David Ballantyne was big, sober, and pious. He was a striking man, towering six feet and weighing over two hundred pounds. Even beyond his graying years he was amazingly vigorous and powerful. Long sweating hours in the fields and a shrewd Scotch instinct for thrift had rewarded him with ´considerable property in houses and lands═ near the village of Earlston Scotland. Born in1743, the son of William and Margaret Ballantyne, David was not one of the ´titled gentry.═ He was brought up close to the soil and learned all the tricks a good farmer must know in working with his hands. He was, nevertheless, an influence in his community and respected for his success and integrity.ţ
David [was] a serious man who stayed close to home. . . . He feared the Lord and loved the Scriptures. He was fond of repeating from memory whole chapters of the Bible to his children. . . . . He never failed to give thanks whenever he sat down to eat, and he would not as much as take a sip of water without first lifting his hat and saying grace.
David═s first wife, Cecilia Wallace, died at the dawn of the nineteenth century leaving him with three children: William, Henry, and Margaret. The children had grown up and were making their own way, and David grew more and more lonely. He needed . . . a good wife and companion; and so despite his sixty years and the skepticism of his neighbors, he was young enough in spirit to win the heart of a ´bonnie lass═ of nineteen who came from the Highlands and spoke Gaelic. She was Ann, daughter of Peter and Ann Bannerman. It is said that the name Bannerman originated with one of Peter═s ancestors who was the bearer of the royal banner of the Scottish kings.
When David and Ann bravely set out to a rear a family, the neighbors again lifted their eyebrows in interest. Children were born: Ann, Peter, Jane, and Robert, who died in infancy. Then at the sterling age of seventy-four David proudly announced to his wide-eyed friends the birth of a fifth child, a son, who was duly christened Richard. It was August 26, 1817. Richard was born at Whitridgebog, in Roxburgshire County. It was a small place with scarcely a dozen families, located in the southeastern corner of Scotland.
Shortly after Richard was born, tragedy struck the Ballantynes. David had been asked by a friend to be a surety for his debts. The friend defaulted, and overnight trusting David lost the accumulated wealth of a lifetime. His property, which included about a hundred acres of good farm land . . . and five two-storied stone houses . . ., was sold at public auction; and he and his family ˝were turned out of doors with only a cow and a few articles of furniture. In this distressing situation he hired a small cot on a neighboring farm from the proprietor of which he received employment at common labor.ţ The man of wealth and position was reduced to a field hand in almost a twinkling of an eye: destitute, homeless, and penniless. ˝But he bore his afflictions with great fortitude and patience, and his religion was a great solace to his feelings.ţ
David lived eleven more years, working as a laborer as long as his strength remained. Two more children, Annie and James, were born to him. His eyes grew dim. His vigor slowly seeped away, and . . . at the age of eighty-six, [he] died in Springhall, near Kelso Scotland. The night before his death, it is said a voice three times called to him, ˝David, David, come away.═ţ
After the death of her husband, Ann moved the family to Lightfield. Richard had attended school in Kelso for only a few years, but it soon became obvious he must earn his own way. At the age of seven he was herding his father═s cows along Scotch paths and lanes. At ten he was a gardener to a wealthy Scotsman. At eleven he worked ten hours daily as a farm laborer for the munificent wage of ten cents a day. His sister Jane entered domestic service . . .; but the family burden was thrust largely upon Peter, the eldest son, who left home to work on a farm and send his entire earnings to his mother. He labored long hours, weakening himself by worry and overwork, until finally his health broke. He became a permanent invalid and was taken to Dumfries for medical care. His mother Ann then had to carry on alone with such help as her smaller children could give.
Ann was independent. She would rather starve than be an object of charity. Resourceful and shrewd, she squeezed out a fairly respectable existence for her children. For years she toiled, never once accepting public relief. She fought poverty with the grim determination of her Highland nature, filling the mouths of her children, patching and remaking their clothing, and sending them to church dressed ˝like little princes.ţ . . . [Ann] availed herself during several years of the opportunity of working about a month in the harvest field in order to pay the annual rent of the home; [she] arose between three or four, milked two cows, prepared breakfast and cleaned the home; traveled two miles to begin work at six, then used the reaping hook until eleven; took dinner and rested until one; then worked again five hours till six; went home, ate supper and milked cows, carried the milk a mile and a half, and distributed it to customers. Going home faint and weary she retired to rest to resume the performance of the same duties each succeeding day till the harvest ended.