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