Alexander Syme

Recently Margaret-Jean Stone Wigg was sent a newspaper cutting which had been unearthed from her brother’s safe. It is the obituary of her grandfather, Alexander Syme who died in 1945 at the age of 80. Because her father was working abroad, it was her grandparents who raised Margaret-Jean and took her with them every Sunday to St Mary’s where she became a member of the choir at a young age. The obituary and the personal tribute which follows by his friend Arthur Poyser give us fascinating insights into life in Dunblane over a century ago.

The Late Mr Alex Syme

Widespread regret was felt on Wednesday when it was learned that Mr Alexander Syme, Ben View, had passed away. He had been ill for a considerable time, following an accident in stepping off a bus; probably his last outing was on the occasion of the opening of the bowling green on the last Saturday of April.

Mr Syme, who was in his 80th year, was a native of Dunblane, and one of its brightest ornaments. To a singularly happy disposition he added gifts that were always generously placed at the service of the people. Above everything he was a devoted churchman, following his father in the office of verger of St Mary’s Episcopal Church, and discharging the duties with great faithfulness for many years, subsequently acting with great acceptance as a member of the Vestry.

To the Lodge of Dunblane No. 9, Mr Syme also gave of his very best; indeed it is difficult to set forth how much the Lodge meant to him and the great part it occupied in his life … In recreation Mr Syme found much enjoyment on the bowling green. A fine player himself, he delighted in a keen game with congenial spirits, his cheery good nature making for the best that is in the game. … Of his work, it is sufficient to say that he was an esteemed employee with Messrs R. Puller & Sons at Ashfield Works [a silk-dyeing mill] all his days. He had been nearly fifty years married, and to his widow and family of two sons and three daughters the sympathy of many friends goes out in their bereavement.

Syme of Dunblane: a Tribute

So we have parted from my old and most treasured friend, Syme of Dunblane. To me he typified Dunblane and its many aspects.

He sang in the choir of St Mary’s Church both as boy and as man; he was one of the famous ‘Dandy Coons’ concert party of the Victoria Hall in earlier days [from around 1880 to 1920 ‘coon songs’ presenting a stereotype of black people by white men with blacked faces were popular]; he was a keen bowler, and ‘the green’ will miss his genial personality; he was a leader among Freemasons and at one time Master of Lodge No. IX, Dunblane; and he knew everyone in the town, the town’s history, and all the chances and changes of his passing years. To spend an evening with Syme in his charming home was to find happiness and enjoyment of no ordinary kind.

He was a member of the Church Council of St Mary’s and his advice was sought on many important issues; his wisdom helped to settle many important questions of direct action or policy. He was born, one might say, a member of the Episcopal Church of Scotland and all his family are church people …

It was specially gratifying to me that I was able to bring to Dunblane, by the kindly help of all the good folk at Ben View, and many other friends, my City of London Boy Players in the summer of 1939, just a week or two before the outbreak of the second great war. [Arthur Poyser was International Commissioner for Music, Master of the Lord Mayor’s Players and Singers [the Boy Players], and founder in 1908 of the Lord Mayor’s Own 1st City of London B.P. Scouts]. The Symes, by their unqualified and heartening enthusiasm, made that visit to Dunblane something we — both myself and all the young players and singers under my charge — shall always remember with deep gratitude.

So we salute, as he goes upon his journey, a very dear friend who made life for all who knew him, a happier thing than it would otherwise have been: once whose welcoming smile and heartfelt loyalty meant so much to all of us who knew Syme of Dunblane intimately.