Tag Archives: Hurlford

On 25 March

25 March 1873

A big day on my family tree – my grandfather Henry Strachan was born. Sadly, I know nothing about him apart from what I’ve been able to research, nor do I have any photos, as not only did he die before I was born but he died 3 days before my father’s second birthday so my father had no memories of him to pass on. Henry was a coal miner, born at Crookedholm, the eighth child of coal miner Joseph Strachan and Jeannie Haddow. He’s Henry in all the records but my father always said his name was actually Hendry. He was named after his uncle, the brother of his father, who did manage to get himself listed as Hendry in one census.

Fortunately, as Henry he’s fairly well documented in the records. In 1881 he’s an 8 year old living with his parents and siblings in Crookedholm, and he’s still there, with his parents at Lamont’s Land, Crookedholm, in 1891, a 19 year old coal miner. His older brother Robert had died the year before and, sadly, his older sister Flora was to die two years later.

Henry met local girl Helen McCrae, who lived in Hurlford and was the daughter of a coal miner, and she gave birth to their first child in September 1895. No marriage took place at the time, but that might have had something to do with the health of Henry’s father, who died in December 1895 of cardiac disease. But Henry Strachan and Helen McCrae did get married in March 1896, at the Commercial Inn at Hurlford, and they went on to have a total of 11 children, my father being the youngest. In the 1901 census they were living at Old Factory House, Crookedholm, with three children.

In 1905 the Valuation Roll has, at Cowan’s Row, Crookedholm, Henry Strachan collier living next door to Henry Strachan pitheadman. This is my grandfather and his uncle but I don’t know which is which, though it’s more likely that the older Henry is the pitheadman as it was a job that usually went to older miners. They were both living in housing rented by Portland Colliery.

Some time between 1906 and 1908 the family moved to Lanarkshire, to an area that is now classed as Glasgow. They first settled at Tollcross, where their next child was born. Henry’s younger brother also moved to Tollcross and there were a number of other relations already in the area. No doubt the main reason for the move was better or more secure work in the coal mines. Then they moved to Cambuslang, but times must have been tough as in the 1911 census the family is in a two roomed tenement at 14 Mansion Street in a household comprising Henry and Helen, 9 children aged from 15 to 2 months, and two lodgers, both coal miners. A very crowded household indeed!

In 1912 Helen and Henry’s youngest child, William, died at the age 1 of measles and broncho-pneumonia. This must have been what prompted Henry to take out a title on a plot at Westburn Cemetery: I have the original title deed in my possession because my father ended up with it. Henry and family had moved by then and were living at 54 Gilbertfield Buildings. The address suggests Henry was working at the Gilbertfield Mine near Cambuslang, owned by United Collieries and which in 1910 employed 315 underground and 82 above ground. The mine owners’ houses for employees are described in a 1910 report as two storey, erected in 1884, with large rooms, wc in a close, and an inside sink with water. In the 1915 Valuation Roll Henry Strachan miner is the tenant of 54 Gilbertfield Buildings, Overton Street, owned by United Collieries, and paying a yearly rent of £9 12s.

Henry Strachan died on 27 November 1918 at the age of 45, of pneumonia arteriosclerosis – a common cause of premature death in coal miners. He left behind a widow and 10 children, 5 of whom had not yet reached working age.

On 23 March

The software I use for my family trees has a useful find facility, so I thought seeing what had happened on today’s date might be interesting. It’s a good day for doing things that pass the time as there’s about a foot of snow outside – and it’s officially the third day of spring! I hope the weather was better on:

23 March 1806
Sarah Grist was baptised at Sprotborough, near Doncaster, South Yorkshire. In 1826 she married Thomas Oxley at Rotherham, although he came from Barnsley. In the 1841 census they can be found at Wortley Street, Barnsley, with 7 young children including Margaret, who went on to marry Joseph Green and became my great great grandmother. I don’t know much about Sarah Grist except that her parents were Henry and Ann Grist, and the 1841 census shows Henry age 65, an agricultural labourer living at Goldthorp and not born in Yorkshire. So that’s something to find out at some stage: where did Henry come from?

23 March 1860
Peter Orr, grandson of my gggg grandfather and the son of Mary Strachan, my first cousin 4 times removed, married Agnes Clark at Hurlford. Peter and Agnes went on to have 11 children, and Peter spent his whole life working as a coal miner in Hurlford. He was already a coal miner at the age of 13, when the 1851 census was taken, and he died a coal miner in 1899 at the age of 64. Having just finished sorting out my Haggerty ancestors, I’m wondering if Peter’s father James Orr was related to Jean Orr who married Joseph Haggerty. In close communities such as coal miners, and with people having large families, it must have been difficult to find someone you weren’t somehow related to.

23 March 1876
Catherine (Kate) Fraser, my half great great aunt, was born at Govan Brose, Causeway End, Aberdeen, to my great great grandfather Alexander Fraser and his second wife Margaret Booth. Catherine’s parents took over Mosside, the Fraser family croft near Hatton, when Catherine was about one year old. She worked as a domestic servant on farms until she married in 1895 at the age of 18 to Andrew Gibb Johnston, a farm servant. They moved to Aberdeen between 1901 and 1911 where Andrew worked as a carter for the railway. They had 6 children, and Catherine died in 1946 at the age of 70, in Aberdeen.

The “beautiful jail” at Hurlford

Going through snippets of information I’ve gathered over the years by rummaging around on the internet, I came across a description of Hurlford, Ayrshire published in 1875. My coal mining Strachan ancestors were living in Hurlford by 1870 so the extract gave me a feel for what the place was like.

Re-reading it, however, I was struck by the writer saying Hurlford was “possessed of two handsome churches, a commodious academy, and a beautiful jail, which I trust the inhabitants patronize as little as possible”. No doubt the jail was less beautiful on the inside than on the outside. However, I do know that at least one person on my family tree experienced at least one night in the cells at Hurlford Jail.

A Strachan-related young woman married in the late 1800s. On looking for her in the census I found her in Hurlford, with a baby but no husband. Searching for the husband I quickly found him – he was spending the night in Hurlford jail. They went on to have more children and seem to have lived a normal life, so I don’t think the husband did anything horrendous – possibly a bit of drunk and disorderly behaviour. But it’s enjoyable imaging the reception when he got back to his young wife: “Of all the nights to get yourself locked up, you have to go and pick census night. There it will be forever, in black and white, for the whole world to see. Whatever will our genealogist descendants think!”

That is not, of course, what she’d have said, but it’s fun letting your imagination run riot at times, and genealogy provides lots of opportunities for doing so.

(The rest of the description of Hurlford in 1875 is reproduced under the articles tab)