Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Today marks the anniversary of the birth of my paternal Great-great-great-Aunt Elizabeth SKELTON. One of 8 children she was born on this day in 1788 in Wellington, Shropshire to John SKELTON and Mary PASCALL. Her older sister Catherine was my G-G-G-Mother.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


Today celebrates the birth of my maternal Great-great-Uncle Alex. Born in 1826 Alexander was the elder brother of my Great-great-grandfather William Cunningham Bontine HAMILTON.

In 1846 Alexander married Isabella SUMMERS and they made their home in Kilmalcolm not far from both sets of parents. Through census records from 1851 to 1881 it can be seen that Alexander was a stone mason and became a father to 5 children; Alexander, James, Barbara, Mary Ann and another Alexander.

Monday, 7 April 2014



Paternal Auntie Charlotte was born on the 7th April 1906. One of six girls and 4 boys she was the fourth child of Ivor James and Margaret (nee SMALL) MANSELL.

Charlotte married Robert FRYERS in 1935. They moved to London soon after and settled in Chelsea where their three children, Eldon, Eric and Lenore were born. After only 16 years of marriage Uncle Bob died.

At the grand age of 70, Auntie Charlotte decided to migrate to Australia to be close to her son Eric and his family who had emigrated in 1966. Charlotte lived in Gilgandra NSW and died in 2004.


My maternal great-great-Uncle William was born in Urray, Ross & Cromarty Scotland on this day in 1824. He was the eldest child of Donald MACKENZIE, an agricultural labourer and Mary nee MCLENNAN.

Sunday, 6 April 2014


On Monday 6th April 1874, my paternal Great Grandparents Peter SMALL and Margaret STEVENSON were married at the Parish Church in Richmond Yorkshire. Peter was the youngest of 11 children of David and Margaret SMALL and was born in Dunbarney in Perthshire, Scotland. Margaret was the third child of Henry and Ann STEVENSON of Hornby, North Yorkshire.

By the 1881 census Peter and Margaret were living in Thorpe Street in Stockton-on-Tees and Peter was working as a boilersmith to support his growing family. So far the couple had 5 year old Sophia, 3 year old John Henry, 2 year old Elizabeth and Euphemia who was just 9 months old.

Ten years later and the family had moved to Oxford Street in Stockton and Peter was now employed as a marine boiler plater. Sophia had taken up a dressmakers apprenticeship and as well as Elizabeth and Euphemia, the family also had my future grandmother Margaret, Jane, Alexander, Isabella, Charlotte and Emma. Poor John Henry – at 16 he is to be found on the 1891 census at the North East Reformatory for Boys near Newcastle. I think I need to investigate him further!

Between the 1891 and 1901 census, the SMALL family celebrated several weddings. Eldest child Sophia married Charles CRAGGS in 1893, Euphemia married Alfred DOWSE in 1898, and in 1900 Elizabeth married Charles GIBBONS and grandma Margaret married Ivor MANSELL. John Henry spent this decade both at the Reformatory and then the Army from 1897; seeing service in east India in 1897/99.

The 1901 census shows that the family were still at 10 Oxford Street. Peter was still working as a boilersmith/plater and there were 6 young children at home.

By the time the next census was taken in 1911 Jane was no longer at home as she had married William ARMSTRONG in 1904. Only 17 year old Peter and 14 year old Alice were still at home. Alexander was working in Sheffield, Charlotte was living with her Uncle Alexander and Aunt Sophie SMALL in Leeds and Emma was a domestic servant at the home of her married sister Margaret – my grandmother. In an email from a second cousin, David Small in Stockton, I get the information that Alice may have been “retarded” and stayed with her parents for life. Sadly, although the 1911 census has an Infirmity column this information is not publically available so I cannot verify if indeed Alice was not able to be independent.

After 44 years of marriage, Peter SMALL passed away at the age of 68 in 1918. Margaret lived for another 28 years as a widow. She passed away in 1946 at the age of 89.

Monday, 31 March 2014


Paternal Auntie Linda was born on this day in 1911. She was the seventh child of Ivor James and Margaret (nee SMALL)MANSELL and my Dads older sister.

Although Linda was only a couple of days old when the 1911 census was taken she was not included on the household schedule. In the column headed “Particulars as to Marriage” you can quite clearly see that Ivor has stated that 6 children have been born so far to the couple. I’m not sure why he left out Linda; perhaps he filled the form in ahead of time.

When she was 26 years old, Auntie Linda married John HUMPLEBY in Norton and they had two daughters, Judith and Margaret.

Auntie Linda died in 1988. She was 77 years old.

Happy birthday Auntie Linda.

Auntie Linda and Uncle John. Photo dated June 1967.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Well, another catch-up today:

G-G-Grandparents married on this day in Contin, Ross & Cromarty Scotland in 1854. Ronald was the son of agricultural labourer Donald MACKENZIE and his wife Mary MCLENNAN and was 24 years old when he married Jessie, about whom I know very little.
 At the time of their marriage, Ronald was a farm servant at the Coul of Fairburn, one of the farms on the huge Fairburn Estate in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. He had worked there since at least 1851 when he was enumerated along with 4 other farm servants under the stewardship of Thomas CAMERON.
Map of the Fairburn Estate
Almost exactly 9 months to the day their first child, Margaret, was born.
It is clear that Ronald was ambitious and learnt his trade well as on the 1861 Census he was a farm manager at Kinnattes not far from Fairburn. He and Jessie now also had two sons – Donald age 4 and my great grandfather John who was then just a bit over a year old. I am not yet sure where Margaret was on the night of the census but she was not at home with her parents.
By the 1871 census the family had made quite a move away from home and were found about 45 miles north west in Lochbroom. Here Ronald is now the Farm Grieve at Little Strath on the Dundonnell estate, owned since 1835 byMurdo Munro-Mackenzie of Ardross. Ronald and Jessie had lived here for at least 3 years as this is the birthplace given for their youngest child Jessie.  
The 1881 shows that once again the family have moved. This time it is back to Jessie’s birthplace of Dingwall and Ronald has had a change of career. From farm labourer, to farm manager, Ronald is now the Hotel Keeper of the Railway Hotel at 1 Waterloo Place.

This picture from Google Earth shows where Waterloo Place was. The following description is from a local Dingwall resident who kindly researched the likely location of the Railway Hotel for me.

"I checked in person this afternoon, and Waterloo Place is a 5 foot wide alley between the Job Centre and the Newsagents on the High Street in Dingwall. The only address in it is No 5, a flat (apartment) in the building occupied by the newsagents. Neither building gives the impression of having been a hotel, though on the 1904/1906 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map the building located where the Job Centre is now is marked P.H., which very probably means Public House. In other words this was probably a pub with a few lodging rooms, rather than a real "Railway Hotel" in the sense of a hotel run by the Railway. I am not clear from a cursory inspection to what extent the Job Centre building has been rebuilt. The Newsagents' building is pretty old. Both go quite a long way back from the High Street. On the 1904/1906 map Waterloo Place appears pretty much the same as now, except that because of a small building at the rear it had then no outlet at the end away from the High Street, whereas in the present day up until recently (when the Job Centre put a gate up), one could walk or cycle through to Mansefield Road behind." 

Helping in the Hotel are the three MACKENZIE girls, 24 year old Maggie (Margaret), 17 year old Mary Ann (Margaret the younger) and 13 year old Jessie. The following year Maggie marries local excise officer Joseph DAVIES and settles down in the village with him to raise their family. When Ronald died of chronic heart and liver disease in October 1887 he left an estate worth over £155 and the Hotel was left in the hands of his widow Jessie. 
Ronald left very clear instructions in his will. Jessie is to carry on the running of the hotel under the supervision of the trustees. Sons Donald and John do not receive an inheritance; “considering that my two sons are well established in business, and do not require any immediate assistance”. Similarly daughter Margaret receives nothing as she received her portion at the time of her marriage. Of daughters Mary Ann and Jessie, Ronald has quite specific instructions. If they marry before the death of his widow, they shall receive £50 out of the capital funds on their marriage. However, if they choose to claim wages while working in the hotel then these wages are to be paid out of their £50 portion and the amount of the deduction they take shall be divided equally among his other children “share and share alike”. Ronald explains this generous bequest:
“And I declare that I make these provisions to my said daughters Mary Ann and Jessie in respect that they have rendered constant and valuable services to me for many years in connection with my business as Hotel Keeper without any remuneration”
I have not yet been able to find out what happened to the Hotel after Jessie took over its running. I do know that by the 1891 census she was living with her son-in-law Joseph DAVIES. Also in the household was Mary Ann and Jessie as well as the young son of Margaret & Joseph. Although I’ve not confirmed this as yet, I believe that Joseph was widowed and his mother and sisters in law moved in with him after the Hotel was sold.

In August 1895, Jessie MACKENZIE died of a heart attack. A witness on the death certificate was son John MACKENZIE who had travelled all the way from London to be at his mother’s funeral. Tragically he must have left a very ill wife behind as three weeks after his mother’s funeral, he buried his wife, Annie.  

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Mary HAMILTON was my maternal G-G-Aunt who was born in 1859 at Glen, Port Glasgow to William Cunningham Bontine and Janet Cochrane (nee SMITH) HAMILTON.

Port Glasgow was a dreary, overcrowded, impoverished place and life there was hard. Of 11 children to William and Janet six died of consumption, including Mary. At 16 she lived longer than many of her siblings but succumbed to phythis pulmonaris after an illness of 15 months. Sadly this was just 3 weeks after her 5 year old brother Alexander had also died of consumption.