Pond and pulpit: The Pastor Geyer story

A sepia photograph of a group of 13 men and one boy, some seated, outside the Arlington Baths in 1896, dressed in suits and wearing caps or bowler hats

This photograph of smartly attired men is captioned Early morning swimmers at the Arlington Baths. It dates from 1896.

It was taken by Adolphus Hanns Geyer and is the oldest photograph we have of members of the Arlington Baths Club

His story is a fascinating one that reveals hidden aspects of Victorian Glasgow including the immigrant and travelling communities in the city.

Here we explore various aspects of his life and the German-speaking community in Victorian and Edwardian Glasgow and their connections with the Arlington Baths.

Find out about his life and work in Glasgow and the church on Woodlands Road where he preached, as well as his love of travel and the Scottish scenery. 

Adolphus Hanns Geyer: his life and family

Adolphus Hanns Geyer was born in the Austrian Empire in 1857 and came to Glasgow in the 1880s. He married into a family with connections with the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Find out more about his family life in the city.

“…a German residing in Glasgow becomes ‘Scotchified’…”

Glasgow was a boom town in the 19th century. People flocked to the city from across the world to live, work, and seek fame and fortune. Among them was Geyer, who was trained as an engineer. When he arrived by the 1880s, the city was home to several hundred people of German ethnicity, growing by the 1900s to an estimated 2,000-3000 people.

 “…energetic young minister…”

Adolphus Hanns Geyer organised a popular series of religious gatherings for the many German seamen and emigrants who passed through Glasgow on their journeys across the Atlantic Ocean. His self-declared aim was to ‘lift the spirits of the transient emigrants’. Later he decided to study divinity with the United Presbyterian Free Church College.

“The Mountains all to me are dear”

Pastor Geyer was a man of many interests. He was a talented artist who travelled in Scotland and abroad to seek subjects for his etchings and photographs. Geyer also organised several group tours to the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and the Austrian Alps. These activities were not just for pleasure but were important ways to raise funds for the church.

“when thou makest a feast, call the poor…”

As well as ministering to his flock in Woodlands, Pastor Geyer helped people who were misunderstood or marginalised including a Roma community, which caused some tension with his middle class congregation. However the First World War dispersed the Glasgow German community.