Tag Archives: Coal mining

Robert Strachan Story page now added

At last I’ve finished “The story of Robert Strachan b. about 1808 and (1) Margaret Haggerty b. 1808 and (2) Susan Cran or Kirkwood born about 1819”. It can be found under the STRACHAN tab above. I’ve added scans of relevant documents and a few old maps. If you read it and think you’re connected to anyone mentioned, do add a comment and say hello.

It’s taking time to work my way through all the research I’ve already done, and when I work on something I always find a reason to do a bit more research. So getting everything onto this blog and web site will no doubt take care of the next few years – but what’s retirement for if it’s not for going things you love doing!

The joys and frustrations of research

Today has been a genealogy day, thanks to rain outside and not having any prior commitments. I’ve been writing the “John Strachan and Margaret Haggerty and Susan Cran” story and am nearly there, but it has involved checking up on an awful lot of people. As John Strachan had 15 children, most of whom also had large families, there’s a lot to put together. Doing the research today certainly has had its up and down.

Oh, the joy of discovering two ancestors were married at the same time in the same place and are on the same page you download from ScotlandsPeople! Except the registrar gave them both the same parents when that wasn’t the case, but you do learn that not everthing on a certificate is always accurate. Then how annoying when you find a 1911 census entry, only available from ScotlandsPeople, spread over 2 pages and so have to pay for 2 downloads. I love ScotlandsPeople but it’s very easy to get carried away and spend far too much money buying credits, which is why I try to get as much as I can from Ancestry.

And isn’t it joyous when you track someone from childhood, through marriage, through all the census and to a death entry without a hiccup. And how frustrating when someone just disappears and searching for them under every variation you can think of producing absolutely nothing.

I’m wary of using trees on Ancestry as so many are poorly researched, but looking at someone else’s research can be a very good starting point, as long as you check their research and don’t just accept it. It then becomes frustrating when you look for a particular ancestor and find no-one else has got them on a tree. Poor, unloved ancestors!

The overwhelming thing about my Strachan ancestors, however, is how pretty much every male prior to the 1900s – and there are an awful lot of them – became a coal miner. What would Ayrshire’s coal industry have done without them?

On 3 May

This day 98 years ago, my grandfather’s Gordon Highlander regiment landed at Boulogne. Plus a childhood death, a coal miner’s death and a migration to Canada.

3 May 1843
Birth of David Findlay, son of David Findlay and Susanna Strachan and grandson of my gggg uncle and aunt Peter Strachan and Mary Munroe. David died in childhood, before the 1851 census, as did his mother. I’m not sure of the dates when either of them died, but by 1851 father David had remarried and another son named David Findlay had been born.

3 May 1882
Death of Robert Strachan – there are lots of Robert Strachans on my tree and this one was born in about 1834, son of Andrew Strachan and Elizabeth Howat, which makes him my 2nd cousin 3 times removed. His mother died when he was about 10 years old and his father married Margaret Todd. Robert became a coal miner, in 1855 married Ann Bain at Dreghorn, and had 9 children. Some time before 1871 the family moved to Saltcoats, where they lived in Auchenharvie Row, and it was there that Robert died. He was 49 years old and died of asthmatic bronchitis and general debility, which was no doubt a result of working down the coal pits.

3 May 1915
My grandfather James Fraser, who had enlisted with the Gordon Highlanders in September 1914, landed in Boulogne. He was in France until November 1916 when he was wounded at Beaumont Hamel during the battle of the Somme.

3 May 1921
Margaret Milne, from Hatton, Aberdeenshire, arrived in Quebec, destined for Vancouver where she had a job to go to as a domestic servant. There’s interesting detail in landing papers: she was 5ft 4ins with fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. The daughter of Alexander Milne and Elizabeth Thomson, she was the granddaughter of my ggg aunt Janet aka Jessie Fraser. According to a descendent of hers with a tree on Ancestry, Margaret married Alexander George Birnie at Vancouver in March 1922, and died in Vancouver in 1952.

New: transcript of 1842 document about life at Shewalton Colliery

Lots of my ancestors lived and worked at Shewalton Colliery from before 1841, so were part of the community described in a report written for the Children’s Employment Commission. I’ve typed up the part of the report about Shewalton and included it under the Articles tab.

It seems that Shewalton was a pleasant mining community to live and work in compared to most, which explains why so many of my ancestors stayed there for quite some time. They did, however, move pretty much en masse to Kilwinning parish in the 1850s. The extract gives a clue as to why: new pits were being opened at Perceton (written as Pearston in the report) offering just as good living and working conditions.

My research has led me to believe that most of my Strachan coal mining ancestors were “desirable employees” – good at their jobs and useful members of a coal mining community. Hence they were often poached when mine owners were opening new pits. And it seems that if you employed one Strachan, a lot more of them would be along soon! Quite a few Strachan men were promoted to pit manager, so it seems they must have had a good reputation within the coal mining industry.

On 19 April

A popular day for being born in Scotland. Plus several interesting comments to be made about some of today’s featured ancestors, and another sad mining accident death.

19 April 1815
Birth of Elizabeth Milne at Longside, Aberdeenshire, daughter of John Milne and Jean Smith and an ancestor of my great grandfather’s second wife. She married her cousin William Aitken on the same day their son William was baptised. Her husband was a farm servant and then crofter, and they eventually settled in Cruden parish where she died age 79. Her husband William Aitken died when he was 90.

19 April 1827
Birth of Janet Ross Gilmour at Muirkirk, Ayrshire. She married Robert Strachan, who was the son of my gggg uncle Peter Strachan and his wife Mary Monroe (and is one of the 24 people named Robert Strachan on my family tree). Robert and Janet had 13 children, lots of them with the middle name Gilmour. I suspect Janet was related to the Allan Gilmour who became a coal mine owner in Ayrshire, and was the boss of many a coal mining Strachan. One of Robert and Janet’s sons, Peter Strachan, died in 1860 at the age of 13 when he fell from a cage in a mine shaft at Ford Colliery, Riccarton. The mine was owned by Allan Gilmour and Peter’s father Robert Strachan was the coal pit manager

19 April 1834
Birth of Elizabeth Ballantine at Kilmarnock, Ayrshire daughter of Thomas Ballantine and Susanna Strachan and granddaughter of my gggg uncle Robert Strachan and his wife Jean Kelly. Elizabeth made it to 1841 but I suspect she died in around 1847 as her parents named a daughter born in 1849 Elizabeth. Re-using names given to children who didn’t survive may seem macabre today, but it can be handy for family historians.

19 April 1840
Birth of James Ewan McWilliam at Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, son of my half gggg uncle David McWilliam and his wife Elizabeth Ewan. James is in the 1841 and 1851 census with his parents in Peterhead, but then disappears from the records, so he may have died after 1851 but before 1855.

19 April 1848
Birth of Adam Aitken Haggerty at Dundonald, Ayrshire son of my ggg uncle Hugh Haggerty and his wife Janet Muir. Adam Haggerty age 30 is on an 1870 passenger list going to USA, and he is in the US 1880 census at Judsonville, Costa Contra, California with his brother Hugh and his mother Janet (Jennet in the census) who was keeping house for them. He then disappears from the records that I’ve been able to search.

19 April 1907
My great grandfather William Fraser finally got round to marrying his second wife, Helen Ann Morgan, a year after she’d given birth to their first child together. They were married at their home at Hatton Lodge, in the village of Hatton in Cruden, Aberdeenshire.

19 April 1940
Birth of my mother’s cousin in Aberdeen, who I knew and who sadly passed away some years ago at too young an age. Family story has it that he was conceived in Leeds when his parents, William Dow and Barbara Fraser, were visiting my grandparents here.

On 16 April

A sad mining accident death to report today.

16 April 1765
Baptism of Jean Fraser at Arbroath, Angus. She was the daughter of Donald Frazer and Margaret Sharp, who later lived in Cruden, Aberdeenshire and had a son William Fraser who I strongly suspect was the father of my illegitimate ggg grandfather William Fraser. That would make Jean Fraser William’s aunt. Difficult to trace Janet due to lack of records, but she might be the one who was married in Cruden in 1798 to Thomas Buchan.

16 April 1815
Birth of David McWilliam at Longside son of William McWilliam and Janet Sangster, and half brother of my ggg grandfather William Fraser. David worked as a sawyer, married Elizabeth Ewan, had at least 12 children and lived in Peterhead. A sawyer was someone who cut timber into planks using a saw pit. David died in 1886 at the age of 70.

16 April 1890
Peter Strachan, grandson of my gggg uncle Robert Strachan, died in a mining accident. His death certificate reads:
“Peter Strachan coal miner married to Ann Hendry, 1890 April 16th Broomlands Pit, Parish of Irvine. Male age 43 years, parents Andrew Strachan coal miner deceased and Elizabeth Strachan ms Howat deceased. Fracture of base of skull. Informant Andrew Strachan brother. Entry has been annotated but is hard to read: “Result of … See Reg of …. Vol2 p47 31st May 1890.”
It is a mining death and is recorded online at http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/Indexes/1890deaths.html and the entry says:
1890 April 16, Broomlands No. 8, Dreghorn, Bourtreehill Coal Co, Peter Strachan miner age 43; category: falls of roof and sides; cause: fall of roof at working face.
Peter left a wife of 40 years old and 9 children aged from 22 down to 7, and there is a MI for him in Dreghorn churchyard.
Peter Strachan MI
I found this photo online.

16 April 1982
A Strachan descendant of the younger generation was born on Tyneside.

On 10 April

Only one event to report for today.

10 April 1870
Birth of John Strachan, my great uncle, at Crookedholm, son of Joseph Strachan and Jeannie Haddow. No surprise that he was a coal miner. On 21 December 1890, at 15E Block, Railway Buildings, Hurlford (known to locals as “The Blocks”), he married Lucy Alice Robertson. In 1901 they were at Cowan’s Row, Crookedholm, which is also where my grandparents Henry and Helen Strachan lived: Henry was John’s next youngest brother. Then at some time between 1906 and 1910 John, Lucy and their children moved to Tollcross, Glasgow, which is around the same time as my grandfather Henry and his family also moved to Tollcross, so it sounds as if the two families were close. In 1911 John, Alice, their 7 surviving children and a boarder were at Fullerton, near Tollcross, and John was working as a roadmaker at a coal mine. John died in 1941 at the age of 71.

On 9 April

Lovely story from an old newspaper cutting that appeared on today’s date celebrating my ancestor Robert Strachan.

9 April 1713
Baptism of Abraham Rock at Worsbrough, son of Abraham Rock. He is my gggggg grandfather as his daugter Alice Rock married Joseph Green.

9 April 1811
Baptism of ggg aunt Alice Green at Worsbrough, daughter of Joseph Green and Ann Cox.

9 April 1898
The following appeared in the Dundee Courier & Argus: the Robert Strachan who won a prize was the son of my gggg uncle.
Dundee Courier & Argus, 9 April 1898
Who are the oldest miners still working?

That is the question which has been answered by a competition in the Weekly News. That there is no hardier or more daring body of men in the country than those who work in the bowels of the earth goes without saying, but few people are aware that a number of miners can lay claim to having worked underground for well nigh “the allotted span” of life. These veterans, of course, were early engaged in the pits, many of them having been working when they were but eight years of age. They have recollections of the time when women were employed in the mines, and several of them have stories to tell of being carried to the pits on their fathers’ backs. Mr Alex. Russell, Church Street, Tranent, remembers one very stormy winter when his mother bore him to the pit in her creel. Mr John Laws, Blyth, who has been awarded first prize, has a record of sixty-nine years, and can fairly lay claim to be the “father” of British miners. The other prizes have been awarded to John Harrower, Grangemouth; Robert Strachan, Kilmarnock; Colin Campbell, Shiremoor; Joseph Gilmour, Larkhall. …
Mr Robert Strachan was born about the same time as Mr Harrower (1823), but was half a year younger in making his first practical acquaintance with life underground (7 or 8 years old), when he was taken to the Moorfield Pit. Afterwards he was engaged at Skerlington, Hurlford, Burnbank, Gauchland, and Galston, and has now come back to the first mentioned.

9 April 1952
My cousin once removed who lives in the north-east of England was born. Happy birthday cousin! This shows how the generations go out of age sync when people had a lot of children over a large span of years. I’m actually his mother’s cousin but I’m only six months older than him, due to my being the youngest child of a youngest child. His grandfather was my father’s older brother.

Strachan page – addition

I’ve added a new page to the Strachan section: the story of Thomas Strachan born 1749 and Susannah Alexander born 1752, and their children. Thomas and Susannah were a coal mining family from Ayrshire, had a large family, and their children went on to have large families. So there must be a lot of people out there who are descended from the same couple. I’ve also rejigged the Strachan section so hopefully things are a bit easier to find.

Book Recommendation: The Mineworkers by Robert Duncan

The Mineworkers

An essential read for anyone with Scottish coal mining ancestors. Robert Duncan is an academic specialising in labour history. His book goes from the early development of the coal mining industry in Scotland and ends with the miners’ strike of the 1980s. Very well written and researched, with a good focus on the lives of the actual miners and their families. Lots of illustrations and photos too.