Ayrshire coal and Hay

My mother-in-law Nessie (Agnes Inglis Erskine, later Kinnis, 1929-2017) came from a small family. Her upbringing was in rural Ayrshire (west central Scotland). Nessie was an only child. Having only a handful of relatives (in Switzerland and Lincolnshire), was part of her identity, at least as expressed to me in the context of family history.

People are related through their historical social networks, just as much as through their trees of blood relatives. The most important of these relationships is, of course, marriage. But other strong connections poke through the genealogical facts below. What follows is not just four generations of Hay men; not just a line of coal miners. I’ve named many non-relatives, fellow coal miners, neighbours, and friends.

My personal example of the “small world” is that, before she was my mother-in-law, Nessie was my primary school teacher for two years in the early 1970s, 45 years ago. (This is all part of my identity, of course.) I was 10 or 11… oh jings, and she was then a decade younger than I am now! So we go back a long way, me and her. And it’s no surprise maybe that my wife was in the same primary school (and all our siblings).

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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.

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Bricking it

Not only did I know nothing about my family’s brick-making business, it turns out that I knew nothing about bricks, and how brick-making, ironstone-mining, shale-oil and coal-mining were connected to those awful blaize / blaze / blaes school hockey and football pitches. Scottish kids like me who fell face-first onto this brutal surface will never forget it. You might have experienced the same thing on something you knew as a “cinder” track. But for me it will always be “blaes” (this spelling is new to me), though the word now conjours up more than just skint knees.

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Jolly Hockey Sticks!

My father’s four sisters went to fee-paying Laurel Bank School in Glasgow, one of a triumvirate of girls’ schools along with Westbourne and Park. All have now merged in one way or another. Point is… I’ve got a bunch of hockey team photos from the later 1920s, some of them with names on; so I thought I’d put them online. Do you recognise a relative? Can you name someone? Do leave a comment!

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David Laughland Scobbie and Marion Young Dick

This was going to be just a set of photos, presenting images of a handsome boy who became a distinguished-looking man. He was my father’s Uncle David, whose ninety years and more spanned the major events of recent history (14 Jul 1886 – 25 Feb 1978). Even though I was a teenager by 1978, I never met him, or his wife Marion Young Dick (27 Aug 1884 – 30 Jul 1978). I’m not even sure how her name was pronounced. I’ve heard her name pronounced as if it started “Mary” with the vowel from FACE, rather than starting like “marry”, as would be expected.[1] This post is now more than photos. It’s a wee biography of the couple, and where they lived in Uddingston in Lanarkshire, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for others.

For David’s toffee factory in Craigneuk, Wishaw, go here.

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Two (well, three) men called Archibald Taylor – for Armistice Day

My aunt’s family history is convoluted, complex and interesting, the complexity providing a good training in genealogy. Some elements are stark and simple. The death of her mother’s first husband in WW1, the “Great War”, and of their son, her (half) brother in WW2… they were both killed in action. That’s pretty straightforward. You’d think.

It took a while, but now I know who’s who. I still know nothing personal about these men. Nor their lives before or during the wars that killed them. I am not really related to them (my mother’s sister-in-law’s mother’s first husband & son) in any clear way. But the centenary of the armistice in 1918 is a good time for a minding, and for me to mind them in particular. And some others. We are all connected. Me the writer; you the reader; and the dead. I know these soldiers’ bare details, a little general context, and something about what happened to those they left behind, but apart from that… their personalities, hopes and dreams? They are unknown to me.  But here they are.

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Six Kinnis siblings in Ledaig, Argyll

John Kinnis and Janet Black immigrated to Ardchattan to live at South Ledaig Farm just north of what is now the Connel Bridge to farm, living there together during the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.  None of their six children married, so the family and Kinnis name have evaporated locally, despite the six lifetimes and more lived in this beautiful area of Scotland. It would be nice to know more about them, and to know if such an “insular” experience was normal or unusual. Maybe they were sociable pillars of the community or perhaps they led an isolated existence. Were they happily self-sufficient?  They will never speak for themselves, but perhaps there are some folk memories (or photographs) of the family out there.

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Diamond and Gold and “Ruby”

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.

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Inheriting privilege

So far, Noisybrain is full of “privilege”.  This is what I think about it.

At the bottom of this posting is a list of recommended people’s family / history stories chosen in part because they differ from my own initial postings here. First, a surprisingly long discussion:

  1. The modern meaning of privilege (with an aside about institutional patronage and those angry, annoying, patronising internet cartoons and discussions).
  2. A  genealogical perspective, both specific and general, on why this topic is so relevant and helping in augmenting and interpreting the bare binary bones of family tree ancestry: family history people are generally pretty interested in the loss and acquisition of privilege down the generations.
  3. A nod to the much broader genetic or population perspective.
  4. The Scottish context, with a little history of the Highlands, Lowlands and Ireland, and a reminder that there are a variety of the ways in which an ancestor’s lack of privilege plays out for their descendants. Obviously us Scots are not all the same, but less obviously privilege can vary a lot even within a single family.
  5. A change of perspective, to the continuing diversity in privilege within contemporary Scotland, with a focus on the “Glasgow Effect”, one of the negative legacies of our economic and social history (which seems set to continue).
  6. A brief reminder that one of the national legacies of the British Empire and European colonialism has been, from a global perspective, Scotland’s relative privilege.
  7. A conclusion that reminds us there is diversity everywhere, even in a homogeneous family, while stating the obvious fact that there are far more extreme examples, and that it’s the latter that are more important in contemporary society.
  8. The links to blogs, books, podcasts and so on. Continue reading “Inheriting privilege”

The long summer of 1913

This Scottish summertime photograph, helpfully labelled on the back, celebrates the 35th (so-called coral) wedding anniversary of James Scobbie and Mina Laughland on July 3rd 1913, just before WW1. For photos from their diamond wedding celebrations in 1938 just before WW2 along with newspaper biographies, see the post on their diamond, gold and “ruby” anniversaries. A looming war is invisible in photographs like this, if we can resist the temptation to use hindsight to pour meaning into the expressions of the people in these gapless gatherings.

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Morningside Wedding, Morningside Funeral

Ebeth Scobbie married at 28 and was widowed at 33. As Mrs Ebeth Newton, she married again at 46, to a successful and well-regarded Edinburgh solicitor, Robert Galloway, also a widow. He was 69. Their wedding in 1930 was at Greenbank Church (near Robert’s home) in the south of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.

I assume Ebeth and Robert found happiness with each other – they had just each lived through a dozen or so years of widowhood, right through the 1920s. I wonder if their ages were a big talking point back then: there was a 23 year age gap, which I assume was  unusual. Is that Angus (Robert’s son) scowling in the background?! Or does just he just have a serious face? Well, Angus was just 11 years younger than Ebeth… and they were in the same generation, given that they had both “seen action” in the war. Maybe he was uncomfortable.

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“longing to see you”

Scotland knew of Dr David McKenzie Newton’s death in Turkey within a couple of weeks, presumably by telegram. Everyone knew his widow Ebeth was in limbo. What information flowed over the next two years, we don’t know. But we do know about something about 1916, how help was offered, and it was a treat to read some of the bizarrely baroque official consular and diplomatic language involved on the one hand, and the reserved but emotion-packed words in others. Drafts, CC: lists, pencil annotations and typewritten forms survive. Just how did things work back then? During a war! After 100 years here are the few official papers. Like fossils, they have been preserved (unlike most life), and can be found in the UK’s National Archives.

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