Rev. William Smith
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On the 21st of October, 1889, there died at the heathen village of Keadom, under the shadow of the Himalaya Mountains, William Smith, formerly teacher of the West Church School, Maybole, latterly, the much loved and respected head of one of our Christian Colleges in India. I parted with him and Mrs Smith on the 24th of January preceding, both of them then apparently in good health, and now they are both gone away. Mrs Smith died in April, and he has speedily followed her.

Twenty-three years ago, Mr Smith, then a young man of twenty-three, came from being assistant teacher in St. Enoch’s School, Glasgow, to take charge of the West Church School here. He proved an excellent teacher, full of energy and tact, and soon filled the school to overflowing. He was an enthusiast in music, and willing to lend a hand in anything for the good of the town at large. We had, Concerts and Penny Readings in those days for the working people, and he was a most efficient and enthusiastic helper in the Sabbath School and Savings Bank. After a three years’ stay with us, he was appointed to Brodick School, Arran, where I used to visit him, and where, too, he won golden opinions. It was here he first met the lady whom he afterwards married, and who was at that time teacher of the Girls’ School. From Brodick he went to Glasgow University, and after a distinguished career there, he was appointed to the Church of Forth, near Lanark. I visited him there, too, several times, and found him as active and as well-beloved as ever. Six years ago, he was offered the charge of the Calcutta Institution, at which post both he and his wife have fallen.

At his urgent and oft-repeated invitation, I went out, winter before last, to visit him. "Come out," he said, "and I ‘ll set you up in subjects for lectures during all the rest of your life. Don’t fetch any letters of introduction. Come out free-handed and see for yourself. I ‘ll do all that is necessary for you." When I landed at the quay, he and Mrs Smith were waiting for me. They took me to their house in Cornwallis Square, and I stayed with them all the time I was in Calcutta. I soon found that both of them were suffering from the climate, Mrs Smith especially. She was weak and languid; and while he retained the old active step, his mental buoyancy was gone. He never laughed, but merely smiled. The fierce Indian summers had taken the vigour out of him. Their house was almost as quiet as though it had been tenantless. But there was another reason, and that was the incessant work he had to do. Every lesson at the Institution had to be carefully prepared for. And the consequence was that from the hour of leaving the Institution till the hour of its opening again, he was grinding away in his study. Besides this, there was the public business of the Institution which devolved on him, for he was consulted about every thing, and lent a hand in every thing. I hardly ever saw him at liberty, and the only evenings in which he seemed to regain his old self was when the missionaries of the Free Church as well as of the Established Church gathered under his baton once a week to practise music.

When the Christmas holidays came round, we set off on a tour up the Ganges Valley, and visited all the famous cities there—Allahabad, Agra, Delhi, Cawnpore, Lucknow, and Benares. During these eleven days he revived a good deal, and we had much pleasant talk of times by-gone. Still, he refused to do any of the speaking expected of us at these places, and always devolved the duty on me.

One Sunday, I remember, at Lucknow, when we failed to find an English Church, we sat down beneath one of the trees in the Residency Garden, and read the 84th and 121st Psalms together. This and the subsequent talk was much relished by us both, the more on account of our heathen surroundings. But, do what I would, I could not get him to throw off his Indian languor. He was active enough on his foot, and did all the arrangements required for both of us, but the cheeriness had gone away from him. The humorous side of things which affected me did not seem to affect him. He joined me, of course, in all the sight-seeing, but the only thing that seemingly touched him was the Taj at Agra, which he roused me out of bed one morning to go and see with him by moonlight, as we had seen it the previous afternoon by sunlight. We climbed that morning, I remember, one of the tall minarets at the Taj, and sat together on the top, looking at the dark Jumna flowing past, while the Eastern sun gradually rose above the horizon. That morning, too, I remember, I could with difficulty get him away from the crypt below the dome, where he delighted the Moslem keeper by making the wonderful echoes resound with all the various chords of the musical scale.

When we returned, I preached in the Institution to the students on two Sabbath evenings, attended the Native Church and the Sabbath School in which he took a deep interest, lectured twice to the students on week days, and examined and addressed every one of the classes. I attended also several social meetings of the students along with him, at the first of which he introduced me to them as "his old minister who had first taught him the enthusiasm of usefulness." I need not add that he was a first class teacher, having abundance of tact and good humour as well as skill. From my point of view, he perhaps was deficient in evangelical fervour, but he was honest and true, and never assumed what he did not feel. "These students," he one day said to me, "look through you. A true Christian is greatly respected by them, but a mere professor of religion is slightly valued." The whole tone of the Institution was honest and hearty. There was no constraint; and from the opening services, at which Mr Smith presided at the harmonium, to the closing lesson, everything was done in a way to recommend Christianity as an honest way of living before God. Since leaving India, I had one letter from Mrs Smith before she died, and one from him after her death; but his note was very short. He says: "I have been wounded, but, thank God, I am not overcome. I am waiting here all alone for the beginning of the session. I want work, and as much of it as possible. Your offer to exchange with me for a year is very kind, but I could not think of letting you risk a hot and rainy season in India. What Calcutta is like just now, you have not the faintest idea of. I am covered with ‘prickly heat,’ and at night can get little or no sleep. Perhaps I may get a run home for a month next session. If I saw my mother and my little boy once again, I could come back quite contented." But this wish of his heart was not to he gratified. That little boy—" the child of this household "—whom he ever remembered so pathetically at evening prayer, and who had to be sent home to save his life—is now an orphan, but the memory of such parents is not an insignificant legacy.

The closing scene in his life is thus narrated by Mrs Sutherland, the wife of the missionary with whom he died :—" The party left Kalimpong 1st October, in high spirits, Mr Smith especially looking forward to the trip ‘like a school-boy,’ as he said. After about a fortnight’s travel, they reached the Pass. Mr Smith was feeling a little tired just before the last march, and my husband tried to dissuade him from going, but he would go. At the Pass (18,000 feet), his breathing became noisy, and he began to speak nonsense, and could not stand, or ride down the hill, and so had to be carried the first day on a man’s back. Next two days, he could ride, so both he and my husband ‘thought he was getting all right as he came down. At Lachung, 8,600 feet high, they rested for one day to recruit Mr Smith. Next day, they came down to Keadom, 6,400 ‘feet high. This was only a short march, but it seemed as much as Mr Smith was able for. There they determined to halt for three days to let Mr Smith get up his strength. Keadom is more than a week’s march from here with coolies. A doctor came on Sunday evening, and prescribed stimulants. They nursed him through that night, but he gradually sank, and at a quarter to five on Monday morning, 21st October, his spirit passed gently away to God who gave it. He had been a good deal unconscious while he was ill, and at the end he just dosed away. On Monday, my husband made all preparations, and on Tuesday, about noon, he was laid in his quiet grave in that beautiful land. The funeral service was in Hindi, and my husband’s was the only white face there, but there were quite a number of Christians among the coolies who attended. I know how useful my husband is, for he is a man and a woman both in one, when trouble comes. They found some wood there, and made a coffin, and covered it with a Bhutea cloth, and my husband tore up a handkerchief, and made a white cross for the top of it. One of Mr Smith’s last expressions was—’ God winna forsake my bairn?’ And so my two dearest friends in India have died, but Death seems to have lost his terror, for I can hardly think of the present parting in the thought of the happy hour when we shall meet again."

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