Thursday, November 16, 2017

Our lovely "ordinary" Grandad ...


Grandad. Our dear, lovable little grandfather (decisively shorter than Grandma, also a little younger). But that’s what he was … ‘grandad’ … and as children we were so culpably uncurious about his past and his family. He was just lovely grandad. I knew solely that he came from Scone in Scotland, and that he had been a tailor. I knew that, because my main memory – the main mind picture I have of him, still – is a little man in his 60s leaning over the big dining table at their gloomy clapboard house in Miramar, with a piece of tailor’s chalk, marking out a length of tweed to make mother a coat…

Grandpa and Grandma Welsh c1951 with Kurt and John
His name was Edwin Welsh (b Gowanbrae 5 January 1887;       ) and he was the youngest of the three children of James Welsh, tailor (d Gowanbrae 21 February 1910) and his wife Jane Steel Hudgston (b Arbroath 15 July 1847).

James and Jane Welsh, Gowanbrae c 1890, with David, Maggie Jane and Edward
Miss Hudgston’s family I can trace back, on the female side, to the early 18th century, but father James? I couldn’t find him. My best candidate was a James Welch, by Robert out of Mary, born in Scone 20 March 1853. And yes! There he is, Welch, in the 1871 census, in the Cupar Angus Rd, Scone, with mother Mary, siblings Mary Ann, Helen, Alexander and John, and listed as a seventeen year-old tailor! And in 1861, in Front Road, Scone with no less than 8 siblings, father having seemingly given up the ghost after John in 1857.

Jane Welsh and daughter Maggie Jane
Robert Welch (and its staunchly Welch) is there in the 1851 census, with his wife Mary (née Taylor) and the first six of his brood. He is listed as being 33 and a handloom weaver (cotton). And there is another Robert (b 1775 Kilspindie) down the street, also a handloom weaver (cotton) with a wife also named Mary whom I suspect strongly is his father. And he is. OK, the tree is growing.
Robert Welch born Scone 16 June 1817 to Robert Welch and Mary née Boyd … and, oh dear, that looks like him in 1861, not dead at all, but confined to James Murray Royal Lunatic Asylum … too many children …
But surely this father is the elder Robert, son of William Welsh (sic) and Catharine née McGlashan baptised Kilspindie 12 November 1775 …
Enough. So Kilspindie it is … it seems there is more there than the golf course.

Now, Jane née Hudgston (b 11 West Mill Wynd, St Vigeans 15 July 1847). Great-grandma number 4. Daughter of David Hudgston (b Arbroath, 1819; d St Vigeans, 18 November 1882), flax-dresser, and later foreman at Green’s Mills, of St Vigeans, and Jane Steel Cram(m)ond (b Arbroath, 22 February 1822; d 15 August 1890) who were married 31 December 1844.

East Mill Wynd, St Vigeans
I can follow the Cram(m)ond family, in Arbroath and St Vigeans, back to the beginning of the 18th century, but the Scots, true to their reputation, make you pay to see the records, so I’ll do without. I’ll be satisfied with knowing that all the families came from Arbroath and, most particularly, the adjacent village of St Vigeans, and leave it at that.

Jane is censussed, aged 13, as a servant at the seat of the Earl of Northesk, Ethie House, but a decade later she is, like so many others in the area, a flax-spinner.

Ethie House
As for the other Hudgstons, the only times that they seem to have made the news was when Jane’s brother Alexander Paterson Hudgston, of 40 Rossie Street, retired after 54 years working as a fitter in the Dens Iron Works, and when sixteen-year-old deaf-and-dumb David, the son of youngest brother John Boath Hudgston (also deaf and dumb) found a lost wallet.

So, back to James Welsh or Welch, the tailor. In his 20s, he set up the tailoring firm of Small and Welsh at 8 Gowrie Road, Bridgend, Perth, in collaboration with neighbor William Small. Gowrie Street was later demoted to being the firm’s workshop, and the showroom moved to 67 George Street, Perth.

The family, however, were installed first in Perth Rd, Scone, then in Gowanbrae’s Murray Hall Road, and, by the turn of the century, in Queens Rd, Gowanbrae, where grandad was preparing to join his father’s firm. Brother David had become a plumber (always a useful thing to have in a family) and sister Maggie Jane was a teenage dressmaker.

Queen St. The Welsh house was second from the right.
James died in 1910, and Edwin took over his place in the firm. Then he married Maggie Anderson, the infants’ schoolteacher at Blairgowrie High School, emigrated twice … and the bit of the story that we know began.

Well, it’s a pretty ordinary Scottish story of the 19th century. No brilliant men hidden in there, as there were in the Jewish and Austrian forbears of my family. Just hard-working, hard-breeding folk of the Scottish mill and factory towns.

At least, in this day of digging, I’ve at least learned who they were and from whence they came … maybe, one day, I’ll fill in the gaps. But I’ve got the picture…

In latter days. Rudi Ganzl dit Gallas (father's mother) and Edwin Welsh (mother's father).

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How does it feel being a FOREIGNER?

Amazing what you find on the web...

Dateline: 1939

Our father, from Bishop's Stortford College, UK, applies for a teaching post in New Zealand, and protectionism and racism rear their Cerberus heads. 'Foreign' is the accusation ...

Yes, he was indeed.  Not many PT instructors have a PhD from a major university (Vienna) and qualifications from Cambridge, UK et al as well. And speak perfect and accentless English.

Happily, Wellington Tech stuck to its guns, father arrived and in a few years he had risen to the post of principal of the College. Even more happily, he married a young Scottish New Zealander relief teacher and had two sons. New Zealand is quite happy to call John and myself 'New Zealanders', these days.

Oh, by the way, the whingeing didn't end there. When father moved on from Wellington Tech to be the founding principal of the new Waimea College, Richmond, Nelson, the deputy headmaster and headmistress, all smiles, led a campaign to have him ousted, claiming his credentials were unproven and, indeed, false. But his PhD certificate was found in the bottom of an Austrian suitcase, the plotters discomforted, and instead of being removed, as the Education Board proposed, they were 'made' to stay on ...

Then there was the social-climbing tradesman's wife who hissed to mother at a school function 'how does it feel being married to a JEW...'

Ah, me. It's a tough life being a 'foreigner'. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

My ancestor ... the royal postman


I have to say that I didn’t really expect to find many tales amongst the smalltown history of my un-newsworthy Scottish forebears. So I was a surprised and delighted to come upon the one that follows.

Explanation: Andrew Morrison, agricultural labourer, of Merklands estate, Kirkmichael, was the grandfather of Annie Morrison Anderson. He and his wife Ann née Ferguson bred freely and I have to their debit Andrew (1819-1893), James (1822-1901), John Albert (1823-1885), William (1825-1891), Annie’s father Alexander (1827-?), Betsy (1831-1909), Donald (1832-1912), Jean (1835-1906), Francis (1837-1915) and Marjory (1843-?).
The children worked variously as farm workers, farm and hostelry servants, and James and Francis became shoemakers, while William swapped laboring for tailoring before going blind. Jean married Peter McLaren, stone-dyker, and took in blind William, and bachelors James, Donald and Francis, in their retirement, took over Kirkmichael Post Office, it looks as if Marjory became Mrs James Cameron while Betsy remained single … but they didn’t really make the news, except when young Francis got arrested for poaching.
Until 1912….

‘Death of Veteran Postillion Who Drove Queen Victoria

By the death of Donald Morrison, at Ballintuim in his 78th year, Strathardle has lost one of its links with past times.

Donald was born at Merklands estate and had been a tenant on Ballintuim for 60 years, retaining his tenancy even when he was working elsewhere.  He  started his career as a ploughman, and then, after a short time as coachman at Ballintuim, he went to Mr [Robert] Grant, Spittal Hotel, [Glenshee] as postboy.

Spittal of Glenshee
These were the palmy days of posting, and Donald, sharing in the general success, became leading postillion. From the Spittal he went to Braemar (the Invercauld Arms) as first postillion, and in this position frequently drove Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, King Edward (then Prince of Wales), and other members of the Royal Family.

Invercauld Arms
It is related that on one occasion when driving Queen Victoria their route lay over a ford, the river being in high flood.  The Queen was a little nervous, and anxiously inquired at Donald, who always rode the wheel horse, if there was any danger?  He was busy guiding his horses through the rushing waters, and shouted back, ‘No, it’s abs-o-lutely safe, your Majesty’.   
Speaking afterwards to a friend, he explained, ‘Her Majesty might hae kent it was a’ richt whan I was there’.

During the time he was at Braemar, Donald stayed at Ballintuim during the winter, and returned to Braemar in the early spring for the posting.

A colonel who was a well-known traveller on the North road, but could never get a conveyance to go fast enough for him, one day near the end of the season strolled into the Invercauld Stables and inspected the stud, on which, by the way, Mr Fisher, the lessee, rather prided himself.  ‘ No’, said the colonel, ‘you don't have one horse there fit for a gentleman's carriage; but I must take what I can get, as I have to go to the Spittal, and quick's the word’.

Mr Fisher called Donald aside and implored him to take the impatient colonel at his best speed.  "It's near the end of the season, and you can take your time coming home".  Donald conferred with his mate, the postillion on the leaders and they determined that they would beat all records in this particular run over the Cairnwell.  The upward journey to the watershed was taken in good time, and, the summit reached, the horses were put to their top speed.

Cairnwell, the highest road in Britain
Down the Devil's Elbow they raced without slackening speed.  The coach rattled and sway, but the skill of the riders and good luck kept the coach on the roadway.  Just when the bottom corner was reached the colonel shouted to his postillions, ‘Cautious here, men!’  This was joy to the hearts of the postboys, who had never before heard of the doughty colonel called for caution.

The original 'Devil's Elbow'
A quarter of a century ago Donald retired.  His wants were not extravagant, and his years of positing had yielded him many douceurs.  Since then he lived there, and really enjoyed life in his quiet way, ‘nor wished to change his place’.  A cheery personality, he will be long missed by many friends around Ballintuim.’

Sigh. I knew there had to be an intrepid horseman somewhere in my ancestry! Before me, that is.