John Crosbie (1833 - 1907)

John Crosbie was born on 8th September 1833 in the parish of Kirkmahoe, Dumfriesshire. He was the son of Robert Crosbie, a Quarryman, and Mary Dalziel, both of whom had been born in Kirkmahoe in Dumfriesshire and who had been married in around 1821, probably also in Kirkmahoe.

The parish of Kirkmahoe was described in A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846) in the following terms:

KIRKMAHOE, a parish, in the county of Dumfries, 3½ miles (N.) from Dumfries; containing, with the villages of Dalswinton, Duncow, and Kirkton, 1568 inhabitants. The appellation of this parish is of doubtful origin; but it is supposed to have been derived from the position of its ancient church in a valley, or near the course of the river Nith.The parish is seven and a half miles long, and its extreme breadth is five and a half miles. It contains about 11,840 Scotch acres, and is bounded on the north by Closeburn parish; on the north-east and east by Kirkmichael and by Tinwald; on the south and south-east by Dumfries; on the west by Holywood; and on the north-west by Dunscore. Though this is entirely an inland parish, the hills, especially the Watchman's hill, command a fine view of the sea; and in a clear day, the Solway Frith is seen in the distance. The river Nith runs along the western boundary of the parish, and intersects it at one corner. There are also several small streams or burns, which abound in trout, and are in many parts distinguished by romantic scenery: the Duncow burn forms three waterfalls, one of which, in rainy seasons, has a striking and imposing appearance.

John Crosbie was the fifth of nine children born to Robert and Mary and at the time of the 1841 Census (7th June) he was aged 7 and residing with his family in the village of Kirkton in Kirkmahoe parish, Dumfriesshire. Robert was aged 48 and a Quarryman and Parish Officer. Mary (recorded as Mrs Crosbie) was aged 40. Another five of John's siblings were also present.

KIRKTON, a village, in the parish of Kirkmahoe, county of Dumfries; containing 221 inhabitants. A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

Image 1 shows a 1860 map of Kirkton and Image 2 shows the village of Kirkton as it looks today.

At the time of the 1851 Census (31st March), John was employed as a Farm Servant and was residing at Saregarth Farm in Kirkmahoe, Dumfriesshire. We have not yet established the precise location of this farm.

John's family was still residing at Kirkton although his father, Robert, had now died and Mary was recorded as a Widow.

On 11th November 1854, in Urr parish, Kirkcudbrightshire, 22-year-old John Crosbie married Janet Clint at Meikle Larg Farm by the village of Crocketford. Image 3 shows the location of the farm just north of the village of Crocketford.

URR, a parish, in the stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 3½ miles (E. N. E.) from Castle-Douglas; containing, with the villages of Dalbeattie, Hardgate, Haugh, and Springholm, and part of the village of Crocketford, 3096 inhabitants, of whom 996 are in the rural districts. The parish is bounded on the west by the river Urr, and is nearly sixteen miles in length, and rather more than two and a half in average breadth, comprising an area of 30,000 acres, of which 25,000 are arable, 1000 woodland and plantations, and the remainder meadow, pasture, and waste. The surface, though for the greater part level, is diversified by a range of heights called the Larg hills, which have an elevation of 600 feet above the level of the sea; and the scenery, being enriched with wood, is generally of pleasing character.CROCKETFORD, a village, partly in the parish of Kirkpatrick-Durham, and partly in that of Urr, stewartry of Kirkcudbright; containing, in the Kirkpatrick-Durham portion 117, and in the Urr portion 122, inhabitants. A road branches off from the village to New Galloway and the Glenkens. There is a small school.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846).

Image 4 shows how the village of Crocketford appears today.

Janet Clint had been born in June 1826 at in Causeyhead, in the parish of Crossmichael, Kirkcudbrightshire. She was the daughter of Alexander Clint and Mary Little. We believe that Causeyhead was in fact Causeway Head, which was located just to the north of Crossmichael village.

Image 5 shows an 1860 map of the location of Causeway Head and Image 6 shows the ruin of the corn mill close to that location.
At the time of the 1841 Census, Janet had been recorded as aged 15 and residing in Crocketford Village, Urr, Kirkcudbrightshire with her parents Agricultural Labourer Alexander (40).and Mary (45) and her 12-year-old sister Mary.

At the 1851 Census, Janet, aged 24, had still been resident at Crocketford with her parents Labourer Alexander (57) and Mary (60) and she was employed as an Agricultural Labourer. Clearly, keeping a track of precise age was not a priority for the Clint family.

On 24th August 1855, Mary Ann Crosbie was born at Meikle Larg Farm at Crocketford, the same location where her parents had been married. John Crosbie reported the birth of his daughter and the birth record indicated that John Crosbie had previously fathered an illegitimate son and that Mary Ann was Janet's second child. No other evidence of the existence or fates of these children has been found. John Crosbie's signature, made when he reported his daughter's birth is shown in Image 7.

Janet Crosbie (maiden surname Clint) died aged 32 on 14th August 1858 in Meikle Larg, Crocketford. Her father Alexander reported the death and no cause of death was entered in the death register. Janet was buried at Dunscore Churchyard.
The inscription on the broken headstone reads...

In Memory of Mary, daughter of Alexander CLINT,who died at Crocketford April 23rd 18[??] aged 17 yearsAlso Jacob CLINT his son, who died at Crocketford 1st August 1848 aged 27 yearsAlso Janet CLINT his daughter, and wife of John CROSBIE,who died at Meikle Larg 11th August 1858 aged 32 yearsAlso the above Alexander CLINT, who died atCrocketford 21st May 1864 aged 65 years.

We have no explanation for the discrepancy between the death dates on Janet's headstone and her death record other than administrative error.

Image 8 shows the Dunscore Church and Churchyard where Janet Clint and members of her family are buried.

We cannot know why Janet would have been buried at Dunscore rather than Crocketford where she had been dwelling for at least 15 years. However, it surely would have been a sorry occasion as her body was transported the 10 miles north from Crocketford to the churchyard at Dunscore.

At the time of the 1861 Census (8th April), John Crosbie was residing at Wigton Street in Newton Stewart, parish of Parish of Penninghame in Kirkcudbrightshire. His occupation was given as Labourer and he was clearly lodging as were several other Labourers, most of Irish birth.

NEWTON-STEWART, a market-town, in Penninghame parish, county of Wigton, 7¼ miles (N. by W.) from Wigton, and 26 (E. by N.) from Stranraer; containing 2172 inhabitants. The town is pleasantly situated on the banks of the river Cree, over which is an elegant bridge of granite of five arches, connecting Newton-Stewart with the village of Creebridge, in the parish of Minnigaff; it consists chiefly of one spacious street, extending along the shore, and in the centre of which is the town-hall. The houses, generally two stories in height, are neatly built, and roofed with slate. A public library, and a news and reading room, well supplied with journals and periodical publications, are supported by subscription; and a horticultural and an agricultural society, both recently established, hold their annual meetings in the town.The principal trade is the tanning and currying of leather, and the buying and selling of wool. The weaving of cotton is still carried on by handloom weavers at their own dwellings for the Glasgow manufacturers, though gradually diminishing; and the curing of bacon, which is of recent introduction, is extensive, producing annually a return of £6000. Many of the inhabitants are employed in the usual handicraft trades requisite for the wants of a district; and there are numerous shops well stored with articles of merchandise, and also an extensive brewery. Branches of the British Linen Company's and the Edinburgh and Glasgow Banks, as well as several insurance agencies, have been established. The post-office has a good delivery; and facility of communication is maintained by the military road from Dumfries to Portpatrick, and the road from Wigton to Ayr, and by the river as high as Port-Carty, which is accessible to small vessels.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846),.

Meanwhile John's young daughter Mary Ann Crosbie was being cared for by Janet's parents back in Crocketford Village. She was aged 5 and a Scholar. Alexander, age recorded as 60, was still working as an Agricultural Labourer while Mary was 65. Also resident was 9-year-old Scholar Jacob Clint, stated to be Alexander and Mary's grandson. It is possible that Jacob was the first child of Janet Clint declared on Mary Ann Crosbie's birth record. However, no record of Jacob, either birth, marriage or death, has been found in the Scottish records.

John Crosbie, now aged 27, married Janet Cowper on 26th April 1861 in Castle Douglas, parish of Kelton in Kirkcudbrightshire. Witnesses to the marriage were James Crosbie, brother of John, and Hugh Halliday, most likely a step-brother of Janet.

CASTLE-DOUGLAS, a market-town and burgh of barony, in the parish of Kelton, stewartry of Kirkcudbright, 10 miles (N. N. E.) from Kirkcudbright, and 89 (S. S. W.) from Edinburgh; containing 1848 inhabitants. This place, which is situated on a gentle acclivity rising from the margin of Loch Carlinwark, originally consisted only of a few cottages called "Causeway End," and subsequently "Carlinwark."The town is situated on the great road from Carlisle to Portpatrick, and consists of several spacious streets, intersecting each other at right angles, and forming handsome squares, of which the internal areas are laid out in gardens. The houses are well built; and there are several villas in the immediate vicinity, which abounds with pleasing scenery. Gas was introduced into the town in February 1844, by a company, and has proved of considerable benefit. A public library is supported by subscription, and contains about 1200 volumes, and there is also a circulating library in the town. The shops are remarkably elegant, and are well stored with various kinds of merchandise; the post-office is one of the most important in the south of Scotland, and has fourteen branch offices under its controul, all of which have a daily delivery.From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

Janet was the daughter of Robert Cowper, a Joiner who had been long-deceased by the time of the marriage, and Elizabeth Grierson who had subsequently married John Halliday.

Incredibly, John and Janet's first child was born on the very same day as they were married. Elisabeth Crosbie was born on 26th April 1861 in Kelton, Kirkcudbrightshire. John Crosbie registered both the marriage and the birth two days later.

Robert CROSBIE was born on 11th February 1863 at 29 Loreburn Street in Dumfries, Dumfriesshire. John was now employed as a Burgh Police Officer. It appears that he had now turned his back on working on the land and his future working life would be quite different.

DUMFRIES, a royal burgh, county town, port, and the seat of a presbytery and synod, in the county of Dumfries; comprising the parishes of St. Michael and New-Church, with the villages of Georgetown, Locharbriggs, Lochthorn, and part of Kelton; and containing 11,409 inhabitants, of whom 10,069 are in the burgh; 71½ miles (S. by W.) from Edinburgh.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

The town is pleasantly situated on the east bank of the river Nith, and is about a mile in length, and a quarter of a mile in breadth; the streets are regular and well formed, intersecting each other at right angles. The houses are uniformly built of red freestone, generally painted of a colour resembling Portland stone; those that are of ancient date are substantial and of handsome appearance, and those of more modern erection are conspicuous for elegance. There are also some handsome ranges of building, of which Queensberry square is embellished in the centre with a stately Doric column, erected in 1780 to the memory of the Duke of Queensberry. An elegant and commodious bridge was built over the Nith in 1794, a little above the ancient bridge of thirteen arches, reduced by frequent alterations to seven arches, and now solely appropriated to foot passengers. The streets are all well paved, and lighted with gas from works established in 1828; gas has also been introduced into the shops and most of the public buildings, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with excellent water from springs in the neighbourhood. A public subscription library was founded in 1792, and has a valuable collection on general literature; there are also several circulating libraries, a public newsroom, and four reading-rooms, all supplied with daily journals and periodical publications, besides a mechanics' institution which has a good collection of books. Card and dancing assemblies are held in a handsome suite of rooms recently erected for the purpose in George-street; and a theatre, a commodious and well-arranged building, in which Kean made his first appearance, is open for two or three months during the season. Races take place annually on the Tinwald Downs, and are well attended; a regatta is celebrated by a club established here; and the members of the Caledonian hunt hold their meetings by rotation in the town. The Dumfries and Galloway Horticultural Society, instituted in 1812 for the promotion of improvements in horticulture, also meet here periodically.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846),

Change in work content was not the only change in store for John, because he next moved to England and their third child William CROSBIE was born in the first quarter of 1865 in Upton, Cheshire, England.

UPTON, a parish, in the union, and Lower division of the hundred, of Wirrall, S. division of the county of Chester, 3 miles (W.) from Birkenhead; containing 237 inhabitants. It comprises 917 acres of land, the soil of which is clay. A market was held so late as 1662, and there are still two fairs for cattle: a court leet and baron takes place annually. The lands have been considerably improved by William Webster, Esq., of Upton Hall, who is lord of the manor. Upton by Birkenhead was a township and parish in Wirral Hundred (SJ 2688), which became a civil parish in 1866.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848),

Ellen Crosbie was born in the first quarter of 1868 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England. Birkenhead was a township in Bidston Parish which was the neighbouring parish just to the east of Upton parish where Willam had been born just a couple of years earlier.

BIRKENHEAD, a rising sea-port, market-town, and township, in the union, and Lower division of the hundred, of Wirrall, S. division of Cheshire; situated less than a mile, by ferry, (W.) from Liverpool, 16 miles (N. by W.) from Chester, 32 (W. by S.) from Manchester, and 202 (N. W.) from London; containing about 25,000 inhabitants, and comprising the ancient extraparochial district or chapelry of Birkenhead, the former township of Claughton, in Bidstone, and part of that of Oxton, in Woodchurch. Though of recent origin as a town and port, this place is of considerable antiquity.

From: A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848),

Soon, John and Janet Crosbie were to move their family across the River Mersey to Liverpool for Isabella Crosbie was born in June 1870 in West Derby, Lancashire.

At the time of the 1871 Census (3rd April) John Crosbie was residing at Lorton Street in Toxteth Park in Liverpool. He was employed as a Stonemason's Labourer and was recorded as aged 36, as was his wife Janet. Residing with them were their children Elizabeth (9), Robert (7), William (5) Ellen (3) and Isabella (1). All of the children were recorded as Scholars - clearly incorrect as only the three older children would have been of school age.

Image 9 shows a photograph of a Liverpool 'court' of a type in which the Crosbies would have resided at this time. Liverpool experienced an exponential surge in population throughout the nineteenth century due to a combination of rapid industrialisation and the influx of Irish immigrants escaping the Potato Famine. The inevitable and intolerable pressure on housing led to the establishment of these courts which were generally about 25 feet long and 10 feet wide around which were constructed 2, 3 or 4 storey blocks of rooms on all sides. An average sized court generally housed 20 to 30 families. The front might well appear as a fairly ordinary terrace, but once one entered the door or alley into the central court, the poor conditions became only too obvious. The small windows received little light as the blocks were either very close together or might be overshadowed by a high warehouse occupying one side of the court. One toilet and one tap in the central yard would probably be the only sanitary provisions. Hardly surprising that epidemics of diseases such as cholera, typhoid and smallpox were commonplace.

Janet Crosbie was born in the last quarter of 1876 in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Janet was the last child that would be born to John and Janet Crosbie and she was born 21 years after Mary Ann Crosbie, John's eldest daughter, had been born in Crocketford.

In fact, just before young Janet was born, Mary Ann Crosbie, employed as a Farm Servant, married Ploughman Douglas Carson at Fardingjames Cottage, Keir parish, Dumfriesshire on 23rd May 1876. Mary Ann gave her father's occupation as Blacksmith. Witnesses to this marriage were Joanna Clint and William Crosbie.

During the last quarter of 1880, John and Janet's eldest daughter Elisabeth married John Bradley in the parish of West Derby in Lancashire.
At the time of the 1881 Census (4th April), John Crosbie, now aged 46, was residing with his wife Janet (46) at 12 Buttermere Street in Toxteth Park in Liverpool. This was situated just off Lorton Street where the family had been living 10 years earlier. His occupation was recorded as Labourer. Also resident were his 18-year-old son Robert, also a Labourer, William (16) who was a Labourer in an Iron Works and daughters Isabella (10), a Scholar and 5-year-old Janet.

Mary Ann Carson was residing at Tounhead, Penpont, Dumfriesshire on 04 Apr 1881.

Newly married eldest daughter Elisabeth Bradley has not yet been found in the 1881 Census.

Ellen Crosbie, now age recorded as 15, was working as a general Servant and residing in the home of 55-year-old widow Jane Roberts at 121 Harrowby Street in Toxteth Park, less than half a mile to the west from where her parents were residing.

William Crosbie married Mary Ellen Shone in around March 1888. Mary Ellen's parents were Ropemaker Daniel Shone and Sarah Ann Drain who had been residing with their family, including Mary Ellen, at 16 Buttermere Street at the time of the 1871 Census around the time that the Crosbie family moved from Birkenhead to the adjacent Lorton Street and we can be fairly confident that William would have known Mary Ellen from the time they were young children.

Elisabeth Bradley died aged 28 in the first quarter of 1890 in West Derby. She and John had two children John Frederick and George who would have been 8 and 6 at the time of her death.

At the time of the 1891 Census (5th April) John Crosbie was residing with his family at 52 Wilfer Street, West Derby. He was recorded as 50 years old and employed as a Blacksmith. Residing with him were his wife Janet, also recorded as 50 years old and daughters Isabella (20) and Janet (15).

Meanwhile, Mary Ann Carson was residing in Back Street, Penpont Village, Dumfriesshire.

William Crosbie, aged 23 and employed as a Blacksmith's Striker was still residing at Buttermere Street, although now at number 20, with his wife Mary Ellen (23) and their two children Sarah Ann (2) and Isabella (1).

The recently deceased Elisabeth Bradley's children were residing with their father John, a 17 Lindal Street in Barrow, Barrow-in-Furness

On 13th July 1898, John and Janet Crosbie's youngest daughter 22-year-old Janet married Albert Edward Bridges at Edge Hill, Lancashire.

Very soon after, perhaps around August 1898, John's wife, Janet Crosbie nee Cowper died at West Derby, Lancashire. She would have been 65 years old.

At the time of the 1901 Census (31st March) Widower John Crosbie, now aged 67 was residing at 63 Wilfer Street, West Derby, Lancashire. Residing with him were his daughter and son-in-law Janet and Alfred Bridges and their one year old daughter Lilian. John was recorded as being employed as a Blacksmith and Alfred was a Groom or Coachman. Also resident was 8-year-old John Crosbie, a grandson of John Sr. It is not clear who the parents of this boy would have been. John's son William had a son called John who would have been this age, but he was recorded as residing with his parents at Buttermere Street on census night and we must eliminate him. It might be that young John was the son of Robert Crosbie, the eldest son of John Sr and who was last recorded at the 1881 Census. Another possibility is that he might have been the illegitimate son of Isabella Crosbie, whom we shall discuss shortly.

Mary Carson lived in Princes Street, Penpont Village, Dumfriesshire on 31 Mar 1901.

As mentioned, William Crosbie was residing at 20 Buttermere Street with his wife Mary Ellen and family of six children. He was 36 and employed as a General Labourer.

Image 10 shows a 1908 map of the area of Liverpool where the Crosbies lived and presumably worked. What is immediately striking is the high density of terraced houses, probably of a very similar design.

At this time, 30-year-old Isabella Crosbie was residing at 67 Falkner Street in Liverpool. This was the address of the Liverpool Female Penitentiary and Isabella was an Inmate. This establishment had been erected in 1809 for receiving and reforming penitent prostitutes. On census night the roll-call consisted of 6 staff and 41 Inmates, mostly doing laundry work. Isabella undertook Parlourmaid duties. Image 11 shows the location of the Penitentiary on a 1908 map of Liverpool. Image 12 shows an extract from a publication describing the Liverpool Female Penitentiary.

John Crosbie died on 12th Mar 1907 in Princes Street, Penpont, of Cardiac Disease. He was 74 years old. His son-in-law Douglas Carson reported the death and gave John's occupation as Retired Blacksmith. Princes Street was the home of his daughter Mary Carson and her family. We might draw the conclusion that although John Crosbie appears to have been separated from his daughter following the early death of his first wife Janet Clint, his second marriage and his move to England where he seems to have settled for more than 30 years, he nevertheless appears to have kept in touch with his eldest daughter and she probably cared for him during his last days.

Image 13 shows an 1860 map showing the location of the village of Penpont. Images 14 and 15 show an old and a modern-day photograph of the Main Street in Penpont.

John Crosbie was buried in the churchyard of Penpont Parish Church shown in Image 16. He was buried in the family plot of the Carson family into which his eldest daughter Mary Ann had married 31 years earlier. The headstone in the churchyard is shown on Image 17.

We might also speculate about the nature of the working life of John Crosbie. Although he started out his working life as an Agricultural Labourer, following his move to Liverpool, he would have graduated onto work more related to the industrial environment he would have found in Liverpool. At the 1871 Census he was recorded as a Stonemason's Labourer which would likely have involved the construction of houses and other buildings. In 1876, his daughter reported that he was a Blacksmith, yet at the 1881 Census he stated that he was a Labourer as was his eldest son Robert, while his younger son William was a Labourer in an Iron Works. Examination of the 1908 map in Image 10 reveals that the Windsor Iron Works was located very close to where John and his family resided at Toxteth. We cannot be sure that there was an Iron Works at that location in 1871 but it has been documented that Isaac Dixon bought the Windsor Iron Works in 1880. He manufactured iron roofs and buildings as can be confirmed by the contemporary newspaper advertisement in Image 18. At the 1891 and 1901 Censuses John was reported as being a Blacksmith and in 1891, William was a Blacksmith's Striker. It is quite possible that the Crosbies were employed at the Windsor Iron Works and that John plied his trade as a Blacksmith manufacturing prefabricated iron roofs and buildings for Isaac Dixon and his customers.

At the time of the 1911 Census (3rd April), William Crosbie, now 47 and employed as a Plater's Helper, was residing at 23 Exe Street, East Toxteth in Liverpool. This was located just a little to the south-west of Buttermere Street where was resided at the time of the 1901 Census. Residing with him were his wife Mary Ellen, aged 45, and seven of his children with ages ranging from 18 down to 3.

William and Mary Ellen Crosbie are shown the photograph in Image 19 with their 4 youngest daughters.

Isabella Crosbie, aged around 46, married Thomas Hyland in the summer of 1916 in Toxteth Park, Lancashire. She died in Liverpool around August 1929 aged 59.

Mary Carson died aged 82 on 7th Jan 1937 in 214 Hunter St., Glasgow.

Janet Bridges died aged 67 in May 1943 in Liverpool.