James Smith (1806 – 1881) philanthropist and missionary who worked to alleviate the suffering of the poor in Saltcoats and Stevenston. Founded the Mission Coast Home.

An active campaigner for the religious and moral welfare of the poor of Saltcoats and Stevenston, James Smith moved his family to Glasgow in 1853 to work as a missionary with the United Presbyterian Church in Sydney Place, Calton.  Two years later he was appointed by the Glasgow Missionary Society to one of the poorest and most densely populated areas of the city.  With over twenty years’ experience of working with people suffering from the deprivation and distress caused by poverty, he became convinced of the benefits of a convalescent home by the coast, especially for those whose health was failing. 

With the help of several donors, the Mission Coast Home was founded in May 1866, starting with a modest room and kitchen at Kyleshill which could hold up to six people.  In August 1874 a two-storey building was opened in Nineyards Street, which could accommodate 90 people at a time.  The home was remodelled again in 1889, 1896 and in 1907.  Initially the focus was on enabling the visitors to benefit from the good clean air at the coast.  In 1891 special hydrotherapy baths were installed to help those suffering from rheumatism and sciatica. 

As it soon became evident that the majority of people who would benefit most from the Mission Coast Home could not afford to pay for their stay, food and board were provided free of charge.  The visitors only had to pay for their train fare.  The Glasgow & South Western Railway allowed the poorest visitors to the Home to pay half-price fares.  Dr Kinnear of Saltcoats gave his services and medicine for free. 

The home was financed by public subscriptions, gifts in kind, and legacies.  In 1870, the proceeds of an exhibition of the Glasgow Institute for Fine Arts were dedicated to the Home.  Rich individuals, workmen from various firms and Sabbath School collections all contributed but Thomas Corbett, a businessman, made the greatest individual financial contribution and effectively underwrote the financial viability of the home.  After his death his family conveyed the property occupied by the Home to the trustees. 

James’s lifelong friend, William Bryden, a Saltcoats clothier and his wife, Catherine Fullarton, managed the Home, while James opened an office in Glasgow where he took care of those applying to visit the Home.   

James Smith died 26 February 1881 at Raise Street, Saltcoats, survived by his third wife, Sarah Hood.  William Bryden died on 08 July 1886.  The Bryden Memorial Hall complete with tower, was opened in 1889 as a tribute to the founders. 

The Mission Coast Home continued to be used for convalescence well into the 20th century.  By 1974 over 150,000 people had experienced its benefits.  Around 1980 the building was taken over by the “Come Back to God” Campaign who established Adelaide College to train people in Christian Ministry.