Chapter 1 – The Early Years.
In Falkirk, in 1880, seven years after the death of David Livingstone, when missionary fervour was at its height, perhaps in Scotland it was not surprising that young Tom Brown and his wife christened their new baby boy David, and that the young mother taught him to answer, when asked what he would do when he grew up, "I am going to Africa to teach the people there to love Jesus." Quite an ambition for a toddler not yet at school.
By the time he reached school age David’s family had moved to Motherwell, where his father was employed as a bricklayer in Colville’s steelyard.
The child of poor parents, he attended Board School, in a class of 60 pupils, always with second hand books. Owing to the increasing number of mouths to feed at home, David had to leave school at twelve and became a hammer-boy in the steelworks at the wage of seven shillings a week. But like David Livingstone and Mary Slessor and many other determined young souls, driven by their urge to go to the mission field, young David studied every minute that he could spare, driving his poor undernourished body to stay awake until late into the night after his day’s work.
His few pence pocket money was spent always on books which he bought second hand from a kindly bookseller, who would lay aside suitable bargains until David had saved up enough money for them. Milton’s Paradise Lost was his first purchase there – and he had read most of it standing up at the shop door before he could afford to buy it.
When he was old enough he became an apprentice bricklayer, all the time developing his many talents, for he was a "lad o’pairts" – studious, a bit of a poet, a singer in the local male voice quartet and an artist. His mother died at the age of 44 while he was still an apprentice and many years were still to pass before her ambitions for him were to be realised. Now it was even more difficult to find quietness for study.
As a Sunday School teacher he made use of his artistic ability producing what we would now call visual aids. Sunday School work led to the formation of a junior Christian Endeavour Society, for which he would plan meetings, compose choruses and prepare with prayer for the monthly consecration night. It was probably at this time that the child sown seed of ambition started to grow into an adult conviction and resolution to give his life to God's work. By the time he passed his preliminary examinations to go to Glasgow for his MA degree he was also a journeyman bricklayer; but the building boom of the nineties gave way to depression – in those days no work, no pay and no unemployment benefit; so before the family savings had altogether disappeared David set sail for America. In New York he earned the fabulous sum of five dollars a day at his trade. He was thus able to send money home to help the family and save up for his university studies.
He studied medicine at McGill University, Montreal concurrently with a course in theology at the Presbyterian College, and earning the money for all this by being a bricklayer in the summer months. "Dr. Brown's success is a good indication of the opportunities Canada gives to the hardworking immigrant," says the attached news cutting dated 1910. He now had the degree of MD passing out of McGill as principal prizeman in the medical school. He also gained prizes in English Literature and Public Speaking.
Pages created 1st March 2006