Category Archives: Dewar

Duncan Dewar and Margaret Leitch, their family’s hard times and survival

Duncan Dewar, the fourth child of Argyll Gamekeeper Donald Dewar and his wife Janet MacCallum, grew up in rural Argyll, in Glassary parish.

In September 1869 he married Margaret Leitch, a labourer’s daughter from Dunoon, in Dunoon and Kilmun, Argyll.  She was already expecting the first of their ten children: Donald was born in December that year in Innellan.  By April 1871 the three of them were living at Craiginewer Cottage, Low Road in the hamlet of Innellan.  Innellan was so small as to not warrant a mention in the extract of John Bartholomew’s Gazetteer of the British Isles, 1887in the parish Genuki entry for Dunoon and Kilmun.

There weren’t just three of them for long: Neil (c1873), Margaret (1873), Janet (c1876) Anne (c1878), Duncan (c1880) had arrived before the 1881 census.  The remaining children were Christine (c1882), Peter (c1884), Mary (1886) and Dugald (1887); all were born in Innellan.  Duncan was a mason and things must have been tight with 10 children.  However things got worse for his wife and children after Duncan died of TB on 3rd November 1890 in the Dunoon area, aged only 47, after both his legs had been amputated. 

Poor Margaret, a widow at 41 with ten children, that loss was followed the following year by the loss of her son Neil.  Although she saw her daughter Margaret marry in 1892, she herself died the following year, also of TB, on 2nd December 1893 aged just 43.

 Her eldest son Donald was working locally by 1891 as a Baker’s Vanman, but he too died young, in October 1900, of TB and Bright’s Disease.

Oldest daughter Margaret, prior to her marriage to James Graham, had been working in April 1891 aged 18 as an nurse, the servant of John Irving, Minister.  James was a baker from Greenock.    Together they had 3 children although five were listed in the 1901 census so from the timings it looks like James, who was 10 years older than her, had been married before and the first two were from a previous marriage. By 1901 the family of 7 were living in Greenock, the other side of the Clyde from Dunoon.

Her sister Janet married too, and her husband William Tait was a Glaswegian spirits salesman.  She had been working in Govan, Glasgow, as a domestic servant by 1891 and they married in the Dunoon registration district in 1895 before having their first son George there. They were living back in Govan, though, in 1898 when son William was born, and for the censuses of 1901 and 1911.

Duncan and Margaret’s third daughter, Anne, stayed in the local area.  By the 31st March 1901 census she had married John McKellar, a fisherman/seaman from Kilfinan in Argyll and they were still living in Dunoon in April 1911.

It seems Annie’s younger brother Duncan was the black sheep of the family.  He was only 10 when his father died and 13 when he was orphaned.  By the age of 18 he was a general labourer but in prison, shockingly convicted at Edinburgh Court of robbery with violence and sent to HM General Convict Prison in Peterhead.  This is the story as reported in the Dundee Courier on 17 June 1898,

He was still there in March 1901 for the census, but was released on 16th December that year, ahead of his intended release date of 15 June 1903.  Perhaps he decided to start over as on 29th September 1911 he set sail on the Numidan for Boston, USA.  However by 1915 he was back and married with a new name, and was fighting for his country in the First World War.

The next of Duncan and Margaret’s ten children was Christine.  By the age of 19 she was also in service.  She was working as a general servant of Archibald Hood, a Lecturer on Education, and his wife Mary in Kelvingrove, Glasgow.  She married John Murdoch Morrison, her cousin germaine (first cousin), in Clydebank in June 1908.  John was the Lanarkshire-born son of her Aunt Joan(a), her father’s younger sister; he was a joiner.

Peter was the next sibling; he was born c1884 and only 6 when his father died and 9 when his mother died.  I don’t know who he was with or where for the 1891 or 1901 censuses but in August 1907 when he married Annie Lloyd (a farmer’s daughter working as a domestic servant) in Clydebank he was a ship caulker (apprentice).   Within a few months he was a dad when Duncan was born in April 1908.  Like his brother Duncan he emigrated, unlike Duncan he didn’t come back, dying in Victoria, Australia and being buried in Coburg Pine Ridge Cemetery in April 1914.

Ninth child of ten, Mary, also ended up in Glasgow, she was working as a dairymaid in Pollokshaws, Renfrewshire by the age of 21.  She married a Grocer’s Assistant called Alexander Cameron and together they had two sons.

Tenth and final child of Duncan and Margaret, Dugald was born in late 1887 and was an orphan by the age of six.  Dugald was luckier than his wayward brother Duncan: he was found living with his wealthy paddle steamer captain Uncle Peter Dewar and Aunt Mary in 1901 in Dunoon when he was 13.  He married Catherine Smith in 1910 and things were looking good.  However The Scotsman reported on 3rd September 1913 that “Dugald Dewar, carpenter, while working in Messrs Russell & Co.s Kingston Yard, Port Glasgow, fell from the bridge deck to the bottom of the vessel, a depth of about 40 feet.  His thigh was fractured, and he was otherwise injured about the head and body.  He was conveyed to Broadstone Hospital.”[1]

He died on 5th September in Broadstone Hospital.   Catherine who was pregnant with their only son, named him after his father when he was born in March 1914 in Port Glasgow.  In 1917 the grieving Catherine took out an In Memorium in the Port Glasgow Express[2]:  

DEWAR – In loving memory of my dear husband, Piper Dugald Leitch Dewar, who died at Broadstone Hospital, Port Glasgow, on 5th September 1913.
However long my life may last,
Whatever land I view
Whatever joys or cares be mine,
I will remember thee.
Inserted by his sorrowing Wife and Son, 14 Chapelton Street, Port Glasgow.
Also, in loving memory of my dear cousin, Lance Corporal Neil McLean, who died of wounds on 5th September 1916.

One of the dearest, one of the best,

God in His mercy took him to rest.

This young family of Dewar children had such a hard time of it, losing their parents young and being (by various means) being sprinkled round either side of the Clyde.  I found them witnessing each other’s marriages when thigs had settled a bit – I’m so glad they could stay in touch.  


[1] The Scotsman 03 September 1913, P6, col 4

[2] Port-Glasgow Express 05 September 1917, P2, Col 2, In Memorium


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

Margaret Dewar and Archibald Campbell, Coachman: Life in the records of the local Laird

I started the story of Margaret Dewar and Archibald Campbell, Coachman to John Malcolm of Poltalloch in my previous post. As the servant of the local Laird I was able to find out how his life was affected by the life and times of the Malcolms.

In 1893 Laird John Malcolm had died.  He left many beneficiaries on his estate and he specified that Archibald, as his coachman, should receive £30, about £2,500 in current money [the National Archives Currency Converter is excellent for checking this].  He also bequeathed employees money depending on the length of their service.  He stipulated in his will that his collection of art works be kept together in the family.  However after his death it was reported that “It is announced that the famous Art Collection which belonged to the late Mr Malcolm of Poltalloch is to be made available to the British public.  The collection, now on loan in the British Museum, and though it has been left unconditionally to the present Laird of Poltalloch, he has decided to allow it to remain under certain conditions in its temporary location and to permit students to have free access thereto.”[1]

John Malcolm was succeeded by John Wingfield Malcolm[2].  Three years later he was elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Malcolm of Poltalloch and to celebrate Lord and Lady Malcolm held a big Gala on 14 July 1896[3] to mark their first visit to Poltalloch since his elevation.  Upon arriving in his coach – an hour’s drive from Ardrishaig – presumably with Archibald driving – he arrived at Poltalloch where 1,500 people including local dignitaries, staff and “about 70 representatives  of H Company of the 56th VBA and S Highlanders, of which regiment Lord Malcolm is colonel commanding, were also drawn up in line as a guard of honour.”  There were speeches and addresses.  “During the entire ceremony and the afternoon the weather was good, and the large crowd enjoyed themselves in the neighbourhood for several hours before leaving for home.”

A few months later Lord John W Malcolm was widowed; the first Lady [Alice] Malcolm was cremated in October 1896 in Glasgow[4].  A newspaper report of 11 December 1897 reported he had remarried, to widow Marie Lister, in New York[5]

On 6th March 1902 Lord John W Malcolm died and was succeeded by his brother Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm.  The latter was known as Laird but the Barony had become extinct[6]. His will was read[7]; his estate was worth £360,172, 6s & 10d, which in today’s money is £28,155,464.33.

Less well reported is the family’s link to slavery; in the 18th and 19th centuries “According to research by the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the Malcolm family greatly increased their wealth due to their activities in slave trading and their ownership of plantations in Jamaica, redeploying their slave-derived wealth in agrarian improvement and infrastructure in Britain.[8] The records show that Neill Malcolm the 12th, owned more than 2000 enslaved people on 11 separate plantations[9]  The 12th Laird opposed Abolition and claimed thousands (millions of pounds in modern money,[10] in compensation for the loss of his slaves in 1834 from the Slave Compensation Commission.”[11] Neill Malcolm or 13th of Poltalloch was also involved with clearances on their estates.  By coincidence on holiday we visited Castle Trune (a nearby Argyll property and now home of the Malcolms) across the water from Crinan and heard that a small sea loch we walked round was known as the ‘Port of Tears’ as ships would come in for local people to embark, join a larger vessel, and leave the area for ever.[12]

Port of Tears bay, Duntrune Estate

A newspaper report in 1902 it mentions that “In 1857 he [Lord John Wingfield Malcolm] visited Australia, North and South America, and the West Indies”.[13]

On the morning of 22nd November 1904 Poltalloch House caught fire with the flames spreading rapidly “Shortly after seven o’clock… one of the domestic servants in Poltalloch House …. Noticed sparks flying about outside the building, and on going out to see where they came from, discovered smoke issuing from under the eaves at the west front corner of the main and newer portion of the building.  The alarm was immediately given, and a large number of the estate and house servants were speedily on the spot, endeavouring to get at the seat of the fire, which is believed to have originated in a flue from a fireplace in the corridor on the ground floor.  The flames first broke out in a dressing room at the corner of the main building, and notwithstanding all efforts by fire extinguishing apparatus and an abundant supply of water, brought into service, it spread very rapidly”[14]

“… an hour after the outbreak was discovered, the whole roof was involved and subsequently fell in, and the upper flat was completely gutted while the lower was greatly damaged by water and otherwise.  The fire was got under about noon.  It is meantime impossible to state the amount of loss, but it is understood that the property was insured.”[15] , “While the fire was in progress a number of willing workers removed a large quantity of the more valuable furniture etc, special attention being given to the contents of the library; but notwithstanding their exertions, the loss is very great, including a collection of rare and extinct birds, said to be among the most valuable in the country”[16].

I found out these facts about the Malcolms mainly by searching Poltalloch/Portalloch in the BNA Newspaper archives using my FindMyPast subscription, it gave me the sort of rare family information I’ve only been able to find through links with wealthy, military or worthy employers.

Margaret died on 23 February 1910 of a stroke.  She had still been living in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltalloch estate.  Archibald died ten years later, in June 1920, also at Roundfield Cottage, his home for 50 years.

Original text copyright Lynne Black, first published on the Starryblackness blog on 20 March 2022


[1] Dundee Evening Telegraph 17 July 1893, P2, col4

[2] WikiTree Clan MacCallum History https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Clan_MacCallum_History

[3] Glasgow Herald 15 July 1896 P3

[4] Coventry Evening Telegraph 17 October 1896

[5] Manchester Evening News 11 December 1897

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

[7] Highland News 26 April 1902, P3 Col 1

[8]  “Neill Malcolm 11th of Poltalloch”. Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. UCL.

[9] “Entry for 12th Poltalloch”Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. UCL.

[10]  “Malcolm family entries”. Legacies of British Slave-Ownership. UCL.

[11] Wikipedia: Clan Malcolm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clan_Malcolm

[12] Deserted Settlements of Kilmartin Parish by Allan Begg, p14

[13] Henley Advertiser, 15 March 1902, P2, Col 2 from BNA collection of FindMyPast

[14] Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette 23 November 1904, P2, Col 5

[15] Edinburgh Evening News 23 November 1904, P2, Col 7

[16] Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette 23 November 1904, P2, Col5

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

Searching for Experiment Farm: Tricks and Hidden Histories

Seven years ago I wrote about my ancestor-in-law Donald Dewar who had been a gamekeeper in Kilmartin parish of Argyll, Scotland:  #52Ancestors #34 Donald Dewar, the man from Experiment  The post has received comments over the years, including a couple last year about the farm and draining the land.

Obviously 2020 didn’t give us the opportunity to head back to Argyll, but as I’ve had annual leave to use up we decided to book a last-minute break and finally got back there for the first time in 4 years this weekend.  I spent the day before we went adding the necessary facts to one of my essential yellow ‘The Family Record’ books from Aberdeen & North-East Scotland Family History Society (I think they’re maybe on a different edition now) which I could easily have handy in case I needed to check years and places.  I also took Allan Begg’s Deserted Settlements of Kilmartin Parish book which is a mine of otherwise-lost specialist local information.  It was a lucky choice of weekend as the weather for most of the time there was glorious, the best I’ve ever experienced there. 

After studying books and maps we decided to visit the flat area of land which appeared to be the prime suspect in terms of location and grid lines. So we took a minor detour on the road from Crinan to Kilmartin to get a look at what was currently there: a (later) farm, some very flat fields and a big sky.  It was a working farm so I didn’t get too close and intrusive.

Kilmartin Church with Donald Dewar’s gravestone in foreground

We were staying at the Kilmartin Hotel and wandered round Kilmartin Churchyard with its old and ancient stones, directly over the road, soon after we arrived.  However the sun was so bright on the Saturday evening that we needed to go back on the Sunday morning to make reading inscriptions easier.  I also took photos of a couple of other stones specifically mentioning Experiment to see if I can see the names on the census records next to the Dewars’ entries, perhaps. 

On a tourist note, we crammed in as much as we could into 48 hours, all of which I would recommend visiting if you’re in the area:

  • Kilmartin Glen Neolithic site, a valley of cairns, standing stones and stone circles,
  • Crinan where the Canal opens up to the west coast
  • Duntrune Castle Gardens and the ‘Port of Tears’[1] beach next to it, where local Ardifuar emigrants, towards the end of the 18th century, bound for the New World (because of landlord policies) would leave the parish to join the bigger ship at Crinan.
  • Tayvallich, where Donald McCalman, a different ancestor, taught in the 19th century and which is now village with a big yachting community,
  • Tayinish National Nature Reserve and
  • Keills Chapel  with its carved cross and gravestones and the jetties round the corner where the drovers landed the cattle from Jura.
Photo of Nether Largie Stones, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll
Nether Largie Stones, Kilmartin Glen, Argyll

So back to the family history…

When we got back home I remembered a web page I discovered randomly through an academic’s tweet: the News Literacy Project site: Eight tips to Google like a pro.  I followed the tips in this and was able to accurately narrow down the search results relating to Experiment.  I already knew that Donald Dewar had not only worked on Experiment Farm but had been a game keeper on the tiny Island Macaskin (Eilean MhicAsgain) in Loch Craignis. The sources turned up in the search results gave further information about the farm, about how lime kilns were found not only in Experiment but had been built on the island, and how Island Macaskin tenants had to ferry lime annually to Malcolm, their local Laird, at Duntrune [2]. Another result gave background info to the construction from c1796 of Experiment following the arrival of James Gow from Perthshire[3].

One aspect of the story of the local area I hadn’t anticipated were search engine results referring to how Neil Malcolm’s estate and works had been funded by plantations in Jamaica[4] I also discovered that an Experiment Farm Cottage exists in NSW, Australia.  It turned out to be unrelated; however a few clicks later I found reference to a Poltalach south-east of Adelaide, South Australia, in the Hundred of Malcolm.

This tied in with a reference I found in a Highland Clearances: The Ballad of Arichonan blog post[5] about clearances by Neil Malcolm 3rd in 1848 in the village of Arichonan (north of Tayvallich, just south of Crinan and Experiment).  This lead to riots, and later to trials at Inverary after months of imprisonment in Inverary Jail.  That blog refers to Malcolm’s offer of deporting people to Australia, which ties in with the South Australia reference above and the ‘Port of Tears’ deportation reference for Ardifuar next to Duntrune.  None of our Dewars of Kilmartin or McCalmans of Tayvallich are listed as being involved but I’m entirely sure that both families would have been following developments avidly.

So Arichonan is now on the list of places to visit next time we’re in Argyll.

Maybe I’m a bit creaky with my internet searching techniques, but perhaps I’m not the only one.  So I hope that the suggestions on the News Literacy Project site: Eight tips to Google like a pro leads to as many discoveries of ancestors’ context and stories for you as it has for me.

© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black 6 August 2021
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2021/08/06/searching-tricks-and-hidden-histories/


[1] Allan Begg’s Deserted Settlements of Kilmartin Parish

[2] Prehistoric Monumentality in the Kilmartin Glen, Mid Argyll by Duncan Houston Abernethy.  University of Glasgow Masters thesis.  September 2000, pp17-21

[3] Kilmartin Graveyard Dalriada Project, Desk Based Assessment, May 2009

[4] Country houses and the British Empire, 1700–1930. Stephanie Barczewski. Manchester University Press, 1 Feb 2017. P78.

[5] Highland Clearances: The Ballad of Arichonan.  ImagineAlba website, accessed 3 August 2021 https://www.imaginealba.com/single-post/the-anatomy-of-a-highland-clearance-the-ballad-of-arichonan

#52Ancestors #34 Donald Dewar, the man from Experiment

Kilmartin gravestone

Kilmartin gravestone (no relation!)

Donald was born circa 1811 in Experiment Farm, Kilmartin parish, in Argyll.  His parents were Donald Dewar and Margaret Dewar. The farm is believed to be named after some experimental farming methods they carried out there. [Allan Begg]

Janet, his future wife, was a farmer’s daughter who grew up in close-by Glassary parish.  Her parents were Peter McCallum and Janet Campbell and she was born circa 1815.

Donald and Janet married on 21 January 1837 in Kilmartin. They had their first child Margaret baptised in December 1837 then  went on to have 10 more, working hard to do the best for them in some pretty unforgiving places.

In 1841 Donald was working as a labourer like his father before him, but by 1851 he was working as a gamekeeper at Strath Mill, Glassary parish in Argyll.

By 1851 they’d had 7 children, and in the 1851 census they had five of them living with them: Peter, Duncan, Janet, Jane and Christina.  No sign of Margaret and third child Jane so I fear I’m still to discover their deaths recorded in the parish records.  Baby Christina was only a year old. Elizabeth arrived c1853, but by May 1855 when Joan arrived they had moved on.

By c1854, the family were working in a different area of Kilmichael Glassary entirely: Island Mackaskin –  in Gaelic Eilean MhicAsgain – in Loch Craignish.  I’ve looked at the island, found in the Inner Hebrides (west coast of Scotland) on Google Earth and it must have been a really isolated place in which to live and work.  In the present day it is no longer inhabited.

Baby Donald followed in November 1857 also on the island, although two days after his birth his proud dad registered his birth on the mainland.  I suspect Barbra was also born on the island; she was certainly living on it in April 1861.  By that April only Christina, Elizabeth, Joan, Donald and Barbara were still on the island with their parents.

It must have been some place to grow up!  I’ve read suggestions that some families sent their children to board on the mainland for them to go to school, while other hardy souls would row across daily. But Donald and Janet’s children were too young for school, so she’d have had them round her feet in the house or trailing after their father as he looked after the boss’ game.  Sheep?  Cows?  Deer, perhaps?

By 1871 they were back on the mainland.  They lived in a village called Dunamuck; by 1881 they were living in the gamekeeper’s cottage there – a house which had six rooms with windows which seems a huge number for that time!

52 ancestors logoDonald died in April 1889 of old age.  He was 78 and had been living at Craigloan, North Knapdale.

Two years later Janet died of heart disease, from which she had been suffering from around-about the time of Donald’s death.  She was then living at Timister Cottage, Sandbank, in Cowal.  She was 76 years old.

I would like to find out about who owned the land, his employer.  And I sort of want to visit Island Macaskin but sort of don’t – definitely one only for a fine day – as I’m a townie and would find it grim to think of all those years the family had to live out there, especially for Janet, in labour out there in November.

The photo of the gravestone is one of many stunning markers displayed in the churchyard at Kilmartin Church.  An amazing part of Scotland: Dalriada, land of the ancients.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 23 August 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/donald-dewar/

#52Ancestors #32 Sandy McVicar, fishing off the shores of Loch Fyne

Report of the 'Late Hurricane in the Glasgow Herald on 13 March 1846 British Newspaper Archive

Report of ‘The Late Hurricane’ in the Glasgow Herald on 13 March 1846 © British Newspaper Archive

Niven ‘Sandy’ McVicar, my husband’s great-great-grandfather , was born in Kames, Lochgair, to Archibald McVicar and Margaret Muir on 23 March 1838.

I found this report of a hurricane in the British Newspaper Archive.  When he was just 8 years old, a terrible storm hit the west of Scotland, uprooting trees and damaging buildings, including part of the spire of St Andrews Church in Glasgow.  In just-round-the-headland Ardrishaig it was particularly severe, with one poor boy having to be treated by leeches to help him recover from a head wound(!) so it must have been terrifying for the McVicar family, right on the shore. [I believe the Kames Bay the story refers to is a different one, on Bute.]

His future wife Jane was born on 11 December 1841 and christened on 19 January 1842.  She was born in Taysiloan, North Knapdale and her parents were Donald Dewar and Janet MacCallum.

Kames Bay, Argyll

Kames Bay, North Knapdale, Argyll

Sandy and Jane married at Bridgend, Glassery, on 18 January 1870 when he was a 30-year-old fisherman.   She was working as a domestic maid, and was living in Dunamuck.

Like his father Sandy worked as a fisherman in the tiny fishing community of West Kames.  They had a private house with one room with a window.  His father was nearby at the castle at the Point of Lochgair, and there were many other McVicar families in East, and West Kames.

'The Castle' - Point House, Kames, Lochgair

‘The Castle’ – Point House, Kames, Lochgair

They had nine children:  Janet, Margaret, Jane, Sarah, Archibald, Christina, Mary, John and Peter. By 1881 they had five schoolchildren at home.

In 1891 their second daughter Margaret and her baby daughter Elizabeth were living with them; Margaret was working as a general domestic servant.

In 1902 Sandy was still fishing, but very soon after that life as a fisherman must finally have proved too hard or unpredictable, for he started working as a road surfaceman, possibly for the Council.

52ancestorsSandy died on 13 December 1905 from a bowel problem at home at East Kames.  After Sandy died, Jane moved through to Greenock, possibly to be near their daughter Christina, and lived at 12 Chalmers Street, where she died of old age on 6 January 1926. I’m going to have to wait 7 years to find out where she was in 1921.  In the 1911 census I have an entry for a Janet McVicar of the correct age in an asylum in Lochgilphead, but there are discrepancies in her name and the maiden surname provided so I suspect it may not be Janet. Something still to track down.

© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black 11 August 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/sandy-mcvicar/