Born on 11 August 1779 at Dalry, Glen Kens, Kirkcudbrightshire, David Landsborough was educated at the local village school before moving to Dumfries Academy then to Edinburgh University in 1798 - sending his boxes by carrier and walking to Edinburgh from Galloway. David was a talented musician and one tutor suggested he make music his career. It is fortunate for the inhabitants of Stevenston, Saltcoats and Arran; the Church of Scotland (Established and Free) and the scientific study of the natural world that he ignored this advice and continued with his religious studies - though he could always be found with a flute in his pocket ready to play.
After receiving his licence, he preached at St Andrews in Edinburgh, without giving up his appointment as resident tutor in the household of Lord Glenlee a position he had held for 6/7 years. For a short time he was assistant to Rev Dr Auld of the Old Church, Ayr before being appointed to the Church in Stevenston. He was ordained on 26 September 1811. At the time of his appointment Stevenston Parish had a population of around 3000 and stretched from the Harbour at Saltcoats to Irvine Bar - a distance of some 5 miles.
He married Margaret McLeish, daughter of James McLeish, Port Glasgow on 18 March 1817 and they had 7 children, 4 sons and 3 daughters. Sadly his wife, to whom he was devoted, was in poor health and died on 9 November 1834. Three of his sons emigrated to Australia, one of them William became a famous Australian explorer.
His son David became minister of the Free Henderson Church in Kilmarnock.
David ministered not only to his parishioners religious needs but set about improving the conditions in the area including a new Church in Stevenston opened on 12 May 1833, teaching evening classes himself, a new school in Stevenston in 1840 and Kyleshill School, Saltcoats on 9 December 1839; he carried out a census of the parish in 1819, 1822 and 1836 which can be seen at The Three Towners' website. In 1837 he furnished the account of his parish in Stevenston to the "Statistical Account of Scotland" and in 1842 the statistical account of Saltcoats, these can be searched for on the Edina website; in 1836 he assisted the Gaelic congregation to raise funds for a Church in Saltcoats, now North Parish Church.
At the time of the Disruption of the Church of Scotland 18 May 1843 some 474 Ministers left the Church, David was the leader of the Ayrshire Disruption Ministers. Unable to find land to build a Free Church in Stevenston the Church was built in Saltcoats on land donated free by Dr Dow, the son of the Rev Robert Dow parish minister of Ardrossan 1739 to 1787. The church stood beside the Mission Coast Home, the site is now the Labour Club.
He kept a daily journal recording amongst other events the weather and plant and bird life in the locality. This interest in the natural history of his parish extended to the neighbouring island of Arran and his first publication in 1828 was a poem in six cantos about Arran. This led to the Irvine Burns Club offering him honorary membership which he gladly accepted. His other publications include articles for the "Christian Herald" and "Christian Treasury"; "Excursions to Arran" with reference to the natural history of the island (original selling price 3d); "Ayrshire Sketches", a little volume of religious biographies; a "Popular history of British Sea-weeds" and a "Popular history of British Zoophytes". He discovered 70 species of animals and plants new to Scotland and several species were named after him by other eminent naturalists of his time.
David's ministry included several fund raising trips in 1832 to Fifeshire to plead the cause of the Scottish Missionary Society; in 1835 to the North and East of Ireland on a similar mission and in 1837 to Galloway to plead the cause of Church extension. In 1852 he was appointed by the General Assembly to the Presbyterian Church in Gibraltar where he served for 4 months, during which time he was also chaplain to the 26th or Cameronian Regiment stationed there. He visited Spain and Tangiers and on his return through Europe arrived in London to witness the funeral in November 1852 of the Duke of Wellington, the Iron Duke.
David was honoured with a DD by an American University. He was a member of the Philosophical and Natural History Societies of Glasgow; a member of the Linnean Society, elected an associate in 1849; a member of the Wernerian and Royal Physical societies of Edinburgh.
He ministered to his parishioners during the epidemics of cholera in Stevenston and Saltcoats, visiting the sick and dying. In the 1854 epidemic the disease entered the Manse killing two other members of the household before David caught the disease and after a short illness he died on 12 September 1854 in his 76th year and 43rd year of his ministry. The Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald in October 1854 reported that "hundreds attended the funeral and the shops were shut" and describes him thus "He was a model of a faithful Minister. Kind to a fault, conciliatory in deposition, anxious to do good, ever ready to stand by the bed of death, universally respected". A fitting tribute to an exceptional man. The Free Church in Saltcoats stills bears his name "Landsborough & Trinity".
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