Nicknames in 17th century Melrose

In my research in the 17th century regality court records of Melrose I found that nicknames were often used at Melrose to distinguish between people with the same name. These could take different forms e.g.

place names: Eister, Wester, Wynd, Pooll, Townheid, Wall, Peele, Nook, Croce

descriptive: Blind, Blak William, Mikle William, Ranter, Litle, Great, Stoupie, the Bender, Fair, Laird, Tutor, Page, Long, Back Sid, the Preist

genealogical: Jeanes John, Williams John, Hellens John, Long Andro’s sone

Often nicknames seem to have passed from parent to child, especially the place name ones. This can make it harder to rely on them for identification. In addition nicknames changed over time, including how they were recorded. For example two neighbours in dispute at the Melrose court were both John Bowar, both portioners of Eildon. One was ‘Eister’ and the other ‘Wester’ but by 1665 it looks likely that one had died with references now only to John Bowar.

I love these nicknames. They add such character to the people and stories, and are rarely recorded in traditional Scottish genealogical records. Unsurprisingly they seem to have been particularly commonly used for some of the more oft occurring surnames, probably needed to tell people apart in the record.

Similar nicknames have also been found elsewhere in Scotland, including at nearby Earlston around the same time (fortunately – and rather unusually – recorded in many parish register entries), and Arbroath in Angus.

Smallpox inoculation in late 18th century Melrose

Just blogged a story about late 18th century Melrose from my family tree.

Viv's Ancestry Blog

Just shared this on Facebook with my cousins, and sharing here too. Toftfield = Huntlyburn. Recollections of my 6xg-uncle, Andrew Usher at Darnick (born 1782, died 1855) who founded the whisky distilling dynasty in Edinburgh:

“I was born and brought up at Toftfield and the oldest circumstance I remember about that place is that when the doctor came to inoculate the family with the smallpox (vaccination had not then been discovered) as I thought it was something very painful I ran away. My father came after me and when in the act of taking me home his heart failed him and he said to himself ‘What if I should be leading the laddie to his death’ (for children so inoculated not infrequently died) and he set me at liberty again. I was, however, persuaded to go into the house and seeing what a simple matter it turned out to be…

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New academic article about Melrose’s 17th century court

I’m pleased to say that the article based on my postgraduate Masters research into Melrose’s court is now newly published. It’s in the Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, and is currently the featured article, so can be read and downloaded freely by anyone without subscription. Enjoy! I had much fun doing this. I completed this research long ago, before doing my separate history PhD. It’s been a delight to revisit the work, and consider what else I can do with it.

Melrose Rugby Club honouring its WW1 soldiers

The Border Telegraph today carried a nice story about the research by the current Melrose rugby team, uncovering the stories of members of the club who served in World War One. I was delighted to be able to help them with some of this research.

A Melrose man serving in one of the first tanks in World War One

In the run up to Armistice Day and the commemoration of a century since the end of World War One I’ve been adding more information to my list of Melrose servicemen.

Thanks to Stephen Pope I’ve received detailed information about the war service of William Sinclair Barrie, a Melrose grocer, who served in one of the first tanks to see action on 15 September 1916 near Delville Wood at the Battle of the Somme.

William was born in 1897 at Berwick-upon-Tweed, son of Matthew Barrie and Margaret Bruce Sinclair. The family lived for a while at Lundin Mill in Fife, but by 1911 were living in the High Street on Melrose, where Matthew had a grocer’s shop.

William enlisted in November 1915, and joined the Motor Machine Gun Service. In early June 1916 he was transferred to a secret training centre to train men in operating tanks. He arrived at the Somme Battlefield on 10th September 1916, moving to the north of Delville Wood on the night of 14th September, ready for the tank attack on the village of Flers. Over the coming days William would be wounded several times. Later he served with the 4th Battalion Tank Corps.

After the war William returned to Melrose, ultimately taking over his father’s grocery shop, and marrying Margaret Burnett Lawson at Galashiels in 1928, and later Christine Williamson Steedman in 1953.

William died at Melrose in 1953 aged 57.

Appointing a new schoolmaster at Melrose in 1788

Sometime I plan to write a detailed blog post about the history of schooling at Melrose before 1820, including back into the mid 17th century. But for now, here’s a nice reference I just found in the early newspapers at the British Newspaper Archive. This report comes from the Caledonian Mercury of 22 May 1788.

THE HERITORS of said Parish are requested to attend a meeting within the church of Melrose, on Thursday the 29th instant, at twelve o’clock mid-day, to fix the mode of chusing a Schoolmaster for said parish, several persons having offered themselves as candidates for that office; and also to take under consideration other parochial concerns.

17th century court officer Andrew Kennedy

For a second year running I’m taking part in the Society for One-Place Studies A to Z blogging challenge. We were each assigned a letter at random, and asked to write about someone whose name – surname or forename – begins with that letter. I got K and settled on 17th century court officer / sort of policeman Andrew Kennedy who pops up frequently in the Melrose regality court records. Enjoy the new blog post.

A New Year letter from Melrose in 1918

I thought I’d look to see if I could find anything nice in the old papers in the British Newspaper Archive for Melrose from 100 years ago. And I found this letter to “The Children’s Circle” column written by “Uncle Dick”, published in the Southern Reporter on 10th January 1918:

Dear Uncle Dick,
We get the “Southern Reporter” every week, and we always read the Circle first as we like it so well. I am nine years old and my sister Chrissie is five. My father has been two and a half years in France fighting for us, but he was home last June, and we were all glad to see him. I expect the weather will be cold and snowing for sliding or snowballing or sledging. I hope so. Wishing you and all the members a Happy New Year.
Your loving niece, Jessie Gray, Burnfoot Cottage, Newstead, Melrose

Goals for my Melrose one-place study in 2018

Looking ahead to the New Year I thought I’d jot down things that I’d like to tackle in this area in the next 12 months.

Now that I have a new website for the one-place study which I’m happy with the focus is on adding more content, both transcripts and indexes, and interesting new blog posts.

I’d like, for example, to extend my lists of surnames per address in Melrose parish to include names recorded by pursuers, defenders and others in the Melrose regality court cases between 1657 and 1676. There are thousands of people recorded in these local court records, and unsurprisingly certain surnames recur in certain areas.

From the Melrose parish registers in transcript form published by the Scottish Record Society I’d like to analyse the causes of death in the mortality roll for the parish in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Likewise I’d like to start indexing the scattered miscellaneous lists of people in there. And also those years including kirk session minutes, including cases of fornication, illegitimate births etc.

My Melrose WW1 servicemen and women project is still ongoing, with new material to be added online soon. Hopefully in 2018 I can get photographs of the Melrose Roll of Honour, including those who survived as well as died, allowing me to add many more names to the list online here. Meanwhile I will continue to research the names I already have.

I have lots of ideas for new blog posts to add, about interesting people, places and events. For example I found many characters in the mid 17th century court records, that would be well worth including.

I’d also like to blog more about unusual sources, for example Roy’s military map and Melrose parish, and forgotten Melrose parish place names as revealed by Blaeu’s 1654 atlas and the much later Ordnance Survey name books.

Many ideas anyway. Looking forward to it!

St Andrews University students from Melrose

An online database of St Andrews University students between 1747 and 1897 was recently launched. This provides a searchable biographical database of alumni between those years. The biographies were compiled by the former Keeper of the Muniments at St Andrews, Dr Robert Smart. For more descriptive details see the blog post here, and search the database here.

Fourteen students associated with Melrose show up in the database:

  • Frederick M’Lagan (1738-1818) son of Rev. Alexander M’Lagan, minister at Little Dunkeld, and Jean Glas. Student 1758-1760. Minister at Melrose 1768-1818. Died at Hayfield, Stirlingshire.
  • John Bain (1757-1837) son of John Bain, Flisk, and Christian Squire. Student 1771-1774. Teacher at Kirkcudbright, Cupar and Leith. Died at Melrose.
  • James Chalmers Herdman (1826-1899) son of William Herdman, minister Rattray, and Sophia Walker. Student 1838-1845. Missionary at Calcutta and minister at Melrose.
  • William Murray, from Melrose, possibly b. 1825 son of Thomas Murray, Melrose, and Louisa Thomson. Student 1840-1847.
  • John Y. Walker, b. 1831, son of John F. Walker, Anstruther Wester, and Elizabeth B. McBean. Student 1846-1851. Described in biographical register at “Schoolmaster Earlston, Melrose” – just Earlston or both?
  • John Dall Connel (1843-1901) son of David Connel, U.P. minister at Bo’ness, and Barbara Browning. Student 1859-1863. Began medical practice at Melrose, then moved to Peebles.
  • John Hill, b. 1850 son of Andrew Hill, Melrose, and Anne Scott. Student 1871-1872. Probably John Hill “English master” in Abbey Park in 1871.
  • Louis William Bodé, b. 1860 at Melrose, son of Louis Wilhelm Bodé, Captain Royal Hanoverian, and Mary McEwen. Student 1876-1877.
  • Robert Stevenson (1861-1947) son of John Stevenson, landed proprietor Alloa, and Jeannie Miller. Student 1877-1881. Minister at Gargunnock. Died at Melrose.
  • Richard M. Muckersie (1863-1888) son of Michael Muckersie, innkeeper Melrose, and Helen Mitchell. Student 1879-1886. Died at Edinburgh.
  • William Rae (1861?-1893), from Hawick/Melrose. Student 1883-1884. Congregational minister at Inverurie 1891-1893.
  • James Herbert Curle (1870-1942), born at Melrose, son of James Curle of Evelan, writer, and Marion Passmore Whyte Newlyn. Student 1887-1889. Later author, writer, mining engineer and philatelist. Died in Victoria, British Columbia.
  • Robert Nelson (1878-1951) son of Robert Nelson, Ruthwell, and Margaret Skeoch. Student 1894-1897. Minister at New Machar, Glasgow Abbotsford and South Leith. Died at Melrose.
  • William Scrimgeour (1878-1940) son of William Scrimgeour, master joiner Methven, and Jessie Dewar. Student 1895-1900. Teacher at Ayr, Peebles, Oban and Kirkbuddo. Died at Melrose.