Hugh came from rural beginnings in Alness, Ross-shire, where he was baptised in April 1831. He was the third of six children and grew up speaking both Gaelic and English.
Isabella, the fourth of the eight children of gardener Douglas Simpson and Elizabeth Wilson; she was christened on 30 October 1836 in Greenock. Like her husband, she also grew up speaking both Gaelic and English. By the time she was 14 Isabella was working in a cotton mill.
I suspect that Hugh moved away from Alness for work, although perhaps he just didn’t want to work on the land. If that was the case he certainly achieved that goal as he became an engineer and later worked on tug-boats.
They married on New Years Eve 1857 (so they could celebrate then get a day off the next day!?)
I have a lot of Isabellas in my family and had wondered where the name came from. I was at Who Do You Think You Are Live yesterday and in a leaflet I bought I found out that it’s a variant on Elizabeth. So there you go, things you learn! And instantly I see the connection when their first child, a daughter, was named Elizabeth, born in 1858.
Together they went on to have 8 more children, with the birth of William in 1867 curious – the only child not to be born in Greenock – a census entry states he was born in Ireland. Why? For his father’s work? Friends of the family? I’m not aware of any Irish connection for Hugh, so maybe Isabella has Irish roots (via Glasgow where her parents lived). I can’t see him on Scotland’s People and a quick search on Ancestry’s Irish pages (all Family Search records) doesn’t give me enough info to confirm.
There may have been a family ruction in 1863 – their first son was born and registered Hugh Forbes by his grandfather Douglas Simpson, Isabella’s father. In the margin there is a reference to a corrected entry – it seems Grandpa Simpson had made a mistake and Hugh had been changed to John! However eight years later they did have a son called Hugh, his name unchanged.
By 1871 Isabella’s widowed mother Elizabeth had moved in with them but passed away the following year.
Hugh and Isabella lived on together until 1909 when Hugh died. The cause of death is intriguing: concussion cerebri(?) – I’ll have to find out if it’s a medical term or a blow to the head. He’d retired by then so wouldn’t have been at work. Isabella herself died 15 years later in 1924, in Greenock.
© Text copyright Lynne Black 30 August 2014