Fugitive Notes by John Stewart of Irvine and Ayr
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Fugitive Notes by John Stewart (4th) - Slater
Edited by his son William Burns Stewart - Architect
It is wonderful how one generation can trace back so many years. I have seen and spoken to old folks who were born about 1720, and no doubt that these again must have been in contact with other old folks born in the 17th Century. About that time belief in witches and warlocks was very prevalent, and people were almost afraid to open their lips about such things. Now, we can talk of such weird subjects without any fear, in fact we laugh at them now. Why we can talk of more wonderful things that are done now. Take Spiritualism, Mesmerism, Chemistry and other sciences of the present day which are "overhauled" without looking for "evil spirits" being connected with them. If man progresses as much in 60 years to come as he has done in the 60 years and upwards which have gone in my lifetime, I don't know what may be the result. Let us take coal for instance. In my young days coal was just used for warming us and cooking. The gas coal was left in the pits to prop up the roof, for it has to be worked first and then along with the ordinary coal, it lies on the top. Now, the products from coal are wonderful, and scientific men say that many more will be got from it. In the Museum at Kelvinhaugh Park, Glasgow, we have coal shown in its various states, also tar and the different spirits extracted from it, all as clear as water. Was and various scents for the toilet, various dyes and confections.
Then look what steam has done through the agency of coal. Machinery of every description is driven by it, for making our clothes and our boots, our food, building our ships and propelling them, also used on the railways and elsewhere. Take away coal and we would hardly be able to do anything. No doubt God will give more intelligence to His people to preserve them, but yet how few of us look to the goodness of God in those things. Well, all these changes and many more have been effected during my lifetime.
WBS Glasgow, 1857.
By John Stewart the 4th
Your Mother's Grandfather, Andrew Burns was born in 1737, and died 5th December, 1834, at the age of 97 years, having been nearly 70 years a sailor. He was a little man, about 5 feet 4 inches. When I first knew him his second wife was living, and when she died your Grandfather, Andrew Burns, took him home and kept him till he died. About the first time I saw him I asked your Mother if he was deaf, he turned round with a "Sailor's roar", cried out, "I am neither deaf nor blind, and can hear and see as well as you can". Nearly every time I had a chat with him, he told me his great regret was that he had not kept a journal of his life. He remembered Prince Charlie's troops and once of hiding in a yard among the kail, in fear that he might be killed. He was a great smoker, and after his meals he would say, "He must now have his cheer above all cheer", (which of course meant his pipe). When he was old he spoke to your Grandfather just as if he was a boy, and often threatened to take a stick to his back. He was all "sailor" in his actions, tho' I never learned much from him about the sea. He was a long time on board a man-of-war but most of his time was spent in the Merchant service.
(I can remember my step-Grandmother telling me that my Great Grandfather used to threaten to box her when he thought she was not speaking right to "his son". Once, she told me, he had been out a walk alone, and he fell on his back in a shallow burn as he stept across it. He was so stiff with age that he could not rise without assistance. Someone found him and on stooping to help him up, heard him muttering "I have sailed round and round the world and have come home to be drowned in a spoonful of water". WBS
Your Grandfather, Andrew Burns, was his only child, and he was at least 5 feet 10 inches in height and at his best weighed from 16 to 18 stones. He was married very young to your Grandmother, Margaret Blackwood, belonging to Irvine. Her Father, your Great Grandfather, was a "Tide-waiter", (or what is now called a Coast guardsman in Irvine. He was also some time in Fairlie, near Largs. When I went first to Largs a number of old folks I men told me they knew him, and when at Fairlie I was shewn the house he occupied. Your grand-Uncles were all sailors. One of your grand-Aunts was a Mrs. McGill, who lived in Irvine and died since we came to Glasgow. Another grand-Aunt was Mrs. Goldie (we called her Goudie, Mrs William Warren's mother, who lived in Ayr, and who died while we were in Largs.
Your Grandfather had 16 children by his first wife, (your Mother was the 16th, and ten by his second wife. I only knew two of your Mother's brothers, William (whom you are called after, and Andrew, and your Aunts Cowan and Adam. Your Grandfather was 78 years of age when he died on 11th March, 1852. He was over forty years connected with the Ayrshire Militia, and held the rank of sergeant, and he was also "master tailor" to the regiment. He never wore the red coat, except on extra occasions. He was Deacon of the Sailors, and also Deacon Convenor of the Trades in Ayr, which post gave him a seat in the Town Council. He was also Grand Master Mason of the "Royal Arch Lodge" of Freemasons in Ayr. I remember being in Edinburgh with him and we called on Mr. Bryce, Architect, who was Architect to the Grand Lodge of Scotland. After the regiment was disbanded, he retained his position on the Staff, which was composed principally of sergeants. They were only called out on special occasions, and used to guard the race-course during the races, but I don't remember ever to have seen him turn out. He had the best tailoring establishment in the County of Ayr and was also well known and highly respected by everyone. He supplied all the livery for the servants of the landed Gentry round Ayr.
I remember at the Eglinton Tournament in 1839, he was one of the Archers. The squad he was in were dressed like Robin Hood's men, green clothes, long boots, gauntlets, a turned-up hat with a feather, also a quiver for the arrows and a bow. At that time he would be about 65 years of age, but he looked well.
I think I mentioned to you once before how I had been at the funeral of five generations all bearing the name of "Andrew Burns". First your Great Grandfather, second your Grandfather, third your Uncle, fourth, your cousin (brother to William Burns, ironmaster, and son of your Uncle William, after whom you are named and fifth your cousin William Burns' son. This is rather a singular thing, and does not often occur. ****
Your Great Grandmother on my side was called Sarah Carswell. Her Father's name was Thomas Carswell, and her Mother's name was ..... Colquhoun. I learnt that her forefathers suffered in the Reformation times, altho' I don't know what was their religion. I know that they had to flee to Ireland, and they afterwards came back to the south of Scotland, but when they came to Irvine, I do not know. The old lances I have were handed down from that branch of our family. (I got these doctor's lances from Father since he wrote above. WBS
All I have learned of my forefathers is very little after all, and was only obtained by hearing stories told when I was a little boy. I never saw any of my Grandfathers, nor my Grandmother on my Mother's side, but my Father's Mother was living till I was over 20 years of age. From her I got some information, but I never took much interest to learn all about my progenitors, a fact which I now regret.
The family my Grandfather, John Stewart, came of were Meal Millers at Dalry, near Kirkleswald and Maybole, in Ayrshire. Such they had been for some generations, but whether tenants or proprietors of the mill, I never ascertained. Grandfather did not take up the trade of miller, but when quite a young man went to Irvine and served his apprenticeship with John Blair, joiner. (A grandson of that John Blair is Fiscal in Irvine at present, 1875. Grandfather was at the building of Irvine Parish Church in 1773, and he also wrought for some time in the shipbuilding yard in Irvine.
When I was working in and near Dalry from 1828 to 1832, occasionally, I met a number of old folks who recognised me as a "Stewart" by features, and who claimed to be my Father's cousins and half cousins. The mill was called "Chuckie-Stane Mill", and was situated on the water of Girvin, but there was no vestige of it when I was there, tho' some old folks remembered it, and some to having been told of it.
My Grandfather had a brother who was gamekeeper to a gentleman who owned the estate of Bargamie or Baragenie. The old people in Maybole told that when he was gamekeeper he shot a hare with a silver sixpence, which turned out to be an old witch, and my Grannie told me the same and believed it too. After that he would not remain in this country, but went to the West Indies, where he did well, and died very rich. My Grandfather got home his papers and gave them into the hands of a lawyer in Ayr to get the estate realised, but he omitted to get a receipt for them from the lawyer, who was a rogue, and never made any settlement but swindled him out of everything.
After my Grandfather was married and had a family of four, David 1774, Thomas (my Father) 1781, and Quintaine and Barbara. Later, he went to sea on board a privateer. It was captured by the French and he was in prison for a time, being away for three years, and no-one knew where he was till he returned. My Grannie once told me how a deaf and dumb woman, who told fortunes, signed to her that in a few days he would return home and rap on the window, and that he came home just as the "Dummy" had told. She also told how when Grandfather was walking home thro' England, he had called upon a man who owed him a debt, and who was in the French prison with him. He expected some help, but instead the fellow told the press gang who laid hold of my Grandfather. The women of the place hearing the circumstances, turned out and rescued him, and let him get home. He was about 5 feet 6 inches in height, remarkably stout, and said to have been the strongest man in Irvine. A story is told of him how he tackled Lord Lyle, of the family of Cunninghame who was in the habit of going about drunk, and quarrelling and fighting with all he came in contact with. He boasted that there was no man in the town could take him prisoner, he was so strong. One day he had been behaving in his usual manner, and then taken possession of a house, where he defied anyone to take him out of. Grandfather went in and made short work of him, and in the struggle some of his lordship's ribs were broken, owing to the grip he had got.
Another time a wild fellow, called Jock Gray, a great pest and terror to the good folks of Irvine, when he saw my Grandfather after him, ran for refuge to the Old Seagate Castle, which still stands, but in ruins. Jock, who was a sailor ran up to the top and then hung on by his hands to the sill of the window, I suppose in his drunken mood, intending to drop, but Grandfather, who was close after him, laid hold of the nape of his neck and hauled him in by sheer strength, thereby saving his life.
Yet another story I heard of his when he was working in the Irvine shipbuilding yard. He made a wheelbarrow, which was stolen. By and by he saw a man called Billy how he came by it, and was told that he had found it in Irvine Waters near the wee plumb. Grandfather considered that it could not have floated up the river so far, and concluded Billy had stolen it, altho' he was very much surprised at that, for he bore such a good character. He professed to be very religious and had a great gift of prayer, taking part in religious services, and attending sick beds. Grandfather got a warrant to search Billy's house for other things had gone amissing from the yard. When searched, a great many of the missing articles were found, barrows, shovels, mason's hods, picks and in fact everything he could carry off, he took. He was tried in Ayr, and sentenced to serve in a regiment then aborad in the West Indies. The last account that came home to Irvine of him was, that he had risen from the ranks and was an officer. He was always considered to be very clever.
I do not know when Grandfather was born or died, but he was over 60 years of age at his death. My Grannie was a little woman, slenderly made but good looking. She was born on 1st January, 1745, and died on her birthday, 1829. My mother died on June, 1819, (at the birth of your Aunt King, my sister Elizabeth, and Grannie kept my Father's house..
Grannie had great skill in disease, and was very much sought after, the doctors even gave way to her at times. Her knowledge seemed to be hereditary for all her folks were skilly. She had great faith in bleeding, and used the old lances very frequently on those who came under her care; in fact I believe she drew more blood than all the Irvine doctors put together.
My Father was a militiaman, as were also his brothers. He married in 1805, and had to move from place to place with his regiment, the Ayrshire Militia. He was a Paisley when I was between five and six years of age, my brother Samuel between three and four, and my sister Susan between one and two years old. I cannot say whether it was 1811 or 1812 we went to Paisley. The regiment did not remain long at one place, but was moved about frequently, to Queensferry, Edinburgh, Pennycuick, Perth, and also several places in Ireland. My Mother and her family left him in Edinburgh and went home to Irvine, as the travelling about was too much for her.
Your Grandfather, Andrew Burns, was with the regiment at that time. When it was sent to Perth in 1813, it was to guard the French war prisoners there. It was quartered in Ireland till just after the Battle of Waterloo, but your Grandfather, Andrew Burns, did not go to Ireland.
At that time all men had to be volunteers, or Militiamen, as they were called, or else list in the regulars. Father was in the local Militia when he married, but changed into the Ayrshire Militia about 1811 or 1812. He never was at the wars, as these regiments were simply for home defence. He was only 36 years of age when he got his discharge, being less than five years with the regiment, and went back to the weaving for the rest of his days. He held a remarkably good character, was very quiet and good looking, about five feet six inches in height, and was considered the best weaver in Irvine. He died 1835, aged 54 years.
My Mother's name was Elizabeth Dubs, and I believe she was a German, or of German extract. I never knew where she came from or who were her friends. She was very good looking, and would be from eight to 10 years younger than my Father, I think. I believe she would be between 27 and 28 years of age when she died.
My Uncle David (Father's eldest brother was in the West Lowland Fencibles, but deserted when quartered in England, and joined the navy at Portsmouth. He was away for 10 years, and during all that time, the only word heard of him was from an old sailor who had been a shipmate, and came home before Uncle. He came home about the latter end of last, or beginning of this century, and started to the weaving again, which was very good at that time. Being very careful and sober he saved and was able to build a house with accommodation for three families, each having a room and kitchen, which was considered a large house for a weaver in those days. The dwelling houses were upstairs, and in the ground flat he had two weaver's shops. In the one he wrought with his sons and apprentices, the other was mostly occupied by his sister Barbara's husband, Alexander Smith, his apprentice, and other weavers. Smith could not make money like Uncle David. He was the father of Hugh Smith, Engineer
Uncle David had a good garden surrounded by a high wall, against which were trained fine apple trees. While other gardens were broken into during the fruit season, his never was touched, as everyone who might have tried, thought he might shoot them, for all imagined that old soldiers or sailors would have no scruples to kill by shooting. He was a very strong man five feet 10 inches in height, and had the thickest arm of any man I knew. He was right and left handed too, which gave him great advantages. He had very small features and a slender neck, and tho' he had such a thick arm I heard it said by those who saw it, that Grandfather's was thicker, altho' he was only five feet six inches in height.
Well, Uncle David sold off all his belongings and sailed for Philadelphia, USA in 1826, with his wife and family of five sons and two daughters. The eldest son would be about 19 years old, and a daughter 17 years old, while the youngest would be between five and six years old. He left with the intention of buying land in America, and cultivating a farm, but that notion left him, when he landed, and he never left the city of Philadelphia. Some of his sons became masons and some sailors, and one was a baker. The latter was the father of David Stewart who visited us when we resided in 34 Portland Street, about 19 or 20 years ago (about 1855 or 1856, WBS He told me his Grandfather (my Uncle David died when he was about 80 years of age. (That would be about 1854, just a short time before David Steward paid us the visit. His Grandmother had died some time before that. When his own father died he was left 18,000 pounds, and a large bakery establishment. His Mother was a German, and she was looking after the bakery while he had come to Europe. He did not know where he would go, but he might go round the world before going home. We all thought he was somewhat eccentric.
My Grandfather and Father were both burgess of Irvine, which gave them all the privileges of the town. I have both their burgess' tickets, which cost five pounds each. Before the Reform, (till about 1830 no man could start in business in any Burgh Town unless he got made a Freeman. All soldiers' sons had the liberty to start in any town in Great Britain, except two. (Which? Since 1830 or 1832 no town can compel you to become a burgess or join any of the incorporations. When I went to work in Ayr, about 1830, it cost a Slater about thirty pounds before he could start for himself in business.
I went to work in 1813 to give in weavers' webs and fill pirns. I was a that till 1818 when I was put to learn the weaving. I was greeting when I was set to work at it, and often got sick, and was only kept a few months at it.
I am at a loss what incidents of my early days to relate to you that would be useful to you. It is true I remember many incidents and stories I have never spoken of, nor do I seem to have that desire, altho' harmless of themselves. Indeed now and then I see in the daily papers and periodicals, many anecdotes less worth printing than some of my own recollection.
I went to Dr. McKenzie, Irvine, in June, 1819. The town at that time was always in a stir with soldiers both infantry and cavalry. I forget what regiment of infantry but that year both the 7th and 11th Hussars were there. One incident brings this fact to my recollection of an infantry regiment being there too. The Town Drummer was wont to beat his drum every morning at 5 o'clock, am, to waken the workmen. He was called Johnnie Hoge, a very old man, and almost unable to beat the drum, in fact he could not beat it properly, but just somewhat after the style the firedrum is beaten at the Southern Police Office. Well, a new drummer was appointed, called Allan Hoey, an old soldier, who held the post for many a year after. The first morning I heard him I knew it was not old Johnnie Hoge, and almost everybody was turning out to see who it was. He played the air of The Yellow Haired Laddie.
The unwell soldiers came to Dr. McKenzie to be treated for their complaints, and when any were bled, which was frequently the case, I had to hold the plate to receive the blood, and I had also to carry the medicine to patients. Sometimes I had to ride on horseback a few miles into the country. I remember one cold frosty morning being sent on horseback, in a great hurry, with medicine to a landed gentleman's house. I rode so fast that when I got home and had the horse in the stable, I fainted. The doctor's wife found me lying at the horse's head, and I came to myself hearing her flitting on me for riding the horse too hard. All her pity was for the beast, none for me, tho' it was the want of food which caused me to faint. The regular food each day was, at 9 o'clock, am, a wee bowl of thin porridge, and a half cupful of milk, and nothing till 5 o'clock, pm, after the doctor and his wife had dined, and even then, we, the servants, never had as much as fill our bellies', then at 7 o'clock, pm, a cup of weak tea, half a roll, and a thin cut of butter. The servant lass felt it badly and at times when we were very hungry I was sent to Mrs. McKenzie and ordered to say, please Mem, will you give us a few potatoes, for we are hungry. We generally got them and a flitting along with them for same, tho' all we had to add to them was salt. The butter we each got at tea time we kept and used it for meal brose when we rose in the morning at 6 o'clock, but Mrs. McKenzie found us out, and put a stop to the making of them. I daresay I could stand hunger better than many boys, but I was like paddy, who when asked if Want brought him to Scotland, replied, No bejabers, I had plenty of want at home. When I was at home we had often to go without regular meals, and sometimes we had nothing for a whole day. Then at best we did not get great things to eat, often only potatoes and salt, and we were very happy when we got pepper to mix with the salt; this we called, Dab at the stool.
(I remember when a very little fellow our family were at Helensburgh one summer. One day my sisters, Jessie and Marion, brother Jack and I were away a long walk with Father and Mother. We felt very hungry, and said so, but Father declared we did not know what hunger was. We all four thought and said we did, so he proposed when we got home he would give us Dab at the stool. We all felt very curious to know what that might be, but were told to wait and see. When we got home we were kept out till Father had the dish prepared, and when we did get called in, the pot of potatoes was on the floor, and a mixture of salt and pepper in a dish on a stool. I remember very well that I was really hungry and thought it a capital dinner, and Father seeing how we ate declared, Hunger was good Kitchen. WBS
Oatmeal and peasemeal brose was a great luxury to us, even without milk. The peas in those days were milled with the skins, and owing to them being burned in a kiln or oven, the brose was as black as tar. The oatmeal was coarse and full of seeds and old folks will tell you what a torture it was to have a seed stick between your teeth after taking brose or oat-cake. Working people never got loaf bread, except on some great occasion, such as meeting of friends, births, weddings or at the New Year, when perhaps some penny or two-penny loaves might be got. It was the gentry who bought the quartern loaves. Pork was the principal animal food with us, also sheeps' bags, liver and lights or what was better known as draughts, sheeps' head and trotters from all of which soups or broth was made. Haket kail was a great dish, that is green kail boiled and champed with oatmeal and butter. Sowens was another dish, which was made from the coarse seeds of oatmeal. These were put into a large crock or deep dish, water poured over them and allowed to ferment for days, then the liquid was drained thro' a fine sieve, when it had the appearance of butter-milk. This was put in a pot and boiled, being stirred all the time until it got thick when it was ready to be dished up. It resembles cornflour somewhat, in appearance when ready, only it is sour. Then we had potatoes scones; these were made with cold potatoes mashed up with oat-meal and baked, also peasemeal and barley-meal scones, and mashlam or mashalam scones. These latter were made of a mixture of oat-meal, peasemeal, barley-meal, mashed potatoes and turnips all baked together. What we ate in my young days was just what would fill our bellies. Tea was seldom seen except on Sundays, and being dear, only a quarter of a pound was bought at a time. Then the sugar was 8d. and 10d. per quarter of pound, and so wet that we boys' dare not linger when we were carrying it for being in a piece of grey paper it was apt to melt and run out, then we got thrashed and a thrashing in those days was a religious duty.
Dr. McKenzie was intimate with Robert Burns, and at the time I was with him, he kept up a correspondence with Mrs Burns who was then living in Dumfries. His wife's sister, Miss Miller of Mauchlin, was one of Burns' Belles. I got no pay from him, for he attended my mother.
During the eleven months I was with the doctor I never saw my bed except by the light which came thro' the seams of the sarking, or when I lifted the skylight board. I did not know what sort of bed I had, or blankets, I knew, however, I felt the cold, latterly I found an old piece of carpet and put it on top. The way I got into bed was by shoving myself down feet first, so that I just lay in a hole. Every morning the doctor's wife awakened me and if before 6 o'clock on the Kitchen clock I had to go back to my garret and wait, then go back to the Kitchen and break the raking-coal. At exactly a quarter to seven o'clock I had to go out to the Seagate-head well for water to fill the Kettle. If I went before or after that hour, I was sure of a shine. I was really terrified for that woman, and I cannot remember one kind word or look she ever gave me. I had to make the dog's porridge with my own, and one morning they were just boiling over and I was blowing into them while stirring them with the spirtel, when the doctor's wife made her appearance and yoked me for blowing my abominable breath into the dog's porridge.
The doctor's son, Mr John McKenzie, was a W.S. in Edinburgh, and when he came home at the shooting season, I had to go with him to carry his game bag. It was no easy matter to carry that thro' fields weighted with hares and other game, and then when it was full I had to carry it home. Often I was hardly able to follow him for want of food not being provided with a piece even. One day I was glad to eat a part of the oat-cake which was for the dogs, which I found in the bottom of the bag, and it was all over blood from the dead game. Mr John had his fine lunch and flask, tho' I never knew what was in it, wine or whisky. He always tried to be stylish, and he got me a kind of flunkey coat and hat to wear when with him. I forget what was the appearance of the coat, but the hat was high crowned and made of leather, very hard and much too large forme, and had a gold band round it, much the same as you see flunkies wear. One day his mother ordered me to take off my coat, shoes and stockings and roll up my trousers and muck the stable, and also clean the close. It was a very cold day I remember and my legs and old clothes very dirty. She came out when I was busy at it and gave me smart orders to run up the town an errand. Off I went, all dirty as I was, bare legs and feet, but with my leather hat, gold band and all. I met Mr John and he turned me back and ordered me never to come out in that state again. So home I turned without doing the message, and washed and dressed myself. I do not know how he and his mother settled it, but I heard no more about the matter.
The Present Lord Eglinton's great Grandfather, old Hugh Montgomerie, was lying very ill at that time, in fact just dying, and I had to carry medicine for him every other day. He was upwards of 80 years of age when he died.
During the time I was in the doctor's (1819-20 the Radicals were making a great stir, and men for speaking their minds were put in gaol, aye and banished or hung. Every night we built up the chairs against the doors and windows to prevent the Radicals getting in to kill us, the fear of them was so great. I, like many others, had no other idea of what a Radical was than as a man who would kill people. I was strong in that belief, so much so, that I was prepared every night if I did hear them getting into the house, to open the skylight in my garret and get out on to the roof.
As I said they were making a great stir, so much so that 1819 was called the Radical Year. Every morning I had to go out to water the horse, and one morning when I was out with it up came the Ayrshire Radicals from the north with fifes and drums and carrying flags and banners. There were hundreds of them, all going to Kilmarnock, where there was to be a great meeting. It was said that some of them had old swords and firearms concealed about them, also a weapon called a clege. It was something like this:-
When flung with the hand it was sure to stick in the object it struck. You see at the point it was barbed (or as we called it whitters just like a fish hook, when once it entered a body it could not come out without making an ugly wound. The ball at the other end was lead stuck full of feathers to guide its flight. Well, at Kilmarnock some thousands met and it was generally expected that there would have been bloodshed but all passed off quietly, there was none. I forget the particulars now, for you see all that took place about 56 years ago. (This was written in 1875. WBS
The Radicals were so big and confident that they imagined neither foot or horse soldiers could stand before them. And what were they? Nearly all of them were poor starved weavers.
One Sunday night there came marching into the town, what we called in those days the Old Fogies or Veterans. These were old soldiers who had been at the wars and Government had formed them into regiments. The one that marched into the town that night came from Ayr and was bound for Paisley, for the Rads were up there. The poor Rads and the townsfolk of Paisley wondered as much as the Irvine folks did when these Old Fogies arrived. My old friend Mr. Wm. Wylie manufacturer, belonged to Paisley and remembered seeing them arrive. It was generally thought and I suppose after a search it was found to be the fact, that 2-1/2d. would have paid for all the gun powder in Paisley. I need not try to explain to you something about the panic which prevailed in the country at that time, further than to say I think it was a low deep scheme of the Government to try the people. History now tells of it, and it is generally called the Spy system; a number of bad men were employed in it.
Fighting of all sorts was encouraged at that time, boys fought, and their fathers fought too. When I was with the doctor, one of the hussars was encouraged by his officers to fight a stonemason, and the mason was encouraged by the gentry of the town to fight the hussar, to uphold the town's credit, I suppose. I remember the doctor was Lord Dean of Guild, and was asked to put a stop to the fight, but he said to let them fight it out. Both the men were severely hurt, and the mason was paid to appear at his work, tho' unable to do anything, and the soldier had to appear too, so that neither might shew beat. It was said that the soldier was the best fighter, but that the mason could stand a thrashing best. It seems to me now, that during these days the man who could fight best and drink most was the favourite with everybody. At the new year time a fair or races, it was nothing to see men fighting. There were few police or any authority, to interfere, and it was dangerous for anyone to do so.
Let me now leave the McKenzie household and home. Weaving was not to be got, and men with families were obtaining work on the roads and the Town's moor at 1/- per day. At that time, we never got our bellies properly filled, for you see mostly all the trades suffered after the French war, but none more so than the weaving. In the Autumn of 1820, I, along with other boys, was one afternoon playing at shinty at the town-end, when Mrs Blair (that was my old friend John Blair's mother called me into her house to see a lady and gentleman, who wanted me to go with them to Edinburgh and promised to dress me in braw clothes, and keep me as their servant. I was very happy over the offer, and accepted it, my measure was taken, and it was not long after till I was well dressed in good warm clothes. Mr and Mrs Alexander Manners remained in Irvine for a few weeks after I was engaged, staying in the house of Councillor Fullerton, who was the lady's father. I got plenty of meat there. At 6.00 o'clock, a.m., coffee and bread, 9.00 o'clock, a.m., porridge and milk, 10.00 o'clock, a.m., tea and bread, 2.00 o'clock, p.m., luncheon, 5.00 o'clock, p.m. dinner, 6.00 o'clock, p.m., tea, and before bed time, supper, with plenty to eat at each meal for the five or six servants.
In Edinburgh it was much the same. You ask me if I ever saw Sir Walter Scott! Yes. I often saw him when I was a boy, as he resided only a short distance from Mr. Manners' house. To me, then, he was nothing more than other men, and tho' I remember he was lame, I could not give you a description of him, as it is now at least 55 years ago. (This was written on 31st March, 1875. WBS
Lately I noticed in the Christian News a story of Sir Walter Scott and Miss Baillie. I recollect her too, better even, that Sir Walter, for she often visited at Mr. Manners' house.
So far as my recollection serves me, it seems to me that all the gentry of Edinburgh knew her. She seemed to be admired for her beauty and stately appearance, and also her rich style of dressing. She could make herself welcomed to parties without being formally invited, and when she had a party, her house was open to all the better class of the City. The position I held in Mr. Manners' house, (page-boy it was my duty to announce each visitor at the Drawing Room door. I can remember when Miss Baillie called she always requested me to announce her as some empress or princess of a foreign land, and before I was allowed to call it aloud, she made sure I knew how to pronounce it properly. I forget the particular name these parties got, but I recollect that the company were continually coming and going, none remaining long, but only partaking of refreshments, converse with a few, then go.
In those days the streets of Edinburgh were lighted with oil lamps, and in the houses only oil lamps and candles were used. No gas except in a few shops, which of course were sights.
Then ladies had to use sedan chairs carried by two men, generally Highlanders, or in some rare instance hire what we called a chaise in those days, drawn by two horses. There were no one horse cabs then for hire, and the machines in use were generally old carriages which had belonged to some gentleman. What was more common, however, when the distance was not great, a servant walked before the ladies, carrying a lamp or lantern. In such a manner I had often to escort Miss Baillie home, and she always had a little dog with her.
The sedan chairs I mentioned as for hire, also the creels of common porters were laid by the kirb of the pavement at certain corners of the streets, while the men waited a hire. One day I saw a number of creels thrown amongst the dandies as they marched along, coming down on their heads and hurting them. The chair men also did porters' work, but did not carry their burdens on their back, separately, as the porters did. They had a sort of table with four legs, at the sides were places to fix the long wooden thams or poles, for carrying; on this table their loads were placed, and two of them lifted it. They usually ran when carrying a chair or burden, for I think the spring of the poles caused them to go at a sort of jog-trot. I have heard it said that these men could run up Leith walk, from Leith to Edinburgh, faster than a chaise could be driven.
When I was in Edinburgh from 1820 to 1822, I several times saw the scaffold erected to hang someone. It was erected at the upper end of the Parliament Houses, near St. Giles Church, High Street. I have seen three ropes ready at one time, but I never remained to see anyone hanged, as I knew my master would be displeased. I do not recollect anyone who was hanged, as well as David Haggart or Laggart, a notorious .............
The people in Edinburgh seemed very much interested in him, as I believe he came of very respectable parentage, and had been well brought up, and altho' such a notorious character, I suppose his cleverness at his profession caused him to be admired. His first two fingers were exactly alike in length, which allowed him to slip them into a pocket and pick it. He called them his forks. He could not be kept handcuffed as his hands were so slender, he could slip them through the cuffs. He was caught and lodged in Dumfries Jail, but by some means he broke out, killing the gaoler with a stone in a stocking. It was said the he was such a swift runner, he was 10 miles out of the town in an hour afterwards. On the afternoon of the day he was hung, a history of his life was published. I got one from a bookseller and read the most of it that night. He told of the pockets he had picked and the various ways he had accomplished his work, also gave the slang talk used by his fraternity. I remembered his exploits for a long time, but have forgotten them now, but they would fill a good sized volume. I heard ladies and gentlemen say that the reading of his life would learn young men to rob too. I think the publication must have been all bought up at once, for I never heard or saw anything of it since.
On or about that time Edinburgh was kept in a broil by the trial of George IV's wife, Queen Caroline. It was by her trial that the great Lord Brougham, who was an Edinburgh lawyer, rose so high, he was the queen's advocate. The opinion of the Edinburgh folks was divided, some for the King, and some for the Queen. History now speaks of her having been treacherously dealt with by George and his followers. When the trial was in her favour the lawyer classes and some of the better class of the inhabitants, illuminated their windows. I saw whole streets which were not lit with the glass broken and great mobs rioting thro' the streets. The soldiers, both infantry and cavalry, patrolled the streets day and night to keep the rabble in check, and protect property. In the year 1819 nearly every town had Volunteer companies to guard against the Rads, and Edinburgh was not behind in that respect. At the time this trial was going on, the Dandies, (the name the Volunteers got were called out. I think the trial was in 1821, which was the first year I remember the census being taken. When that was done, my Master's house was being painted and we were in lodgings in a Mr. Cooper's, St. Andrew's Street. He, of course filled up the census paper and put all our names and ages down, including his mother's, who was upwards of 80 years old. I told her that he had put her down at that age, and she got angry at her son for writing her down so old.
I remember, too, seeing the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, with the grand turn-out. At that time Earl of Morton was the Lord High Commissioner. Now of course the Free and U.P. churches have Assemblies, but none of them turn out as the Auld Kirk did in those days. You know that the law is that the Assembly must be presided over by the reigning sovereign, and when that cannot be done personally, a substitute is sent and he has all the attention paid him as becomes a representative of the sovereign. He was carried in a fine sedan chair, surrounded by attendants. When I was with Mr. Manners, he had a seat in the High Kirk, and from the position I occupied in it, I could see the Earl of Morton well, as he sat in a pew just opposite the Minister, surrounded by his officers, all in military uniform. In the front seats of the side galleries sat the Justiciary Lords and advocates, all wigged and gowned and everyone having a bouquet of flowers before them, which they raised now and then to smell.
I once heard a gentleman make a comparison between the churches of Rome, England and Scotland. He said the Romish Church was like a lion, the English like a cat and the Scottish like a kitten.
I left Edinburgh in May, 1822, and on that year George IV visited the city. Nearly everyone who could manage it, I think, and lived within walking or driving distance went to see him then. Many poor people walked a long distance.
I often think it strange that I have been, and am still able, to enter into and sustain conversations with learned men, with rich and poor, high and low, alike. I might mention a few such incidents. When I was a lad of between 14 and 15 years of age and in service in Edinburgh, the first night I arrived in my Master's house, his father (an old man and a W.S. entered into conversation with me and seemed well pleased with our talk. All the time I was with that family, they all seemed pleased to have me talk with them at times, and even when waiting at the table, when a large company of ladies and gentlemen were dining. I seemed to afford them entertainment. I never concerned myself to discover how I was able to do so, and I cannot tell even yet.
When you were a little boy, about 5 or 6 years old, we were at Dunoon during the summer, and Mother and I went to Innellen and called on a Miss McPherson who was in Mr. Manner's house at the same time as I was. She did not know me as it was nigh on 36 years since she had last seen me. When I told her who I was she took a hearty laugh, and told Mother and I that, since she had seen me she had travelled over Europe, and that during her travels the remembrance of me at times had made her laugh. I did not imagine what it was I had done or said which so tickled her fancy, but I am satisfied it was nothing bad for she was a good woman.
In the same house with Mr. Manners there was a Capt. Hay of the 6th Dragoons, who often had a talk with me. I have often too, had a conversation with gentlemen whom I did not know. I remember being in the company of one in a steamer between Largs and Glasgow, with whom I had a long conversation, but whom I did not know, and some Largs folks asked me afterwards how I knew and could speak so freely to Lord so and so, telling the name which I now forget. Another time I made the acquaintance of a gentleman on board a steamer, and had a long and interesting talk with him. In speaking to some I knew on board I heard that the celebrated Hugh Millar was aboard. I again got into conversation with my unknown acquaintance and mentioned the above fact, when to my astonishment he told me he was the man, but did not want it known. I remember again, I met a special correspondent of the London Times newspaper in a Temperance Hotel in Edinburgh. He had just arrived with the Queen and her court that evening from Balmoral Castle.
I went to sea in March, 1824, in a Barque of 500 tons, called the Dale, belonging to Pollok and Gilmour of Port Glasgow. She was an old leaky West Indianman in fact all their vessels were old ships, and open from stern to stern. They were used for carrying logs of wood principally. The first new ship they built was called the Margaret Pollok and was built about the time I joined the Dale. They increased their ships every year, till they became the largest and richest company in the country at one time. That year I went to sea all the ship owners had to bind so many apprentices, according to the tonnage of their vessels. Messrs. Pollock and Gilmour bound 40 boys from 17 to 21 years of age to serve four years' time. Three of us left Irvine together. Jock Dickie, Jock Aird and Jock Stewart (myself to be sailors. We travelled to Port Glasgow on foot, past those moorland hills you see from the railway carriage going to Dalry. Meat was very scarce with us, and when we got to Kilmalcolm, near Port Glasgow, we were completely done up, we would not even get it to buy. However, we struggled on and got to Port Glasgow. The morning after we were aboard, the first thing I did was to lend a hand to take off the hatches, a very dangerous thing for a man but especially for a boy to do who is unacquainted with the work. While I was stooping to lift, one of the sailors attempted to kick me. Owing to my stooping posture, had he succeeded he would have kicked me over the heart, but fortunately he overbalanced himself and fell. The next thing he did was to make what sailors call a double bowline hitch fastened it to me and a tar bucket and run me up the back stays of the main mast. In running me up so quickly sometimes my head and sometimes my feet were uppermost. Unless one is very active with their hands they are very apt to come down with a run. The day was cold and my hands all tar owing to tarring the rigging. I could not beat them warm. For some days we were kept tarring the rigging and the stays of the ship. We were a day or two waiting till we could get a crew, and while waiting for men, we had riggers, sail-makers and lumpers working about the ship. During that time I was kept as cabin boy until the proper steward came aboard. I was very much puzzled that everyone knew my name, for I thought they called me Stewart whereas they only called me steward. There were a number of very bad men amongst those who were working aboard and they were continually urging me to steal things which lay loose about the cabin, such as duck cloth (a kind of canvas for making trousers or anything I could lay my hands on. They also wanted me to steal rum and give it them. But I am glad to say, tho' pleading so urgently with me, they could not prevail upon me to take or give them anything, all their coaxing and swearing would not tempt or frighten me. I can easily perceive how many a poor boy or man is prevailed upon to steal from their employers by a lot of such dishonest rascals that are found in all places, both at sea and on shore.
At last we got all ready to sail, and dropping out from the quay we cast anchor at the Tail of the Bank, opposite Greenock. During the night a storm came on which caused the Dale to drag her anchor. There were no chain cables in those days, only hempen ones of great thickness, 6 to 9 inches diameter. Then our ship's crew came aboard and all the riggers, sail-makers and lumpers were sent ashore. Then commenced the weighing of the anchor, and unbending of the sails. I was ordered by the Captain to loose the main royal-sail13, and be sure and bring in the gasset (? that is the rope which goes round the sail and makes it fast to the yard. A man or boy can easily unbend the sail, and never need come off the crosstrees', but the last turn he must throw the gasset from him, then when the sail is set it flies from the end of the yard. The only way you can recover it is to go out on the foot rope and bring it in. Generally before any sail is taken in, it blows hard, and then it is not so easily brought in. Well, when I got my orders from the Captain how I was to unbend the sail, Jock Aird also got similar orders to unbend the fore-mast-royal sail. I got mine unbent and the gasset brought in and made fast to the toping lift then got down to deck again. By this time Jock's gassets were both flying at the yard's arm, and the captain swearing at him, and ordered him to go out and bring them in, but Jock would not move off the crosstrees and was holding on to the toping lift. The Captain gave me orders to go aloft and knock him down, so up I went but with no intention of obeying such orders, but by the time I got up to him I was ordered to bring in one of the ropes and Jock the other. I at once brought in one, but still Jock held on by the crosstrees, so I had to bring in the other too. I was so short that my chin only reached the yard when I was on the foot rope. I was very much afraid, but was determined not to be beat. The footropes were too slack for any man to be on, but they were afterwards tightened. Jock and I were never so high before in our lives and the ship was running right before the wind, which is the worst time to go aloft. When the ship is on a tack with the wind on her beam, she lies over on her side and one can go aloft easier. Sailors always go aloft on the weather side, that is the side the wind strikes on. When a ship is running before a wind she is perpendicular and now and again rolls from one side to the other, making it difficult to climb the rigging and at the same time the man or men, at the wheel are apt to be flung overboard. I saw two men nearly over, the only thing which saved them was the high bulwark. A greenhand is well named on shipboard for I felt very green at first, everything was so different from what I thought. I always imagined that sailors were hearty, fine and free lads, being accustomed to see them so when ashore, but to me then, they were nothing but a cursing and swearing set of rascals, the Captain as bad, if not worse than any. The Captain had served his time to be a weaver with my Father, previous to going to sea, but he never favoured me in the slightest, and many a blow I got from him with a rope's end.
The wind was ahead of us, and we were three weeks e'er we got clear of land. It was rough and wet all the time and we were mostly on deck, both day and night. I was sick for a number of days and sea sickness is horrible. I never had an attack of it again tho' we had rougher times and even when on board Sailing packets and Steamers in after years. All the time I was sick I only got porridge and treacle for breakfast, salt beef broth for dinner, and hard sea biscuit and salt junk for supper, while all the men had tea and coffee to take. Sailors in those days had to provide such things for themselves but my allowance was just what was termed ship's allowance. Nearly all the time I was at sea the other boys were everything with the men, and always got share of the good things from them, while I was kicked by all hands, and always gave battle back. The other boys did whatever the men wanted, and stood their blows and swearing just for the sake of getting well fed. The first man who came to give me a lashing was the second mate, but before he gave me a blow, I gave him two or three. He never attempted to strike me again. I gave battle to everyone on board that offered to strike me, except the Captain, not that I was afraid of him, for I thought I could have fought him too. The first mate was the stoutest man on board and he gave me such a lashing, I thought he would have killed me. This was done in the ship's hold, and at last I got clear of him and out by the fore-castle hatch, and lifting a windlass handspike I stood ready to strike him as he came up, but thought better of it and did not. When he came up I was standing on the bulwark and told him if he came near me I would jump overboard. I was sure I could swim ashore, for this happened in St. John's River14, at the time the men were heaving the capstan, for we were warping up the river. He let me alone and the men called me to the capstan and I went crying. They wanted me to sing a capstan song, which I did, for I may tell I was considered the best singer aboard. The work at the capstan goes on much easier and feels lighter when a good song is being sung. I was not long at this when the mate sent for me from the cabin to go and speak to him, which I did. He gave me a glass of rum and told me he would never strike me again nor allow any other man to do so, nor was I to do any boy's work again. Just before this I was becoming a favourite with the men, the other boys lost caste. While they were looking out for favours from the men, I learned and soon knew every sail, cord of the vessel, and was always ready to go aloft when called. I did not need to swab the decks, coil up the ropes, or any other boy's work after this, and got a man's allowance of rum. Coming home the first mate took me into his watch. The ..board watch is always the chief mate's, the second mate is always on the Captain's, or Starboard watch. When making land coming home the Captain gave me orders to strike any man who struck me. Formerly he thrashed me if I offered to hit a man. I did not wait till I was struck. I fought three of them that day, a Welshman, an Englishman and an Irishman. By this act of mine in fighting I have no doubt you will think that I was fond of it. I never was, but in my youth if anyone offered to strike me, I was sure to give the first blow and follow it up.
I will stop now, for I have no doubt I have written a good deal of nonsense, but I find that writing in this strain, is just like conversing on old memories, when once started I go on.
In my former notes I told you about the rough treatment I received at the hands of the men on board ship in the voyage to St. John's New Brunswick. In spite of all I endured, I determined to be a sailor. I made friends with the steward, who was a thorough seaman, and altho' he always shipped as steward, was not backward in lending a hand either to make sail, or to take it in. From him I learnt all about the rigging and sails, and the use of all the ropes. I had to ask questions of him, and I believe I must have asked some droll ones. Once I asked him, What does the watch on deck call if the ship had the appearance of going down? He told me the watch would simply call, All hands on deck.
Now altho' each watch was entitled to four hours below after being four hours on deck, it often happened (especially during the rough weather I mentioned we had when we left Scotland, the watch last relieved had not got right to bed, when two or three blows would be struck on deck over the hatch, by a man with a handspike, and someone would roar down the companionway, Reef top sails, there below, or perhaps, About ship, there below. When the order to be executed was sung out, all hands had to turn up on deck. One night, shortly after I had asked the steward the question mentioned above, it came on very rough. The storm was to me worse than I had ever seen or heard before, the ship rolling and tossing fearfully. I was below and could hear the heavy hail fall on deck, and the sea dashing over the bows of the vessel and washing the deck. Suddenly I heard the thumping on the forecastle hatch, and a loud course voice called down the companionway, All hands on deck!
I can tell you I was on deck as smart as any, thinking the ship was going down. We were ordered to take in the foresail. The wind was blowing (to me fearfully hard and of course from the rolling of vessel, and the seas she shipped, I though every minute was to be the last and that we would all be lost. The crew were making such a noise, crying out as they took in the sail, and I imagined our safety depended upon that sail being taken in. While all the men were on the yard taking in the sail, I was on deck holding on to the ropes of the long boat. I dared not let go, else I would have been thrown into the lee scuppers, the ship rolled so much from side to side dipping her yardarms into the sea. I had not held on very long to my position when the Captain came across me, and thinking I was one of the men skulking, gave me a skelp which sent me down to the leeward. I came down pretty hard into the scuppers and the mate got hold of me, I suppose to give me another blow, when the Captain called out, asking who I was. The mate peered into my face as it was very dark, and recognising me, called back, Boy Stewart. Then they spoke kindly to me and asked where the other two boys were, and I had to tell them that they were below. I was praised for being so brave as to come on deck, and they were called cowards, and I was sent below to order them up. If it was cowardliness which caused them to keep below, it was much the same which caused me to go on deck, in the hope if we did go ashore, I might have a chance to swim for my life. (In this I differ from my Father, with all due respect to his opinion, for it is not the spirit of the coward which causes anyone to leave a place where there is danger of being drowned like a rat in a hole, (as he would have been had the vessel gone down while he and the other boys were below but rather the spirit of bravery animating one to make a bold stroke for life, even tho' surrounded by danger. WBS
Well, in going for them I expected every moment to be washed overboard, owing to the waves that were breaking over the vessel. I had to keep close down on deck, creeping all the way and instead of clambering over the windlass, I crept under it. I ordered them up, but I forget now what was done to them, whether they got ropes-ended or not. The call had been a mistake for there was no particular danger, but I cannot describe to you the fear I had, and how I wished I had been ashore. I never thought of home or any particular house for shelter, but imagined if I was at the back of a whin-bush on Irvine moor, I would be all right. I always felt so when the weather was rough, but when the storm was over, I had no more care but to be a sailor. After this the boys were sent aloft to set or take in sails, or set the studding sails. I was often set to take in the skysail, the highest sail the vessel carried.
I remember one very rough night all hands were aloft reefing top-sails, when the Captain gave me orders to take in the zaff-top-sail of the mizzenmast; that is the same kind of sail as the top-sail of a yacht with one mast. Generally two men are sent aloft to take it in, but up I went to do it. When I got to the crosstrees I found I could do nothing, so down I went again. I was not right on deck when the Captain caught and gave me a taste of the ropes end, and ordered me up once more. Up I went to the very top of the sail, got hold of the gasset, came down the sail always taking a turn round it to the mast, but this let the loose part of the sail make a noise by the wind catching it. I knew it was not right done, and that there would be a shine about it in the morning when daylight broke. Next morning when it was light enough, some of the men discovered it and began swearing at the men who had taken in, in such an unseamanlike way. All of course denied having done it, so I told them I did it, and they could not conceive how it was possible for any man, let alone a boy, to secure it in the manner I had fixed it.
One very coarse day, after all sail was made sung, the main truck and vane were blown away. All hands declared that the royal mast would require to be struck (that is lowered to the crosstrees to put up new ones. I said it would be a job for me, but they said no that the mast tapered so much and was so like a broomstick no man could do it. Well, a truck and vane were made, and sure enough the mate ordered me aloft to put them on. When I got up, I found they would not fit, so I came down and explained what was required. That was put right, then up again I went and fixed them. All the time we were going before the wind, a very bad time, as I told you before, to go aloft. When the Captain came on deck he inquired who put them up, and on being told it was me, he sent for me to go to him in his cabin and gave a pair of new duck trousers and a glass of rum. In the course of a day or two he ordered the other boys to go up and touch the vane, which they did. I might tell you of more of these exploits, but that will suffice for the present.
When we were crossing the Banks of Newfoundland, the men ordered us boys to go to the captain, get a bottle of rum and treat them, as it was the custom for those to do so who crossed for the first time. All three of us went to the captain and Jock Dickie being the oldest, was the spokesman. Jock told the captain in his own blunt way that the men wanted a bottle of rum from us because of crossing the Banks for the first time'. Up strode the captain to Jock, gave him a lick on the lug and told him that was not the way to speak to, or ask anything from, his captain. To shew us he made us stand aside, then came toward us, took off his bonnet, put it under his arm, then said to Jock, If you please, captain, will you give us a bottle of rum to treat the men, and so on. We got the rum.
One day he gave Jock Aird a colting for swearing, and another day I got one for not swearing. Another day he knocked me down with a blow on the nose, and I never knew what for.
Another day, a very coarse one, a big Irishman told the captain he should take in the sail or God Almighty would take it in for him. He would not do so, and some of the spars, sprung by the force of the wind on the spanker boom, broke.
Again another day I was sent aloft to the Main-royal to do something at the starboard end of the yard. While I was at the end of the yard an Irishman held one of the braces to adjust it, and keep it steady. We were running before the wind at the time, and while I was holding on by the yard-arm the Irishman let go the brace and the yard gave such a swing, that all hands expected to see me go overboard. I held on, however, and when I got down on deck the captain was boxing and kicking him for letting go. I did not know of the yard swinging more than what was caused by the ship's motion.
I remember one night we had been reefing the fore topsail and after getting it done, Jock Dicker and I were coming down over the cat harpens at the same time, Jock lost his hold and in falling, toucher me on the shoulder. Fortunately his arm got entangled with the back stay, and that prevented him from going overboard. He came right down upon the bulwark on his bottom, his arm being held in the stay partly broke his fall. The skin was torn off his arm, however, and he could do nothing for some time. The captain rubbed it with some burning stuff out of the ship's medicine chest, which made it very painful. If I had not held on fast when he struck me on the shoulder, we might both have been overboard.
Another night when it was blowing hard, the wind being on the beam, we all thought the masts would go overboard. We were all on deck, holding on to the belaying pins, or anything else we could, when suddenly the bowsprit broke, and we really expected all the masts to follow, but fortunately it broke before the forestay. If it had snapped abaft that point, nothing almost, could have saved the masts, all would have gone by the board, each depends to a certain extent on the other. It took us all next day before we got in the bowsprit, jib-boom and flying jib-boom, and all the loose rigging. We got no food cooked that day.
Sailors never run out of work, there is always something to do. They must attend regularly to the sails, hauling the braces, and watching that nothing gives way. When all is snug and everything going fair, they open out old ropes and spin new ones out of the old material, plain gassets out of strands of old ropes, tease oakum for caulking, and mend sails. During these occupations there was always a good deal yarn spinning and singing. All this went on during the morning and night watches, and I always had to sing a good deal, for I had a great number of songs I knew and could sing. We were continually quarrelling and fighting, and there was no lack of swearing. Our crew was composed of Englishmen, Scotsmen, Irishmen, Welshmen and one Dane, and none seemed to know anything of the other, except the Captain, the carpenter and us three boys who were from Irvine, but nevertheless we quarrelled too. The carpenter and I agreed fairly well, and he made me his mate to ca' the grindstane while he sharpened his tools, or I would chalk his line and hold on while he made a spar.
In crossing the Banks of Newfoundland, we had it mostly pretty rough; it was very foggy too and we could not see the length of the ship. We always had men keeping a look-out in case we might run foul of other vessels. So rough was it one day we hove to the ship, which is only done in a severe storm. I knew that on the Banks we would have soundings, so without telling anyone I got into a locker abaft the poop, with an old gun ramrod and two big hooks. I made the ramrod the chap-stick and fastened the hooks to it (just as you have seen boys do at Largs, having whalebone fixed to the fishing lines. I was at a loss for bait at first, so I went to the steward and got a herring, cut it in two and baited the hooks, fixed a lead plummet to the end of the line, and down it went, and I soon felt the plummet touch the bottom. All at once I felt such a pull, I thought I was to lose everything, so I bawled to some of the hands, who came to see what was the matter and helped me to haul in the line, and with it two large cods. I sent it down again and brought up other two, one caught by the mouth the other by the gills. Soon more lines were out and a great number of cods caught. One line heaved out by one of the men caught a large fish called the halibut. These are large flat fish, and mostly weigh two or three cwts, and are very fine eating. I have bought a few pounds in Glasgow sometimes at about eightpence the pound.
I don't think there is any use of me writing you much more in this style, for I think I have a rambling, nonsensical way of describing things. If this is my way of telling anything in conversation, I am too long in giving my attention to it now.
(I only wish I could have induced Father to write more than he did, for while it may be rambling, I do not think anyone will put it down as nonsensical, for there is a charm in all his stories, which make them decidedly interesting. WBS
St. Johns lies in the Bay of Findy, (I write from memory, which is one of the most dangerous bays in the world for sunken rocks and running tides. We were in it for some days knocking about in very thick foggy weather just as we had been off the Banks of Newfoundland. The chief mate was lashed to the main chains heaving the lead, in case we might run on a shoal or rock. Few men were good at heaving the lead, except Shields men, who were all good at it, owing to the practice they have of going out and into Shields harbour, where there are a great many shoals and sand banks. I forget now what I then learned of the heaving the lead. Well, we struck a rock, I think the mate had reported 10 fathoms when she struck. She swung round and to all appearance was right ashore on the rocks. The captain jumped and swore like a madman, in fact we all thought him mad. We had an old cannon on deck, and altho' all hands knew about the danger of firing such an old one, that it might burst, we set to work to fire it every minute. We had no other means of communicating with the shore of our ship being in danger of going to pieces on the rocks. In a very short time a pilot came on board with a number of men. He was a big active looking man, and when he came on deck he took long strides and had a powerful look and commanding appearance. The ship's crew was standing looking and wondering what would be done, as the ship was continually thumping on the rocks while the pilot was looking up at the rigging. All at once he gave the command to let go certain braces, and haul in other ones, and then the ship swung around off the rock. He still kept ordering, the captain just looking on, but never saying a word. She moved on, and in a short time we were going up the St. John River, and passing other ships. At last we got the anchor out and safely moored, we were all very wet, hungry and tired, at least I was.
Next day we hauled alongside a new wharf, called the St. Helen, after the island Bonaparte was banished to; it stood out into the river by itself. As well as I can recollect now, the manner of construction of these wharfs or quays, was by driving long piles or logs into the ground, and binding them together with cross planks. Then the ships emptied all their ballast within the enclosure formed by the piles, and by and by they became solid. I never saw any vessel that came for timber discharge any other sort of ballast but stones and gravel. At Port Glasgow you might notice on the face of the hill behind the town, a red part, that is what is called thecline brae, where the ships got their ballast. Every ship must have sufficient ballast, as the want of it causes it to rock from side to side at sea, in fact many go down because of that. At that time ships were often what is called cranky, but now they are built flatter on the bottom and broader on the beam, so that some of them can sail without ballast. After we got discharged of our ballast, we hauled out into the middle of the river and got moored alongside some other vessels so that we all lay side by side with our anchors out over the bows and sterns, and all fast to each other, perhaps a dozen in each group. In St. John's River the tide, at ebbing or flowing, runs at the rate of seven or eight knots an hour, which causes a great strain on all the ships and their moorings. All vessels which carry timber have two portholes, one above the other, through which the timber is stowed. The logs are put in by the lower porthole first till the water is lipping, then it must be closed up, well caulked with oaken, and pitched over with tar to keep out the water. Before loading, however, the hold must be cleared, as the sailors say, from stern to stern, and while that is being done, the captain and boat's crew are off to the timber ponds for a raft. This has to be done when it is full tide, for at ebbtide the logs are lying dry. These logs may have been cut years before, and are all black but there is a class of men called broad-axe-men, who carry very broad faced axes, and who cut chips off to show the inside wood. The logs are all numbered too. Well, at full tide many ships' crews are at the ponds getting rafts, and many a dock the men get while they are making it up. The merchants and their clerks seldom fall into the water, they are so well accustomed to walk about on the logs. They were dressed in fine clothes and boots, and I have seen them with their book and pen in hand, walking along a single floating log, turning it over to get the number, mark it in their books, and never wet themselves, whilst the sailors with their boathooks to help them were continually tumbling in head over ears.
After the rafts are formed and secured with dogs and ropes, each crew gets a raft attached to its boat, and while a man or two are put upon it to look after the fastenings, and see that no logs get loose, the rest of the crew man the oars and tow it to the ship. While pulling at the oars a crew always sings, and the men always work better when they have a good singer on board. Songs with a chorus are best, like Highland Laddie. The ships have all a stage afloat at the portholes, and overhead a boom rigged out with block and tackle. The log to be ported is pulled up and rested on the edge of the porthole, then the men inside make fast their tackle and haul in, while the men outside take hold further along, then they heave away till the log is fairly into the ship. There is always a practical man called a stevedore, to see that the timber is properly packed and so correct must it be stowed, that each log is measured, and a good one may have a piece cut off just to make it fit properly. They are laid layer above layer, and each layer must show a good floor from stern to stern. The logs are battered in with a battering-ram, and dumb-screws are also used to get them in tight, then packed all round with lathwood and cooper's staves. Sometimes with all the care bestowed in packing, the timber may get loose, and break up the ship.
We saw boats on the river picking up the cuttings from the logs which were sent adrift. I was told that, where the captains were owners of the ships, they made profit by doing so, for they often picked up black-birch logs going adrift, and they would take all they could get to help to load their ships.
Up and down the River there would be at least a hundred vessels moored, all loading. St. John's timber always stands good in the Market, and altho' going under that name, may come a hundred miles from it. I have seen what is called a joint coming down the river, that is a large raft of logs, piled one over the other to some height out of the water and a number of men on it, having a log house to live in, built on the top. They propelled and guided the raft with long deep bladed oars, sculling at different parts.
We were six weeks loading, and our cargo was all picked timber of very large logs. We got it all out of Muels Pollock and Gilmour's ponds, of course, and sometimes we had to wait a little, as the owners would rather allow their own vessels to wait for their supply, than lose a sale to other ships. We wrought from 10 to 12 hours each day, and some days even more. While the ships were being loaded the crews sang, those men on the raft while porting the log sang out at every pull or push, Cheerily, Cheerily. When you bear in mind that all day long, each of the vessel's crews lying at anchor in the river, sang while working, you may try to imagine the constant din there was, for really we did nothing without singing. Nearly every night a number of the captains gathered and went ashore, and each of them took a man with them, I being always selected by our captain. Many a time I sat all night in the boat waiting for him. I remember one very cold night another captain wanted me to leave my boat and go with him to his ship, and he would be good to me, and I almost felt inclined to go, but did not.
One night our captain and another gave us orders to row our boat out into the river, and drop quietly under the stern of a large ship pointed out, and whatever was handed to us we were to stow it into our boat, we were not to speak but just take our orders where to go. We did as told and got a bag, hammock ? and were told to take them to another ship. This we did and then went back to the wharf we had left, and two men took us to a large drinking house, called Hell's Kitchen. It was filled with sailors from all nations drinking all sorts of drink out of tankards and tumblers. I never saw wine glasses used, all the rum and gin was drunk out of tumblers. The men who took us there were stealing men for their own ship. When a ship got short of hands by the men running away, it was quite common to offer those belonging to other vessels more pay than they were receiving. This had to be done quietly for if the men were caught changing they would have been put into prison till their vessel sailed.
A night or two before we sailed our captain and another captain and his boy went alongside another ship and we sat in the boar while our captains were drinking with the ship's captain. While waiting, one of the ship's boats came alongside of us with a quantity of fish called gasparows (very like our herring, and are caught in the St. John River with stake nets when the tide is at ebb. Well, they put them on board their vessel, into a barrel while they left on deck, and then went below. When all was quiet and only the watch walking the deck, we managed to put the most of the fish into our own boat, also a cat. When the two captains came aboard and were told what we had done, they were both well pleased, for it was just one thief robbing another. We believed at the time that it was considered good luck to steal such things just before sailing. One of the lads from whom we took the fish was our cook's son, and his father told him about me taking the fish, and he was going to punish me for it, but we never met again.
I remember one day that a report got circulated amongst our crew that there was too much water in our rum, it looked so very clear when taken out of the barrel. I generally helped the steward to pump it out. The men were all swearing over the watered rum and at the captain, and the bos'in more than all. When all hands were busy in the hold or on the raft loading I had occasion to go on deck and I saw the captain and bos'in in the cook's galley burning sugar, and using it to colour the rum. After that there was no more complaint. All rum is just like whisky until coloured with burnt sugar. Those of us on the stage got eight tots or glasses per day of rum, and sometimes we were wet all over, while those inside were able to keep dry.
The last night I was in St. John's three of our men and I were ashore with the captain. I was put to the bow oar. It was a very dark night and there was great danger as so many vessels were lying at anchor, also buoys, and a boy was generally put at the bow oar to keep a lookout. Owing to the rapid rate of the tide, had we run to one of these buoys we would have been capsized. When going back to the ship a storm of thunder and lightning came on, and after pulling out a bit, the captain and others thought we had missed the ship. I told them we were not past it for I could see it at each flash, but they doubted me. We kept crying, Dale, ahoy, now and then. I was in fear all the time, and once I thought If I see two more flashes hard after each other we will be lost, land the ship too. The two flashes came and I thought all was over, but we were right alongside the ship, and our men showing lights, threw us a line which we caught and got aboard safe. The rain was so heavy, and so much water running out of the scuppers, our small boat would soon have filled under them.
We sailed next day for Liverpool, and we had fine weather and a good passage, only we were kept constantly at the pumps, there was between eight and ten feet of water in the hold sometimes. As I told you before, the chief mate had me on his watch coming home, and was good to me. One night our watch was called up to relieve the captain's watch, the men were all busy at the pumps, and no appearance of them working. Our watch had to set to work too, all thinking it was up with us, for we anticipated we might become waterlogged. When a ship is waterlogged, she is full of water and if the forecastle and officers' cabin be under water, then all the crew must shelter as best they can upon deck. Sometimes, however, a ship has poops on deck, and they can live in these deck houses, but then there is the danger of the provisions being under water, of the crew not being able to get enough to eat. Then a ship in that condition cannot sail, and so long as she holds together, there is no fear of her sinking, but the great danger is that the cargo swells and bursts up the whole ship. However, we got her put all right again, and one of the other boys told me in secret that the captain's watch had been all asleep and had never tried the pumps, which, of course, accounted for so much water being in her when we were called on deck. I have nothing else particular to tell of the remainder of the voyage. The mate kept his word as he promised me in St. John's, he did not allow me to sweep the decks or do any other boy's work, and both the captain and he, as well as the other hands were certain I would stick to the vessel. When we arrived near Liverpool, a pilot boat came across us, and we took a pilot aboard. He was not long aboard until he took up with me, and gave me orders which I refused to obey in case the captain would find fault. He told me that the captain had nothing to do with me so long as he was aboard, so he rigged up a fishing line and set me to fish over the stern of the vessel. I had not fished long till I caught a number of what we called Noses (these big-headed fish with prickly parts over their nose which you may have seen boys catch at Largs pier, then stick corks on the sharp pike and throw them back into the water, but only to swim about on the surface. I caught them upon the surface of the water for owing to the motion of the ship, my line would not sink, and the pilot learned me how to skin them.
After we arrived in the River Mersey and had cast anchor, the men were all displeased at our not going into a dock at once. The captain declared we were too deep loaded to enter the Queen's Dock, and that we would require to take out some of the logs to lighten the vessel. The pilot ordered men to man a boat and take him ashore, and ordered me to go too. He sent back the men and boat after we landed, and took me with him thro' the town. We met a number of other pilots, and I don't remember how many beershops we were in, but I know I never drank as much before.
One day, while we lay out in the river, we three boys had to go ashore with the second mate. While we lay alongside the wharf waiting on him, we got foul of a drunk man who was on the quay, and he told us he would be down upon us in a Jock Robinson. Now that was the name of the Irvine Town Officer, who had been a terror to all the boys in the town, and we could not understand how he knew Jock Robinson. When the mate came aboard and we had pushed out into the river, the flow of the current was too powerful for us to pull against, and we could make no headway against it. The mate took the tiller out of the rudder to strike us with, and Dickie and I pulled in our oars and prepared to jump overboard and send him adrift, but Jock Aired bawled out he could not swim, so we had to give up. The tide carried us down the river and we got hold of a rope on a gabert and held there till the tide got less strong. I believe that at Liverpool the tide runs out at the rate of about seven miles an hour. When we got aboard all hands were getting somewhat groggy, the steward very much so. The steward was a very quiet man, and the men kept their distance from him for they thought that he had told all about them to the captain. When we got aboard he was telling the crew who was the informer, and who had likewise agreed to lump the ship's cargo. Also that the taking of the timber out of the ship as she lay in the river was a bargain between the captain and the informer, for the crew could not claim their wages till the ship was docked. He concluded by telling them that it was the bos'en who had done all that. We were not long after that in getting into dock and all snug, the men paid off, and none left but the captain, chief mate, bos'en and us boys.
I had always suspected the bos'en to be in league with the captain, and remembered what I had seen them do with the rum in St. John's. While the bos'en was discharging the ship, the customs-house officers were on the lookout for smuggled goods, and at last they seized about 40 lb of tobacco. I never knew how the matter was arranged.
(From what I could make out of Father's Notes, I understand he and the other two boys did not work at discharging the cargo, only swept the decks. During the day they were sent to one of the sailor's boarding houses, but at night slept on board ship, I suppose to watch it. WBS
Our hammocks were hung from the beams under the main deck in the hold and above the logs; had we fallen out we would have got severely hurt. We boys were three weeks on board, and during that time my dress consisted of a red shirt, canvass trowsers, and a Stewarton bonnet. I had no boots or stockings, just ran about barefooted. We wrought about the deck and rigging, keeping everything in order. The mate superintended the lumpers taking the timber out of the hold.
The last day I was aboard, we boys were painting the yards, I was at the maintopsail yard. It was new, but those that the other two Jocks were at were old, and if they missed a bit and he gave me a ropes-ending pretty smart. From the time we arrived in Liverpool, the other two boys had been urging me to cut. They had taken it into their heads that I knew the road better than they did. After getting the welting from the mate they said Surely, you'll cut now? and I said I would.
At night we went to the boarding house and got our suppers and by that time I was beginning to rue that I had promised to run. When we got back to the ship we began to make preparations to cut, and the mate, just before going ashore, gave us orders to grease the portholes, for there was a jable in the docks, and water was getting into the ship. When he had gone, I went and did the work, but the other two would not, and that was the last work I did aboard. We had some difficulty of knowing which way to turn when we left the ship, so I went aloft and from the compass took my bearings, and saw in which direction the north lay, for I knew Scotland lay to the north of England. When it was dark we started going in the direction I had made out. We travelled till late, thinking that every moment we would be taken up for runaways. The other two were better clothed than I was and had some spare things in a bundle on their backs, but I was clad as I formerly told you, with no extra clothing at all. About midnight we came to where a brick kiln was burning, and as it was a cold night, we lay down beside it till daybreak, then off we went enquiring the road to Scotland. We were often taxed for being runaways and threatened to be taken up, but we plodded on till far on in the day, when one man rather kinder than others told us we were off our way for Scotland. He directed us and we had to put about and get on the proper track again. We left Liverpool on Monday night, and on Wednesday we got to Preston, which is only about 30 miles from Liverpool.
I should have told you how that one day when we were going thro' the streets of Liverpool, we saw a travelling showman, who had a van in which was exhibited a large model of the Royal George man-of-war ship. The showman noticing we were sailor boys invited us in to see it, and while there a man spoke to us, and said he knew us to be Scotch boys, and enquired where we belonged to. We told him the west of Scotland and he said he came from that quarter too, which country, and we said Ayrshire. Then he asked which town, and we told him Irvine, and then he informed us he came from the same town and his name was Daniel Munro. He asked after his father who bore the same name, and the other two were able to speak of him, but I did not know him. When we got outside he pointed to some large buildings, like cotton mills and said that they once belonged to him but now he was poor, else he would have assisted us.
It was in August or September, 1924, that the three of us (Jock Dickie, Jock Aired and Jock Stewart arrived home to Irvine, after eleven days tramping from Liverpool. We were very much knocked up, the other two very much so, and they had to keep at home to rest themselves. It took us some time to relate our adventures to all our friends and acquaintances, in weaver shops particularly we had to recount them, for weavers, as a class, are very fond of being told anything which will excite their wonder, such as stories of war, or adventures by land or sea. I have often heard old sailors and soldiers just come from the wars, tell their exploits, such as tales of bravery and narrow escapes. The homely manner these were told in the weaver shops was very entertaining, and since I arrived at manhood, I have often thought, when some of these tales come to my recollection, that it must have been very exciting to boys and young men, firing them with ambition, and leading them to go to sea, or enlist as soldiers; in fact these stories told by these old men, fed the ambition and daring of the listeners, just as our present periodicals excite the present generation of boys, with their thrilling tales of wars and adventure. Many a time the thought has occurred to me, that it is very wrong of parents and others to tell of their exploits in drinking spirits and of evil deeds done, with such gusto, rather these things, if mentioned at all, should be told with disgust, and held up as a warning to their hearers. Many young boys have been led to imitate these men who tell their stories without giving warning advise too, not to imitate them in what they have come thro' but rather avoid all actions that would, in their old age, make their lives bitter, in fact there is nothing better than the XII chapter of Ecclesiastes, beginning - Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.
But I am straying off my course. I should mention that one weaver, a Sabbath School Teacher, wanted me to write a journal of our voyage and tramp, but I never did. I was again advised to commence weaving, and I did, but I did not like it. I never was well, always a headache, and I could not thole the smell of the weaver shop. In Irvine, a weaver shop generally contained six loomsteads, each loom having opposite it a fixed window, in one sash, and not above three feet square, with small panes of glass. The floor of the shop was just the earth, the vent was stuffed and paper pasted over the fireplace. If a pane of glass was broken the place was covered with a piece of paper, the door had always to be kept shut, and if left open by anyone passing in or out, you would hear roar from all hands, toshut the door. Boys got their lugs warmed if they did not watch to shut it. As much as possible, fresh air was prevented from getting in. The ground was always damp and soft, and often the walls, while some of the weavers covered their window with paper or cloth to prevent the sun shining in.
During dry weather, pailfuls of water would be thrown about the floor, and a number of the weavers who had long legs and had to cut a hole in the earth to allow them to work the treadle, would find these holes filled with water after such operations. The damper the atmosphere of the shop, the better for the fine cotton webs, as after being dressed if the yarn got too dry the threads broke, and would not make a good web. The dressing used was made of the very finest flour that had got damaged and sour. The flour was first steeped in water till it fermented, then it was strained off into a cooking pot, set over a fire and had to be constantly stirred till it boiled and had come to a proper consistency for use. This was kept covered up, and only as much as was to be used for a day or two taken out at a time. It was spread over the threads with a brush, and some weavers could cover a yard at once, some only half a yard. If the dressing dried too quickly, salt herring-brine and other things were put in to prevent it doing so. Weavers had fans made of feathers stuck in a wooden frame about 18 or 20 inches square, and by moving these in a particular way, the wind caused the dressing to dry if necessary. In those days the Irvine weavers wrought webs of the finest kind, what was called lawns and book muslins. The yarn numbers being from No.150 up to No.200. The way you may have an idea of the fineness of the yarn, take a bobbin or ordinary sewing thread and you will find it marked from No.10 to No.20 or No.30. Cotton thread has been spun as find as No.500. All the foregoing will give you some indication of the state of matters in a weaver's shop in Irvine in my young days. In other places they were not quite so bad, as in Largs, for instance, where the best harness plaids were woven. The yarn being course and strong, the weavers required good fresh air to dry it after being dressed, and you would see the doors and windows open, a wood floor and everything kept clean. I can recollect that a number of weavers died young, of consumption, in those times and scarcely any weaver but was troubled with a cough, or difficulty of breathing. Great improvements however, have been made since that time. Fifty years ago (1824, and even for long after that date, there would be between seven and eight hundred weavers in Irvine; now (1874-5 there is not even a hundred, in fact I have heard there will be scarcely forty.
I wished to go back to sea, but my Father and Grandmother were sore against it, and so I went and asked to get learning to be a ship carpenter. I was told to go and get a saw and axe and begin, but I was not able to buy them, and my Father was almost as averse to me learning that trade as going to sea, so I worked a while at the weaving, for he told me that ship carpentering was a dangerous and dirty trade. Then he got a Mr. Brown to take me as an apprentice slater, a trade I never thought of in all my life before. A short time previous to that, I had been carrying the Mason's hod and stone barrow, for I did not like the weaving, but it was sore work for me, tho' I stood out at it till I went to Mr. Brown. The first place I was at was a farmhouse called Boyston, above Ardrossan. I was six weeks there and my food was oatmeal brose to my breakfast and supper, and oatmeal cakes and cheese to my dinner all the time. I could live then 2/2d to 2/6d per week, and that was my general food for three years, and it was only now and then, till long after I was married that I got tea, and even then only on Sundays. I was about three years at my trade before I was at the slating of a house where the slates were fixed with nails. Before the introduction of nails, the slates were fixed with wood pins made of red pine, memel or oak, and the slaters made the pins, which were about 22 inches long and 3 inch square.
When driven thro' the slate and sarking, the edges were raised and formed a head. Another way of fixing slates was - slate laths or purlins were laid along the rafters at distances apart to suit the length of the slates, then the slates were all pinned first, and just laid on. After the roof was covered, we plastered inside between the rafters, and that was called rendering.
I have stripped slates of Kilburn House, near Largs (belonging to the Earl of Glasgow, that had been on at least two or three hundred years, some said six or seven hundred. They were Arran slates, but none are used now, and the roof timbers and sacking were all of oak, and all fresh. I have stripped slates off byres and stables after being on from ten to twenty years, where the slate nails were completely eaten away with rust, but none of these roofs were ventilated. Now the necessity of ventilation has been seen, and is a saving on the beasts, roofs, etc.
>Tis not much more than thirty years (this was written in 1875. WBS since Welsh plates began to be so much used in Scotland, tho' I have used them for upwards of forty years. In those days no other slates but Highland slates, were used in the West, and of a great variety, tho' mostly Easdale or Ballahulish.
For the first three years of my apprenticeship, I was working mostly at farm houses, about Ardrossan and Saltcoats, Kilwinning, Stevenston, Dalry, Kilburnie, West Kilbride and Arran. My employer was an old man, not very able for work, very kind but hard up. He took his dram every morning, and most of the time I was with him, the men got a glass every morning before we began work. At that time too, it was the custom for the people of the place we were working at, to give workmen drink. I have got as many as eight glasses a day at times before the start of Temperance Societies, and generally a bottle stood on the scaffold beside us. Any lad who would not drink got a bad name, particularly if there were more men at the job, for then if no drink was offered, he got blamed. Most of the corks (master slaters paid their men in public houses, and only gave them part of their pay. When I went to Largs no tradesmen got paid up, except once a year, at the fair or Combsday. When I started there, I paid every two weeks in full, and got reflections from the joiners and masons, and was asked to stop, but I continued it regularly, and I also refused to pay them in a public house.
I was in Largs from 8th October, 1836 till 24th February, 1851, and while there did mostly all the slater work both in Largs and the district, particularly Skelmorely Castle, Kilburn Castle, and several other gentlemen's houses. I had always a man or two and an apprentice, and sometimes I had over a dozen men. I also did the slating of several houses in West Kilbride, Dalry, Kilwinning, Kilmun, Dunoon, Row, Helensburgh and Ardentinny. I had very little rest day or night. I was kept so close at work, and often in trouble to get things to meet, being amongst strangers.
I am afraid I will require to give up, for it is hardly possible for me to give you a proper journal, I am so much interrupted. It is very likely this may go to the flames, as a good many other things I have written in my day.
(Fortunately it did not, tho' I have reason to suspect much that was written for me, was burned, Father thinking it did not read correctly. More 's the pity. WBS
1. "Your Mother's Grandfather, Andrew Burns was born in 1737, and died 5th December, 1834, at the age of 97 years, having been nearly 70 years a sailor. He was a little man, about 5 feet 4 inches. When I first knew him his second wife was living, and when she died your Grandfather, Andrew Burns, took him home and kept him till he died."
The OPR has an Andrew Burns, born 5 Mar 1738 son of John Burns and Janet Hunter. The OPR lists 4 other children : - 1. Anne Burns, born 12 May 1735, Irvine 2. Martha Burns, born 12 May 1735, Irvine 3. Andrew Burns, born 5 Mar 1738, Irvine 4. John Burns, born 19 Dec 1742, Irvine.William
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2. "Your Grandfather, Andrew Burns, was his only child, and he was at least 5 feet 10 inches in height and at his best weighed from 16 to 18 stones."
The OPR has an Andrew Burns born 3 Jan 1774 son of Andrew Burns who married Elizabeth Tulloch Campbell on the 27 Feb 1773, Ayr. The Mormon I.G.I. lists only 1 child.
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3. "He was married very young to your Grandmother, Margaret Blackwood, belonging to Irvine."
The OPR has an Andrew Burns married Margaret Blackwood on 7 Nov 1797, Ayr
The death\burial of Margaret Blackwood was recorded in the Ayr OPR on 5 October 1821 Ayr. She was identified as "Margaret Blackwood, wife of Deacon Burns, Tailor, aged 47" and the cause of desth given as "Suddenly".
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4. "Her Father, your Great Grandfather, was a "Tide-waiter", (or what is now called a Coast guardsman in Irvine. He was also some time in Fairlie, near Largs.
The OPR has Margaret Blackwood baptised on 22 Aug 1773 in Irvine, the daughter of William Blackwood and Mary Barber. William and Mary's marriage was recorded in the OPR on 12 Feb 1764, Irvine. There would seem to have been 7 other children recorded in the OPR:- Thomas Blackwood was christened on 30 Nov 1764, Janet Blackwood baptised on 21 Mar 1771, Margaret Blackwood baptised on 22 Aug 1773, Marion Blackwood baptised on 16 Jun 1776, Robert Blackwood baptised on 19 Jul 1778, James Blackwood baptised on 30 Sep 1780, Elizabeth Blackwood baptised on 24 Oct 1782, all in Irvine, Ayrshire.
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4a. When I went first to Largs a number of old folks I men told me they knew him, and when at Fairlie I was shewn the house he occupied. Your grand-Uncles were all sailors. One of your grand-Aunts was a Mrs. McGill, who lived in Irvine and died since we came to Glasgow. Another grand-Aunt was Mrs. Goldie (we called her Goudie, Mrs William Warren's mother, who lived in Ayr, and who died while we were in Largs."
Great Aunt Goldie or Goudie was Mary Blackwood, the eldest daughter of William Blackwood and Mary Barber, baptised on 25 April 1769 in Irvine, Ayrshire.
Mary married George Goldie probably around 1792, and she and George had at least eight children - John Goldie born on 24 Mar 1795 and baptised on 26 Mar 1795, Mary Goldie born on 4 Jul 1796 and baptised on 5 Jul 1796, William Goldie born on 26 May 1798 and baptised on 27 May 1798, John Goldie born on 31 May 1800 and baptised on 1 Jun 1800, George Goldie was born on 13 Jun 1802 and batised on 13 Jun 1802, Robert Goldie born on 30 Sep 1804 and baptisedon 2 Oct 1804, Elizabeth Goldie born on 10 Dec 1806 and baptised on 12 Dec 1806, and Thomas Blackwood Goldie born on 7 Apr 1810 and baptised on 8 Apr 1810. All the births and baptisms were recorded in Ayr, Ayrshire. It was their elder daughter Mary (1796 who was the Mrs Warren, named in the text. She had married married William Warren, a Carver & Gilder, on 20 Nov 1835 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire. Mary and William would seem to have one daughter, Mary born about 1836 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire. Mary Warren, nee Goldie died on 7 Feb 1873 in Glasgow. She passed away in the Lanarkshire City Poorhouse, but her usual residence was identified as 50 Canvendish Street. I believe William died the following year in 1874 in Glasgow.
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5. "Your Grandfather had 16 children by his first wife, (your Mother was the 16th, and ten by his second wife."
Andrew Burns married 7 November 1797, Ayr to Margaret Blackwood - 8 known children 1. Elizabeth Burns born 14 Sep 1798, Ayr 2. William Burns born 18 Apr 1801, Fort George 3. Mary Burns born 18 Apr 1801, Fort George 4. Janet Burns born 7 Nov 1803, Dundee Spouse John Cowan Married 6 Dec 1828, Ayr 5. Andrew Burns born 7 Nov 1807, Gosport Spouse Janet Bell Married 27 May 1828, Ayr 6. Jane Burns born 3 Aug 1809, Bletchingdon, Oxford Died 3 May 1863, Glasgow. Married James Adam 28 Jun 1834, Ayr 7. Thomas Burns born 29 Jun 1811, Ayr 8. Marion Burns born 17 Jul 1813, Ayr Died 1869, Glasgow Married John Stewart 18 Jul 1833, Ayr
It is difficult to see how Andrew and Margaret could have managed 16 children between their marriage in 1797 and the birth of Marion their 16th in 1813. It is possible that the number was 10 and 10th but has been misread as 16 and 16th. This would mean two extra births between 1797 and 1813 (possibly a further birth of twins 1805 with the offspring dying in infancy. Alternatively it might be 16 and 10th - scenario as before but with a further 6 births between 1814 and 1821. Bit of a squeeze!!
Andrew Burns secondly married 27 May 1828, Ayr, to Janet Bell - 9 known children. 1. Margaret born 29 April 1829, Ayr. 2. Ann born 26 August 1830, Ayr. 3. Isobel born 6 November 1832, Ayr. 4. Elizabeth Bell born 15th June 1834, Ayr. 5. Mary born 24 February 1837, Ayr. 6. Jemima born 22 November 1838, Ayr. 7. Sarah Hunter born 19 August 1840, Ayr. 8. John born on 6th November 1842, Ayr. 9. William born on 30th September 1844, , Ayr. - fathered in Andrew's seventieth year!!
Certainly it is quite possible that there was a tenth child born to Andrew and his second wife, Janet, who has not been found.
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6. "I only knew two of your Mother's brothers, William (whom you are called after, and Andrew, and your Aunts Cowan and Adam"
The Mormon I.G.I. has a Janet Burns (Janet Burns born 7 Nov 1803 and John Cowan who were married 6 Dec 1828, Ayr which would seem to fit as the Aunt Cowan above.. The Mormon I.G.I. lists 3 children:- 1. Margaret Goran Cowan, born 29 May 1831, Ayr 2. Janet Cowan, born 19 Apr 1837, Dundonald, Ayr 3. Jessie Cowan, born 12 May 1839 , Dundonald, Ayr
Aunt Adam was Jane Burns (Jane Burns born 3 Aug 1809 who had married James Adam on 28 Jun 1834 Ayr. James Adam, born about 1806 Newton-upon-Ayr, Died 5 Dec 1877 Glasgow. Jane Burns is the great grandmother of John Hendry, They had at least 5 children 1. Janet Adam, born 12 Aug 1835 Newton-upon-Ayr 2. William Adam, born about 1837 Newton-upon-Ayr, Died 3 Apr 1896 Bridge of Allan, married Agnes Stewart, 13 Aug 1866 Eastwood 3. Andrew Adam, born 1839 Largs 4. James Adam, born 1842 Largs 5. John Adam, born 1847 Largs
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7. "I think I mentioned to you once before how I had been at the funeral of five generations all bearing the name of "Andrew Burns". First your Great Grandfather, second your Grandfather, third your Uncle, fourth, your cousin (brother to William Burns, ironmaster, and son of your Uncle William, after whom you are named and fifth your cousin William Burns' son. This is rather a singular thing, and does not often occur."
This is directed at William Burns Stewart so ...
First your Great Grandfather - This refers to Andrew Burns, born in 1737, and died 5 December, 1834. This Andrew was the husband of Elizabeth Tulloch, the father of Andrew Burns, who married Margaret Blackwood, and grandfather of their daughter Marion Burns, John Stewart's wife. Therefore the great grandfather of William Burns Stewart, Marion and John's son.
Second your Grandfather - This refers to Andrew Burns, the son of Andrew Burns and Elizabeth Tulloch born\baptised 3rd January 1774 and died on 11th March 1852. This Andrew was the husband of Margaret Blackwood, and father of Marion Burns, John Stewart's wife and therefore the grandfather of William Burns Stewart, Marion and John's son.
Third your Uncle - This refers to Andrew Burns the son of Andrew Burns and Margaret Blackwood baptised on 15th Nov 1807 and commemorated on the family headstone the Auld Kirk graveyard in Ayr as "died on 27 Aug 1846". He was the the brother of Marion Burns, John Stewart's wife and therefore the uncle of William Burns Stewart, Marion and John's son.
Fourth your cousin (brother to William Burns, ironmaster, and son of your Uncle William, after whom you are named - This refers to Andrew Burns who was born on 5 Jan 1827 in Ayr, Ayrshire, and (I believe died on 26 January 1848. This Andrew was the son of William Burns and Mary Wilson, with William being the brother of Marion Burns, John Stewart's wife. Therefore William was the uncle of William Burns Stewart, and his son Andrew was a cousin of William Burns Stewart, Marion and John's son.
Fifth your cousin William Burns' son - This refers to Andrew Burns was born on 1 Mar 1867 in Milton, Lanarkshire. He died on 13 Jun 1868 in Shafton Terrace, Dunoon, Argyll. He was the son of William Burns and Jane Sclanders, and William was his cousin William Burns was the "iron master" son of William Burns and Mary Wilson, the brother of Marion Burns, John Stewart's wife.
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8a. "Your Great Grandmother on my side was called Sarah Carswell. Her Father's name was Thomas Carswell, and her Mother's name was ..... Colquhoun"
Although there is no record of the marriage of a John Stewart and a Sarah Carswell has been found there is a later reference to their children - After my Grandfather was married and had a family of four, David 1774, Thomas (my Father 1781, and Quintaine and Barbara.(See below. There are matching records of the births of all four of these children to a John Stewart and Sarah carswell which confirms this statement.
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8b. "After my Grandfather was married and had a family of four, David 1774, Thomas (my Father 1781, and Quintaine and Barbara."
The Mormon I.G.I. has a Sarah Carsall having children with John Stewart which would seem to fit the above. If so it would seem that they were married circa 1773 and there were two other children: - Janet and Mary. The fact that they were omitted fron John Stewart's narrative would suggest that they died young. : - 1. David Stewart, born 4 Mar 1774, Irvine 2. Janet Stewart, born 4 Aug 1776, Irvine 3. Mary Stewart, born 2 Nov 1777, Irvine 4. Thomas Stewart, born 12 Feb 1781 Irvine 5. Quintin Stewart, born 9 Dec 1783, Irvine 6. Barbara Stewart, born 22 Jan 1787, Irvine
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9. "My mother died on June, 1819, (at the birth of your Aunt King, my sister Elizabeth, and Grannie kept my Father's house."
This would seem to point to a sister Elizabeth, born ?? June 1819, Irvine.
The Mormon I.G.I. has an Elizabeth Stewart and Hugh King who were married 18 Jul 1845 Glasgow. The Mormon I.G.I. lists 9 children : - 1. Elizabeth King, born 3 Sep 1846, Barony, Glasgow 2. Hugh King, born 23 Mar 1850, Glasgow 3. Jean King, born 16 Jan 1852, Glasgow 4. Susan King, born 1 Jan 1854, Glasgow 5. Thomas King, born 5 Dec 1855, Central District, Glasgow 6. John Gardner King, born 1 Jan 1858, Central District, Glasgow 7. Margaret Goran King, born 3 Aug 1859, Tradeston, Glasgow 8. Samuel Stewart King, born 24 Apr 1861, Tradeston, Glasgow 9. James King, born 22 Dec 1865, Tradeston, Glasgow
Elizabeth King (nee Stewart would seem to have been living in Kilwinning at the time of the 1881 census
1881 Census (4 April Kilwinning (599 Book 12 Page 10
Byres Road, Kilwinning, Ayrshire
|Hugh (Mrs King||Head||62||Clerk's wife||Ayr, Ayrshire|
|Samuel S. King||Son||19||Iron Moulder||Glasgow, Lanarkshire|
Although her husband, Hugh King, was living in Govan at the time
1881 Census (4 April Govan (644-14 Book 13 Page 13
15 Houston St, Govan, Lanarkshire
|Hugh King||Head||60||Clerk Ships Chandlers||Kilwinning, Ayrshire|
|Eliza King||Daughter||34||Artist In Hair||Glasgow, Lanarkshire|
|Hugh King||Son||30||Handicap-Imbecile||Glasgow, Lanarkshire|
|Jane King||Daughter||28||Housework||Glasgow, Lanarkshire|
|Susan S. King||Daughter||26||Artist In Hair||Glasgow, Lanarkshire|
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10. "My Father was a militiaman, as were also his brothers. He married in 1805, and had to move from place to place with his regiment, the Ayrshire Militia. He was a Paisley when I was between five and six years of age, my brother Samuel between three and four, and my sister Susan between one and two years old; I cannot say whether it was 1811 or 1812 we went to Paisley."
This would seem to point to John Stewart having a brother Samuel, born about 1808, and a sister Susan, born about 1810.
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11. "My Mother's name was Elizabeth Dubs, and I believe she was a German, or of German extract."
Therefore : -
Thomas Stewart married about 1805 Elizabeth Dubs. Children: - 1. John Stewart, born 1806, Ayr, Died 1876, Glasgow 2. Samuel Stewart, born about 1808, 3. Susan Stewart, born about 1810, 4. Elizabeth Stewart, born ?? June 1819, Irvine
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12. "My Uncle David (Father's eldest brother ……... in the ground flat he had two weaver's shops. In the one he wrought with his sons and apprentices, the other was mostly occupied by his sister Barbara's husband, Alexander Smith, his apprentice, and other weavers. Smith could not make money like Uncle David. He was the father of Hugh Smith, Engineer."
The Mormon I.G.I. has a Barbara Stewart and Alexander Smith who were married 22 Jun 1810 Irvine. The Mormon I.G.I. lists 7 children:- 1. Mary Smith, born 4 Aug 1812 Irvine 2. Janet Smith, born 17 Jul 1814 Irvine 3. Hugh Smith, born 24 May 1816 Irvine 4. James Smith, born 13 Aug 1822 Irvine 5. Matthew Smith, born 27 Feb 1825 Irvine 6. Elizabeth Smith, born 18 Jul 1827 Irvine 7. Marion Smith, born 6 Jun 1830 Irvine
For the 1841 census what would seem to be this family were living in Adams Square, Irvine.
1841 Census (7th June Irvine (595 Folio 4 Book 4 Page 15.
Adams Square, Irvine.
|Alexander Smith||50||Cotton Hand Loom Weaver||Yes|
|John Smith||20||Cotton Hand Loom Weaver||Yes|
|James Smith||15||Cotton Hand Loom Weaver||Yes|
|Matthew Smith||15||Cotton Hand Loom Weaver||Yes|
For the 1851 census this family were still living in Adams Square, Irvine.
1851 Census (31st March Irvine (595 Book 4 Page 19
Adams Square, Irvine
|Barbara Smith||Head - Widow||64||Irvine, Ayrshire|
|John Smith||Son||30||Handloom Weaver Cotton||Irvine, Ayrshire|
|James Smith||Son||27||Handloom Weaver Cottonn||Irvine, Ayrshire|
|Elizabeth Smith||Daughter||24||Muslin Sewer||Irvine, Ayrshire|
|Marion Smith||Daughter||20||font color="#800000">Muslin Sewerr||Irvine, Ayrshire|
|Barbara Milliken||Granddaughter||3|| ||Irvine, Ayrshire|
The following 1881 census would seem to be the Hugh Smith, born 1816 who had become an Engineer.
1881 Census (4 April Govan (644-4 Book 54 Page 2
9 Stanley St, Govan, Glasgow
|Hugh Smith||Head||64||Foreman Engine Fitter||Irvine, Ayrshire|
|Agnes Smith||Wife||64|| n||Kirkcaldy, Fife|
|Alexander Smith||Son||33||Mechanical Engineer||Paisley, Renfrewshire|
|Agnes Smith||Daughter||30||Milliner||Paisley, Renfrewshire|
|Mary Smith||Daughter||27||Milliner||Paisley, Renfrewshire|
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13. "Well, Uncle David sold off all his belongings and sailed for Philadelphia, USA in 1826, with his wife and family of five sons and two daughters. The eldest son would be about 19 years old, and a daughter 17 years old, while the youngest would be between five and six years old."
The Mormon I.G.I. has a David Stewart and Janet Struthers who were married 27 Mar 1807, Irvine. From the above it can be assumed there were at least 3 children. The Mormon I.G.I. lists 3 children :- 1. A Son Stewart, born about 1807 2. Mary Stewart, born 12 Mar 1809, Irvine 3. Helen Stewart, born 18 Oct 1819, Irvine
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