Scots Roots


James Gillon (1842 – 1917)

James Gillon (1842 – 1917)Born at Gartsherrie in Old Monklands in September 1842, James Gillon was the son of a miner and by the time he reached his 9th birthday he himself was working under ground, his first job being to pump water from a pit, at which he worked from 6 in the morning until 6 at night for the princely sum of 6d a day. He later became the custodian of pit ponies and when he got a little older he became a coal miner at Cambusnethan, joining his elder brother William (who was noted on the 1851 Census as a coal miner at the age of 10) and his father, Alexander Gillon.

Around 1862, the whole family (that’s Alex Gillon, wife Janet and 6 children) moved to Armadale. Shortly before the move, James had accepted the precentorship at Shotts Kirk, but he was so enthusiastic in fulfilling his duties that he tramped the road between Armadale and Shotts (about 8 miles each way) at least twice a week and even after a long shift in the mines, he thought nothing of facing a lengthy hike to attend a choir practice. Music was his great hobby, and on many occasions this relaxation helped him greatly in his many duties for, as he said himself, music “chased away all the ills of the day as with a magic wand”.

He served three years at Shotts Kirk as precentor and then accepted a similar appointment at Whitburn Free Church until, in August 1865, he was appointed precentor at Armadale Free Church (succeeding his brother William) where he continued in office for the following 32 years.

On 5th June 1863, he married Margaret Esson at Cambusnethan and moved to Whitburn.

Having gained a wealth of experience in the mines from a young age he used it to his advantage and became a contractor in the Shotts Iron Works ironstone mines around Armadale Railway Station, and later was a pit foreman, becoming subsequently manager of No. 2 Pit, Barbauchlaw, when it was taken over by Youngs Paraffin Light Co. He continued in this capacity for many years until the pit stopped, when he retired from underground activities.

In 1874, James and Margaret Gillon and their family of six children took up residence in Armadale and around 1877 he bought the property at the east side of Armadale Cross, comprising a draper’s shop and a dwelling-house. Around this time he retired from the mining industry and set up a grocery and provision business, firstly in West Main Street, and later in East Main Street, his wife, Margaret, mainly attending to the business, with the aid of her sons, until they left and started their own businesses elsewhere.

The business was a success and James was able to invest in property. The 1884-1885 Valuation Roll records him as the owner of two houses in Bathgate and a cottage in Armadale, where his mother is the tenant, as well as his shop and house in Armadale.

James Gillon (1842 – 1917)James played an important role in the religious and civic affairs of Armadale. In addition to his long service as precentor, he was Superintendent of the Sabbath School for seven years, and for many years he conducted a young women’s Bible Class. In politics he was an ardent LiberaI, and for some time president of the local Liberal Association. He served for ten years in Armadale Town Council and three years on Bathgate Parochial Board. He completed 23 years service on Bathgate Parish School Board and for more than 10 years he acted as chairman. He became a Baillie and was also a Justice of the Peace for the County. In 1905, James and his son Charles, now a councillor, were involved in setting up Armadale’s new sewage purification scheme.

The West Lothian Courier describes James as having “a fine, genial presence; a kindly, pawky humour; a cheerful countenance, …wherever the Baillie went he smoothed away all difficulties”.

On June 5th 1913, James and Margaret celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with many of their friends but, sadly, Margaret died three months later at the age of 71. The West Lothian Courier reported that she had been apparently hale and hearty the previous evening and going about her ordinary duties in characteristically cheery style.

The following year, James had a serious illness and was taken to a nursing home in Edinburgh suffering from a severe pain in his foot, which resulted in the leg being amputated above the knee. In view of his advanced years, and handicapped as he thus was, he was forced to give up his public positions but never failed to take a keen interest in all that was going on. When the weather was suitable he was to be seen either sitting at his front door in a bath chair or being pushed about the streets, where he was cheered by meeting and talking with his many friends.

James died in Armadale on 8th September 1917 at the age of 75.

His funeral at Bathgate Cemetery was attended by a large number of friends, colleagues and relations, including his son James, who was in the Royal Flying Corps, and reached home from France on the day of the funeral.

James Gillon (1842 – 1917)

Copyright © Scots Roots Research 2013

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[…] is the elder brother of James Gillon, J.P. of Armadale (see James Gillon article) and the son of Alexander Gillon, a miner in Coatbridge, and Janet […]

Pingback by William Gillon (1840 – 1915) | Scots Roots




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