Chapter 2 – 1910-1921
By this time David's father (described as "a charming man, when he was sober" and probably the main cause of David's life-long work for temperance societies) was also dead and the family, in the charge of the eldest sister, was living in Glasgow. David returned to live with them there, working as an assistant minister at Finnieston U.F. Church, while completing his theological studies, and gaining much useful experience in pulpits all around the countryside. One of these pulpit supplies was at Annan, Dumfriesshire where the organist was Miss Bessie Caldwell. Before he returned to Glasgow the next Thursday these two had got to know each other quite well, and the first thing David did on returning to the family home was to send a letter and photograph to Annan. The courtship was not easy, and was conducted mostly by letters with an occasional week-end visit to Annan by bicycle – a distance of some hundred miles! It was on the day he was giving a lecture on a medical subject to the Annan Literary Society that the couple became engaged, in November 1914.
Also in 1914 David was ordained to the ministry in the village of Saline, Fife, and married the following July.The wedding was in Annan, and the young couple took up house in Saline straight away thinking themselves lucky and expecting no honeymoon in those troubled times. It was natural that David should offer his services to his country as a medical man, and an interesting correspondence took place in which the words "red tape" were frequently used – in short, a degree from McGill University was not acceptable to the British army authorities. Nothing daunted, he sat the final medical examinations at Dublin University and was soon on active service, first as Lieutenant and later as Captain in the R.A.M.C.
France was his field of service, and back to Annan for his young wife to await the birth of their second child – their first had been stillborn. Although Captain Brown’s work was medical, he also carried out the duties of Chaplain on many occasions when no Padre was available. His interest in photography was also growing - an interest which made him many friends and which was useful later in keeping a pictorial record of his work. Unfortunately we next find our Dr. Brown in a sanatorium at Milnathort – as a patient. Like so many others affected by trench warfare, his lungs had suffered and it was several months before he was declared free of the danger of T.B.
He had resigned from his charge at Saline, in order that the people there need not be left without a minister in his absence, and it is interesting to note from some of his letters written from his next sphere of action – Italy – that he had doubts about ever returning to the ministry. The most devoted servants of God seem to have doubts at times. However, demobilisation came in 1919, and during a short holiday at Annan the following telegram arrived:
"Doctor at Kyle of Lochalsh ill and needs locum for 2-3 weeks. Fee 8 guineas per week with board and lodging and travelling expenses to and from Lochalsh. Could you accept this post and if so can you use a motorcycle or drive motorcar, Wire reply. Secretary Highlands and Island Committee."
The answer – more economically – was:
"Will take locumcy. Not motorcyclist, only learning motorcar. Send particulars, please. Brown."
Within a week he was at Kyle of Lochalsh – and riding the motorbike! A number of locum jobs around the Highlands and Islands included one in South Uist. An interesting diary entry reads thus:
"3.45am. Drizzly. Misty. Wakened by thumping at door. "A serious case at Eriskay, Doctor; a man’s burst a blood vessel in his head." Up, dressed, fixed up motorcycle and started it; stopped – tried to start again – chain broke! Pumped up pedal cycle and off in drizzle. Two miles out, left pedal came off. Found it. Set off. Pedal off again. Got to Blocher at last and into fishing boat. No wind. Rowing all the way – at rudder. Walk across island to 'The Parks' and found man in dirty mess and weak thro' loss of blood. "We tried everything, Doctor, but couldn’t get the blood stopped."
" 'Everything' included tobacco, and a mixture of blood, butter meal etc. Spent half an hour removing layer of blood, meal etc. an inch thick. Sutured scalp and made him comfortable and left him smoking contentedly. Tea and scone. Off." [I wonder if he met anything much more primitive in Africa?!] More visits in Eriksay filled the rest of the morning; Back to Uist by twelve, fixed the motorbike, and did more visits all afternoon."
Some of these visits have written beside them 1/- pd. Some 3/- pd. And some nothing!
Later in 1919 he accepted an appointment as medical officer and vaccinator to the parish of Walls and Flotta in Orkney. His wife and baby girl joined him there, and before long he was back to his preaching as well, being made parish minister of Walls. They stayed there only about a year, until it was time at last to fulfil the old ambition to go to the mission field. The Church of Scotland appealed for workers to take over the mission stations vacated by the Germans in Tanganyika after the war, and Doctor Brown offered his services and was accepted. Months of preparation followed, and a long and arduous journey until early in 1921 he and his wife and family arrived at Rutenganio, Tanganyika, where they were to learn some of the ways of missionary life.
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