Wednesday, 22 April 2009

A Seamstress, a Sailor and the Poorhouse

So what did happen to the four children in the Irvine/Dundonald, Scotland Censuses of 1841 - 1861? Neither Eliza nor Jane McElhago married. Eliza died aged 40 in 1866 of Cancer. Jane moved north looking for work, sometime after 1851 when she became 21. In 1861 she was lodging at 24 Cook Street, Govan, with three other women, when she was working as a 'Cap Maker'. Her age is wrongly given as 24. She would have been 30. For the next 18 years she worked as a 'Sewer', living in a variety of lodgings. Clearly she kept contact with Dundonald as on 30th August 1879 she was admitted by Dundonald Poor House, and she is presumably the Jane McIllhago, aged 47, in the 1881 Census at Cunningham Combination Poor House in Irvine. Maybe it is the same place. 

Later that year, claiming to be 48, at Govan 'Combination' she is applying for 'Relief' as she has a 'Cardiac Disease'. On 1st October at 10 35am she is sent 'to the city' but is back by 11.55. Four days later Dundonald is admitting liability for her, as that is her place of birth, but is asking 'do not send her here till I write as she likes a trip by rail to Glasgow now & then'. In a harmless way she was 'playing the system'! Over the next ten years her 'partial disability' became 'wholly disabled'. She had become 'nearly blind', presumably the result of all the sewing she had done, probably in poor light conditions. She had in fact been employed for the previous 23 years with one firm, Arthur & Company's, William Street, Anderston, Glasgow. The 'Relief Report' says 'she was obliged to leave with her eye sight'. Mr. I. Chisholm, an Assistant Inspector of the Poor, paid her a 'home visit' and found 'no one to assist her'. She had been taken in by her niece, Mrs. Tennant at 126 Plantation Street, a widow with 7 children. This was in March 1893, a situation which seemed to continue for a year. What happened between March 1894 and Jane's death at the age of 69 on 19th December 1900 we don't know, though by then she was in the 'Old Women's Home, Glasgow'. The informant of her death was Elizabeth Wyllie, her niece, possibly the 'Mrs. Tennant' re-married. The cause of death of this 'Seamstress' was 'Malignant disease of womb, one year'. 

That leaves Richard and Jam(i)eson. I'm afraid we do not know what happened to Jameson after his 14th (or perhaps his 24th) birthday. Maybe he emigrated. Is he a McElhago who went to Pensylvania (see 20th March blog)? We do know what became of his older brother Richard, part of whose story parallels that of his sister Jane. He was born on 9th April 1832 at 'Friar's Croft', his parents home in Dundonald. He must have followed his father into the Merchant Navy for in 1855 he is a 22 years old seaman (named McElhaga), one of the crew on the passenger ship Melbourne which had sailed from Liverpool to Sydney, Australia, arriving on 21st February under Captain Henry Morris. Twenty-four years later he is again recorded on the ship Ethiopia, though this time as a passenger to New York on 15th March 1878, when he was 46. He must have returned when he was 54 in 1886 when he moved in with his niece at 50 West Street, Govan.

He was with his niece for 9 months before, on 29th November (at 12.15pm) as a single Protestant man and a partially disabled seaman, he applied for admission to the Govan Combination Poorhouse. The reason he gave was that his niece was unable to keep him. He was certified as suffering from 'paralysis' which we may presume was the reason he was unable to get any work and look after himself. He said his sister Jane could prove his birth. The Govan Combination Parochial Board did contact Jane for such proof and Richard was 'given relief' on 10th December, being admitted 'from Dundonald'. The Poorhouse Committee met on 20th December and decided to admit him because he had 'no home'. The Assistant Inspector's Report says that on 20th December 1886 he left the Poorhouse and went in again on notice to Dundonald on 21st December. On 17th January 1887 Dundonald 'admitted liability' for him. He seems to have been accommodated between Dundonald and Govan until December 24th of that year when he was 'discharged'. We may wonder where he spent Christmas Day. Where and how he spent the last four years of his life we do not know, though he must have returned to the place of his birth, for his death is recorded in 1891 in Irvine.

There are three problems remaining about this branch of the 'Dundonald Family'. We know that Richard and Jane were brother and sister. Both, in their separate submissions to the Inspector of the Poor mention a niece, we may presume the same one. Jane names her as 'Mrs Tennant'. A William Tennant married Jane Martin in 1866, who was the daughter of Philip Martin and Elizabeth McElhago. Who was this Elizabeth? Jane and Richard's sister Eliza never married, so was there an older sister Elizabeth who did not appear on the Dundonald Census returns, maybe because she had left home before 1841? It would have been odd to call one child Elizabeth and two or three years later a second child Eliza, but perhaps these were seen to be quite different names. The only other possibility is that the word 'niece' is being used to mean another relationship like 'second cousin', but there does not seem to be a known person to fit such a relationship. 

The second remaining problem is that there is another marriage of an Elizabeth McElhago, to Alexander McCallum, a Master Mariner. She had a daughter Elizabeth who married William Wyllie, a Flesher, on 30th March 1877 and lived at Holmfield, Langbank, Glasgow. Were the two Elizabeths one and the same? Did she marry twice, first to Philip Martin, and second as a widow to Alexander McCallum? When Jane mentioned her niece 'Mrs. Tennant' she said she was a widow with 7 children, and as it was an 'Elizabeth Wyley' who gave notice of her death, the circumstantial evidence is that they were indeed the same person, though I have failed to find documentary evidence of either marriage.

The final remaining problem is that there is a known marriage (though without a date) of a John McIlhague to Isabella McCallum, who had a daughter Jean on 8th March 1824, baptised at Dundonald on 13th October, when John and Isabella were called 'spouses'. Was Isabella a sibling of Alexander McCallum above? Was John possibly a fourth son of James and Jane McElhago? We just don't know.

1 comment:

  1. Richard McElhago appears in the 1883 Directory for Cleveland, Ohio, as a salior (sic). This reference is in