Tag Archives: Genealogy

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, Archibald Campbell, Argyll Coachman and Family

Margaret, the oldest of 11 children of Donald Dewar and Janet McCallum, was born in 1837 on Experiment Farm, Kilmartin, Argyll, where her father was a gamekeeper. The June 1861 census finds her  with her grandmother and namesake Margaret Dewar on Experiment Farm while her parents and their next child Peter, were down in North Knapdale parish at Strath Mill a few miles away.

IIn the 1861 census she appears to be staying at the inn in Dalmally, run by the Jarratt family, at the top of Loch Awe. [Dalmally was later the birthplace of Scottish Labour Leader John Smith.] Somewhere she met a stableman called Archibald Campbell, the son of an agricultural labourer, and on 8th June 1865 they married in Kilmichael Glassary parish [neighbouring Kilmartin].  Archibald was five years older than her and an agricultural labourer who’d been born in Crinan, about five miles from Experiment.  His type of agricultural work wasn’t specified until the April 1871 census: he was a Stable Helper.

They were by then living in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltalloch estate, the property of local Laird John Malcolm[1].  By then they had three sons: Donald, Alexander and John.  Margaret and Archibald were to live in that cottage for the rest of their lives.  By the April 1881 census they had five further children: Archibald, Catherine, Elizabeth R B, Charles and Margaret.

In that year Archibald was still working as a stable helper so Margaret (by then aged 43) was recorded as a stable helper’s wife.  There must have been hard times as in December 1881 John Malcolm reduced tenants’ rents by 7.5% to 15%, depending on the length of the lease, having ‘considered the heavy losses sustained by his tenants on the estate’.[2]

By the April 1891 census both Margaret’s parents had died: Donald in April 1889 and Janet in March 1891; both were buried in Kilmartin Church’s graveyard.  In that census Archibald is described as a Coachman.  By then he was 59 and Margaret 54.

Three of their sons had taken up their father’s trade. 

Oldest son Alexander had moved to Dalmeny Park [3] in Linlithgow-shire by April 1891, where he was living in the house of the factor Andrew Drysdale and his wife Jane and working as a coachman.  It appears that this may have been to the Primrose family, the Earl of Rosebury.  He met Mary Liddie/Leddy, a young woman of Irish descent who was working as a domestic servant to the Barrie family in Edinburgh Old Town.  The Barries were a family of watch-makers and jewellers and appear to have done well. 

After having a few children in Edinburgh/Dalmeny, Alexander and Mary and their family moved to Eccles in Berwickshire where Alexander was recorded in the March 1901 census working as a coachman.  Their daughter Janet was born in 1903 back in Roundfield Cottage at Archibald and Margaret’s home, but by 1905 they had moved to Roxburghshire for the birth of the first of their Melrose-born daughters.  Alexander died many years later in 1958 aged 92.

Margaret and Archibald’s second son, Donald, was a Stable Helper aged 15 (1881) and a groom aged 25 (1891), both in Kilmartin, probably for John Malcolm.  By 1901 he was working at Achnamara House as a coachman, but for Lord Malcolm’s brother, Edward D Malcolm.  On 31st March, the census date, Edward and Isabel Malcom were home with their two daughters and extended family, including the Malcolm’s splendidly named 13-year-old cousin called Theophilus Wingfield Harley.  Just a few months later Edward D Malcom would go on to inherit the title from his brother.

John, Archibald and Margaret’s third son, was also recorded as a groom in 1891.  However, by then he has moved through to Caputh in Perthshire, there he was lodging in Glendelvine Cottage; with coachman Hugh McLachlan and family.  The following year, in 1892, John married Christina Pettigrew in St Andrews and St Leonards parish, which is in St Andrews, Fife.  They had a son in Fife before moving back to Kilmartin for the birth of daughters in 1896 and 1899.  In March 1901 the census records John as a Coachman (domestic) in neighbouring Glassary parish where they lived at the Porter Lodge – a note in an Ancestry online tree I found suggests it may have been to the Duke but I can’t corroborate that. 

Fourth son Archibald, born in 1872, also started out working in the stables, and was recorded as a coachman in February 1889. However on that day he attested to the Highland Light Infantry in Glasgow so presumably either it wasn’t for him or his brothers had taken all the good coachman jobs.  Attestation papers describe him as “5’5″ tall, 126lb, 33.5 inch chest, fresh complexion, blue eyes and dark brown hair.  Scars of cuts left forefinger and thumb”. Unfortunately he was discharged 4 years later with palpitations after several entries on his medical records. His discharge papers describe him as “Regular habits/conduct, very good, temperate”  I can’t see a record for him in 1901 or 1911 but in 1919, aged 46, he married Catherine Ross in Anderston, Lanarkshire.

The first of Archibald and Catherine’s two daughters, Catherine, was born in December 1873 and grew up in Roundfield Cottage on the Poltallach estate. In April 1881 she was a 7-year-old scholar, but by the age of 17 the Census finds her working as a domestic servant for Mr and Mrs Brodie, the gamekeeper, in the gamekeeper’s house Mheall House. I think it may be Mheall Cottage, handily listed now and looking very smart on Airbnb.  On 13 July 1898 she married Duncan Gillies in St Vincent Street, Glasgow.  Duncan, who was 6 years older than her, was in the Merchant Service and was working and living as 1st Mate on the SS Effie Grey of Glasgow.  His work might be the reason that the second of their ten children was born back on Poltalloch Estate in Roundfield Cottage.

Catherine’s younger sister Elizabeth was born in 1876 and she lived in Roundfield Cottage until the age of 23, when in 1899 she suddenly marries a man called Thomas Stevenson in Glasgow – an Irregular Marriage by Warrant.  Thomas was a ploughman on Dolphington Farm in Dalmeny in West Lothian, so maybe they met through a connection with Catherine’s oldest brother, Alexander, who worked in Dalmeny for a while. 

The seventh – and youngest – son of Margaret and Archibald Campbell was called Charles and he also grew up in and around the stables: in the 1891 census when he was 22 his occupation in Kilmartin was recorded as ‘drawing carriage, carts or wagon’.  Charles met a girl called Janet Johnson and they married in Carlisle, Cumberland, over the border in England, in late 1906.  They had sons in 1908 and 1910 in Hoddom, Dumfries-shire, Scotland.  By now it was the early 20th century and the times were a’changing: in April 1911 was working as a Motor Driver Domestic and back living in Carlisle with Janet and two children.

The youngest child, Margaret, born c1811, also left the county.  By the March 1901 census she was working in Lasswade, Midlothian in Crawfurah, Lasswade was the home of Naval man Bernie A Cator and his wife Violet.  Margaret was a tablemaid and one of their four servants.  Ten years later Bernie was living in South Kensington and listed as Deputy Master Attendant Singapore At Lieutenant Royal Navy.  However, Margaret had left the household by then after marrying William More in 1904 in Innerleithen in the Borders county of Peeblesshire.  They returned to Midlothian and were living there in 1904 and 1905 when they had two sons.

To be continued. The news stories quoted in this article were from the British Newspaper Archive collection on FindMyPast. The records which constructed the story have been found on Scotland’s People, Ancestry and FindMyPast.

Copyright Lynne Black, First published on StarryBlackness blog site on 13 March 2022

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

[2] Edinburgh Evening News 09 December 1881 P2

[3] Dalmeny Park: https://www.britainexpress.com/attractions.htm?attraction=1204  and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalmeny_House

Searching for Experiment Farm: Tricks and Hidden Histories

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

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

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

Kilmartin Church with Donald Dewar’s gravestone in foreground

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

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

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

So back to the family history…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo of Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

William Rowe, Cordwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed pt2

Shoemaker William Rowe of Street-an-Nowan [Newlyn], Cornwall, married Alice Daniel, a blacksmith’s daughter from neighbouring Sancreed parish, on Saturday 17 October 1812 in Paul Parish Church up above Newlyn.  See Part 1 of his story here.

Alice was expecting the first of their nine known children, Mary Ann Rowe.  They baptised Mary Ann on Sunday 17 January 1813 in Paul Church, and got on with settling in to life as a young family.


Sancreed Church exterior

On 19 January 1817 a hurricane raged which destroyed some of the foundation stones of neighbouring Penzance’s pier and injured much of its dry dock.  ‘It being a spring tide the water rose an unusual height; the green between Penzance and Newlyn was torn up, and the soil in several places washed away’ and ‘at Newlyn and Mousehole on the west, and at Marazion on the east, the effects were dreadfully felt’[1] [Some things do not change; the green between Penzance and Newlyn was torn up as recently as February 2014.]  ‘The sea rose mountains high and impelled by the wind, went up much further on land than ever remembered. The may-pole at Marazion, which had, for many years, braved the fury of the storm, was washed away, with the cliff whereon it stood.  The back premises of the Commercial Inn were through down, and a fine cow carried out to sea.’

Photo of Newlyn, Old Harbour, at low tide

Newlyn, Old Harbour, low tide

‘The greatest sufferers are the poor fisherman of Newlyn and Mousehole; the boats which were hauled up beyond high water mark, being dashed to pieces.  Many of the boats for the mackerel and ling fishery were fitted up: the loss to the poor fisherman will be almost irreparable, as the season will soon commence and they cannot provide new boats. At Street-Nowan [SIC] near Newlyn, many houses have been washed down.’[2] Street-an-Nowan, the lower part of Newlyn, is likely to have been the area in which William, Alice and baby Mary lived so they must have been terrified.

In 1811 Prince George had become Prince Regent and I’ve found a couple of intriguing references to his domestic situation and the reaction of the people of Newlyn; they seem to have favoured his wife, the colourful and popular Caroline of Brunswick.

On 28 Jan 1817 the Prince Regent was on his way to open Parliament when there was an assassination attempt.[3] On 2 August 1817 the Royal Cornwall Gazette published a letter to him with a long list of names of men across the area, swearing loyalty to him and repeating “assurances of our loyal and unalterable Attachment; and to express our Indignation at, and Abhorrence of, the late treasonable Attack on the Sacred Person of your Royal Highness…..”

However William and Alice’s would have been busy following the birth of their second child: their first son John Rowe was born in Newlyn and baptised 24 August 1817 in Paul Church.

On Tuesday 7 July there was a shocking event in Newlyn reported widely and “witnessed by several hundreds of spectators.  At Newlyn, near Penzance, a swarm of bees suddenly alighted on a boy’s head, and remained there for a considerable time.  The boy, almost terrified to death, was required to smoke tobacco, to preserve him from being injured.  In the mean time a hive was procured and held over his head for some time; when by degrees the bees all entered it, without inflicting the least injury on the boy.”

Later that year, in November 1817, there was mourning in the country when Princess Charlotte, popular only child of the Prince Regent and Princess Caroline died in labour, giving birth to a stillborn son.

William and Alice’s second daughter, Grace Daniel Rowe, was born on Tuesday 7 December 1819 in Newlyn.  She was the only family member to be baptised a Wesleyan Methodist; the baptism took place on 7 January 1821. This was the first time William’s trade was recorded: he was a shoemaker.

At that time the road from Penzance to Newlyn, hurricanes permitting, “was over a level green about a mile in length, passing through the village of Street-an-Nowan, which contains about 300 inhabitants; in it there is a respectable meeting-house belonging to the Methodists, where divine service is regularly performed; there is also in this village a Sunday School for poor children.”[4]

In November 1820 [now] Queen Caroline was found innocent of charges of infidelity brought against her by her husband, [now] King George IV and Newlyn erupted in joy:  “Last night’s mail having announced the joyful tidings of the Queen’s victory over her vile accusers, this morning was ushered in by the display of flags of almost every description at the mast heads of the different vessels in this port, and on poles in many parts of the town and the neighbouring villages of Newlyn and Mousehole.  Subscriptions have been entered into for defraying the expenses of bonfires, tar barrels, &c and at this moment there may be seen on the opposite hill, over Newlyn, a quantity of tar barrels, reflecting their vivid flames in the mirror of water below, whilst on the rocks, near the shore, bonfires innumerable blaze up and enliven the scene.
“Long live Queen Caroline,” – “Queen Caroline for ever,” – may be seen on almost every hat, and in every varied form and colour, whilst parties, preceded by music, parade the streets, and rend the air by their acclamations of “Long live Queen Caroline.”  A requisition has been made to the Mayor, to illuminate the town on Wednesday night, and several large dinner parties have already formed at the hotel, and the respectable Inns, to celebrate the glorious 10th of November, in a manner that may not be unworthy the great victory that day obtained by her most gracious Majesty Queen Caroline.”[5]
Queen Caroline died in August following year; she had been denied entry to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation held the month before on 19 July 1821.

Please see my next post for the next part of William and Alice’s story: William and Alice Rowe: shoemaking, family, storms and wrestling in 19C Cornwall pt3
Words and photos © Lynne Black, 7 August 2016

[1] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, pp48-50, Internet Archive

[2] Exeter Flying Post – Thursday 30 January 1817, P4, Col 3, via BNA

[3] Archontology.org  http://www.archontology.org/nations/uk/king_uk/george4.php

[4] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, P63, Internet Archive

[5] Morning Chronicle – Friday 17 November 1820, P3, Col 3, Accessed via BNA



Photo of Newlyn Harbour from Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

William Rowe 1793 pt1: Boyhood in a poor Cornish fishing town

photo of Paul Church

Paul Church

William Rowe was born c1793 in Newlyn, Paul Parish, in the West Penwith area of Cornwall.  He was the second son of labourer James Rowe and his wife Patience (nee Rodda).[1]  William was baptised aged 2-3 on 29 Mar 1795 in Paul Parish Church[2].  His was the first generation to be born in Paul Parish; his parents were from St Buryan parish.

I’ve found two brothers and a sister for William: James was baptised on 3 October 1790 and Ann was baptised on 23 September 1792.  However she died in infancy and was buried on 8 June 1793. Younger brother Thomas Rodda Rowe was baptised on 13 January 1802, all in Paul Parish Church.

William’s childhood years were those of the French Revolution, of war with France and the Regency. During those wars a battery was located on the road between Newlyn and Mousehole “forming a great security to the Bay, from enemy’s ships, or privateers, should any of them be induced to visit any part of it.  Adjoining to this battery stands a furnace for the purpose of making shot red hot.  During the war, this battery was governed by a small party of the royal artillery.”[3]

Times were hard in West Penwith and when he was about 7 in 1801 the family would have been hungry as a result of the high price of wheat.  It was reported in the London Courier and Evening Gazette on 20 April 1801 that in St Austell, 40 miles away, the tinners had tried forcing farmers to sell it at an affordable price by threatening to put nooses round farmers’ necks until they signed a document promising to sell it at an affordable rate; but they were taken into custody at St Mawes. In Helston the Volunteer Cavalry found it hard to keep order until most of the local farmers came forward and promised to sell wheat the following Saturday at ‘two guineas, and barley at one guinea the bushel’.

In Penzance two Newlyn men petitioned the Mayor that he reduce the prices in Newlyn; but when he chose not to listen they ‘assembled on their own authority’.  The constables and military were called out and further ‘mischief was prevented’ but the disturbances kept many country people away from selling their goods at the markets.[4]

In 1806 there was a call for designs for a bridge across the small river Coombe in Newlyn which divided the Paul and Madron parishes. The bridge was to ‘to contain in length about seventy feet and in breadth about eighteen feet ’. Designs were due to be considered at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace in January 1807 with the target for completion 6 October 1807.

In October 1809 there was a huge gale, and the ‘L’Eole, a French prize to the Surveillante and Medusa frigates, laden with salt, &c, arrived in the Mount’s Bay a few days ago, and being driven by the gale from Gwavas Lake, ran for Newlyn Pier, but got upon the rocks, where she now lies’ and it was doubtful she could be rescued as the gale still continued.

Photo of altar of Paul Parish Church

Paul Parish Church

In August 1812 a good crop of potatoes, was reported, which coupled with a good haul of pilchards and hake, ‘greatly relieved the poor in Cornwall from the pressure occasioned by the high price of corn’.[5]

So it would have been on a slightly fuller stomach that William married Alice Daniel, a blacksmith’s daughter from neighbouring Sancreed parish, on Saturday 17 October 1812 in Paul Parish Church up above Newlyn.

Their story continues here: William Rowe, Cordwainer of Newlyn and Alice Daniel of Sancreed

Words and photos © Lynne Black, 31 July 2016


[1] A DOB for William of c1788 DOB is indicated by his death certificate and the 1851 & 1861 censuses. However even though they match, I believe that William was the third child and not the first, given his baptism year 1795 and the fact he was stated on the 1841 census as being 50. Age at marriage isn’t indicated in the record.

[2] Paul Baptism registers accessed via Cornwall OPC website and FindMyPast

[3] The History of Mount’s Bay, comprising Saint Michael’s Mount, Marazion, Penzance, Mousehole and &c &cm 1820, pp75-76, Printed and sold by J Thomas, via Internet Archive http://archive.org/stream/historyofmountsb00penz#page/n0/mode/2up

[4] London Courier and Evening Gazette – Monday 20 April 1801, P3, Col 2, via BNA

[5] Caledonian Mercury – Saturday 09 February 1811, p2, col 1, Lloyds’ Marine List, Feb 5th

Meeting the Ancestors too early: Genealogy vs Healthy Living

exercise-posterI work with several public health researchers and colleagues who are generally healthy and sporty. I, a sedentary secretary, am not. I frequently see new public awareness films, infographics such as this one, healthy living campaigns and awareness-raising: doing X minutes of exercise per day can reduce your chances of cancer and/or diabetes and/or heart disease by 30%.  And I share the information with others and continue sitting at my desk.

Genealogy, my winter hobby, doesn’t help at all to change this.  I tend to come down early at the weekends when the house is quiet and just spend some time searching and writing my ancestors’ stories. I don’t live near the places I am researching so can’t conveniently walk down to the archives or stroll round the cemeteries looking for graves.  And as all the information I have access to is online, it doesn’t get me healthy.

However some of the health awareness must be sinking in, as last year I bought my beloved standing desk off a colleague.  Its name is Ergotron (obviously with a name like that it’s a male desk). I have found that I get hungrier more quickly and am taking from that experience that it’s speeding up my digestive process, like removing a kink from a hose, so that’s one quick and obvious indication that I’m doing something right.  It’s not meant to be used for long periods instead of sitting, as that can lead to different ailments such as varicose veins, but instead for the user to vary between sitting and standing fairly often.


Step Count Challenge trophy 2016 – oh yeah 🙂

We all die in the end, and being dead doesn’t scare me, but I would like to put off dying for a few more decades thank you very much.  So this spring when several colleagues in my work area formed teams for a walking challenge – the Step Count Challenge  run by Paths For All – I was super-keen and very organised about raising my daily walking totals.  And with dedication and good company (and good views like the photo of my local Ochil Hills) I lost half a stone in two months just by walking more.  And really got to know my colleagues a lot more, which was really nice.

I had been really ashamed prior to the start of the challenge about my almost total lack of activity at the weekends, and now this Challenge has finished I continue to make a point of going for a walk on both Saturdays and Sundays, even if only trudging round the shops. And I find that I have more energy on Mondays as a result and can usually bounce off to Zumba quite the thing.  There is a shorter version of the spring challenge this autumn and I have friends who hadn’t come across the spring one who now interested in trying it.

So I plan to keep walking and getting fitter. So much better to discover ancestors’ lives through census returns than to communicate with current family by knocking three times at a séance!

© Lynne Black, 18 July 2016

EU Referendum 2016: A twist in our timeline

Often when I’m thinking about my ancestors, preparing to tell their stories, I wonder about how they reacted to society’s changes, how they heard what was about to happen, and how they felt when it did.

Well the morning after Britain’s EuroRef vote, I know that if they’re anything like me they’ll feel dazed.  We’re at one of those key story turns in these isles’ history, 1603, 1649 and 1660, 1707, 1745, 1838, 1901, 1914, 1939 and now 2016.

After all the bile, paranoia and deceit which bubbled up in the UK, after the some politicians’ factless assertions and downright lies about the legal position and [lack of] plan for the future, after the wilful political disregard and trashing of informed expert opinion and advice, and of murder, the day after the election has arrived.  It does make me wonder why the hell we bother with election predicting and opinion polls.

This YouTube film is really interesting, I wish this had been shown instead of endless shouty debates: Professor Michael Dougan on the EU Referendum as he spelled out the anticipated timelines in the event the UK votes to Leave in a really clear way.

The Leave campaign were reported on Twitter last night as conceding, Boris Johnson was looking more rueful and tousled than usual and Nigel Farage looked grim.  I saw journalists were begging witnesses to this to phone them to report their account so that the news can be driven by 140 characters and a photo.

And now the result has been confirmed as Leave and David Cameron will be stepping down as PM in October.

So what now?

The break up of the United Kingdom I believe.  With the SNP having issued a statement about the votes cast within Scotland it is only a matter of time before IndyRef 2 is announced and the nation votes again to stay with either Europe as an equal state or be governed by millionaires in Westminster and treated as a partner they don’t respect but don’t want to lose. Well, that’s my take on it, we’ll see what happens.

Emergency laws will be re-written without normal  parliamentary process as our recent legal system is written allowing for EU law.  The UK Government had already quietly announced a bill for this Parliament during the Queen’s Speech but not yet picked up by satirists (as far as I’ve seen) chipping back at citizens’ rights, which Amnesty are flagging up.

The rights of ordinary people will be chipped away, and eventually risk being handed to the tender mercies of global corporations through the evil which is TTIP.

To quote Queen Amidala of Star Wars: “So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.”

So already the shock is wearing off, without the enormity of the vast changes ahead sinking in I suspect, and my brain is clicking through various ways of coping, Plan A, Plan Chalk, Plan Cheese, Plan Random.

And at some point soon I will need to buy a TV after I’ve thrown something handy at all the smug faces which are about to parade across it.

But, like my ancestors I suspect, I would like stability, I would like a job and I would like to pay my bills. Some priorities don’t really change that much.

© Lynne Black, 24 June 2016

The many parents of Matilda Stoaling

I came across Matilda Stoaling in my Rowe family searches around her mother-in-law Catharine Rowe. Normally when sketching out the story of a distant-in-law I would just make a note of their or their parents’ professions and location and return to the person featured in the blog post, but the myriad of step-parents involved here – and the hardships some of them must have endured – made me want to commemorate them this way.


Parish Church of St Andrew, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

So, to start with Matilda.  She was born c1866 in the old Saxon town of Wiveliscombe, Somerset where her family had lived for at least 2 generations. Wiveliscombe was a market town and when Matilda was growing up there were 3,000 people living there. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) reported “The town is lighted with gas, and contains a town hall, police station, dispensary, reading-rooms, and branch bank. Here is situated the largest brewery in the W. of England.” and in 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described a weekly market on Tuesday, great markets on the last Tuesday of Feb. and July, and fairs on 12 May and 25 Sept.”

Her father John Stoaling had grown up a pauper – his mother was recorded as a pauper in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses – but by March 1851 he had found employment as an agricultural labourer. In late 1851 he married a widow called Maria.

Maria’s background:

Maria Hall was the daughter of an agricultural labourer called John Hall and was born in Wiveliscombe. She had married Henry Milford in summer 1845, he aged 23 and she 28.  Together they had two daughters, Mary Ann and Sarah Jane, within four years before he died: she was widowed by the March 1851 census.  It appears Sarah Jane was born deaf and dumb, in later life she was referred to as an imbecile.

Maria married John c November 1851. I think that young Mary Ann must have died in childhood; her daughter Sarah lived with them. Maria and John had at least four children together before the 1861 census: Frank, Maria, Mary and Henry.

In April 1861 the family was living next to the Mason’s Arms in Wiveliscombe, and John was working as a brewer’s labourer, maybe in Wiveliscombe’s large brewery. Maria’s 80-year-old agricultural labourer ‘idiotic’ father was living with them, as was her daughter Sarah. In 1866 Maria gave birth to their final known child and my link to this family, Matilda.


Wiveliscombe Primary by Risto Silaste on Flickr, Creative Commons

In April 1871 they were still in the same street, and by then John was working as a travelling hawker. Deaf-and-dumb Sarah Milford was still living with them and working as a charwoman, and they had taken in a couple of lodgers.

Maria died in 1875 when John was 50 years old and young Matilda was just 9.  She was without a mother figure for a couple of years until her father re-married in 1877.

Matilda’s new step-mother was called Eliza and was a widow in her mid-30s with a young daughter of her own when she married John Stoaling.

Eliza’s background

Eliza Heyward had been born in the amazingly-named Huish Champflower in Somerset, England, in autumn 1839. The name of this ancient village comes from a combination of ‘hiwisc’, the Saxon word for homestead, and the name of Thomas de Champflower, a 12C Norman lord of the manor.  It was just under 3 miles from Wivelscombe and stood on the River Tone in an area with many mines owned by the Ebbw Vale Iron Company.

She had an older brother and two sisters, but her agricultural labourer mother Elizabeth was widowed before Eliza was two years old.

Eliza married at the age of 20, in 1860.  Her first husband, John Weech, was a 49-year-old farmer of 8 acres and they lived together in the hamlet of Langley Marsh, a mile north of Wiveliscombe, Somerset where the Norman church was dedicated to St Andrew and the local pub was the Three Horseshoes. John’s 86-year-0ld widowed father Robert Weech, who’d also been a farmer, lived with them. John and Robert had been farming in Langley 20 years before, before John’s mother died, and they’d had then a female servant then called Fanny Reidland.

There was no servant recorded in 1861.  Probably times were hard; after John died in 1969 poor Eliza must have been extremely down on her luck as the 1871 census finds her in Wellington workhouse. Within a few months she became pregnant and had a daughter in spring 1872 whom she named Mary Ellen Weech.

However a few years later at the age of 35 she met John Stoaling and they married in summer 1877.  He too was older than her although records are inconsistent, I think he would have been approx 54 when they married.

John and Eliza’s first child together, a son called Frank, was born in 1879.

Sarah’s story

Deaf-and-dumb Sarah, Matilda’s half sister, had moved out from her stepfather John’s home at some point before the 1881 census.  In that year she was living alone in Wiveliscombe and still working as a charwoman.  By April 1891 she was the general servant of a local woman of independent means called Helen Lutley, a spirit-merchant’s daughter, who also had a long-time servant/cook called Betsy living in the household.

However by March 1901 her circumstances had worsened and I found her living in the Somerset and Bath Asylum where she was recorded as ‘lunatic’.  I can’t help thinking of the difference in the various perceptions of her condition over the years: while some of her more protective family census entries didn’t mention that or her deafness at all, but when she was perhaps more unsettled, for example in the Asylum, she was thought of as a lunatic.  I could not find Sarah in the 1911 census.


Wiveliscombe Church Interior by Robert Cutts on Flickr, Creative Commons

In 1881 John and Eliza were living in Gullet Hill, Wiveliscombe, with John working as a general labourer. John’s daughter Matilda was still living at home, working as a general servant, and Eliza’s scholar daughter Mary Ellen Weech was living there also. John and Eliza’s two-year-old Frank completed the household.  Frank’s younger sister Ada was born c 1882.

In April 1891 Frank and Ada were still living with their parents, now in Church Street in Wiveliscombe, and Matilda, now married was back living with them with her two-year-old son George.

Matilda had married c 1888. Her husband was called George John Miller, the oldest son of my distant cousin Catharine Rowe whom I mentioned at the beginning of this post and Catharine’s husband, a Cornish carpenter also called George John Miller.

John and Eliza had had almost 20 years together by the time John died c early 1895. After his death Eliza went to live with her daughter Mary from her first marriage (1901). Mary had married a domestic coachman called Frederick Bartlett from Chelsea, London, and were living locally with four children: Amy, Frederick and twin boys Henry and Edward.   Mary and Frederick went on to have four more by 1911 – William, Leonard, Ada and Violet, although oldest son Frederick died before the 1911 census.  Eliza died in spring 1904, still within the same registration district [Wellington] in Somerset.

I don’t know where Matilda and George would have met or where they married, but his parents had been working in Glamorgan, South Wales. They were living in the Cardiff area in April 1891 but by November 1891 had moved to Newport, Monmouthshire; they were both still living in Newport in 1939.

Together Matilda and George had 13 children, grimly by 1911 they had lost six of those 13.  The seven I have found were George (1889), Agnes (1891), Alice/May (1896), Catharine (1898), Albert Henry (1902), Hilda Elizabeth (1904) and Frank (1906).

Matilda died in early 1945 at the grand old age of 79, good I think for a woman of such an impoverished upbringing.  George died ten years later in 1955, aged 88.

Text © Lynne Black, 7 February 2016
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/matilda-stoaling/

Sources: Ancestry, FindMyPast; Genuki; Huish Champflower on Genuki, Vision of Britain and Wikipedia; Wiveliscombe on Genuki, Vision of Britain, Ancestral Histories and Wikipedia.  All accessed 6 February 2016.

Catharine A S Rowe b1843, mason’s daughter, carpenter’s wife

Catharine, the second child of mason John Rowe and his wife Sarah Sampson, was born in late 1843 in Penzance, Cornwall, with Queen Victoria on the throne and Robert Peel Prime Minister. It was the year which saw  Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol sell out in six days after its launch on 31 December, although I’m sure not bought by anyone in her poor family.  She had an sister three years older than her called Elizabeth, and a younger sister, Sarah, born when Catharine was only about a year old.


Market Jew Street, old postcard posted c1915

The first of her brothers, Thomas, arrived when Catharine was aged about five, but as her brother was born in Devonport [Plymouth] in neighbouring county Devon in early 1848 I suspect that the three girls would perhaps have stayed with their grandparents Sampson in Penzance; grandfather Robert Sampson was a butcher on central Market Jew Street. Catherine’s parents were back in Penzance for baby Thomas’ baptism in November 1849 and the census of March 1851 finds John, Sarah and their five children (by then baby Alice had come along) living in Market Jew Street. The following year Anne Sampson was born in early 1852.

Around 1857-58 their parents moved to Wales: Whitchurch in Pembrokeshire. There her father worked as a stone mason in Lower Solva, Prendagast.  Her younger brother John Daniel was born in summer 1859.  However there was scandal for the family when Catharine’s older sister Elizabeth had a daughter, Annie, out of wedlock by a local labourer, Philip Tripp, in late 1859. The family were still in Lower Solva in April 1861.

So where was 17-year-old Catharine for the 1861 census? The only record I can found is that she’s a servant in St Peter’s Port, Guernsey, in the Channel Islands, but I think that’s unlikely.

By 1862 Elizabeth was back in Penzance to get married to Philip and they had two sons before moving away and disappearing.

Their mother Sarah also died at around this time.

In July 1864 in Catharine herself got married in Madron, her bridegroom was a carpenter from neighbouring Marazion (by St Michael’s Mount) called George John Miller.  One of her witnesses has the surname Alder which was her future step-mother Cecilia’s surname, so it appears by then her father at least knew his future wife and her family; John and Cecilia married in December 1865 in Penzance.

Catherine and George’s first two children George (c1867) and John (c1868) were born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, before Albert was born in early 1870 in Alton, Hampshire.

Then the family must have headed to Wales and travelled around for work for William was born (early 1875) in Pontypridd, Glamorgan (12 miles north of Cardiff), Sarah Ann (cMay 1877) in nearby Caerphilly, Glamorgan, Elizabeth c June 1880 east in Newport, Monmouthshire and Edgar (c1884) back in Glamorgan.  Their final identified child, Alice, was born in late 1885, also in Glamorgan.

In April 1891 the family were living north in Vaynor, Breconshire, with George working as a carpenter and their oldest son, 15 year old William, as a carpenter’s labourer, perhaps for his father.

I haven’t found a record of George after that point – Catharine is alone for both the 1901 and 1911 census entries, yet marked as married rather than a widow. Also according to the 1911 census Catharine had 10 children, eight of whom were still alive, but I haven’t been able to find two of them, whom I suspect died young.

Her eldest child, son George, met and settled down with Somerset girl Matilda Stoaling in the Cardiff area, having 10 children together; here is Martha’s family story – a triumph of hope over experience and the desire to keep family together. Two years after that his brother John Daniel married Jane Turnbull in Penarth, Glamorgan.

In 1901 Catharine is living in Cheddar, Somerset, with three daughters who, as well as two lodgers, are working as shirt machinists.  In 1911 she is visiting her eldest daughter Sarah and Sarah’s husband George Pavey – as he’s marked as Shirt Factory Manager it looks like Sarah married her boss.  Sarah’s census entry indicates she’d had four children, two of whom were home: Wilfred and Lena, one who was elsewhere that night, and one had died young.

Catharine died four years later, c November 1915, back in the Cardiff area of Glamorgan, so maybe George was still based around there somewhere. It looks like their sons George and John had settled in Newport, Monmouthshire, with George and his wife Matilda having several children of their own there.

Text © Lynne Black, 31 January 2016
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/