Tag Archives: Hunter

Explosive ancestors: Alfred Nobel’s dynamite factory at Stevenston

Alfred Nobel discovered dynamite in 1865. A group of Scottish businessmen realised its potential in mining and formed the British Dynamite Company. Looking for a manufacturing site not too close to houses, they chose the rather desolate beachside location of Ardeer, between Stevenston and Irvine, in Ayrshire. The first batch of nitro-glycerine, produced by Alfred Nobel himself, was made there in 1873, and the factory employed a number of local people, including some of my Hunter ancestors. In 1877 Nobel discovered basting gelatine, and the British Dynamite Company became a major manufacturer. It went on to become the largest explosives factory in the world, and the company eventually became part of ICI.

Mary Hunter, born in Stevenston in 1833, had an illegitimate son Robert Hunter in 1853 and she then married Robert Hamilton and had another 9 children. Mary, her coal miner husband and children lived at Schoolwell Street in the Kirkgate area of Stevenston. Her son Robert Hunter lived with them and initially worked as a coal miner. Mary’s husband died in about 1889, and by 1891 the dynamite factory had become a place of work for several members of the family. Robert Hunter was working there as a labourer and his half sister Marion was a dynamite worker. By 1901, Robert was still there, his half sister Gilberta was an explosive cartridge girl and his half sister Martha was a cordite mixer. The Ardeer factory must have been offering better wages than the traditional, textile based jobs for girls.

On 6 June

A busy day on my family tree. Includes an Aberdeenshire gg grandmother who didn’t bring up her daughter, a migration to USA, and a Yorkshire ancestor whose mother spent most of her life, sadly, in an asylum.

6 June 1771
Birth of William Hunter at Stevenston, Ayrshire, son of John Hunter and Margaret Barr and my gggg uncle as his sister Margaret Hunter was the grandmother of Jeanie Haddow, who married my great grandfather Joseph Strachan. I need to add, though, that there isn’t a great deal in the records to fully prove this connection. However, there’s a marriage for William Hunter and Margaret Sharp in Stevenston in 1797, and they can be found in the 1819 and 1822 minister’s census for Stevenston at Townhead. They’re both mentioned in the 1836 Stevenston census but it says ‘dead’ next to Margaret’s name. No baptisms for children have been found. He made it to the 1841 census, and is living at Burnside Lane on his own, age 70 and a pauper.

6 June 1839
Baptism of Barbara Hutcheon at Cruden, Aberdeenshire daughter of my gggg uncle Keith Hutcheon and Barbara King. She is with her parents at Teuchan, Cruden in 1841 and 1851, and her father was a tailor. Her mother died sometime between 1851 and 1861, and in 1861 Barbara is a housemaid at Auchinten, Cruden, working for the household of Peter Brand, a farmer of 320 acres. In 1863 she married agricultural labourer Adam Birnie from Rora, Longside, and in 1871 they are living in Main Street, Longside but without any children, and Adam Birnie has become a quarrier. In 1881 they are still in Longside but have a boarder, 3 year old James Murison. Can’t find them in 1891, but in 1901 they are at Great Northern Road, Woodside, Aberdeen, Adam still a granite quarry labourer, but James Murrison has become James M Birnie, son age 23, and is a chemist’s assistant. Barbara Birnie died in 1925 at Balmoral Place, Aberdeen, age 86, of senility and bronchitis, and the informant is James M Birnie adopted son.

6 June 1868 (born about 1843)
Marriage of Helen Watt, my gg grandmother, who was born about 1843 at Ellon, Aberdeenshire but no baptism record exists. She was the daughter of James Watt and Margaret Symon, who lived at Mill of Shivas, Tarves. Helen is with her parents in 1851, and in 1861 is a domestic servant at Logie Buchan. In 1863 she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter Helen Hay, my great grandmother, at War Mill, Auchedley, Tarves, and the father was George Hay of Tarves, a farmer’s son. In 1868 Helen Watt married John Smith, farm servant, at Ythan Bank, Tarves and their daughter Barbara was born shortly after. In 1871 they are at Newington, Edinburgh, John Smith a carter, with 3 lodgers. Helen’s daughter Helen Hay, however, remained at Tarves and was brought up by her grandparents. John Smith died sometime between 1871 and 1881, as in 1881 Helen Smith, with daughter Barbara, is at Elm Row, St Andrews, with no occupation given. In 1891 they are at Drum Terrace, Leith, Edinburgh with lodger William Thompson, a librarian, who Barbara Smith married. In 1901 Helen Smith is at Marchmont Crescent, Morningside, Edinburgh, with student lodgers, and her daughter lives in the same street. By 1911 she has moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, who did not have children. Helen Smith nee Watt died in 1929 at Longmore Hospital, Edinburgh of cancer of the larynx. It’s not known how much, if anything, she had to do with her daughter Helen, who died in 1903.

6 June 1881
Birth of Lilian Burton at Wakefield, Yorkshire, daughter of James Burton and Sarah Ann Wilson and granddaughter of my ggg aunt Mary Green. Her baptism record states her father was wire rope worker and lived at Stanley Hall Lodge: this was the home of Lilian’s grandparents, who were the gardener and housekeeper. Lilian’s parents were living in Pilkington Street, Alverthrope by 1891. She married John Slee in August 1900 at Alverthrope, and in 1901 they were living in Banscroft Lane, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire with John Slee’s sister and her family, and John was working as a brick maker. In 1911 they are at Woolley Colliery, near Barnsley. and John Slee is a coal hewer. They had 6 children. John Slee died in 1925 age 49, and Lilian married John England in 1929 in Doncaster. She died in 1971 at Don Valley.

6 June 1897
Birth of Robert Michael at Boddam, Aberdeenshire, son of my gg aunt Mary Ann Fraser and David Ewan Michael. He was born at 10 Lendrum Terrace, Stirling Gill, Boddam and his father was a granite quarrier. In 1901 he’s with his family at Wickersgill near Shap in Westmoreland, England, where his father was a granite quarry foreman. The family returned to the Cruden area, however, and in 1911 are at Little Tillynaud, Cruden and Robert, age 13, is at shool. In 1923 he migrated to USA giving his UK address as Thistle Cottage, Longhaven and his US destination as his brother Alexander Michael of Caledonian Avenue, South Quincy, Massachusetts. His arrival papers say he had a fresh complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. He married Beatrice, and in 1930 they are in the US census at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin (yes, I had to look it up too – it’s not far from Milwaukee) where he was working as a grounds superintendant at a private club. His draft papers for WW2 give his address as Niantic, New London, Connecticut and his occupation as employed by the US Navy as the Underwater Sound Laboratory at Fort Turnbull – he was probably looking after the grounds. In 1940 he and Beatrice are at Black Point Beach Clubm East Lyme, Connecticut and are looking after 15 year old Beatrice Green, 14 year old Nicola Myenier and 12 year old Lorraine Whitehouse (both described as ‘charge’): were they foster parents? Robert Michael died at Niantic in January 1972, 10 years after his wife.

6 June 1955 (born 1884)
Death of Lily Ann Walters, born Lily Ann Schofield in 1884 at Worsbrough, Yorkshire, daughter of James Schofield and Eliza Hammerton and granddaughter of my ggg aunt Ann Green. Her father was a drayman and in 1891 was living at Hammerton’s Row, Worsbrough Dale, but Lily Ann was living nearby at Upper Lowther with her grandparents. In 1901 she is still with her grandparents and is a dressmaker’s apprentice. From 1891 her mother was in the South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum at Wadsley, and her father died in 1905. In 1906 Lily Ann married Gilbert Waters, and inn 1911 they are at Platts Common, Hoyland Nether (where Lily had relatives): Gilbert is an engine man at the coal mine and they had had 2 children. Lily Ann Walters nee Schofield died in 1955, and probate for her will gives her address at Gawber Road, Barnsley.

On 11 April

Today includes the anniversary of a major turning point in my grandfather’s life.

11 April 1773
Baptism of Mary Green at Worsbrough, daughter of my ggggg grandparents Joseph Green and Alice Rock. Mary died in September 1774 age 17 months.

11 April 1804
Baptism of Agnes Hunter at Lesmahagow, Lanark daughter of Robert Hunter and Margaret Haddow, who were from Stevenston, Ayrshire and returned there shortly after the birth of Agnes. Robert was the brother of Margaret Hunter, who married Robert Haddow. I still need to sort out the Haddow/Hunter tangle as lots of the same/similar names are confusing to say the least!

11 April 1823
Birth of John Bisset at Longside, illegitimate son of my ggg grandmother Christian Hutcheon. His mother married William Fraser when John was nearly 5. In 1851 John was with William and Christian at Mosside croft, described in the census as a pauper formerly agricultural labourer. From this I assume he was ill or disabled, and that he then disappears from the records could mean he died before 1855.

11 April 1915
Birth of Charles Welton Green, my mother’s cousin, at Kirkstall. He married and had children, one of whom reads this blog.

11 April 1917
My grandfather James Fraser, from Aberdeenshire, was discharged from the Gordon Highlanders after being wounded at Beaumont Hamel, France during the Battle of the Somme. He was sent to a hospital in Leeds, Yorkshire and on discharge decided to stay in Leeds and enrol on a painting and decorating course. He took lodgings in Kirkstall, just round the corner from where my grandmother was living with her parents, and the rest I’m sure you can imagine. Amazing to think that if it wasn’t for that bullet in his wrist I wouldn’t have been born.

On 4 April

4 April 1763
At Stevenston, Ayrshire my gggg grandparents John Hunter and Margaret Barr were married. Their marriage is the furthest back I’ve got so far on the Haddow/Hunter line as it’s proving difficult to know which of the several people with those names born at the right time in the right place are them – if, of course, any of them are. Something else for the to do list.

4 April 1809
Baptism at Longside, Aberdeenshire of John Hutcheon, my gggg uncle, sister of Christian Hutcheon who married William Fraser. I was able to find his death certificate so know he died at the age 69 at Rora, Longside and was an unmarried agricultural labourer, but I’ve failed to find him in any census, which is frustrating as he had to be somewhere.

And that’s it for today – a relatively quiet one on my family tree.

On 31 March

31 March 1774
Baptism of Robert Hunter at Stevenston, Ayrshire, son of John Hunter and Margaret Barr, making him my gggg uncle as his sister Margaret married Robert Haddow. There’s not quite enough evidence to prove it, as there were several people called Robert Hunter born in Stevenston at around the same time, but I suspect this Robert Hunter married Margaret Haddow and was a coal miner in Stevenston. If so, it means Margaret Hunter married Robert Haddow and Robert Hunter married Margaret Haddow. A bit of a tangle, to say the least! I have yet to unravel it.

31 March 1866
Colin Shearer Haddow born in Kilwinning. His father, also Colin Shearer Haddow, was the son of my gg grandparents John Haddow and Amelia Murphie. The Colin born in 1866 died in infancy, as his next youngest sibling was also named Colin Shearer Haddow. The use of the Scottish naming pattern does make for a confusing family tree at times!

31 March 1920
Hamilton Kirkwood of the 219th Field Company (Glasgow) Royal Engineers was demobilised after having enlisted in 1915. His war record has survived so I know he served in France, received a skilled rate of pay as an iron moulder, and had a scar on the roof of his nose. His grandmother Sarah Marshall was my gg grandmother and his mother Ellen was the half sister of my great grandmother Mary Ann McInerney (a surname no-one at the time was able to spell).

Over in Aberdeenshire and down in Yorkshire they all had a quiet day, which is just as well.