“…energetic young minister…”

Adolphus Hanns Geyer’s life was changed by the many German seamen and emigrants who passed through Glasgow on their journeys across the Atlantic Ocean.

He organised a popular series of religious gatherings for them in 1882, and then got a job with a new German seamen’s mission. His self-declared aim was to ‘lift the spirits of the transient emigrants’.

His father had been a minister in the Austrian Lutheran Church, and now Geyer too decided to study divinity with the United Presbyterian Free Church College.

In 1886 he got married, and one of Geyer’s witnesses at the wedding was Joseph Leckie, the Minister of the United Presbyterian Church in Ibrox.

The 1904 book, History of the congregations of the United Presbyterian Church, from 1733 to 1900 summarised Joseph Leckie’s life.

IBROX  (United  Presbyterian) 

The opening of a preaching station at Ibroxholm was sanctioned by Glasgow Presbytery on  11th April 1865, and services  were begun on Sabbath, 14th May. The district had a  population of 13,000. It is a mile from Govan, and the Established Church of Bellahouston was the only one within the bounds. On 9th January 1866 a congregation was formed of 27 certified members, and on 26th February two elders were ordained and two inducted. 

First  Minister.— Joseph Leckie, translated after being sixteen months in his second charge at Millport. Admitted, 5th June 1866. The call was signed by 32 members and 44 adherents. The congregation was meeting in a wooden church. I happened to hear Mr Leckie preach a remarkable discourse on a Sabbath evening soon after from the text: "Life  is yours." Though the delivery had none of the animation which Dr John Duncan felt needful,  as he advanced in years, for setting his mental machinery in motion, the discourse had  all the qualities which are sure to captivate a cultured audience. The new  church, with 678  sittings, and built at a cost of £6000, was opened on Sabbath, 20th  December 1868, by Dr Robertson of Irvine. Eleven years afterwards the  membership  was 270, and the stipend £500. In 1877 Mr Leckie received the degree of D.D. from Glasgow University, and in 1884 he published a volume of unique discourses, which were sometimes  named along with those of his special friend, Dr John  Ker. Dr Leckie died, 3rd January 1889, in the sixty-third year of his age and fortieth of his  ministry. A second volume of Dr Leckie's sermons, entitled "Life and Religion," was published in 1891, with a Memoir prefixed by his son in Boston Church, Cupar, affectionate but no way over-coloured. Both volumes present striking side-views of truth, and lead into by-paths of far-reaching meditation.
History of the congregations of the United Presbyterian Church, from 1733 to 1900, Robert Small, Edinburgh, 1904

His Ibroxholm congregation was established in April 1865 and Leckie joined them in June 1866. At this time they were meeting in a wooden church, with the stone church built in 1868.

Joseph Leckie was awarded his Doctor of Divinity degree at Glasgow University in 1877.

He published a book of sermons in 1884 and another volume, called Life and Religion was published after his death in 1889.

Joseph Leckie, photographed by Thomas Annan, published Historical Notices of the United Presbyterian Congregations in Glasgow. Edited by J Logan Aikman, D.D., Glasgow, 1875

One of Leckie’s friends from his early student days was Dr John Ker. A biography of another academic and clergyman called John Cairns, describes how Cairns, Ker and other friends including Logan Aikman (who published a book of photos of Presbyterian ministers in 1875) went to Berlin in 1843 to study theology and philosophy.

The influence of German thought is referenced in a review of Leckie’s Sermons by the United Presbyterian Magazine in May 1884: “All through the pages, the student of philosophy will find traces of the allurement of the antithesis of thought to which Hegel has given prominence, and in repeated phases of mystic thought the influence of Jacob Boehm becomes manifest.”

Jakob Böhme was 16th/17th century Christian mystic, and Lutheran Protestant theologian, described by Hegel as “the first German philosopher”.

Another review in The Scottish Review, July 1884, said that: “His theology is that of the Puritan father, and his discourses are modelled on theirs in the matter of agreement, and even the very language he uses savours of the seventeenth century. To many, however, this will be a decided recommendation, and there can be no doubt that the sermons are pervaded by a kindly and evangelical spirit.”

Perhaps this interest in German philosophy and theology, and evangelical spirit, were points of connection between Leckie and Geyer?

The German Protestant Church in Woodlands

Glasgow Evening Times, 13 Oct 1890. Mitchell Library Special Collections

In October 1890 the German congregation in Glasgow built a “comfortable and artistic little church”. Located on Woodlands Road, it was largely constructed of wood which was painted sage green, and the bell turret was a moulded dome covered with copper.

“An ardent photographer and an artist of no mean ability is the pastor. Who, unlike the majority of young Germans, does not require to make an annual visit to the Fatherland for the performance of military duty. Thus the fact that the pastor had in his mother a widow enables him to give his individed attention to his clerical duties and dwell in peace with a certain sweet English lady who consented to become Mrs Geyer, and with a plump pretty replica of either, or both.”

“The German in Glasgow”, Glasgow Evening Post, 26 February 1891

The church was a place for German protestants to worship in their own language, socialise and enjoy music. Each year the congregation held a Weihnachtsfest – traditional Christmas festivities with German songs and decorated Christmas trees.

And in late January 1899 the church was full for. celebration of the Kaiser’s birthday. Music came from a trio playing the violin and harp – both players were members of the Scottish Orchestra – and a cello. The music was an Andante and Fantastia by Herr Fernbacher and Handels’s Largo.

“The congregation approved the sending of a telegram to the Kaiser saying “May God Almighty bless and keep your Majesty on all your ways – these are the prayers of the German Protestant Congregation, Woodlands Road, Glasgow.””

Glasgow Herald, 24 January 1899, p4

Glasgow Herald, 24 January 1899, p4

Postcard of Woodlands Road circa 1904. The German Protestant Church (now demolished) is the red building with the domed spire to the left. St. Mary’s Cathedral spire in the centre background and Burnbank Bowling Club is to the right.

But though Pastor Geyer now had a church in the prosperous West End he continued to serve poor and marginalised communities in Glasgow.

It was a calling that would cause tension in the Glasgow German community.


Title quote: “The German in Glasgow”, Glasgow Evening Post, 26 February 1891