Lines in Memoriam of the Late Rev. George Gilfillan

Alas! the Reverend George Gilfillan is gone at last
To the better world, I hope, where all sorrows are past
He was a liberal gentleman, which no one dare gainsay,
Besides, he was the greatest preacher in his day.

He was very good to the poor in distress,
And many a shilling he gave me, I must confess;
He was a man beloved by the people at home and abroad,
And I hope his soul is now in heaven at the right hand of God.

He was a man of genius bright, deny it who can!
And let it be inscribed on his tombstone – Here lies an honest man.
Alas! alas! he is gone, which gives me great pain
To tell the world it shall never look on his like again.

Fellow citizens on Dundee of high and low degree,
I beg to be excused for making it known to ye,
I am the first man that read passages from his poem called “Night”
Before him, in his own house, which filled his heart with delight.

Farewell to the great Gilfillan of Dundee,
Who wont to fill his hearers’ hearts with glee,
But now he has left them to mourn,
Because unto them he can never return.

The poor his death will very much deplore,
Because they always received alms at his door;
And the people will lament for him in vain,
For they will never hear his eloquent voice again.

George Gilfillan

Men don’t die every day of the character and reputation of George Gilfillan, and who draw so many eyes to the darkness after them. It was not his books altogether nor his literary distinction, nor even the frequency of his name in the newspapers, that made him the living influencing man he was. It was rather the catholicity of his temper and his white-heated rage at wrong-doing and wrong-saying. There will never be any generous or just depreciation of his powers as a litterateur, nor of his expository gifts by tongue and pen. After all, as clergyman, author, and critic, he will remain the most considerable and the burliest figure of his generation ; but after that is said and done all is not said and done. Mr Gilfillan’s speciality was love of justice; he could neither do without justice himself nor stand by and see others, even strangers, robbed of it. The storms of his career arose over that, and so did some of its follies too, for he was quick to resent with what weapons as were at hand, and the company manners sort of weapon, we all know, is not always at hand. And then he was enthroned in so much intellectual contempt that he was seldom at home either with leaders of society or of the Church. He was, on the contrary, always found domesticated with merit in the cosmopolitan sphere, and had his springs of joy with talent struggling up, and with gracious influences in seats of prominence. He was, in brief, an honest man, having the resources of genius with their usually attending egotisms, who lived less for Dundee and Scotland than for those in all the world who are aware of duty to be done; of the ravishing beauty of the world in which it. is done; of the inspiring raptures of human fellowship; of the holy war which is in the war against cant; of the nameless pleasure there is in giving unbestowed talent “a lift;” of the illumination there is in books; of the sad wags there are in all churches; of the reward there is in whacking self seekers; of the scourging fires which are in purses of gold – of, in short, the brotherhood of humanity which is in native worth in all climes. The present writer saw Mr Gilfillan on Saturday, and he was as jovial as ever under his negligent wide-awake. We never imagined the sight was to be the last. Next day, with a premonition in perfect keeping with his unique way of looking behind and before, he preached his own funeral sermon, with the secret of it in his own soul.

Fifeshire Journal, 15th August 1878


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