Stories

James McCartney (c1838 - 1909) & Helen Orr (c1844 - 1903)

James McCartney was born in Ireland in about 1838. His parents were John McCartney, a Handloom Weaver, and Elizabeth Green.

Scotland, and Glasgow in particular had always been a natural destination for Irish immigrants. However the rate of influx increased considerably during and after the Irish potato famine of 1845-1850,when a potato blight swept over Ireland. During the famine, many landlords evicted tenants who could not pay their rent and many of the evicted tenants emigrated to mainland Britain to seek work and a better life. Scotland saw a seven percent increase of Irish immigrants in 1851 alone. The Irish immigrant population was concentrated in a few cities, such as Glasgow, where almost a quarter of the adult population in 1851 was Irish-born.

Against this background, at some early stage in his life, as yet unknown, James McCartney moved to Glasgow. His first appearance in the Scottish records was at the time of the 1851 Census (31st March) when he was recorded as a 17-year-old Irish-born Founder's Labourer lodging at 65 Bridgegate Street in Glasgow.

A Founder worked in a Foundry and poured molten metal into a mould to make cast metal components to be assembled into engineering products such as steam engines.

1857 Map showing Bridgegate Street1857 Map showing Bridgegate StreetNational Library of Scotland

Bridgegate c1904Bridgegate c1904theglasgowstory.com

The photograph shows Bridgegate over 50 years after the young James McCartney lodged there.

The Bridgegate is thought to have existed from around 1100. It led from what was the foot of Saltmarket to the river ford where Glasgow's first bridge across the Clyde was built in the mid-14th century.

In the 17th century, Bridgegate was home to many of the city's merchants and to several of the city's finest buildings. During the 19th century, however, it became a slum where many poor Irish immigrants settled. In the 1870s the City of Glasgow Union Railway Co swept away many of the original buildings while building the approach lines to St Enoch Station. Some of the new tenements and warehouses that were erected in their place are on view here, as well as one of the barrows operated by second hand clothes dealers who spilled on to the Bridgegate from nearby Paddy's Market.

The Glasgow Story

At the time of the 1861 Census (8th April), James McCartney had moved a short walk eastwards across Glasgow Green and was residing at 53 Muslin Street in Bridgeton and he was recorded as a 25-year-old Labourer. He was residing with his cousin, Irish-born Cotton Weaver John McCartney (34), his Belfast-born wife Susanna (34), and their young family.

BRIDGETON, lately a quoad sacra parish, consisting of part of Barony parish, in the suburbs of Glasgow, county of Lanark; containing 3583 inhabitants. This place, which takes its name from its vicinity to the bridge over the Clyde leading to Rutherglen, is partly indebted for its origin to Mr. John Walkinshaw, who, in 1705, purchased some lands to the eastward of the city, which he divided into building lots, for the formation of a village, then called Barrowfield. In 1724, however, he had let only nineteen small portions, and the land was subsequently purchased by the corporation, in conjunction with the Trades' House, who, in 1731, conveyed it to Mr. John Orr, merchant, of Glasgow, who, being more successful in disposing of the ground, may be regarded as the founder of the present town. This now flourishing village contains, according to the last census, above 14,000 persons. It is on the north side of the river, to the south-east of Calton, and, like that place, consists of several spacious and well-formed streets; a few houses are built of brick, and roofed with tiles, for the manufacture of which, clay of excellent quality is found in the immediate vicinity. The population are chiefly employed in the cotton manufacture, and other works in the neighbourhood of the city; and there are numerous shops, for the supply of the inhabitants with groceries and various kinds of merchandise. The parish was formed by act of the General Assembly: the church is a neat structure, erected by the Church Building Society of Glasgow, who are the patrons, and contains 1024 sittings. It is now rented by members of the Free Church, and in the village is also a place of worship in connexion with the Relief Church.

Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

1857 Map showing Muslin Street in Bridgeton1857 Map showing Muslin Street in BridgetonNational Library of Scotland

Helen Orr was born in around 1844 in Glasgow. Her parents were Alexander Orr, a Kilbirnie-born Cotton Yarn Dresser and Irish-born Helen Hughes, who had been married in Glasgow on 4 December, 1842.

At the time of the 1851 Census (31st March), Helen was residing at 22 Greenvale Street in Glasgow's Bridgeton with her parents Alexander Orr (31), a Cotton Yarn Dresser and the 31-year-old Helen. Also resident were Helen's siblings Agnes (2) and John (6 months).

1857 Map showing Greenvale Street in Bridgeton1857 Map showing Greenvale Street in BridgetonNational Library of Scotland

At the time of the 1861 Census (8th April) Helen, now recorded as Ellen, was aged 17 and residing at 1 Reid Street in Bridgeton. She was employed as a Mill Worker and was residing with the widowed 63-year-old Ellen McFarlane and recorded as the granddaughter of said widow. We have been unable to verify the nature of the relationship between the two women.

No. 1 was at the north end of Reid Street where it met Muslin Street where James McCartney was residing at the time of the 1861 Census.

James McCartney met Ellen Orr and on 7th April, 1865, they were married at 322 St Vincent Street in the district of Blythswood in Glasgow. The marriage was performed by Rev. Dugald MacColl, Minister, Bridgegate Free Church, Glasgow, 1860-1873, at his own residence. The 27-year-old James's occuparion at the time was Foundry Labourer and his address was 9 Reid Street in Bridgeton, Glasgow, while Ellen was a Power Loom Weaver, aged 21, residing at 2 Reid Street. .

Witnesses to the marriage were William McArthur and Roseanne McKendrick.

1865 Marriage Record of James McCartney and Ellen Orr1865 Marriage Record of James McCartney and Ellen OrrScotland's People

9 Reid Street was home address of the family of James's cousin John McCartney and his wife Susanna. Sadly, John had died of Typhus Fever on 30th January of that year.

Aileen Smart, in her excellent book, Villages of Glasgow - North of the Clyde, describes the development of Bridgeton, thus:

"In 1765, when the magistrates of Glasgow decided that the Old Bridge over the Clyde at the Briggait was in such a state of disrepair that 'carts loaden or unloaden' should be banned and only passengers on foot or 'gentlemen and others in coaches and chaises' allowed to cross, they could hardly have foreseen that this decision would lead twelve years later to the creation of a new village on the eastern doorstep of their city. The ban on carts was such a hindrance to the people of Rutherglen that they decided to build their own bridge about one mile upriver. Rutherglen Bridge was completed in 1776 - the present bridge is a replacement of 1896 - and a new road constructed to take the traffic into Glasgow through part of the Barrowfield estate known as Goosefauld. Within two years this new road had become Main Street, Bridgetown.

Villages of Glasgow - North of the Clyde. Aileen Smart

Key to the development of Bridgeton as an industrial village was the setting up of the Barrowfield dyeworks by David Dale, George Mackintosh and others, just to the east of Rutherglen Bridge.

James's occupation at the time of his marriage was given as Foundry Labourer and he may have been employed at the Dalmarnock Foundry on Dalmarnock Road, Glasgow. Less likely alternatives are the Cyclops Foundry, just north of London Road on Peel Street and Camlachie Foundry, just north of Gallowgate. Ellen was a Powerloom Weaver and could have been employed at the Newhall Powerloom Factory (Cotton) situated in Bridgeton at the south east end of Glasgow Green.

In 1830 the Glasgow, and indeed the West of Scotland, economy was dominated by the cotton industry, with power spinning and, to an increasing extent, power weaving, complemented by a large handloom weaving industry. Spinning continued to expand until the 1840s and weaving until the 1870s. The cotton famine, which was a product ofthe American Civil War (1861-1865), did not help the prosperity of the cotton trades. Two large new spinning mills were built in the 1870s and 1880s, but the older mills were steadily closing as competition from Lancashire and overseas producers ate into profit margins and engineering, shipbuilding and other industries offered better returns on investment. In the 1850s and 1860s a few mills began making linen and jute, but their success was short-lived.

A year after their marriage, James and Ellen had moved some 3 miles south west and were living at Harriet Street in Pollokshaws in the parish of Eastwood, in Renfrewshire. It was there that on the 10th of April, 1866 Ellen gave birth to their first child, a son, John McCartney, named after James's father. James reported his son's birth to the Registrar and made his mark on the birth record. By that time not only had James changed his occupation but had moved into the textile industry and was employed as a Madder Dyer.

A Madder Dyer used 'madder', the common name of the plant genus Rubia, the type genus of the madder family Rubiaceae, used since ancient times as a vegetable red dye for leather, wool, cotton and silk. The roots were used for dye production, with the outer brown layer giving the common variety of the dye, the lower yellow layer the refined variety. The dye was fixed to the cloth with help of a mordant, most commonly alum.

In the mid 19th century Pollokshaws had developed over the previous century into a major centre for the manufacturing and finishing of textiles, although at that time, the industry had started its decline.

In his Rambles Round Glasgow, Hugh Macdonald describes Pollokshaws in 1850.

Pollokshaws is a tidy and thriving little town, somewhat irregular in appearance, and containing a population of about 5,000 individuals. An air of bustle and life about its streets, furnishes a perfect contrast to the dullness and languor which generally prevail in towns of similar extent in the rural districts. There are a number of extensive establishments for spinning, weaving, and dyeing, within its precincts, which furnish employment for the greater portion of its inhabitants, the residue being principally handloom weavers, miners, and agricultural labourers.

Rambles Around Glasgow. Hugh Macdonald (1850)

1865 Map showing Harriet Street at bottom left just west of Greenbank Print and Dye Works1865 Map showing Harriet Street at bottom left just west of Greenbank Print and Dye WorksNational Library of Scotland

Harriet Street, Pollokshaws c1910Harriet Street, Pollokshaws c1910

Based on the location of Harriet Street, James could have been employed at the Greenbank Print and Dye Works or at the Auldfield House Dye Works in Pollokshaws.

At the 1871 Census (3rd April), the McCartney family were residing at Rosebank House, Cambuslang in the Civil Parish of Rutherglen. Surprisingly, we discover that there had been an addition to the family and that the 3-year old James had been born in America. In fact, young James had been born on 30th July, 1868 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Clearly, James had taken his wife and young John to the USA and had then returned. There must be an interesting story behind this episode, but unfortunately, we are unable to share in it. On the Census return, the 33-year-old James's occupation was listed as Dye Work Worker, while Helen, then aged 27 was a Housekeeper.

James McCartney's entry in Birth Index.James McCartney's entry in Birth Index.FamilySearch.com

1865 Map showing location of Rosebank House1865 Map showing location of Rosebank HouseNational Library of Scotland

Rosebank House c1870Rosebank House c1870Thomas Annan/theglasgowstory.com

Rosebank House had an interesting history. In the early 18th century the Rosebank Estate was owned by tobacco merchant and Lord Provost John Murdoch (1709-1776). It became the property of another Lord Provost, John Dunlop (1755-1820). Rosebank was acquired in 1801 by the famous Scottish cotton merchant and manufacturer, David Dale (1739-1806) who was co-founder of the New Lanark Mills in 1786. Dale used the estate as a summer retreat from his townhouse in Charlotte Street, Glasgow and retired there and lived until his death. The estate was soldafter his death to the Caledonian Railway Company, which divided it in two (to accommodate the new railway). The half to the north of the railway line (which included Rosebank House) eventually became Rosebank Industrial Estate (including the Rosebank Dyeworks). The house was then occupied for many years, also as a summer home, by the shipowner GeorgeBurns (1795-1890) a co-founder of the Cunard Company. An 1850 account in his Rambles Round Glasgow by Hugh MacDonald reveals that, by the time of our interest, Rosebank House had lost some of its former attraction.

Passing along the green banks of Hamilton Farme, a pleasant walk of about a mile and a-half brings us to Rosebank, the seat of the late David Dale, Esq. The house is plain and somewhat old-fashioned, telling of times when architectural taste had not attained such a respectable level among Glasgow merchants as it has in our own day. The situation, however—a sloping bank which rises gradually from the winding Clyde—is truly delicious, while the house is perfectly embowered among its fine old trees and spacious gardens. The property of Rosebank is now, as we understand, in the possession of the Caledonian Railway Company; and the place has altogether a somewhat dreary and neglected aspect.

Rambles Around Glasgow. Hugh Macdonald (1850)

From another account, published in 1878, of Rosebank House and its prominent owners, we learn that by the time the McCartney family resided there, Rosebank House was owned by John Bain of Morriston, the neighbouring estate and it certainly appears from the list of occupants declared in the Census return that the house had been subdivided and let to occupants of more modest rank in society. It is not totally clear where James would have been employed during his time at Rosebank House. However, in 1881 the Rosebank Dye Works were opened in the immediate vicinity of Rosebank House for the production of Turkey Red yarn. Yarn dyeing was a specialised business which served the power-loom weaving industry centred in the east end of Glasgow.

The Dye Works had been built on the same site as the former Clydesdale Chemical Works, clearly marked on the 1865 map, and it could be that he was employed at that site in some dye working capacity before the Dye Works proper were built.

By 19th April, 1872 the McCartney family was back in Bridgeton, Glasgow, this time residing at 165 Main Street and it was there that Ellen gave birth to their daughter, Sarah McCartney, on that date. James's occupation was Dye Work Labourer and it is likely that he would have been employed at the Barrowfield Print and Dye Works at the south end of Bridgeton Main Street just east of Rutherglen Bridge. Other possibilities were the Dalmarnock Dye Works and the Springfield Print and Dye Works.

It was at the same address in Bridgeton that James and Ellen's fourth child, Alexander Orr McCartney was born on 19th February, 1874, named after his maternal grandfather. His mother Ellen reported the birth to the Registrar and on this occasion signed the register. At this time we learn that James had made a significant change to his occupation and was now earning his living as a Master Grocer. We can only speculate on the reasons for this change of occupation.

We mentioned earlier that the cotton industry was going through difficult times because of competition from Lancashire and overseas. Perhaps James lost his job through works closure or through introduction of efficiencies. Perhaps declining wages were insufficient for his growing family's needs. Alternatively, maybe James simply wished to be self-employed.

Just two and a half months later, little Alexander died at 165 Main Street, Bridgeton of Gastroenteritis and Anaemia. Ellen reported the death and signed the register.

The Valuation Records of 1875 show James as the tenant of a house and grocer's shop at 50 Crownpoint Road in Bridgeton.

On 5th March, 1876, another son was born, whom his parents named Alexander in honour and memory of the son who had just died. The child was born at 201 Baltic Street in Bridgeton and once again Ellen reported the birth and signed the register. James was still a Master Grocer.

On 3rd August, 1877, the McCartneys' sixth and last child, Frederick McCartney, was born at 50 Salisbury Street, Gorbals, Glasgow. At the time, James's occupation was given as Provision Merchant. So, still a Grocer.

1882 Map showing Location of Salisbury Street in Gorbals1882 Map showing Location of Salisbury Street in GorbalsNational Library of Scotland

50 Salisbury Street was located at the north west corner of the junction with Cavendish Street.

Gorbals had started out as a small village in the Parish of Govan, with thatched cottages on either side of Main Street housing brewers and maltmen and, later, weavers. At the start of the 19th century, James Laurie, a merchant, began to lay out the new suburb of Laurieston, to which he hoped to attract a class of business and professional gentleman who would have easy access to the city of Glasgow across two local bridges. First built were the impressive terraces of Carlton Place, which ran along the banks of the River Clyde. The principal street running south from here was South Portland Street and its southern extension, Abbotsford Place. Other streets were named after the English aristocracy, such as Warwick, Cumberland, Norfolk and Salisbury. In fact, the development of an industrial area in Tradeston, to the immediate west of Gorbals, conspired to ensure that Laurie's vision was never fulfilled. That, and the construction of a railway line through the neighbourhood, caused most of Laurie's 'gentlemen' to move further south to the newly expanding suburbs there, and to Glasgow's rapidly developing west end. Gorbals and Laurieston were left to be inhabited by the 'less professional' classes, the artisans and traders. Nevertheless, by the time James, Helen and their family moved there, Gorbals was a densely populated, self-contained suburb of Glasgow and James would have had a ready market for his provisions.

By the time of the 1881 Census (4th April), the family had moved again, this time back north of the River Clyde to 149 Graeme Street, just to the north of the Gallowgate, near High Street. The clue to the reasoning behind this move is given in James's new occupation - Onion Dealer.

Location of Graeme Street close to the Fruit Market on Candleriggs.Location of Graeme Street close to the Fruit Market on Candleriggs.National Library of Scotland

His new residence was very close to the Fruit Market in Bell Street at Candleriggs. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that James would have undertaken business there. In the Census return, John McCartney, now aged 15, was stated to be an Apprentice Baker and young James, aged 13, (although recorded as 15) was a Cotton Mill Worker. Sarah (9) was a Scholar, while both Alexander (5) and Frederick (3) were of pre-school age.

Tragedy struck the family on 15th July, 1887 when Alexander, aged only 11, died of Tuberculosis. The family had moved back to Gorbals and were residing at 64 South Shamrock Street. James once again gave his occupation as Master Grocer.

At the time of the 1891 Census (5th April) the family resided at 371 Caledonia Road, Hutchesontown, Glasgow and consisted of James, aged 53 and working on his own account as a Bag Dealer; Ellen, aged 47; young James, aged 23, an unemployed Pastry Baker; Sarah, aged 19 (actually 18), no occupation given; and Frederick, a 14-year-old Scholar. Eldest son John (26) was lodging at 47 Raeberry Street and employed as a Pastry Cook.

On 5th September, 1892, at 16 Hamilton Drive, Hillhead, Glasgow, John married English-born Elizabeth Mary Craig West of 44 Mount Street, Glasgow. His occupation was Journeyman Pastry Baker and his usual address was 14 Buchan Street.

On 6th February, 1897 young James McCartney, employed as a Baker, married Liverpool-born Jane Jones in the Parish Church, Newry, County Down in Ireland. One of the witnesses on the occasion was his younger brother Frederick. It is likely that other members of his family would have made the journey from Glasgow.

1897 Marriage Record of James McCartney and Jane Jones1897 Marriage Record of James McCartney and Jane Jonesirishgenealogy.ie

On 3rd August, 1900, Frederick Macartney, aged 23, married 20-year-old Isabella Brown Baxter in Gorbals Free Church, South Portland Street, Gorbals, Glasgow. Isabella was the daughter of John Baxter, at that time a Grocery Warehouseman and Christina Baxter, maiden surname, Weir.

It appears that Frederick had now adopted the alternative spelling of his surname - as would his 5 future children. At the time of his marriage, Frederick was a Master Watchmaker. He gave his address as 44 South Portland Street, James and Ellen's new family home. Isabella's address at the time of the marriage was 95 South Portland Street - not quite the girl next door, but close enough. James's occupation was recorded as Sack Merchant.

At the time of the 1901 Census (31st March), young James had also left home and only the 28-year-old Sarah (with still no occupation offered) remained at 44 South Portland Street with her parents, James, aged 63 and Ellen, aged 57. Clearly, keeping track of ages was not a priority for James and Ellen, as their ages were recorded as 60 and 66!! respectively. In fact, these inaccuracies could be put down to poor handwriting or transcription errors on the part of the Census Enumerator. James's occupation was recorded as Dealer and still working on his own account..

Living at the same address on census night were three male boarders.

On 24th February, 1903 Ellen McCartney (maiden surname Orr) died at 44 South Portland Street. The cause of death was Asthma from which she had been suffering for one year. Her son Frederick Macartney registered the death and offered his own spelling of her surname, Macartney, to the registrar. James's occupation was recorded as Sack Merchant.

1903 Death Record of Ellen Orr1903 Death Record of Ellen OrrScotland's People

James McCartney died, aged 70, of Cardiac Failure on 16th November, 1909 at his then home at 435 Rutherglen Road, Hutchesontown, Glasgow. His daughter, Sarah, now 36 and apparently still single and living at the same address, registered the death.

1909 Death Record of James McCartney1909 Death Record of James McCartneyScotland's People

James McCartney had left a will originally written on 21st April, 1905 in which he left £50 to his youngest son Frederick and £20 to each of his other sons John and James. These payments would be made after repayment of the loans that he had made to his sons. He also arranged that his son James should inherit his horse, van and harness should they be in his possession at the time of his death.

This latter fact shines a light on the nature of his business. To require a horse-drawn van to operate his sack dealing business suggests that it would not have been small scale.

He also bequeathed his silver lever watch and chain to Frederick's son, James McCartney, who was James's only grandson at the time of writing the will.

The remainder of the estate was to be bequeathed to his daughter Sarah, who was residing with him at the time of writing the will.

On 23rd March, 1908, James made a change to the will, revoking the £50 legacy to Frederick and replacing it with £20, restoring parity with his other sons.

James declared that he could not write 'on account of never having been taught' and the will contents were read to him before witnesses.

On 25th January, 1910, the Inventory of James McCartney's Personal Estate was finalised.

Inventory of James McCartney's Personal EstateInventory of James McCartney's Personal EstateData Source: Scotland's People

The Total Personal Estate would amount to about £50,000 in today's terms.

All three sons owed their father's estate. Frederick was a Watchmaker and Jeweller who operated variously one or two shops in Gorbals. James had worked for many years as a Baker and was being encoraged by his father to take over his Sack Merchant business. John was also a Baker.

It is unlikely therefore that any of the sons would have received the £20 bequeathed to them in their father's will. In fact it is quite possible that the executors could have pressed the sons for repayment of their loans in order that Sarah could receive the full legacy intended by her father.

James McCartney (c1838 - 1909)James McCartney (c1838 - 1909)Family Album

James's son, James McCartney died aged 46 on 12th November, 1914 at 28 Norfolk Street, Gorbals, Glasgow. The cause of death was Heart Disease. His occupation was given at the time as Flour Bag Dealer. It is likely that he succeeded his father in operating his Sack Merchant business, which was probably what was intended by the bequest of horse, van and harness. Whether James ever received said items is not known.

42-year-old Sarah McCartney married Roadman George Nugent at 50 Wellington Street, Glasgow, on 18th March, 1915. Both gave their address at the time as 77 Eastside, Kirkintilloch.

On 10th August, 1916, Frederick Macartney, died aged 39, at 30 Rutland Street in Belfast. Frederick had moved to Belfast with his family in around 1911. The cause of death was Chronic Endocarditis. He left a wife, Isabella, and five children, all of whom returned to the Gorbals in Glasgow. His eldest son, James, aged 15, registered the death.

Sarah Nugent died aged 63, of Morbus Cordis and Chronic Bronchitis on 7th December, 1935 at Hartwood Asylum which was a hospital for patients with mental illnesses. Her husband George reported the death. Her usual address at the time was given as 11 Regent Street, Rutherglen.

John McCartney, eldest son and last surviving child of James McCartney and Helen Orr, died aged 74, on 10th October, 1940 at 1301 Govan Road, Glasgow, which was the address of the Southern General Hospital. His daughter Mary reported the death. The cause of death was Lymphadenoma and Hypostatic Pneumonia. His usual address at the time of his death was 110 Camden Street, Gorbals, Glasgow.

Researching James McCartney's life might yield the impression that he was unfocussed and maybe a tad out of control, with his constant changes of residence and lurches from one occupation to another. However, it appears that he was in fact a bit of an entrepreneur and took the opportunities that came his way to go into business for himself and accumulate a respectable sum of money which he was prepared to lend to his sons to assist them in their own business endeavours.