from the Glasgow Daily Record wanted an interview with Charles and me about our romantic story. They asked the entire party to go to Dalserf village for a group picture. Sharon’s parents produced a huge forty-eight-star American flag they had in Guernsey during World War II to use as a backdrop for the photograph. The following morning, Charles and I scrambled from the Caledonian to the nearest newspaper stand and bought a stack of papers, causing the vendor to exclaim, ‘I’m aghast!’

On Friday night, we gave a dinner party for the participants in the wedding at the Preston­field House Hotel in Edinburgh. Like Dalserf Parish Church, the building dates from the seventeenth century. In the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, the three-storey white façade provided a historic background for the peacocks strutting on the lawn. We ordered from outsize menus while having drinks in the lounge. Dinner was served in an elegant room that might have been in a private home. There were silver candelabra with black candles, and yellow ­flowers down the centre of the mahogany table. After many toasts to our happiness, we returned to the Caledonian. We slept well that night, feeling that we had made new friends and were in good hands for the wedding tomorrow.

On Saturday we awoke and Charles asked me how I felt. Then I asked him. We both felt great—and ordered a traditional Scottish breakfast (ham, eggs, tomatoes) from room service. Our room looked out on Edinburgh Castle, and was decorated some time ago in faded green silk and dark, highly polished furniture. Although the weather was sunny and warm, in deference to the vagaries of Scottish weather, I remember using several applications of hairspray ­before we left the hotel. Charles chose the scenic route to Dalserf—through the Clyde Valley, the ‘Garden of Scotland’. The River Clyde glimmered through the trees as we drove alongside its path on that beautiful August day.

When we arrived at Dalserf, Charles dropped me off at the manse and then went on to Robert and Rose-May Clarkson’s house to change. Time started speeding up for me when Peter and Mary Wilson arrived to collect Sharon (now my maid of honour) and me in their silver BMW decorated with streamers and flowers. As we approached the village, we saw garlands of British flags draped across the lane, and the forty-eight-star American flag on the old stone wall ahead. When we stopped in front of the church, Willie Knox opened the car door for me, exposing (to my astonishment) the flashing cameras of newspaper photographers. I felt like a movie star, or perhaps a princess. Bagpipes played while Willie escorted me to the church door. People were buzzing all around, and posted next to the church I saw a small UK flag from the 1981 royal wedding, on which was inscribed ‘our own’ Charles and Diana.

At the door, Mr Macdonald took my arm and walked me down the aisle of Dalserf Parish Church as the organist Moira Kerr played the ‘Trumpet Voluntary’ by Jeremiah Clarke. Charles and his best man, John Craig, were standing at the altar. The ceremony began. We sang the Twenty-third Psalm and ‘Love Divine, All Love Excelling’. We promised to love and obey, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health—but Charles was so emotional that he could not look at me during the entire ceremony. We listened to a reading from Corinthians and said the Lord’s Prayer. Then Sharon sang ‘O Perfect Love, All Human Thought Transcending’, while Mr Macdonald, Charles and I went outside to the exterior stairs leading to the second-storey vestry. There we signed the marriage schedule. It was official!

When we re-entered the church, Mr Macdonald invited the congregation to the Cartland Bridge Hotel for the reception. Moira played Mendelssohn’s ‘Wedding March’ as Charles and I tried to leave the church together, but we were stopped by a smattering of rain, even though the sun never stopped shining. Some thoughtful person provided Charles with an umbrella, and we went into the churchyard where, standing on the stairs, little boys in kilts scattered rose petals over us. ‘Scotland the Brave’, played on the bagpipes, provided the soundtrack for  this classic scene. Our guests watched intently as the newspapers took more ­pictures—including one of me receiving the traditional kiss from the piper Tom Fleming.

On the grounds of the Cartland Bridge Hotel, I finally saw how many ­people had turned out for the wedding: close to sixty! The entire village had come! In front of the nineteenth-century manor house, several men were dressed in their kilts, and most of the women were wearing hats embellished with flowers or feathers. Several wore gloves, a sight I had not seen for many years. Champagne was served on the gorgeous lawn in full sunlight, as the bridal party had photographs taken by Elizabeth Fraser. My very favourite picture is the one of almost all the people who attended the wedding. It was, as Anne ­Macdonald said more than once—and many years afterwards—­‘a glorious day’.

After the group photograph, everyone began chatting again and ambled towards the hotel, where Charles and I greeted our new Scottish friends as they entered the dining room. Sharon’s parents, Clarrie and Fred Jones, volunteered to be my ‘substitute’ mum and dad, and so I asked them to hold flat shoes for me in case I needed them later. After the guests were seated, Mr Macdonald guided us through ‘the first combined operation of [your] married life together’, cutting the wedding cake. Then followed a formal toast from everyone in the room: ‘To the bride and groom!’ When the applause subsided, we sat down but could not eat a thing because we were so excited, although we did notice the artistically garnished hog’s head on the buffet table. Mr Macdonald was as charming as ever, and called me the ‘fairy at the top of the Christmas tree’. He and John Craig suggested that Charles and I visit all of the tables, which we did, Charles offering ‘Glad to have you all here’ in his New Orleans accent.

After dinner, Charles and I were asked to sit with our backs against the fireplace so that we could face the entire group of wedding guests. Behind us, the mantel was banked with lavender and pink flowers, accented with slender cascading ribbons. Mr Macdonald took charge of the programme and commented that ‘The royal couple didn’t look happier.’ Then Charles spoke the traditional (and absolutely required) phrase that John Craig had coached him to say as a new husband: ‘On behalf of my wife and myself. . . .’ This was ­approved by vigorous clapping and cheering by all.

Mr Macdonald then presented the marriage schedule to the group and asked Sharon to file it in Larkhall—and told her to ‘pay the fee’, at which everyone laughed. He told us that it was ‘going into a big steel-and-concrete vault where it will be held in evidence against you’. He added that from now on, even in Houston, Texas, ‘our hearts are with them, and their hearts are with  us.’ Next, Charles, who claimed he did not want to be the centre of attention, gave a lovely speech about the background of our coming to Dalserf. He remarked that we, ‘in our wildest imagination, could never have anticipated such a warm reception. It’s like we live here—and we don’t feel like strangers.’ Charles then gave the traditional ‘toast to the bridesmaid’ to our matron of honour, Sharon McPherson. Claiming equal rights for women, I tried to express my gratitude as well, but was overcome with emotion and sat back down very quickly.

John Craig then complimented Sharon who, by planning the wedding, ‘added a gilt frame to this lovely picture’. John explained that ‘Sharon has spent a great deal of time and effort in organising this function. All the work was done here in Dalserf by Mr and Mrs McPherson.’ Cameron then spoke of the ‘unique and remarkable day’ that brought the whole community together. He mentioned some specific names of people who might heed the admonition to ‘love thy neighbour’, to which someone in the audience jokingly replied, ‘Rubbish!’ Laughter followed almost all of the remarks made at the party, particularly when Cameron spoke of a man who said, ‘My wife is a woman of few words, but she uses them rather often.’

What came next was really a surprise. Willie Knox, looking so debonair in his kilt, entered the room carrying a tray of something indistinct. From the other side of the room, Mrs ­Murray came forward to meet Willie so that she could present us with a plate painted with Scottish bluebells and inscribed with the particulars of our wedding day. Then I saw, still on the tray, a five-piece place setting of bone china decorated with the softest pale grey and cream-coloured roses. All I could say was, ‘Oh, no!’ in disbelief, and Charles repeated, ­‘Beautiful . . . beautiful, beautiful.’ Mrs Murray gently asked me, ‘Do you like Royal Doulton, my dear?’ and I replied, ‘Who doesn’t?’ We both thanked Mrs Murray—and all the villagers—for the lavish gift of six place settings, and then we both kissed her on the cheek. She smiled.

An unexpected array of entertainment followed, for this was a ceilidh—a party, Scottish-style. Tom Fleming set the tone with an evocative mini-concert expertly played on the bagpipes, inspiring the guests to clap and sing along. Next, costumed in a white nightgown, nightcap, and wire-rimmed spectacles, Peter Wilson entered the room with a lit candlestick in hand. He proceeded to deliver an energetic dramatisation of Robert Burns’s satirical poem ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’.

The local Burns scholar John Braithwaite made several pithy remarks, followed by the poet’s staccato fishing song ‘Hey, Ca’ Thro’ ’. Another Burns poem, the romantic ballad ‘A Red, Red Rose’, found exquisite expression in Sharon’s clear soprano voice. Changing the pace, Charlie Greenhill bravely performed a fluid yet precise Highland fling in his green plaid kilt and lace jabot. ‘You asked for it,’ he reminded me before beginning. ‘If I fall on the floor, just pick me up.’ And then Moira Kerr, who had accompanied Sharon and Charlie on the ­accordion, elicited enthusiastic applause by treating us all to a medley of Scottish tunes. She played the haunting ‘Annie Laurie’, as well as ‘The Keel Row’, ‘Dancing in Kyle’, ‘A Highland Lad’, and ‘The Bluebells of Scotland’. Once again, most of the guests sang along.

After that, the whole room sang ‘Flower of Scotland’, followed by that poignant song about Bonnie Prince Charlie, which everyone now sang to Charles and me, ‘Will Ye No Come Back Again?’ After we dried our tears, we went to the ballroom where a country band played, and Charles danced the first dance with me. We tried to learn some Scottish country dances—great fun, but really fast! At the end of the party, several of the women carried me over the threshold of the hotel, in humorous imitation of the traditional gesture of the bridegroom entering the house with his bride for the first time.

When the dance was over, more than eight hours after the wedding had begun, Charles and I registered at the hotel, where the clerk told me to ‘start as you mean to finish’, meaning that I could indeed sign my own name if I wanted to. When we got to our room, we both called our parents to tell them about the day. Then we ordered one round of roast beef sandwiches, and after we finished those, another round of the same. It had been a fairy-tale wedding that we never could have imagined, much less planned. It had been a fairy-tale wedding that seemed to fall out of the heavens and sweep us along with its picturesque detail. It had been a fairy-tale wedding that, like the mythical village of Brigadoon, just unexpectedly appeared full-blown from another time and place.

How could we not come back again?

Houston, Texas

February 2006

See “The Groom’s Toast”

The Village Doctor

Diana O’Niell

Apart from the minister and the schoolmaster, the most important person in Dalserf when Andrew Shaw lived there was the village doctor, John Rae Rogerson. Born 18 ­October 1859 in Lochrutton, near Dumfries, Kirdcudbright, he must have possessed a keen mind and an innate drive to succeed. Both qualities came into play in preparing for his medical career. In l887, he earned (with ‘lst Class Honours’) the triple diploma at the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. He was also a Licentiate of Midwifery, which would serve him well in his future rural practice in Dalserf. In l890, Dr. Rogerson became a Diplomate in Public Health and a Fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, with ‘high commendation’. This was no ordinary village doctor.

Nor did Dr Rogerson have an ordinary village wedding when, in 1894, he married Isabella Jones Wallace at the Windsor Hotel in Glasgow. One of his friends wrote a poem on that occasion describing the doctor as ‘a man whose heart is kind and loyal, and good, and true’. After the wedding, the couple moved into a ten-room house called Whinknowe, near the colliery settlement of Ashgillhead, in Dalserf Parish. The map on page 214 shows the house close by Manse Brae, where Andrew Shaw’s family lived, and not far from Dalserf village and the church. Only a few miles away from Whinknowe lay Larkhall, where Dr Rogerson treated ­patients in his consulting rooms at Charing Cross. He also met patients at a pub in Shawsburn called the Rat Pit, despite his wife’s objections.

The Rogersons had two daughters. The eldest, Lily, was born at Whinknowe in 1897. Sometime after the 1901 Census, the family moved up the road to a two-storey house on Smiddy Brae called Dumcrieff, shown in the picture postcard, stamped 1905, on the opposite page. The doctor stands next to his bicycle and Lily sits in a chair outside the entry gate. The second daughter, Honoria Isobel Margaret, was born at Dumcrieff in 1907.

Margaret married Grant Joaquin Mitchell, but Lily died before having the chance to marry. Janet Murray, an elderly villager, remembered the story like this: Lily had served as an ambulance driver in the First World War. When she returned to Dalserf, her parents gave her a new bicycle. One day, while riding in Manse Brae, she was accidentally thrown from the bicycle, fracturing her thigh bone and her upper-arm bone. Blood poisoning (septicaemia) developed, and she ultimately died in Glasgow, in 1920, at the age of twenty-three. Her parents blamed themselves for giving Lily the bicycle, and they often commiserated with Mrs Murray’s mother, whose own daughter Agnes had died in childbirth.

Despite this seemingly unbearable family tragedy, Dr Rogerson went on to spend his life ­taking care of others in Dalserf Parish. Mrs Murray recalled that he was a tall bearded gentleman, strong and well-built, with blue eyes and, in later years, grey hair that diminished with time. The Hamilton Advertiser described him as ‘a well-known athlete [who] took part in local sports, and did much to foster a love for all outdoor pastimes and exercise’. Indeed, the beloved doctor was ‘interested in everything that concerned the welfare of the parish’, concluded the Advertiser. The villagers of Dalserf depended on their neighbour at Dumcrieff who, according to Mrs Murray, rode his bicycle to patients’ houses all over the parish. Originally making his rounds on horseback, he became a ‘favourite visitor’ in Dalserf, Ashgill, Netherburn, and Rosebank.

The peripatetic doctor also travelled around Dalserf Parish performing his duties as a certified factory surgeon. Hired by factory inspectors, Dr Rogerson examined ‘children and young persons’ to make certain that ‘disease or bodily infirmity’ did not prevent their doing the work required in factories and workshops. When industrial accidents happened, his duty was to ­‘proceed thither with the least possible delay’, treat the injuries, make a full investigation, and send the report to the inspector. He was also in charge when cases of lead, phosphorus, and ­‘arsenical’ poisoning—or, heaven forbid, anthrax—occurred in a factory.

The Lanarkshire mines, where the men in Andrew Shaw’s family worked, needed the doctor’s services in a more urgent and dramatic way. As surgeon for Longlee and other collieries, Dr Rogerson rushed to the miners’ homes after they had been brought back from the pits with legs broken by falling coal or by unsafe equipment. Deaths at the nearby collieries required his official examination and subsequent documentation. One account in the Lanarkshire, in December 1896, described a tragic incident at No. 1 Pit at Cornsilloch Colliery:

Ninnes [a miner], who worked at the Splint coal seam, had been preparing a shot, while another man working near him had one ready at the same time. After setting fire to the shots, both retired some distance away. One was heard to go off, and Ninnes, concluding that it was his own, went to see how successful it had been. The explosion, however, had been in the other man’s, and Ninnes’ own going off while he was going into the place, he got the full force of the shot about the head and chest. He was found lying half buried among the coal brought down. . . . Dr Rogerson, who examined the body afterwards . . . was of the opinion that death must have been instantaneous.

Less dramatic, but surely at times no less tragic, was Dr Rogerson’s work in public health. The local government board appointed Dr Rogerson the parochial medical officer and public vaccinator for Dalserf. In the latter capacity, it fell to him to make certain that children received their smallpox vaccinations before the age of six months by making house calls at the parents’ request. Several days after the initial visit, the doctor would return to the child’s home expecting to find a blister at the vaccination site, indicating the success of the procedure. To qualify for the post of medical officer, Dr Rogerson had to practise both medicine and surgery; he could retain this job until he died, resigned or was proven insane. The local government board paid the doctor a regular salary, plus set fees for certain cases such as compound fractures, amputations and hernia operations. In extraordinary circumstances, such as a difficult childbirth, he could be paid more. But if the patient did not survive the operation by thirty-six hours, only half the fees were paid.

As the medical officer of Dalserf and Shawsburn, Dr Rogerson also had the duty of giving information to the board about any pauper under his care. People classified as ‘pauper lunatics’ were examined by the doctor in order to decide if they should be detained in workhouses, or if about to be sent to an asylum, whether or not they could be moved in safety. Any such person not in an asylum or licensed house was required to be visited by the doctor once a quarter.

Another of the doctor’s official duties as medical officer was to sign birth certificates, which he did for Andrew Shaw in 1892. His signature also appears on death certificates, including those of Andrew’s grandparents James (1899) and Agnes (1918), and that of the minister of Dalserf church, his good friend Dr Rorison (1907). But of course it was from birth to death that Dr Rogerson’s help really mattered to the villagers. He went to patients’ homes to deliver babies, although most babies were born with the assistance of midwives. He removed tonsils—and even pulled teeth. Villager Alex Brown remembered that, without the use of anaesthetic, the doctor would pin the struggling patient to the floor while extracting the aching tooth with pliers. He also prescribed quaint remedies, such as a daily spoonful of port wine for anaemia.

Medical care was also given by two nurses who likewise travelled by bicycle, recalled Mrs Murray. One was the general district nurse for Dalserf Parish, Nurse Perry, whose duties ­included midwifery. The other, Nurse Freebody, worked for Lord Newlands, who retained her services for the inhabitants and employees of Mauldsie Castle at Rosebank. She was, however, at liberty to help the villagers of Rosebank and Dalserf when she was needed. Dr Rogerson himself attended the first and the second Lord Newlands as their private physician.

For serious medical problems, patients could go to four general hospitals in Glasgow, where ambulances at that time were horse-drawn. In 1901, when a smallpox epidemic in Glasgow threatened the safety of patients in the city hospitals, some county hospitals were ‘set aside for smallpox alone’. One of these was located near Larkhall, southeast of Burnhead, in a copse of trees on the Monkey Road, according to Mrs Murray’s son John.

The Dalserf Fever Hospital, as it was called, can be seen on the 1898 Ordnance Survey Map as ‘Dalserf Hospital (Infectious Diseases)’. In 1901, it was dedicated solely to the treatment of smallpox for over a month. Six patients were admitted: one died and the other five were discharged, probably by Dr Rogerson, who was on the staff at the hospital. The isolation of ­infected patients in the county hospitals meant that smallpox had a ‘comparatively slight hold [on] the County of Lanark’, stated the Annual Report of Medical Officer. However, although only six cases of smallpox were reported in Dalserf Parish (pop. 4,088) in 1901, there were over a hundred cases of scarlet fever and enteric (typhoid) fever that year. Those diseases, along with measles, caused some schools to be closed for as long as six weeks.

In addition to fever hospitals, another example of specialisation was the tuberculosis hospital, reported John Murray. At a time when antibiotics were not available, these hospitals provided patients with the healthy diet and fresh air thought to encourage recovery. But for their day-to-day medical care, the villagers in Dalserf relied on local midwives, on Nurses Perry and Freebody, and on their dedicated medical practitioner, Dr John Rogerson. The good doctor was still living in Dalserf at Dumcrieff when he died on 7 December 1933 at the age of seventy-four, having taken care of the villagers—including Andrew Shaw—for the greater part of his life.

Houston, Texas

February 2006

Education in Dalserf Parish

Sharon McPherson

Andrew Shaw began his education at Dalserf Public School in August 1896, when he was four years old. He left school at the end of December 1905, at the age of thirteen. What was that experience like for him? Detailed descriptions of education in the various parishes of Scotland, written by the clergy, can be found in the Statistical Accounts of 1791, 1840, and 1950. But even though the specific period we are interested in falls between the last two works, the section on education in Dalserf Parish in the Statistical Account of 1840 does give us some interesting background, setting the scene for us.

In 1840, Dalserf Parish School was described as being like the church in that it was inconveniently placed for the population, but it was well attended as it was the only school in the parish. The schoolmaster was required to be qualified to teach English reading and grammar, writing, arithmetic, bookkeeping, practical mathematics, and Latin. He also had to have attended college for two or three sessions. In the parish school there were also young people learning Greek and French. The Bible was a standard teaching book in the school, and the catechism was regularly taught and explained. There were other school books ‘of proper kinds, and the mode of teaching . . . [was] in course of improvement’. The parish schoolmaster, who was also Dalserf Parish Church session clerk and the collector of the poor’s rate, received an annual salary of L. 34, 4s. 4d. (£34.22 approximately). He also had a house and garden ‘of dimensions and extent required by law’.

Government aid was needed in order to maintain teaching standards in the fee-based private schools, which included those schools overseen by the Kirk. The writers of the Account commented that it would be a pity if these aided schools were not placed under the -superintendence of the Established Church because it had long experience and proven ability. Eventually, however, many private schools became State-controlled.

The Kirk’s ‘proven ability’ and dedication to providing each child with an education was evident. The parish schoolmaster was to teach all ‘pauper children’, and the Kirk session paid for those whose parents were unable to pay as they didn’t want any child ‘left untaught from want of means’. Parents undoubtedly wanted their children to benefit from education, but poor families often had to take their children out of school so they could work to earn a wage. To compensate, ‘any deficiency of this kind [was] in general afterwards supplied by attendance on weekday evening and Sabbath schools.’ There were three well-attended Sabbath schools, and as a result ‘the number of young people . . . who cannot read, more or less, is very small,’ reported the Account.

There was a public library in the parish of Dalserf, the books being kept in the school. The stone school building that still stands in Manse Brae was built in the 1860s at a cost of £463.

It has now been made into three dwellings which adjoin the schoolmaster’s house, and there is a modern bungalow in what was once the school playground. This building is next door to the cottage where Andrew Shaw grew up; I wonder if he was ever late?

Andrew’s neighbour was the schoolmaster, William Sim, who began his long teaching career at Dalserf school in 1870, ultimately becoming headmaster in 1881. From the time of the 1840 Statistical Account to the 1890s, the curriculum had expanded to include singing, drawing, ‘experimental science’, and ‘repetition’. The girls learned ‘cookery, laundry work, dairying, &c.’ By 1892, the year Andrew was born, the average attendance at Dalserf school was 147 out of a roll of 230, but by November 1893 the average attendance had risen to 196. Back then, it was not uncommon for parents to be fined five shillings for failing to educate their children. But what could mothers and fathers do when, in 1895, a measles epidemic caused the school to be closed for four weeks? The headmaster recorded the plight of the ‘scholars’ and teachers in the school log book, pictured below.

Mr Sim retired in 1914, and when he died three years later, in 1917, an entry in the school log dated 7 March noted: ‘School closed in the afternoon. The teachers [and] pupils attended the funeral of Mr Sim, who had been master here for 45 years.’ The Hamilton Advertiser praised the educator in an obituary:

DALSERF. William Sim, F.E.I.S., Whinknowe. . . . enjoyed the confidence of the community in a very marked degree. . . . As a country schoolmaster Mr Sim had no small success. Nearly two generations of the community were instructed in the rudiments under his eye, and not a few have achieved high place and honour, and done credit to their teacher and school. He had a kindly and sympathetic nature, and was always personally interested in the progress and welfare of his pupils. In the teaching profession, as in the community, he was held in high esteem, and for a term he was president of the Hamilton Branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland, of which he was a Fellow. Mr Sim was Session Clerk of Dalserf Parish Church, and Registrar for the district.

Although Mr Sim’s nature was ‘kindly’, he also maintained ‘the utmost discipline’ during class, as illustrated in the following handwritten account entitled ‘A Country School Sixty Years Ago’. Written in March 1951, the unknown author described school in the 1890s:

‘The school consisted of three rooms, the headmaster’s being in the middle. One of the most primitive things about the school was the arrangement for the supply of drinking water for the pupils, about 160 in number.

‘In each shed was a big pail filled by the cleaners each morning. A tin mug hung on a nail, and you can imagine what the pails were like latterly, with many children eating their piece [snack] and having a drink at the same time.

‘Work in school was in many respects different from now-a-days. Much of it, as in history, geography, and English, was more mechanical; lists of dates and events, capes, rivers and towns were rhymed off, so as to memorise them. Now, reasons for every-thing, and cause and effect, are discussed with the children so as to make them think and reason for themselves. One result of this thought-less rhyming is seen in the following amusing incident. An inspector was taking Standard 6, and one of his questions was “Where is Moscow?” Now one of our geography rhymes was “Astrakhan at the mouth of the Volga; Nijni-Novgorod, farther up the river; Moscow, the old capital, farther up still”. Unthinkingly a boy answered, “Moscow, the old capital farther up still”. The inspector looked puzzled until the infant mistress [teacher of children aged four to seven] explained the strange answer.

‘Our annual inspector’s visit was a fixed day in June, and we had to turn up specially dressed, and very uncomfortable we looked and felt, especially the boys in Sunday suits and collars, and boots and stockings, accustomed as we were with bare feet, something one rarely sees now-a-days.

‘I well remember these visits, when we sat tensely waiting for the great men’s arrival from a station a mile away. As the time drew near, we had to sit up with arms folded and as the poet says, “All the air a solemn stillness holds,” even the teachers tip-toeing about making final arrangements. One of the older boys was always sent to watch for the appearance of our visitors in the distance, and when he arrived breathless with the news a great sigh seemed to pass through the school, and then die away into silence. The last few minutes were the worst, and there was almost a feeling of relief when at length they came marching in through the end room, their footsteps sounding loudly in the silence.

‘It used to be said, with what truth I know not, that the measure of success achieved by a school depended a good deal on the dinner, including the quantity and quality of liquid refreshment the inspectors were regaled with at mid-day.

‘Of our teachers, one assistant master I remember specially. He always wore a bowler hat, and we began to notice that sometimes he arrived wearing it on the back of his head. We -latterly found that when it was worn in this way he was in a cantankerous mood, and so we could act accordingly.

‘In connection with another assistant, I remember when some of his pupils solemnly decided that his tawse [strap] must disappear. We had discovered that his desk could be worked open by shaking the lid, so one night the plotters led the teachers and others away and then -secured the tawse. Next, we proceeded to an old quarry-hole full of water in the wood, tied a heavy stone to the tawse and heaved them into the quarry, where they disappeared amid many expressions of delight. Next day, a strict inquiry was held, but though practically everybody knew about the disappearance, not a shred of evidence could the teacher get. We didn’t benefit long from the episode however, as another pair of tawse appeared in due course.’

In conclusion, the above writer speaks of a hamlet of about a dozen houses called Hoolet-hole that lay about a quarter of a mile away: ‘A widow kept a little shop there, and we could get a scone and syrup, or treacle [molasses], or a bowl of soup for a ha’penny, but her home-made candy was the main attraction!’ If I know anything about little boys, I am sure Andrew Shaw made his way to this lady, along with the other young lads, whenever he had the princely sum of a ha’penny.

It is easy to imagine Andrew sharing his candy with a particular schoolmate: Laurence Ritchie, Janet Murray’s brother. The two boys often played together after school, in Manse Brae, until their fathers came home from work and their mothers called them to dinner. The Admission Register on the opposite page tells us that Laurence (#1065) and Andrew (#1097) both started school in 1896. But on 22 December 1905, when he was thirteen, Andrew Shaw left behind all the friendships and pleasures of his Scottish childhood. On that date, opposite Andrew’s name in the register, a school official wrote one word under the heading ‘Cause of Leaving’. That word was ‘America’.

I lived in Manse Brae, and such is our affection for Diana and Charles that I never pass the place where Andrew Shaw was brought up without thinking of him and them.

Manse of Dalserf

September 2001

About the Author

Sharon McPherson was born in Blackpool, Lancashire, on 19 March 1953, the daughter of the late Reverend Fred Jones and Clarissa Jones (née Price). She was, as they say in Scotland, ‘a daughter of the manse’, her spiritual family for thirty years being the Elim Pentecostal Church, the denomination of which her father was a minister. Her primary education was in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and her secondary education was mostly in Blackheath, Birmingham, her final school year being at Dalziel High School, Motherwell.

She trained as a teacher at Hamilton College of Education, gaining an Associateship in Early Years Education. She has taught in Motherwell; Dalserf Primary, where she met Cameron, who was school chaplain; and Wishaw. She is currently head teacher of Mossend Primary School in Bellshill. The most wonderful surprise of her life was when she became the mother of a precious son, David, at the ripe old age of forty-four. Cameron was even older! God does have a sense of humour.