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. 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.”
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.
 The Clyde Coasting Season; 06 May 1895 – Glasgow Herald – Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland
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.”
John Malcolm was succeeded by John Wingfield Malcolm. 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 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. A newspaper report of 11 December 1897 reported he had remarried, to widow Marie Lister, in New York.
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. His will was read; 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. The records show that Neill Malcolm the 12th, owned more than 2000 enslaved people on 11 separate plantations The 12th Laird opposed Abolition and claimed thousands (millions of pounds in modern money, in compensation for the loss of his slaves in 1834 from the Slave Compensation Commission.” 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.
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”..
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”
“… 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.” , “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”.
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.
Margaret, the oldest of 11 children of Donald Dewar and Janet McCallum, was born in 1837 on Experiment Farm, Kilmartin, Argyll, where her father was a gamekeeper. The June 1861 census finds her with her grandmother and namesake Margaret Dewar on Experiment Farm while her parents and their next child Peter, were down in North Knapdale parish at Strath Mill a few miles away.
IIn the 1861 census she appears to be staying at the inn in Dalmally, run by the Jarratt family, at the top of Loch Awe. [Dalmally was later the birthplace of Scottish Labour Leader John Smith.] Somewhere she met a stableman called Archibald Campbell, the son of an agricultural labourer, and on 8th June 1865 they married in Kilmichael Glassary parish [neighbouring Kilmartin]. Archibald was five years older than her and an agricultural labourer who’d been born in Crinan, about five miles from Experiment. His type of agricultural work wasn’t specified until the April 1871 census: he was a Stable Helper.
They were by then living in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltalloch estate, the property of local Laird John Malcolm. By then they had three sons: Donald, Alexander and John. Margaret and Archibald were to live in that cottage for the rest of their lives. By the April 1881 census they had five further children: Archibald, Catherine, Elizabeth R B, Charles and Margaret.
In that year Archibald was still working as a stable helper so Margaret (by then aged 43) was recorded as a stable helper’s wife. There must have been hard times as in December 1881 John Malcolm reduced tenants’ rents by 7.5% to 15%, depending on the length of the lease, having ‘considered the heavy losses sustained by his tenants on the estate’.
By the April 1891 census both Margaret’s parents had died: Donald in April 1889 and Janet in March 1891; both were buried in Kilmartin Church’s graveyard. In that census Archibald is described as a Coachman. By then he was 59 and Margaret 54.
Three of their sons had taken up their father’s trade.
Oldest son Alexander had moved to Dalmeny Park in Linlithgow-shire by April 1891, where he was living in the house of the factor Andrew Drysdale and his wife Jane and working as a coachman. It appears that this may have been to the Primrose family, the Earl of Rosebury. He met Mary Liddie/Leddy, a young woman of Irish descent who was working as a domestic servant to the Barrie family in Edinburgh Old Town. The Barries were a family of watch-makers and jewellers and appear to have done well.
After having a few children in Edinburgh/Dalmeny, Alexander and Mary and their family moved to Eccles in Berwickshire where Alexander was recorded in the March 1901 census working as a coachman. Their daughter Janet was born in 1903 back in Roundfield Cottage at Archibald and Margaret’s home, but by 1905 they had moved to Roxburghshire for the birth of the first of their Melrose-born daughters. Alexander died many years later in 1958 aged 92.
Margaret and Archibald’s second son, Donald, was a Stable Helper aged 15 (1881) and a groom aged 25 (1891), both in Kilmartin, probably for John Malcolm. By 1901 he was working at Achnamara House as a coachman, but for Lord Malcolm’s brother, Edward D Malcolm. On 31st March, the census date, Edward and Isabel Malcom were home with their two daughters and extended family, including the Malcolm’s splendidly named 13-year-old cousin called Theophilus Wingfield Harley. Just a few months later Edward D Malcom would go on to inherit the title from his brother.
John, Archibald and Margaret’s third son, was also recorded as a groom in 1891. However, by then he has moved through to Caputh in Perthshire, there he was lodging in Glendelvine Cottage; with coachman Hugh McLachlan and family. The following year, in 1892, John married Christina Pettigrew in St Andrews and St Leonards parish, which is in St Andrews, Fife. They had a son in Fife before moving back to Kilmartin for the birth of daughters in 1896 and 1899. In March 1901 the census records John as a Coachman (domestic) in neighbouring Glassary parish where they lived at the Porter Lodge – a note in an Ancestry online tree I found suggests it may have been to the Duke but I can’t corroborate that.
Fourth son Archibald, born in 1872, also started out working in the stables, and was recorded as a coachman in February 1889. However on that day he attested to the Highland Light Infantry in Glasgow so presumably either it wasn’t for him or his brothers had taken all the good coachman jobs. Attestation papers describe him as “5’5″ tall, 126lb, 33.5 inch chest, fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair. Scars of cuts left forefinger and thumb”. Unfortunately he was discharged 4 years later with palpitations after several entries on his medical records. His discharge papers describe him as “Regular habits/conduct, very good, temperate” I can’t see a record for him in 1901 or 1911 but in 1919, aged 46, he married Catherine Ross in Anderston, Lanarkshire.
The first of Archibald and Catherine’s two daughters, Catherine, was born in December 1873 and grew up in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltallach estate. In April 1881 she was a 7-year-old scholar, but by the age of 17 the Census finds her working as a domestic servant for Mr and Mrs Brodie, the gamekeeper, in the gamekeeper’s house Mheall House. I think it may be Mheall Cottage, handily listed now and looking very smart on Airbnb. On 13 July 1898 she married Duncan Gillies in St Vincent Street, Glasgow. Duncan, who was 6 years older than her, was in the Merchant Service and was working and living as 1st Mate on the SS Effie Grey of Glasgow. His work might be the reason that the second of their ten children was born back on Poltalloch Estate in Roundfield Cottage.
Catherine’s younger sister Elizabeth was born in 1876 and she lived in Roundfield Cottage until the age of 23, when in 1899 she suddenly marries a man called Thomas Stevenson in Glasgow – an Irregular Marriage by Warrant. Thomas was a ploughman on Dolphington Farm in Dalmeny in West Lothian, so maybe they met through a connection with Catherine’s oldest brother, Alexander, who worked in Dalmeny for a while.
The seventh – and youngest – son of Margaret and Archibald Campbell was called Charles and he also grew up in and around the stables: in the 1891 census when he was 22 his occupation in Kilmartin was recorded as ‘drawing carriage, carts or wagon’. Charles met a girl called Janet Johnson and they married in Carlisle, Cumberland, over the border in England, in late 1906. They had sons in 1908 and 1910 in Hoddom, Dumfries-shire, Scotland. By now it was the early 20th century and the times were a’changing: in April 1911 was working as a Motor Driver Domestic and back living in Carlisle with Janet and two children.
The youngest child, Margaret, born c1811, also left the county. By the March 1901 census she was working in Lasswade, Midlothian in Crawfurah, Lasswade was the home of Naval man Bernie A Cator and his wife Violet. Margaret was a tablemaid and one of their four servants. Ten years later Bernie was living in South Kensington and listed as Deputy Master Attendant Singapore At Lieutenant Royal Navy. However, Margaret had left the household by then after marrying William More in 1904 in Innerleithen in the Borders county of Peeblesshire. They returned to Midlothian and were living there in 1904 and 1905 when they had two sons.
To be continued. The news stories quoted in this article were from the British Newspaper Archive collection on FindMyPast. The records which constructed the story have been found on Scotland’s People, Ancestry and FindMyPast.
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.
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,
Duntrune Castle Gardens and the ‘Port of Tears’ 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,
Keills Chapel with its carved cross and gravestones and the jetties round the corner where the drovers landed the cattle from Jura.
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 . Another result gave background info to the construction from c1796 of Experiment following the arrival of James Gow from Perthshire.
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 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 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.
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.
At 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.
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, 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
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.
Sandy 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.
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.
John 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.
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!
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
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.
After 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
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.
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.
So 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.
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!
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!
Her 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.