Category Archives: Dewar

#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/

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#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/