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The Anderson Memorial Hall
It has not been possible so far to find an exact date for the building of the Hall, but Rev. David Frew, writing in 1909 in his History of the Parish of Urr, states that in Crocketford “The condition of things, as it appeared in 1825, was prosperous and thriving;………….The schoolmaster attended to the education of the young…….”. He also states that “though not possessed of a church of its own,…….. Crocketford has not been without a fairly regular supply of religious ordinances, a preaching station upon undenominational lines having been established in the village school, so far back as 1839”.
The school, which had been built thanks to the generosity of a local landowner and benefactor, remained in use until 1912, when a new one was built and in 1922, according to an article in The Weekly Scotsman, Mr. W.J. Hay, John Knox’s House, Edinburgh, states “Lovers of ‘ Bairnies Cuddle Doon’ and the other delightful poems of Alexander Anderson, as well as those who had the privilege of meeting him during his lifetime will be glad to learn that the old schoolhouse in Crocketford which he attended as a boy has been purchased for the purpose of providing a public hall for the villagers. . . Acting on a suggestion of mine, the Trustees have decided to make the building a Memorial of its quondam pupil, who worked his way from its simple teachings to be acting librarian at the University of Edinburgh”.
Brief Notes on Family, Education and Employment History
Summary of info. from “The Navvy in Scotland” by James
O fellows, but this is a wondrous age,
There is a pleasing little conversation-piece between the engine and himself in the verses: “What the Engine Says” in which he reminds the locomotive that while it folls along “swift and strong” and “fumes and whistles ‘Get out of my way’” he as a surfaceman keeps the road smooth for it:
So you see
You must pay a little respect to me
I keep the rail
Tight and firm with chair and key
Fasten the joints as firm as may be
So that your pathway may not fail.
In 1880 A.A. obtained the post of assistant librarian at Edinburgh University through the good offices of his friends, who hoped to see a fresh flowering of his poetry in the atmosphere and leisure of his new post, but in this they were disappointed. In the volume of later poems collected after his death by a friend there are fewer than half a dozen on the old theme of the railway, but one of them on a train disaster caused by the mistake of a signalman evokes the reflection:
O ye of this nineteenth century time
Who holds low dividends as a crime
Listen. So long as a twelve-hours strain
Rests like a load of lead on the brain,
With its ringing of bells and rolling of wheels,
Drawing of levers until one feels
The hand grow numb with a nerveless touch,
And the handles shake and slip in the clutch
So long will ye have pointsmen to say,
“Drew the wrong lever! Take me away!”
Though much of his work is pedestrian and conditioned by the journal for which he wrote, in hymning the praises of progress through steam he entered a new field of poetic enterprise. A review in the contemporary Sheffield Telegraph declared that “Although the product of a Scotchman, Songs of the Rail are remarkable for the purity and polish of their English. Alexander Anderson has found romance on the rails, poetry in the permanent way, ballads in ballast. He is the Homer of the Iron Horse, the Milton of a machine, the lyrist of locomotion.
He sings the dignity of labour in a manner that has a sterling ring with it, an earnest, manly vigour that stirs the soul of the most apathetic reader. The tragic occurrences on the line give him themes for narratives of melting tenderness. ‘Jim’s Whistle’, ‘Rid of his Engine’, ‘Behind Time’, ‘Blood on the Wheel’, and ‘Nottman’ are notable instances of his success as a pathetic writer. ‘The Cuckoo’, ‘The Violet’, and ‘The Dead Lark’ are efforts of a different style, and give the ‘Surfaceman’ a place among pastoral poets. Mr Anderson has given the world a book that will win the admiration of all discriminating readers; a book that is likely to be honoured with a success of many editions; a book that will excite the public appetite for more work from the same robust pen.”
From “The Life-History of Alexander Anderson (“Surfaceman”) by David Cuthbertson (Late Sub-Librarian University Library, Edinburgh)
The Scotsman in its review of Songs of the Rail says: “From out the railway cutting, from his labour on the ‘four-feet way’, has come a singer with the daring to play minstrel to a machine, to celebrate an iron hero. Such an undertaking would at first sight seem unpromising and unprecedented, did we not remember that a tool, if not a machine, has divided with man the honours of the best epics…. There is no evading the impetuosity and enthusiasm, no escape for the reader from the swift current of the poet’s imagination….for life is always thrown into splendid dramatic relief and dignity of interest by the juxtaposition of death. On the whole, however, he seems to have worked this vein quite sufficiently, and he will, therefore, find it the part of literary prudence to select in future themes of another class.”The latter part of this criticism was followed by “Surfaceman” and added to the delight of his many readers.
Anderson, Alexander , The Two Angels and Other Poems. By Alexander Anderson ... with an Introductory Sketch by Rev. George Gilfillan (London; Edinburgh; Glasgow: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co.; John Menzies, 1875) [AnderA,TwoAAOP]. Anderson, Alexander , Songs of the Rail: By Alexander Anderson (London; Edinburgh: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co.; John Menzies, 1878) [AnderA,SongsOT]. Anderson, Alexander , Ballads and Sonnets. By Alexander Anderson. ("Surfaceman") (London: Macmillan, 1879) [AnderA,BallaAS]. Anderson, Alexander , Later Poems of Alexander Anderson, "Surfaceman": Edited with a Biographical Sketch, by Alexander Brown: A New Edition (Glasgow; Dalbeattie: Fraser, Asher & Co., 1912) [AnderA,LaterPO].
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