At Devon Iron Works, on the 1st Instant, (February 1838) after a long and painful illness, which she bore with Christian fortitude and resignation, in the 76th year of her age, Elizabeth Ramsay, spouse of Mr Donaldson of that place, with whom she had happily lived for nearly half a century, as a blessing to him and her numerous family; and whose departure has created a blank, which, to some can never, and to others not soon be made up. In all the relations of life in which it was her lot to serve, she was an honour to that society with which she was connected, and who now sincerely and justly lament her loss.
From the Stirling Journal
Mr James Donaldson : husband of Elizabeth Ramsay
At Devon Iron Works, Tuesday the 13th instant, (February 1838) Mr James Donaldson, in the 70th year of his age.
The Stirling Journal & Advertiser’, 23rd February 1838
This day fortnight we
had to announce the death of Mrs Donaldson, and this day we have to record in
our obituary the death of her husband, Mr James Donaldson. The death of the one
occurred on the1st instant, and that of the other on the 13th.
Mr Donaldson had, for some time, been in a delicate state of health, but not so
much so as to excite any alarm. It was evident, however, that the loss of that
partner with whom he had been so long and so affectionately united, had hurried
on the crisis of his complaint;- for, from the moment he had consigned her
remains to the grave, he began to fail and droop, and it was evident to all,
notwithstanding the desire which he exhibited to enter upon the ordinary duties
of life, that his health had suffered a severe blow. On the Sunday following he
went to church, and next day visited Alloa. On Tuesday he went to the
counting-house, but so altered in appearance, as to excite apprehensions in the
minds of his friends. The propriety of seeking repose was accordingly
suggested, and he proceeded to his own house, leaning on the arm of an
acquaintance. This he accomplished-but nature could do no more. On entering, he
immediately sank down on a chair exhausted and powerless from an attack of
apoplexy. He was instantly conveyed to bed-medical aid procured, and every
thing done for his recovery, but without avail - for he breathed his last at 5
o’clock the same evening – and it may be truly said deeply and justly lamented
by all who knew him; for a kinder friend, a warmer-hearted being never existed.
His family had already suffered an irreparable loss – but in him a bereavement
which they must long and deeply deplore. Mr Donaldson died in the 70th
year of his age, and for 46 years occupied a situation of trust and high
responsibility in the employment of the Devon Iron Company; and we speak
advisedly when we say, that during that long period, such was his unremitting
unslumbering zeal in the discharge of his duties, and in advancing their
interests, that he never ceased to enjoy their confidence and esteem; and that
none now, but his own relatives, and those managers, and others similarly
situated with himself, and with whom he had daily intercourse – more sincerely
lament his death than the gentlemen connected with that very respectable
Company. It may also with justice be said, that in him the numerous workmen
belonging to the establishment have lost a sincere friend. In this, however, he
did not stand alone. Fortunately for them there are few large works in the
country, where the managers and superintendents are more humanely disposed, and
where thus the comfort and happiness of dependents are more sedulously watched.
In aiding and promoting this work of love Mr Donaldson took much delight, and
nothing gave him greater pleasure, than to engage in every undertaking
calculated to add to the comfort of the workmen, and to elevate their moral and
intellectual character. As a friend he was beloved for the warmth and sincerity
of his heart; as a companion, for his cheerful and engaging manners; as the head
of his family, for his exemplary life, and the happy success with which he
blended the indulgent parent, with the austerity of the Christian. His mind was
naturally active and ardent, and with much simplicity and singleness of
character, he combined no small degree of quaint humour, which gave a zest and
animation to his conversation, not to be surpassed but by that generous warmth,
that kindly disposition, and goodness of heart, which led him in all things to
cherish peace and friendship. Without any outward display of piety, yet few
exhibited more of the influence of religion in their conduct, or throughout a
long and unblemished life, was more distinguished for upright and uncompromising
integrity. Mr Donaldson was a member of the Rev. W. Fraser’s congregation in
Alloa, and beloved and esteemed as he was by all, it is no wonder that he should
be early selected for the office of elder. We have reason to believe he entered
upon the duties of that situation with reluctance, from a high sense of their
responsibility; but having once undertaken them, he failed not, both by example
and precept, to discharge them faithfully and most conscientiously. He held the
office for 22 years, and by his conduct throughout reaped for himself the love
and esteem both of pastor and flock, and that without either mixing or
participating in those feelings and jarrings which have been too frequently
allowed to mar the friendship of Christians – agreeing in all essentials,
acknowledging the same faith and the same worship – yet often contending about
matters of mere distinction. To good sense, and a well informed mind, it will
be unnecessary to remind our readers Mr Donaldson added poetic talents of no
ordinary excellence – not a few of his pieces having at one time appeared in our
columns. He shone in humorous description of homely life and character, and some
of his earlier productions, in this way, possess much beauty and merit. At a
later period he confined himself chiefly to the portraying of interesting
incidents and domestic events in private life, connected with his own family and
friends. These effusions were tributes of love and affection, which we are sure
they will not fail long to revere and cherish, for the pure piety which they
breathe, and the amiable and benevolent picture they afford of his head and his
heart. More we might say, but less we could not, of a friend, whom we had long
known, and whom we never ceased to esteem.
Typing by Mary Coish, May 2010
Stirling Observer 1st March 1838
THE LATE MR JAMES DONALDSON
This gentleman was born in Tullibody, on the 26th of Nov. 1767, and died at Devon Iron Works, of apoplexy, after a few hours’ illness, on the 13th of February 1838. He was in the office, in which he had been accustomed to write, in the forenoon of the day on which he died, and having there become unwell, he walked home, accompanied by a friend; but so delicate were his feelings towards his family, that, lest they should be alarmed, he forbade that friend to enter the house with him; and even, when they came within sight of it, he declined leaning on his friend’s arm, lest this should be observed and give uneasiness to those whom he tenderly loved. Alas! however, after he did enter his habitation, he was able only to say, in answer to the affectionate enquiry of his daughter, “I am very ill,” and he never spake a word more. The best medical advice was procured with the utmost expedition, and suitable means were used, in order, if possible, to preserve so valuable a life, but all in vain, for the time of his departure was come.
His corporeal system was naturally weak, and, for upwards of twenty years, he was subject to an alarming liver complaint, which frequently threatened to cut him off from the land of the living, but–by a strict attention to proper regimen, with respect both to meat and drink, and the steady cultivation of sober and virtuous habits, accompanied with the blessing of God–he was enabled to reach the advanced age of threescore years and ten, and was seldom disqualified for any considerable length of time from performing his laborious duties of his honourable office in the service of the Devon Iron Company.
Though he left Tullibody when a young man, and never resided there afterwards, yet he felt and cherished so strong an attachment to his native village, that, besides visiting it on many other occasions, he uniformly went thither on Old Hansel Monday, and he was in Tullibody seventy-one successive Hansel-Mondays, with the exception of one, when he was necessarily absent, in consequence of having to go to a distance for the interment of a near relative. When convivial meetings were held, as they frequently were, in honour of the village, he was sure to be present, if possible, and none was made more welcome by the company than he, nor more highly honoured; and if, as rarely happened, he could not attend, the want of his presence was felt by all to be a blank which could not otherwise be supplied.
Few possess so accurate a record, as he had, of their ancestors, descendants, and other relatives. In a large quarto bible he has neatly registered, in his own beautiful handwriting, the names of his great-grandfather and great- grandmother, the dates of their births, their marriage, and their deaths, and the names of all their children, (whose number is considerable,) with the time of their respective births and deaths. Then follows a similar record concerning his grandfather and grandmother, and all their children; then another regarding his father and mother, and all their children; then another regarding himself, his wife, and family; and then another regarding each of his sons and daughters that are married, and their families, leaving a blank to be filled up for recording, when it shall occur, the death of such as are alive. He had to perform the mournful task of filling up one of these blanks a few days before his death–namely, that reserved for recording the decease of his wife, who died only thirteen days before him, and, as if he himself had died along with her, he not only filled up the proper blank, but also wrote the same after his own name, and in order to render it perfectly correct, nothing more is necessary than to add the unit 3, for which there is space after the 1; his wife having died on the 1st day of the month, and he himself on the 13th of the same month and year. Thus he has, as it were, with his own hand, inadvertently recorded in this register the time of his own death. It appears from this record that his fore-fathers had come from Comrie. His father, previous to his death, was the oldest inhabitant in Tullibody then alive. Mr Donaldson besides constructed a large but neat genealogical tree, with the names of his ancestors, descendants, and other relatives, in due order; and when the birth of a grandchild occurred, it afforded him much pleasure to add a new apple to his prolific tree, which is loaded with fruit, and has already been bearing fruit for several centuries, year after year.
Mr Donaldson was a man of genius, and was, in a great measure, self-taught. He received, we believe, no other education but what the humble seminary in his native village could afford; he prosecuted, for a short time, the occupation of his father, who was a loom-weaver; he then commenced, as more congenial to his taste for literary pursuits, teaching a school at a place called “Baillie’s Dub,” near Devon, where colliers’ children have been long taught; and, about the time when the Devon Iron Company was formed, the gentlemen connected with that institution took him, on account of his talents and integrity, into their employment, as a clerk; and, for a long series of years, he has honourably stood at the head of the department in their office, transacting much of their business, and conducting the greater part of their correspondence, and notwithstanding the vast extent of their mercantile transactions. So highly did they respect his judgement, that they seldom engaged in any important undertaking without previously asking his advice, which they received with deference, and in general followed. It is customary for one of the partners to reside at Devon, as superintendent of the establishment, and though, in this respect, there have been many changes during the forty-six years Mr Donaldson has been in their service, yet, with every one of the residing partners, he has lived on the best terms possible, whatever disparity there might be of age and other circumstances, and has been uniformerly treated by each of them in succession as a friend or brother. What a blessing is it to such an establishment to have in its service a man of his worth! how (sic) much is it calculated to promote even their own interest, when proprietors of public works, as in this case, have the sagacity to discern, and the wisdom duly to appreciate and liberally to remunerate, the merits of deserving individuals, who come into their employment. It was his lot to stand in the middle betwixt the opulent proprietors of the works on one hand, and a numerous body of workmen on the other; and yet never was their (sic) a man who possessed more than he did of the respect, confidence, and love of both these classes. He did not meanly cringe to his superiors, nor basely trample on his inferiors; but, acting a faithful and affectionate part towards both, and performing conscientiously the duties which he owed them, his conduct produced an indelible impression on the mind of every one, that he was the friend of all. If, at any time, symptoms of dissatisfaction and insubordination appeared among the workmen, which was seldom the case, a word from Mr Donaldson to them operated with magical effect. Nay, his wisdom discovered the tempest before it broke out, and his prudence prevented the storm which might otherwise have produced extensive desolation.
Mr Donaldson possessed a sound judgement, a lively imagination, and a warm heart. In early life, as well as in maturer years, he assiduously improved his mind by useful reading and private study; and thus, he soon raised himself to an honourable status in society, and, even while a youth, became qualified for filling, in the most creditable manner, stations which cannot usually be occupied by any but those who have obtained an education superior to that which he received. Though he never neglected for a moment his proper business, he devoted a considerable portion of his leasure* hours to the muses, and, ever since there was a provincial newspaper in Stirling, he has often enlivened its pages by his poetry, which was gratefully received and immediately inserted by the Editor of the Stirling Journal, (his devoted friend), and was ever welcome to his numerous readers.
As a son, Mr Donaldson was respectful and dutiful to his worthy parents, who both lived to old age; as a husband, he was faithful and affectionate to one with whom he was happily united by the endearing ties of matrimony for nearly half a century; as a father, he was indulgent to his children, who he conscientiously instructed, and set before them a bright example of every virtue; and, as a friend, he was faithful, warm-hearted, and kind. He mingled with men of various grades in society, and yet, in whatever company he appeared, he was respected and loved; and, on all occasions he maintained a consistency of conduct becoming his Christian profession. There was an artless simplicity in his manners, and an amiable pleasantry in his conversation, which caused his society to be courted.; and yet, he was firm as a rock in his adherence to principle, and never did he leave behind him where he was, a stain on his religion. He became all things to all men, and yet, such were his piety, wisdom, and prudence, that he never was seen sacrificing principle and conscience. In him we beheld dignity without pride, humanity without meanness, and love without dissimulation.
Mr Donaldson’s political sentiments were decidedly liberal, but he lived in habits of the closest intimacy with many whose political opinions were different from his own, allowing others to act in such matters according to their own views, as well as claiming the same privilege for himself, and thus practically exemplifying the principle of mutual forbearance–a principle indispensably necessary, both in religion and politics, to the happiness of individuals, and the welfare of society. He was far from resembling those ultra-Liberals who make a flaming profession of liberality, while they are in reality narrow-minded bigots, who claim a right to think and judge for all others as well as for themselves, and pronounce a sentence of reprobation on every one who declines going to the same length as they do in liberality. He was eminently a man of peace, although he would not, for the sake of peace, surrender his convictions of truth and duty. “Twenty years,” said one, “have I written in the same office with him, and we never had the slightest difference.” “Twenty-eight years,” said another, “have I enjoyed his friendship, and a better friend, in every respect, I never had, nor expect to have.”
His family know how attentive he was to the private duties of religion, and his fellow-worshippers are witnesses to attest the regularity of his attendance on public ordinances. It was no trivial cause which could prevent him from coming to the house of God, notwithstanding of his distance from church. There he appeared only two days before his death, but his venerable face shall be seen there no more. His immortal spirit has gone to worship in the temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. He uniformly studied, by every mean in his power, to promote the prosperity, both temporal and spiritual, of the congregation under the pastoral inspection of the Rev. William Fraser, of which he was a member. He was ordained to the eldership on the 23d of June, 1816; and, during the twenty-two years he has officiated in that capacity, he has proved an ornament and a blessing to the Session. He has been as long a member of that court as any other surviving elder, with the exception of one venerable sire, who is ten years older than he as a man, and eighteen as an elder; and this worthy individual happens to be also a veteran in the service of the Devon Company.
Mr D. was deeply imbued with a missionary spirit. Convinced of the need in which mankind stand of the scriptures and the gospel in order to their eternal salvation, he liberally contributed to religious institutions, and warmly recommended them in others. So zealous was he in this good cause, that, at the last annual meeting of the Missionary Society in the congregation, when he was prevented from attending by the severity of the weather and personal affliction, he sent, by an express, the written speech which he had intended to deliver.
By his death an unspeakable loss has been sustained; but let us not despond, let us rejoice that the Lord liveth, and the residue of the Spirit is with him; let us earnestly pray, and fondly hope, that he will raise up other men possessed of similar talents and piety to carry on his own cause. Let us offer up the Psalmist’s prayer, and say, “Help Lord, for the godly man ceaseth and the faithful fail from among the children of men;” and with the prophet let us add, “Revive thy work, O Lord, in the midst of the years; in the midst of the years make known, in wrath remember mercy.”
*leasure - obsolete form of spelling
Typing by Mary Coish May 2010
Date last modified: Sat 01 Jun 13