The Life’s Belongings of Elizabeth Gamble

This blog post is about the life’s belongings of my Irish 2 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Gamble, which were in her tenement flat in Glasgow on her death.

Elizabeth Gamble with my maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cadden.

(Often when family history research discovers probate records for an ancestor all that is discovered is the total monetary sum of the belongings that an ancestor has left behind.  We are blessed in my family that the detailed inventory of Elizabeth Gamble’s belongings has survived).

Elizabeth was born on 20 January 1867 at Polintamney near Ballymoney, County Antrim, Northern Ireland to James Gamble, a farmer, and Martha Adams.

The family farm at Polintamney.

On 24 July 1895 Elizabeth married John Stevens, a Scottish salesman, at the 1st Presbyterian Church in Ballymoney.

1st Presbyterian Church, Ballymoney.

In the 1901 census Elizabeth was living at 8 Rathcool Street, Belfast with her husband, their 2 children and Elizabeth’s sister Jane.

8 Rathcool Street, Belfast.

In the 1911 census Elizabeth was living at Enagh near Ballymoney with her 3 children.

In the mid 1920s Elizabeth emigrated to Glasgow, Scotland with her family – John Stevens had died in Hartwood Asylum in Scotland in 1905 (I’ve blogged previously on John’s final illness).

Elizabeth died at 74 Shakespeare Street, Maryhill, Glasgow on 10 August 1951 from senility and cardiovascular degeneration and is buried in Tollcross cemetery.

74 Shakespeare Street

Elizabeth had a four room tenement flat at 74 Shakespeare Street and I’ve always found it fascinating that we know about her belongings in such detail.  As you will see below, I’ve also been blessed enough to inherit a piece of Elizabeth’s furniture!

Contents of parlour:

Carved oak enclosed sideboard with mirror back
Mahogany inlaid 2-door bureau bookcase
Oak flower pot pedestal
Inlaid walnut oblong table on pillar and claw
Painted wood stool
Spring mattress
Hair mattress
Bed valance
Old bolster
4 oak dining room chairs with loose seats in rexine
[Rexine is an artificial leather fabric: ]
Easy chair in rexine with loose cushion
Mahogany hand chair in American cloth
{American cloth is a glazed or waterproofed cotton cloth: }
Kitchen chair
Bordered Axminster carpet
Linoleum surround
Axminster rug
Copper cased kerb [the kerb would have been used to edge the fireplace hearth]
Copper companion stand
Copper fire screen
Oak overmantel
Blue glass floating bowl
Glass piano castor
Allerton decorated stoneware jug [Charles Allerton & Sons made earthenware and china from 1859 to 1942 at Longton, Lancashire]
Stoneware dish and cover with fruit decoration
Decorated stoneware flower pot
4 tumblers
Antique wineglass
Antique wineglass with white twist stem
Glass cruet
Glass wine bottle
Glass flower tube with metal base
Glass water jug
Glass sugar and cream
Tinted glass wine bottle and 6 small glasses
Blue glass flower vase
8 pieces fruit condiments
Glass biscuit barrel with odd lid
3 small glass bowls
Glass butter
Shell shaped pyrex dish
EP [electro-plated] 4-bottle cruet
2 decorated stoneware teapots
1 decorated stoneware sugar basin and cover
Decorated stoneware sugar and cream
2 small jugs
Decorated stoneware fruit bowl, small
Small decorated china sugar bowl
Invalid’s cup
Allerton stoneware mug
Decorated stoneware teapot stand
Antimony circular box
Decorated stoneware 2-handled trinket tray
Glove box
Small bottle on wood stand
Small green stoneware fern pot
Blue and gilt egg shaped vase centre piece decorated with flowers
Red and gilt Vienna china ewer with figure band
Pair gold cotton and silk window curtains and valance
40 piece yellow, white and gilt china tea set with floral bases
Glass goblet
Antique wine glass
Glass tankard
Glass decanter
4 glass fruit bowls
Glass vase
Glass cake comport [a comport being a small, rimmed plate on a pedestal]
Glass plate
Glass flower tube
Wine glass
3 tumblers
Glass flower bowl
Blue and white stoneware jug
Decorated china plate with pierced rim
Antique lustre jug
Imari fluted bowl [Imari being a type of Japanese porcelain]
21 pieces decorated stoneware dinner ware
8 pieces odd dinner ware and bread plates
Decorated stone ware cake comport
Decorated china cream jug
Old gramophone
Lot old pictures
Axminster rug
Quilted bed mat
Table cover
Wool tea cosy
Huck towel [Huck fabric is a thick, loose, soft cotton or linen toweling woven in a birdseye or honeycomb pattern]
Pillow case
Old blanket
Wicker work basket
2 leather hand bags
Art silk bedspread [Art silk probably means artificial silk]
Pair blue cotton curtains and valance
Pair green cotton curtains and valance
3 window screens

The inlaid walnut oblong table which was in Elizabeth’s parlour and which is also my desk.

Contents of bathroom:

Ewbank carpet sweeper
Wicker corner soiled clothes basket
Enamel basin
Wood wringer board
Wash board
2 GI [galvanised iron] pails
Wicker basket
Linoleum to cover
Old piece runner
Oblong wall mirror in painted frame

Contents of hall:

Oak wardrobe with mirror, door and 3 drawers
Oak hall stand with mirror back
Coal shovel
Lot books
Old Axminster rug
Old GI pail
Enamel basin
Small coal shovel
Sweeping brush
Set steps
9 stainless tea knives
Dessert spoon
Butter fork
Wool blanket
2 small water colours
2 small oil paintings
Turkish towel
Red chenille table cover
Plastic door screen

Contents of kitchen:

Oak utility chest 2 drawers with 2-door undercupboard
Mahogany Pembroke table [A Pembroke table is a drop-leaf table with fine tapering legs ]
Bamboo table
Oak oblong occasional table on 4 turned supports
Decca Electric Wireless Receiver in Walnut case
2 kitchen chairs
Base rocking chair and 2 cushions
Old easy chair in rexine with 2 cushions
Saratoga trunk [a large travelling trunk usually with a rounded top ]
Axminster rug
Linoleum to cover
Metal kerb
Enamel hearth
Fibre trunk
Electric radiator
Chiming clock in inlaid oak case
Stained wood wall rack
Glass flower
Enamel bread tin and cover
2 basin
Bread board
2 trays
2 lacquered trays
Aluminium kettle
Aluminium tea pot
Stoneware toby jug
Bevelled frameless oval mirror
2 wall mirrors in painted frames
White wool blanket
2 Turkish towels
White linen bedspread
Huck towel
Rubber Holland window blind [A Holland blind is perhaps better known as a roller blind nowadays]
Small piece blanketing
Pillow case
Tray cloth
Crochet supper cloth
Pair lace curtains
5 sheets, various
Rubber ring
Quilted bed mat
Paid cotton curtains
Pair screens

My great, great grandmother’s clothes are simply listed as ‘Deceased’s wearing apparel and personal effects and a dark musquash fur coat.’

My mum remembers going to 74 Shakespeare Street a couple of times and we have 2 letters written by Elizabeth Gamble plus letters written by my grandmother from Shakespeare Street as she stayed over with her grandmother.  The above list of belongings helps to add much colour to memories and letters.

A colourised photo of (left to right) Elizabeth Gamble, Elizabeth Cadden (my maternal grandmother) and Sarah Gamble (Elizabeth’s sister).

I also wonder where all these items might have come from – in addition to living in Ballymoney, Belfast and Glasgow, Elizabeth Gamble also rented a house in Rothesay before World War 2.

Elizabeth Gamble probably with one of her grandsons.

The Risks of Visiting a Lighthouse

My direct Hunter line came from the island of Great Cumbrae in the Firth of Clyde to Arbroath and then to Govan in Glasgow, and one of my current family history sub-projects is finding out more about my Hunter family’s everyday life in Great Cumbrae.

This blog post is about one of the first stories I’ve discovered about the daily life of my Hunter family on Great Cumbrae, the death of my 4 x great uncle Andrew Hunter.

Andrew was born in 1802 (and baptised on 5 May 1802) on Great Cumbrae to Peter Hunter (second mate on the Royal George cutter, the customs ship that sailed out of Millport Bay to catch smuggling vessels in the Firth of Clyde, a subject for another blog post) and Elizabeth McKirdy.

Andrew married Margaret Crawford on Great Cumbrae on 13 August 1827 and they had 5 children. Andrew only appeared in one census, the 1841 census, when he and Margaret and 4 of their children were living in Kames Street, Newton on Great Cumbrae. In 1841 Andrew was working as a joiner.

In 1849 Andrew died when he went to visit a lighthouse on the island of Little Cumbrae.

Little Cumbrae is noted for it’s three lighthouses. The first lighthouse was built by James Ewing at the top of Lighthouse Hill (the highest point on the island) in 1757, which was only the second lighthouse built in the whole of Scotland. The second lighthouse on Little Cumbrae was built in 1793 by Thomas Smith, sited on a beach with a jetty and slipway half a kilometre from the first lighthouse and the second lighthouse was replaced in 1997 by a new tower on the same site.

This is the first lighthouse:

This is the second lighthouse:

Andrew’s accident during his visit to the lighthouse on Little Cumbrae was reported in 4 newspapers the length of the country from Greenock to London which shows the significance the accident must have had to journalists and readers.

The newspapers are slightly unclear on who exactly Andrew visited Little Cumbrae with but it seems that Andrew visited the island with a friend and fellow professional and his friend’s workmen. That is, I suspect that on Saturday 20 October 1849 Andrew had accompanied his friend Mr Wishart, a mason, to the island along with Mr Wishart’s workmen. Mr Wishart had been doing some work on the lighthouse which was to be finished that day. Having finished the work the workmen were having dinner in a room and Andrew Hunter entered the room warning them to get ready to leave quickly as the wind was was beginning to blow hard and he was concerned there would be a heavy gale.

Andrew Hunter then left the room to get the boat ready for departure and Mr Wishart and his workmen followed him shortly afterwards. However when Mr Wishart and his workmen arrived at the boat they couldn’t find Andrew Hunter anywhere and spent some time searching for him. Eventually they pulled the boat a few yards closer to the land and they discovered his body floating under the boat with a severe wound on the forehead. It was believed that, either when Andrew had been trying to reach the boat or when he had been trying to catch hold of the anchor, Andrew’s feet had slipped on the rocks which were very slippery there, he fell on his forehead and was so stunned he couldn’t pull himself out of the water. It is believed Andrew had been in the water for half an hour and he was quite dead when found. My personal conclusion from the description of the incident is that Andrew, Mr Wishart and the workmen were visiting the second lighthouse and that the photo above of that lighthouse shows a little of the immediate scene with the shore, rocks and water where Andrew died..

Andrew Hunter had an amiable and obliging disposition, left a widow and family, who felt his loss severely, and a large group of friends and neighbours, by whom he was much respected and whom at all times he was willing to aid by his advice and exertions.

Sources: Church and census records from the Scotland’s People website, history of Little Cumbrae lighthouses from the Little Cumbrae wikipedia website, photos of the Little Cumbrae lighthouses from the UK Lighthouse Tour website and Greenock Advertiser dated 23 October 1849, Morning Post dated 25 October 1849, Christian News dated 25 October 1849 and London Evening Standard dated 26 October 1849 all from the British Newspaper Archive website:

A Much Loved Great Aunt – Elizabeth Sloan McDade Armour

This blog post is adapted from the eulogy of my much loved great aunt Elizabeth Sloan McDade Webb nee Armour which my Mum and I wrote for her funeral in 2015.

Elizabeth, front right, in characteristic hysterics. Frank Webb on the left.

Elizabeth was born in Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital, Rottenrow, Glasgow in 1917. Sadly her mother died days later but Elizabeth had 2 older brothers William and Francis. A family anecdote is remembered of Elizabeth’s aunt on her father’s side going to visit the mother and baby in hospital, only to be told that Elizabeth’s mother had died and the aunt should prepare to look after the baby.

The remains of Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

Elizabeth was brought up between her father and stepmother, William Armour and Elizabeth Welsh (her father remarried in 1919), in Kelvinbridge, Glasgow and her aunt, Elizabeth Mulholland nee Armour in Johnstone, Renfrewshire.

William Armour
Elizabeth Welsh
Elizabeth Armour

Elizabeth got up to many childhood pranks with her brothers. For example, she fell into the River Kelvin and William had to fish her out and she and Francis wandered off to Cowcaddens in order to find the cows which to them seemed very logical! They were found by a Police Constable and were not released to their stepmother until she had paid £1 each for them which was a lot of money in those days.

Elizabeth met her future husband Frank Webb on a blind date at a dance and fell in love with and married Frank contrary to her aunt’s wishes.

The marriage of Frank Webb and Elizabeth Armour.

They married in January 1942 in St Margaret’s Roman Catholic Church in Johnstone and were married for 64 years. There was a coffin in the Church when they married and the priest didn’t know what to do first, the funeral or the wedding! Being January there was snow on the ground when they left the Church. 64 years later, after Frank’s funeral, there was also snow on the ground and Elizabeth told her family this was Frank’s last joke.

St Margaret’s Church, Johnstone

Elizabeth and Frank weren’t blessed with children but Elizabeth had 2 nieces and 4 nephews via her brothers.

After Elizabeth and Frank married they were only together for 2 days before Frank went to the Middle East with the army and Elizabeth continued to live in Johnstone. During this time she proved what a devoted aunt she was by taking fresh eggs to her oldest niece in Kelvinbridge.

Frank was very ill with tuberculosis in Switzerland after the war. When his health improved they moved down to Woodford Green, London. In London they both worked very hard in the civil service before being moved to Edinburgh in the 1970s when they took up residence in Longniddry.

Elizabeth was always very accident prone including falling off a London bus and Frank having to get the fire brigade out when she locked herself in the bathroom in Longniddry. She broke her hip at least 3 times and her wrist at least once.

Examples of their devotions to their nieces are a visit to London for their eldest niece’s fifth birthday and taking their youngest niece on holiday with them to Newport, Wales to meet Elizabeth’s nephews. After they retired they both devoted a lot of time to helping those in need through the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service and the Society of St Vincent De Paul.

After Frank’s death in 2006 Elizabeth’s health failed rapidly and Elizabeth spent five years in Nazareth House, Bonnyrigg where she passed away peacefully in 2015.

Thomas Aird Poet And Journalist

This blog post is about Thomas Aird, the poet and journalist, who was the first cousin of my maternal 4 x great-grandfather James Tullie.

Thomas was born in Bowden, Roxburghshire in August 1802 to James Aird and Isabella Paisley. I’ve been unable to find Thomas in the 1841 census. In the 1851 census Thomas was a newspaper editor living at Irish Street, Dumfries, in 1861 Thomas was still a newspaper editor now living at Mountainhall, Dumfries and in 1871 Thomas was retired and living at Castlebank, Dumfries. Thomas died in April 1876 at Castlebank, Dumfries from Bright’s disease (ie kidney disease), dropsy (ie fluid retention) and diarrhoea and was buried in St Michael’s church-yard in Dumfries. Thomas Aird never married.

This is Thomas:

Thomas Aird

Thomas was initially educated in the parish schools in Bowden and Melrose where his love of books was noticed when he took books to his teachers and when he also started a library of books in Bowden. He wasn’t just a bookworm when young though, he also excelled in all outdoor sports when he was young which he believed brought him ill-health in the form of varicose veins and rheumatic pains when he was older. The parish school teachers recognised Thomas’ potential – he attended Edinburgh University from 1816 and was to live in Edinburgh for nearly twenty years.

In his poetry he looked back on his time around Bowden with great fondness:

‘Oh to be a boy once more,
Curly-headed, sitting singing
Midst a thousand flowerets springing,
In the sunny days of yore,
In the sunny world remote,
With feelings opening in their dew,
And fairy wonders ever new,
And all the budding quicks of thought!
Oh to be a boy, yet be
From all my early follies free!
But were I skilled in prudent lore,
The boy were then a boy no more.’

Thomas’ parents both died at the age of 86 having been married for 60 years and this scene penned by Thomas in ‘Old Bachelor in the Scottish Village’ describes the domestic scene at his father’s home:

‘To see the old men, on a bright evening of the still Sabbath, in their light-blue coats and broad-striped waistcoats, sitting in their southern gardens on the low beds of chamomile, with the Bible in their hands, their old eyes filled with mild seriousness, blent with the sunlight of the sweet summer-tide, is one of the most pleasing pictures of human life. And many a time with profound awe have I seen the peace of their cottages within, and the solemn reverence of old and young, when some grey-haired patriarch has gathered himself up in his bed, and, ere he died, blessed his children.”

During Thomas’ education and afterwards he made many literary friends: whilst tutoring for a family in Crosscleugh, Selkirkshire Thomas met James Hogg ‘The Etrrick Shepherd’, the Scottish poet and novelist, at university Thomas met John Wilson of Elleray, the Scottish advocate, literary critic and author, and Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish historian, writer and philosopher. and after university Thomas developed friendships with Thomas Penson De Quincey, the English writer, essayist and literary critic, John Gibson Lockhart, the Scottish writer and editor, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, the English Anglican priest and ecclesiastical historian, and William Motherwell, the Scottish poet, antiquary and journalist.

Professionally, his relatives tried persuading Thomas to become a Church of Scotland minister but instead Thomas edited newspapers whilst writing and publishing his poetry separately. Thomas edited the Edinburgh Weekly Journal from 1832 to 1833 and then edited the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Herald from 1835 until 1863.

Thomas published poetry and writings are as follows:

1826 – Martzoufle, a tragedy in three acts
1827 – several articles published in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ and Religious Characteristics published, a series of essays (topics were: Worldly-Mindedness, Indecision, Pride of Intellect, Antipathy, Christian Principles, The Attainment of Christian Principles, Charity of Education Enforced, Need of Earliest Christian Education, Man’s Intellectual Character, Habits of Intellectual and Moral Power, Application of Knowledge and General Instruction, First Points of Christian Discipline, Christian Discipline Continued and General Christian Education – Millennial Hopes)
1830 – Captive of Fez, a long narrative poem in 5 cantos
1840 – A Mother’s Blessing, a dramatic poem
1840 – Outhuriel, and other poems
1845 – Old Bachelor in the Scottish Village, a prose description of Scottish character
1848 – a collated edition of Thomas’s poems
1852 – Thomas edited a memoir of works by his friend David Macbeth Moir
1866 – Summer Scenes

Thereafter Thomas was too ill to publish anything apart from newspaper contributions.

When not writing, Thomas rarely left Dumfries apart from to visit his brother James in Dundee. Thomas spent much time taming and tending to his birds and was a great admirer of Robert Burns and Walter Scott. In 1841 Thomas presided at the annual Burns Club dinner in Dumfries, in 1859 he took an active part in organising the celebration of Burns’ centenary and in 1871 he presided at the banquet in Dumfries commemorating Scott’s centenary.

To finish, I am going to quote the obituary published in the Southern Reporter on Thomas’ death as it gives more of a flavour of the man than a list of poems:

‘The Late Thomas Aird

Fugitive poetry! Alas! the phrase has more senses than one. The poetry disappears like last year’s dead leaves, swept away by autumn winds; and the poets, too, they are as fugitive as their verses. Sibylline leaves borne off into the dust-bin of of oblivion, and the Sibyl herself swept after them. Another of these fugitive verse-makers has passed away, and will soon be forgotten. Thomas Aird, one of the Border Bards, second only to Scott, and worthy to rank with Hogg, Leyden, Allan, Cunningham, and Moir – he too has joined the majority. Aird too, was something more than a mere bard. For thirty years he was man on the press such as any country might be proud of. His conception of the newspaper was high. He used to say of it that the press was the Gospel of God’s daily providence working in man’s world. Such a man deserves a passing memorial from the press, and as such I hasten to lay a chaplet on his grave. He died at Castlebank, near Dumfries where he had retired some twelve years ago to spend his declining years.’

Sources: Census and death records from Scotland’s People website, ‘The Poetical Works of Thomas Aird’ by Reverend Jardine Wallace, Dictionary of National Biography and the Southern Reporter dated 11 May 1876 accessed via the British Newspaper Archive website.

The disappearance of the Lady Combe

This blog post is about my maternal great, great-uncle who was from Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland and latterly lived in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, Scotland and Jamestown, Dunbartonshire, Scotland.

My great, great-uncle George Barr was born in Rutherglen Road, Glasgow in 1885, married Elizabeth Little in 1910 in Jamestown, Dunbartonshire and died at sea in 1927. The censuses have George living in Rutherglen Road, Glasgow in 1891, Govan Street, Glasgow in 1901 and Kildonan Street, Coatbridge in 1911. At the time of his death George was living in Levenbank Terrace, Jamestown.

I had been searching for George’s death for many, many years (I’ve been researching my family history since 1990) and a few years ago I found a likely death record for George Barr in the Scottish Marine Death returns. My genealogy tip in this blog post is therefore to include searching the marine returns when you are looking for your ancestors. This blog post explores the story of the final voyage of the Lady Combe which disappeared in December 1927 resulting in a crew of 18 supposed drowned.

This is George:

George Barr

The Lady Combe was a 500 ton, 350 feet long Clyde-built dredger launched on 30 June 1927 and was built for service at Lagos Harbour in Nigeria.

The dredger sailed from the Lobnitz shipyard at Renfrew on 9 December 1927 for Lagos. The Lady Combe carried enough coal to last for 3 weeks and was meant to take on more coal at Dakar, Senegal so panic started when there was no sign of the Lady Combe after those 3 weeks.

The Lady Combe had departed a few days after a sand suction dredger, Lady Thomson, and a barge. and all 3 had been expected to arrive in Lagos at approximately the same time. The Lady Thomson and the barge safely arrived at Lagos after a very stormy passage but neither spotted the Lady Combe nor did any other vessel.

The crew were: Master Joseph Flett of Stobcross Street, Glasgow, mate J Martin of Mosspark Boulevard, Glasgow, W Butler of Dawsholm Road, Glasgow, John Beadley of Reid Street, Bridgeton, W O’Donnell of Brown Street, Glasgow, J Quinn of Clark Street, Kinning Park, Robert Thomson of Marquis Street, Bidgeton, John McGovern of Newton Terrace, Renfrew, William Carson of Newton Street, Renfrew, D Murray of Muir Street, Renfrew, W Mitchell of London Street, Glasgow, John Veitch of Fulbar Street, Renfrew, Andrew Savage of Castlebank Street, Partick, Andrew Cochrane of Fulbar Street, Renfrew, S Sutherland of Newton Street, Renfrew, Joseph Fleming of Eglinton Lane, Glasgow, George Barr of Levenbank Terrace, Jamestown and Hugh Gillongley of Broomlands, Greenock. My great, great-uncle George Barr was cook and steward on the Lady Combe.

The initial reports in January in the newspapers note that, when the Lady Combe was due to sail from Renfrew, 2 of the crew failed to turn up and 2 unemployed men on the quay were given their jobs, that Captain Flett, originally a Pittenweem man, was one of the best-known sailors on Clydeside and that there had been a mysterious disappearance 25 years before of a dredger on the way from Renfrew to Russia.

In August 1928 there was a further clue reported. Red trousers were washed up on the beach at Rothesay which were identified by the wife of the 3rd engineer, John Veitch. It was therefore believed that the Lady Combe, which at that time was thought to have last been spotted passing Greenock, had foundered in the Firth of Clyde and not on the high seas as previously assumed. The newspapers did admit though that there was a possibility that the trousers had been hung up to to dry after washing and were swept overboard.

In December 1928 the Board of Trade held an enquiry at Glasgow into the disappearance of the Lady Combe at which 3 points of evidence were given, one of which was Mrs Veitch’s evidence of her husband’s trousers. The other evidence was from a director of the ship-builders and from a lighthouse keeper on the Isle of Man.

It was suggested to the ship builders that perhaps the Lady Combe was not stable enough to sail in bad winter weather and that, if the Lady Combe had sailed with her dredger buckets pointing downwards and was fitted with a wireless, both of these alterations may have helped.

A lighthouse keeper at Hickens Rock, Isle of Man stated that he saw the Lady Combe sheltering for 24 hours at the Calf of Man before she headed off in a south-easterly direction and that the gales resumed that night.

The conclusion appears to be that my great, great-uncle George Barr drowned along with his 17 crew mates south of the Isle of Man.

I also have in my possession a job application of George Barr’s dated 1911 detailing his skills and employment history (typed up I believe by either George or my great-grandmother who died in 1917) which I shall share in a future blog post.

Sources used: personal and family knowledge, Scotland’s People website (birth,marriage and death certificates and census records), Fnd My Past website (merchant seaman records), British Newspaper Archive website (Sunday Post 8 January 1928, Westminster Gazette 10 January 1928, The Scotsman 10 January 1928, Port Glasgow Express 11 January 1928, Westminster Gazette 13 January 1928, Leven Advertiser & Wemyss Gazette 14 January 1928, Sheffield Daily Telegraph 5 December 1928 and Dundee Courier 6 December 1928).

My reason for starting family history research.

Dear blog post reader, this blog post explains why I started family history research 31 years ago.

When my grandfather died in 1990 the whole family were quite shocked that his mother, Euphemia Barr, was not buried in the family plot in St Kentigern’s cemetery, Glasgow.

I then made it my goal to find out where Euphemia was buried.

So, the lady herself ….. Euphemia was born in 1882 in Glasgow to George Barr from Pollokshaws and Margaret McIntosh from Dull, Perthshire.

Euphemia went to Oatlands School and then worked in the Scottish Co-Operative Wholesale Society (SCWS) factory in Shieldhall where she met and fell in love with my great-grandfather William Armour.

Euphemia Barr as a teenager/young woman.

However William Armour is still remembered as a ‘lady’s man’ to this day. In 1903 a SCWS colleague Louisa Milne got pregnant by him but died giving birth to his son, James.

In 1914 Euphemia and William married and Euphemia had 3 children in quick succession, William (my grandfather), Frances and Elizabeth. However Euphemia was not strong at the best of times and died in Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital 8 days after giving birth to Elizabeth (Elizabeth was far stronger than her mother and only died 6 years ago).

William Armour senior, Euphemia Barr and William Armour junior.
The remains of Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

My great-grandfather remarried in 1919 to his housekeeper, Elizabeth Welsh. Apparently the social pressure was such in Kelvinbridge that they were practically forced to marry!

Anyway, by the time I got this far with my family tree research, an Australian descendant of Euphemia’s brother Jack contacted me and confirmed that Euphemia was buried in the Eastern Necropolis cemetery with many Barr babies who had died tragically young. We now try to take Euphemia flowers twice a year (excluding global pandemics) and we’ve placed a small monument to the Barr family as no headstone exists.

Euphemia Barr’s grave.

Euphemia might have died over a hundred years ago but I’ve inherited a remarkable collection of her possessions.

I have school-books, laundry lists, favourite poems copied out in her best handwriting, 2 boxes of her postcards and letters including letters from her brother Jack pleading with her to emigrate and her brother George’s job application, newspaper clippings re medication, the last surviving piece of china hand-painted by Euphemia and finally and, most poignantly, the last letters Euphemia wrote to my grandfather during her final days of life at Glasgow Royal Maternity Hospital.

Euphemia Barr’s hand-painted china.
Euphemia Barr’s school prize book.
A poem that Euphemia Barr wrote out.

Euphemia might not have survived on this earth for very long but she was a wonderful lady who inspired me to do, so far, 31 years of family history research …..

The Comet Star collides with another boat

This blog post is about my paternal great, great-grandfather who was born in Morayshire in the north-east of Scotland but who lived his whole life in Banffshire in the north-east of Scotland.

My great, great-grandfather George Cowie was born in lodgings in Lossiemouth in 1866, baptised in St Sylvester’s Church in Elgin in 1866 5 days after his birth (perhaps his parents were on their way home to Buckie, I find the different place for his baptism curious), married Mary Cowie (my great, great-grandmother) in 1890 at the Free Church of Scotland in Buckie, died in 1932 at Titness Street, Buckie and is buried in the New Cemetery in Buckpool. The censuses have George living in Cluny Street, Buckie in 1871 and Gordon Street, Buckie from 1881 to 1911.

As with most of my paternal grandmother’s family, George was a fisherman and most of his ancestors were fishermen.

This is George:

George Cowie

A useful tip for fellow family history researchers is to search databases such as digitised newspapers with your ancestor’s address and surname and this is how I discovered the story of George crashing his fishing boat the Comet Star into another stationary fishing boat.

About four o’clock in the afternoon of 3rd August 1908, in clear, good weather, a fishing boat named the Pearl from Lerwick, Shetland was sailing along at a speed of between 2 and 3 knots an hour, when my great, great-grandfather’s boat, the Comet Star, was spotted approaching, under both steam and sail power, at a speed of about 10 knots an hour, ie travelling much faster than the Pearl.

The crew of the Pearl shouted at the crew of the Comet Star to warn them of the danger but regardless the Comet Star crashed into the Pearl and caused such damage that the Pearl sank within 5 minutes.

The joint owners of the stream drifter Comet Star, which was registered in Banff, were George Cowie of 46 Gordon Street, Buckie, my great, great-grandfather, and Alexander Cowie of 68 Seatown, Buckie, with George being master of the boat and Alexander mate. (Cowie is a very common surname in the Buckie area and I have lots of people with the surname Cowie people in my family tree so I’ve yet to work out if George and Alexander were related). The owners of the Pearl were Robert Inkster and Francis Garrioch, both merchants in Scalloway, Shetland. and the Pearl had a crew of seven.

The owners of the Pearl sued for £589 7s 6d each and the crew of the Pearl sued in total for £270 1s 3d to cover their share of the loss of profits, the long time they spent in the water, the shock they suffered from and the value of the loss of their clothing and effects.

George Cowie and Alexander Cowie said that they had a qualified and competent seaman at the wheel, that it wasn’t customary or necessary to have a look-out on drifters and that it wasn’t necessary for the master or mate to be constantly on deck. They denied that the collision was caused by any fault of theirs (I do wonder if this implies they were blaming whoever they had on look-out) and that they lost no time in sending their boat to rescue the crew of the Pearl. They admitted liability for the collision but claimed that the amount they were being sued for was excessive and that legally their liability was limited to £8 per ton ie a total of £477 7s 6d.

George Cowie and Alexander Cowie were sued for a total of £1448 16s 3d, equivalent to approximately £113,250 nowadays.

George Cowie and Alexander Cowie eventually agreed to pay £900 (equivalent to approximately £70,350 nowadays) plus expenses and the case was taken out of court.

There were reports in the newspapers in both January and March of 1909 reflecting 2 sections of the court case brought by the owners of the boat that George Cowie and Alexander Cowie crashed into.

Sources: personal and family knowledge, the Scotland’s People website (birth, marriage and death certificates and censuses), the Find My Past website (George Cowie’s baptism), the British Newspaper Archive website, Aberdeen Press & Journal 14 January 1909, Banffshire Advertiser 18 March 1909, Aberdeen Press & Journal 18 March 1909 The Orkney Herald (which also covered Shetland) 24 March 1909 and the currency converter on The National Archives website.

(For the benefit of anyone else researching families in the fishing communities of the north-east of Scotland, the tee-names or by-names, ie the local nicknames, of my great, great-grandparents were Cowie Pum and Cowie Dosie).

Remembrance Sunday 2021

This Remembrance Sunday, I’m remembering my 95 ancestors who gave their lives for their countries during the 2 World Wars.

‘They shall not grown old, as that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We shall remember them’

Rest in peace and God bless.

David Steven Bain, King’s Own Rifle Corps, age 22
William Sloan Barr, Highland Light Infantry, age 20
Grover Cleveland Beaton, Royal Garrison Artillery, age 23
Roy John Beaton, Canadian Mounted Rifles, age 26
James Bowie, Royal Naval Reserve, age 19

James and John Bowie

John Bowie, Royal Naval Reserve, age 29
John Bruce, Royal Scots, age 31

John Bruce

James Smith Burnett, Royal Army Medical Corps, age 37
Alexander Campbell, Royal Naval Reserve, age 21
Allan Campbell, Labour Corps, age 20
David Campbell, South African Infantry, age 38
John Campbell, Canadian Expeditionary Force, age 35
William Campbell, Royal Engineers, age 27
William Campbell, Royal Naval Reserve, age 24
William Cassie, Canadian Expeditionary Force, age 20

William Cassie

Alexander Cormack Christie, Merchant Navy, age 29
Robert George Merson Christie, RAF, age 23
George Cormack, South African Engineers Corps, age 48
Alexander Grant Cowie, RAF, age 27

Alexander Grant Cowie

James Alexander Cowie, London Scottish regiment (army), age 21
Joseph Cowie, Royal Naval Reserve, age 27
John Cowie, Royal Naval Reserve, age 36
Mary Cowie, Women’s Royal Naval Service, age 22
Peter Cowie, Merchant Navy, age 25
William Cowie, Royal Naval Reserves, age 23

William Cowie

John Craig, Royal Munster Fusiliers, age 18
Andrew Creagh, Australian Imperial Force, age 20

Andrew Creagh

George Donn, Royal Scots, age 33
Arthur Farquhar Ethell, Royal Naval Auxiliary Service, age 31
Alexander Steven Doull, Seaforth Highlanders, age 30
Adam Findlay, Merchant Navy, age 44
David Gray Findlay, Australian Imperial Force, age 29

David Gray Findlay

George Findlay, Merchant Navy, age 28
James Findlay, Gordon Highlanders, age 22
John Findlay, Merchant Navy, age 30
Adam Herd Flett, RAF, age 29
William Campbell Flett, Royal Marine, age 45
Benjamin Suding Garden, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, age 54
James Garden, Royal Naval Reserve age 38
John Alexander Garden, Royal Naval Reserve, age 33
Alexander Gault, Seaforth Highlanders, age 20
John Scott Gault, Seaforth Highlanders, age 20
Adam Gordon, Royal Naval Reserve, age 21
Alexander McLeod Hunter, Seaforth Highlanders, age 27
John Hunter, Australian Imperial Force, age 28
Donald Lamont, Royal Scots Fusiliers, age 24
George Main, Seaforth Highlanders, age 22
Joseph Mair, Royal Naval Reserve, age 32
William George Slater Mair, Royal Naval Reserve, age 24
William Mair, Royal Naval Reserve, age 43
William Mair, Royal Naval Reserve, age 20
Alexander Mann, Canadian Expeditionary Force, age 25
John Mann, Canadian Expeditionary Force, age 25
James John McCauley, Australian Imperial Force, age 23
Samuel Begg McGregor, Royal Scots, age 32
David Michael McIntosh, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, age 25
Robert Patrick McIntosh, New Zealand Expeditionary Force, age 33
Samuel McKail, Royal Scots, age 22
Gillies McKirdy, Bedfordshire Regiment, age 30
Douglas Campbell McLean, Merchant Navy, age 21
Robert Craig MacKirdy Miller, Canadian Expeditionary Force, age 27

Robert Craig MacKirdy Miller

Ian Robert Menzies, RAF, age 23
George Alexander Murray, Australian Merchant Navy, age 54
Joseph Hendry Murray, Royal Naval Reserve, age 25
Peter Murray, Royal Naval Reserve, age 48
James Dunn Noble, Royal Naval Reserve, age 38
Alexander Campbell Phimster, Merchant Navy, age 23
James Reid, Royal Naval Reserve, age 30
James Silver, US Army, age 20

James Silver

James George Simpson, New Zealand infantry, age 27
John Slater, Seaforth Highlanders, age 26
John Smith, Gordon Highlanders, age 21
William Smith, Mercantile Marines, age 34
William Aird Smith, Army, age 49
William Cormack Smith, Canadian Expeditionary Force, age 28
Elias Sudding Souter, Royal Naval Reserve, age 50
Alexander Stephen, Machine Gun Corps, age 29
John Stephen, Seaforth Highlanders, age 21
William Stephen, Seaforth Highlanders, age 21
James Steven, Seaforth Highlanders, age 22
Alexander Stewart, Merchant Navy, age 22
Alexander Lot Stewart, Cameronians, 20
John Stewart, Seaforth Highlanders, age 21
William Teape, RAF, age 20
James Lawrence Urquhart, Northamptonshire Regiment, age 25
Alexander Bruce Geddes Walker, Royal Engineers, age 39
George Campbell West, Lanarkshire Yeomanry, age 25
Ronald West, RAF, age 24
William James Willox, Merchant Navy, age 23
Alexander Wood, Gordon Highlanders, age 32
Alexander Wood, Navy, age 26
James Wood, Royal Naval Reserve, age 20
James Wood, Seaforth Highlanders, age 19
Thomas Urwin Wood, King’s Own Scottish Borderers, age 21
William Wood, Royal Naval Reserve, age 35

The sinking of the Craigmin

This blog post is about my paternal great-grandfather who was from Banffshire in the north-east of Scotland.

My great-grandfather James Murray was born in Seaview Road, Buckpool in 1890, married Williamina Geddes in 1917 in the Church of Christ, West Church Street, Buckie, married Margaret Thomson Cowie (my great-grandmother) in 1920 in the United Free Church, West Church Street, Buckie, died in 1985 in Seafield Hospital, Buckpool and is buried beside the hospital in the New Cemetery. All of the censuses from 1891 to 1911 have my great-grandfather living at Seaview Road, Buckpool.

My great-grandfather was a fisherman all his life (he came from a fishing family in a fishing community) and this blog post is about the sinking of one of his fishing boats, the Craigmin.

Craigmin fishing boat

On Saturday 6th November 1926 there were severe gales with many casualties and one of those was the Craigmin.

The Craigmin was around 28 miles from Great Yarmouth with a load of nine crans ( a single cran is around 370 gallons) which was 2 days’ worth of catches, when it suddenly sprung a leak at 3am owing to the strain caused by the rough seas during a severe gale. The leak happened after they had finished hauling their nets. An hour and a half after the leak sprang, the boat sank.

Water rushed in at a rate which overwhelmed the boat’s pumps and the water simply kept rising under it reached the boiler furnace. The crew did try pumping out the water for an hour but to no avail.

When there was no hope of saving the boat, the crew of ten abandoned the drifter and after the crew including the skipper, my great-grandfather, boarded the Great Yarmouth drifter the Chestnut, the crew watched as the Craigmin sank.

The crew of ten consisted of seven Buckie men, one Porsoy man and two Stornoway men.

The crew lost all of their belongings and the weather was so rough none of the boat’s gear or nets could be salvaged. There were eight or ninety nets onboard at the time.

On landing at Great Yarmouth the crew of the Craigmin were cared for at the Yarmouth Sailors’ Home and the crew arrived home to Buckie on Monday 8th November.

The Craigmin was a wooden steam drifter weighing 33 tons, used primarily to catch herring and was owned by my great-grandfather and others.

The sinking of my great-grandfather’s boat was reported in the Aberdeen Press & Journal, the Dundee Evening Telegraph, the Northern Whig, the Southern Reporter, the Sheffield Daily Telegraph, the Shepton Mallet Journal, the Yarmouth Independent and the Western Daily Press with most details in the Aberdeen Press & Journal and the Dundee Evening Telegraph. The other papers just carried minimal detail.

As an indication of how bad the weather was that day, the Belfast News-Letter and the Western Daily Press published information on several disasters that happened that day: an elderly woman in County Derry who died when her house was blown down, ten families in Dublin made homeless when a tenement building collapsed, flying slates and debris and uprooted trees in Belfast, the west wing of Linlithgow parish Church demolished, a teacher and two boys went missing in the storm in Ballymena, flooding on the west coast of Scotland, flooding in the Galashiels district, flooding in the Lake District, a railway viaduct on the Lancashire-Cumberland border sank by two or three feet, St Michael’s Church in Bristol was damaged and trees came down in Wotton-under-Edge.

The Aberdeen Press & Journal, the Gloucester Citizen and the Daily Herald all reported in December that Ernest Lilly, the skipper of the Chestnut, was rewarded for his bravery in rescuing my great-grandfather and his crew. The Board of Trade gave Mr Lilly a piece of plate.

There will be another blog post on the Craigmin in the coming months – in 1928 my great-grandfather and his father along with one other man, the registered owners of the Craigmin, were sued in Banff Court by George Smith, a Buckie ship bullder in respect of repars to the Craigmin between 1919 and 1925 which George Smith indicated had not been paid for.

Sources: personal family knowledge, Scotland’s People website (birth, marriage and death certificates and censuses), Aberdeen Press & Journal 6 November 1926, Dundee Evening Telegraph 8 November 1926, Belfast News-Letter 6 November 1926, Western Daily Press 6 November 1926, Aberdeen Press & Journal 16 December 1926, Gloucester Citizen 17 December 1926 and Daily Herald 16 December 1926.

(For the benefit of anyone else researching families in the fishing communities of the north-east of Scotland, the tee-names or by-names, ie the local nicknames, of my great-grandparents were Murray Farmer and Cowie Pum).

Reflections on 2018: Resolutions for 2019

Reflections on 2018

2018 was another busy year professionally (I am very grateful to all my 2018 clients) and I thoroughly enjoyed the Scottish Association of Family History Societies conference in Glenrothes, the Lanarkshire Local and Family History Show in Motherwell (where once again I volunteered on the ‘Ask an Expert’ stall) and the Scottish Local History Forum conference in Perth.  I enjoyed days out to Glasgow with the Scottish Local History Forum and to Perth and Kinross Archives, Dundee City and Council Archives and East Ayrshire Archives and Dick Institute museum in Kilmarnock all with the Scottish Genealogy Network.

However, the absolute highlight for 2018 for me was making a lot of use of 2 ‘new to me’ record sets, asylum records and poor law records.

The asylum project originally started because I noticed I had a quite a few ancestors who had died in asylums and I wanted to know why.  I started with 6 ancestors who had died in asylums and I am now looking at 9 ancestors who have been in asylums.  I have found exploring the asylum records in National Records of  Scotland, the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, the North Lanarkshire Archive in Motherwell and the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archive based in the Mitchell Library both fascinating  and depressing.  The admission reasons and health issues of my ancestors in asylums have actually been very useful in helping me form a wider picture of their lives:  hormonal disease leading to exposing sexual organs, several occurrences of violence and threats of violence, delusions and hallucinations,  creeping along floors on all fours, being admitted to an asylum from a prison under a charge of malicious mischief and attempting to jump out of a tenement window 3 storeys up to escape personal demons.  I found the medical certificates and case notes especially informative.  However, I was really quite disappointed that no records appear to have survived for a private asylum which is actually still in existence as a care home.


[In North Lanarkshire Archives in Motherwell I found an outline of my great, great grandfather’s hand (in black) surviving in his case notes from his stay in Hartwood Asylum]

I also attended a poor law workshop at Strathclyde University in 2018 and was then inspired to start working with the Glasgow poor law records held at Glasgow City Archives in the Mitchell Library.  Again, what amazing, depressing information.  Highlights for me were the shock of finding my grandfather in the poor law records (his father was unemployed therefore claiming prior to emigration), a claim for an ambulance for my great, great grandfather who was days from death and an ancestor, for whom I have a very elegant photograph, being described as an alcoholic by her family.  I’m intending starting working with the poor law records held in Paisley in 2019 – see below.

My initial exploration of court records and fishing records held at the National Records of Scotland also started in 2018.  The court records for my family were fascinating witness statements, at this moment I need to work out how to go forward with court records.  I intend re-visiting fishing records in 2019 as part of a long term project – see below.

So many brick-walls have been smashed this year by me using DNA research.  I built a spreadsheet-based chromosome browser in 2018 and I have found it fascinating being in contact with so many lovely cousins who share DNA with me and I find it quite a thought that I can now match up actual segments of my DNA to specific ancestors.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

I’ve been the owner/manager of 2 One Place Studies projects (also known as local history projects) for several years now.  One is researching the 18th century weaving village of Cairneyhill, Fife where I grew up and the other is the village of Shandon near Helensburgh which was populated by wealthy Glasgow merchants (plus my family, 2 generations of whom had holiday homes there).  I’ve been continually collecting data, stories and photos for both villages over the past several years.  My aim for 2019 is to formally build and launch new websites for my One Place Studies.

As I said above, I’ve been enthralled by the poor law records in the Mitchell Library for most of 2018.  The poor law records for the Paisley area have also survived with an online index where I have spotted many of my great-grandfather’s family who emigrated from Buncrana, Co Donegal to Johnstone. I am looking forward to visiting Paisley Heritage Centre in 2019 to explore their poor law records.  My Armour family are a true mystery – not only are they one of my Irish brick walls (see below for my upcoming visit to the archives in Belfast), they were a relatively impoverished family, my great grandfather’s mother was admitted to an asylum as a pauper, but they also donated a large stained glass window to St Margaret’s church in Johnstone.  That to me is a contradiction yet to be resolved ….

My major aim, because I believe there is a gap in the market, is to launch an online database on the fishing boats of the Moray Firth coastal communities.  Ideally, my database will contain the physical details of the boat, who built it, the details of the owner, a picture of the boat and any relevant newspaper articles.  I’m already collecting much information on this subject and hope to, in 2019, start formally recording the fishing boat information that is held in the National Records of Scotland and also build and launch a website for this project.  Learning how to put a database online is another aim but that may take some study ….


[One of my family’s fishing boats]

As I may have mentioned above (!), I discovered many asylum records for my ancestors in 2018.  I will keep going with this project, but I now want to find out much more about the conditions in the asylums.  I know from my ancestors’ medical records that they did get happier and more stable in the asylums.  I gather from speaking to archivists and fellow professional genealogists that I need to consult official lunatic asylum reports which I aim to seek out in 2019.

One major family history website I have unfortunately not kept up to date with is Family Search.  This website is ran by the Church of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons) as a result of their wish to baptise all of their ancestors into their church and so they have a big interest in family history.  Strathclyde University held a workshop on the Family Search website last summer which unfortunately I was unable to attend.  I am hopeful that Strathclyde will repeat this workshop on the Summer of 2019 ….

And finally, I am so excited about my first ever visit to Belfast in hopefully May 2019.  I do love Ireland, I try to visit every 2nd year and it just always feels like a second home to me as I am 25% Irish.  One of my focuses in Belfast will be to visit the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).  At the moment I think my main aim there will be to hopefully demolish 2 of my Irish brick walls.  The first concerns my great grandfather William Armour who was born in Buncrana, County Donegal in 1866 – I have been unable to trace the family for definite before that date and I would love to know where they came from (at the moment I’m unsure whether there will be much for County Donegal in PRONI as County Donegal is right on the modern border between Northern Ireland and the Republic).  The second concerns my great, great grandfather Michael Cadden from County Fermanagh who I have traced from around 1845 when he was born to when I last ‘saw’ him in 1911.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find his death yet either in Ireland or Scotland.

Euphemia and William

[On the right is my great grandfather William Armour who was born in Buncrana, County Donegal in 1866 but where were the Armour family prior to 1866?]

I’ll look forward to reporting back to you in a year’s time regarding which of my aims I’ve achieved in 2019!