#52 ancestors No 2 – why rent when you’ve already bought?

This entry is part [part not set] of 2 in the series 52 Ancestors

The second of my 52 ancestors – and my other paternal grandfather – is Robert TEMPLETON, the sixth child of Kilmarnock postman William TEMPLETON and his wife, Agnes McCUTCHEON.

Robert was born just before Christmas 1849, on 23 December, in Kilmarnock in Ayrshire where he lived for the rest of his life.

In 1872 he married a girl from just over the river in the parish of Riccarton.  Robert married Jane DUNLOP on 29 November 1872 in Riccarton, Ayrshire when he was 23 and she was 20.  The young couple set up house in Kilmarnock and had two sons: William born on 26 February 1873, and Walter born on 4 November 1874.  Unfortunately, Jane didn’t long survive the birth of her son and died on 1 December 1874.  Her death certificate states that she died of fever which had lasted 14 days – possibly this was puerperal fever.  Wee Walter died 10 months later, on 6 October 1875, of an inflammation of the bowels.

1878 Certificate of Banns for Robert Templeton and Elizabeth Young
1878 Certificate of Banns for Robert Templeton and Elizabeth Young

Three years after this, on 30 August 1878, Robert married a 29-year-old domestic servant Elizabeth YOUNG.  Robert and Elizabeth had one son, George, who was born on 5 August 1880.  They had been married for almost 22 years when Elizabeth died on 13 July 1900 aged 52.

Robert Templeton, Elizabeth Young and son. George
Robert Templeton, Elizabeth Young and son. George

Robert lived on to see his youngest son George marry in 1912, and died of acute pneumonia on 11 March 1913 aged 63 – just one month before the marriage of his eldest son, William.

Throughout his adult life, Robert worked as an iron turner and lived in a series of rented tenement flats in a small area in the south of the town bounded by the Kilmarnock Water, the River Irvine and London Road (now the B7073).  However, his will shows that he also owned property at numbers 67 and 69 Robertson Place in Kilmarnock.  Tracing these properties backwards through the online copies of the Valuation Rolls, Robert appears to have bought them at some time between 1895 and 1905; as in 1905 they were rented to various members of his extended family.  I need to do more research in the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh, but the question remains – why rent when you’ve already bought?

52 Ancestors #1 – It’s all his fault.

This entry is part [part not set] of 2 in the series 52 Ancestors

I’ve decided to join Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge this year so, to kick things off, I’m re-publishing an article I wrote back in 2009.  Since it’s about the man who triggered my interest in genealogy over 25 years ago I think it’s appropriate that he should be number one in the series…

I got interested in family history because of this man.

Robert Dunlop
Robert Dunlop

I never met him – he died in 1921 – but I’d always been aware of him because his portrait was propped against a wall in my parents’ bedroom and he was the only member of the family I’d ever seen who shared my red hair.  His name is Robert Dunlop, he was born in Ayrshire in 1848, the oldest of seven children born to a colliery engineman and his wife, and he was my great-grandfather.

In 1988 my mum received a letter from someone who had come across his papers in the National Museum of Scotland.  She had written an article about Robert and thought that his family might be interested in reading it before it was published.  My father had died two years before this and we knew very little about his side of the family, so that letter was the trigger that set me off.

Robert’s mother didn’t want him to follow family tradition and go down the mines so, when he was 14 she had him apprenticed as an iron moulder in Kilmarnock.  Five years later, in 1867, the iron master had the existing apprentices locked out and took on some new ones.  A disgruntled Robert persuaded the foundry clerk to show him his indentures and promptly burnt them.  He then ran away to the big city and a couple of months later his new foreman in Glasgow told him that “a lame man with a tall had and a policeman” were waiting to see him.  Robert jumped over the wall and fled.

He moved to Airdire and, on 1 March 1870, he married my great-grandmother, Ann Hunter.

Ann Hunter
Ann Hunter


Robert took up photography and fossil collecting, started going to chemistry evening classes and even won the Queen’s Prize for Scotland, later teaching evening classes himself.  By 1884 Robert had been appointed manager of the Stanrigg Oil Works in Airdrie.

Between 1872 and 1882 Robert and Ann had had nine children, including a set of twins, unfortunately only three of these children survived to adulthood.

In 1899, Robert was employed by the Pumpherston Oil Company – a forerunner of BP – to set up a new oil shale plant in New Zealand.  Some time round about then, this family photo was taken.

The Dunlop family about 1899
The Dunlop family about 1899 Robert and Ann (seated centre-left), daughter Elizabeth (left), sons David and Walter (right), Walter’s wife Janet and their three children – Robert, Agnes and Annie. The youngest child in this photo – Annie – was born on 31 January 1898.

Robert was to set up this oil shale plant in Orepuki, in New Zealand’s Southland and on 8 February 1899 the family left London aboard the SS Kaikoura for the 90-day trip to New Zealand.

From local accounts, the oil shale work seems to have had a huge impact on the area.  Robert obviously had faith in the new works as he bought 260 shares in the New Zealand Oil & Coal company which had been set up to finance the enterprise.

However the oil works was not a commercial success and in 1902 it closed suddenly with very little notice.  The official reason given for the closure was the government’s removal of the import duty on kerosene – locals blamed it on a conspiracy by the American oil companies.

Robert and his family returned to Scotland in 1903.

In 1911, when he was 63, Robert was appointed caretaker of the Pittencrief House Museum in Dunfermline.  He died on 21 April 1921 and his will shows that he had kept his shares in the New Zealand Oil & Coal Company until his death.

Robert Dunlop as an old man
Robert Dunlop as an old man

This is the last photo I have of Robert and we don’t know when it was taken.  If anyone knows anything about old scooters – I’d be grateful for your help.



Glasgow Police Museum is alive and well

The Glasgow Police were Britain’s oldest police force.  The first attempts to establish a police force for Glasgow were made as far back as 1779 but it wasn’t until the Glasgow Police Act was passed in 1800 that a permanent force was established.  The newly formed force, consisting of three sergeants, six police officers and 68 watchmen mustered for the first time in the Laigh Church, Trongate on 15 November 1800.

For the following 175 years the City of Glasgow Police served the city.  The force was finally disbanded on 15 May 1975 when it was amalgamated with other forces to form Strathclyde Police.

The Glasgow Police Museum tells the story of this police force.  You can view

  • displays of uniforms and equipment
  • documents and photographs
  • displays of gallantry and service medals
  • stories of the people who served in this force

The museum is located at 30 Bell Street, Glasgow G1 1LG and is open free of charge, seven days a week from 1 April to 31 October, Monday – Saturday 10am to 4.30pm and Sunday 12 noon to 4.30pm.  From 1 November to 31 March the museum is open on Tuesdays 10am to 4.30pm and on Sundays 12 noon to 4.30pm.

The Police Museum also has a website at http://www.policemuseum.org.uk/ where you can read about the history of the force.

Way back in December 2008 I posted an item about the closure of the old museum, with a later update in the comments section giving the address, opening times and website for the museum in its new location.  I’ve been contacted by Alistair Dinsmor, the curator, to point out that that old post was causing confusion to potential visitors so I’m happy to post this update.


The show of the year

The display stand has been checked, flyers counted, train tickets bought, flights booked and hotel rooms reserved… all in aid of the UK’s largest genealogy show.

Yes it’s time for Who Do You Think You Are? Live! which takes place this weekend from Friday 24 to Sunday 26 February 2012 in London’s Olympia.

There will be plenty to see and do over the three days:

  • exhibitors from all the major online companies, libraries, museums and dozens of family history societies from across the UK;
  • photo-dating experts;
  • displays relating to long lost occupations and the daily life of workers from postal workers to nurses, agricultural workers and more;
  • specialists from a host of military museums to help you with your military queries;
  • celebrities Larry Lamb, Emilia Fox and Richard Madeley from the WDYTYA TV series talking about their experiences filming the show;
  • The Society of Genealogists’ ‘Ask the Experts’ area provides an opportunity to get some one-to-one guidance on your family history research.

In addition there’s a full programme of talks and workshops over the three days.

There are some new features in this year’s show:

  • a keynote workshop entitled Breaking the Barriers with Social Networking – Strategies and Tricks.  The speaker will be  Laurence Harris, Head of Genealogy (UK) at MyHeritage.com followed by a Q&A session with invited panellists D. Joshua Taylor, Lisa Louise Cooke, Peter Christian, Paul Howes and Daniel Lynch
  • meet your favourite bloggers and tweeters who’ll be wearing rosettes sponsored by the Society of Genealogists
  • live broadcast talks from the show on Friday and Saturday:
    • Friday 24th February 2012
      • 10:30 – 11:15 GMT: First steps: Build your family tree with censuses and birth, marriage and death records
      • 13:30 – 14:45 GMT: Ancestry.co.uk revealed: the brand new features in the best-selling family history software
      • 15:30 – 16:15 GMT: Before 1837 by TONY ROBINSON: Discover the events that shaped your ancestors’ lives, and the records they left behind.
    • Saturday 25th February 2012
      • 11:00 – 11:45 GMT: Going further: Discover your ancestors all over the world with our global records
      • 13:00 – 13:45 GMT: Parish records: Uncover the records for your area and trace your family all the way back to Tudor times
      • 15:00 – 15:45 GMT: Getting started: Build your family tree with censuses and birth, marriage and death records

Find out how to view the live broadcasts on the Ancestry blog at http://blogs.ancestry.com/uk/2012/02/16/tony-robinson-others-to-be-broadcast-live-from-who-do-youthink-you-arelive-to-our-facebook-page/

If you’re a National Institute for Genealogical Studies student come and meet Managing Director Louise St Denis, Director of Scottish Studies Sheena Tait (that’s me!) and Director of English Studies Kirsty Grey.  Louise and I will be on stand 87/88 all weekend, Kirsty (who also works full-time as a teacher) will be there on Saturday and Sunday.

With all this going on you can’t afford to miss it.

See you there!


Your central girders…

This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster
from the Illustrated Police Gazette for 17 January 1880

Your central girders would not have given way,

At least many sensible men do say,

Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,

At least many sensible men confesses,

For the stronger we our houses do build

The less chance we have of being killed.

 The Court of Inquiry presented its findings to parliament in June 1880.  The Court concluded that the bridge had been badly designed, badly constructed and badly maintained, but it could not explain what has happened on the night of the disaster.  Sir Thomas Bouch was held almost totally responsible for the disaster.

 Sir Thomas Bouch died on 30 October 1880 and was buried in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh.

The Disaster Relief Fund totalled £6,527.  Small sums were distributed to the bereaved families, intended to provide immediate assistance rather than long-term support.  The final application to the fund was made, just before the Second World War, by Miss Janet Patterson Scott.  Her brother had been one of guards on the train.  Before the directors of Fund had reached a decision, Miss Scott died in St Andrews, aged 74.

The balance the Fund was ultimately transferred to the Piper Alpha Disaster Appeal and the Fund wound up in 1988.


The grave of Sir Thomas Bouch in Edinburgh's Dean Cemetery (photo by Kim Traynor)

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known…

This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster
from the Illustrated Police News for 17 January 1880

As soon as the catastrophe came to be known,

The alarm from mouth to mouth was blown,

Over in Dundee, several groups of people who were watching the train cross the bridge saw its lights disappear.  In Tay Bridge Station, staff became increasingly worried; the train had not left the bridge and the telegraph was faulty.  Word spread rapidly.  The bridge was down.  A crowd started to gather outside the station and lights sprang from windows across the city as people opened their curtains to stare towards the bridge.  A ferryboat was sent to the bridge and put down a lifeboat to search for survivors.  Unsuccessful, they returned to the harbour about midnight.  Telegrams were sent, via Perth, to the North British Railway, to Sir Thomas Bouch and, from a reporter on the Dundee Advertiser, to the London press.  Few in Dundee slept that night.

On Monday, rumours spread and the crowd grew.  The news travelled across Britain by telegraph and all the later editions of the newspapers used the Tay Bridge disaster as their lead story.  Just before sunset, floating three miles downstream from the bridge, the first body was found.  By Wednesday, divers had found the train and its engine, but no more bodies.  Debris and personal effects started be washed up on the beach.  That evening, the Town Council called a public meeting and proposed that a disaster relief fund be set up.  They had already received £1,980 in donations, including £500 from the North British Railway, £500 from the directors of the company and £250 from Sir Thomas Bouch.

The week dragged on.  A Board of Trade Inquiry was convened.  No more bodies were found, but the crews of the whaling boats searching at the mouth of the river claimed that a drowned man would not rise to the surface until seven days had passed.

 On the Sunday, Sabbatarian ministers had a field day:

 “If there is one voice louder than others in this terrible event it is that o God! Determined to guard his Sabbath with jealous care.”

 “Is it not awful to think that they must have been carried away when many of them must have known that they were transgressing the lawof God?”

On Monday 5 January 1880, the eighth day after the disaster, a second body was found.

By the middle of the second week the bodies of 25 men, women and children had been recovered.  The search went on throughout January.  By the end of the month, 33 bodies had been found.  About four months after the disaster a body, identified as one of the passengers, was washed ashore in Caithness.

In total, 46 bodies were recovered.

from the Illustrated Police News for 17 January 1880

The wind it blew…

This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster

The central girders (from The Graphic of 3 January 1880)

The wind it blew with all its might,

And the rain came pouring down,

December 1879 was a bad month all over Europe, with storms and frosts prevailing.  By about six o’clock on the evening of 28 December, the rain was torrential and an 80-mile-an-hour gale was blowing down the river.  Three railway wagons loaded with coal were blown 400 yards along the track at Tay Bridge Station before the wheels were chocked to prevent them from moving any further.

So the train mov’d slowly along the Bridge of Tay,

Until it was about midway,

Very few trains ran on Sundays in Scotland at that time, but one that did was the mail train between Dundee and Burntisland in Fife.

At 5.20 pm on that Sunday evening the mail train picked up ferry passengers from Edinburgh and set off on its journey north, stopping at Ladybank, Cupar and Leuchars to pick up additional passengers.  At 7.05 pm, the train arrived at St Fort, the final station before the bridge.  As was the custom, the station staff collected the tickets of all the passengers intending to get off the train at Dundee.  When they sorted the tickets, they had collected 57.  There had been two season-ticket holders, and the 10 or 11 passengers travelling on beyond Dundee still had their tickets.  There were five railway staff on the train.  Five minutes later, the engine reached Wormit signal box and the men on the footplate were given the baton or staff which was the driver’s authority to proceed along the track across the bridge

Beautiful Railway Bridge

This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster

The Tay Bridge from Tayside (The Graphic, 3 January 1880)

On the last Sabbath day of 1879

At approximately 7.20 pm on Sunday 28 December 1879, a 1,060 yard stretch of the longest railway bridge in the world collapsed, killing 75 men, women and children.  The Tay Bridge disaster sent shock waves through Victorian Britain, ended the career of its designer Sir Thomas Bouch and inspired William McGonnagal, Scotland’s worst poet, to write his famous poem The Tay Bridge Disaster.

During the 1850s and 1860s, the Caledonian Railway and the North British Railway were locked in a bitter struggle for dominance of Scottish railway industry.  The 64-mile journey from Edinburgh to Dundee took three hours and 12 minutes to complete: by train from Edinburgh to Granton on Forth, by ferry to Burntisland, train to Tayport, another boat to Broughty Ferry then a third train to Dundee.  Thomas Bouch had long dreamed of bridging the River Tay, and the North British Railway, which dominated in the east of Scotland, could see the commercial advantages.  After much opposition and politicking, the idea of a bridge over the Tay caught the public’s imagination and the parliamentary bill authorising the construction of Thomas Bouch’s bridge received royal assent on 15 July 1870.  The foundation stone of the new bridge was laid at Wormit, on the south bank of the Tay, on Saturday 22 July 1871.  The river at this point was one mile wide.  However, the line’s route at an angle across the river, and the bends necessary at either end, meant that the bridge would be almost two miles long.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!

The men employed to build the bridge worked 12 hours a day and were paid up to 10d per hour (about 4p in today’s currency).  The developing bridge became a tourist attraction and was visited by many professional engineers.  The most famous visitor was General Ulysses S Grant, former president of the United States, who inspected the work in September 1877.

The bridge took 600 workmen six years to build and cost £300,000 and 20 lives.  The inauguration of a passenger service took place on Friday 31 May 1878.  It was a memorable day: the sun shone, flags flew, bands played, the militia marched, toasts and speeches were made and children lined the street cheering and sucking Tay Bridge rock.

The bridge was a success: the journey time to Edinburgh was cut by an hour, land values on the south bank of the river rose rapidly and the North British Railway Company now dominated the railways in the north of Scotland.  In late June of 1879 Queen Victoria, on her way back from Balmoral, stopped briefly at the new Tay Bridge Station in Dundee and then crossed the bridge.  Thomas Bouch received a knighthood.

Some harboured doubts about the bridge, however.  Regular travellers complained that they could see the girders moving and that trains were exceeding the speed limit.  Maintenance men found bolts that had fallen out and bolts that had rusted through, and there were holes in the girders.

Did your ancestor die in the Tay Bridge disaster?

This entry is part [part not set] of 5 in the series Tay Bridge Disaster
From the Illustrated Police News for 10 January 1880

On Sunday 28 December 1879, a 1,060 yard stretch of the Tay Bridge, the longest railway bridge in the world, collapsed killing 75 men, women and children.

The UK TV series Find My Past featured a programme about the disaster which prompted me to dust off this research which I carried out several years ago and post it here together with a short series of posts telling the story of the disaster.

Sixty victims were identified but only 45 victims’ bodies were recovered.  The known victims are listed below – where no town is given in the address then the victim lived in Dundee.

Name   Occupation Address
Anderson, Joseph 21 Compositor 13 South Ellen Street
Annan, Thomas 20 Iron turner 48 Princes Street
Bain, Archibald 26 Farmer Mains of Balgay
Bain, Jessie 22 Sister of the above Mains of Balgay
Benyon William + 1 Photographer Cheltenham
Brown, Lizzie 14 Tobacco spinner 28 Arbroath Road
Cheap, Mrs 51 Domestic servant 121 High Street, Lochee
Crichton, James Ploughman Mains of Fintry
Cruickshank, Annie 54 Domestic servant Moray Place, Edinburgh
Culross, Robert Carpenter Newport
Cunningham, David 21 Mason 23 Pitalpin Street, Lochee
Davidson, Thomas 28 Farm servant Linlathen
Easton, Mrs Widow
Fowlis, Robert 21 Mason 23 Pitalpin Street, Lochee
Graham, David 37 Teacher Stirling
Hamilton, John 32 Grocer 16 North Ellen Street
Henderson, James 22 Labourer 3 Church Street
Hendry, Elizabeth 62 Prior Road, Forfar
Jobson, David 39 Oil & colour merchant 3 Airlie Place
Johnston, David 24 Railway guard Edinburgh
Johnston, George 25 Mechanic
Jack, William Grocer 57 Mains Road
Kinnear, Margaret 17 Domestic servant 6 Shore Terrace
Leslie, James 22 Clerk Boffin Street
Lawson, John 25 Plasterer 39 Lilybank Road
McBeath, David 44 Railway guard 46 Castle Street
Mackdonald, William 41 Sawmiller 70 Blackness Road
Mackdonald, David 11 Schoolboy 70 Blackness Road
Mitchell, David 37 Engine driver 89 Peddie Street
Marshall, John 24 Stoker 18 Hunter Street
Murray, Donald 49 Mail guard 13 South Ellen Street
Milne, Elisabeth Dressmaker
Murdoch, James 21 Engineer 1 Thistle Street
Millar, James Flax dresser Dysart
McIntosh, George 43 Goods guard 25 Hawkhill
Neish, David 37 Teacher & registrar 51 Couper Street, Lochee
Neish, Bella 5 Daughter of the above 51 Couper Street, Lochee
Ness, Walter 24 Saddler 4 Bain Square, Wellgate
Ness, George
Neilson, William 31 53 Monk Street, Gateshead
Nicoll, Mrs Elisabeth 24 46 Bell Street
Paton, James 42 Mechanic Edinburgh
Peebles, William 30-40
Peebles, James 15 Apprentice grocer Newport
Robertson, William 21 Labourer 100 Foundry Lane
Robertson, Alexander 23 Labourer 100 Foundry Lane
Salmond, Peter 43 Blacksmith 50 Princes Street
Scott, David 26 Goods guard 7 Yeaman Shore
Scott, John 30 Pipe maker
Sharp, John 35 Joiner 76 Commercial Street
Smart, Eliza 22 Domestic servant Union Mount, Perth Road
Spence, Annie 21 Weaver 62 Kemback Street
Syme, David 22 Clerk Royal Hotel, Nethergate
Taylor, George 25 Mason 56 Union Street
Threlfell, William 18 Confectioner 9 Union Street
Veitch, William 18 Cabinet maker 39 Church Street
Watson, David Commission agent Newport
Watson, Robert 34 Moulder 12 Lawrence Street
Watson, David 9 Son of the above 12 Lawrence Street
Watson, Robert 6 Son of R Watson 12 Lawrence Stree




To see ghosts – look upwards

No – I don’t mean the type of ghost that floats about wearing a white sheet and moaning but, just possibly, the ghost of your ancestor’s place of work or business.

Most of our towns and cities have “ghost signs” – traces of old business signs – remaining on the upper stories of their buildings.

Here are just a few from a trip to Bath yesterday:

in Milsom Street:


In Broad Street:

Argyle Street and Pulteney Bridge:


and finally, just outside Bath Spa station:

and on the opposite corner this building:

boasts two ghosts:


Have fun ghost hunting but don’t forget to watch where you’re going as well!