The Newtons of Monifieth

The family of my great uncle Dr David McKenzie Newton (1881-1916) seem to deserve their own blog post, separate from his own story told in “Broughty Doctor Dies at Smyrna“. His elderly father was a well-known Dundee shipmaster, ship-owner and/or master mariner, associated with the clipper Pendragon. His elder brother was a mechanical engineer. A younger brother would marry into the Edinburgh Pillans family. It’s a nice set of ingredients that I’ll try to bake into a Dundee cake.

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Jack Black (Stevenson)

There are a couple of well-kent Jack Blacks out there: the American actor; the Scottish motivational millionaire. And then, there’s my father’s uncle. A few months ago I knew very little about Jack and his brother Willie, except that they were both medical doctors. I didn’t know for sure that Black was Jack’s middle name, or even that his birth name was John. Mainly I knew that the brothers and their sister my grandmother had been born in India, that their missionary father had died when they were very young, and that they returned to Scotland. I’d found them a dozen and more years ago in the 1901 census aged around 20 in Glasgow, then I’d got stuck. As described here, just a few months ago I chanced across the brothers’ university records, posted by the University of Glasgow, and everything opened up.

This was intended to be a short post about my Jack Black (Dr John Black Stevenson). But a rummage through a bourach of a shoe-box turned up things I didn’t know I had. One was the photograph labelled “Uncle Jack and Aunt Marianne Stevenson”, and another was a photo of a girl labelled in my father’s handwriting as “Marjory Russell (nee Stevenson)”. I’d no idea who Marjory or Marianne were, so as usually seems to happen, a short post of a few facts has turned into a substantial treasure hunt.

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“Broughty Doctor Dies at Smyrna”

At the time of his death, Dr David McKenzie Newton had been a medical missionary for around a dozen years, and was the superintendent at Beaconsfield Memorial Hospital. It seems he also had a wider role, being identified also as “the college physician” by Smyrna’s International College in Paradise near Smyrna, an American educational institution which had been run by missionaries for 25 years.

His death (30 May 1916) from typhus, a family of bacterial infections carried by lice, aka “jiggers”, was probably caught in the course of his work tending patients, including Turkish soldiers, and due to the terrible conditions discussed elsewhere. His death was reported in contemporary newspapers and reports, and the aftermath was the subject of governmental communications (hence, luckily, preserved in the National Archive), as the Church of Scotland (his sponsors) and the families of David and his widow Ebeth attempted to help her in her perilous situation (see here).

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Ebeth Scobbie (1914-1994)

“Ebeth” is a relatively unusual contraction of Elizabeth, compared to the more familiar Beth, Bess, Bet, Betty, Lisa, Liza, Liz, Lizzie, Libby, Lily, Elspeth, Elspet, Ellie and even Lizbet… Normally, for a favourite family name like Elizabeth, close relatives would have differentiating versions, but the Scottish Scobbie family seemed to like “Ebeth”: using it for aunt and niece. It’s not clear if this is because the younger Ebeth’s birth and early childhood occurred while her aunt was in Smyrna, or not. I believe her grandmother (born Elizabeth Bertie Stevenson) was called Eliza, and also by her middle name.

I like this portrait – I think there’s a little bit of attitude. More on the hairstyle below.

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Elizabeth McKenzie Newton (1916-2011)

Dr Elizabeth Mitchell (as she would become) is shown here as a child in delightful photographs from 1920 or earlier. She survived her tough beginnings in Turkey during WW1 and lived a long and successful life. Like her father, she qualified as a doctor (from Edinburgh University in 1942), and ended up as a consultant anaesthetist in the dental service (for schools) in the North of England. By then she had married Dr John Mitchell, and had two children, both of whom also became medical doctors in turn, one of whom I’ve now had the pleasure to meet. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren also feature members of the medical and allied health professions, in common with many in our extended family.

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