Peter Dewar, 1840 – 1914, Master of the PS Jeanie Deans

Peter, born in Tayinloan, North Knapdale parish in January 1840, was the oldest son of gamekeeper Donald Dewar and his wife Janet MacCallum.  He had an elder sister Margaret, and nine younger brothers and sisters.

It was a rural community and he was a son of a gamekeeper so he worked on the land and was a ploughman by the age of 21, although he was living across Loch Fyne, working on Achnabreck Farm in Kilmodan, Argyll at the time of the April 1861 census.

However on 11th March 1869 he was back closer to home, marrying Mary Macnair, a carter’s daughter from the parish of Glassary.  Mary’s baptism record said she was born in 1848 in Dunadd (an Argyll hill fort where legend has it the kinds of Dalriada were crowned in ancient times) in that parish.  Peter’s parents were living and working in Dunamuck, by Dunadd, around 1870.

Maybe Peter had already moved away from Kilmodan and Glassary by the time they had married and had come back for his wedding, but certainly by 2 April 1871 he and Mary were living at 2 John Street in Rothesey, Bute, and Peter was listed on the census as a sailor.

By 3rd March 1881 he had risen through the ranks as he’s recorded as a Steamship Master and was found at the Ardlui Hotel in Arrochar, Dumbartonshire.  Mary was home in Bonhill, Dumbartonshire.

His sister Christina died on 10th Dec 1868, aged 18 years and 3 months and Peter paid for a family stone to be erected to honour her, and also his father Donald who died in April 1889 and his mother Janet who died in March 1891, so he must have been doing well. By April 1891 he and Mary were living at 42E Clyde Street in Helensburgh, Dumbartonshire on the River Clyde where it intersects with the Gareloch; they were also there in March 1901.

By 1895 Peter had become Captain of the Clyde Paddle Steamer Jeanie Deans (pictured), famed for being a really fast ship[1].  The Jeanie Deans was described as “built by Barclay Curle & Co in 1884 for the North British Steam Packet Co. She operated out of Craigendoran until 1896, when she was sold for service on Lough Foyle.”[2]

There is a news story in September 1890 that the ship was passing Fort Matilda, Greenock, when they were doing target practice and nearly got hit; however Peter may not have been captain by then.  In 1891 the census described him as a Seaman but in the 1901 census he was specified as a Steamboat Captain.

Peter died in 1913 in Tigh Alasdair, Ardrishaig (on Loch Gilp off Loch Fyne); Mary died, also in Ardrishaig, on 10th May 1933.

Text copyright Lynne Black, starryblackness blog, first published 9 April 2022
Photo of the Jeanie Deans is ownership unknown.


[1] The Clyde Coasting Season; 06 May 1895 – Glasgow Herald – Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland

[2] Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PS_Jeanie_Deans

2 thoughts on “Peter Dewar, 1840 – 1914, Master of the PS Jeanie Deans

  1. Clare

    I wonder why and how Peter moved from the land to the water. It seems like a successful decision. I don’t know much about Scottish history in the late 1800s but I recognise a few of the locations. Great research!

    Reply
    1. starryblackness Post author

      Thanks Clare. I think it was partly that times were hard, but perhaps also horizons and opportunities were opening up and people didn’t have to be trapped in the lands and the jobs of their forefathers.

      Reply

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