Saturday, 17 October 2009

Two Greenock Graves

I've had an email from someone with whom I have corresponded previously when she was doing some family history research for a McIlhagga friend. She had kindly copied down the wording of two gravestones she had spotted on the south-west coast of Scotland in Greenock Cemetery, which is incidentally one of the largest graveyards in Europe. One was for my first cousin twice removed, James McIlhagga, his wife and three of his eleven daughters. The other was for a fourth, his eldest daughter, Marion. The first stone (in Section 2F) reads "James McIlhagga died 7th Feb 1913 age 59, wife Joan McCulloch died 17th Jan 1905, daus Agnes died 14th Jan 1919 age 26 at Calgary, Isobel died 26th Sept 1944 at Kimberley BC, Margaret died Feb 1961, 4 children died in infancy". The second stone reads simply "Marion McCulloch McIlhagga died 3rd Nov 1961 age 84" (in Sction 2B).

There are a number of things to note about the wording of these stones which make us cautious about recording people's 'vital statistics' with confidence. The date of James' death is indeed correct. The Greenock Telegraph for the following day confirms this, as does the Register of Deaths which tells us in addition that he died at 4h 45m Pm at 31 Lyle Street, Greenock, of 'Phthisis Pulmonalis'. His eldest son William, of 88 Portland Place, Hamilton, reported his father's death to the Registrar and I presume it was he who gave his age as 57 years. This however is two years different to the age on the memorial stone which says 59 years. So was he born in 1856 or 1854, or indeed 1855? We have no record of his birth so we must calculate from other sources. The 1881 Census implies 1856, 1891 implies 1855 and 1901 implies 1856. The strong possibility is that the stone is wrong, though it may not be!

James' wife is called Joan McCulloch. It is a good Scottish practice to use a wife's maiden name in such a situation, which for us either confirms what we know from another source, or perhaps tells us what we hadn't known, even if, as in this case, the first name has been 'simplified'. She was Joanna, rather than Joan! Actually she was Joanna on her marriage certificate and Johanna on her death certificate (and in the Greenock Telegraph). As for the three daughters, I did not know the date or place of Agnes' death, though I had a note of an Agnes McIlhagga aged 21 leaving for Montreal in 1913. Isobel is I'm sure the simplified version of 'Isabella McFady'. I had not known that she too had emigrated to Canada, nor did I know the date of her death. It is interesting that one sister went to Calgary, Alberta, and the other to Kimberley, British Columbia.

It is possible that one or both had gone to join their brother Joseph who joined up in the First World War in Calgary with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Joseph in fact gave his sister Marion as his next of kin, as by then both his parents were dead, though in fact for five years he had had a wife who like Marion was back in Scotland. Margaret (who also seems to have been called Matilda) and who had McCulloch as a second name, appears to have remained unmarried and to have died in Greenock, again on a date that I am glad to know. Marion McCulloch was the eldest child of James and Johanna and she also lived and died unmarried in Greenock. The first stone mentions but does not name '4 children died in infancy'. They were Robert McCulloch (1883), Annie Bell (1900-01), Janet (1902) and Mary Morrison (1904). I am indeed grateful to my correspondent for the extra information she has sent me.

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