The Newtons of Monifieth

The family of my great uncle Dr David McKenzie Newton (1881-1916) seem to deserve their own blog post, separate from his own story told in “Broughty Doctor Dies at Smyrna“. His elderly father was a well-known Dundee shipmaster, ship-owner and/or master mariner, associated with the clipper Pendragon. His elder brother was a mechanical engineer. There may also be a connection to the Edinburgh Pillans family. It’s a nice set of ingredients that I’ll try to bake into a Dundee cake.

A Dundee shipowner’s family

At the turn of the century, David Newton’s family home was “Linda” (why on earth‽) in Broughty Ferry, just east of Dundee. It was a 3 storey villa at what is now 33 Camperdown St. in the West Ferry, owned by his father Captain John Paul Newton.

Google Street-view image of 33 Camperdown St. from 2008, with 2012 inset.

Earlier, a reader John Cameron had been kind enough to comment as follows (March 5, 2019) under my previous post on David Newton that had included a little of the information presented here. He mentioned his own fond memories of living in the same house, and his regret at having to leave it when he retired, but didn’t know why it was called “Linda” either:

“Linda is a superb three-story house with fabulous [southerly] views over the River Tay into the hills of Fife. It was bought in 1919 by St Stephen’s (the Church of Scotland’s parish church in the West Ferry) and used as its manse until 2008. I lived there with my wife as we brought up our family during the last 35 years of its time as a manse.”

The house was on the telephone even as early as 1903, and I presume David’s mother was there until it was sold to the kirk in 1919. Captain John P. Newton or Mrs Madeline Newton appear on the valuation roll index in 1895, 1905 and 1915. I can’t see the house on the 1857-surveyed O.S. map, when the uphill land north of Camperdown Street was still a plant nursery. So the Newtons were early owners, if not the first.

Earlier, the family had been living nearby as tenants in a cottage in Invermark “Place” at Barnhill, Camphill (#1 in the 1885 valuation rolls and in the 1901 census). Captain Newton’s address as shipmaster was specified as 1 Invermark “Terrace” in the Dundee Directory of 1884. Nowadays there is (still) an Invermark Terrace mid-way between Broughty Ferry and Monifieth. The latter was then an independent coastal village, a little bit further east on the Firth of Tay. This Invermark residence seems to have been regarded as being in Monifieth, and the family cited the village as the place of birth of their three children. (I am told by a relative there where just three.)

There is s more on David and his siblings below, but for now, let’s concentrate on his father.

Captain Newton

David’s father John Paul Newton died aged 80, on 7 Jan 1903. His father’s name was Peter Newton (a ship’s carpenter) and his mother’s name was Isabella Hill. Various census returns agree that John Paul had been born in Dundee. The OPR indexes for Dundee provide his birth/baptism date: 22 Sep 1822 as well as details of his siblings. Some other likely info has been added to this table (but not checked). That’s all still to do.

d. 1877?
d. 07/01/1903
d. 04/08/1834

The parents’ wedding is also in the OPR in Dundee:


The 1851 census index suggests that Peter had been born around 1796 (aged 54) and Isabella (aged 62), around 1790. The only child in the household was Helen (aged 14). The family might also appear on the 1841 census, if Isabella was named/transcribed as “Jess” (aged 46), but neither Marjory nor Isabel (who would have been aged around 12 and 15) appear in the same entry with Helen (4) and John (16), Peter (41) and Jess, but nevertheless it may well be the right family. Another to-do is to check the possible deaths and marriages, and thus also get the previous generation’s names.

There is a 1931 probate index record for Madeline McKenzie Newton, widow (slightly awkwardly worded). She died on 9 Feb 1931 and her address was in St. Andrews, Fife (7 Queens Gardens), but the will was relatively recently written (April 1930), so this may have been a short-term address. John Mckenzie Newton, her son, was executor, He was residing at “The Croft”, Derbyshire Road, Sale (in Cheshire near Manchester, England). The estate was £1,516. The death index in GROS says Madeline Newton died aged 84 (so was born approximately in 1847).

Two marriages

What I didn’t originally do with this death certificate was to decipher and interpret John Paul’s wife’s name carefully: I searched for a few options and they came up blank, and I gave up too soon. Researching for this post, the penny dropped that she was just called Madeline: originally I had interpreted this entry to say “Married to Elspeth Anderson Madeline McKenzie”, even though her name was clear in the marriage certificate of my great aunt to David McKenzie Newton.

Detail from John Paul Newton’s death certificate.

So it seemed likely that John Paul had a first wife named Elspeth (Anderson?), who had died. This was confirmed by information about his 2nd marriage, to Madeline on 8 June 1878 in Deptford, Lewisham, Kent. That documentation states her father was David MacKenzie, a shipwright. (Recall that Madeline had been born in Glasgow.) The ages match: Madeline was 31 and unmarried; John Paul was 55… and a widower.

I have no idea if there was a family, or how, where or when Elspeth died. Not in Scotland, I think.


So, here is a summary of the BMD details of David’s parents and grandparents.

  • John Paul Newton was born in Dundee 22 Sep 1822, died 7 Jan 1903 aged 80 in Monifieth. Parents: Peter Newton and Isabella Hill.
  • Madeline McKenzie was born in Glasgow around 1848, died 7 Feb 1931 aged 84 in St. Andrews. Father: David MacKenzie.
  • They were married 8 June 1878 in Deptford, Lewisham, Kent, in England, aged 55 and 31. John was a widower.

The Pendragon

On his death certificate (registered Monifieth) Captain John Paul Newton was listed as a shipowner, and elsewhere he is described as a master mariner, or ship-master. A clippership The Pendragon was named in the newspaper article on his son’s death (see Broughty Doctor Dies at Smyrna). It referred to “Captain Newton, well known in Dundee shipping circles, … master of the clipper The Pendragon.”

The Pendragon sailed until it suffered a fire in its cargo of nitrate of soda and foundered at sea on its way from Chile to the UK in 1896 (the crew were evacuated safely), sailing I think for the Indra Line. She was a wool, wheat, coal and nitrate clipper, operating between Sydney, New Castle [sic], Lyttelton (New Zealand), Chile, and UK ports like Falmouth and Liverpool. She was barque-rigged, built in Liverpool in 1868 (ship number 60,060), and weighed 1,199 tons.

The Lammermuir and the Pendragon (image from Calisphere), some time between 1868 and 1876.

Here she is above, with (or more probably hidden behind) the more famous clippership The Lammermuir (1,054 tons, built 1864 and lost at sea 1876 while sailing from Adelaide to London – she was a replacement for the first Lammermuir 1856-1863, both owned by the same company that owned the famous Cutty Sark preserved in London as a tourist attraction and historical monument).

In later years, the Pendragon sailed under a different masters. Presumably this coincided with Captain Newton becoming retired from active sailing, his marriage, new house, and children, and approaching or turning 60 years of age. At some time he also became a ship owner, which would be interesting to know about.

As for the Pendragon: The Sydney Morning Herald, Fri 18 Aug 1882, Page 4 tells us of a clearance for departure: “Pendragon, ship, 1278 tons, Captain Samuel Morrish, for Portland, Oregon”. Elsewhere on the same page the cargo was specified as 1000 tons of coal. (She had arrived in the Port of Sydney from Liverpool on July 6th, as reported in The Argus, a Melbourne newspaper, on Fri 7 Jul 1882, Page 4.)

Lloyds Register of Masters

Specialist archives are surely full of useful material, but what appears above is all I could easily lay my hands on at the first time of writing. In 2020, I checked out Lloyd’s Register Foundation. Capt Newton was listed as master of the Pendragon in 1869, owned by McDiarmid, indeed built in Liverpool in 1868 and rated at 1278 tons. I see nothing in the 1870 list, but Newton was still the master in 1871. Prior to the Pendragon, I note that a J. Newton was master of the Roscote in 1867, 587 tons, owned by Newton & Co., and a J.Newton was master of the Dawstone in 1860, 495 tons. Perhaps these were (some of) his previous ships.

Days of sail

There is a marvelous letter to the editor in the TROVE online archive, written by a former crew-member of the Pendragon, William Wade. It appeared in the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List published in Sydney, on Wed 19 Jun 1929 (Page 5) and reprinted on Wed 26 Jun 1929 (Page 4). It reflects on the changing days when sail gave way to steam, and explains why the record-breaking passages attained by cargo sailing ships, the clippers, were never surpassed.

Cutty Sark

First, however, it is worth bringing up the Cutty Sark, built five years after the Pendragon (in Scotland in 1869 and named after the witch in Rabbie Burns’s Tam O’Shanter) which was the single fastest vessel of those times: the new composite clippers (iron ribs and copper-bottomed wooden hull) exemplified the pinnacle of design. But improvements in steam engine and steamship design from the 1860s onwards, as well as greater capacity, spelled the end for sail. Another relevant factor in its earlier demise on some routes was the Suez canal which opened in 1869, vastly shortening the route to China for the early, slower steamers on the tea trade, by about 6,000km.

Even as Cutty Sark was built, improving further on the design of clippers like Pendragon, the China “tea race”, which was almost an annual sporting event attracting great public interest, was nearly over. Wikipedia states that in eight “tea seasons” in the 1870s, Cutty Sark sailed from China to England in a range between 107 and 122 days. As for peak speed: “Cutty Sark‘s greatest recorded distance in noon to noon sights was 363 nautical miles (672 km; 418 mi) averaging 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), although she recorded 2,164 nautical miles (4,008 km; 2,490 mi) in six days, which given the weather over the whole period implied she had achieved over 370 nmi (690 km; 430 mi) some days.”

Things were changing fast, in commercial trade, engineering, and design: “So successful were the steamers using the Suez Canal that, in 1871, 45 were built in Clyde shipyards alone for Far Eastern trade” (Wikipedia).


(To the Editor). Sir, — Considerable interest is still indicated in the doings of past and present wind-jammers by references to the time occupied by wheat ships on the voyage Home to England, and comparisons with the fast passages of well-known clippers of former days.

There is hardly a fair parallel, however, as most of the famous clippers were built on lines designed to ensure speed and were relatively poor carriers, whereas the builders of later ships were compelled to design for big carrying capacity in proportion to registered tonnage, in an attempt to meet the ever increasing pressure of steamship competition.

For the same reason the crews of later ships were usually cut down to a minimum, whilst the number of seamen carried by the tea and wool clippers enabled their hard-driving skippers to carry a press of sail and take risks which those of a later period could not afford.

Then again on many occasions during the run to Cape Horn when the ‘brave West winds’ blew with gale force for days on end, lashing up the huge following ‘greybeards’ to a terrific height, the splendid trim and ample freeboard of the wool clippers enabled them to scud before it with comparative safety and reel off 300 or more miles a day, whereas, with such conditions at their worst, prudence might have necessitated ‘heaving to’ some of the ships deep laden to their plimsoll marks with wheat, because of their margin of buoyancy being so dangerously reduced.

But it was more especially in light winds that the speed of the older wool ships excelled that of the ships of later date; many of the former were built of wood or of what was known as ‘composite’ construction, and being sheathed with copper below the waterline were thus always clean, and some of the iron wool carriers with reputations to maintain were dry-docked here to ensure being at their best on the run homewards.

In an article which appeared recently in a contemporary, the ‘Torrens’ was referred to as ‘that light weather marvel,’ and as an example of the difference in speed of which ships of her type were capable as compared with the average sailer, I may say I recollect passing St. Helena homeward bound on one occasion when the ‘Torrens’ lay at anchor off the Island. Early in the morning three days later she appeared over the horizon astern, running with every available stitch of sail spread to take advantage of light South -East trade winds, and by 4 o’clock that afternoon had disappeared ahead. The ‘Torrens’ (a composite ship) was speedier by at least three knots an hour, although the ‘Pendragon’ on which I was serving was similar in size and sail spread, and could reel off 13 knots in strong winds.

Another famous clipper mentioned was the ‘Tweed’ when commanded by that grand old seaman. Captain W. Stuart, whom Joseph Conrad describes as ‘a splendid seaman and, like the Vikings of old, absolutely fearless and full of resource.’

I sailed with Captain Stuart as Chief Mate and the great writer as 3rd Mate of the ‘Loch Etive’ (on different voyages), and in a letter I received from him some years ago he ascribed the success of many famous clippers as much to the personality of their skippers as to the qualities of the ships themselves. Under Captain Stuart’s command the ‘Loch Etive’ made three round voyages in succession from Glasgow to Melbourne and Home to London in 6 months 10 days; 6 months 13 days; and 6 months 20 days, her best days run being 335 miles. The ‘Liverpool Journal of Commerce’ described these voyages as ‘equal to the record of many steamships.’

Yours faithfully, “Wm. Jno. WADE.”

Meanwhile, in fiction…

Vroom: a man in a hurry

This is from a fictional story about a clipper captain, written by Louis Arthur Cunningham, illustrated by W.V. Chambers and published on 1 April 1930 in MacLean’s Magazine (self-styled as “Canada’s National Magazine”). The story’s title is “Joan Storme’s Ship” and, well, I can’t recommend it for its literary merit, but it’s worth a read. It’s wonderful that this sort of material is digitised, and free online.

But it has nothing to do with the Pendragon, other than that introduction and some dock-side colour! The story? Well, Joan Storme, a beautiful but haughty minx, is a ship-owner’s daughter. Stormy times ahead, with moaning seas and frothing waves.

As well as such entertaining and suggesting prose, the themes are interesting in terms of gender issues, power and class. The ship, the weather and the need for sailors to enforce a collaboration to ensure smooth sailing and to avoid shipwreck provides confusing, but interesting metaphors. Patriarchal gendering is to the fore: thus the new ship sailed through the climactic storm “like a mad thing – a thing of strange, unknowable caprices – a thing like a woman, Hereward Vroom thought, as the vessel denied him and took things into her own hands, and fought … [for] certain destruction”. Because destruction is the ultimate denial?

An impression of the romantic sailor’s tale.

Spoiler alert… Vroom man-handles Miss Joan Storme below decks (she is awed by his mastery) then plunges their ship though a narrow channel, the “keen bow” penetrating between the rocks for the first time. Whew! In those days I guess it was un-remarkable for readers to accept that a male writer, and his feisty female character, would state that the new ship in the story was “like a woman… she needs mastering”. And of course the male hero, while superstitious, manipulable and shy of any meaningful relationship with women, was at the same time a successful, courageous, risk-taking expert in his manly field.

Though I’m having fun with a story I found while searching for the Pendragon, there is a serious point. This “romantic” mainstream story from 1930 could easily be rewritten in pastiche, if we wanted rather tastelessly to mock the real-world consequences of denial: one of (sometimes fatal) violence towards women, children and self, by husbands, fathers, partners and strangers who have been, or who feel, rejected. In such a re-write, Captain Vroom, the male minx, would force his ship, or aeroplane, to destruction, killing himself all aboard, rather than to lose face in some (trivial?) way. And that’s not to mock contemporary problems of male mental health. But really, it’s necessary to remember that despite everything, times have changed for the better.

Jack, mechanical engineer

Jack, as John McKenzie Newton was known, was born into a very different age from his mariner father. It was the age of steam. He went to Dundee High School for 7 years, then Edinburgh University science faculty in 1896.

He was the eldest of the family, and seems to have been close to his slightly younger brother David, my great-uncle. They were photographed with my Scobbie grandparents and other Scobbie family members including David’s wife Ebeth in 1913.

Close up of John McKenzie Newton
Jack McKenzie Newton

In August 2019,’s weekend of free access led to an English census hit for John McKenzie Newton in Loughborough in 1911.

County/Island: Leicestershire
Street address: 50 Beacon Rd
Marital status: Single
Birth Place:Monafieth, Forfar (sic)
Occupation: Designing Mechanical Enginer (sic)

He was aged 30, and an engineer. He was boarding with Jabey (sic) Ballard (59) and Louisa Ballard (56). Also in the household were Amy Johnson (mistranscribed as Jonhson) (28) and John Blackmore (25).

He shows up in 1916 in Kelly’s Directory of Leicestershire & Rutland (on page 555 covering LOUGHBOROUGH): his address was 19 Burton St. The same address appears in David’s probate entry.

There is an attestation record for John Newton of 14 Dens Road, Dundee, for territorial military service in WW1, but I’m not sure if its our Jack. Here’s an image with the signature, for future reference. There is also a discharge from the Royal Army Medical Corps dated 8 July 1919 (on grounds of disability?).

He can be found as “John Mckenzie Newton” in Ancestry’s UK, Mechanical Engineer Records, 1847-1938. His membership date of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers of 15 Nov 1918 is linked to an age (39) and a birth date (10 Jun 1879). John had been to Edinburgh University ()

The probate index shows that Jack Newton died in Wicklow, Ireland on 5 Dec 1962 (London Probate Date 13 Feb 1964). His normal address/place of death had been Rathdown House, Windgates, Bray (see below). (I think he died at Donore, Sidmonton Road, Bray.) Jack presumably had a delightful lifestyle in later life fitting a professional career in that era: his estate was valued at £32,557. He seems to have moved to Ireland some time after 1931 (see below).

Jack Newton’s Irish home (south of Dublin, near the coast), was a 4 bedroom detached house in the countryside. Luckily, details are available, because it was sold in 2019. I am entertained by the following description because it is in glorious Estate-Agentese.

“Rathdown House nestles between the southern slopes of Bray Head on the approach to Greystones, and the Earl of Meath’s Kilruddery and Belmont Estates- a scenic backdrop of mature woodland, pasture meadows, and a haven for wildlife, but all very accessible to local amenities and transport hubs. Set on almost an acre of lovingly tended lawned pleasure grounds including fruit and kitchen gardens, this period property presents a handsome double fronted elevation plus an east wing garage/coach house conversion providing home working/ consultation suite options, at will. Three elegantly proportioned principal reception rooms radiate from the attractive tiled Entrance Hall and return Gallery stairwell and are presented in impeccable decorative order.”

Rathdown House, Wicklow, Ireland. Copied from website. It is very close to Belvedere Hall (1860s), now a school listed on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage.

Census and siblings


Three years after their 1878 marriage, John Paul Newton and Madeline Newton (or McKenzie) were at #2 (sic) Invermark Terrace, with their baby son John McKenzie Newton (aged 1). John Paul was described as a master mariner, and the careers of both Johns have been described above.


In the 1891 census, with the head of household Captain Newton absent, the household (at an unclear address which is probably #1 Invermark Terrace) has been transcribed as follows:

NEWTON JOHN M R C (sic) 11

So given these census returns, here is my best stab at the entire family:

  • John McKenzie Newton, aka Jack, was the eldest child, born 10 Jun 1879, died 5 Dec 1962. Birth indexed for Monifieth and given as Monifieth in the 1901 census. (“M R C” may be based on McK in the unseen original?)
  • David McKenzie Newton, born 28 May 1881, died 31 May 1916. Birth indexed for Monifieth and given as Monifieth in the 1901 census.
  • Madeline Hill Newton, whose birth is indexed for 1883 in Monifieth and given as Barnhill in the 1891 census.
  • William Hill Newton was born in 1885 in Monifieth and almost certain to be a brother. He died 1887, aged 2.
  • James Whittet Newton, born 4 Dec 1889. His birth is indexed for 1889 in Monifieth and given as Barnhill in the 1891 census.
  • Also, the birth records mention a Robert William Newton was born in Monifieth in 1893, who may be yet another brother, or this may be a red herring.
  • Also, there is an Ann Newton was born in Monifieth in 1896, who may be a sister, or another red herring.

I need to check the original to see if these are indeed all siblings or some other relative who happened to be present with the family on census day. Also, these last two Newton children not from the 1891 census may be entirely unconnected, but are the last of only seven children with the Newton surname born in Monifieth in the 60 year period 1850-1910. So, there may be a connection. Accessing their birth certificates is on the to-do list.


Ten years later, the index for the census shows two of John Paul and Madeline’s children. John (aka Jack) was working as a steam engine fitter. The household also had a general servant called Catherine Faichney (aged 26, single), from Muthill, Perthshire.



I can’t find them, but they were still resident in Linda (Camperdown St).


  • David’s sister Madeline (as Madelaine) married John Donald Mills (as mentioned below, an executor for David) in 1908. I can’t see when she died. Her husband died in 1958.
  • David’s younger bother James Whittet Newton went to Dundee High School, gaining his leaving certificate in 1908. He married Elizabeth Evelyn Pillans in Morningside, Edinburgh, in 1917. I can’t quickly see other information about the couple in Scotland, but Pillans is a handy surname, connected to a publishing for around 2 centuries.

Newton + Pillans

The Pillans family appear to have been in Morningside for the 1911 census, with children born in Edinburgh (registered Newington). The parents were Marion Cowan Easton (1859-1949) and James Thomson Pillans (1856-1915). Her birth was registered in Kirknewton and East Calder, and his in Edinburgh. They were married in 1888 in Edinburgh.

There are some Pillans researchers out there – I hope these breadcrumbs are seen by them and that there is a connection. Or that I can record this all as a mistake! Pillans in Edinburgh probably means publishing. I hope to find out more. But that’s all for now.

PILLANS JAMES T (James Thomson d. 1915 Morningside aged 58) 54
PILLANS MARION C (Marion Cowan d. 1949 Morningside aged 90) 52
PILLANS ELIZABETH E (Elizabeth Evelyn, b. 1890) 21
PILLANS MARION C (Marion Cowall (sic), b. 1892) 18
PILLANS KATHARINE W (Katherine Weir, b.1894) 17
PILLANS JAMES E (James Easton, b. 1897) 13

Newton + John Donald Mills

An unfamiliar (and conveniently unique) name had appeared in the 1919 probate index for Dr David McKenzie Newton, below. He is John Donald Mills, architect, 10 Tay Square, Dundee. The only person I could find with this name was born in 1872 (St. Peter, Dundee), and died in 1958 (453/12 St. Andrews & St. Leonards, aged 86). Because his name was equally, and conveniently, unique in the marriage index, it confirmed David had a sister called Madeline (or Madelaine), thus helping find the correct family in the census.


Since this work, I’ve heard from a distant cousin who recalls David, Jack and Madeline as three siblings… and not the others. So this means I need to see that 1891 census.

Sources and Archives

  • Calisphere. University of California. [Images of The Pendragon and The Lammermuir downloaded 14/08/2017]
  • Pendragon list at TROVE. National Library of Australia. [page active with 8 items, commented with a link to the Broughty Doctor blog piece, which used to contain that content, 16/08/2017]
  • Simpson, Paul W. (2017) Windjammer. Lulu Press. ISBN 9780244909116 [on-demand hardback available, e-book published 22 May 2017, last acccessed via google books on 14 August 2017. Pendragon information on page 163]
  • Wreck Reports (number 5459) at Plimsoll [accessed 16/08/2017]
  • Wrecksite: Pendragon  [accessed 16/08/2017]
  • Joan Storme’s Ship is in MacLean’s Magazine, April 1 1930, pages 14, 15, 98, 99, 102, 103, linked with three downloadable screens at:
  • Census 1891 – 310/ 7/ 4 Monifieth
  • Census 1901 – 310/ 8/ 34 Monifieth
  • (Matriculation Number 2552).
  • Thanks to Lyndsay Tee, who found the 1878 English marriage information.
  • John Whittet Newton’s DoB from the high school leaving certificate index on

Before starting on this, I should just have asked Ebeth Newton (aka Galloway)’s grand-daughter – I’m sure her mother, my great aunt, Dr Elizabeth Mitchell will have gathered all this information (and more) in her extensive research already! I keep re-finding clues. Well, it’s partly about the information, but also about the fun of finding it, and not least it’s about the fun of the rabbit holes like the Joan Storme story.

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