Jimmy Black was born in Airdrie, but soon after his birth his family moved to Crossroes, near Standburn. When he left school he worked in the coal-mines, first as an office boy and then as a miner. A leg injury left him unemployed in the 1920's when there were thousands of others unemployed. In 1927 he applied for a job, that of "Compulsory Officer" as it was called, i.e. School Attendance Officer. There were 287 applicants and Jimmy Black was chosen. He revelled in it and put it to good use spiritually.
By this time Jimmy was saved. In his youth he never went near a church and he admitted that he did all the things he shouldn't have done. It was the death of his sister-in-law and the witnessing of his sister that influenced him for the Saviour. He attended meetings in the Mid-Scotland Gospel Tent in Maddiston and was born again.
Camelon was the first assembly that Jimmy and his wife, Polly, were in. This was six miles from Shieldhill where they lived. They had only one son, called after his father, and on Lord's Days they pushed his pram the six miles to the meeting to remember the Lord. People who know the road may well remark that if it was six miles down it would be a few more back up the hill!
In 1922 the assembly in Maddiston was formed. It began in the Templar's Hall in conjunction with gospel meetings conducted by the late Joe Strain of Galston. Until its jubilee in 1972 Jimmy Black was correspondent and over those years virtually all the speakers were entertained by Jimmy and his wife. Since 1946 assembly gatherings have been held in Bethesda Hall, which was largely built by voluntary labour.
Living, working, and worshipping in the same community can be a tremendous asset for a Christian, especially if he has the disposition and aptitude of Jimmy Black. His job brought him into touch with practically every family in the district. He had an outstanding gift for personal work; his approach to individuals was unequalled for he could readily turn any conversation to spiritual things. Thus he was a great soul-winner. One seldom met Jimmy Black without him being able to tell about a recent contact.
His aptitude meant that he was a most useful companion for evangelists when they were in the district. Jimmy's favourite approach in a department store was to ask where the free gift department was. When the assistant had to admit that there was no such department Jimmy with great delight would tell her about the free gift of God which is everlasting life.
It is easy to imagine Jimmy Black being an excellent hospital visitor. He had a lovely smiling face and a great sense of humour, although he could also be very sympathetic. For 35 years he visited Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary twice a week. A local newspaper reporter wrote that he was "A man who exudes cheerfulness and to whom class and creed are no barrier". His biggest ordeal here was to return to his beloved hospital wards after the death of his only son. He was afraid that his great trial would cause the patients and staff to watch carefully how Jimmy Black stood up to adversity, and he was much cast on the Lord to save him from letting the Saviour down. At less regular intervals Jimmy visited the elderly people in Falkirk Burgh Hospital and the Windsor Home.
Another of Jimmy Black's activities was in Polmont Borstal. For over 40 years he, along with others, conducted work among the inmates. Sunday afternoon Bible Class was conducted on two or three Sundays a month, but when a considerable number of the boys professed to trust the Saviour during a visit from the late Dr Manderson, Jimmy got special permission to start a Tuesday night Bible study. When interviewed about his Borstal work, he was asked, "What do you hope to gain by coming here week by week?". His answer was: "Financially, nothing; spiritually, winning the boys for Christ; morally, changed lives". Eventually Jimmy Black was awarded the B.E.M. The prison authorities laid on a buffet tea. The first date selected by the Lord Lieutenant for presenting the medal didn't suit Jimmy. He explained that his problem was that he had an appointment with the Lord on Wednesday evenings. It was the prayer meeting and he always made a point of being there. The Lord Lieutenant understood, and arranged an alternative date.
The last meeting Jimmy Black attended was the Bible Class Social at Polmont Borstal. Subsequently he took ill, was removed to hospital the next day, and went home to be with the Lord on Christmas Eve, 1975, just eight weeks after his beloved Polly.
On 6th January, 1976 the Governor of Polmont Borstal arranged a memorial service. Many friends were present, including the former Governor. The Convener of the Central Regional Council, who lived in Maddiston, wrote: "The passing of Jimmy Black is a loss to the village of Maddiston and to thesurrounding community whom he served so well. As a leader of the Christian Brethren at Maddiston for over 50 years he spent his life visiting and comforting the sick. He was a regular and welcome visitor to the various hospitals in the area. His sincerity and integrity was recognised by patients of all denominations. Jimmy Black was of a cheerful disposition and brought happiness to the thousands he visited. It will be difficult indeed to find a replacement for this dedicated servant of God".
Archie Naismith summed up Jimmy Black's life: "He was always the perfect gentleman. Children would sit on his knee as he sang or taught the child some chorus. A man of like passions with ourselves, he could laugh heartily and enjoy a joke, yet weep sincerely and often copiously over lost souls". Jimmy and Polly Black were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their deaths they were not divided.