Saturday, 23 January 2010

Performance, Phantom and Poetry

I have a vivid memory of being a young boy (in the early 1940s) listening with my parents to the radio (sorry, wireless - isn't it interesting how this word has come back into use!). The voice on the wireless was that of a Comedian and a character in one of his sketches was a Mrs. McIlhagga. Clearly he'd picked up the name from somewhere and though it suited his character! I honestly can't remember what kind of a character Mrs. McIlhagga was, nor can I remember the name of the Comedian, though I suspect he had a northern English accent. There may be a recording in the BBC archives that could enlighten us.

I thought of this incident quite recently because I came across another fictional McIlhagga on the Internet. A site had been set up to offer space to new authors who needed to try out their attempts at writing short stories. This time the character was male with the first name of Phelim. The 'original' Feilhlim (pronounced Felim) was the name of three early kings of Munster, so you can guess the story was set in Ireland. In the story Phelim McIlhagga was a rather strange fellow who owned a general store in a seaside village on the west coast where a family have a 'very peculiar holiday' adventure involving a phantom train and a phantom ship flying the flag of The Three Headed Dragon. The fantasy perhaps goes a step too far for those of us who work with genealogy when we discover that the genes of the three family members are half human and half 'fairy'! The author was a retired academic in earth sciences from Northern Ireland.

The second performance example I've come across was brought to my notice on a 2008 Christmas Card from a friend in Bathgate, Scotland. She mentioned a local theatre production - it may have been a pantomime - that had a character in it with the name McIlhagga. There are quite a few McIlhaggas in Bathgate! Enquiries have not yet thrown more light on this event!

The Internet has also revealed two poems written by teenagers who were (they are now well beyond teenage) at school in Northern Ireland. In accord with my blog policy I won't name them, though I think I can say both were female. The first poem I came across was published in the book illustrated above, Kaleidoscope, in 1999. It was written by a 15 year old at Bangor High School. The second was published in the magazine Relax at Hopefield Secondary School, Newtownabbey and then picked up by a national newspaper on 30th August 1972. Both are I think very worthy poems.

If Only They Knew

There he sat in the dark corner,
Alone and out of place
No one to talk to, no one to laugh with,
No friend to tell you what to do.
The coloured boy stares with filled eyes,
at the class of pupils far whiter than he.

I can be a friend too, he thought
I can play games, play ball and I can
even crack a joke.
They are all the same you know,
They take one look at you and
without a word, they pretend you're not there.
If only they knew what I was like inside
and didn't judge me by my dark dull colour.
I have a heart too, but if only they knew.

The Gravedigger

He comes home and washes his hands
For it's time to sit down to tea
And he thinks about the soil he's washing off -
"It covered a coffin today
Somebody probably crying over it now".
He thinks about the fresh-laid wreaths
The pretty flowers covering a sad grave
And he wonders "Why flowers?"
Flowers are supposed to cheer you up
Why put them on a grave?

Three Military Men

Over the seven years we published a Clan Newsletter the article which got most response, all I think appreciative, was The Clan in The Military. I have already referred to the Military Service of a number of Clan members in blogs on 27th March, 23rd June, 17th July, 8th September, 30th November, 12th December last year and 12th of January this year. These blogs cover 10 McIlhagga men: James Spence, Robert W., John (AKA McFarlane), Lindsay, John Hutchinson, Archibald Duncan, George, Joseph McCulloch, James and William Neil Duncan. But there were others and today I'll mention three.

First, there was Robert, known as Ross, McIlhagga, born about 1933 who died 3rd October 2001 in British Columbia, Canada. His passing is recorded in The Legion Magazine, Gibson's Branch. Ross served as a Private, Service No. M1435135. After the Second World War he was posted to The Army Reserve. He was 68 years old when he died. At present I do not know to which Clan Family Tree he belongs.

Medal Cards were created for every man and woman who served in the Forces and I have one for James McIlhagga whom we have met as part of the 'Ballycloughan Family'. He was a Private in the First World War, in the Seaforth Highlanders (Reg.No. S/28088) and in the Royal Highlanders (Reg.No. S/30566), over the period 1914-1920. He was born on 13th May 1898 in Greenock to James and Johanna (nee McCulloch) McIlhagga. In 1922 aged 24 he emigrated to the USA on the Ship Columbia arriving at Ellis Island, New York. In 1924, in Buffalo, New York, he married Jean Blue Crawford and two years later had a son James. In 1930 they were living in Triangle Street as a family with two of Jean's brothers as lodgers, Alexander and Archibald. James was naturalized as a US Citizen on 2nd December 1937. By then he and Jean had had their second son, William Archibald. James died in Buffalo, Erie, New York, on 5th January 1970.

Another James was James J. McIlhagga born in Belfast in 1917 and who died during World War Two on 9th February 1943, aged only 26. He was a Gunner in the Royal Artillery (Reg.No 7018808) and the Army Roll of Honour says he served 'At Sea'. He was in fact with the 4th Maritime Regiment and he is commemorated in Devon, England, on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. This is on The Hoe, overlooking Plymouth Sound. It is illustrated above, together with Panel 84, Col.3. I was able to make a donation to the organisation which kindly provides these photographs. This James was probably one of the five children of Samuel McIlhagga, born about 1872 in Belfast.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

McIlhagga - McNeice

My third problem from the 1911 Irish Census is found in a house at 115 Queen's Street, Ballymena, Co. Antrim. There are four residents all aged 30. All four could read and write and all four were Presbyterians. The head of the household was John McIlhagga, a Railway Carter. He and his wife Mary had been married for 13 years. This would have probably been in 1898 but unfortunately I haven't found a record of it. Apparently they had had three children, though none of them had lived. The space for Mary's occupation was left blank, so presumably she was the 'housekeeper'. The second couple were their lodgers, John and Mary McNeice. Both of them had occupations listed, John a Cooper and Mary a Linen Winder. They had been married only shortly before the Census (25th March 1911) though they entered 'one year'. They had been married at Wellington Street Presbyterian Church. John was the son of William McNeice a Labourer. Mary, interestingly was the daughter of John McIlhagga, a Labourer. Her witness was Elizabeth ("Lizzie") Bell.

Now at present I am unable to fit any of these people into one of the Clan Family Trees. I do have the record of a John McIlhagga son of John marrying a Mary Sloan but the date of this marriage was 5th January 1894, which was 17 rather than 13 years before the 1911 Census. If this was the correct marriage, it would have made John only 17 when he married and he had declared 'full age' (ie 21) so stating that he had been married for 13 years on the 1911 Census might have been covering up this discrepancy. Often a marriage witness is a relative and is a clue to the tree, but I'm afraid the name Elizabeth or Lizzie Bell doesn't help in this regard. It is of course very likely that John McIlhagga and Mary (nee McIlhagga) were from the same family. If they were brother and sister they almost certainly must have been twins. I'm afraid this fact doesn't lead me to a Family Tree either. There is one final clue - the name NcNeice. We have met this name once before in my blog on 17th September last, entitled A Baker in Australia. Samuel Robinson McIlhagga had married a McNeice on 6th December 1897 in Belfast. In the 1911 Census he was living with his large family in the Shankill district of the city. Regrettably there is no John or Mary in his family and his wife's father was Henry McNeice, not William, so the McNeice link is clearly not close enough for me to identify the right Tree either!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Children's Nurse

My next unsolved problem from the 1911 Irish Census concerns a 22 year old young lady called Eleanor McIlhagga. She was being employed by a Medical General Practitioner called Dr. Ivie Aird (35), a Scot, and his wife Ella Margaret Aird (29) who was born in Belfast. They had two children, Elizabeth Margaret (4) and Kenneth Ivie (2), both of whom had been born in County Down. They called themselves a Presbyterian Protestant family, though were eclectic in their employees and friends. Three people were staying with them on Census night, Margaret Finnigan (25), a General Servant (Domestic) and a Roman Catholic from County Monaghan, Eleanor McIlhagga (22), a Children's Nurse (Servant) who was a Presbyterian from County Down and May Gilmore (32) a Visitor and an Episcopalian who was a Professional Nurse from County Down. Their residence was at number 37 Hamilton Road, Bangor, County Down. All the residents (except of course the two children) could read and write.

At present I am unable to place Eleanor in a Clan Family Tree. I do have the Civil Birth registration of one Eleanor, the daughter of James McIlhagga and Rebecca Johnston, who was born on 23rd December 1885, which would make her 25 on Census night in 1911. It is of course possible that in applying for the job of Children's Nurse for some reason Eleanor falsified her age and said she was three or four years younger than she was, but I have no evidence of this. In any case I am unable to place her and her parents in a Family Tree at this time. I have no records of a marriage or a death of an Eleanor McIlhagga. If anyone can throw any light on the origins of Eleanor in Bangor or on her subsequent history I would be most grateful.

Monday, 18 January 2010

McIlhagga - Anderson

When I checked our Clan name in the 1911 Irish Census I got 75 results. I have been able to identify 40 of these people and place them in Family Trees. The rest are for me still 'under research', which I will continue to work on and will write about from time to time. The first (alphabetically) is David McIlhagga, aged 4, who on census night was staying with his grandparents Samuel and Agnes Anderson and their two daughters Eliza Anne and Sarah Agnes at 160 Ormeau Road, Belfast.

In my Clan birth Index I have a David born about 1907 to W. John McIlhagga and Jane. In my Clan Marriage Index I have a William John McIlhagga (born about 1880) marrying Jane Burgess Anderson on 3rd September 1902 in Elmwood Avenue Presbyterian Church, Belfast, and I therefore deduce with a fairly high probability that David is their son. Furthermore, returning to my Birth Index I have the birth of twins, William John and Mary Jane on 19th February 1879 to Eliza Ann McIlhagga of Slatt, Ballymena. There is also the birth of another boy, James, to an Eliza Ann McIlhagga of Ballymena on 13th May 1872. These births imply a birth year for Eliza Ann of between 1850 and 1855. Also in the Birth Index (which I have compiled from various sources) these is a birth of an Eliza Ann in about 1851 to a William McIlhagga of Tullygarley, which could be one and the same. I wonder why William John and Jane called their son David? Perhaps it was the name of William John's father, and hence David's paternal grandfather. However, the same and perhaps a stronger argument goes for the eldest son James!

Do I then have a David born about 1907 who later married? There is just one possibility, a David Reavey born between 1904 and 1908 who married Elizabeth Gordon in 1942 and had three children born in the 1940s. I am uncertain of this Jane's maiden name so cannot say for certain that David Reavey is the David staying with his grandparents in 1911. There is however some circumstantial evidence. This William John and Jane McIlhagga lived at 161 Ormeau Road, clearly a house either next to or opposite the Anderson's at 160. The Census records that there were four children born to this couple and that there were four alive, though only three were listed as present at 161, and of course we know that David aged 4 was 'over the road' at his grandparents.

However, the three listed were David M aged 7, William John aged 6 and Agnes aged 2. Clearly someone, maybe the enumerator, had made a mistake. David R was not there, so the eldest child, who was indeed aged 7, must have been there. His name was Samuel James. Now the Census gives Jane's age as 32, thus giving her a birth year of 1879, the same year as William John was born to Eliza Ann McIlhagga. But the age of William John at 161 Ormeau Road in 1911 is given as 48, giving a birth year of 1863, a considerable discrepancy! At the present I don't know how to solve this problem. The enumerator may have made another mistake. If anyone can throw any light, I'd be very grateful.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Doyle, Jones, Stubbs and Stirrit

The last blog (16th Jan) sketched a vignette which is part of the history of 'the Ballycloughan Family'. Thomas senior was the second son of Crawford and Elise McIlhagga. I must now complete the references I have to this immediate family. I have mentioned that Thomas's daughter Agnes Barbour was born on 19th August 1890 at 35 Ashfield Cottages, Ashfield Street. Clearly she was called after Agnes Barbour who signed as a witness at their wedding. Her mother Margaret (nee Galbraith) reported her birth. After her mother's death in 1908 when she was 18 she went to live with another local family (see blog 13 Jan 09). She was a Bag Mender (possibly for a Jute firm) when she married 25 year old Michael Doyle on 27th August 1916. Agnes was brought up a Protestant but married at St. Sylvester's Roman Catholic Church, Sylvester Street, Liverpool, so we must assume this was Michael's Church. Michael's father Peter, a former Watchman, was deceased. Thomas is recorded as a Shipping Clerk. I have no record of whether Michael and Agnes had a family. On 16th September 1917 Thomas senior remarried a widow Agnes Baker, nee McArthur. She lived next door to him and they moved into her house at 25 Severn Street. He died on 28th December 1926 aged 58 of Carcinoma of the Larynx. She died just two months later, on 20th February 1927, aged 48, of Chronic Bronchitis and Broncho-Pneumonia.

After Elizabeth, William and Thomas, Crawford and Elise had three more children, Crawford, Agnes and John. Agnes we have met already (see blogs 28th Jan 09 and 12th Jan 10). Crawford was born on 20th July 1870. His birth record wrongly spells his surname McIlhagger. On 6th March 1905 aged 34 he married Margaret Abiah Jones, aged 29, daughter of Richard William Jones, a Cooper. Both gave their address as 63 Summer Seat. They married at St. Alban's Church of England in the Parish of Bevington, Liverpool. Crawford gave his occupation as a Clerk. In fact he was a Railway Clerk, a job he held for over twenty years, at a time when the Railways were employing an increasing proportion of the population. They were to have two children, Mary on 29th April 1906 and William Crawford on 1st June 1909 who lived only a few weeks, to 22nd July. he had been born prematurely. Their father died on 10th May 1926 at 2 Mould Street, exchange, Liverpool, of Acute Pleurisy, aged 55 years. Margaret lived for another 31 years. She died on 23rd March 1957 at 3 Kinross Road, Waterloo, Crosby, aged 81 years. A descendant of the Jones family told me that the Joneses recall visiting the McIlhaggas on a regular basis (in the 1890s?) when they lived in Mould Street. Daughter Mary was eventually to marry C.W. Stubbs. Unfortunately I have no details of this marriage or whether they had a family.

Crawford and Elise's last child was John who was born 13th August 1879 at 76 St. Martin's Cottages. John never married. He was living at 6 Archer Street when he gave notice of his father's death, though some years later he had moved into Bevington House Hotel when he died in somewhat mysterious circumstances on 12th April 1922. Strangely he had assumed a middle name, Stirrit, though where this name came from is not known. A Coroner's Inquest was held but no record remains of the proceedings and to date no newspaper report has been found of what happened. He was a General Labourer aged 43 years. His death record simply says 'Valvular Disease. Natural Causes'. He was 'pronounced dead' at Stanley Hospital.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Four Thomases

I belong to a branch of a Family History Society which once a year has a meeting in which we share our stories, problems, artefacts, &c.. This year's meeting took place this morning at which I decided to bring together the three blogs I wrote last year on 'Home Children' on 24 January, 11 April and 8 July. They told the story of Thomas McIlhagga, a cousin of my father, who on 20 May 1909 aged 13 found himself aboard the ship Corsican with 92 other children setting sail from Liverpool for Canada. He ended up in Knowlton, Quebec as 'cheap labour' for farmer Thomas Patterson .

Thomas McIlhagga was sent abroad because his mother had died the year before and presumably his father couldn't cope bringing him up as a single parent. His older sister had gone to live with a neighbouring family. I'm unsure what happened to his father before he 'surfaced' almost ten years later to remarry widow Agnes Baker. Farmer Patterson and his wife in Quebec had no children of their own though, as we can see from the 1911 Census, they had living next door to them an extended family, who we hope befriended Thomas and gave him a reasonable time through his teenage years.

When he was twenty-one Thomas volunteered to enlist in the Great War and served overseas, presumably on the European Continent. I wonder if the lingua franca of Quebec stood him in good stead in France? When he returned to Canada after the War he got a job at St. Joseph's Hospital in Trenton, Ontario. There he met his future wife, Edith. They appear not to have had any children of their own, and, perhaps in gratitude for Thomas's own adoption, they adopted a lad whose birth name was Joseph Thomas Smith. Thomas, my father's cousin and Joseph Thomas' adoptive father, took the second name of Joseph, possibly when he married Edith in a Roman Catholic Church. We can make this assumption as we know that he was buried in 1970 in Mount Calvary Roman Catholic Cemetery.

I think we can assume that Thomas Joseph McIlhagga never returned to his native land. Joseph Thomas apparently lost contact with both his birth family and his adoptive family and there is no trace of him after about 1975. It is of course possible that he did not continue to use his adoptive surname and it could well be that he is still only in his sixties today and survives somewhere in North America

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Agnes McIlhagga of Liverpool

Almost a year ago, on 28th January 2009, I wrote a blog with the title Mother's name reveals more. I explained how I had found two more people for my family tree, one being Lillian Graham. She was the daughter of Agnes McIlhagga, my Great-Aunt, and William Graham. I had also found Lillian's brother Arthur, and I wondered if I would find more family. I promised myself that I would search. As yet I have not made the time - and now I don't have to make time for yesterday one of Lillian's grandchildren posted a comment on the 28th January blog to say that Agnes and William had nine children and that Lillian died in October 1987, which would be in her 73rd year. Agnes and William's eldest child was also named Agnes. She had two sons who now live in Liverpool. Lillian had four children and her descendants include five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. I am hoping that Lillian's granddaughter will get in touch with me again giving me her address - I have suggested a way of doing this without making it public - so that we can correspond. Aren't blogs wonderful!

The Liverpool Scottish

Sgt. Lindsay McIlhagga

Like many other people, among my prized possessions, relating to my own Family History, are the medals which my father Lindsay received after his service in the First World War. I have downloaded his medal details from the British National Archives website. I also have a good number of photographs, mostly of him in the kilt of the King's Liverpool Regiment, with the stripes of a Sergeant on his arm. He was a specialist in Signalling and I have his Certificate which tells me he was transferred to the Army Reserve after the War.

Another Internet site called The Long, Long Trail is the story of the British Army in the Great War and it details where his Regiment went and what it did from 1914 to 1918. My father's Battalion landed at Le Havre on 2nd November 1914 and I have an image of a water colour painting of the SS. Maiden, the ship that took the men from Southampton to France. An account of that journey is on the Internet. It was fairly recently that I had the moving experience of driving past the battlefields in northern France where my father saw much of the war years. He was one of the 'lucky ones'. He came home - or I wouldn't be here! And neither would my three sons nor my six grandsons!

His service was with the 'Liverpool Regiment', officially entitled 'The King's Regiment'. The 2/10th Battalion and the 1/10th Battalion were known as the 'Liverpool Scottish'. He was initially with the 2/10th Battalion with the Regimental Number 357519. Lindsay was attested on 9th December 1915 and mobilised on 18th March 1916. He served in both 2/10 KLR and 1/10 KLR and rose to the rank of Sergeant. He was on active service in France with a specialist Military qualification in Signalling. He was later to amuse his children by 'speaking' in Morse Code. After the War he was tranferred to the Army Reserve on 12th October 1919.

Monday, 11 January 2010

William, Maggie & family

William, Maggie, Lindsay and Margaret

William McIlhagga and Margaret (nee McLean) had two children, Lindsay and Margaret. There are many name patterns in the history of the Clan, including in the Ballycloughan family, but the name Lindsay is unique in that there appears to be no evidence of a reason for its choice on either the male or female side. Lindsay was born at number 14 and Margaret at number 10 Smyrna Road, Liverpool. Lindsay was born on 27th July 1893 and Margaret on 12th September 1897. Lindsay's mother gave notice of his birth to Edwin Smith the Walton Registrar some six weeks after the event. Was this delay additional evidence of Maggie's 'frailty' (see blog of 9th Jan). The family was at 9 Palmerston Drive by 1894 and had moved to number 72 by 1901 where they stayed until at least 1910.

Lindsay, brought up in Litherland, found a job as a young man in a Liverpool Jute firm, Chisholm and Company, a firm that had moved south from Dundee. He remembered that his first working day was St. Patrick's Day, 17th March, appropriate to the origins of his grandparents! At work he met office worker Olive Mildred Varley who was from the nearby 'dormitory' town for Liverpool, namely Wallasey. She was the eldest daughter of a Grocer, Arthur Varley and his wife Rose Amelia (nee Pea). It is interesting that a man with a rare surname married a woman whose mother's maiden name was even rarer! Lindsay and Olive did not get married until he was 31 because of course the First World War 'intervened'. Lindsay was only 21 when the war started and he had to face enlistment with the Armed Forces, about which I will write another time.

Lindsay and Olive did eventually marry, on 1st September 1924 at New Brighton Presbyterian Church in Ennerdale Road, Wallasey, of which they became members and of which Lindsay became a Manager for a time. It is of interest that the Church they related to was in the tradition in which Lindsay had been brought up, rather than that in which Olive had been brought up, namely the Methodist Church. Doubtless they would approve of the fact that many years later 'Ennerdale Road' united with New Brighton Methodist Church to form St. Andrew's Church, New Brighton. When they married Lindsay was 31 and Olive was 27. Despite their ages they were to wait eleven years for the birth of their first child, a boy, in 1933 and then for a daughter in 1935, both born in Wallasey, their son at 93 Grove Road and their daughter at 119 St. George's Road.

Lindsay, after 'travelling' for his firm and 'working his way up', eventually became its Managing Director. This meant he had to bear the strain of responsibility through the Second World War, while one of the partners was serving in the Forces. During this time Lindsay also served in the local A.R.P. All this doubtless contributed to a series of heart attacks in the early 1950s resulting in his death on 16th of February 1954. Olive lived to the ripe old age of 91 and died on the 13th March 1989. Lindsay had a younger sister, Margaret, born in Walton, Liverpool on 12th September 1897. She became a Telephonist and died unmarried at the age of 43 on 31st December 1940 at 104 Rice Lane, Walton Park, which may be the address of a hospital. Her residence was 47 Marina Avenue, Litherland. The cause of death is given as (a) Paralyticileus and (b) an operation for intertestinal obstruction due to a tuberculous gland. Her name is with those of her parents on a gravestone in Bootle.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

An exact 25 marker match

I had my DNA analysed just over three years ago, requesting a '37 marker' result. I was somewhat surprised that there were no 37 marker matches for me from all the hundreds of thousands of tests run by Family Tree DNA. I was even more surprised that there were no 25 exact matches either, though there were a couple of 24 matches with the surnames Cox and Jacks. There were also eleven 23 marker matches. Over the months I have been kept informed by FTDNA of any new matches, nearly all of which have been of only 12 markers, which are really of very little significance. Only today have I had an email telling me that there is an exact 25 marker match! The first one! This is a man with the surname Smith.

As yet I do not know where in the world he is. I have emailed him and await a reply. It is just possible that a comparison of the paper trails from our respective family history research may reveal a link between us. At least we may be able to eliminate a common ancestor over a few generations. FTDNA has calculated the percentage chance of a common ancestor for Mr. Smith and myself, a particular McIlhagga, depending on what is called the Genetic Distance between us, shown I gather by the mutation rates of our particular genes.

There is apparently a 37.69% chance of finding a common ancestor two generations back, a 61.17% chance four generations back, a 75.81% chance six generations back, an 84.92% chance eight generations back and a 90.61% chance ten generations back. Their calculation goes back 24 generations when there is a 99.66% chance of a common ancestor. My great-grandmother was a Smith but at present I can't see how that is relevant. I only have four known McIlhagga generations in my line (back from me) so I suppose those can be eliminated. Five generations apparently takes me to a 69.35% possibility of a common ancestor. I wonder what Mr. Smith's paper trail will indicate?

McIlhagga - McLean

Parish Chest

I am returning to the section of the 'Ballycloughan Family' who moved to Liverpool, Merseyside. Crawford's eldest son, William was eventually to meet up with a member of another family who had also moved down the west coast of Scotland into England. This was the daughter of Donald McLean who had been born on the Isle of Coll, the eldest son of the branch of the Coll Macleans known as the Macleans of Auchnasaul who were descended from the second son of the Fifth Laird of Coll. However, the immediate relations who Donald left behind all moved to the larger neighbouring Island of Mull. There his parents and siblings were farming 200 acres as tenants of Druimfin just south of the island's capital, Tobermory.

Donald had left to go to sea and had been among the crew of the Passenger Ship Arabia plying between Liverpool and North America. He was in fact on board the Arabia in the nearby port of Holyhead in North Wales when the 1861 Census was taken. Soon after he met and married Anne Roche. Ann's parents were Francis Roche a Weaver and widow Julia Anna who had married in Manchester Cathedral on 26th October 1824. Donald and Ann married in Liverpool's 'Sailor's Church', the Liverpool Parish Church of St. Nicholas, on 21st January 1864. The record of their marriage may well have been stored in the Church's Parish Chest illustrated above, which strangely can be found today in Ladykirk Church of Scotland in the Scottish Borders.

Donald and Ann had three children, Margaret born 8th June 1867, Julia Ann born 18th July 1869 and John Francis born 15th September 1871. By the time Margaret had met William McIlhagga both her parents had died and her orphaned siblings had been sent to live with the McLean family on the Isle of Mull. Margaret was 'adopted' by friends (the Gillespies) in Liverpool. She and William married on 13th September 1892 in Bootle Presbyterian Church. Both families were Presbyterians from Scotland so William and Margaret could have met through the local church. More about William in another blog.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Irish Wills Index: Margaret McElhaga

Many wills were destroyed with other archives in the 1920s fire in Dublin. However reference to these wills exists, though without any details, in an Index, published on the Internet by the Origins Network, which is in partnership with an organisation called Eneclann. The 'Irish Wills Index' includes a testator, namely Margaret McElhaga of Ballymena, County Antrim. The date of her Will is 1835, which was proved in the Down & Connor Diocese. Although this Will has a National Archive reference (IWR/1835/692) and even a Volume number (4/236/26) I have been assured by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) that these references do not mean that any further details are available, despite the fact that the Index says that the Will has the status of 'Transcript'. The Index does however give us the name of the Will's Executor, J. McElhaga. The word Executor, rather than Executrix, implies that 'J' was a man, in which case he could have been Margaret's husband, son, or even brother.

Someone making a Will in 1835 was in all probability born in the latter part of the 18th Century. Can I assume that Margaret died in or soon after 1835? I wonder. In my Clan Death Index I have no other McElhagas. So do I have any relevant entries in my Clan Birth or Marriage Indexes? Just one in each, though neither may refer to the same Margaret. Margaret McIlhaggy was born to Nathan and Sarah in 1790 in Belfast. She was baptised on 4th March 1790 at St. Anne's Church of Ireland, Shankill. From a date perspective this could be Margaret McElhaga if 'J' were her son and she was unmarried. I think this is an unlikely scenario.
On 15th August 1828 Margaret Mawhinny married James McIlhaggo of Biggam's Brae at Templepatrick Presbyterian Church. This could indeed be Margaret McElhaga of nearby Ballymena and 'J. McElhaga' could indeed be James McIlhaggo. But is this identification probable? At present I have no supporting evidence and I have to note that this is a marriage found in the records of the IGI which has been submitted by an individual, which throws an element of doubt into the mix!

Now there is one serious possibility. The only other reference I have to the surname McElhaga is in fact an error for McElhago, the 18th Century version of the clan name that we find in the West of Scotland. I noted the error in my blog on 22nd April. So was there a Margaret McElhago in one of our Ayrshire families, who might have ventured to Ireland in the early 19th Century? No, not that we know of, but we do know of a Margaret McElhago who died in Pittsburg, Pensylvania in 1875! I wrote about her on 20th March last, and illustrated her gravestone. We know nothing more about her than the dates on her stone, 1803 - 1875, though I suggested that she could have been a younger sibling of the three McElhago brothers, James, Samuel and Robert. (It was Robert's name which was misspelled). I realise that a death date of 1875 is a long time after the date of the Will, 1835, but presumably she could have decided to make a Will before she ventured overseas. The Irish Will Index doesn't give us the date of her death or even the date when the Will was proved, simply the date on the Will, presumably when it was made. And her Executor was 'J'. James was the eldest of the three McElhago brothers and very possibly the ship's captain with whom Margaret had sailed to the USA. So perhaps we have here part of the story of a venturesome young lady, Margaret McElhago (AKA McElhaga) who first moved from Ayrshire to Ballymena, County Antrim, and then to Pensylvania, USA.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

St. Martin's Cottages

St. Martin's 'Cottages', Liverpool

Last time I mentioned 'St. Martin's Cottages' 'making history' involving the residence there of a McIlhagga family, Crawford and Elizabeth and their children. In 1869 Liverpool Corporation built the first ever municipal housing estate in Europe with the construction of 124 purpose-built flats in Silvester Street in the Vauxhall District of the city. The term 'Cottages' was an intentional misnomer, for they were in fact large tenement buildings. In an article in 2001 in the Daily Mail Newespaper, Adam Powell wrote:

'As he peered into the squalor where thousands were forced to live, the good doctor knew something had to be done. Victorian Liverpool was bursting at the seems as its bustling docks and factories attracted hoards of immigrants from the countryside. Appalled by what he saw, local physician William Henry Duncan campaigned for the Corporation to combat the misery. Today, the innovative solution - Europe's first council houses - is being commemorated with pride by the local authority that dreamed it up. It was an invention born of necessity. By the 1840s the city's worst districts of Vauxhall, The Exchange and Scotland Road had been branded the unhealthiest places in England. Yet newcomers were still pouring into the overcrowded slums looking for work. The 1801 Census had shown that 2000 people lived in the cramped, dank cellars of Liverpool, usually sharing outside toilets. By 1841 their numbers had increased to 38,000, each courting disease and early death in windowless, bare-walled rooms dripping with damp.

'Although spartan, the tenements set standards which were to be copied around the world. Until their demolition in 1977 the flats, known as St. Martin's Cottages, became home to tens of thousands of people and today Liverpool City Council unveils a plaque on the site, commemorating the visionary fathers of 132 years ago.

'Yesterday current Lord Mayor Gerry Scott said: "The cottages may have been very basic and stark by modern standards, but at the time they were revolutionary. For the first time poor families had homes with running water, gas lighting, inside toilets and basic cooking facilities. Liverpool should be proud that the enlightened thinking of our city fathers contributed so much to improving the quality of life of ordinary people".

'Martin's Cottages were divided into six four-storey blocks. Each flat had two or three bedrooms, a living room and a scullery. Their basic interior was matched by their barrack-like appearance but, to the early inhabitants, they must have been dream homes.

'A latter day tenant, Rose Murphy, was born in one of the flats 68 years ago. She shared a bedroom with her mother and two sisters while her father and two older brothers shared the other. Apart from when she was evacuated to Nantwich in Cheshire, Mrs. Murphy lived in St. Martin's Cottages for 22 years until 1956, when her family moved to another estate a few streets away. Yet, despite the cramped conditions, she remembers her former home with fondness. "Everyone was very hard up", she said, "but they were good neighbours. They did not live in each other's pockets but were there if you needed them. The flats were very basic, just bedrooms and a living room with another bedroom off the 'back-kitchen' which was just a sink's width and 6ft. long. There was no room for a cooker, just a hob on the living room table and a coal fire and oven for cooking. In the evenings we had gas lamps. There was no bathroom but there was a toilet halfway between our floor and the one above, but each family had its own, which was something." For more than a century since Liverpool launched the concept, governments have blown hot and cold over council housing. But now the pendulum is swinging back as the need grows for social housing to allow the less well-off to live and work in areas where (sic) they otherwise could not afford.'

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

South into England

Staying with the branch of the 'Ballycloughan Family' I began to write about in my last blog, Crawford, like most of his siblings, crossed the North Cannel to work in the town of Greenock. It is perhaps surprising that a hundred and fifty years later there is but one McIlhagga left in that town. The first part of that family to leave was in fact Crawford and Elizabeth (nee Smith) and their two sons, William and Thomas. They headed down the west coast to Liverpool in the English County of Lancashire. This move is illustrated by the 1881 Census map above. It is produced from Surname Atlas, copyright Archer Software 2003 ( which can produce such a map for any surname. They kindly gave me a copy for McIlhagga at a Family History study day and said I may use it in a Clan publication. You can see that it is based on the actual numbers in each county in the 1881 Census.

The first family event 'down south' was the birth of their fourth child, Crawford, at 16 Raymond Street on 20th July 1870. His birth record incorrectly spells his surname McIlhagger. He joined his two older brothers William aged 4 and Thomas aged 2. His mother 'made her mark' when she gave notice of the birth to the Registrar of the Liverpool District of St. Martin. Crawford and Elise (as she was known) had two more children, Agnes five or six years later and finally John on 13th August 1879.

Where and how did Crawford obtain work? In Greenock his 'profession' in the Port Glasgow Marriage Register was 'Sugar Baker'. On the Internet today there is a Sugar Refiners & Sugar Bakers Database ( Crawford and his two eldest sons are listed on it from the 1881 Census. Both the Greenock Mill and the Liverpool Mill were owned by Tate & Lyle, and perhaps Crawford had seen a Liverpool job advertised when he was still in Greenock. In any case in 1881 Crawford is still a Sugar Baker. Fourteen year old William was a Sugar Baker Office Boy (Mess) and his thirteen year old brother Thomas was a Sugar Bks (sic) Office Boy. Their younger siblings were all still of school age.

While this family was growing up they moved house several times. From Raymond Street they moved into 'St. Martin's Cottages'. They were in No. 76 by 1879 and in No. 17 by 1881. I wonder if No. 17 had two or three bedrooms? Maybe the move from No. 76 to No. 17 was to get an extra bedroom, the larger rent made possible with three wages coming in. From there William, Thomas, Crawford and Agnes were all to marry and about each, as well as about the 'baby' of the family John, there is a story to tell, but first, in my next blog, I must explain how as a family, by moving into 'St. Martin's' they were, possibly unknowingly, making history.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Crawford and Elise

William McIlhagga and Agnes McCosh's fourth child and third son was Crawford. The Broughshane Baptism Register reads: 1837 Febry 26th Crawford to Wm & Agnes McIlhaga, Ballyclochan. It is interesting to ask why they chose the name Crawford. It could have been a surname occurring in either the paternal or the maternal line, a generation or two back. I posited this theory in a blog on 23rd November 2009. Crawford, unlike his older siblings, did not marry in Ballycloughan. He must have moved from Ireland to Scotland by 1865, perhaps first staying with one of his older siblings, William, John or Jane. However, by 1865 he was living at 7 Hunter Crescent, Greenock. He had met Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Thomas Smith (b.c. 1820) Daywatchman and Jane Chestnut (b.c. 1820) born in Glasgow. Elizabeth (known as Elise) was from Port Glasgow and Crawford married her on 1st September 1865. I wonder if she was related to Thomas Smith who married Ann Jane, daughter of brother John? The Marriage Register entry includes the following:

1865 September first, Miramichi Port Glasgow. After Banns according to the forms of the Church of Scotland, Crawford McIlhagga, 25, Sugar Baker, Bachelor, 25 Cartsburn St., Greenock. Parents William McIlhagga, Farmer & Agnes McIlhagga MS McCosh; Elise Smith, Ropespinner, 22, of 11 Main St., Cartsdyke: Parents Thomas Smith, Day Watchman (dec), Jane Smith MS Chestnut (dec). Signed Peter Thomson, Minister of Crawfield Burn Free Church, Greenock and William John McWhirter, Witness; Christine Cameron, Witness; Registered Sept 4 at Port Glasgow. Wm. Smith, Registrar.

'Miramichi' seems to have been a public building owned by one of the Shipping Lines in Port Glasgow. Crawford and Elizabeth had their first three children in Greenock: Elizabeth who was born and died aged 5 hours on 22nd Nov 1865; William who was born a year later on 12th November 1866 and Thomas eighteen months later at 3pm on 6th March 1868. In 1865 Crawford and Elizabeth lived in Cartsburn Street, Greenock. In 1866 they moved to 47 Main Street and two years later to number 43. Before their next child was born there was a major move in their lives which I will deal with in a subsequent blog.