David Rutherfoord

Extract from the “Stirling Observer of 17th October 1842

Died at Keirfield, on the 19th inst., in the seventy-eighth year of his age, Mr David Rutherford, upwards of fifty years overseer of the extensive bleachfield there. He was a man of most inflexible integrity, intimately acquainted with the principles and details of his profession, and unremittingly attentive to the duties or his situation; and consequently his worth was duly appreciated by his successive employers, who reposed the utmost confidence In him.

In every relation of life his conduct was upright and exemplary, and his superior intellgence and modest unassuming manners, endeared him to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He was a kind husband, an affectionate parent and a good neighbour; he rejoiced In the prosperity, and sympathised in the adversity of others. He possessed feelings of the most acute and delicate kind., which could be fully understood and estimated only by those whose mind partook in some measure of the same qualities.

His penetration and discernment were remarkable; and, when a fair opportunity presented itself, he seldom failed to make an accurate discrimination of character; hence he was a steady friend. He was a man of very regular and studious habits; and those hours which he could spare after the honourable and faithful discharge of his duty to his employers he devoted to the instruction of his family, to Intercourse with his friends, and to the cultivation or his own mind. And great indeed were the attainments he made both in science and literature; and his merit in this respect will, of course. appear the greater when It is borne in mind that. In all things beyond merely elementary education, he was what is termed self-taught.

His diligence and success formed a noble contrast with the Indolence and consequent Ignorance of many who have enjoyed the very best opportunities. With all, or most of the sciences, he was pretty well acquainted; and in that of chemistry, upon which his profession mainly depended, he was an adept. He was well skilled in ancient and modern history, and his knowledge of British literature in general was accurate and extensive. He possessed, moreover some acquaintance with the classics; he took great pleasure in reading the truths of the Gospel in the original Greek. He had a taste for poetical composition, and his, powers of versifIcation were very considerable.

He wrote a new version of the Psalms, In a great variety of measures, and most of them have the music appended, set by his own hand. This work occupied his leisure hours for the space of twenty years, doubtless the most pleasant and profitable period of his life, for he took great delight in meditating on the sweet songs of Zion.

This brief and sketch cannot be better concluded than In the peculiar felicitous description of the deceased, communicated in a letter to the mourning family, by a gentleman of fine talents and high literary attainments:-

“He had Indeed genius and judgment, and a lively sense of the beautiful and the sublime in works of prose and verse. Take him all In all, his piety and Integrity, his manner of life, purity, and cheerfulness of conversation, his christian principles and practice,…
…..we shall not see his like again.

He was a literary phenomenon, and in point of literary talent, taste, and sound judgment, he has left none in his walk of life, I believe equal to him. It will be satisfactory to the christian public to be informed , that this remarkable man was a firm believer In the truth of the Gospel, and that he died as he had lived, In the humble hope of acceptance with God, and of a blessed resurrection through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour, in whom he trusted.”






No excuse - David Rutherfoord's letter to daughter Susan



Nobody in our family touches on the great nationhood of Scotland quite like David Rutherfoord. He was a compatriot of our national bard, Rabbie Burns, and his wife’s sister, Betty Black, was one of Burn’s six Mauchline Belle’s. David Rutherfoord was, by all description, an outstanding man, a scholar, scientist, philosopher, and has been rightly recorded in Ella McLean’s account on the rise of Bridge of Allan, as “one of the village’s most remarkable men.”
His life was as rich in detail as the tapestry stitched by the fair hand of his 16 year old daughter Susannah. The sampler is a beautiful piece of work, and despite the passing of two centuries, is remarkably well preserved. Viewing it, there is no hint of the sadness and turmoil that was to befall the Rutherford family. Two of David’s children, Susannah and John (the village doctor), died in early adulthood, both succumbing to the cholera epidemic that ravaged Bridge of Allan in the 1840’s. Another of his children, Agnes, died young of ovarian malignancy
In a glowing and flamboyant obituary in the Stirling Observer of 17th October 1842, it was said: “he had indeed a touch of genius”.
Fortunate we are to have the family sampler, for no family anecdotes of David Rutherfoord have survived. Indeed the only surviving recollection of the Rutherfords, is that of John Gibson Scott, whose grandmother Susan Rutherford McEwen, had been christened in the name of a grandmother that died 27 years before her birth. In this way, the sad and early loss of Susannah Rutherford, the creator of our family tapestry, has been recalled through the generations. It seems then a time to share her family story, and give back the detail lost not in her tapestry.
David Rutherfoord was not a native of the Ochil foothills, this is known for sure. In the 1841 census, completed a year before his death, he confirmed that he and his wife were born outwith the parish of Lecropt. He was probably born in the year of 1764, five years after Rabbie Burns. In his twenty-fifth year, on the last Monday of April 1789 he married Margaret Black. During their 53 years of marriage, they never left the parish of their marriage – Lecropt.
David and Margaret Rutherfoord were clearly pivotal figures in the infant development of Bridge of Allan, and in their early years of marriage must have seen great change as the village rose as a coalesence of scattered communities along the Allan. Indeed David Rutherfoord was instrumental in bringing the first teacher to the village, as his grandaughter later recalled:
…….”grandfather was an elder in Lecropt Church and was the means of introducing the first teacher for the young in the village, and one peculiarity was, that he, along with another, agreed to feed the teacher 2 or 3 days each alternately. This was the teacher’s small pecuniary salary.”
Pehaps the most remarkable attribute of David Rutherfoord was that he was, according to a close friend, entirely self-taught. This cannot be underplayed, and carries, at least for me, reminders of that great man and missionary, David Livingstone who was of the same generation and also self-taught. Both expanded the frontiers of their minds, using creativity and drive to better their fellow mankind. This sentiment is summarised in glowing fashion in his obituary in the Stirling Observer…
…”David Rutherfoord was a man of very regular and studious habits; and those hours which he could spare after the honourable and faithful discharge of his duty to his employers he devoted to the instruction of his family, to Intercourse with his friends,  and to the cultivation or his own mind. And great indeed were the attainments he made both in science and literature; and his merit in this respect will, of course appear the greater when it is borne in mind that in all things beyond merely elementary education, he was what is termed self-taught. “
What was this duty to Bridge of Allan rehearsed above? Well David Rutherfoord was the Manager and Overseer of the Keirfield Bleach Works, a mighty role in which he remained for a full half-century. Daniel MacNeil Watson recalls in his detailed diaries:
“Then, the Grandfather on the Mother’s side was David Rutherford, who was over 50 years manager of the Keirfield Works, and one discovery I have just made within the last 3 or 4 months is that he was a good Greek and Hebrew scholar, and amongst other things translated the whole of the Psalms of David from the Hebrew and set them to the tunes of Old Scotch Ballads. I have got the loan of the Manuscript of this in my possession at the present time, beautifully written by your mother’s Aunt Agnes Carter.”
Over a 23 year period, Margaret Black bore David eleven children. This sibship included seven girls and four boys, though at least two children, Margaret (born in 1794), and David (born in 1799), died in infancy. A sad coincidence that children who carried their parental names, David and Margaret, were not to survive beyond the earliest of years. However, as was so common in this period, the names were to be given again to a later son and daughter.
David and Margaret’s daughters all married local men; indeed Mary and Susannah were to wed brothers of a family with a very long association with the Allan. In 1829 Mary married the older brother James Baird, and in 1833 Susannah married the younger one, Adam. The association between the Bairds and Rutherfords was thus strong, embedding the developing community of Bridge of Allan.

Rutherford sampler