Saturday, 18 December 2010

Application for Relief

If you come across an 'Application for Relief' you might be very fortunate in obtaining information that might not be available from another source. The likelihood is that the interviewing Inspector wrote down what the applicant said and such is the case I think with an application made in the Glasgow area at 12.30 on 20 February 1886. The name of the applicant is recorded as 'Widow George McLean. Mary McElheggo'. It is clear to me that Mary did not check the spelling of her surname as it is spelled differently later on the form, and indeed is different to that she may have learned as a child, but possibly because she couldn't read or write. Mary gave her address as '120 Renfrew Street' followed by what looks like 'sunk flat McCulloch's'. Does this mean what today we might call basement accommodation owned or rented by a McCulloch family? The form records that she was 'in lodgings' in a 'single apartment'. There was a McCulloch - McIlhagga marriage in Ireland. Was there a link to this family Mary was lodging with? The McCullochs were from Maxwellswalls and did move across to Glasgow looking for work. Mary's country and place of birth is recorded as 'Maxwellswalls, County Monaghan, Ireland'. This of course is very interesting as we have many references to clan families in Maxwellswalls, though none to a McLean. So where will Mary fit in?

What personal things are recorded about Mary? First, and most importantly, she is 66, then she is a Protestant, a Widow, she has previously been 'supported by her own efforts' as a Cook, though she has been 'out of a situation since August last', six months, and finally she has 'no family alive'. Certainly this must mean she has no children to whom she can turn, and probably it also means that she has no siblings alive. From a genealogical point of view we are then given valuable information about her late husband and about his and her parents, possibly more information than we would have got from say a marriage certificate. Mary married George McLean in 1846 in Ballymena, by Rev. Dr. Dobin. The Rev. Henry Jackson Dobbin, DD, was minister of First Ballymena Presbyterian Church and in 1848 served as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Mary's late husband George was a Highland Scot '35 years born somewhere about John O'Groats'. I take it that this means he was 35 when they married, which in turn means he was born about 1811. Mary would have been 26.

George was a Coachman and he had died in Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1862 when he would have been 51. His parents were James McLean, a Crofter and Mary Ann Beattie both of whom were deceased by 1886. Mary's parents were Henry McElhaggo, a Farmer and Mary McDowall, both deceased by 1886. This fact confirms the marriage of Henry and Mary; however, here is the most important new information - Henry and Mary McIlhaggo of Maxwellswalls had a daughter. All my records show that they probably had three sons, John, Henry and William Gage, all of whom would have been born before Mary. Mary was the youngest, so when the 'Relief Inspector' recorded 'no family alive' it probably did include 'no siblings' as well as 'no children'. This was the first (and possibly the only) application Mary made for 'relief'. Assistant Inspector M.D. Toner visited Mary the day after she made the application, at 3.30 on 21st February 1886. It is a sadness that anyone had to make such an application, but we can be grateful for the information it reveals.

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