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


weaverpat said...

You do a great job with the ancestral detective work! Isn't it interesting?
I love these stories about your family.

Elizabeth said...

Another interesting post Angie. I might be able to throw some light on what a journeyman is though I only have experience of the plumbing trade - my ex-husband is a master plumber and my son trained with him, first as an apprentice and then journeyman until he got his master plumber qualifications too. Journeymen are plumbers who have served their apprenticeship (traditionally that took 7 years), but are not yet masters of their trade - they do however earn more than they did as an apprentice. Traditionally they had to be guild tested before they could be called master plumbers - I'm not sure what the equivalent is today. Generally, it could take a number of years (around 4) to qualify to master status. It is just possible that their is evidence somewhere of Sandy qualifying with the Guild of Masons - might be worth contacting the Guild historian. Shame he had such a short life but he probably never wore a mask back then. I wonder if his widow remarried. Elizabeth x

Pam said...

I jsu did a google map for Kenmore House in Polmont.
hopefully this link will take you there;,+quarry+brae+polmont&hl=en&ll=55.982214,-3.715439&spn=0.000012,0.013036&sqi=2&hnear=Kenmore+House,+1+Quarry+Brae,+Brightons,+Falkirk,+Stirlingshire+FK2+0SX,+United+Kingdom&t=m&z=17&vpsrc=6&layer=c&cbll=55.982097,-3.715353&panoid=oawMAsgjAjKFZLozezEhXQ&cbp=12,31.34,,1,4.5

SueH said...

Yet another beautiful Lo Angie and it’s strange that it has so many similarities with the page I’ve just done for my Gt. Grandparents.
The clock faces, the different paper across the bottom Left-hand corner even the placement of the photo…………great minds think alike, err! There’s even a link in the fact that my Gt. Grandmothers family were Greengrocers and there’s a photo of her standing outside the shop somewhere, which I’ll have to dig out at some point.

Your journaling is great and really gives you an insight into the way he and his family were living at the time.

Thanks for sharing

Ginny said...

love love LOVE your LOs Ange. Wish I was part of your family so I could be a part of this wonderful gift you are leaving for them all :0)

Morning's Minion said...

This is a bit of a round-about way of responding to your comment on Al's post. I remembered your story of John and your Mum and came back to read them again as part of this Remembrance weekend. I was also prompted to look up some facts about the Lancastria. My husband is devoted to the History Channel but doesn't recall mention of the Lancastria episode.
Your artistic LO"s add greatly to your family history.
Re Alexander's early death: my g-grandfather and other men of the family worked in the Graphite Mines of upstate NY--several of them died of "black lung" or silicosis--sounds similar to Sandy's fate.

Kit said...

wow Angie you have so much history to share, its amazing and must take a lot of work to puzzle all the photos and snippets of history together.
Thank you so much for visiting my blog, no matter how long I am away from blogging I can always count on you to stop by and leave a comment so thanks for that, you really are a loyal follower.

Best Wishes

Kit x