Saturday, 1 October 2011

Alexander Ritchie …1868-1914.

I was so excited to find another photo of him when he was 20/21years old, the little boy in the picture below whose image I thought had only been captured there. I worked out his age by the three year window that the photographer had had a studio in Edinburgh for.

Sadly I have no stories or anecdotes, past down through my Nana, about her brother, my Great Uncle Alexander, except that he was ‘fond of his appearance’ which I assume meant he liked to look smart … and that he was called Sandy by the family. I believe he had light read hair, which may have given rise to the nickname.

By the time my Nana was nine (1891) it can be seen that Alexander was no longer living in the family home but was a lodger in Carnock .. a village a few miles west of Dunfermline….how long he had lived away from home is unknown.

I have tried to gather as much colour from certificates and censuses I have read…. hopefully giving him a ‘real’ feel …some one who is not just a face staring back from a photograph.

Alexander Ritchie was born 12th September1868, the third child but second son of David and Isabella. He was named after his mother’s father, as tradition dictated, and was brought up in Cupar Muir, in Fife … which is just outside Cupar. I have noted that none of the sons were given middle names at birth although William adopted one in later life, yet all three of the daughters were.

Like his elder brother he followed his fathers trade, that of being a Stonemason, and after finishing his apprenticeship, of about 7 years, he was then a journeyman …acquiring work where he could and often paid by the day. The only thing he was not allowed to do was to teach …for that you had to be a Master Mason

By 1897 he was living in Edinburgh, at 36 Caledonian Crescent, and on the 23rd December that year, he married Barbara Low Anderson who lived in Glasgow and was a sales lady in a jewellers. Alexander was now termed a Mason, (Operative) as also was his father who still lived in Cupar Muir. I have read up on this but there does not seem to be a definitive answer as to what ‘operative’ actually meant. In some cases it seems that it was connected to being a member of a Lodge of Masons but then I read it was something to do with the early unions …even ‘journeyman’ seems to have many definitions…does any one out there know more ???

!901 brought the next census and the couple are found to be one of three families, living at 12 Castle Street. Edinburgh. … Alexander is a working Mason and Barbara is a caretaker of an office …they have no children.

Another 10 years pass and they are now living at Quarry Brae in Polmont, in a house or cottage, called ‘Kenmore’, that has 6 rooms with windows. This seems quite large for a couple still with no children after 13 years of marriage but reading the census I see that he works on his ‘own account’ now, from home and he is now a Fruiterer. This says to me that this building is in fact a shop, a Greengrocers maybe or a general store.. There is no record of Barbara’s job but I imagine she served in the shop or helped in other ways. They appear never to have been blessed with children but I did wonder why he rejected his trade to start a new one during the first decade of the 20th century.

All was explained when reading of his death on 18th October 1914, just three years later, at the age of only 46. He died of pneumoconiosis and heart disease ….the former being a ‘Dust disease’ related to being a stonemason. I can only imagine that he had been ill for several years and this had caused him to change his direction.

I hope Sandy came alive for you …he did for me while researching him …but then he is my Great Uncle.

Now I know where he lived in his latter years, I am going to send my son out with a camera, as he lives surprisingly close to Quarry Brae.

Take care xx

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Ritchie Family circa 1875

This is the earliest photo I have of David and Isabella.
I have dated this at 1875 but it might have been as early as 1874, as their 5th child, James, was brought into the world in 1875. As William is in his mother’s arms, it is hard to see if she is ‘with child’.
Their oldest son was also a David and followed into his fathers trade becoming a mason and then a respected builder, living in Cupar for the whole of his life. This was barely two miles away from where he was brought up. The family home, in Cupar Muir, had four rooms that contained windows and was big enough to bring up their seven children. Although their eldest son stayed close, their eldest daughter Janet emigrated to Canada and their youngest, not born for nearly another decade …my Nana…lived for several years in London. This is the only photo I have yet to find of Janet and their second son Alexander.
Sadly I have no image of James who died before his time….I am sure I have not recounted his story before so maybe this is the place to record it.
James was born in 1875 and like William, who worked in the print, did not follow in his father’s footsteps but became a Cabinet maker. He met and fell in love with Jane Brunton and they married in 1903. Soon Jane was carrying their first child and eleven months after their marriage Elizabeth was born. They were so happy but Jane was very unwell after the birth. James had gone out to visit friends and returned to find that she had died and could not forgive himself for not being there by her side. His death from poison was recorded 12 hours after hers.
Elizabeth was now an orphan but James’s siblings tried to care for her. A few months later Jane’s parents came and took her to live with them…. changed her surname and appear to have brought her up as their own child …maybe to shield her from knowing about her real parents deaths.
James' family never saw her again but I found that she lived until 1986 … not all that far from where I live now …. unmarried and on her own …how I wish that I had started Family History 10 or so years earlier …but then maybe it would have been wrong to rake up the past.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

My Mum the 1940's

Marjory Isobel Bullock/Watt ...1917 - 2000

This decade was filled with mixed emotions for Mum It started with such promise …she was due to be married to her one true love but sadly John was taken from her before it could happen … she managed to survive this terrible time and took her mind off what had happened by concentrating on her singing and joining the world of work for the first time in her life …something that a middle class only daughter, in Scotland, was not expected to do unless it was volunteering to do a few hours for charity or in a hospital, or at this time, maybe War Work.

She lost close friends as many did …sang for the Polish soldiers who were stationed near by …finally left home for a spell so she could continue working and have some independence …this time on a military base in England … then discovered that her mother had sold up the family home and followed her to England. She met and was captivated by my father, a Canadian parachutist at the base … learnt that he was returning home to a wife and child so never told him that she was probably pregnant. In March 1947, she gave birth to me, which shocked the whole family, as she had told no one, only put on a few pounds and cycled everywhere up to eight months. Finally she let her mum find a flat, change Mum's surname, move in with us and then organize her life so that she could keep me and give me a home, forsaking old friends, in case they ever learnt the truth that she had never married. …. but then, to test her strength once more, she nearly lost me to Polio as the decade was nearing its end. (Written about in the post below )

This beautiful woman never looked at another man for the rest of her life and dedicated herself to making sure I was happy and had all that I needed. …it is now that I really appreciate what she did for me.

Thank you Mum.


This is not exactly family history because it’s me in the photos but it is recording a time that was important in my life …and it is over 60 years ago.!!

The first photo must have been when I was nearly one, early 1948, and the other, two years later. For the first three years of my life I lived with Mum and Nana, in the down stairs flat of a house that had seen better days, This was before my Nana purchased a Victorian terraced property, opposite a park, which was to be my home for the following 18 years.

I remember discovering a hole in the kitchen floor and peering in … and then a wooden chair being placed over it to stop me coming to harm. I remember Mum looking after the Lipmann’s cat and she and I having to go up to their flat, only to discover a pile, or as it seemed to me, a mountain, of stale and mouldy bread in a corner of their hall. I remember lowered voices when it was ever discussed..

It is only with retrospect, and age, that I now suspect why the ‘mountain’ existed. The Lipmann’s were always nice to Mum and talked to me too but generally kept themselves to themselves. It was the late 1940’s, their surname suggested that they were Jewish but although their clothes were showing much wear and tear, they seemed have a pride in their appearance. Putting all things together in my mind, I now wonder whether they had managed to survive a camp or similar hardship, where any food was rare and prized, no matter the freshness. The habit to treasure any crumb of food would have been hard to break and to throw anything away would have been almost impossible. … it really is the only explanation, as I remember Nana remarking on how clean and tidy the rest of their home was..

These things I remember, even though I was so young yet a two months stay in hospital, around the age of 18 months, separated from my mother by a glass wall, leaves me with no memories at all.

Between these two photos I fell ill … according to the doctor …with a cold or influenza at worst. My ex-Theatre Sister Nana was not satisfied and had me rushed to the nearest hospital …she was a force to be reckoned with when it came to medical matters and her intuition was right. Within a few hours I was diagnosed with Polio and put into isolation. It is believed that it was only her quick action that enabled me to make a complete recovery …well almost, as I walked like a penguin for the next three years and my feet would often take up the ‘quarter to three’ position when tired …even well into my twenties. Certainly there would never have been such a cute photo of me at nearly three but for her…many children who managed to survive the terrible epidemics around that time, remained paralyzed and those that were confined to a chair or walked with the aid of ‘leg irons’ were thought lucky.

Thanks for dropping by ...Take Care xx