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 The window tax law had been repealed 30 years previously, so either it was a small house or they’d not been in a position to open up the sealed windows!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!
Her 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