Singing my family’s history

WHEN I was a child, my family packed up regularly and followed the regiment, The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), to places where my father Glen served - Germany, Kenya, Edinburgh, Lanark and others. We were naturally proud of the villages, towns and cities that we came from, but were all Scots first and foremost. Here's tae us - wha's like us? Damn few - and they're a' deid!

As an adult, I lived for many years in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Through this and my family links described below, I am connected to large swathes of Scotland, and am privileged to have represented many of its traditions, occupations and regions in song. The notable exception is Gaeldom; though the much-missed Ishbel MacAskill patiently coached me phonetically to join in the choruses of the Gàidhlig songs that we performed as a duo in Scotland, Breizh and Catalunya.

Researching my family history has also given me a strong sense of being bonded with more families, locations and occupations than I could ever have imagined when I set off on the journey of discovery under the dome of what is now the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh. In those days, the rustle of paper, the creak of microfilm spools, and the scritch-scratch of pencil on notepad, mixed to create the soundtrack of genealogical research.

My genealogy naturally reflects the economic and social history of Scotland over two centuries, and is very similar to what many Scots will find in their backgrounds. I like to think that we honour and bear witness to this past by continuing to sing the lives of those who went before and without whose struggles we would not have been here to tell the tales.

What did Elspeth's ancestors do?

My forebears made a living as crofters, farmers and farm workers, ploughmen, a dairymaid, a shepherd, a lime seller, grooms, coal and shale-oil miners, a coal merchant, blacksmiths and shipyard workers, general labourers, stonemasons and quarriers, fishermen, fishwives and fish guttin' lassies who followed the shoals o' herrin', fishing boat builders and owners, a gardener, a newspaper compositor, policemen, railwaymen, publicans, a dominie, a tailor, power and hand loom weavers, lacemakers, a papermaker, soldiers, sailors, fizzy drinks manufacturers, and others. The fizzy drinks business was Joseph Caldwell & Son, mineral water manufacturers, Riccarton, founded by my 3rd great- grandfather, the very same Joseph (1839–1917), who began his working life as a coal miner.

There were Presbyterians a-plenty, a rare Episcopalian, a smattering of Roman Catholics and, given names and locations, probably the odd Covenanter or two. 

Some ancestors born in the 17th and 18th centuries

I am as fascinated as anyone with discovering nuggets from the lives of some of the earliest ancestors in a family tree, mine included. Little detail of many of their lives is recorded, but some for whom more than birth, death and marriage details are available, often because they served in the military, include:

My 7th great-grandfather – Francis Dover (b.1693, Dublin, Ireland) – served in Stair’s Dragoons, which later became the (6th) Inniskilling Dragoons. Another ancestor – John Kinsman (b.1778, Dairsie, Fife) – served with The Loyal Tay Fencibles (the ‘Fife Fencibles’) and was almost certainly in Ulster in 1798 during the United Irishmen uprising. While there, he may have crossed paths and even swords with Doughertys, Bradleys, Darraghs, Hutchi(n)sons and Cochrans in my Irish lineage before my forebears with these surnames later migrated to Scotland. The Hutchi(n)son and Darragh lines appear to have been from in and around Garvagh, south of Coleraine in Ireland.

My 4th great-grandfather Robert Gunn, (b.1755, Braemore, Latheron, Caithness), was a gardener at Nottingham, the home farm of the Forse Estate near Lybster in Caithness. He was living in Louisburgh, Wick, Caithness in 1804. His daughter, Barbara (1796–1870), my direct ancestor, married James Innes (1795–1882) of Portgordon, a seaman and eventual boat owner, who was the son of Alexander Innes (b.1756, Portgordon), my 4th great-grandfather. Alexander was a fisherman at Portgordon when the village was established in 1797, and is considered to be one of its founders. The Duke of Gordon later made him Portgordon’s first harbourmaster and pilot, and Alexander retained that position until a ripe old age, dying sometime in 1841 or beyond.

Charles Mackie (b.Hamilton, Lanarkshire, 1798), my 3rd great-grandfather enlisted at at the age of 13 in the 2/91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Foot. In May 1815, he joined the 2nd Btn 14th (Bucks) Reg't of Foot, which appears to have been in Genoa, Marseilles (Jul), Malta (Dec) in 1815 before returning in 1816 to the UK and being disbanded in December 1817. In March 1818, he signed up in Malta for life with the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot. In the spring of 1818, this regiment went to Corfu, Greece, where it put down a rebellion and stayed until 1828, though Charles had been discharged in early 1827 after permanently injuring his hip joint in a fall. On a pension of eight pence a day, he returned to his original trade as a weaver.

Are we related?

In this small nation of Scotland, and among its diaspora, it is not uncommon to find a family link sometime in the past to anyone you meet with deep Scottish roots. So, if you are, or have had connections with any of the following surnames, or variations on them, we could be related, however distantly:

A–C: Addison, Ai(t)kenhead, Amelie / Amely (a rarity in Scotland), Anderson; Baxter, Beattie, Birrell, Bradley of Ireland, Bruce; Cairns, Caldwell, Campbell, Chapman, Clark, Cochran of Ireland, Cowie.

D–G: Darragh / Darroch of Ireland and Scotland, Dougal or Dugald, Dougherty / Doherty / Docherty of Ireland and Scotland, Dover of Kirkcudbrightshire, Wigtownshire, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dublin, Dun(n)ipace, Galbraith / Galbreath, Gilmour, Goudie / Goudy, Graham, Gra(i)nger, Gunn (the Robson Gunn branch of Braemore, Latheron and Achanacraig / Badbea), Guthrie.

H–I: Hay, Henderson, Herd, Hood, Hunter, and Hutchison / Hutcheson / Hutchinson of Renfrewshire and Garvagh (Ireland); Innes.

J–L: Johnston, Kay, Kirkcaldy, Kinsman; Laidlaw, Laing, Law, Leggat (or Liggett / Lygate), Lister, Lindsay.

Mc/M: McAllister, McDonald, McKay, Mackie, Mathie, Meldrum, Melvin, Mitchell, Montgomery / Montgomerie, Morton, Muir, Munro, Murray.

P–T: Pat(t)erson, Patrick or Petrie, Reid, Small, Speirs, Struthers, Taylor.

U–Z: Urquhart, Wales, Wallace, Walton, Wells, Welsh, Wilson, and Wood.

Where did Elspeth’s ancestors live?

In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, my people lived in:

Ayrshire: Cumnock, Cunninghamhead, Dalmellington, Dreghorn, Galston, Kilmarnock, Kilmaurs, Ochiltree, Loudoun, Monkton & Prestwick, Peace & Plenty, Riccarton, St Quivox, Trabboch.

Banffshire: Buckie and Portgordon, which are very much the 18th and 19th century heartland of 'my' Cowie ancestors.

Berwickshire: Ayton, Coldingham, Eyemouth.

Caithness: Achanacraig / Badbea, Achow, Braemore, Forse, Latheron, Lybster, Swiney.

Kirkcudbrightshire: Carsphairn, Kells, New Galloway, St John's Town of Dalry.

Fife: Balmerino, Cameron, Ceres, Cupar, Kingskettle, Kirkcaldy, Markinch, St Andrew's, Wemyss Bay.

Lanarkshire: Carluke, Carmunnock, Chapelton, Crawfordjohn, Dalserf, Douglas & Carmichael, East Kilbride, Kirkfieldbank, Kirkmuirhill, Glas(s)ford, Govan, Gorbals, Glasgow in general, Hamilton, Lesmahagow, Larkhall, Rutherglen.

Lothians: Broxburn, Edinburgh, West Calder.

Perthshire: Inchture, Perth.

Renfrewshire: Eastwood, Giffnock, Greenock, Neilston, Paisley.

The emigrants

My great grandmother Hannah Wales Dunipace, and her sister Jean, sailed from Glasgow aboard the SS Furnessia in 1893, bound eventually for Trinidad, Animas Co., Colorado, USA. Jean would marry a widower there, but Hannah returned to Scotland in 1897 bearing a surprise package – my grandma. So, there may be a bit of the Old Wild West in my genes! 

As far as I know, Hannah's curtailed move to Colorado was the extent of (attempted) emigration in the direct lines leading back from my great-grandparents. But my forebears' extended families spread their wings to:

Australia: A Dunipace to New South Wales (Kurri Kurri, Bellbird and Cessnock).

Canada: A Caldwell to Sydney Mines, Cape Breton Island; Caithness Gunns to the Selkirk Settlement (Red River Colony) in Manitoba, and also to York, Ontario; and, my great-great aunt Euphemia ‘Phamie’ Kirkcaldy (married name Fulton) emigrated to Birtle in Manitoba, and was latterly in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

USA: A branch of the Dunipaces emigrated in 1834 to Perrysburg, Ohio, part of a significant Scottish emigration to that US State, of which the community of Scotch Ridge is a reminder.

New Zealand: Alexander McKay, nephew of my 4th great-grandfather emigrated there, prospected for gold, and became a prominent geologist.