Monday, May 30, 2011

New Membership Secretary, Bill Stewart

Bill Stewart
The Society has a new Membership Secretary, Bill Stewart, appointed at yesterday's Annual General Meeting succeeding Fred Kennington who had held the post for 4 years.

We're sorry to see Fred go, because he has been a very capable Membership Secretary, and he was well known to many members through his work, his talks to the Society and elsewhere, and his books. Fred has 'retired' to spend more time with his wife, look after the garden and to write even more books.

Bill Stewart has just retired from full time employment as a building surveyor with an architectural practice in Eyemouth, Berwickshire.

Born in 1946 in the village of Ayton, Bill has spent nearly all his life in eastern Berwickshire, the only break being in the early 1970s when he spent a couple of years in Galashiels before returning again to the east coast. For the last 33 years, he has lived in Ayton with his wife, Jeanette, and two sons where he takes an active part in community life having been involved in some way with most village organisations. Bill has been a JP for more than twenty years and currently sits on the bench in the Justice of the Peace Court in Duns.

His interest in family history goes back almost 20 years to the period just before his parents died when he realised that there was no record of his family history and the older generations were fast disappearing. From his research he has made contact with a number of 'cousins' living abroad in Australia and Canada and has established that his paternal grandmothers' family have been in Coldingham Parish  for the past 300 years.

His other interests are the Church where he is an Elder, Fabric Convenor and Clerk to the Congregational Board, Rotary where he is a Past President and current Secretary of the Rotary Club of Eyemouth and District; and Curling where he is Secretary of Ayton Castle Curling Club. In 2008 Bill toured Canada with the Scottish Rotary Curling team. 
In his spare time Bill enjoys walking, gardening and travel and hopes to take up golf in his retirement.

Contact Bill on our Contacts page using the contact type 'Questions about Membership'.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Granny's Bawbees and Other Coins

This is the title of a talk I'm giving this Sunday, 29th May at the Corn Exchange, Market Square, Melrose, TD6 9PN. Map.

It's a brief introduction to Scottish coinage, and other coins, and tokens that circulated in and around the Scottish Borders, the exchange rate between England and Scotland, monetary terms encountered in old documents. Accompanied by slides with pictures of coins, tokens, a banknote and other items.

If you want help in identifying a coin, please bring it along, and talk to me after I've finished speaking.

Doors open at 2pm. The talk will be preceded by our Annual General Meeting, which starts at 2.30pm. The talk starts after the annual general meeting has finished, probably around 3pm.

We warmly invite you to attend the annual general meeting and the talk whether you are a member or not. There is no admission charge.

We'll have a range of family history publications available to buy.
There will also be a raffle.

As usual, there will be light refreshments available after the talk.

If you have a problem with your family history, please discuss it (no charge) with one of our volunteers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Alexander Dow Anniversary Event Gunsgreen House

Next month marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Alexander Dow, playwright and orientalist. While Dow was born in Comrie in Perthshire he had connections with Eyemouth, particularly with the brothers, John and David Nisbet, who made a fortune through smuggling and who built the recently restored Gunsgreen House which is open to the public.

For reasons which are not entirely clear it would appear Dow had to leave the country in something of a hurry, possibly because he had been involved in a duel and in this he was greatly assisted by David Nisbet. Whether out of gratitude or perhaps because of impecuniosity and having no means of settling with Nisbet for expenses incurred he made a will in favour “of his beloved friend David Nisbet”.

Dow then joined the East India Company as an ensign in the Bengal infantry on 14 September 1760, and was rapidly promoted to lieutenant on 23 August 1763, and captain on 16 April 1764, then he rose to the rank of Colonel.

On his return to England (past misdemeanours overlooked or forgotten) he translated and edited the History of Hindostan, the first English language history of India.

He also had his portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, a copy of which can be seen at Gunsgreen.

Dow befriended the playwright, David Garrick, and persuaded Garrick to put on two of his plays although it might appear Garrick did so rather against his better judgment. In the Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds by Leslie and Taylor, 1860, it is recorded:

“The society who dined at the British Coffee House that summer interested themselves in promoting the reception by Garrick of a second tragedy by a worthy well intentioned but utterly unpoetical Scotchman and Indian Officer, Colonel Dow. He had some years before by dint of high protection got Garrick to produce his ‘Zinghis’ , a stilted Tartar tragedy. His present venture was ‘Sethona’ an Ossianic rhapsody in five acts . Garrick did bring it out two years after this, against his better judgment, when it met with the fate it deserved, in spite of strenuous support from the countryman of the author.”

Dow died in 1779 at the age of just 43 leaving a fortune of some £10, 000, over one million pounds in today’s terms.

On his death no other will emerged apart from that in favour of David Nisbet. This was just at the point when the Nisbets were in considerable financial difficulties and facing bankruptcy. They attempted to forestall their creditors claiming ‘Great Expectations’.

However the Will was challenged and referred to Chancery where as in Dickens novel ‘Bleak House’ very many years (nearly twenty) were to pass before the matter was finally resolved – too late to save Gunsgreen House for the Nisbets.

To mark the anniversary of Dow’s birth there will be an afternoon event at Gunsgreen on Sunday 19th June 2011 running from 2pm to 6 pm. This will take the form of a talk by Derek Janes on the life of Alexander Dow, a talk by Anne Buddle of the National Galleries of Scotland about the Scots in India, readings from Dows’ works and a guided tour of the House.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Advice on Conserving Documents, Photos, Film and Files at Preservation Roadshow, Seattle

The National Archives and Records Administration regional office in Seattle is providing the roadshow from 10am to 2pm on Saturday, May 14 at 6125 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, Washington, USA.

Their intention is to help the public learn how to preserve their treasured family and personal materials.

At the roadshow, the public can bring questions about preserving their personal or family documents (in any format) and get free practical advice.

There are workshops to attend, raffles, and competitions.

More details.

This looks like a fun and very useful roadshow to attend if you're in or near
Seattle, Washington.

Unfortunately, I suspect most of the readers of this blog won't be attending - it's rather a long way.

For these readers, however, there's a really useful 'Public Resources' section and I suggest you look at it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bygone Borderlands at Berwick - Programme of Talks

As reported in our previous blogs, Bygone Borderlands - Family and Local History Weekend and Bygone Borderlands - Flodden 500 Projects, the unmissable event this coming weekend (14th and 15th May) is Bygone Borderlands at the Guildhall, in Berwick Upon Tweed, England, TD15 1BN.

The programme of talks was published today, and it looks very interesting.

Saturday 14th May 2011

  • 11.00    Tracing my Family History – Celtic Origins and what price DNA? A 'rare' surname & a few costly mistakes ! : Donald McIllhagga
  • 12.00    Brewing in Ford in the 18th century : Peter Maule
  • 1.00    Murky Mires – an investigation of Spades Mire and the medieval defensive ditches of Berwick : Jim Herbert
  • 2.00    Detective Research – the Heritage Hub and its resources for Scottish Borders Local and Family History : Rachel Hosker
  • 3.00    The Bondagers – What did they wear ? : Dinah Iredale

Sunday 15th May 2011

  • 11.00    Flodden 500 – meeting of those interested in researching Flodden : led by Chris Burgess and Chris Bowles
  • 12.00    Eleanor Weatherley’s Diary – a recently discovered diary written by a Belford farmer’s daughter, giving a glimpse into everyday life in North Northumberland in 1804 : Joan Wright
  • 1.00    Flodden – a brief archaeological history : Chris Burgess
  • 2.00    Following in Henry’s Footsteps ( Dr Henry Richardson in Australia) : Jane Bowen
  • 3.00    The Trials and Tribulations of Berwick as a Border Poor Law Union : Linda Bankier

We have a stall there, both days, with a variety of members present.
We'll be glad to help you with your family history problems and queries.

See you there !

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bygone Borderlands

The latest information from Chris Bowles the Scottish Borders Archaeology Officer about Bygone Borderland (see 04/04/11):

Bygone Borderlands: Berwick Town Hall - Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th May 2011

This will include various displays and talks on the subject of history and heritage in the borders area.

I would also like to invite you to attend (or send a representative) to a meeting/discussion during Bygone Borderlands on the various aspects of the History Projects surrounding the Flodden 500 project and how your members might get involved. This meeting will be held in the council chamber on:

Sunday 15th May - 11am - we will be discussing

· The Flodden 500 Archaeology Project

· The Flodden 500 History Project

· The potential for a related Scottish Borders focussed history project looking at which Borderers went to battle, where they came from and if they ever came back

· The potential for a related archaeology project aimed at locating camps, muster points and the movements of the Scottish army after the battle in 1513

Sunday 15th May - 1pm - we will also be giving a short review of the archaeological results to date.

Both Saturday and Sunday there will also be a standing display including artefacts recovered from the site.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Press Gang, Impressment, and Prize Money

The Orkney Archive has blogged Which is scarier, Dr Who or Press Gangs ? You decide ! They show a typical document dated 25th April 1803 authorising the impressment of men to run the ship.

The blog asks "Are you delighted by what you have just read? Are you revulsed and appalled? "

It neither horrifies nor delights me.

Fighting ships had to be manned and in the absence of a means to call up people for service, and the means by which people could assent, appeal, or protest; it was a reasonable method.

All of those who served (whether pressed or not) in the Royal Navy would have endured very harsh conditions and privations that we wouldn't find acceptable today, and many were badly injured or died. However many survived, and some survived with quite a lot of prize money and returned wealthy beyond their previous wildest dreams. Far worse would be the suffering of the families left at home, whose father or husband had been the major income for the household.

Royal Navy ships that captured an enemy ship, or cargo from other ships or countries got prize money to the notional value of the cargo and or ship.
In the Napoleonic wars at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, the prize money was divided: 1/8 to the admiral, 1/4 to the captain, 1/8 between the officers, 1/8 between senior warrant officers, 1/8 between junior warrant officers, 1/4 between the crew.

What I find unacceptable, even by the standards of the day, is that there was no state support for the parishes of those who had men pressed for service.

In the Scottish Borders, impressment would have affected mainly the Berwickshire coastal villages, though enterprising press gangs may have ventured further inland, or to villages along the shores of the Tweed, since much of it is navigable even with the comparatively heavy boats of yester year.

More information at 'The press-gang afloat and ashore'  and Wikipedia article on Impressment, also a shorter article from the Royal Naval Museum 'Impressment - The Press Gangs and Naval Recruitment'.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Free Access to the 1901 Irish Census and the 1911 Irish Census

The National Archives of Ireland  in partnership with Library and Archives Canada   has digitised the household returns and ancillary records for the censuses of Ireland in 1901 and 1911, and you can search  them and view the results for free.

The 1901 census is arranged by street or in rural areas, by townland (the smallest division of land).
Just like our censuses, it shows each member of the household; name, age, gender, relationship to head of the household, religion, occupation, marital status and county or country of birth, and whether they can speak Gaelic (although in this case it's presumably Irish Gaelic).  In 1901, there were fewer differences between Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic, and my granny who was a native speaker of Scottish Gaelic rarely had any difficulty in reading Irish Gaelic or talking to people who spoke Irish Gaelic, and generally they understood her.

The 1911 census also shows for wives: the number of years married, the number of children born and the number still alive.

Thanks to Marjorie Gavin for drawing my attention to this resource.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chris Bowles the Scottish Borders Council Archaeology Officer circulated this note this morning.

The Bygone Berwick weekend will take place between the 14th and 15th of May, and as part of this the Heritage and Research group of the Flodden 500 project will be presenting an exciting opportunity to help us gain a full understanding of one of this region's key historical events: the Battle of Flodden. As many of you know, 2013 marks the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden. Archaeological investigation and historical research is on-going in Northumberland as part of the Flodden 500 project, and we are hoping to bring to life a similar project in the Scottish Borders region.

At Bygone Berwick, we will be discussing, and hopefully encouraging some of you to take part in:

  • The Flodden 500 Archaeology Project
  • The Flodden 500 History Project
  • The potential for a related Scottish Borders focussed history project looking at which Borderers went to battle, where they came from and if they ever came back
  • The potential for a related archaeology project aimed at locating camps, muster points and the movements of the Scottish army after the battle in 1513

If you are interested, simply turn up on the 15 May from 11 - 12 at the Guildhall in Berwick (Council Chambers) for a discussion of the on-going research and our hopes for a Scottish project.

Monday, May 2, 2011

See us at Linlithgow on Saturday 7 May 2011

We will be attending the West Lothian History and Heritage Fair on Saturday 7 May 2011.

Venue: Linlithgow Academy, Braehead Road, Linlithgow, West Lothian, EH49 6EH,  from 10am till 4.30pm.

We will have our own gravestone inscriptions/monumental inscriptions, poor law, and local history publications and other resources and books on the Scottish Borders. There will be talks by expert historians on aspects of Scottish, local and family history, and a family history workshop.  There will be other family history societies and local heritage organisations there with displays, information about their work and publications for sale.

Admission to the fair costs £2.00 (children under 16 free) but this includes all the events and talks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Welsh Ancestry

Surprisingly to some, there was a lot of movement between Wales and Scotland in past three centuries, so you may well have family members who lived in Wales.

People moved from Scotland especially to work in coal mines and slate quarries, to work as labourers and farm servants on estates, as well as in more traditional industries.

Similarly, people moved to Scotland to work in coal mines, to work as labourers and farm servants on estates, on the hydro-electric scheme construction, as well as in factories.

Of course, there was a lot of migration to and from England and Ireland, and to North America, too.

So you might be interested in television channel S4C's new family history programme, Perthyn, Welsh for 'belonging'.

The first programme is to be broadcast on Wednesday, 4th May at 9pm. This programme is about Geraint Morgan from Penllergaer near Swansea and his search for the reason why his great uncle, Llewelyn Davies, left the village of Myddfai in 1908 aged 17 for a new life in America.

Look at the the S4C Perthyn website for tips and useful links.

(Thanks to Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter).