Today, July 3rd, is a day to celebrate a long-lasting marriage. Fifteen years after the 1913 garden photograph on the eve of the Great War, discussed elsewhere, a Golden Wedding was celebrated, and ten years after that, in 1938, a much larger family of descendants and their spouses gathered with a photographer for group and individual shots that are full of formality and charm. The 1938 celebration was for the Diamond Wedding anniversary (60 years) of James Scobbie (1853-1943) and Williamina (“Mina”) Black Laughland (1852-1945), who were natives, neighbours and notable lifelong residents of Newarthill, a coal-mining village in Lanarkshire, Scotland. They were married by Mina’s father 140 years ago today, in 1878. The anniversary was written up in the local papers in 1928, 1938, and 1943 (a so-called “Ruby” anniversary), providing excellent detail of their lifelong relationship.
Articles (1928 & 1938) and photos (1938) are reproduced below. Five years later, in 1943, there was to be one more main celebration. It would have been restrained by the war, but James’s diary shows the guest list of available family and friends was still carefully planned, with formal invitations issued, and letters of thanks sent.
Laughland and Scobbie, up a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G.
James was born on 20th July 1853, and Mina on 31st March 1852. The family story is that James and Mina courted across a field, waving from their bedroom windows: their houses were so close they could see each other.
“James and Mina, up a tree, K.I.S.S.I.N.G.
First in love, then in marriage, then a baby in a carriage.”
To be realistic, we should recall that they were married in their mid twenties and this playground rhyme and even the winching story sound more suitable for a teenage romance! But I am sure they knew each other as children, being neighbours, school years contemporaries and not I assume socially incompatible (the son of a mining clerk, and the daughter of a minister). The manse in which Mina lived was on a map prepared in 1859, so childhood and teenage window-waving may have occurred, right enough.
Whatever! Sixty years after their marriage, they were still a firmly established local couple in Newarthill (living at the other end of the village in a house they built themselves), and a diamond anniversary was significant and unusual enough to elicit a royal telegram. This telegram was suitably formal and something that this very formal (some say “stiff”) couple and their family were obviously proud enough of to keep. I have it on my wall. But the childish rhyme makes me giggle. (It would probably offend them.)
Here is a joint portrait of the happy couple on the day.
Better still is the big photo (which will get a posting all on its own, in which I will identify everyone that I can).
Diamond days (1938)
A 1938 article in the Motherwell Times celebrated the happy event, concentrating on Mina’s contribution to the community. It reads:
NEWARTHILL. DIAMOND WEDDING. Scobbie – Laughland.
Mr and Mrs James Scobbie, of Beechworth, High Street, two of the oldest residents in Newarthill, celebrated their diamond wedding last week-end. The 60th anniversary of the wedding took place last Sunday, July 3.
On July 3 1878, the worthy couple were married in the Newarthill Church manse, by the bride’s father, Rev. David Laughland, then minister of the Newarthill Church, who was assisted by Rev. John Inglis, Blackswell Manse, Hamilton, and he Rev. Hugh McKenzie, Chapelhall.
Mr Scobbie is a retired coalmaster and is 85 years of age, while his life partner, who is the oldest member of Newarthill Church of Scotland, is 86.
Both are natives of Newarthill and have resided in the village all their life. Mrs Scobbie, who is still an active member of the church, has seen six ministers follow in the footsteps of her father, who ministered in Newarthill for fully forty years. She has had the distinction of robing the last two minsters, Rev. John Blair, who is now in Corby, and the Rev. George A.A. Bennett, who was inducted to the charge last week.
During their lifetime, Mr and Mrs Scobbie have seen many changes take place in the village, the whole aspect of which has been completely changed since their wedding sixty years ago.
The following week, a follow-up article quotes a poem of congratulations (in mild Scots) which had obviously been well-received. The verse celebrates marriage as a partnership in advancing years in a way that is both sentimental and honestly aware of the celebrants’ age.
NEWARTHILL. POET’S VERSES TO MR AND MRS SCOBBIE.
“Mr and Mrs James Scobbie, Beechworth, Newarthill, who celebrated their diamond wedding a fortnight ago, have received many letters and telegrams of congratulations from friends far and near. Among the communications received is one from a Flemington man who signs himself “J.C.” and the contents are in verse. The gratitude of the spouse for all the blessings of a happy married life of the sixty years are expressed thus [see below the image]. … Neither Mr nor Mrs Scobbie have any idea of the identity of the writer, and they wish to thank him publicly, and all their other senders of congratulations for their good wishes.”
Flemington is perhaps the suburb of that name in Melbourne, Australia, known for the racecourse, or the suburb in New Jersey, USA, halfway between Manhattan and Philadelphia. More likely it is the tiny village adjacent to Craigneuk, both swamped by the steelworks and other giant factories of central Scotland, a place which had also been the site of their son David Laughland Scobbie’s Triumph Toffee Works. J.C. who were you?
“My guid auld wife, it’s sixty years, Since you and I were wed;
And oh, that was a happy day, And since, I’ve aye been gled;
I never aince hae rued the day I took the marriage vows;
When you took me, and I took you, Till daith the knot should lowse.
It was a fecht gaun’ up the hill, But when we reached the croon;
We found the ither side quite nice, And pleasant coming doon.
And noo, we’re coming near the foot, Whaur we may tak a rest;
We’re fain to own, baith guid and ill, Hae aye been for the best.”
Here is the couple’s marriage certificate from 1878, which of course mentions useful additional information. James’s parents were Elizabeth Forrester* (1828-1890) and George Hill Scobbie (1819-1875), a name the couple used again by James and Mina for their eldest son (my grandfather, 1881-1961). (James also had a younger brother called George Hill, 1858-1926.) You can see the names and dates and photos of all their adult children and spouses and all the names and dates of their grandchildren in the 1913 anniversary post.
The relevant page of the “family bible” is worth showing here too.
You can see that George Hill (elder) was described in the marriage certificate as a grain merchant and Coalmaster (his 1875 death certificate gives these same occupations in the other order), whereas back in 1853 the occupation of clerk was recorded on James’s baptism record. What is not obvious perhaps is that the marriage was just 3 years after the unexpected death of both James’s father aged only 56 (of “paralysis”) in 1875 and in the same year George’s older brother John (at age 73, of “natural decay”) who was also a Coalmaster, when James was 21. The brothers were business partners at Fortissat Colliery and elsewhere. These deaths left James in control of the family’s growing business interests as a young man, and may have been the trigger for his enormous commercial and entrepreneurial success in mining. James himself in his marriage certificate is described as a Grain Merchant and Coalmaster. Other posts will concentrate on both a family photograph of the couple with their young family in front of their rather grand new home Beechworth around 1888, and on James’s scholarly success and career.
The Laughlands and Scobbies in Newarthill
Mina’s parents were (as noted above) Rev. David Laughland, (1816-1883) <or perhaps 1819, to be checked> a minister in the United Presbyterian church, and Mary Black (1821-1898),** both of whose families were from Stewarton, Ayrshire, and who married in 1844 in Newarthill. (David’s parents were, I believe, James Laughland and Elizabeth Young d1887, while Mary’s were William Black d1859 in Stewarton and Mary Wilson.) As noted, David part-performed the ceremony.*** The witnesses to the wedding were Maggie Laughland, an elder sister of Mina’s (Margaret, 1858- ), and (I think) Alexander Mackie <connection to be checked>.
The marriage certificate above also confirms the couple’s home addresses in 1878. An earlier map of Newarthill (1859 survey) shows the UP Church and Manse on Church Street (they have since been demolished), on the road to Legbranock, but I have not identified where James Scobbie was living then. His childhood home was in Watson’s square in Church Street – named after colliery owners (a coal pit is visible on the left, and the service railway line runs between a small school (see below) and what may well be Watson’s Square (2292), with the manse across the field numbered 2300. The manse garden (2404) is laid out. It would be great to see photos of these buildings.
Only one small cottage still gives a flavour of the old Church St. It is opposite the field, on the west side of the street, approximately. Later, the couple would build a house in the NE of the village (top right in the map), at Pickerstonhill, called Beechworth, and lived there most of their lives.
Golden Days (1928)
Extracts from a Golden Wedding article in 1928 in The Motherwell Times:
Golden Wedding of Mr and Mrs Scobbie.
“Well known in this part of Lanarkshire, the golden wedding has taken place of Mr and Mrs James Scobbie, Beechworth, Newarthill. Born and brought up in the village, Mr Scobbie is actively associated with the Scottish coal trade as a coalmaster, and was one of the principles of the Auchenlea Coal Company of Cleland, which has now gone into liquidation.”
“Mr Scobbie – who by coincidence is 75 years of age to-day (Friday) – was born of humble parentage in the present Watson’s Square, Church Street, Newarthill, and his father was colliery clerk at one of Messrs. Watson’s pits, Newarthill. … Mr Scobbie as a boy attended the old works school at Newarthill, the premises now used as a mission hall by Mrs Colville of Cleland, and he finished his education at Gartsherrie Academy.”
School Fees and Long Treks.
“An idea as to the progress we have made in travel and education is revealed by Mr Scobbie, who when he was attending Gartsherrie Academy had to travel every morning on foot from Newarthill to Holytown Station, now known as Mossend Station. There was no station at Holytown at that time, and when one was built Mossend was the name given to the old Holytown Station. Thus Mr Scobbie every morning and evening had to trudge four miles each way in order to attend school at Gartsherrie. Those were the days of school fees, and the fee for scholastic tuition at Gartsherrie was 3s 4d per week, while at the old works school at Newarthill the fees were 1s per week.” …
An Interesting Career.
See <in planning> for details of James’s career, omitted here though the article is a good source of that information.
“In church life Mr Scobbie has take no less a part, and during all his days he has been an ardent worker in Newarthill U.F. Church. He has held the position of elder for many years, and was church treasurer for 15 years.
A Daughter of the Manse.
“Like her ‘guid man’, Mrs Scobbie is a Newarthillite born and bred, and she is a ‘daughter of the manse’. Her father was the Rev. David Laughland, who, after being minister of Newarthill U.P. (now U.F.) Church for nigh forty years, died in 1885 [sic, it was 1883]. Mrs Scobbie – nee Williamina Black Laughland – is 76 years of age, and she, as well as Mr. Scobbie, received her school training in the village, and was nurtured in the church life of the village under her father. She is the third daughter, and one of a family of ten.”
“Both Mr and Mrs Scobbie are characteristic Scots, and typical examples of the sterling, old-fashioned type. During all their life they have taken a keen interest in the weal of the community, and are highly respected by a wide circle of the public in the district. Despite their advanced years, both Mr and Mrs Scobbie are active and virile, and each day they intently pursue their daily duties.”
“Mr Scobbie’s hobby is gardening, and in and around his grounds at Beechworth, where he and his wife live, the result of his efforts is to be seen. He also attends to his duties in connection with his business concerns. The happy couple have four of a family – all grown-up and married – two sons and two daughters, and they have eleven grandchildren.” [Recall, they and others that had died young are all listed here.]
A Happy Event.
“Mr and Mrs Scobbie were married at the Newarthill U.P. Church Manse, on 3rd July 1878, by the Rev. David Laughland, father of the bride, assisted by the Rev. John Inglis, Hamilton, and the Rev. Hugh M. Mackenzie, Chapelhall, and in honour of the event of fifty years’ married life the genial pair were entertained at a gathering last week within Green’s Private Hotel, Charing Cross, Glasgow. Mr and Mrs Scobbie were made the recipients of tangible tokens of appreciation on the celebration of their golden wedding from all their family and grandchildren.”
“Mr Scobbie is widely known in Scottish coal circles, and a large body of friends wish both he and his good lady many happy years of prosperous married life still to come.”
The “Ruby” War Years Anniversary (1943)
A final newspaper article is mistakenly headlined “RUBY WEDDING”. They just couldn’t get the staff! It appeared in The Motherwell Times, on July 16th 1943 (page 7, column 2) and largely repeats some of what has already been said, from their files, but is worth reproducing the new bits. (“Blue sapphire” is apparently the marketing term for a 65th anniversary, by the way.)
Both Born In The Village
“A former Newarthill couple Mr and Mrs James Scobbie, late of Beechworth, have just celebrated their ruby [sic] wedding. They now reside at Dunglass, 56 Manse Road, Newmains.” [This house name was also used for the Bearsden home of their son George Hill Scobbie, coincidentally also in Manse Road. Also coincidentlly, Newmains is next to “Morningside”, a few miles to the south of Newarthill, and unconnected to Morningside, Edinburgh.]
“Like her husband, Mrs Scobbie is a native of Newarthill. Her father was the Rev. David Laughland, a former Presbyterian minister at Newarthill who died in 1883. One of the new housing streets is named after the late minister. Mrs Scobbie is in her 91st year.”
“Many of the old friends in their native village will be interested to know that they have attained their ruby [sic] wedding and will wish them every blessing for the remainder of their days.”
James died in Edinburgh, on November 23rd 1943, while on a visit to his daughter Mabel (Mary Black Laughland Scobbie, 1879-1970). He was aged 90. Mabel was 64, widowed, and still lived at 8 Hermitage Drive. Her husband John Hunter Logan had been 19 years older than her (1860-1933) and she had been widowed at just 54, making a stark contrast to her parents’ long married life. Mina died not long afterwards, on 23rd January 1945 in Bearsden, just short of her 93rd birthday.
I will transcribe parts of James Scobbie’s diary relating to the guest list for the 65th “ruby” wedding celebrations, annotate the 1938 group photograph featuring a very beautiful Persian rug <close up colour photo to follow>, and add obituary articles from 1943 which contain similar and additional information to that here. Also, I will add more about James’s career from these various articles. Links will appear here.
* This mention of Elizabeth Forrester gives me the excuse to introduce and celebrate the work of Roy Forrester, a family historian who has written a very detailed multi-chapter work on his ancestors, including the point of contact, James’s mother Elizabeth Forrester’s family. His work includes independent research on the Scobbie family which echoes the research of Elizabeth Mitchell which I have adopted and checked and put the basics of into a database (now in MacFamilyTree). His database of descendants of Margaret Marshall and Andrew Scobbie / Scobie (1756 – 1828) working and living in Wester Braco Farm (which is still there on Black Hill on this highest point of the road between Glasgow and Edinburgh) shows substantial overlap with my own.
His evidential and narrative books include one (Book Six, of 194 pages as of April 2018), centred on George Hill Scobbie and Elizabeth Forrester, detailing their ancestors and descendants. He writes of the entire project that “The history is composed of a series of historical notes, covering ten Books, relating to James Forrester of Tollpark Farm, Cumbernauld, Dunbartonshire, [and his wife Ann Scott, and their] … ancestors and descendants, related families and other relevant information. The central subject in each individual book is one of James’ & Ann’s ten children, their ancestors & descendants.” Elizabeth is one of those ten children.
Roy is active on GENi, Ancestry and other websites. He notes in each book that “This is a private edition intended for distribution to family members and other interested genealogy researchers free of charge.” Roy is rather more scrupulous than me with respect to copyrighted images (cf the maps and certificate which I reproduce in part here!), and in his books he has transcribed a great deal of material into his own format before making it available, including wills and BMD certificates. I might note here that readers of NoisyBrain should check my Creative Commons licensing that applies to all of the original and personal material on NoisyBrain to which I have copyright. Please avoid copying copyrighted material like the images of newpaper clippings, government documents and maps that I am using for illustration – it will help keep me out of trouble.
** Mina’s mother, Mary Black from Stewarton, is one of three Blacks in my tree. In addition to this Mary Black is Mary Black, the mother of her daughter Mina’s daughter-in-law Bertie Stevenson. This second Mary Black was the widow of the medical missionary William Henderson Stevenson who died in Bihar, India, and had a local church (now a tourist attraction, it would seem) named after him. The third Black was my mother, Sarah Black (b1922). As noted in the Inheriting Privilege post, both the latter two hail from the Isle of Lismore in Argyll. And as noted in the stories about Bertie’s daughter Ebeth, Ebeth’s husband David McKenzie Newton was also a medical missionary, who died in Smyrna, Turkey. I have a category tag for missionary articles.
*** My wife and I similarly were married by her grandfather Rev. Robert Kinnis, in the Bearsden church (New Kilpatrick Parish Church, Manse Road), the church where my parents were married in 1946, near my grandparents’ Bearsden home (“Dunglass” in Manse Road Bearsden) where Mina died in 1945. Another similarity is that my wife and I have known each other since primary school, though we were in different classes (at Jordanhill College School). My mother-in-law was my class teacher in primaries 6 & 7, and one of my favourites, even before I knew we would be related. Finally, my parents-in-law’s wedding anniversary was also 3rd July (they were married in 1959). I had to be reminded of that by Kirsty: I can cope better with the long-deceased, it seems. Partly it’s by writing things like this down. Everyone that knows me knows that I find dates, times, names and faces difficult! I am late for things, get dates mixed up, and don’t remember birthdays. Here on NoisyBrain, at least, I can exercise a little control, check facts, and take things slowly.