Monday, 29 November 2010

An 1839 shipwreck

I wrote on this blog a couple of weeks past about Dr. William Henderson, the brother of an ancestor of mine who was a physician in Perth for over half of the 19th century. In addition to his medical career, William was also a keen poet, and the following are a few verses he penned in the aftermath of witnessing a ship, as yet unidentified, being wrecked on the Scottish coast in 1839.

WRITTEN ON WITNESSING THE EFFECTS OF A SHIPWRECK

What shriek was that which fell on mine ear?
What wail of sad and hapless despair?
Was 't the moaning of the mighty deep,
From its bosom now hushed, though the storm be asleep;
Or the moans of that branch from you aged tree riven,
As it waves aloft in the winds of heaven?
Ah! no, see you female who bends in the blast
How her bosom heaves as each throe were the last.
What fixes her gaze on the troubled wave,
As it lashes the shore with its ceaseless lave?
Alas! 'tis the brave and manly form
Of her William, who yester-night braved the storm;
To save from yon wreck her perishing crew,
As aghast they stood with death in their view.
Twice to the billows his bosom he gave,
And twice from their power did he rescue and save;
Still from the blank came the dreadful wail
Of despair, as it sighed through the raging gale.
Though exhausted, yet firm as a pillar he stood,
Unharmed by the storm, unscathed by the flood.
His eye sought the wreck, then to heave was raised,
While those on the crowd intent on him gazed;
As again he plunged in the brinny wave,
To perish, or yon wretched sufferer to save;
Every eye was bent on his manly form,
As he dashed through the waves, and weathered the storm.

Through the fading ray of evening light,
Each eye was strained to its utmost sight;
Till he reached the wreck; when one's shriek so shrill
Came back on the storm, and all was still.
Long sought they the beech in the darkness of even,
Illumin'd anon by the flashing levin;
But all in vain.
Ah! who shall tell her so late a bride,
Of him engulphed in the ruthless tide?
How she knew I never could understand,
Nor saw her; till statue like on the sand
She stood by her husband's body there;
Cold, death-like, the image of hopeless despair.

They lifted the body, and bore it along,
She followed, unconscious amid the throng,
Nor a sigh, a groan, a tear from the eye,
relieved her heart from its agony.
She saw her William's body out laid,
And the trappings of death around it spread;
Then she locked her hand in that of the dead,
Nor could she be torn away from the bed.

Oh! break not the sapling thus bent by the blast,
Snap not the cord thus strained to the last,
Until time shall gently fan with his wings,
Her spirit to repose, and relieve life's springs;
Then religion shall point with her hallowed rod.
Her way to peace, her way to God.

August 5th, 1839.


Chris

Saturday, 27 November 2010

William the Womble


As regular readers of Scottish GENES may know, I was born in Northern Ireland, though within a few days of my birth I had moved to Scotland and then later onto England, not returning to Ulster until my parents separated when I was 8. This meant that despite being Irish I was very much raised with a mainland perspective, and it was not until I returned that I first came across the cult of King Billy. This is a cult which bemuses me to this day, largely because of an incident that happened in my home town of Carrickfergus some twenty years ago...

For those not acquainted with Northern Irish protestant culture, heavily based on the Presbyterian tradition from Scotland, you'll easily appreciate the irony of the fact that despite the Reformation doctrine of pulling down 'idols' i.e. statues and busts of those being worshipped 'falsely' instead of the one alleged God, the country today is quite literally full of them - whether that be a statue of Carson at Stormont or the various dignitaries embodied in statues outside Belfast's City Hall. But for many embedded within the Orange culture of Ulster, there is one image, one idol, that you don't mess with - King Billy. So what happens when you do in fact mess it up?!

In 1990, Northern Ireland decided to celebrate the tercentenary of the Battle of the Boyne, the event at which William of Orange, granted the British throne with his wife Mary, fought the deposed king James VII (II of England, also William's father-in-law and uncle: don't ask!) for the one and only time just outside of Drogheda in County Louth. James lost the battle, though not before William was almost assassinated by a Jacobite sniper at the river side, prompting news to be sent to Paris that the king had been killed and Jacobitism had prevailed - prematurely as it turned out. The Battle of the Boyne was actually not the turning point of the campaign at all, and the Williamites had to fight further to secure the new succession, and almost lost at Aughrim a few months later. But to Orange culture it is this clash of kings that has become important, more so following the invention of 'Orangeism' in the 18th century, with 'King Billy' representing the so called 'triumph' of Protestantism over the 'tyranny' of Catholicism.

William was of the House of Orange; if you go to Holland today on Queen's Day, and you see a sea of orange ballons and bunting everywhere, you are celebrating the same royal dynasty. Prior to the invention of Orangeism, and indeed well into the 19th century, the traditional image of William was often depicted in statues as a Roman emperor like figure on top of a noble steed, as is well illustrated in the middle of Bristol's Queen Square today (see right), or Glasgow's High Street. But in time the symbol that came to be used more and more was that of the king in traditional 17th century attire, on a white horse, crossing the Boyne, and in some Belfast wall murals, with a wounded Jacobite at his feet.

Well here's the rub! In 1990, Carrickfergus Borough Council decided to commemorate the fact that William landed at the town's harbour before making his way promptly to meet with the rest of the fleet that had accompanied him, prior to moving south to engage James. The decision was made to controversially create a statue of the king depicting him as he really was - a small figure, who was asthmatic and had a stooped posture (see below) - though many locals believed it was because the council could not afford to create a bigger statue with the horse! 


I lived in the town when this happened, and at university in Bristol a couple of years later decided to take a look back at the events. My degree was a media course that used anthropology as its main research discipline, and I was fascinated to look at what had happened to such a powerful symbol, and why it had gone down like a lead balloon. Throughout the research I came across some extraordinary tales. I met with the sculptor, who told me that his first design was rejected, because he had given the king a hook nose, which made him look particularly ugly, so he was instructed to correct that. The original brief was that the statue should be mounted on a small plinth, so that people could engage with it almost eye to eye to get a sense of who the king really was. When it was unveiled, it had been put it on a six foot tall plinth, making the statue tower over the viewer. When mounted in the harbour car park, it was placed on a line of sight south towards the Boyne. It was also said that the statue was cast from bronze, because if it had been cast in copper it would have oxidised to a green colour (in Ireland orange and green have a hard time mixing!). There was also only one bronze foundry capable of doing it - in Dublin - so when it was sent to the south to be cast, the workers were apparently told it was a dignitary called Lord Carrickfergus - if his true identity had been revealed, he may not have made the journey back north!

Today the statue is just another image that exists, but at the time it was heavily criticised in a furious backlash in the press and in the local elections following, being labelled William the Womble by many in the community that as a symbol his image had come to represent. The fact it is still standing is probably more down to the workmanship of the sculptor and the mason than anything else!

Symbols have a great deal of power behind them, and you mess with them at your peril! Personally I think it is a great wee statue, rather neutral in tone despite apparent attempts to perhaps make it triumphalist again by situating it in the stratosphere (on a big plinth!). But I have often wondered what the reaction might have been if a Ceasar Augustus type figure had been unveiled in its place, as in Bristol? :)

Chris

Thursday, 25 November 2010

A civilian story from World War One

Every time a war anniversary comes along, we of course commemorate the sacrifice of the fallen. Yet that commemoration almost always focusses on the military side of the war in question. For my family, the First World War led to a completely different ordeal, entrapment for my great grandfather and his family for the duration as civilians in occupied Brussels. It was a decision that would cost the life of one and misery for others.

Blackford born David Hepburn Paton (right) was the manager of two shoe shops in Brussels, working on behalf of R & J Dicks, a shoe factory based on Glasgow Green. When war was declared, like many David assumed it would all be over by Christmas. His eldest son William, also an employee of the firm, left for Scotland to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. David instead made the fateful decision to stay behind to look after the two shops in his care on behalf of his company. With him were his wife Jessie (from Inverness), and sons John, Charles (my grandfather) and his daughter Annie, all born in Brussels.

Brussels was occupied by the German army on August 20th 1914. At first the civilian 'alien' population was monitored, but by the end of October the German public was demanding retaliation for the arrest of several German civilians in Britain. Although mass internment was the last thing the German government wanted, it was forced to concede to public demand, and on November 6th the order was given for all British males of fighting age to be arrested and taken to Ruhleben, near Berlin.


We cannot be certain, but it was almost certainly at this point, or just prior, that David went into hiding in Brussels. He was kept in a series of safe houses, and for the next sixteen months remained undiscovered. But in early 1916 he became seriously ill after collapsing, and tragically died on March 12th 1916. Family tradition has it that he died in the house of a Dutch gentlemen who had been hiding him, and had collapsed after an argument. His body was said to have been left out on the street for the authorities to find, for fear of others being arrested as collaborators. David's son William received the following letter from David's Glasgow based brother Joseph, whilst in service with the RAMC at Gallipoli:

Dear William

By the time you get this letter, I suspect you will have learned the sorrowful news, that your poor Father, has been unable to stand the strain any longer of what he has been passing through since war began, and we have indirectly got word of his passing away. I would rather keep such news from you but perhaps you would rather that I should tell you. I went to your Colonels wife (Mrs Thomson) and she very willingly offered to write to her husband, asking him to break the news to you, and I would follow with a letter giving you what details we have which are very few.

Mr Van D' Endon (Leige) was in Brussels on Business some few weeks ago, and on returning send word to Mr Traill that Mr Paton had died of shock due to nervous breakdown. Mr Traill of course wrote Greenhead, and Mr Hay told me the contents of the letter. What a pity they did not all clear out of Belgium when they could have. Of course, you must understand I was almost going to write false news, but one hardly can discredit the report of a man connected with the Firm, who was in Brussels so lately, and I think we must accept it as being too true. As to your Mother and the rest we have no news. I thought on writing your Mother, and paid a visit to the Belgian Consul to get his advice. At first he said Yes I could risk writing, but he had in his office a Belgian lady whom he called in he said the only way was via Holland. If I knew any one in Holland, I was first to write a letter to your Mother, send it on to Mr Traill (for I told the lady of him) he was to re-write the letter and send it on to Brussels. This, of course, could be done Willie if Traill was willing, but how do we know that they are living at Rue de Mont Blanc now. The chances are very much the other way, so I hardly know what to do. We will get the full and correct account of everything by and by, but the suspense is very trying, worse than if we knew the very worst.

I am very sorry indeed to have to give you such sad news, but sorrowful things are happening daily just now. First we thought of withholding the news from you for a time but then we thought of this plan being the best. I have not told Inverness yet. Do you think I should. I will do so, if you wish it. As to date of your Fathers death we gather it is on or about March 15th nothing definite. You will feel the loss very keenly as we all do and we hope that God will spare you to come home and look after those (being the eldest Son) whom he has left. No more at present will write to you again.

Hope you will bear up and stick to your duty. God bless you.

Your loving Uncle Joe



The circumstances of David's death were further explained in the company AGM minutes from 1916 , as held at Glasgow's city archives in the Mitchell Library:

In addition to material, we have given many men to the war. Our Roll of Honour consists of 135 names. Of these, all were volunteers. Out of the eligible men of military age, 94 per cent offered themselves voluntarily. Out of these ten have been killed, ten wounded, one "gassed", and one is reported as missing. Besides these we have lost the manager of our shops in Brussels; after the German occupation he remained for many months in concealment, doing his best for the Company's interests. I regret that the strain and anxiety cost him his life...

But that was not the end of the story. David's widow Jessie remained in Belgium with my grandfather and his brother John. John was soon after arrested by the Germans and transported to Ruhleben camp, where he was interned for two years, having just turned of age. As inflation hit Belgium, things grew increasingly more difficult for the family. A letter from Jessie to her brother-in-law James Paton, a manager of a Singer Sewing machine factory in London, explains how uncomfortable life was becoming:

British Legation, The Hague. July 16th 1917

The Netherland Legation (British Section) at Brussels present their compliments to His Britannic Majesty’s Minister at the Hague and on behalf of Mrs J. Paton, a British subject residing 100 rue d’Espagne, Brussels, have the honor to beg Sir Walter Townley, if possible, to communicate the following message to her brother Mr. James Paton, Singer Works 42 St. Paul’s Churchyard, London E.C.:-

“Dear Jim, As things here would have become impossible for us, I should like to know what you would advise me to do. Matters concerning the Firm here have been decided & an indemnity of three months given. Viz until the 15th Sept. 1917 when the 75 francs I have been receiving since the 16th March 1915 will cease. Then of course I shall be entirely without means. Myself & the two children who are still with me. The small sum left after the exceptionally heavy expense of poor David’s illness & death is gone & had I means I should be allowed only to touch a very small sum monthly. The cost of living here at the present moment is 10 times (and in some cases 20 times) more than in 1914 so you can well imagine my extreme anxiety in case we will be as we have been. Over the winter in such case I shall be in a bad way. Kindly write to the firms and explain as I could not explain myself properly from here. I shall leave it to your good judgement as to what you will say & arrange for me as I know you will do everything in my interest. Kind regards to every one. We three are pretty well, hoping this will find you all the same. Your loving sister J. Paton”

Brussels, July 9th 1917.


By March 1918, things were becoming desperate:

Mr. de Kattendycke,

I hope that you will forgive the liberty I take in writing to you, but the expense of living here at the present moment is impossible. The £3 which the firm of R. and J. Dick allow me is really not enough for food without speaking of other expenses.

I am entirely depending on what the firm sends me, having no other means whatever. My boy of thirteen is ill through nothing but privation and I can see things getting worse every day. I have no idea what arrangements will be made with the firm after the war, but in the meantime we must live and at the rate things are, £3 is just equal to £1, therefore what I receive is not enough.

I should certainly not trouble you if there were any other way of doing, and believe me I appreciate and am very much obliged for the kindnesses you have already done for me.

Hoping to hear from you as soon as possible, I remain

Yours truly,

Mrs. D. H. Paton


The thirteen year old son ill from privation was my grandfather Charles (right, as photographed in Brussels in 1907).


None of this story was known by my father when I first started my family history research over a decade ago - it has all been slowly pieced together through tracing previously unknown cousins in Glasgow and London, sourcing materials from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the National Archives at Kew, from a three day research trip to Belgium a few years ago to retrace the family's footsteps, and many other sources.

If there is one legacy of the whole story it is perhaps this - when the Second World War approached in the late 1930s, Charles, by now married, moved from Scotland to Northern Ireland with his Scottish wife; his mother and sister were also hurriedly moved to Inverness from Glasgow by his brother William. Did Charles move to Ulster because he was fearful of a German occupation of Britain, having witnessed the blitzkrieg sweeping through Europe, and having already experienced life under an occupation? It is a fascinating question to which I will likely never get an answer - but it may well be that David's decision to stay in Brussels in 1914 led to me being born as an Ulsterman and not as a Scot (or a Belgian for that matter!

Chris

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Statistical Accounts of Scotland

After birth, marriage, death and census records, one of the greatest resources for Scottish research is the special gazetteer collection known as the Statistical Accounts of Scotland, which provides a detailed parish by parish guide, including information on local landowners, schools, churches, morality of the people, industry, antiquarian sites and much more. (If you're English, think of them as a sort of equivalent to the Victoria County Histories, though more complete.) There have been three national statistical accounts, recorded in the 1790s, 1830s/40s and the mid 20th century. (In fact, there's also a fourth for East Lothian, currently being compiled over seven volumes and covering 1945-2000!).

The first two accounts are digitised and available on several platforms. Electric Scotland (www.electricscotland.com) and Google Books (http://books.google.com) have copies which are fully downloadable in PDF format and wich are keyword searchable. In most cases however, I have used the non-subscriber version of the collection available on the EDINA website at http://edina.ac.uk/stat-acc-scot/. This allows you to search by parish and by account, and then browse through the pages. I say non-subscriber version, because at the AddresssingHistory launch on Wednesday 17th November I listened to a talk from Helen Chisholm of EDINA about the subscription version, which I had always assumed was just for academic and/or institutional access. I was surprised at some of the features available through this version of the site, so here is a run down..!

The first account, collated by "Agricultural Sir John Sinclair" runs to some 21 volumes, the second, commissioned by the Committee of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy in 1832 runs to 15 volumes. In the first account 938 parish ministers were asked to provide answers to 166 questions concerning their parishes, with 'Statistical missionaries' sent to hurry them on if they fell behind schedule! The second account maintained this tradition, though in the cities many other observations were also included.

There were 28,000 pages scanned in 1998 and first launched online in January 2001, though from 2005 the service has been run by EDINA. The subscription service has several differences to the free version. You can do a keyword search across all accounts at one go - the example given was "tea-drinking" - and compare various anecdotes from parish to parish, something that can't be done on the other two online suppliers with any ease. The accounts are also linked to the Ordnance Gazetteer of 1882-85, and as well as the scanned page returns you get a transcript along site which can be cut and pasted into any document you may be writing - very handy! There are also several related resources, such as background documents to the records' collation and more.

So how can the accounts help? In my recent talk in Australia on church records I gave a good example from the parish of Kinclaven's second acount. If I want to know what was going on by way of church denominations in 1843, this is what I am told:

Parochial registers: The parochial registers, consisting of six volumes, commenced in 1725, and do not appear to have been kept with sufficient care, - several of the volumes beng a good deal torn, and the writing defaced. It is to be regretted that parents are not sufficiently sensible of the importance of registering the births and baptisms of their children. Among the Dissenters, especially, great negligence in this respect still prevails; although, to induce them to do so, it has been the practice, during several years, to exact no fees for such registration.

and also:

The number of communicants at the sacrament generally amounts to 180. There are 86 families, inclusing 413 individuals, belonging to the Established Church, and 96 families, inclusing 465 individuals, who belong to the United Secession. It may also be mentioned that, within these few months, three Roman Catholic families have been brought to the parish, as servants to the Rev. Mr MacKay, the clergyman of the Roman Catholic church in Perth, who has obtained in lease a farm of seventy acres on the Arntully estate, which he is improving at great expense.

So if I am wondering why I can't find a Church of Scotland baptism on ScotlandsPeople for Kinclaven, this might give me a few clues!

Subscription costs for the enhanced version of the site are £10 for two months' access, £25 for six months' access and £40 for a year. If you need to do more with the material than just look up a simple parish account and read it, this is well worth the value and just might transform your research!




Chris

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Weavers with attitude

One of my favourite historic records found to date is the following from the records of the Weavers Incorporation of Perth in 1703, proving that many Scots three hundred years ago had the same healthy attitude towards authority as their descendants do today!




Perth the ffourth day of August 1703
Whilk day the master court of the weavers of Perth being convened in the c[h]urch all in ane voice inlays and fynes John Huttsone weaver in Perth in fforty shill[ing]s for his abusing the present Deacon and any other of the laite Deacons[,] abusing and miscalling the said Deacon Archibald[,] and several times Called the s[ai]d Deacons Raskells and villainds and often times commanded them to kiss his airs and thairfore he is fyned in other ffourty shilling[s]
Perth is where my Paton weaver ancestors hailed from - which may explain my own healthy attitude to authority at times! :)
Chris

Monday, 8 November 2010

Meeting the Ku Klux Klan

Saturday 17th July 1999 was no ordinary day for this humble shuggie researcher. At that time I was working for Scottish Television Enterprises on a series called "Celtic America", which took me to the United States for fourteen weeks, where I had the great pleasure to travel across thirty different states and to venture into Canada on three occasions. Our series was discussing the impact of the Welsh, the Scots and the Irish in American history - it had a silly title really considering that much of England was equally 'Celtic' in the ethnic sense, though the word 'Celtic' in fact really refers to a linguistic grouping (as in Germanic, Italic, etc).

Anyway, RTE, S4C and STV were all paying for my trip, along with our small production team, and this was one day where I was to say the least a little bit apprehensive. We were in Pulaski, Tennessee, to discuss one of the more shameful Scottish and Scotch-Irish legacies in the United States - the formation of the Ku Klux Klan in 1865. Created by Tennessee veterans of the Confederate Army, the Klan was a white supremacist group and anti-Republican in sentiment, with its members having been on the losing side of the American Civil War. Much of the symbolism of the Klan was derived from Scotland - the fiery white cross was a way in times past of summoning clans to fight in the Highlands, whilst the Confederate flag which it adopted was derived from a mixture of two British flags - St Andrews Satire and St. Patrick's Saltire (the red diagonal cross symbolising Ireland in the Union Flag today).

We had been aware that in Pulaski there had been trouble in recent years and were unsure of what to expect when we turned up to film. I had made contact with representatives of the organisation a month before the date we had agreed to come and interview them, and had then lost contact with them altogether - not the easiest people to trace! We took the decision to go anyway, though fully prepared for an immediate departure if we were uncomfortable about what we found. In truth we weren't sure what we would find - would there be loads of guys dressed in white cloaks and white hoods, ready for a lynchin' (our lynchin?!). In fact, when we arrived we were surprised to discover that they were all attending a garden fete as part of their National Homecoming event in front of the courthouse, ready for a good lunchin' rather than a lynchin'.

It was a very surreal situation. There were stands where people were selling cakes, children were throwing bean bags at a target to win a prize. The man in charge (not sure of the correct terminology - grand pixie, grand wizard?) was a Pastor Thomas Robb. At one point he invited everyone to pray, and in the prayer kept coming out with the phrase "We have a dream", a less than subtle spin on Martin Luther King's historic speech, towards people in white uniformed shirts and others in t-shirts bearing the slogan "Boys in the Hood". When finished he came over to us to talk about the origins of the Klan, but before we started the interview he handed me a copy of a pamphlet published by the organisation which reproduced the text of the Declaration of Arbroath, claiming that all the moral justification for the body's existence lay in there. So they were err... anti-English? Crikey, it was enough to confuse a poor wee paddy like myself!

Things got even more surreal. The highlight of their day was a "White Pride march" as part of their "White Christian Heritage Festival". The members formed a column of two lines with many carrying flags, including the Scottish and British flags, led by the great pixie himself. It is worth explaining that Pulaski absolutely hates its assocation with the organisation, but tolerated the march, as there had been serious rioting in earlier years when the Klan had been opposed. The building where the Klan was first organised was still in existence, but now listed, and had just been bought by a new owner prior to our arrival. He had wanted to remove a commemorative plaque on the wall outside the place, but had been prevented from doing so, having been told it had to remain there as an item of historical interest. In a moment of pure brilliance he had come up with a classic solution - he basically unscrewed the plaque, turned it around so that it faced inwards and then screwed it back onto the wall again! The Klan marched up to the spot, stopped, took a left turn, gave a Nazi salute to the building then turned right and marched off again. At one point, our director suggested we go to the front of the parade and film it whilst walking backwards so that we could get shots of Gandalf and his merry men as they marched towards us, in order to gain what were known as GVs (general views), which commentary could then be laid over. We duly did so - meaning that to this date I am probably the only genealogist in Scotland who can say that he once led a march by the Ku Klux Klan...

I found the whole affair deeply disturbing. Not so much at the white shirted nutters with their badges of hate, but more specifically at what I saw at the garden fete. I took many photos that day, yet one I have in particular fills me with sadness every time I see it - a picture of a young lad, perhaps just six or seven years old, on a step, holding a Confederate flag in his hand, and smiling to camera. Coming from Northern Ireland I could see instantly what the image revealed - ethnic ascription. This child had been programmed by his parents to be a supporter of the Klan, and in time would take on a white shirt and walk in "White Pride" marches himself, and spout all the hate rhetoric and the rest.

What saddened me was that I had seen it all before - in Northern Ireland and in Scotland. The Orange Order was a similarly constituted organisation, led by men of the cloth, insisting on marches, not at Pulaski, but at Drumcree, wearing not white shirts but sashes that their father wore, etc, and today as part of a newly branded "Orange Fest" rather than a "White Christian Heritage Festival". The Orange Order was founded in Ireland by the descendants of Scottish settlers, and had been taken back to Scotland, not by Ulstermen, but by Scots themselves, in the form of returning soldiers of the Scottish fencible regiments which had been active in Ireland during the United Irishment uprisings in 1798 and their aftermath. Historically Scottish presbyterianism has had many wonderful theological attributes, but has also had a serious dark side. If in doubt, look at the Glasgow Herald of the 1920s and 1930s, and the rhetoric being directed towards Scottish Catholics, most notably at the Morningside riots in Edinburgh in 1935, when ten thousand Protestants terrorised a Catholic priory where a small congregation was worshipping.

It is a heritage that many of us will have within our own ancestry. Today things may be different - I am Presbyterian by background for example, but my wife is Catholic. I shout "No Surrender!" at her and she throws holy water over me and watches me burn! But in my tree, despite never believing I had any connection to the order, I have since discovered that two of my great grandfathers were grand masters of Orange lodges in Ulster and that one of them was also apparently a grand master of a Royal Black Institution lodge in Glasgow. Today in Scotland we may look at disgust at what we see in Tennessee with the Ku Klux Klan. And so we should. Next time you are in Glasgow or Belfast at an Orange march, ask yourself what it is that you are really watching before you. It just might be an echo of something equally hideous and it may also be lurking within your tree. But that's life...


Chris

Sunday, 7 November 2010

I see dead people...!

I see dead people - but then, as a genealogist, that goes with the job! I tend to see them in old records, their signatures, their actions recorded and more. However, my two times great grandfather, Belfast born Edwin Graham, took a more hands on approach...!

From the Irish Independent:

Wednesday, July 28th 1926
SPIRITUALISM IN BELFAST

Unusual scenes were witnessed at the Belfast city cemetery at a service under the auspices Belfast Christian Spiritualists' Association. The service was held around the grave of Mrs M'Dermott, mother of Mr John M'Dermott, medium of the Association, who died three weeks ago. Upwards of a hundred Spiritualists were present. Some of them had cameras, and photographs were taken, as an official stated, of the spirits of the departed friends of those around the grave.

The service was conducted by Mr M'Dermott, and consisted of prayers, singing, and an address. Mr. Edwin Graham, secretary of the Association, said it was a very hard thing to obtain spirit photographs, and he added that the plates would be developed in a day or two, and they would then see if they had been successful. Mrs M'Dermott was a native of Glasgow, but had been in Belfast for the past year.


The Times in Britain followed up on the event:

Wednesday 18th August 1926
PHOTOGRAPHS IN A CEMETERY
Belfast Spiritualists Claim

The photographs taken in Belfast City Cemetery during the burial of Mrs McDermaid, wife of Mr John McDermaid, President of the Ulster Christian Spiritualist Association, with the object of recording the spirit forms of relatives which were believed to be hovering over the grave, were produced in Belfast last night.

The photographs, say our Belfast correspondent, are apparently out of focus. They show small white clouds over the people assembled round the grave. Mr McDermaid claims that in the photographs he can see the spirit forms of three departed relatives. Mr Edwin Graham, the Secretary of the Association, is convinced that he can see his brother. The Association invites inspection of the photographs.

I have no doubt that Edwin saw spirits that day. I suspect they were more in the liquid form than the floaty, spooky kind...! :)


UPDATE: 1 APR 2011 - I visited Belfast a few days ago and located the spot where the experiment took place. See below!


I was hoping Edwin might have been hanging around, but no sign of him in this image or in one of his own grave! lol

Chris

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Toilet troubles in 1840s Perth

I thought I might lower the tone for a bit...

Some people complain of a fear of visiting the doctor. The following is an account of some of the many bizarre things my five times great uncle Dr William Henderson (1784-1870) used to get up to in the royal burgh of Perth in the mid 19th century, as sourced from editions of the Lancet from 1841 and 1845. The first involves a tin terror device, leeches, and the rectum, and is not for the squeamish - I had tears coming out of my eyes when I first read it...!


NEW AND SUCCESSFUL METHOD OF TREATING DISEASE OF THE PROSTATE GLAND.

By W. Henderson, M.D., Perth

On the 1st of June, 1840, a gentleman consulted me under the following circumstances. About four years ago, he first felt a more frequent desire than usual to void urine, accompanied with more or less pain, and followed with frequent slight mucus discharge from the urethra. He was then in London, and the medical gentleman whom he consulted treated the complaint as gonorrhoeal. He shortly after that left London, but, impressed with the idea of the alleged nature of his disease, he continued to take all sorts of medicines, known and secret, without any abatement of his sufferings.

When I first saw him, he felt an almost constant desire to empty the bladder, often passing only a few drops of urine at a time, accompanied with much pain and pressure; occasional severe lancinating pains at the neck of the bladder, which extended throughout the urethra, and were most distressing at the point of the penis; priapisms and emissions during sleep, followed with extreme heat and pain; constant mucus discharge from the urethra; bowels confined; much uneasiness in passing the faeces; a sensation as if some hard substance were pressing from within against the verge of the anus, which no effort to empty the bowel could remove. Sitting for any length of time on a hard seat causes a deep-seated, heavy pain at the neck of the bladder; heat and excoflation at the verge of the anus on taking even moderate exercise on foot, and he cannot ride on horseback at all from the pain it occasions.

On introducing a catheter, to ascertain whether stricture existed, the instrument passed freely until it reached the prostate gland, where there was obstruction and much pain in passing it into the bladder. I then examined the gland with the finger through the rectum; it was much enlarged, and painful on pressure.

The ordinary means, viz. aperients, iodine, leeches, and counter-irritants on the perineum, were persevered with for four weeks, with scarcely any alleviation of the patient's sufferings, and no progress whatever made in reducing the size of the gland.

While pondering on this most distressing case, it occurred to me , that if I could manage to apply leeches upon the gland, through the rectum, they might have a good effect. Accordingly, I had a tube made of tin, a quarter of an inch wide at one end, and half an inch wide at the other end, bent into the form here represented (see diagram, right). I then cut down the wide end of the tube about a third part of an inch, two-thirds of its diameter, in front, corresponding with the bend, leaving the projection behind as a handle to enable me to guide the other end accurately, and keep it steady after it had been properly applied. Having just had the bowel freely emptied, I cautiously introduced the tube, so directed, that by pushing it up in a straight line, its mouth must pass over the centre of the right lobe (the tenderest part) of the gland. As the tube advanced, I made gentle lateral pressure with its projecting point, at the distance of about every line, until the patient experienced a sensation somewhat similar to that felt when the point of the finger was pressed against the most sensible part of the gland. I then secured the tube gently, but steadily, with the left hand, and with the right hand introduced a leech into it, which, I was not a little pleased to find, took readily. When this leech dropped off, I changed the position of the tube, so as to place the mouth of it over the left lobe of the gland, and then introduced another leech, which also took readily.

When the tube was withdrawn the blood accumulated in the rectum, and brought on a desire to evacuate the bowel; this was frequently the case, but, from the feculent matter with which it was mixed, the exact quantity could not be ascertained, but it was considerable. This application of the leeches was followed with great relief to the patient; the priapisms and emissions by which he had been so long harassed and weakened entirely ceased, and all his other symptoms were much mitigated. The aperients and iodine were continued. A week after the leeches were again applied, and acted equally well. After this, the pressure on the sphincter ani, and desire to empty the bowel, were scarcely at all experienced; and the mucus discharge from the urethra altogether disappeared. The only uneasiness which he now felt was the heat and lancinating pains in the gland and urethra, particularly at the point of the penis, wheich were occasionally a little troublesome. Two days after the last application of the leeches, I examined the gland with the finger, through the rectum; it was now greatly reduced in size, and pressure upon it gave very little uneasiness. Six days afterwards, the heat and pains in the gland and urethra being still occasionally felt, and attempt was again made to apply the leeches as formerly, which failed. When the tube was withdrawn the cause of the failure was manifest, the introduced end of it being quite filled up with feculent matter. Something had occurred to prevent the patient from taking his aperient at the usual time, and his bowels had not been properly relieved. A similar occurrence was guarded against on the following day, when the leeches acted well. The relief which the patient experienced was now so complete , that, except continuing the aperients and iodine, nothing more was done for two weeks, when I again examined the gland. It had now decreased to about the natural size, but pressure on the right lobe still gave a little uneasiness. On this part one leech was again applied, which acted well.

At the end of other two weeks, I again examined the gland, through the rectum, and a perceptible degree of tenderness still remaining when pressure was made upon the right lobe, one leech was once more applied upon it, which after a little manoeuvring, acted well.

From that time the patient has continued well, and was some time ago married to a lady to whom he had long been attached.

So far as I know, this is the first time that leeches have been used in the manner above pointed out for disease of the prostate gland; and if, in the hands of other gentlemen, this mode of applying them shall prove as beneficial as it has been in mine, it will, in an practical point of view, be an improvement of no small value; for it is well known to the profession, that there are few structures in the human body which occasion more trouble and anxiety to the medical attendant, or which are more painfully harassing to the patient, than the prostate gland when in a diseased state.

In thus applying leeches, the most essential requisite is to have the rectum well emptied of all feculent matter immediately prior to their application; for if this should be neglected, the operator will be foiled in his endeavours to make them take.

Another point which requires attention is, the close application of the mouth of the tube to the parietes of the rectum over the diseased portion of the gland; because if this be not acrefully attended to, the leech may pass through the tube into the bowel. This actually happened in the above case, and occasioned some anxiety to myself, and much alarm to the patient; but, fortunately, no unpleasant consequences followed, for in about eight minutes after its passage through the tube, the leech made its escape through the sphincter ani.

The tube should be cautiously introduced with its mouth directed over that portion of the gland on which the leech is wished to be put, when lateral pressure should be made with the end of the tube against the gland, to ascertain the most sensitive point. This can be easily found by pushing the tube either a little higher up, or drawing it a little lower down in the rectum, and making lateral pressure at the distance of every line, until the patient experience a sensation somewhat similar to that produced when pressure made with the point of the finger is made upon the gland. Having found this spot, the tube is then to be held steadily with the left hand, and a leech introduced into it with the right hand, when, if the rectum have been properly emptied beforehand, it will be found to take readily. When the first leech drops off, if another be wished to be applied, the mouth of the tube should then be moved a little round either to the right or left, as the case may require, so as to make a fresh wound, and another applied in the same manner. If the heat of the tube cause the leech to become refractory, by pushing the corner of a towel into the tube so as to force the leech up to its duty, I invariably succeeded in making it take.

This practice is rational, free from danger, and, with a little address, easily executed, and, in this case, has been eminently beneficial.

Should any of my professional brethren do me the honour to repeat this experiment, I should esteem it a special favour if they would take the trouble to communicate the degree of success which may attend it, either through the pages of THE LANCET, or to me personally by letter.

Perth, Dec. 2, 1840.


"This practice is rational" - haha, love it! William's inventiveness with metal devices for solving medical problems in the areas where angels feared to tread continued in 1845, when he once again wrote about an invention designed to help a male patient clear out his blocked bowels! The Lancet article that he penned shortly after, "Intus-Susceptio Succesfully Treated by the Injection of Tepid Water Through the Rectum", published on August 19th 1845, is far too long to reproduce here completely, but the following paragraph gives an idea of the problem he was faced with, and how he overcame it:

(August) 5th.- Was called early in the morning; (patient) had passed a very restless night; the pains in side and back, and hiccough, which came on during the night are very distressing; has vomited two or three times. Repeat enema. Twelve o'clock, noon: enema was simply returned; stercoraceous vomiting. The symptoms were now so urgent, and the duffering and prostration so great, that I made him aware of the danger he was in, and the necessity of having recourse to more powerful means for relief. The patient eagerly declared his willingness to submit to anything,a nd begged of me to proceed. I then had a tin tube, thirty-four inches long and three-sixteenths wide, fitted into the nozle of a large enema syringe, and a short piece of wider tube soldered on the other end, and fitted to receive the pipe of a small funnel. Through this I injected tepid water into the bowels through the rectum. The tube with the funnel was thirty-seven inches and a half in length, and when raised upright, produced a pressure upon the bowels of a column of water that height. When a little more than the second quart of water had passed, and the patient was calling out to stop, or he should burst, I observed a shock in the tube, accompanied with a gurgling noise, and a quicker descent of the water through the funnel. I now withdrew the tube, and at the patient's earnest desire had him lifted to the night-stool, when the water was speedily ejected mixed with liquid feculent matter, with complete remission of the pain. In about twenty minutes afterwards he had to be again lifted to the night-stool, whent he remainder of the water was thrown off, mixed with feculent matter as formerly.


Once more, William's radical treatment greatly eased the suffering of the male patient, but on the following day, it had to be applied again. This time, William poured in two quarts of water, and when the last of the water was finished, he took the rubber tube and blew into it with all the force he could exert, until the patient again complained that he felt a "boiling in his stomach" and that once more he felt he was going to burst! But, miracle upon miracles, it worked, and the patient was cured of his painful blockage!!

Never argue with your physician...

Chris

Paton Street - flag on the moon

When I was in Brisbane last week I finally got a chance to walk down Paton Street and Bell Street on Kangaroo Point. Both streets are short walks running parallel to each other off River Terrace, which provides a fantastic view of the city centre across the River Brisbane.

Helen Paton was my four times great aunt (born 2 JAN 1813 Perth, Perthshire), the sister of my three times great gramps William Paton. She married David Bell in Perth on 15 APR 1836, and in 1849 the couple emigrated to Australia on board the Chasely, a Presbyterian migrant ship (along with the Lima and the Fortitude), organised by the Reverend John Dunmore Lang, who as it happens, was from here in Largs. David opened a hardware shop in Kangaroo Point, though ended up going bankrupt when a new bridge opened across the Brisbane, with trade no longer passing his premises. The two streets are named after both Helen and himself.

Nice to know that in years to come, somewhere on the planet there is a wee corner named after my family which will continue to exist long after I'm gone! It's not a long street, an important street, or even a particularly beautiful looking street. But that doesn't matter - it's Paton Street - and therefore the genealogical equivalent, as far as I am concerned, of a flag planted on the moon! :)




Chris

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Ten pound poms

Do you come from the land down under? This might be why!



(With thanks to Sharon Norman!)

Chris

Jaj dates

I had an email yesterday from somebody wanting to know if I could explain the following transcribed date reference in a will from 1775 - “twenty second day of August maryE and seventy five years”. He had explored all sorts of theories about the various queens of Scotland who had gone by the name of Mary, and could not see how these could possibly tie in with the year of 1775.

In fact, what he had come across was a late example of a corruption of the Roman numerals used to denote the hundreds and thousands within a date, which were often recorded in Secretary's Hand in a mutated form, and often referred to as Jaj dates.

The Scottish Handwriting website at www.scottishhandwriting.com/cmDat.asp has a useful descripton on this:

Initially the part of the date which is one thousand was represented as i m, where i = 1 and m = 1,000. Because a numeral i on its own was often written as j this became jm. Another convention in some hands was to elongate the last minim on an n or an m. Soon what was jm with an elongated last minim became mistaken for jaj.



Although the convention was dying out in the mid 18th century, in the above case for 1775 the letters written would most likely have been jajvijC or possibly imvijC - with jaj or im = 1000, vij (vii) = 7 and C = 100 i.e. 1700, which with missing dots on i's, a less than pointed 'v', the use of a 'j' as a last Roman numeral 'i' (very common), a squiggly C and some very bad handwriting could easily be mistaken for maryE!

Chris

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Deaf and dumb in Glasgow

I recently had someone get in touch who had a brick wall problem over an ancestor by the surname of Campbell - a missing birth from Glasgow in the early 1810s. The ancestors in question had moved to England in the mid 1850s and had taught at a deaf institute in Manchester and then Doncaster. He had married prior to moving south and had had two children in Scotland, but when he died his death certificate did not name his parents, and there were no details on his wife's maiden name. The English census records stated he was born in Glasgow circa 1810, but there were five or six different possibilities on ScotlandsPeople (and that was just for Church of Scotland registered events). Without his wife's maiden name he could not find the marriage, and the children's births were also not found. There was a possible 1851 census entry in Scotland which could not be confirmed as being the couple, as the information was limited (the children were not yet born).

In desperation the client had taken a DNA test, thinking that as it was a 'clan name', that might help. In his original approach he actually sent me the results of his test and asked me to interpret them for him. Before doing so I asked him to confirm a few points. He was from Glasgow? Yes. He taught at a deaf institute? Yes. Was he deaf himself? Absolutely. So who taught him? Ah...

The DNA test was going to be a very long shot indeed, so I suggested he park that for the moment and concentrate on what he already knew. It was entirely possible that he had been taught in Glasgow as a deaf child - if so, where would that have happened? The first thing I did was to search the online British Library 19th Century Newspaper collection to see if I could find any mention of a deaf institute in Glasgow. In fact, I not only came up with details of such an organisation, by a stroke of good luck I actually found an announcement of the ancestor in question having a dinner held in his honour! In a Glasgow Herald article from 1856 I discovered how he had been presented by the Deaf and Dumb Society "with a Sum of Money, as a small tribute of their gratitude and respect for him as their Sunday Meeting Teacher, on the eve of his Departure for England.” A few tributes followed, with the article then stating that “their guest had taught them for the past seventeen years”, and he was wished every success for “a missionary field of similar character in Manchester”.

Knowing he had been connected as a teacher to the Glasgow based society, I looked on the internet for any kind of additional information about the organisation, and found a site at www.gsedd.org.uk/history.html which provided a brief history for it. The Glasgow Society for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb had been formed as a satellite operation in 1819 to an earlier body instituted in Edinburgh. A check of the NAS catalogue (www.nas.gov.uk/onlinecatalogue) confirmed that the Edinburgh records were held at the archive but not those for Glasgow. Unable to find the records for Glasgow listed on any other catalogue (NAS, NRAS and SCAN), I therefore decided just to call the modern day society, details of which were on the website. It turns out that the modern day version is no longer a school, just a fund issuing grants for those seeking to assist deaf/blind people. The fund is administered by a chartered accountants in Glasgow, and with nothing to lose I asked, "You don't happen to have the records by any chance, do you?" The answer was that in actual fact, they did! I asked for permission to come in and see them, which was granted.

When I visited, I was immediately given some annual reports from the 1830s and 1840s which had been published in book form. I sifted through them and found a couple of earlier letters written by someone as a pupil sharing the same name as the teacher, including one discussing how whilst playing with his (named) brother at the Broomielaw he very nearly drowned on one occasion, but nothing to confirm that he had in fact been the man who later moved to Manchester. After an hour ploughing through them I asked the accountant responsible if there might be any actual original minute books or any kind of school admission rolls? She disappeared for five minutes and returned with a minute book from the very beginning of the society's existence. As I worked my way through my eyes nearly popped out of my head - the detail was extraordinary. I soon established from the minutes that the pupil was indeed the same person as the teacher. The Campbell boy had started off as one of the society's first eight pupils - his father was noted as a shoemaker from Partick, and after finishing school he was taken on initially as a Sunday School teacher, and later as a full teacher at the school. Combined with the AGM minutes I found enough detail to conclusively prove which birth record was the right one, and managed to take the family back a few more generations.


DNA tests are a wonderful tool for genealogy, but there is an increasing hype about how they can be used. In this case the test ended up being completely unnecessary. Sometimes it is worth putting yourself in the position of the person at the heart of your brick wall and trying to imagine what life must have been like for them. As in this case, it just might point out an option that didn't at first present itself on the face of it.

Chris

The photo album

Readers of Scottish GENES will know that I was in Australia last week to do a few genealogy talks, and that I managed to travel extensively across the country during my twelve days there. For the most part I was lucky enough to be able to stay with relatives who very handily for me just happened to be based in all the key cities that I was visiting! Amongst these was my uncle Bill in Melbourne, who emigrated to Australia as a 'ten pound pom' in 1968, having left our home town of Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland to get away from the 17th century sectarianism, which to this day still infests much of the place.

I actually stayed with Bill some three years ago for a few days, but on this occasion I was bowled over by a discovery of a family history resource which he has in his possession which I knew nothing of. It turns out that when Bill moved to Australia, he took with him an envelope stuffed with family photos, which his wife Beth has since arranged in chronological order and mounted in a photograph album, along with other images posted out to him by family members post-emigration. Amongst the pictures were many surprises, including several of my grandmother, mother and aunt with a baby named "?" on the back. I've gone by many names in the past, but "?" is probably the shortest! They were taken in Helensburgh, where I lived for four years as a child. (Picture: myself and aunt Nicolle in Helensburgh)

There were several additional images, including many of my mother and her sisters as children growing up in Carrickfergus, but there were two other subjects also present in the pictures which really took the wind from my sails.


My middle name is Mark, named after an uncle of mine who was severely disabled and who tragically died at the age of thirteen, and of whom I only have the very basic of memories from my time as a small child. Until last week, I had only ever seen one photograph of him, taken in the back garden of his house in Carrickfergus with two of his sisters and a niece, and which is horribly out of focus. Billy's album turned out to be packed with photos of him, showing a child who had a lot of fun and love thrown his way. It is an odd sensation to finally become reacquainted with a family member through an old photograph, but to see his short life glimpsed in a series of snapshots was quite an emotional experience. Putting a face to a name is always a useful endeavour, but when you put someone else's face to your own name, in this case a middle name, it just helps to complete your sense of yourself. (Picture: Mark, with my mother)

But the key image in the collection was one that I did not expect to find in a million years. My parents married in Ireland just a week after Billy emigrated, but were to separate less than ten years later when I was just eight, the eldest of four kids. From my childhood, there's not a single image of them together, as for much of the time of their marriage my father was off sailing around the world in submarines with the navy. So imagine my surprise when in Billy's album I discovered a photograph of the two of them taken together on their wedding day, standing outside my mother's house just a couple of hours before they married! An image of them holding hands, the potential of the future before them, with all the hopes and expectations that that entailed. Many of us are excited to find old family photos from the albums of distant relatives, but of all the discoveries of the last ten years that I have made during my family history research, a simple solitary picture of my parents taken together on their wedding day has probably been the find of my ancestral journey to date.




Chris

Monday, 1 November 2010

Walking in Eternity

Hello all, I'm Chris Paton, a genealogist and writer residing in Ayrshire on the western Scottish coast. Some of you may know of me from the Scottish GENES (GEnealogy News and EventS) blog at http://scottishancestry.blogspot.com/, where in the last three years I have been doing my best to provide free access to many stories involving events, developments and resources concerning or affecting those researching Scottish ancestors. That project continues, as does my research service at www.scotlandsgreateststory.co.uk, where I merrily chase after the stories of the dead for the thrill of the living! I also write books and magazine articles, give talks, cook really hot chillis, raise two kids, obey my wife and fight with my family for control of the TV remote...

This new blog is basically an area where I can let my hair down and discuss unusual research finds, interesting developments, share the odd opinion or two (or three or four!), vent at the world, listen intently and in moments of creative blankness, stare intently at the screen and wait for my inner voices to torment me. In other word it's a bitsa site - bitsa this and bitsa that. I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do with it, other than use it as an additional spot to occasionally blether on genealogical and other subjects from time to time.

Tom Baker once came out with a great quote in an old Doctor Who story from the Seventies: "I'm a Time Lord, I walk in eternity". I often thought that would make a great credential for a genealogist really. So this is me, nabbing Tom Baker's line but in a slightly less bohemian way, walking back into eternity and frequently into times gone by (and into the odd Victorian lamp post or brickwall), and occasionally popping by the modern world for a quick cuppa.

Let's see what happens...! :)

Chris