Category Archives: Homecoming2014

#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 #33 Margaret Muir McVicar, from farm to fish

1881 Census extract, Archibald and Peggy McVicar

1881 Census extract, Archibald and Peggy McVicar

Margaret ‘Peggy’ Muir was born in 1813 in the Glassary parish of Argyll, to farmer John Muir and his wife Mary McVane/Bain.  Peggy was the fifth out of six known children, although John and Mary’s oldest child was also called Margret so I suspect died young.

Mary has been hard to confirm as her surname seems to meandered from McVane to Bain over the years.  The family spoke Gaelic as their first language. Perhaps her Gaelic accent confused the census enumerators – and years later her family when they identified her on official documents – or possibly it was a deliberate attempt to move from one pronunciation to another.  But I am confident that Mary McVane and Mary Bain are one and the same person.

Peggy’s next 20 years are rather empty in my records but I do know that she had married a fisherman called Archibald McVicar by 1838 and they were living together in Kames, on the shores of Lochgair. If she was known as Peggy I suspect he wouldn’t have been known all the time as ‘Archibald’ but possibly Archie, but it seems a bit cheeky to just assume that!

Together they also had six children: Niven ‘Sandy’, John, Jean, Peter, Mary and Archibald. There were many Muirs and McVicars in the immediate neighbourhood – with everyone related and/or knowing each other’s business it must have been hard for their kids to get away with any anonymous mischief.

The 1851 census entry confused me for a while – Peggy was living at home as usual and marked as married.  So where was Archibald?  I think I may have finally tracked him down (via Genes Reunited) miles away – he was at Torosay, Mull, Scotland: Cod or Ling Fisher, Fishing Station Smack Kelly Lochgan.  Not at all sure what that entry means – is a smack a type of boat or a place? Was the Kelly Lochgan a deep or shallow water craft? And how do I find out more about the boat and its owners?  I’ve tried searching but haven’t yet been able to find answers to that one so advice welcomed.

52ancestorsAt the time of the 1861 census they were both at home in Point House [the Castle] Lochgair; and again for the 1871 census.

In 1874 their daughter Mary, a domestic servant, married gardener John McKellar in the parish and moved away to Peebles.  Mary had a little boy called John in c1878, but then was widowed and they had moved back with her parents again by 1881. They were all living in the Castle at Point of Lochgair at that time; only two rooms had windows.

Peggy died of old age, aged 70, on 25 May 1884 in Lochgair. It was her brother Peter who registered her death which occurred after 2 days of weakness so perhaps Archibald was away at sea again.  Or perhaps he was grief stricken after losing his wife of almost 50 years so Peter offered.  Archibald died 5 years later, on 19 June 1889 of a stroke.  He was 78.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 17 August 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/margaret-muir/

#52Ancestors #31: John Turner, teaching with care and fidelity

John was born to John Turner and Ann McArthur on 20 May 1796, in Dunann, Knapdale; his future bride Lilly was born in 1807 in nearby Glassary parish.

52 ancestors logoJohn and Lilly married on 7 July 1827 in North Knapdale.  They had eight children altogether, but three died in infancy.

John was a parochial schoolmaster and a registrar.  Archibald Currie’s little book on North Knapdale “A description of the antiquities & scenery of the parish of North Knapdale, Argyleshire” , written in 1830, mentions him:

“At Bellanach there is one of the established schools of the parish, taught by Mr Turner with great success; in which the children, at the usual annual examinations, have acquitted themselves so well in their respective studies of Latin, arithmetic, English, and Gaelic, as to do much honour to the care and fidelity of their teacher.  It is much to be regretted that such a useful class of men as the parochial schoolmasters of Scotland are in many instances still much neglected; particularly in such parishes as this, where the legal salary is divided, and where the teachers pay rent both for their schools and dwelling-houses.  In such cases, where the salary is only about £17 sterling, yearly, a deduction therefrom of nearly £5 annually of rent, much diminishes the penurious allowance granted them by law.  I am convinced, were the state of the schoolmasters in this parish properly represented to the liberal and enlightened proprietors, that they would immediately order that no rent should be in future exacted from persons whose services are so valuable to the community where they reside.”

Their children were Anne, Bella, Mary, Niel Stewart, Margaret, John, Lillias, and Dugald, all born in North Knapdale.  Sadley Anne, Bella and Lillias died young.

Map extract of Kilmahumaig burial ground, near Crinnan, copyright NLS

Map extract of Kilmahumaig burial ground, near Crinnan, © NLS

Ann Turner (nee McArthur)'s grave in Kilmahumaig, near Crinnan, Argyll

Ann Turner (nee McArthur)’s grave in Kilmahumaig, near Crinan, Argyll

John and Lilly buried their three lost daughters with John’s mother Ann McArthur in Kilmahumaig burial ground, near Crinan.

In 1837 Pigot’s Directory lists him as Parochial Schoolmaster at Bellanoch, but in the valuation Roll of 1858/59 he had been replaced by his son Neil Stewart Turner who continued to teach there until 1874, finishing soon after the new North Knapdale School Board took over education in the parish.

In 1871 they were living on a farm in Kilmichael and had a Glaswegian timber merchant called Samual Cameron lodging with them. By April 1881 they had moved in with their daughter Margaret in Auchentenval.

John died six months later, in October 1881, in Tayvallich of old age.  His death was recorded by his grandson Donald McCalman.  I’ve not yet tracked down Lilly after the death of her husband.

Next steps for me are to discover what happened to Lilly, and where John and Lilly are buried.  And to track down a copy of Mr Currie’s book!

© Text copyright Lynne Black 7 August 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/john-turner

#52Ancestors #30 Margaret Turner – on the record in 19th century Argyll

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Margaret Turner would never have had the opportunity to go off the grid.

Born in 1836 in the small village of Bellanoch, in North Knapdale parish, Argyll, Scotland, she was the lawful daughter (ie born in wedlock) of John Turner and his wife Lillias (nee Stewart). John was a teacher in Bellanoch and I have recently discovered that he was also a registrar.

Later, by the 1841 census, her father was teaching and living in Tayvallich, North Knapdale.  In 1859, aged 22, she married Donald McCalman, also a teacher. Perhaps she come across him as her father’s new colleague.  Actually I suspect it would have been a small enough place for everyone to know everyone else’s business, whether they worked together or not.

Signature of Margaret Turner

Signature of Margaret Turner

Nine months later Margaret Jnr, their honeymoon baby, arrived.  She was followed fairly regularly by Lily Ann, John, Donald Jnr, Mary, Catherine, Stuart, Isabella and Annie, born 1876.

Donald was also a local Registrar.  After he died in 1880 the role was passed to Donald Jnr.  Donald Jnr had the pleasure of recording his sisters marriages: Lily Ann’s to William Govan in 1883 and Isabella’s to James Ferguson in 1900.

52 ancestors logoAfter Donald Snr’s death Margaret stayed close by to Tayvallich School, working as a crofter and receiving an annuity from her husband’s work.  She was described on the 1905 Valuation Roll as a farmer who had to pay an annual rent of £12 [2005 equivalent rate is £688].  By 1911 she was living with her daughter.  Her Registrar son Donald Jnr had sadly died in January 1911 so the 2 April 1911 census identifies Margaret’s daughter Mary as the Registrar.  Nice one Mary, a bit of responsibility for a woman in the early 20th century, but a huge shock having to take over the reins just before a census whilst still in mourning.

Grave of Donald McCalman, Margaret Turner & Donald McCalman, Inverlussa Church, Archnamara, Argyll

Grave of Donald McCalman, Margaret Turner & Donald McCalman, Inverlussa Church, Archnamara, Argyll

I’ll have to wait until the 1921 census is available online before I know more about Margaret’s twilight years, but she lived to the good old age of 88, dying in a nursing home in Rothesay on the Island of Bute.

She did, however, return to Argyll when she was buried with her husband in the church in Inverlussa in Achnamara, across the loch from Tayvallich.

By the time of her death, her life had been formally recorded by her father, husband, son and daughter.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 5 August 2014
First published:
https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/margaret-turner/

#52Ancestors #29 Donald McCalman, Schoolmaster and Registrar

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Donald McCalman was born in Kilmore, Argyll, in 1820, the first year of the reign of King George IV and the same year Florence Nightingale was born.  He was the son of a farmer called John McCalman and his wife Margaret Campbell.

I’m still to track down Donald on the 1841 census but by 1851 he was a schoolmaster, lodging in North Knapdale, at a place I can’t quite make out in the Registrar’s handwriting – Barnagad, maybe.  The following entry was for a family in Achnamara so I’ll check the old maps on the National Library of Scotland and see if I see anything nearby.

52 ancestors logoSo why wasn’t he listed in the 1841 census? Perhaps a someone’s scrawl has been mid-transcribed, or the census recorder misheard Donald’s surname.  Or maybe he was away studying before becoming a teacher?  One to find out…

Donald did not marry Margaret Turner, my great-great-great-grandmother-in-law, until the age of 39 in 1859, but they went on to live together for 21 years and have 9 children: Margaret, Lily Ann, John, Donald, Mary, Catherine, Stuart, Isabella and Annie.  Maybe he married late, or maybe there is a whole previous family of children out there to discover!

He was again recorded as a schoolteacher in 1861, living in Tayvallich, North Knapdale [my photo is old and doesn’t do justice to its beauty], but when they’d married in 1859 he’d been recorded as being a Registrar.  I’m curious as to how this came about – was it a government or Kirk decision that Schoolteachers carry out this role, or did he apply for this?  Something else for the To Do List!

Finding this info can be done online with Scotland’s People, an amazing Scottish Government resource which actually provides scans of the certificates and register entries – what a treat!  Sometimes I see my pay-as-you-go credits counting down really fast – I can go through them like a hot knife through butter when I’m on a roll – but it’s such good value for money for the information it provides!  I think when I come to research some branches of my Scottish family with more common names I’ll need to go back through to the General Register Office for Scotland at New Register House, Edinburgh and spend a day searching.  It would be a fee for a day rather than pay-per-view so I can get a lot done, but for Donald, whose name is handily uncommon, pay-as-you-go works well, and I can just sit and work through the biographical details for his children.

Inverlussa Church, Achnamara, Lochgilphead, Argyll, c Google 2014

Inverlussa Church, Achnamara, Lochgilphead, Argyll, © Google 2014

Donald died in November 1880 of a nasty-sounding inflammation of the knee, only four years after their youngest child was born.  He was buried in Inverlussa Church, curiously enough across the Loch from Tayvallich – not a handy journey for church on a Sunday.  Possibly to do with religious denominations – this query list is getting longer and longer!

Their second son Donald later took on the role of Registrar and was carrying out this role in 1891 census; in the 1881 census Donald Jnr was recorded as having been a farm servant – an unusual career change!

© Text copyright Lynne Black 27 July 2014
First published https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/donald-mccalman/

#52Ancestors #28 Christina McVicar, washing the linen in the loch

Kames Bay, Lochgair, Argyll

Kames Bay, Lochgair, Argyll

Christina McVIcar, my great-grandmother-in-law, was born in 1882, the daughter of fisherman Niven ‘Sandy’ McVicar and Jane Dewar.

She was the sixth of nine children and at the time of both the 1881 and 1891 censuses the family all lived in a house where only one room had a window.  The window tax law had been repealed 30 years previously, so either it was a small house or they’d not been in a position to open up the sealed windows!

Christina, who had long, thick, wavy brown hair which she usually wore secured up in a big roll on the name of her neck,  was used to hard work. By the time of her wedding to Stuart McCalman, aged, 20, she had worked as a domestic servant at Ardrishaig Manse, as a cook in the nearby (Lochgilphead) mental institution, and also assisted informally supporting the local midwife.  When doing the washing, she would have to lay out the sheets and clothes to dry on the rocks on the shore of Loch Fyne – it must have been a fine art to balance washing, weather and tides!

52 ancestors logoHer new husband Stuart needed to move through to Clydeside for work; he was working as a ploughman in Inverkip when their first child arrived. Baby Donald was born 11 months after the wedding in Kelly Stables, so she must have had a stressful time, moving away from home and family to look for work with a rapidly growing bump.

Donald was followed speedily by Neven, born on Fancy Farm, Gourock, and after a move round the coast Archie and Peggy were born in Greenock.  The family suffered tragedy when, aged 6, Donald died of TB.  Shortly after that they moved house within Greenock and went on to have a further seven children: Christina, Stuart, the war babies Peter, Tom, and Donald, next Colin and finally Duncan in 1922.

They lived on together, watching their family grow up, living through the severe bombing of Greenock, where burning whisky from the bombed warehouses ran gold down Baker Street, mapping the town for the enemy above.

Christina died in April 1955 in Greenock aged 73, four years after her husband Stuart.

© Text and photo copyright Lynne Black 9 July 2014

#52Ancestors #27 Stuart McCalman, from the Highlands to the Clyde

Stuart McCalman, born in March 1873, (my great-grandfather-in-law) grew up in Tayvallach, in one of my favourite areas of Scotland.  He was the youngest son of crofter and local schoolmaster Donald McCalman and his wife Margaret Turner, one of their 9 children (2 brothers, 6 sisters).

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Tayvallich from Kintallen, Argyll

Tayvallich is in North Knapdale, Argyll, in the west of Scotland. It sits on the Loch a’ Bhealaich, an inlet on Loch Sween.  Stuart spoke both Gaelic and English.

He married Christina McVicar aged 28 in December 1902, in Kames, Lochgair where Christina had grown up and where he’d been working as a ploughman.

The two of them moved through to Greenock where Stuart worked, again as a ploughman, on Fancy Farm until 1914 when the Land Army took it over.  Later he worked as a carter for Greenock Council. At lunchtime he would take home his horse and cart, and ‘park’ the horse with its nosebag outside the house while he popped inside for his own lunch. Their house had a smart black phone, but it was for incoming calls only for Stuart’s work, as it was really an extension of his work phone.  No escape!

52 ancestors logoStuart and Christina had 9 sons and 2 daughters.  In their later life, when discussing matters in front of their grandchildren, they would switch to Gaelic to prevent the children listening in!

Stuart died in 1951 in Greenock Infirmary.

© Text and photo copyright Lynne Black 2 July 2014