Rev. Harry Colquhoun
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Click here to read the Gospel Message in Luke's Story of the Nativity - by Rev. Harry Colquhoun

Rev. Harry ColquhounsI have been reading the Maybole website with a great deal of interest. My family actually hails from Maybole. My father's name was James Colquhoun, one of five children, four boys and one girl, born to William and Maggie (Douns) Colquhoun. The names of the children were, Joe, William, James, Harry, and Elizabeth. The family lived at 2 Drummellan Street.

My grandfather, William, was a shoemaker (as was his father before him) in Maybole--at the Saxon Shoe Factory, I believe. In earlier days, weaving was the traditional occupation of the family.

My great-grandmother was residing in Maybole when I visited her in the company of my father and my brother Joe--the name traditionally given to the firstborn male in the family, although, not in our case. For some reason or other, my parents did not choose to follow this tradition, choosing instead to name their firstborn son William in honour of my paternal grandfather. My great-grandmother, was a Boag. She lived 'til she was 102, I believe. She was still very vital when I, as a boy, visited her in her 100th year. She was still able to cook and entertain visitors to her home. In fact, during my visit, she took me to the local cinema (walking there and back). She had the interesting habit, customary in those days, I believe, of enjoying an after-dinner pipe. I was quite amazed to see her, seated at the fireside, puffing away on her clay pipe. (My grandfather favoured the clay pipe also.)

I can remember being very struck and quite amazed with my great-grandmother's facial appearance. I had never seen such an old, old person in my life--and, quite frankly, have never met another person of her age since. She wore her hundred years on her face, The lines of age, running in all directions, were deeply etched into her features. Yet, for all that, as I say, she was still very robust in body and walked about with little or no difficulty.

Local history writers have commented on the fact that some people in Maybole have lived very long lives and wonder whether it is the climate or the local water that bestows this magical property. Perhaps, if one thinks about it, in my great-grandmother's case, it was that after-dinner smoke from the old clay pipe that provided the rejuvenating force. (I'm joking, of course.) I've noticed that recent scientific opinion is suggesting that the key to age lies in the genes, and suggests that the length of the telomeres within the cell structure determines how often a cell will divide, and this, in turn determines age. Mind, you it could still be the therapeutic value of that after-dinner pipe. Although, to be on the safe side, if one is looking to have children who will live long they should play the percentages and look to marrying someone from Maybole--or maybe with the name Colquhoun, for the Colquhouns tend to be long livers.

My father loved to listen to brass band music. It was his weekly habit to tune into BBC every Saturday afternoon at one-o'clock when the brass band music was aired. I had often wondered why he had a special love for this music. The website has answered this question for me:  Maybole and brass bands belong together. The brass band, it appears, was a vital part of the culture in which my father grew up and he carried that sound of brass with him throughout his life. We seldom realise, don't we, how much the culture of our childhood moulds and shapes our lives? Yet it is to Maybole's credit that it has always seemed to realise just how valuable an influence music has on a person's life.

It is quite amazing, is it not, this web of life in which we are enfolded, with the combined influences of one’s  ancestry and early culture apparently playing  a vital part in who we are and what we become? I find it quite interesting, for example, that both my children chose to enlist to play in their high school band, and, more interestingly yet, were encouraged by their music teacher to choose the tuba as their preferred instrument. When my wife asked why they should select this choice of instrument, the instructor said that both children had an excellent sense of pitch. Yet, sad to say, in my case, this inheritance factor must have skipped a generation for my own musical endowments are anything but bountiful. I am very reliant on music when playing the piano.

I believe that my father’s habit of whistling is related to the things I have mentioned above, for I can only imagine that when whistling he was whistling to those vibrant and happy tunes he had heard as a boy as the band made its way along the town thoroughfare.  I asked my mother one time how she and my father had met. "Oh," she said, "I heard a man whistling a lovely tune from over the wall, and when I looked, there was your dad." It seems that the Maybole band had a much wider and more salutary influence than it ever imagined!

My father was not a particularly religious man—at least not outwardly, although I suspect that God was not far from his thoughts on many days. This, I think, is evident in the fact that he showed an increased interest in religious matters as he grew older, even accompanying my mother to church on occasion.

In this respect, I don’t think he was unlike his own father, William Colquhoun, who was not an outwardly religious man either yet obviously maintained a personal, yet basically private, faith in God. The hidden influence of God in his life is I think given strong expression in an incident that followed the tragic death of his granddaughter (my cousin, May Thompson) a week or so before she was due to be married.

May’s tragic death deeply grieved Aunt Liz (May’s mother). She was emotionally overwhelmed; quite inconsolable in her loss. My grandfather who stayed with Aunt Liz, suffering no doubt from the loss of his granddaughter, was grieved to see his daughter in such deep distress. (May had always been a bright and cheery girl and scattered sunshine around the house. She had a contagious laugh that lifted the spirits of those around her.)

The two (Grandfather and Aunt Liz) were sitting opposite each other at the fireside, deeply preoccupied with their own thoughts. (I should say that my grandfather, due to weakness in his legs, had to be assisted when moving around the house. He had on one occasion, slightly burned his hand in the fire when he had fallen while attempting to walk on his own.) Feeling the need to reach out to his daughter, with the help of God and in the strength of his own faith, he rose from his chair and made his way on unsteady legs over to Aunt Liz. With arm around her and pointing upward, he said: “He will take care of you.”

My aunt told me that while in bed that night she was conscious of a deep peace descending on her, almost as though a hand were being placed on her head. The peace of God filled her heart and she felt the consolation of God’s comforting presence. She knew God was aware and felt her pain and was very conscious of the sense of loss she was feeling. She felt the hand of God’s compassionate love and care reaching out to her.

So it is that faith in God that often lies hidden within us finds its expression in times of crisis in our lives, and also, no doubt, in unconscious ways as we go about the business of living our lives. The incident also, I believe, has much to say about the religious climate in which my father was raised and which, I believe, he absorbed into his own life.

But this incident also, I believe, speaks to me about the religious climate of the Maybole community in which faith in God was cultivated and nourished. It is also the evidence of the importance of community values—religious values in particular—on the lives of the young of the community. “No man lives unto himself,” the Scripture says. We, as town fathers and mothers, do well to remember the influence our own lives and the town environment have upon the young.

I write this, sadly knowing that the religious climate is changing in many communities and that there is now a vacuum of religious sentiment in many towns where religious faith once burned brightly and made its very beneficial and helpful influence felt. I was in the hospital admissions office the other day and was asked as to my religious preference. When I responded, “Presbyterian,” the admissions clerk told me she was glad to get my response. When I asked her why she was happy to have gotten such a ready response to her question she said that so many to whom she asked the question had no idea what she was asking. Matters of religion, apparently, have become foreign to so many people, let alone a personal faith in God. I read some time ago that missionaries from Africa (aware of the vacuum of Christian faith on this continent) were coming to North America in an effort to spread the Christian Gospel. One wonders if a stop over in Britain would not be in order? (What, one wonders, would David Livingstone think about that?)

I wasn't at my father's bedside when he died, but my brother informed me that he talked only of Maybole during his final days, dwelling at length on his early days as a child growing up in the Maybole community. There were other things he could have dwelt upon--golf among them, given his life-long love of the game, and my brother would have provided a ready listener--but all of that was left aside, and he spoke only of his childhood memories. He spoke of that which was important to him; of those early influences that had profoundly affected his life.

(I notice from the website that quite a few Colquhouns have served as members on town bands.)

All of the family members moved away from Maybole: Joe to Canada (where I presently reside), William and Harry to Saltcoats, James to Irvine, where he met and married my mother, Jean Bilby. Elizabeth, upon marrying, moved to Law Junction, Lanarkshire.

I had the interesting experience of meeting another Colquhoun family while serving as minister of the St. Andrews United Church in Blind River, Ontario, Canada. In correspondence with the mother, I discovered that she, too, came from a family of Maybole Colquhouns, identical in size and sex to my father's family and sharing the same Christian family names. I took it that the two families must have been related in some way. (Since both my parents had died, I was unable to pursue the connection.) Perhaps some of your readers (who are old enough) might be able to explain the connection. I should mention, in this connection, that my father did have a cousin, John Colquhoun, living in Irvine who was married to Mary McGiffin (my mother’s half-sister.) He, too, I believe, was a Maybole Colquhoun. The names of the children were: James, John, Robert, Betty, and Jean. The grandfather, who lived with them, was called Robert Colquhoun.

With thanks,

Rev. Harry B. Colquhoun.

Bashaw, Alberta, Canada

Colquhoun's on the Maybole Website

Burgh Band 1948. A. McColm, J. Colquhoun, A. Dixon, J. McEwan, W. McColm, K. Murray, ? ,J. Harris, R .McColm, J. Roy, R. Colquhoun, A .Steel, A. Gardiner, J. Campbell, M. McAlpine, J. Hempkin, S. Boden.

Dance band with some Maybole musicians. circa. 1920. John Hempkin, James Colquhoun, William Houston, Harry Gibson, Jimmy Cairns.

Jim McCulloch, Jimmy Colquhoun, Alex MacKay, Borthwick Smith, Robert Hempkin and Jim McDonald

Also mentions at

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