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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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A missionary pamphlet

A 27 page pamphlet of nearly 10,000 words was written by my great grandfather William Henderson Stevenson and “published” in 1887. He wrote: “having had the privilege of labouring among this interesting people [The Santals in India] for over nine years, we have been asked to tell something of their habits and customs…”

Stevenson’s booklet is titled (or was Number 21 in a series titled) Woman’s Work in Heathen Lands, and I have scanned my copy, then used (free) optical character recognition to create a text-searchable version, some extracts from which appear here. The whole text will appear online soon.

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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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Out of India

Three siblings, born in North East India in the 1880s. My grandmother and her two brothers. When their father died, the children were brought back to Scotland by their mother. The brothers would return to Raj India as adults and it would shape their lives. But my grandmother? She didn’t have their opportunities, even if she had wanted to, and became a wife and mother in Scotland.

I had almost no information about my great uncles, and they were hard to find. Here, I’m just going to describe what I know about their childhood with my grandmother, and how I found them, as one way to introduce the various Stevenson stories.

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Bricking it

Not only did I know nothing about my family’s brick-making business, it turns out that I knew nothing about bricks, and how brick-making, ironstone-mining, shale-oil and coal-mining were connected to those awful blaize / blaze / blaes school hockey and football pitches. Scottish kids like me who fell face-first onto this brutal surface will never forget it. You might have experienced the same thing on something you knew as a “cinder” track. But for me it will always be “blaes” (this spelling is new to me), though the word now conjours up more than just skint knees.

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A Toffee Triumph

On his wedding certificate (17th April 1913) my father’s uncle David (David Laughland Scobbie of Beechworth, Newarthill), was described as a brickwork salesman. But Elizabeth Mitchell, our family genealogy guru, noted that he was “owner of Triumph Confectionery, Wishaw”. And I vaguely recall that my father said his uncle and aunt “ran a sweetie shop”. Occasionally I’ve searched google half-heartedly to find out what he really was, but with no results. Time to find out more.
Spoiler alert: num-num-num!

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Jolly Hockey Sticks!

My father’s four sisters went to fee-paying Laurel Bank School in Glasgow, one of a triumvirate of girls’ schools along with Westbourne and Park. All have now merged in one way or another. Point is… I’ve got a bunch of hockey team photos from the later 1920s, some of them with names on; so I thought I’d put them online. Do you recognise a relative? Can you name someone? Do leave a comment!

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David Laughland Scobbie and Marion Young Dick

This was going to be just a set of photos, presenting images of a handsome boy who became a distinguished-looking man. He was my father’s Uncle David, whose ninety years and more spanned the major events of recent history (14 Jul 1886 – 25 Feb 1978). Even though I was a teenager by 1978, I never met him, or his wife Marion Young Dick (27 Aug 1884 – 30 Jul 1978). I’m not even sure how her name was pronounced. I’ve heard her name pronounced as if it started “Mary” with the vowel from FACE, rather than starting like “marry”, as would be expected.[1] This post is now more than photos. It’s a wee biography of the couple, and where they lived in Uddingston in Lanarkshire, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for others.

For David’s toffee factory in Craigneuk, Wishaw, go here.

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