#52Ancestors #28 Christina McVicar, washing the linen in the loch

Kames Bay, Lochgair, Argyll

Kames Bay, Lochgair, Argyll

Christina McVIcar, my great-grandmother-in-law, was born in 1882, the daughter of fisherman Niven ‘Sandy’ McVicar and Jane Dewar.

She was the sixth of nine children and at the time of both the 1881 and 1891 censuses the family all lived in a house where only one room had a window.  The window tax law had been repealed 30 years previously, so either it was a small house or they’d not been in a position to open up the sealed windows!

Christina, who had long, thick, wavy brown hair which she usually wore secured up in a big roll on the name of her neck,  was used to hard work. By the time of her wedding to Stuart McCalman, aged, 20, she had worked as a domestic servant at Ardrishaig Manse, as a cook in the nearby (Lochgilphead) mental institution, and also assisted informally supporting the local midwife.  When doing the washing, she would have to lay out the sheets and clothes to dry on the rocks on the shore of Loch Fyne – it must have been a fine art to balance washing, weather and tides!

52 ancestors logoHer new husband Stuart needed to move through to Clydeside for work; he was working as a ploughman in Inverkip when their first child arrived. Baby Donald was born 11 months after the wedding in Kelly Stables, so she must have had a stressful time, moving away from home and family to look for work with a rapidly growing bump.

Donald was followed speedily by Neven, born on Fancy Farm, Gourock, and after a move round the coast Archie and Peggy were born in Greenock.  The family suffered tragedy when, aged 6, Donald died of TB.  Shortly after that they moved house within Greenock and went on to have a further seven children: Christina, Stuart, the war babies Peter, Tom, and Donald, next Colin and finally Duncan in 1922.

They lived on together, watching their family grow up, living through the severe bombing of Greenock, where burning whisky from the bombed warehouses ran gold down Baker Street, mapping the town for the enemy above.

Christina died in April 1955 in Greenock aged 73, four years after her husband Stuart.

© Text and photo copyright Lynne Black 9 July 2014

#52Ancestors #27 Stuart McCalman, from the Highlands to the Clyde

Stuart McCalman, born in March 1873, (my great-grandfather-in-law) grew up in Tayvallach, in one of my favourite areas of Scotland.  He was the youngest son of crofter and local schoolmaster Donald McCalman and his wife Margaret Turner, one of their 9 children (2 brothers, 6 sisters).

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Tayvallich is in North Knapdale, Argyll, in the west of Scotland. It sits on the Loch a’ Bhealaich, an inlet on Loch Sween.  Stuart spoke both Gaelic and English.

He married Christina McVicar aged 28 in December 1902, in Kames, Lochgair where Christina had grown up and where he’d been working as a ploughman.

The two of them moved through to Greenock where Stuart worked, again as a ploughman, on Fancy Farm until 1914 when the Land Army took it over.  Later he worked as a carter for Greenock Council. At lunchtime he would take home his horse and cart, and ‘park’ the horse with its nosebag outside the house while he popped inside for his own lunch. Their house had a smart black phone, but it was for incoming calls only for Stuart’s work, as it was really an extension of his work phone.  No escape!

52 ancestors logoStuart and Christina had 9 sons and 2 daughters.  In their later life, when discussing matters in front of their grandchildren, they would switch to Gaelic to prevent the children listening in!

Stuart died in 1951 in Greenock Infirmary.

© Text and photo copyright Lynne Black 2 July 2014

#52Ancestors #26 James E Glover, Customs Man AKA Grandad

Jim Glover, Penzance Magpies AFC, 1938

Jim Glover, Penzance Magpies AFC, 1936

James ‘Jim’ Glover, my grandfather, was a Customs man. He was born in 1909 and grew up in Cattedown, Plymouth, Devon.  The second of the five children of Henry Alfred Glover and Florence Selina Dolton, he joined the Navy in his teens.  He was in the last group of men who trained on HMS Impregnable, the navy training ship and was promoted to be a writer on HMS Lucia fairly quickly. By 1931 he was working in Newlyn, Cornwall, as a Customs Officer.  There he met my grandmother, Mary Jelbert.

One year they went to the Helston Furry Dance with friends, and they saw a man with a stall selling cheap stockings – roll up, roll up!

London Man's Adventure, The Cornishman, 31 August 1939, from the BNA

London Man’s Adventure, The Cornishman, 31 August 1939, from the BNA

They bought a couple of packs, but when they opened them in the pub later they fell about laughing when they found their bargain stockings were full of holes. Grandad, however, was not impressed. What, he said, if an old lady had bought them to save her money and then found she’d been ripped off?  So they all headed back to the stall where Grandad stood at the back of the crowd, waving the holey stockings, shouting “Got any more of these mate?”  The trader was not happy, tried to shush Grandad and gave them their money back; he made a lot fewer sales that day…

That same day Granny paid for something and the seller counted accurately the change into his own hand then tipped it into Granny’s hand. Grandad, sharp-eyed customs man, immediately slapped the back of the seller’s hand and said “That one too!” and the final coin fell out from where the hawker had carefully slipped it between his fingers.

Grandad had a tattoo on his arm.  Once I asked him what it said and they both laughed; Granny said it was the name of ‘a bit of stuff’ he knew before her so he had scribbled it out.  They married in Newlyn and lived together for his work at various times in Plymouth, Grimsby , Poole and Newlyn.  Together they had three children.

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Grandad was a keen sportsman, growing up in a sports-mad family.  He played football for various Cornish teams, and captained Penzance Magpies when they won the Penzance & District Charity Cup in 1938.  I found many match reports of his game in the Cornishman for that period in the British Newspaper Archive.  Sport is big in Cornwall!  All his life he would walk for miles a day, with his dogs Rusty, Bosun and Skipper.

When we used to visit when we were kids, Grandad would take my brother and I down to the beach in the mornings to play on the sand, or the rocks depending on the tide, to let Mum and Dad have a lie-in. In the evenings we liked it when he would take us down to the harbour and we would try to guess the registration ports of the fishing boats moored in Newlyn Harbour, sometimes four deep.  FY Fowey!  SS St Ives! GY – er Grimsby?  Yeah!

52 ancestors logoGrandad died in 1997 in Newlyn, Cornwall, leaving Mary, 3 children, 7 grand-children and 3 grand-dogs.

© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black, 25 June 2014

#52Ancestors #25: Henry Alfred Glover, docker and amateur vet

Henry Glover, census entry

Henry Glover, census entry

My Great-grandfather, Henry Glover, was born in April 1887 in Plymouth, Devon.  His father Walter Glover was a mason and his mother Emily Keast Glover was a housewife. Both had been married to other people before so in addition to his nine brothers and sisters he knew two half-brothers from Emily’s previous marriages.

He married Florence Selina Dolton in 1908 and they had five children of their own: Bill, Jim, Bertha, Walt and Harry.

When he was younger Henry worked as a horse driver in the draper industry, but later he worked as a docker.  He lost his job in 1925 with the fall of the ‘Geddes Axe‘ [Government cuts], but later found work again.  However, this was a mixed blessing as he was injured in an accident at the docks.

52 ancestors logoHenry had a reputation as an amateur vet so people would ask his advice about their animals.  The family bred racing dogs which needed a considerable number of long walks but the only dog allowed in the house was a lurcher called Toby.  They also had a cat called Smokey Joe – whenever the children stroked this bad-tempered cat their hands would come away filthy.

The family also had rabbits and pigeons.  Henry was the secretary of the local pigeon club and he had a special clock which worked off the pigeons race number for clocking the flying time of each pigeon  for races. Henry was also skilled at mending clocks and would fix other people’s clocks for them when they stopped working.

Their children were also keen sports fans, with success in boxing and in football.  He also encouraged their participation in the Scouting movement, a lifelong love for his youngest son Harry.

Grave of Henry A Glover and Florence S Dolton Glover, Efford Cemetery, Plymouth

Grave of Henry A Glover and Florence S Dolton Glover, Efford Cemetery, Plymouth

Other passions of the family were the Co-operative Movement and politics, and they hosted Lady Nancy Astor’s 1929 re-election campaign from their living room [see Fuelling Nancy].

Henry died in March 1949 and is buried in Efford Cemetary, Pymouth, with Florence.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 18 June 2014

#52Ancestors #24 Robert Preece, Building up brick walls

Bridgwater c1841 from Blake Museum, Bridgwater, Somerset

Bridgwater with houses built c1841 from Blake Museum, Bridgwater, Somerset

Robert Preece was born c 1810 in Bridgwater, Somerset.  He was born towards the end of the reign of George III, 5 years before Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, my my!

He and his wife are my first relatives found to have lived all their lives in that county; they don’t even seem to have lived outside Bridgwater.  It is a very old settlement, with its existence recorded in Anglo-Saxon times and only a couple of miles north of Athelney where Alfred the Great is said to have burnt his cakes nearly a thousand years earlier.  But given Robert’s life based in one village I’m starting to wonder if he ever got even that far!

Robert, my G-G-G-Great Grandfather, was a bricklayer and later a mason. I think he may have had a brother called George whose children were baptised the same year and non-conformist chapel as Robert’s children: Sion Chapel in Tuam Street, Bridgewater.

He married Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Wall on 24 July 1831, both were aged about 20 at that time. They appear to have had a daughter called Hannah, who died in infancy the previous year, but went ahead and got married anyway.

Their next 3 children (Emma, Abraham and another Hannah) arrived around 1836, Elizabeth in 1838 and Samuel, my ancestor, in summer 1840. [Samuel moved away from Bridgewater to the sea, becoming a mariner and settling down with Mary Ann Tope in Oreston, Devon].

Robert and Betsy had two more children: Eliza bapt in 1847 and James, bapt in 1852.  They had no chance to have further children or so see their grandchildren as Betsy died in the spring of 1856 aged 45.

52 ancestors logoRobert’s story goes quiet for a while, then in 1861 we find him listed again in the Bridgewater census as a mason.  He died in September 1866 in, of course, Bridgewater.  He must have contributed to a serious proportion of their houses and walls by then!

I’d like to find out about his parents next, but this will be a case of waiting until more records are online, subscribing to a different website, or of taking out a subscription to a local FHS once I’ve finished work in other parts of the country where the majority of my ancestors lived.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 11 June 2014
Photo from Bridgwater Blake Museum.

#52Ancestors #23 Jane Coursons, 19th Century Nurse

Jane, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, is standing at the edge of this family branch - before her the information is definitely disappearing into the mist.  I know her first name was Jane (1851 census) and until last month believed her mother’s name could be Grace Thorning.  Not so – fantastic work by my cousin Chris (we met via matching family trees on Ancestry) has shown that Jane’s maiden name is actually Coursons.

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Wikipedia

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Wikipedia

Born c 1820 in Exeter, she married Plymouth quarryman John Tope in 1837 in the rather swanky-looking St Mary, Redcliffe Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.  So why Bristol?  It appears it’s because they paid well!  Despite the availability of work for quarrymen in Plymouth, many of them appear to have gone to Bristol for better wages.

By 1840 she was in Plymouth, but four years later she had her daughter Mary Ann in Cullompton, Devon, some 55 miles away.  Family there, perhaps?  We shall see…

By 1851 she was living in the village of Oreston in Plymstock, Devon with John and four children: John (1840), Mary Ann Tope (my ancestor, 1844), William (1847) and Elizabeth Ann (b1850).  In 1854 their son George Curson Tope (Jane’s maiden-name clue was in the name!) was born, all in the Plymouth area.

By the age of approx 43 in 1863 she had seen two of her children married off: John to Elizabeth Holbertson and Mary Ann to Samuel Preece, and she was a grandmother.  However just as her own home quietened down her life got harder and more precarious when her husband died in 1866 in Plympton St Mary.

52ancestorsBy 1871 census Jane was working in Plymstock as a general servant and living in Chelson Meadow.  Much more unusually for my family, by 1881 she was listed as a nurse, again living in Plymstock.  Ten years later, aged 71, she was still a nurse.  71!!!!???  [And I'm unimpressed the retirement age will be 67 for me, rather than the age of 60 which was the norm when I was a kid.] In 1873, two years later, Jane died, nearby in Plympton St Mary.

In addition to identifying her parents I’d like to find out more about where Jane Tope (as she was then) was nursing.  It was the post-Crimean Nightingale era but Jane wouldn’t have been well off, and at the age of over 55 and a widow is likely to have taken what work she could to have an income.

And hopefully the mists will clear as the search for long lost Coursons continues…

© Text copyright Lynne Black 4 June 2014

#52Ancestors #22 – Mary Ann Tope, Mariner’s wife

Cullumpton Church c Google Maps

Cullumpton Church c Google Maps

Mary Ann Tope is my great-great-great-grandmother. Born in Cullumpton, Devon in 1844 to stone quarryman John Tope and Jane Courson, she was the second of their five children and grew up around Oreston, Plympton St Mary near (what’s now) Plymouth, Devon.

Before her marriage Mary Ann was living in Langdon and working as a general servant on John Coombe’s farm which employed 16 men and 3 boys.  I think this may be near Wembury village but advice welcomed!

She met Samuel Preece, a mariner from Somerset, and they had their first child, Bessie Ann, in 1865.  I’m still to actually track down their marriage certificate but I’ve not reason to think they weren’t married; a Mary Jane Tope married in Plymouth c February 1865, so that’s my best lead.

Extract from map of Plymouth, showing the Oreston Breakwater

Extract from map of Plymouth, showing the Oreston Breakwater

They had two more daughters, Sarah Jane (1868), Florence Elizabeth (1870) and sons Chas (1874) and Frank (1875) in Oreston.

I would love to know how Samuel and Mary Ann met.  I suspect it was because he was a sailor and had gone to Plymouth for work.  He wasn’t actually home the night of the 1871 census, maybe away on a ship. [Mary Ann was with the children at Breakwater in Oreston.] Perhaps when I eventually track down their marriage certificate it will show their addresses and professions and give me a clue.

52ancestorsI also have had trouble tracking down their death certificates, they maybe mumbled their words as I’ve seen various spellings of Preece (and indeed Tope) including some too obscure for even the wider search settings.  Maybe they sailed off into the sunset together after completing their 1891 census…

© Text copyright Lynne Black 28 May 2014