Tag Archives: scotland

The first reason I am going to Shetland

 

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In a couple of months I will be making a long-anticipated trip to Shetland. I have three main reasons for wanting to go, none of them immediately relating to DI Jimmy Perez as portrayed in the recent television dramas based on Ann Cleves’ novels.

Shetland seems such a long way when you look at an atlas, exactly how far is left rather vague since mapmakers have tended to tuck it into a box which they float somewhere in the Moray Firth. Now I find that it is only just over an hour by plane, or will be, but my mind is back in the first decades of the 1800s, before steam ships, before planes, before phones, before the internet. Almost back in the days of here be dragons, or at least sea monsters, and certainly of the likelihood of rather rough water… However I decided to skip any attempt at replication. I will fly.

My first reason is curiosity about the life of one of my maternal ancestors who spent a brief and ultimately  unhappy time there. Ann Wyse went as a bride and returned about eighteen months later as a widow with infant twin daughters. These infants do not appear in the family tree copied out on shelf paper by my grandfather:

  • What happened to the twins? (early death I imagined, aware of infant mortality at the time).
  • What can it have been like for a young woman raised in 1820s Glasgow to find herself living so far from family in a part of Scotland so remote?
  • How did she get there?
  • and how might she have got back to central Scotland where some ten years later she married my Edinburgh-based ancestor and produced the further progeny from one of whom I am derived?

Nothing like a quest!

I have prowled through family documents, summoned up information from the internet and visited archives. Now I am now booked up to go. And what better time to find my jottings and begin pulling the past together.

Find a marriage

Nineteenth century novels often end with a marriage. Ancestral quests can start from one. Ann Wyse’s marriages took place before registration began in 1855 so off to the newspapers, or at least to British Newspapers Online. There she is, her second marriage reported in the Caledonian Mercury, Edinburgh, Thursday June 23rd 1842.

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“At 25 Gayfield Square, on the 21st current, Robert Chisholm, Esq. jeweller, Edinburgh, to Ann Wyse, relict of the late Rev. Colin Bogle, Walls.”

I am rather intrigued by the Georgette Heyerish union which appears below of ‘the Hon and Reverend Edward Harbottle Grimstone, second son of the Earl and Countess of Verulam, to Frances Horatia, eldest daughter of John Morier, Esq’ – was she born in 1805? but I must not be distracted.

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25 Gayfield Square: a staging post in my family history

25 Gayfield Square is not as grand as its neighbours, no fanlight above the doorway which appears to lead to a stair. It is on the east side of Gayfield Square, standing 4 stories at the front and six at the rear (owing to Edinburgh’s rolling hillsides).

She was married at No 25, so who lived at there?

Nine names are given in the 1842/43 Edinburgh Post Office Directory, including Mrs Browning who kept lodgings, and a hatter and: Edwin Millidge, jeweller. A connection there. It turns out that Edwin had married Sarah, Ann’s elder sister, in Edinburgh in 1820.

The description of the bride as “relict of the late Rev Colin Bogle, Walls” took me straight to the Fasti.

Ah, the groom was a Minister of the Kirk

Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae: the succession of ministers in the Church of Scotland from the Reformation is an invaluable tool for those, such as I, who are fortunate to have been blessed with a minister ancestor. There, in volume seven, they and the twins were.

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Not quite accurate, Ann and Robert were married on 21st June 1842 (once again she had an older groom, tho probably not as old as the Rev Colin, Robert being born in 1799). I haven’t established Colin’s date of birth but if he was licenced in 1810, almost a year before Ann was born on 14 May 1811, he must have been at least twenty years older than she was. There is a long gap before he obtained his church. A stickit minister.

 

Walls is on the west coast of the mainland of Shetland. I am looking forward to seeing how it looks today. It is not my impression that the parish of Walls was a well-doing place during the time Ann Wyse lived there. I hope at least that the Rev Colin Bogle managed to get his manse fixed up before he brought his bride home. On the 17th of November 1830, that is less than a year before he married, he ‘represented [to the Lerwick Presbytery] that the repairs which the Presbytery had ordered on his Manse in April last had not been executed with the diligence which the Presbytery had enjoined – that in consequence of there not being even one habitable room in the house, he had been obliged to remove to lodgings at a distance from the manse…’ [CH2/1071/8/10]

By the time of the events of December 1832 and January 1833 the family were living in the manse. Birth and death reported in the same issue of the Aberdeen Journal on Wednesday 6th February 1833:

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There appears to be neither note of burial nor gravestone for the Rev Colin Bogle. Nor is there any record of a baptism for the twins Colina and Jessie. Surely it would have been possible for some colleague to have travelled the twenty odd miles from Lerwick and officiated?

Ann was married (in Glasgow) on 18th August 1831, age 20

She gave birth to twins (in Shetland) on 29 December 1832

Her husband died (in Shetland) on 16 January 1833.

She returned south for she appeared in Edinburgh in relation to her husband’s will  in September 1833.

There is a sad postscript…

Colina and Jessie were  buried together in Edinburgh on 30 December 1833, their interments shown in St Cuthbert’s Parish Register, the head of family given as the late Rev Colin Bogle of Walls, Shetland. Both died of Hooping Cough, Colina on 24th December and Jessie on the 29th, one just before and one after her first birthday.

So now I know what happened to the twins. My lost great-great-aunts if I have counted aright. Perhaps the archives in Lerwick will enable me to get some feeling for conditions in Shetland in the 1830s and some idea of the roads and packet boats which carried my great-great-grandmother to and from the islands.

I hope Ann had some sunny days before all these terrible events. I’m glad she at least survived to settle in more comfortable surroundings. I found a bit more detail of that second wedding in the OPRs:

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More of what happened next anon (though some of the outcomes can be found in my ‘Walking back into the past’ posting last year).

And I hope for sunshine, fair winds and no demons for myself when I survey Ultima Thule.

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I should like to put on record my gratitude to all those  who transcribe and organise and share records, whether as part of the job, for the benefit of family and friends, or just for the fun of it. Doing history now is a great collaborative enterprise, thank you all.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tin saucepans: a brief rumination at the bus-stop

P1060172I had an old (price 95p) copy of 1984 in my bag before meeting newspeaks (or maybe duckspeaks?) ‘mumbod’ and ‘dadbod’ made me realise that it was time to enter Orwell’s distopia again, this time with brain engaged.

Why had I been carrying it about? Simply because one day it had come to hand as a slim (therefore light in weight) alternative to those copies of Saga and Hello which accompany a wait for the attentions of doctor, dentist or hair-stylist. I am one who can’t be without a book and who curses any guest who wantonly carries off my reading matter from the lavatory.

This morning at the bus stop I found that previous sittings had taken me to page 59 of the Penguin edition which, according to the book-plate at the front, came from the library of my elder daughter. (Way back that must have been since it was before she changed the spelling of her name.)

To recap: Winston works in the Ministery of Truth (‘Minitrue’) ‘rectifying’ malreports and malquotes so that they fit in with ‘the thing which had actually happened’. He hardly dares to think for fear of the Thought Police. He wonders, as he reworks events and speeches, if he is the only one who remembers the past, a past which is being rewritten out of history. He has just begun, in great secrecy to entrust his thoughts to a diary…

…..

If there is hope, wrote Winston, it lies in the proles

   If there was hope, it must lie in the proles, because only there in those swarming disregarded masses… could the force to destroy the Party ever be generated. The Party could not be overthrown from within. … But the proles, if only they could somehow become conscious of their own strength, would have no need to conspire. They needed only to rise up and shake themselves like a horse shaking off flies. If they chose they could blow the Party to pieces tomorrow morning. Surely sooner or later it must occur to them to do it? And yet–!

He remembered how once he had been walking down a crowded street when a tremendous shout of hundreds of voices – women’s voices – had burst from a side-street a little way ahead. It was a great formidable cry of anger and despair, a deep, long ‘Oh-o-o-o-oh!’ that went humming on like the reverberation of a bell. His heart had leapt. It’s started he had thought. A riot! The proles are breaking loose at last! When he had reached the spot it was to see a mob of two or three hundred women crowding round the stalls of a street market… But at this monent the general despair broke down into a multitude of individual quarrels. It appeared that one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking-pots of any kind were always difficult to get. Now the supply had unexpectedly given out. The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stall-keeper of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve. There was a fresh outburst of yells. Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another’s hands. For a moment they were both tugging, and then the handle came off. Winston watched them disgustedly. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?

He wrote:

   Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.

……

Orwell continues to elaborate on how the despised proles are managed (‘Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon of their minds’).

……

To keep them in control was not difficult. A few agents of the Thought Police moved always among them, spreading false rumours and marking down and eliminating the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous; but no attempt was made to indoctrinate them with the ideology of the Party. It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working hours or shorter rations. …..

Now I am certainly not labelling the mass of my compatriots (however defined) as proles but Orwell should not be remembered only for Big Brother (aka Facebook which persists in suggesting I make a friend of people whom I have reason to believe are no friend to me or my perceived interests). Texts, Twitter and Newspeak? The Two-Minute Hate and the election orgies we have just gone through?

Just ruminating. MaybP1060173 - Version 2e things are changing? The book was published almost 70 years ago, indeed Winston, who thought he was born in 1944 or 1945, would be 70ish today. Anyway I have moved 1984 from my bag to the pile by the bed. Timely to read on from page 61. In hope.

And perhaps put Animal Farm in my good-for-your-back bag? I suspect this thought is not unconnected by the bunnies on my daughter’s book-plate.

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Walking back into the past

A friend was nagging me to up my getting-up-and-going rate to at least one hour a day so that is what I’ve been aiming at in the past week. But a purpose other than health is needed to drive me on, preferably not always with the hope of a view attached. Views, in an urban setting at least, tend to require going up hills.

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The Harrison Arch

I did that last Sunday peching my way beyond my least favourite archway (just avoided it once when the car’s clutch failed on a downward run). So, while I am grateful for his part in Edinburgh Corporation’s acquisition of Blackford Hill, I wish the friends and admirers of George Harrison (1812[perhaps 1811]-1885) once Lord Provost of Edinburgh and very very briefly elected MP for Edinburgh South, had chosen some other way to mark his works and character.

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Topical reference to the constituency at the start of my walk: the office of the Last Labour MP following the general election…

Onward and upward I was rewarded with magnificent views over the city. Blackford Hill was once a regular stomping ground. Together with a crocodile of other beret-topped small girls I was marched up and round it on most of those days when hockey or lacrosse was not forced on me. Not all these outings were carefree: my time as a boarder must have been not only the year when Blackford Pond froze sufficiently for skating but also that of rabbits blighted by myxomatosis…

DSCF1989One illicit and pleasurable memory however: the school had a flu epidemic and myself and a fellow ten-year-old convalescent were sent for a walk. I clawed my way, gymslip and  dutifully polished day-shoes, up the steep muddy bank opposite the pond as my companion wailed well below. A rare breakout by a child conditioned always to set a good example. Still joy in the memory. What on earth was the school thinking of to send us out on our own.

However that was last week. Today, inspired by a miscellany of unplanned pre-birthday treats: my very first Edinburgh tram rides (slow and grinding trip to Ingliston and back), a stroll round Greyfriars graveyard, and some ancestral monogrammed spoons, I set out grave hunting. Aim: to locate some ancestors not on my Irish father’s side but belonging to my mother’s Edinburgh and the Borders line. I knew where they lay, in the graveyard of St Cuthbert’s parish at the west end of Princes Street. Refinding the stone was not as easy as I thought however but I was pleased to find that walking there then zigzagging St John’s and St Cuthbert’s burial grounds piled up paces sufficiently  to evade a blustery May shower and bus home.

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Long neglected by the family, indeed by me. I removed bits of branches, plucked out groundsel and wondered what seeds I might strew. Crocuses would not be a good idea– too many squirrels

The stone marks the grave of my great-great grandfather, his wife and several of his sons:

1847

The Burying Ground of Robert Chishom Jeweller Edinburgh

Sacred

To the Memory of

Robert Ainslie, who died 7th Oct. 1847 aged six weeks also

Robert Peattie Chisholm who died 25th Augt 1858 aged 9 years and 10 months

Robert Chisholm, Goldsmith who died 7th June 1874 aged 75 years

Ann Wyse, widow of Robert Chisholm, who died 1st Sept 1875 aged 64 years

John Fleming Chisholm who died 15th August 1885 in his 29th year

Edwin Millidge Chisholm, MB CM who died 8th September 1885 in his 32nd year

On a side panel: In Memory of John Thomson who died 28th April 1890 aged 64. The other side panel is illegible.

Ann Wyse, born in Glasgow in 1811, was already a widow by the time she married Robert Chisholm in 1842. Her first husband, a minister in Shetland, had died a month after she had given birth to twin daughters, both of whom died as they reached their first birthday. In Shetland? I doubt it. In Edinburgh? Glasgow? The death notice in the Scotsman does not say.

There, achieved my 10,000 paces. And at last started to add words to pictures. So walking back into the past works on more than one level! More on the family to come.

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Another Graveyard – but David Plenderleath was here!

I set out last weekend to revisit, this time with my digital camera, one of my favourite graveyards, that of the Parish Church of Pencaitland in East Lothian. I last came here over twenty years ago but with old technology and the photos lie in some poly bag in some box in some cupboard…

This is an attractive small church which shows its history. Unlike some I have visited where a well-meaning or wealthy 19th century ‘benefactor’ obliterated the old with the new, this building shows in its fabric many of the styles of the past, doors become windows, windows with differing shapes of arch, doors are added or bricked up. There is not an overall plan.

It has changed over the centuries since the perhaps 13th century, inside and out (this visit I saw only the outside) but it still sits near the centre of its village community.

Which makes it easier to stand in a corner and try and connect with the past.

Moreover, the church is set in  a well-kept churchyard sprinkled with  gravestones dating back to the 17th century at least. Some, the very oldest, include the symbols of trades, for the farmer, the taylor, the mason. Others have cherubs clutching scrolls. Most frequent of all are the skulls, the bare bones.

  

Others, no less reminders of memento mori, and sorrows past, rely on words


   


KA FORBES Anno Domine 1639

Happie in birth match comely feature

And every virtue gracing nature

In nothing cross’d but barren wombe

All that was flesh rests in this tombe

……..

In memory of

Robina, aged 15 months/ Alexander 14 months/ Alexander, 9 months/ George 3 years/ Robert 1 year….

….

However I am here in Pencaitland because there is a family association. This was the home of the Simson connection of my family tree.

There is a plaque on the side wall of the west tower. An aunt died young in 1716, her mother and two sisters, in their 20s died ‘of a violent feaver’ in 1736

But Helen Simson survived to marry David Plenderleath

At the end of December 1755, in the manse which lies alongside the church, my ancestor David Plenderleath opened up his new leather-bound notebook and began the one volume of his diary which survives. The present manse dates from the early 19th century, some 50 years after the Reverend Mr Plenderleath picked up his quill to set down his reflections and, just a few days early, his New Year’s resolution:

Pencaitland

22 Decr

1755

The last book I writt any observations

I thought might be of use for composing

my mind & preserving in memory what

I might wish to ???? ended in the

close of the year 1754. During this

year I have only written on pieces of

paper which fall by & I lose one

great benefit of writing, taking a review

of what is past and therefore have

this day begun to write in this book

& after some general remarks on

occurrences thro this year that were

of some consequence I shall write

down the present state of things as

to me & mine, & then waiting for

divine counsel shall propose what

ought to be henceforth in dependance

on a superior end and be steadily followed

out by me if the Lord sees meet

to lengthen out my life–

What was the reverend gentleman doing here in the closing days of 1755? Visiting the in-laws, or, given the information on the plaque, his father-in-law Matthew Simson, then Minister at Pencaitland. David Plenderleath had been ill and was still feeling under the weather. It is not clear whether he had his wife Helen and young children with him or whether he had left them at home in Dalkeith where he had been Minister for the past ten years.

To be continued.

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What brings the past to life for you?

After West Linton along to Abingdon and up miles of windy road (a road that winds not wind-buffeted) to Wanlockhead, the highest village in Scotland, 1531 feet above sea-level in the Lowther hills (if you chance to be walking the Southern Upland Way you might pause for breath here). Wanlockhead today prides itself on the possibility of panning for gold and on its old lead mine and museum. Also on having the second-oldest subscription library in Europe (the oldest being in its near neighbour and rival Leadhills across the county border).

Lead ore and other minerals have been mined here since Roman times. The first modern smelt mill was constructed in 1682 and between 1756 and 1765 nearly 3,500 tonnes of ore were extracted. Production later increased with the introduction of new technology and in 1902 a railway was constructed to link with the main Glasgow-Carlisle line. Despite a small revival in the 1950s there has been little mining activity here since the 1930s.

This is very much an unplanned village with cottages tucked hard against the many contours, located to suit the whim of occupants. Sheep wander. The stream wanders (no gold-panners today). Insulated with lentil soup, off to explore.

First, to the museum (minerals, Covenanters, information on life and times with those human-scale models now essential in the modern visitor centre). Then a short walk to the mine and, hard-hatted, along the main passage hewn out of rock, irregular sides and roof still showing the marks made by the small groups of men who worked in near darkness chipping and setting explosive and pumping out water. The sides still glisten with water. Gone are the young boys who pulled sleds of ore out to the light.

Just where miners descended to even deeper tunnels the tour ends. We stand beside two more life-size models and try to imagine. Then back out to the light and the sheep and a row of cottages hinting at home life mid 1750s, 1850s and 1910.

And finally up to the Miners’ Library, a subscription library established in 1756 and holding over 3000 volumes, classics, journals as well as technical books. 1756 is a year that means something to me, that’s the year my Plenderleath diary begins. I can connect. More costumed figures and a tape to help us relate to the people for whom this small building, open once a month, was important.

But it is just as I am leaving, when I pick up a leaflet with the signatures of the ‘originating miners’ that they and their individual  lives become real. These men spent much of their lives in the dark. Look at the signatures, literate hands, far from the stage of leaving a mark with a shaky ‘X’. And universal education was over 100 years away. How did these men come to be here living this hard life? Books must have meant much to them. John Edmond, Schoolmaster, was a signatory, there was a school for their children.

Now we write fewer letters; with the disappearance of cheques, the entering of pins, signing your name happens less and less. I write this on a computer and the software shapes the letters… What signs, links will prevent us appearing an amorphous blur when we are the past?

More about Wanlockhead is at  http://www.leadminingmuseum.co.uk

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What is it about graveyards?

There is something about standing where your ancestors have been. As a child I was wary of graveyards, especially those with human-sized stone chests or with slabs balanced on shadowy bases. After years of foraging for names and dates I am now used to wandering hopefully across roughly cut grass.

The Reverend David Plenderleath (my n times great grandfather whose diary started my quest)  lies in Greyfriars Churchyard in Edinburgh. According to the daughter responsible for starting his diary on its journey to me, he was ‘ordained in Ormiston in 1832, transported to Dalkeith 1756, transported to Edinburgh 1765, died 1779’. The more usual term for the movement of ministers of the Church of Scotland from one parish to another is being ‘called’ rather than ‘transported’. No elaborate gravestone but a simple marker for Mr Plenderleath

Unlike the stone for a well-known inhabitant of Edinburgh which is near by

Greyfriars Bobby

Even where I am sure no ancestors are around, I cannot resist a graveyard. Today it was in West Linton where several stones date from a time when the skills of the stone mason were called on not only to record names and dates but also to provide images that remind the living of what end awaits.

Skull, cross-bones and a floating head, and clearly the work of a less skilled craftsman than the one who created the impressive figure below

Memento mori. Tak’ tent o’ time ere time be tint. We who are still living salute you!

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A voice from the past

I’ve always been aware of my mother’s family tree. There it was inked out meticulously on shelf lining paper by my grandfather and stretching back, selectively (very), to the 1560s. What else, apart from my father’s background, was there to know. Then my mother, visiting, handed over a small leather bound note-book and went on talking to my daughter about everyday things.

Inside the cover was written ‘My Father’s Diary, 1756′. 1756? Just ten years after Culloden and the end of the ’45?

The past opened up like an unexplored ocean…

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