The Eleventh Minister of our Church – Part Two – Dumfries

On the 27th April 1944, six weeks before the landings in Normandy were announced and the Second World War entered its final stages, Henry Glen Alexander Simmons was inducted to the Charge of Maxwelltown West Church, Dumfries. The announcement was the start of a busy time for the new minister.

Harry Simmons was accompanied from Parkhead in Glasgow to Dumfries by his mother Agnes and their Housekeeper Miss Barbara Kennedy.  The family were faced with settling into a new manse in a rural town after life in the city and coping with the stresses of a community and congregation attempting to return to a normal life, after the disruption caused by the War.

Barbara Kennedy (Kenny) was born Barbara Bishop McNeilage the second child of James McNeilage a baker and Annie Miller, in Milton Glasgow in 1896.  Annie died in 1901 and James in 1902 when Barbara was 6 years old.  Barbara was quickly adopted by William and Agnes Kennedy, a childless couple in their early fifties.  Barbara’s name was changed to Kennedy and the adoption was probably arranged by the Church.  Barbara had an older sister Annie and a younger brother John, who were adopted by two spinsters called Brace.  Annie possibly emigrated to Australia, and after joining the army for a short period when he was 18, John went to England where he married and worked as a cook.  He had at least one of a family and died aged 80.  It is not known if there was any contact between Barbara and her family after they were adopted.

Looked after by his mother and Kenny their housekeeper, who also looked after the manse garden, Harry was able to devote his life to being a true parish minister to his congregation, all of whom become his friends, and to the wider community of Dumfries where as a well-known face he took an active part in the life of the town.  Maxwelltown West Manse became a place of welcome for visitors to Dumfries.

In 1952, eight years after arriving in Dumfries, Harry’s mother Agnes passed away aged 78. After a private funeral she was buried in Glasgow.

Barbara Kennedy continued as housekeeper looking after the manse and the large garden.

Harry was an active parish minister, conducting two services every Sunday.  On 25th April 1969 a social was held to mark Harry’s Semi Jubilee as minister of Maxwelltown West Church.

In 1978 after a long illness, Barbara Kennedy, aged 82, housekeeper and friend of the Simmons family passed away in Dumfries Infirmary.

Harry continued to live in the Manse on his own, supported by members of the congregation and friends.  He regularly conducted the two services every Sunday and ministered to the congregation.  After a short illness Harry died, aged 73, in 1983.  His funeral service was held in a full Maxwelltown West Church on 28th April.  He was buried in Cathcart Cemetery in Glasgow.   Church published a commemoration booklet with contributions by members and friends.  Tribute was also published to Harry in the Dumfries Standard as a commemoration of his work in the Dumfries community.      B W