Category Archives: Family History

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

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

Clearing a Family House – Safeguarding the Memories

Mary Brown IMG_4373 sq2

Mum

My inspirational and lively mother passed away last week, on Wednesday 5th August, after a short illness. I have already started her story of course, and will share that when it’s ready. Mum passed in a marvelous hospice near the home she loved which she had filled with laughter, love and joyous and beautiful things for 25 years.

This is the first time I’ve ever had to clear a house (with my fantastic and supportive brother who has worked even harder than me) and it’s a lot of work.  Fortunately my managers have been very supportive and I used up annual leave as half-days prior to her passing so I could work (very) remotely and visit her in the hospice in the afternoon.

Mum supported a startling number of charities by direct debit so we thought she would like us to keep that going.  So I have cleared out four double wardrobes, with the clothing going to the hospice’s charity shop, and both pretty and functional – things shared between them and various local charities. She lined her drawers and wardrobes with soaps and these and unused toiletries have gone to local food banks, as has some of her Brexit-later-Covid pile of tins and jars.

We have taken blankets and sheets to local dog charities for them to use as bedding.  So now the house and shed drastically less full – although looking at the living room floor at the moment you wouldn’t know it!  And my brother has almost earned a frequent flyer award at the local recycling centre for recycling and rubbish.

And apparently there are companies which do house clearances, which has lifted my spirits enormously in regards to removing the unwanted furniture and reducing the number of 1,200 mile round-trips required for either/both of us, especially as the second wave of Covid is growing to engulf England and return us to lockdown.

One lovely unexpected treasure trove in the wardrobe was a set of clothes which mum wore at university between 1957 and 1962, plus when she started work after that as a teacher, and her beloved caftan from the 1970s.  Finding them was amazing, so personal and touching.  The cute dresses I’ll keep but for others I’ll have to think about a suitable destination, maybe a vintage clothes shop.

And I’m just starting to think about the potentially valuable ‘Cash In The Attic’ things, although there are hardly any candidates, just a very few bits of crystal and perhaps some retro 70s toys, and a box of vintage postcards. My dad [he and mum separated a long time ago] has used auction houses to sell things and kindly suggested this to me. This gave me hope that the things I wouldn’t want to keep but wouldn’t want to trash can perhaps be sold and bought by collectors.  I doubted that there would be any in Penzance, at the far west of Cornwall, but there are actually four to check out, which I will hopefully have time to do around clearing the house and arranging the funeral which is set for next week.  If not then I can just do it back home in Scotland when I return after the funeral.

CarrierBags_20200812_092530

What treasures lie within…

So those are the earthly things.  What lies – literally – ahead of me now is a pile of four carrier bags each with a label on them with ‘My Life’ written on them.  Wow.

The documents inside had been kept in a suitcase in the loft with a fifth bag.  That one was easier to sort as it contained either letters she’d received from family and friends, so with a box for my letters and a box for my brother’s letters that wasn’t too hard.  And disconcertingly will therefore be a record of my life rather than hers.  There were too many letters to read them all yesterday but the couple I had a quick look at were chatty and written in a much younger more exuberant style, even down to the handwriting.

There were also cards from her parents, aunts and uncles; I think that I may just keep a few as the messages inside were very simple and similar.  I like seeing people’s signatures on census returns and marriage certificates and scan them in as a personal record of the individual.

I’ve been managing my grief well I think, mainly because I had four weeks with mum and my brother, who returned from overseas to support her, before she passed which was a privilege as it gave us time to accept, adapt and say our goodbyes.  This is especially valuable given that just days before that I wouldn’t have been allowed to travel because of lock-down.  There have been so many tens of thousands of bereft families in the UK alone whose loved ones were taken away suddenly to hospital and never come back, without even a visit allowed; that must have been horrific.

I plan to honour her memory by placing the story of her childhood in the fishing port of Newlyn in the local archive.  We’ll also have a longer – un-redacted! – version of her entire life to keep within the family.  But in the first instance I have those four carrier bags waiting for me.  It will be a challenge sorting them I think, and unlike yesterday I will keep a box of tissues handy.  But hopefully, like yesterday, the predominant feelings will be love and admiration.

Copyright Lynne Black
First published 12 August 2020 https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2020/08/12/safeguarding-the-memories/

Photo of boat entering Newlyn Harbour

Simon Downing and his Argentinian family: discovering argbrit.org

paulchurchsep16w

Paul Parish Church

My distant aunt Mary Richards Kelynack grew up as a fisherman’s daughter but her descendants were to end up criss-crossing the south Pacific between Argentina and England.

She was born in Newlyn in Cornwall, probably in the first half of 1792, when George III was on the throne. She married John Downing, a local man and also a fisherman, and together they had 7 children.

Generally the family seemed to be like many of my other Newlyn fishing families I’ve looked at recently, where children were born to fisherman, fished or made nets or worked in the home, then had fisherman sons and daughters who married fishermen and stayed in the parish, usually Newlyn itself: in Mary’s case they were called Simon, Grace, Benjamin, Mary, Henry, Jane and John.  So it was a surprise, when looking at their oldest child Simon’s story, to find that in 1881 he and Elizabeth his wife had a grand-daughter with them on the night of the 3 April census. And she had been born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

When trying to find out more about her on Ancestry and FindMyPast files were unavailable with my UK package, although Ancestry kept suggesting records I may be interested in but whose names I didn’t at that point recognise.  So I asked for help in the Facebook group Ancestry UK [no relation to the Ancestry UK company] and a couple of kind members give me info on a census record, and also gave me the link to the site www.argbrit.org which has been invaluable in providing the missing pieces of the puzzle of Simon’s descendants.

Simon married local girl Grace James on 30 December 1838 and their son John James Downing was baptised 10 months later, in Paul Parish Church above Newlyn, where the majority of my family’s life-marking events took place. Sadly she died in early April 1841 and was buried in Paul parish, with her son less than 2 years old.  She is likely to have been in her mid to late 20s.

Simon re-married; he and Elizabeth Curnow Kelynack (no known relation yet), a 22-year old servant who marked her wedding register, married at Paul Parish Church on 18 January 1846. On 30 March 1851 on census night he was fishing on the Conquerer under William Payne with Elizabeth at home in the Fradgan [a winding street rising up from the harbour] in the Street-An-Nowan area of Newlyn with her niece staying that night, perhaps because her husband was away.  Simon’s 11-year-old James [by his first wife Grace] was with his grandparents Mary and John Downing.

The 1861 census found Simon and Elizabeth round the corner in Chapel Street, and the 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses found them 5m walk away in Clifton Terrace.  A normal fishing couple’s story apart from the fact that their marriage produced no children but the 1851 and 1891 censuses show they were part of a larger family network.  Simon died in 1895 and Elizabeth died in 1898.

Palacio_Barolo_(postal) public domain image

Palacio Barolo (postal); Unknown – Tarjeta, (public domain)

Before August 1864 Simon’s only child John James Downing, a carpenter, must have sailed for Argentina, perhaps for adventure, perhaps for work, for he was witness to the marriage of George Reeves and Margaret Wolf at that time so presumably would have needed time before then to make friends and acquaintances.

In February 1868 his wife Hannah Jane (b1845) gave birth to their first child Elizabeth Agnes Downing who was baptised in St John’s Church in Buenos Aries on 12 May 1867. I have not found the record of their marriage in either England or Argentina.  Their names also appear in the records as witnesses to the baptisms of the Van Domselaar girls: Bertha in November 1867 and Charlotte in September 1869.  The second daughter Grace Alice Downing was born on 2 April 1869. On 28 January 1872 their third daughter, Charlotte Downing, was baptised; at that time they were living in the Bararcas al Norte area of Buenos Aries with Hannah identified as his wife.

I haven’t found any records of Hannah’s death and burial, or return to England; I suspect she died in Argentina and John returned home with their three young daughters.

On 26 September 1877 John married his second wife, Jane Frances Pentreath (nee Oats) in Paul Parish Church. She was the widow of a master fisherman living in nearby Moushole (1 mile west of Newlyn) but had been born in neighbouring parish Sancreed.

mouseholeharbour01_sep16w

Mousehole Harbour, photo copyright Lynne Black

The April 1881 census found the couple living in Mousehole with six children: Elizabeth and Charlotte from John’s first marriage, Benjamin and William Pentreath from Jane’s first marriage, and two new children together: John and Orpah.  (Babies John and Orpah had been baptised together on 14 November 1880.)  John’s second daughter Grace Alice was living with her grandparents Simon and Elizabeth Downing in Newlyn on the night of the census, which was the initial intriguing discovery that had sent me on the transatlantic record search.

 

At some point in the 1880s Grace [Johns’ daughter by his first 1st wife Hannah] had moved back to Buenos Aries and settled down with Thomas Franklin Andrews. Their first child Elsie Maud was born in April 1890, then son John in November 1891, Doris Ethel in November 1893 and Ivy May in January 1896. All were all baptised at St John’s Church.

Her father John’s second wife Jane died in March 1905 in Newlyn and was buried on 24 March in consecrated ground in Paul.

On 22 December 1905 John and his daughter Orpah [by his late 2nd wife Jane] sailed on the Margarita from Newport to Bahia Blanca, Argentina.  Orpah met an engine driver called Charles Thomas Matthews and they had their first two children in February 1907 (Eliza Jane) and in June 1908 (Thomas Charles); both were baptised in St Andrew’s Scots Presbyterian Church, Buenos Aires on 21 June 1909. Harold Reginald was born on 25 March 1910 and Edward Douglas was born on 6 September 1911; again two children were baptised together on 10 May 1914.

It’s not known how long John stayed in Argentina at that time; he married for a third time in spring 1910 and he and his younger wife dressmaker Janie (nee Rodda later Harvey) were living together in April 1911 in Heamoor, a town above neighbouring Penzance.  Jane was a butcher’s daughter who married a widowed mariner/Trinity Lighthouse Keeper/RN Reservist called Richard George Harvey in 1876. He’d died in 1884; it appeared that he had recently taken up the role of Victualler in Penzance – unexpected but the info all matches.

I was surprised that there was no further mention of his wife Janie, and was shocked to find out that she had been buried in April 1924 in Bodmin after dying in the County Asylum, 47 miles away up county.

At some point John moved back to Clifton Terrace as he died there on 20/21 May 1924 aged “85 years of age, was a well known and respected inhabitant, and had spent a number of years in Buenos Ayres [SIC]”.  He was buried in Paul Cemetery on 23 May 1924 (as described in The Cornishman newspaper on 28 May 1924) with a floral cross from his daughters [Grace and Orpah] and grandchildren in Buenos Aires. His probate was heard in January 1927 in Bodmin and he left his effects to his two widowed daughters.

Sites used: Ancestry, FindMyPast including their BNA Archive, Facebook group AncestryUKArgbrit.org , Cornwall Family History Society, Cornwall OPC database, West Penwith Resources, FamilySearch.org, Wikepedia.

Words and UK images copyright Lynne Black
First published on starryblackness on 8 October 2017

Photo of Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

Benjamin Jacca and Priscilla Tonkin – hurricanes and shipping disasters in 19C Newlyn

My G-G-G-G Grandfather Benjamin Jacka arrived in the world on Thursday 1st November 1810. He grew up in tumultuous times, both literally with storms, hurricanes and food shortages, but also politically in the time of the regency and the Napoleonic wars.

Benjamin was the second of eight children of fisherman Peter Jacka and his wife Catherine Noell nee Kelynack and grew up in the Cornwall fishing village Newlyn. He was baptised at the age of 24 days in Paul Parish Church, up the hill above the village.

When he was 12 an event happened which eventually became enormously significant to the lives of Cornishmen for centuries: hundreds of miles away in Warwickshire William Webb-Ellis picked up a ball in a game of football and ran forward with it, inventing the game rugby, named after the town in which he lived.  Allegedly[1][2].

Another sport popular locally was wrestling and in 1827 when he was 16 a top-name tournament was held by the Newlyn Road near Penzance with wrestling champions James Polkinghorne and Richard Saundry as umpires. “At twelve o’clock the sight was very imposing – some thousands of the most athletic young men that the world can produce (each of whom would have honoured Leonidas at the Straits of Thermopylae, Bonaparte in passing the Bridge of Lodi, or even Wellington himself in the battle of Waterloo), seated or standing in perfect silence and order, and with intense interest, to witness and participate in a sport for which their ancestors were so justly renowned.”[3]

Photo of Newlyn, Old Harbour, at low tide

Newlyn, Old Harbour, low tide

As boys Benjamin and brother Peter, who was 3 years older than him, and the other local boys would have spent a lot of time mucking about down by the harbour, swimming out to boats to help the men bring in the fish. Later brothers and sisters were Jane, Honor, William, Charles Kelynack, Matilda and Richard.

When Benjamin was 14 his brother Peter joined the Merchant Navy, and Benjamin did too, a few years later, c1838 when he was 18.

On Sunday 18 December 1831, aged 21, he was the first of his brothers and sisters to marry.  His bride was Priscilla Tonkin, the fifth of nine children of Mousehole fisherman Philip Tonkin and his wife Anne Jasper [Mousehole was the next village].  Benjamin and Priscilla had their first child, Benjamin, in the spring of 1834. Sadly the baby died in infancy and was buried on 12 August up at Paul.

The following year, Benjamin was recorded[4] as working on the Lady Rowley, a “a 114 ton schooner built in the Port of Plymouth in 1833. It was mastered by ……. Captain Robert Horatio Harvey”[5] and possibly named after the wife of “Admiral Sir Charles Rowley GCB GCH (16 December 1770 – 10 October 1845) [who] was a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth.” [6]  On 19 April 1836 she was in Falmouth: “the Lady Rowley, together with from 10 to 12 Neapolitans, had arrived to load; the Lady Rowley was to come here for orders.”[7]

photo of Paul Church

Paul Church

Benjamin and Priscilla’s daughter Susan was born in early 1837 and baptised on 14 May, and her sister Catherine [my ancestor] on was born on 27 April 1839 and baptised on 20 May 1840.

Benjamin was home with Priscilla and their daughters in the Street-An-Nowan [lower] area of Newlyn on the night of the 6 June 1841 census.  They were living in Chapel Street, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

The birth of their second son, also called Benjamin, was registered in early 1842 and he was baptised on 10 April that year, and third son Nicholas was baptised on 11 May 1845.

A few weeks before that, on 23 April 1845, Benjamin had been up at Paul Church, witnessing the wedding of his sister Matilda to tailor John Ellis Nicholls.

Their sixth child and third daughter Priscilla was born c1848.

Newlyn-SAN-OrchardPl5ChapelStw

Looking up Orchard Place, Newlyn

On 30 March 1851, the night of the census Priscilla and her five children Susan, Catherine, Benjamin, Nicolas and Priscilla were home in Chapel Street but Benjamin, by then a master mariner, was likely away on ship as he wasn’t recorded at home.

In 1855 and 1856 Benjamin’s parents died: on 23 September 1855 his father Peter died of an effusion on the brain and on 20 October 1856 his mother Catherine died of dysentery, a long-term condition of hers.

On 20 April 1858 Benjamin was again a witness, this time when his eldest daughter Susan married fisherman John Hosken Tonkin. Susan and John went on to have four [known] children:

  • Susan (1861);
  • Elizabeth (c1865);
  • John J (c1868); and
  • Prissilla (1870, later Mitchell).

On 7 October 1859 Benjamin and Priscilla’s second daughter Catherine [my ancestor] married fisherman James Daniel Rowe and they had eight children together, including Benjamin Jaco Rowe [my ancestor].

On the night of the 1861 census Benjamin and Priscilla were home at 13 Chapel Street with their three youngest unmarried children Benjamin, Nicholas and Priscilla.  Also in the house but recorded as a separate household were their daughter Catherine – now Catherine Rowe – and her baby Benjamin. Those three unmarried children had all married before the 1871 census.

On 13 May 1866 his carpenter son Benjamin married Caroline Polglaze. However he died before his wife; Caroline re-married in 1879. Her second husband was Thomas H Hobbs, a blacksmith late of the police force.

On 11 November 1867 their daughter Priscilla married mariner Andrew Williams. Together they had six children:

  • Andrew (c1878, died young);
  • Eliza (c1881);
  • Nicholas (c1883);
  • Ernest (c1885);
  • Rhoda (c1888); and
  • Andrew (1891, also died young).

By 1911 Priscilla was a widow (with Rhoda still living at home) and making ends meet by taking boarders.

Youngest son Nicholas became a Master Mariner like his father, and the 1871 census found them both on the Joseph Carne in Falmouth Harbour.  Nicholas married Margaret Ann Williams in spring 1870 and together they had 9 children, many of whom were baptised as Methodists:

  • Annie Margaret (c1871, School teacher, later James);
  • Priscilla (1872, later Morris);
  • Jane W (1875, school teacher, later Liddicoat);
  • Mary Williams (1877 later Lugg, later Eddy);
  • Zilpah (1878, learner of telegrapy, later Leggo, farmer’s wife);
  • Elizabeth (1880, school teacher, later Davey);
  • Nicholas (c1883, a schoolmaster);
  • Elsie (c1885-1893); and
  • Charles Williams (1888, a Post Office worker/postman).

Nicholas died in March 1915.

On 2 April 1871 Benjamin, by then 60, was away on the Joseph Carne in Falmouth with his son Nicholas among the crew.  However three months later he was home. His wife of 40 years Priscilla was dying of cancer and she passed away on 29 July, aged 60.  She was buried up in Paul Cemetery on 2 August 1871.

paulcemetery03crop

Paul Cemetery, Sheffield Road, Paul

Benjamin began fishing around this time.  He lived on to the age of 81 but, fishing being a dangerous profession, had a couple of near misses.

On 13 October 1880 a destructive gale raged.  “Among those which had succumbed to the storm were the Emily, owned by Mr Benjamin Jacko” in Newlyn Harbour”.  The Cornishman paper noted that “Altogether the loss will amount to too large a sum, and those who were wise enough to insure in the Mount’s Bay Insurance Club (and we believe there are several) will now reap the benefit of their prudence”[8] – I don’t know whether Benjamin was prudent in that way or not.  Possibly not as soon after that he was crewing for John Roberts on the Cyrus, although perhaps he had decided to just take a step back from owning his own boat.

On 23 November 1882 the Cornish Telegraph reported: “in September last” [1881 or 1882?] the lugger Cyrus sank in Mount’s Bay after being hit by the T.E.C. when pilchard fishing near Penlee Point – neither vessel was displaying lights despite it being thick and hazy with rain as this was customary when fishing in shallow waters. The T.E.C. struck the Cyrus which sank as soon as all the men had climbed aboard the T.E.C..  Benjamin had been aboard the Cyrus, the owner and master of which was John Roberts, and was a witness in the enquiry in November 1882. “Benjamin Jaco had held a certificate for thirty years, and had been master of a small vessel of 180 or 190 tons. He knew the rule of the road at sea. He had been fishing about ten years.  He had never seen the red or green lights carried in a fishing boat.  He had been in large open boats which never showed the red and green lights, but he had never been away from this locality.”

The ship had an experienced crew of four of whom “the eldest of the crew of the Cyrus on the occasion was over 70 and the youngest was 59” and had neither a boat in the vessel or side lights (no lantern with green and red slides) although “in the pilchard fishery it was not the custom to do so.” The Court found amongst specifics of complying/not complying with various Articles of the regulations that “Both the master of the Cyrus and the master of the T.E.C. are to blame for not carrying lights … but the Court finds that the immediate cause of the collision was the disregard by the master of the T.E.C. of the rule of the road at sea.”  Both solicitors “intimated that their respective clients intended to comply with the law with regard to carrying red and green lights on their vessels.”[9]

In 1885 the foundation stone was laid for Newlyn’s new South Pier; the North Pier was built in 1888, hopefully both of these afforded more protection for future gales than for the 1880 gale which saw the loss of the Emily.

In the 3 April 1891 census Benjamin was recorded as a Retired Master Mariner and was living alone in Chapel Street.  He died the following year, on 31 March 1892, and was buried on 3 April in Paul Cemetery.

Words and photos © Lynne Black
First published 8 May 2017 on https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/

[1] RugbyFootballHistory.com http://www.rugbyfootballhistory.com/webb-ellis.html accessed 9 April 2017

[2] The Rugby History Society, http://therugbyhistorysociety.co.uk/didhe.html , accessed 9 April 2017

[3] Morning Chronicle – Tuesday 02 October 1827, P3, BNA http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/viewer/bl/0000082/18271002/014/0003

[4] FindMyPast’s Britain, merchant seamen records 1835-1857

[5] He [Martin Wright] was later the owner of a ship named the Lady Rowley a 114 ton schooner built in the Port of Plymouth in 1833. It was mastered by his future son-in law, Captain Robert Horatio HARVEY.   http://www.genealogy.com/forum/surnames/topics/gartrell/264/ accessed 31 Dec 2016.

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Charles_Rowley,_1st_Baronet Accessed 31 Dec 2016

[7] BNA Maritime news, 22 April 1836 via FMP http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001258%2f18360422%2f061

[8] Cornishman, 14 October 1880, P7, via BNA on FindMyPast:  http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000331%2f18801014%2f061

[9] The Cornish Telegraph 23 November 1882, P7, Col 1, via BNA on FindMyPast: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001617%2f18821123%2f132

Richard R Jaco, Catherine Richards, Job and the hapless Clifton Grove

Richard Richards Jaco [spellings vary] was the youngest of the 8 known children of Peter Jacka and his wife Catherine Noell Kelynack, a fishing family living in Newlyn, Paul parish, Cornwall.  He was baptised on 1st December 1830 in the first year of the reign of King William IV.  Like his father he became a fisherman.

Although the youngest of 8 brothers and sisters – Peter, Benjamin, Jane, Honor, William, Charles Kelynack and Matilda – Peter and Benjamin would have been away often in the merchant service, and his sister Jane had married and moved away to St Just when Richard was just three years old, so there wouldn’t often have been 10 people in the house.

paulchurchsep16w

Paul Parish Church

His future bride was Catherine Richards whom he would have seen round the village all his life, and they married at Paul Parish Church on 16 April 1850 when he was 19 and she 18 [assuming they were baptised soon after their births]. She must have been quite far gone, as by late summer they were parents of their first child, Richard Richards Jacka, handily named after both his parents. Dad Richard was perhaps at sea on 30 March 1851 when the census was taken as Catherine was staying with her son at her mother’s house in the Fradgan street in Street-An-Nowan [the lower part of Newlyn]. Sadly baby Richard died in infancy.

Their second child was baptised on 5 September 1852, another Richard Richards Jacka, and followed by Susan, baptised on 6 April 1855.  Sadly Susan died in infancy too, in November 1857.  Charles was born c 1857 and baptised on 31 October 1858, and fifth and final known child Job was born in early 1860 and baptised on 17 October 1860.

Richard’s father Peter Jacko had died in 1851, living in the Fradgan, and his mother Catherine in 1856. His brother Charles had emigrated to Australia c 1853.

newlyn-fradyen1

The Fradgan, Newlyn

The 7 April 1861 census finds Richard and Catherine, with sons Richard, Charles and Job, living in the Fradgan still,  which was almost entirely fishermen’s families, with a couple of carpenters/ shipwrights and dressmakers living there too; this included his married sister Honor and her fisherman husband Samuel Plomer before they moved up round the corner to Chapel Street. His brother William and his wife Grace lived two minutes away in Foundry Lane

In December 1864 there was more grief for Richard and Catherine when oldest surviving son Richard Richards died.  Catherine herself died five months later, in May 1865, aged only 33.

In April 1871 Richard and his two surviving sons Charles and Job were living in Upper Fradgan still, although Job was recorded as John. Charles, aged 14, was working as a labourer but this is the last record I can find for him.  Richard died in 1874, aged 43.

In 1881 Job was still living in the Fradgan, living with his Uncle John and Aunt Mary Richards and was working, aged 19, as a fisherman.  However soon after that he must have joined the Merchant Navy. On January 1884 he joined the crew of the coasting ship SS Clifton Grove.

In December 1885 the crew, including Job, appeared in court in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, for not paying duty on foreign tobacco which they had bought for themselves in London; the tobacco was confiscated from the men, no penalty inflicted, and they were set at liberty.  Job was in possession of only 4oz[1].

I lost track of Job after that, although if he stayed on the Clifton Grove I saw it mentioned a few times as it seemed to literally get in a lot of scrapes.

The Shields Daily Gazette of 09 August 1887 reported that en route from Llanelly [maybe via Newport] to Rochester with coals she arrived in Portland where she needed condenser and air pump repairs[2].

Late on the evening of 23 August 1887 the Clifton Grove was involved in a fatal collision on the River Avon with a stone-carrying barge called the Sarah Ann near the Port and Pier Railway Station; one of the barge men was drowned.[3][4]

27 July 1888 the SS Clifton Grove grounded on the flat of the Eish Strand and their re-float was ‘assisted’ by salvagers – whose authority to do this was hotly contested – and who were awarded £2 in Falmouth Borough Police Court in fees to be shared amongst them rather than the salvage fees they claimed of £200[5].

The year after that, in September 1889, she grounded in Trouville [Normandy, France] but was docked and found undamaged[6].

On 21 February 1891 it was reported about the SS Clifton Grove that on Thursday [12th February] “A Dangerous Reef in the Solway – The master of the SS Clifton Grove, bound from Llanelly to Workington, reports that whilst proceeding up the Solway Firth on Thursday morning at seven o’clock, engines dead slow, tide six hours ebb, his vessel suddenly took the ground on Mossbay Bank, a dangerous ridge of rocks running north and south of the Firth for a considerable distance, and remained stranded one hour and a half, the vessel making a quantity of water. This reef is very dangerous and misleading to mariners; more especially on very high spring tides, when the tide ebbs for a considerable distance, thereby leaving very little water on the ridge. It is suggested that a buoy should be fixed to indicate the position of the reef, which should also be marked on the chart with the correct soundings at high and low water during spring and neap tides.” [7]

On 27 and 28 February the Board of Trade held an inquiry “into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British Steamship “CLIFTON GROVE,” of Bristol, on or near Moss Bay Patch, near Workington, on or about the 12th February 1891.” And found “the stranding was caused by the negligent navigation of Mr. Edward Morgans, the master of the “Clifton Grove,” in that he allowed the vessel to proceed in thick weather in close proximity to the land without taking proper means to ascertain from time to time the exact position of the vessel, by taking soundings and by verifying the distance she had run. The Court finds the master in default, and suspend his certificate, No. 97,914, for six calendar months from this date. The Court also finds the managing owner, Mr. W. H. Butler, to blame, for the undermanning of the ship.”[8]

In October 1895 it was reported that the “Clifton Grove of Bristol, bound for Chatham with a cargo of coals has been detained in the entrance channel in consequence of something having gone wrong with the propeller. The steamer dried on the mud, effected repairs and proceeded to her destination on yesterday morning’s tide.” [9]

Despite searching several sites I have no idea where Job ended up, but I hope he had more luck than the SS Clifton Grove.

Words and photos © Lynne Black
First published 17 April 2017 at https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/richard-r-jaco/

[1] Gloucester Citizen 11 December 1885, P4, BNA via FMP http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000325%2f18851211%2f018

[2] The Shields Daily Gazette 09 August 1887, P4, BNA via FMP http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000287%2f18870809%2f058

[3] Cardiff Times 27 August 1887, P5, BNA via FMP: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000921%2f18870827%2f086

[4] Western Daily Press 24 August 1887, P5, BNA via FMP: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000264%2f18870824%2f019

[5] Cornishman 09 August 1888, P5, BNA via FMP http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000331%2f18880809%2f052

[6] Shields Daily Gazette 26 September 1889, P4, BNA via FMP http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000287%2f18890926%2f035

[7] Carlisle Express and Examiner 21 February 1891, P5, BNA via FMP: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001875%2f18910221%2f083

[8] Wreck Report for Clifton Grove, PortCities, http://www.plimsoll.org/resources/SCCLibraries/WreckReports/15967.asp?view=text

[9] South Wales Daily News 12 October 1895 , P7, BNA via FMP: http://search.findmypast.co.uk/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0000919%2f18951012%2f160

Charles Kelynack Jacka and Alice Bartle Horswell, the carpenter’s family who headed to Australia

Charles was the sixth of eight children of fisherman Peter Jacco and Catherine Noall Kelynack but unlike his brothers he chose to work as a carpenter rather than on the sea.  He married Alice Bartle Horswell, a mariner’s daughter who was born in Padstow but who was living in Penzance.

Alice’s mother was a farmer’s daughter called Mercy Bartle.  She was born in St Enoder parish, 33 miles up county from Penzance, south-east of Newquay.  By 1826 she was based in Penzance, aged 20, where she married sailor Henry Horswell on 2 January 1827 in Madron parish. When Alice was born later that year they baptised her in July in Padstow, where Henry’s family roots were.  It can’t have been a pleasant journey for Mercy, travelling 47 miles either very pregnant or as a new mother.

St Marys Chapel 1The young family returned to Penzance, and by 1832 were back in Penzance for the birth of their son Henry.  He was not a healthy child: he was baptised on 13 November but buried four days later in Madron, Penzance Chapelry [later Penzance St Mary]. At that time Henry Snr was master of a vessel.   Their third child, Helen/Ellen was baptised on 22 March 1834, also in Madron, Penzance Chapelry, at which time Henry’s occupation was noted as captain of a vessel.

Henry died within the next six years; the 1841 census found Mercy living in Chapel Street, Penzance, with her younger daughter Ellen.  Later that year Mercy re-married, on 6 December 1841.  Her second husband George Hall was a wool comber, son of a wheel-wright.  Mercy had shaved a few years off her age when recording her second marriage!

Together they had a son, George, born c 1844 in Penzance.  However by 30 March 1851 census Mercy is again found without her husband.  She is running a lodging house in Morrab Place Penzance, with Ellen and young George living with her. Ellen was 16 and working as a dressmaker.  Mercy died in spring 1857, aged 51.

1851fradgan_jacoca

Image from 1851 census

In March 1851 Charles and Alice with daughter Wilmott Amelia [thanks so much to Annie for suggesting this name via a comment below this blog post]  were living 2 doors along from his sister Honor in the Fradgan, Street-An-Nowan, Newlyn.  In October they baptised their daughter Mary Jane in Paul Parish Church but sadly their first daughter was not with them much longer: in November 1852 Wilmott Amelia died and was buried back in Paul parish. The following year when their daughter Margaret was baptised in April 1853 the ceremony took place in Madron, Penzance Chaplaincy [the daughter church of Madron].

I couldn’t find them in the 1861 census so assumed they may have emigrated in the 1850s, as hints on Ancestry suggested they emigrated to Australia.

This proved to be the case as in 1859 Charles worked as a carpenter in Prahan [now an inner suburb of Melbourne] but then a young settlement which had only been surveyed for development in 1840[1].  I found a letter from him and fellow-workers in the Argus newspaper, sticking up for a fellow-worker who’d been inaccurately maligned in the paper which had stated he’d been sacked when in fact he’d got a different job for health reasons.

1859-argusletter_re-ill-colleague

Letter in The Argus, from Trove, October 1859

In March 1872 the family was grief-stricken when their younger daughter Margaret died aged only 19.  She was buried in St Kilda Cemetery and the funeral procession headed there from the family home on the High Street.[2]

As I don’t have access to the Australian Census or immigration records it was a treat to find these mentions of the family.  I had just googled ‘Charles Jaco, Australia’ and Google suggested newspaper stories on Trove http://trove.nla.gov.au/  I’d vaguely heard of Trove but had never used it before.  It’s a free online Australian archive of newspaper stories and was fantastic for confirming their stories which previously I’d come across via a ‘probable link’ death record and non-evidenced hints on Ancestry public trees.  Fortunately the name Jaco at that time in Australia was uncommon, apart from Trove search-engine suggestions of ‘Jacob’ and ‘Jacobite’.

Another, happier, story I found on Trove was a family wedding intimation: in March 1874 Mary Jane married “Robert Henry, second son of Jared Graham, Esq, Euroa”[3], and the ceremony took place in the family home on the High Street, Prahan.

The final story I found on Trove was a reference to Charles’ will in 1876, after he died in November 1876 aged 51.  Alice died three years later, in April 1879, aged 49.

Words © Lynne Black.
First published 13 March 2017 at https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2017/03/12/charles-kelynack-jaco/

[1] http://www.victorianplaces.com.au/prahran

[2] The Argus, 4 March 1872, accessed via Trove

[3] The Argus (Melbourne Vic: Wed 18 Mar 1874, accessed via Trove

 

Photo of boat entering Newlyn Harbour

William Jacka and Grace Cotton, play, school, secrets and the asylum

newlynoldharbour01_sep16

Newlyn Old Harbour

William, baptised on 4 August 1819, was the fifth of Peter and Catherine Jaco’s eight children and, like his father and his two elder brothers, would make his living on the sea.

They grew up in the fishing community of Street-An-Nowan, Newlyn, in early 19th century Cornwall.  By the time he was born, eldest brother Peter was 12, and all would have spent their youth around the harbour, playing on the sand and swimming, then later helping the older boys and men by bringing the catch from the ships to the shore.  When William was 6 his brother Peter joined the Merchant Navy, and by the time William was 16 his brother Benjamin was Mate on a schooner.  His eldest sister Jane married a miner and moved away when William was 15, Peter married in April 1838 and William, aged 19, was witness at his wedding in Paul Parish Church.

The first census William was recorded on was the 1841 one, when he was 21 and living at home with his parents in the Fradgan [street area] within Street-An-Nowan.  His sister Honor married when he was 23, but she stayed locally, also living in the Fradgan.

In March 1848, when William was 28, he married local girl Grace Cotton and she must have been blooming as they had their first son William 4-5 months later, who was baptised that autumn, again in Paul Parish Church.  Grace was the daughter of fisherman Charles Cotton and Deborah Pendar, but Deborah must have been widowed when Grace was still young because at the age of 5 Grace was admitted to Penzance Dispensary and noted as a widow’s child.  When Grace met William she had been working as a servant.

Photo of Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Newlyn

Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Chapel with hall, Newlyn, Cornwall

Their second son was born two years later and named John Cotton Jacca.  Unlike his elder brother he was baptised a Methodist, at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel just at the top of the road.

At the time of the 1851 census it appears William was away fishing on the Abner and Grace and baby William at home had her mother Deborah living with them.  I don’t know why baby John Cotton wasn’t recorded; maybe he was asleep in a crib and they forgot about him!

The year after that their next known child was a daughter: Mary.  Mary was born by late summer 1854 and was and was baptised on 8 November of that year, this time in the new Newlyn St Peter church just along the Coombe river in Street-An-Nowan. Perhaps Mary was a sickly baby, for she had died by the time she was 4 months old and was buried on 17 November 1854 in the new grounds up at Paul Cemetery.

In 1855 William’s father Peter died, and the following year his mother Catherine also died.

In 1856 William and Grace had a second daughter, whom they also called Mary.  Mary wasn’t baptised until she was 2 years old in 1858, again in Newlyn St Peter’s parish church.

William and Grace’s children were possibly the first generation to go to school during the week, although attending school wasn’t obligatory until the 1870 Education Act.  However prior to 1854 when a Wesleyan Day School was built in Newlyn, children attending school had to head up the hill to Paul Churchtown where a school had stood on the Green across from the church since 1825.  That National School at Paul was the one pictured in Elizabeth Forbes’ painting School Is Out which was completed in 1889.   [Incidentally a lady called Mrs Enid Hall who lived across from my Granny in Newlyn always proudly told us the boy crying in the photo was her father, although I have seen that same model claimed by other Newlyn familes!]

In May 1860 Grace’s mother Deborah died and was buried in Paul parish.

By the April 1861 census the family had moved house within Street-An-Nowan and were living on Foundry Lane, where they stayed for several years, and where they were living when their son Richard was born; he was baptised in April 1865 in St Peter’s Church. Richard was deaf from childhood, and was to live with his parents and work as a tailor.

The 1871 census found the family living in Strick’s Court, which I believe was near the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Street-An-Nowan.  In 1876 the first of their children to marry, John Cotton Jacka, married fisherman’s daughter Elizabeth Strick but I think the name was just coincidence.  John and Elizabeth had their first child, Mary Jane Jaco, in 1877 and Elsie in February 1882, followed eventually by John (1884), Grace (1890) and William (1892).

Their daughters and grand-daughters went into shop-work.  John, the elder of their two sons, decided to make his fortunate in the USA.  He emigrated to the US on 3 June 1914 on the White Star Line’s Oceanic after booking via a Penzance agent called Messrs Ludlow and Sons.

1914jun11_cornishtelegraph_johnjackaemig

Cornish Telegraph, 11 June 1914, from BNA on FMP

The Cornishman’s Cornish Folk in New York: Letter from Sid Blake feature reports names of those passing though Blake’s Cornish Arms Hotel which was found at 443 West 23rd Street.  On 25 June his column reported “John Jacka, from Newlyn, to Detroit’ had stayed there.  However John ended up in Akron, Summit County, Ohio, USA, where his dream came to an end when he caught Spanish Flu and died on 30 October 1918; he was buried in Glendale Cemetery and his headstone is pictured on Find-A-Grave.  I can’t identify the story of youngest child William who perhaps also emigrated or died in infancy.

By 1881 William and Grace were living in Orchard Place [where my own family lived many decades later] with William, Mary and Richard still at home with them.

Their net-maker daughter Mary Jacka married in 1882; her husband was fisherman William Batten.

William Jnr [William and Grace’s son] married Lavinia Hall in late 1883. Lavinia’s parents, farmer/ agricultural labourer William and Ann Hall, had lived close to Land’s End in St Leven and Sennen parishes and she was the third daughter in large family.  Her story was a bit confusing at first, but after following all the census records through the decades the truth emerged.

In the 1871 census 30-year-old Lavinia had a 7-year-old brother listed called Frederick, although ‘their father’ was 70 and widowed; this was a pretence continued in the 1881 census despite William Hall’s death in the years between.  In the 1891 census, with Frederick listed as head of the family, he refers to Lavinia as his mother and William Jaco as his step-father.  Also in that 1891 census Lavinia had shaved some years off her age, appearing only 6 rather than the actual 12 years older than her husband.

Frederick had married Mary and was working as a cabinet maker although later he became a trader of glass and china.  He moved by 1911 to Torpoint, which is just the Cornish side of the Tamar, across from Plymouth in Devon.  There he continued as a dealer with his wife and two of his daughters assisting in the business. By that time Frederick and Mary had had nine children, of whom 6 were still alive.  Perhaps a clue to his mystery father was the fact that Frederick called his son Phillip Scadden Hall – there were many Scaddens in West Penwith.  The other five surviving children were all girls: Ethel, Lillian, Florence, Violet and Marion.

Lavinia died in 1900.  William died many years later in 1925, in the Penzance area.

Grace Jacka died in spring 1888, aged 64, and was buried in Paul Cemetery on 22 April.

In 1891 William was living with his daughter Mary and son-in-law William Batten.  William’s youngest (deaf) child Richard, who was working as a tailor, was also in the household and they were living in Florence Terrace, Tolcarne.  That is just over the small river Combe from Street-An-Nowan, and is another area which housed many of my extended family over the decades of the 19th century. William had retired from fishing by then and lived on until 1893, when he was buried on 15 March in Paul.

Mary’s story didn’t end happily: in the 1890s she developed a mental illness and was moved to Bodmin Lunatic Asylum 50 miles away [which I believe is Cornwall Lunatic Asylum / St Lawrence’s Lunatic Asylum].  There she lived out the rest of her days until she died on 7 April 1906.  In the 1901 census she had been listed as a pauper patient and a lunatic.  I don’t know why she was listed as a pauper as at that time her drift fisherman husband William Batten was living with his mother in Street-An-Nowan, but all the evidence points to that being Mary Batten nee Jacka.

In 1909 her widower William remarried; his second wife was Catherine Treleven and they lived together in 1911 in Newlyn, with William still fishing.

William and Grace’s youngest child, tailor Richard, had died in spring 1908; their line was carried on through their son John Cotton Jaco.

Census, BM&D info acquired from: Ancestry, FindMyPast including access to the British Newspaper Archive, Cornwall FHS, Cornwall Online Parish Clerks, West Penwith Resources.

Words and photos © Lynne Black
First published 25 February 2017: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2017/02/25/william-jacka/.