Margaret Dewar, Archibald Campbell, Argyll Coachman and Family

Margaret, the oldest of 11 children of Donald Dewar and Janet McCallum, was born in 1837 on Experiment Farm, Kilmartin, Argyll, where her father was a gamekeeper. The June 1861 census finds her  with her grandmother and namesake Margaret Dewar on Experiment Farm while her parents and their next child Peter, were down in North Knapdale parish at Strath Mill a few miles away.

IIn the 1861 census she appears to be staying at the inn in Dalmally, run by the Jarratt family, at the top of Loch Awe. [Dalmally was later the birthplace of Scottish Labour Leader John Smith.] Somewhere she met a stableman called Archibald Campbell, the son of an agricultural labourer, and on 8th June 1865 they married in Kilmichael Glassary parish [neighbouring Kilmartin].  Archibald was five years older than her and an agricultural labourer who’d been born in Crinan, about five miles from Experiment.  His type of agricultural work wasn’t specified until the April 1871 census: he was a Stable Helper.

They were by then living in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltalloch estate, the property of local Laird John Malcolm[1].  By then they had three sons: Donald, Alexander and John.  Margaret and Archibald were to live in that cottage for the rest of their lives.  By the April 1881 census they had five further children: Archibald, Catherine, Elizabeth R B, Charles and Margaret.

In that year Archibald was still working as a stable helper so Margaret (by then aged 43) was recorded as a stable helper’s wife.  There must have been hard times as in December 1881 John Malcolm reduced tenants’ rents by 7.5% to 15%, depending on the length of the lease, having ‘considered the heavy losses sustained by his tenants on the estate’.[2]

By the April 1891 census both Margaret’s parents had died: Donald in April 1889 and Janet in March 1891; both were buried in Kilmartin Church’s graveyard.  In that census Archibald is described as a Coachman.  By then he was 59 and Margaret 54.

Three of their sons had taken up their father’s trade. 

Oldest son Alexander had moved to Dalmeny Park [3] in Linlithgow-shire by April 1891, where he was living in the house of the factor Andrew Drysdale and his wife Jane and working as a coachman.  It appears that this may have been to the Primrose family, the Earl of Rosebury.  He met Mary Liddie/Leddy, a young woman of Irish descent who was working as a domestic servant to the Barrie family in Edinburgh Old Town.  The Barries were a family of watch-makers and jewellers and appear to have done well. 

After having a few children in Edinburgh/Dalmeny, Alexander and Mary and their family moved to Eccles in Berwickshire where Alexander was recorded in the March 1901 census working as a coachman.  Their daughter Janet was born in 1903 back in Roundfield Cottage at Archibald and Margaret’s home, but by 1905 they had moved to Roxburghshire for the birth of the first of their Melrose-born daughters.  Alexander died many years later in 1958 aged 92.

Margaret and Archibald’s second son, Donald, was a Stable Helper aged 15 (1881) and a groom aged 25 (1891), both in Kilmartin, probably for John Malcolm.  By 1901 he was working at Achnamara House as a coachman, but for Lord Malcolm’s brother, Edward D Malcolm.  On 31st March, the census date, Edward and Isabel Malcom were home with their two daughters and extended family, including the Malcolm’s splendidly named 13-year-old cousin called Theophilus Wingfield Harley.  Just a few months later Edward D Malcom would go on to inherit the title from his brother.

John, Archibald and Margaret’s third son, was also recorded as a groom in 1891.  However, by then he has moved through to Caputh in Perthshire, there he was lodging in Glendelvine Cottage; with coachman Hugh McLachlan and family.  The following year, in 1892, John married Christina Pettigrew in St Andrews and St Leonards parish, which is in St Andrews, Fife.  They had a son in Fife before moving back to Kilmartin for the birth of daughters in 1896 and 1899.  In March 1901 the census records John as a Coachman (domestic) in neighbouring Glassary parish where they lived at the Porter Lodge – a note in an Ancestry online tree I found suggests it may have been to the Duke but I can’t corroborate that. 

Fourth son Archibald, born in 1872, also started out working in the stables, and was recorded as a coachman in February 1889. However on that day he attested to the Highland Light Infantry in Glasgow so presumably either it wasn’t for him or his brothers had taken all the good coachman jobs.  Attestation papers describe him as “5’5″ tall, 126lb, 33.5 inch chest, fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.  Scars of cuts left forefinger and thumb”. Unfortunately he was discharged 4 years later with palpitations after several entries on his medical records. His discharge papers describe him as “Regular habits/conduct, very good, temperate”  I can’t see a record for him in 1901 or 1911 but in 1919, aged 46, he married Catherine Ross in Anderston, Lanarkshire.

The first of Archibald and Catherine’s two daughters, Catherine, was born in December 1873 and grew up in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltallach estate. In April 1881 she was a 7-year-old scholar, but by the age of 17 the Census finds her working as a domestic servant for Mr and Mrs Brodie, the gamekeeper, in the gamekeeper’s house Mheall House. I think it may be Mheall Cottage, handily listed now and looking very smart on Airbnb.  On 13 July 1898 she married Duncan Gillies in St Vincent Street, Glasgow.  Duncan, who was 6 years older than her, was in the Merchant Service and was working and living as 1st Mate on the SS Effie Grey of Glasgow.  His work might be the reason that the second of their ten children was born back on Poltalloch Estate in Roundfield Cottage.

Catherine’s younger sister Elizabeth was born in 1876 and she lived in Roundfield Cottage until the age of 23, when in 1899 she suddenly marries a man called Thomas Stevenson in Glasgow – an Irregular Marriage by Warrant.  Thomas was a ploughman on Dolphington Farm in Dalmeny in West Lothian, so maybe they met through a connection with Catherine’s oldest brother, Alexander, who worked in Dalmeny for a while. 

The seventh – and youngest – son of Margaret and Archibald Campbell was called Charles and he also grew up in and around the stables: in the 1891 census when he was 22 his occupation in Kilmartin was recorded as ‘drawing carriage, carts or wagon’.  Charles met a girl called Janet Johnson and they married in Carlisle, Cumberland, over the border in England, in late 1906.  They had sons in 1908 and 1910 in Hoddom, Dumfries-shire, Scotland.  By now it was the early 20th century and the times were a’changing: in April 1911 was working as a Motor Driver Domestic and back living in Carlisle with Janet and two children.

The youngest child, Margaret, born c1811, also left the county.  By the March 1901 census she was working in Lasswade, Midlothian in Crawfurah, Lasswade was the home of Naval man Bernie A Cator and his wife Violet.  Margaret was a tablemaid and one of their four servants.  Ten years later Bernie was living in South Kensington and listed as Deputy Master Attendant Singapore At Lieutenant Royal Navy.  However, Margaret had left the household by then after marrying William More in 1904 in Innerleithen in the Borders county of Peeblesshire.  They returned to Midlothian and were living there in 1904 and 1905 when they had two sons.

To be continued. The news stories quoted in this article were from the British Newspaper Archive collection on FindMyPast. The records which constructed the story have been found on Scotland’s People, Ancestry and FindMyPast.

Copyright Lynne Black, First published on StarryBlackness blog site on 13 March 2022


[1] Wikipedia: John Malcolm, 1st Baron Malcolm of Poltalloch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Malcolm,_1st_Baron_Malcolm_of_Poltalloch

[2] Edinburgh Evening News 09 December 1881 P2

[3] Dalmeny Park: https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=1204  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalmeny_House

2 thoughts on “Margaret Dewar, Archibald Campbell, Argyll Coachman and Family

  1. Pingback: Margaret Dewar and Archibald Campbell, Coachman: Life in the records of the local Laird | starryblackness

  2. Pingback: Peter Dewar, 1840 – 1914, Master of the PS Jeanie Deans | starryblackness

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