Stories

John Weir (~1827 - 1904) & Isabella Brown (1829 - 1904)

John Weir was born around 1827 in Belmont, Cambusnethan, Lanarkshire. His parents were James Weir, Farmer (& Cyder Maker) and Janet (Jessie) Pollock.

CAMBUSNETHAN, a parish, in the Middle ward of the county of Lanark; including the villages of Bonkle, Stane, and Stewarton and Wishawton; the whole containing 5796 inhabitants, of whom 485 are in the village of Cambusnethan-Kirk, 4½ miles (N. W.) from Carluke. The parish is about twelve miles long, from east to west, and a little more than four miles broad, and contains 26,000 acres. The surface is tolerably level in the western extremity, near the banks of the Clyde, but gradually rises eastward to about 120 feet, forming a tract about a mile in breadth, consisting of a rich and fertile soil, which is well cultivated, and celebrated for the number and quality of its hares. Another acclivity succeeds this, rising to a height of about 250 feet, the larger part of which is covered with orchards; and still further to the east, the lands, in many parts, rise to an elevation of 900 feet, and command some very extensive views of the surrounding country. The castle of Edinburgh, Loudon-hill, Dumbarton Castle, and the hills of Argyllshire may be distinctly seen from Knownowton; and from the church, the prospect embraces the cathedral of Glasgow, with at least fifteen country churches. Besides the Clyde, there are several streams running through the parish and upon its boundaries, the peculiar character and flexures of which greatly improve its interesting scenery. The South Calder, rising in Linlithgowshire, forms about nine miles of the boundary line between this parish and Shotts; and for some miles before its approach to the Clyde, into which it falls, its banks are steep, exhibiting specimens of highly ornamental scenery, and adorned with several beautiful varieties of wood and garden. The Water of Auchter, which rises in the parish of Carluke, after flowing for more than a mile, on the boundary of that parish and Cambusnethan, enters the latter, and, passing for about three miles in a meandering route, falls into the South Calder at Bridgend. Of these rivers, the Clyde is said to contain twelve different species of fish; the chief is the salmon, which latterly has been abundant.

About 10,000 acres are cultivated, or occasionally in tillage; about 6000 are in woods, roads, quarries, &c.; 160 acres in orchards, and a very considerable quantity waste. Good grain of all kinds is raised, and fruit forms a prominent article in the produce; numerous improvements have been made in agriculture within the last few years, especially in draining, which is required to a large extent, on account of the wet clayey nature of the soil. Thriving hedges and plantations have also been raised in many parts; and dells and ravines, formerly the beds of broom, furze, and heath, have been planted with larch, or formed into orchards. The subterraneous productions are chiefly iron-stone and coal, which may be procured in very large quantities; the district is included in the great coal-field of Lanarkshire, and the coal is extensively wrought. In the neighbourhood of Headlecross, in the eastern part of the parish, and on the grounds of Coltness and Allanton, the blackband iron-stone is found of superior quality, and, in various places, good sandstone is met with; in several directions, also, plentiful supplies are obtained of excellent clay, about ten feet in thickness, and used for the manufacture of drain and roof tiles.

Among the principal seats is Cambusnethan House, an elegant structure on the model of a priory, erected about twenty years ago, upon the site of a mansion which had been accidentally destroyed by fire; it stands in a romantic situation, and the grounds have been much improved, within the last few years, especially the orchards. Wishaw House, in the north-west corner of the parish, upon the bank of the Calder, is an extensive structure in the castellated style; the front is noble and commanding, varied by a number of different-sized and well-proportioned towers. The apartments are enriched by several portraits, among which are, one of John, Lord Belhaven, who so zealously opposed the Union; and a very costly portrait, by Vandyke, of Sir James Balfour, Lord Lyon, king-of-arms in the reign of Charles I. The House of Coltness is an elegant and commodious building, between the dining and drawing room of which, runs a gallery nearly 200 feet long, hung round with ancient portraits of the family of Stewart; it stands in the midst of very extensive and well laid-out grounds. Allanton House is a majestic structure, wrought up, by various additions and improvements, from the old castle of Allanton; it is ornamented with an artificial lake of large dimensions, and containing several islands, so covered with wood that, from no part of it, is its extent capable of being seen. Muirhouse is also an old structure, in a commanding situation.

The population are employed partly in manufactures; two tile-works are in operation upon the estate of Wishaw, and one at Coltness. The Shotts iron-works, on the borders of the parish, have caused an increase of population, to the amount of about 2000, one-third of whom reside at the village of Stane, and the rest in Shotts; and near Wishawton, in the westerly quarter of the parish, a very extensive distillery has lately been erected, by Lord Belhaven. A road from Edinburgh to Ayr traverses the parish.

At the time of the 1841 Census (7th June), John, aged 15, is found residing with his parents James (34) and Janet (30) and 7 younger siblings at Belmont. Belmont was 'East Belmont', an 18 acre orchard above the east bank of the River Clyde at the north side of Garrion Bridge. James Weir's occupation was given as 'Cyder Maker'.

In a neighbouring dwelling, but probably within the same orchard, resided 70-year-old Orchardist, John Weir, and his 70-year-old wife Margaret (Hamilton), who were James's parents.

1858 Map showing location of East Belmont Orchard in Cambusnethan by the River Clyde.1858 Map showing location of East Belmont Orchard in Cambusnethan by the River Clyde.National Library of Scotland

Modern aerial view of Belmont and Wemysshill OrchardsModern aerial view of Belmont and Wemysshill OrchardsGoogle Maps

Isabella (Isabel) Brown was born at New Middleholm in the Parish of Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, on 25th February, 1829. She was one of the 13 children of David Brown, Mason, born on 29th June, 1798 and Marion Allan, born 5th August, 1799, both in the Parish of Lesmahagow, and who married on 13th November, 1821 in Lesmahagow. Isabella was a twin to Christian Brown.

Isabel and Christian Brown's birth recordIsabel and Christian Brown's birth recordScotland's People

At the time of the 1841 Census, David Brown (35) was residing in Lesmahagow Parish at New Middleholm Farm with his wife Marion (40) and 6 of their children. However, Isabella was not residing with them at this time. She was 11 years old, residing at the Yondertown Farm, less than a mile to the south west of Middleholm and employed as a Herd. Her twin sister Christian was also employed as a Herd and residing at Dunside which was a further 2 and a half miles west of Yondertown. David Brown was recorded as earning his living as a Mason. It is likely that he and his family simply resided in accommodation on the farm and that he did not actually work the farm. The same Census shows Middleholm Farmhouse being occupied by 60-year-old Farmer Andrew Hamilton

Middleholm and Yondertown Farms shown on 1858 mapMiddleholm and Yondertown Farms shown on 1858 mapNational Library of Scotland

Middleholm Farmhouse todayMiddleholm Farmhouse todayGoogle Street View

LESMAHAGOW, a parish, in the Upper ward of the county of Lanark, 6 miles (S. W. by W.) from Lanark, and 22 (S. S. E.) from Glasgow; including the villages of Abbey-Green and Turfholm, Boghead, Crossford, Hazelbank, Kirkfield-Bank, Kirkmuirhill, and New Trows; and containing 6902 inhabitants. The Parish is about twelve miles in length and nearly eight in breadth; it is bounded on the north-east by the river Clyde, and comprises 42,840 acres, of which 26,900 are arable, 1500 woodland and plantations, 600 coppice, and the remainder moorland pasture, and waste. The surface is generally elevated, and towards the west and south-west rises into a range of hills, forming a boundary between the counties of Lanark and Ayr; the highest of these hills are 1200 feet above the level of the sea, and all afford excellent pasture for sheep. The chief rivers besides the Clyde are, the Poniel water, which has its source in the south-west of the parish, and, after a course of more than seven miles, falls into the Douglas; the Logan, Nethan, and Kype waters, which rise in the hills on the west, and, receiving numerous smaller streams, join the Clyde; and the Cander, which, traversing the parish for a few miles, flows into the Avon at the parish of Stonehouse. The banks of the Nethan are richly ornamented with plantations, and studded with handsome villas and neat farm-houses. The Kype displays little beauty in its course, and frequently, after rains, descending from the higher lands with impetuous violence, does much damage to the cultivated plains. There are springs of excellent water in various parts, several possessing medicinal properties; many of them issue in streams sufficiently powerful to give motion to mills and machinery. The falls of the Clyde are noticed in the account of the parish of Lanark, which is separated from this parish by the river.

The soil is chiefly clay of a yellow colour, with tracts of lighter and more friable quality, and some portions of gravel and sand; the crops are, grain of all kinds, potatoes, and turnips. The system of husbandry is advanced; draining has been practised to a considerable extent; the lands have been inclosed, chiefly with hedges of thorn, &c., but partly with stone dykes; and the farmhouses have within the last few years been greatly improved. Much attention is paid to the management of the dairy and the breeding of cattle; the cheese made on the several dairy-farms is principally the Dunlop kind. The cattle are of the Ayrshire breed: the sheep, of which large numbers are fed in the hilly pastures, are the old black-faced, these being better adapted to the nature of the soil than the Cheviots. A moderate number of horses, chiefly for agricultural uses, are annually bred, and are in much repute for strength and agility. The woods are judiciously managed, and the plantations are also kept in good order, and are very flourishing; the annual produce from both is estimated at about £700 per annum. The substratum is principally coal, which is wrought in several parts. A fine kind of cannel coal is found at Auchinheath; it occurs in seams varying from ten to twenty inches in thickness, and is sent in considerable quantities to the gas-works in Glasgow and other places. The rocks are chiefly whinstone; limestone of good quality is also abundant, and is extensively worked. Ironstone occurs in several places, but not in such abundance as to have led to the establishment of any works; lead-ore, likewise, is supposed to exist, and several attempts have been made to procure it, but hitherto without success: few minerals, indeed, have been found. Petrified shells are thickly imbedded in the limestone, as well as the fossil remains of various animals.

Several handsome seats have been erected by heritors residing on their lands, and all of them are embellished with flourishing plantations: Stonebyres is a very splendid mansion, the oldest portion of which was built in 1398, and the most modern in 1844. The inhabitants of the parish are partly employed in the mines and quarries, and in Glasgow manufactures: many of them reside in the villages, which are all separately described. Fairs for hiring servants are held in March and October, and a cattle-fair in the spring. Facility of intercourse with Glasgow and other places is maintained by good roads, which have been greatly improved within the last few years, and of which the turnpike-road from Glasgow to Carlisle, and that from Glasgow to Lanark, pass, the former for eight, and the latter for about five, miles within the parish. A post has been established; and there is a small library, supported by subscription. The parochial school affords a liberal education, and is well attended; the master has a salary of £34, with £45 fees, and a house and garden. A school for teaching girls to read and to sew is supported by subscription; it is situated in the village of Abbey-Green, and is attended by about thirty children. In different parts are several other schools, the masters of which receive annual donations from the heritors, in addition to the fees. The poor have the interest of various funded bequests yielding about £100 per annum; the principal is a bequest of £2600 by the late Dr. White, of Calcutta. There are three friendly societies; which have contributed greatly to reduce the number of applications to the parochial funds; and also a savings' bank, duly encouraged. Some slight remains exist of the ancient castle of Craignethen. Roman coins have been found near the site of a Roman road which has, within the last few years, been totally obliterated by the progress of cultivation; and many ancient cairns have been removed, to furnish materials for stone dykes.

Sometime before 1850, John Weir and Isabella Brown met and they married on 7th April, 1850, in the Parish of Lesmahagow, which in accordance with tradition was Isabella's home parish. It is likely that the marriage took place at Middleholm. It is not at all clear how John and Isabella might have met. It appears that John continued to live, and probably work, at the orchard at East Belmont in Cambusnethan. Isabella, on the other hand, may have moved around working in various agricultural jobs and could have worked near to Belmont. Alternatively, the may have met in Lanark, the county town of Lanarkshire, which was about 7 miles from Lesmahagow and about 10 miles from the Belmont orchard.

John Weir and Isabel Brown's marriage record.John Weir and Isabel Brown's marriage record.Scotland's People

Following their marriage, John and Isabella started to raise a family, mostly in Lesmahagow, although their first child, Marion Allan Weir, named following the custom of the day after her maternal grandmother, was born in Cambusnethan Parish on 11th August, 1850.

At the 1851 Census (31st March), John and Isabella Weir and their young daughter Marion, aged 1, were residing at East Belmont Orchard. John is recorded as a 25-year-old Labourer while Isabella was 21. On the same property, John's mother, recorded under her maiden name as Janet Pollock, aged 45, is now widowed and is still working the orchard. Two of John's brothers had left home and two other sisters had been born. John's grandparents, John (80) and Margret (79), are still residing on a neighbouring 3 acre orchard as Orchardman and wife.

John and Isabella Weir's second daughter, Janet Pollock Weir, again following custom, named after her paternal grandmother, was born around 1854 also in the Parish of Lesmahagow.

Christina Weir was born on 24th August, 1856, at Middleholm Farm in Lesmahagow. Interestingly, the third daughter was usually named after the mother although it is likely that she was named after Isabella's paternal grandmother, Christian Hilston. John's occupation at the time was stated to be Agricultural Labourer.

On 4th June, 1858, John's grandfather John Weir, died aged about 88 at Durhambank Orchard near Overtown. At the time, Durhambank Orchard, situated very close to East Belmont and shown on the map above, was occupied and worked by John Weir's son-in-law Andrew Prentice who had married James Weir's sister Janet in around 1820. Clearly, Janet had cared for her father during his last days. Their son, Joiner Robert Prentice, registered his grandfather's death. The Cause of Death was reported as Old Age and his occupation as Orchardman. John Weir was buried at Dalserf Parish Churchyard, in the Parish where he was born and presumably where his wife Margaret Hamilton who had pre-deceased him by a few years was buried. Dalserf Churchyard was located just a mile and a half away to the south of Durhambank and across the Garrion Bridge.

East Belmont was described in Lanarkshire OS Name Books, 1858-1861, Lanarkshire volume 08 as "A cottage with orchard attached, the property of Henry Holdsworth, John Paterson Occupier"

This indicates that by this time, the Weir family had vacated the orchard at East Belmont. In fact the Valuation Records of 1855 show that John Paterson was indeed the new occupier.

James Weir was born on 19th August, 1858, in Lesmahagow, and named after his paternal grandfather, but died the very next day on 20th August at Highbanks in Lesmahagow Parish, about 1 mile to the east of the town of Lesmahagow. John Weir reported his son's death and gave the Cause of Death as Premature Birth and his own occupation as Gamekeeper.

1858 Map showing locations of Highbanks and Netherhouse.1858 Map showing locations of Highbanks and Netherhouse.National Library of Scotland

Ann (Annie) Weir was born on 31st October, 1859, at Knowetop about 2 miles north of Lesmahagow. It is likely that she was named after John's maternal grandmother, Ann Pollock, m.s. Fleming. John again gave his occupation as Gamekeeper.

1858 Map showing location of Knowetop1858 Map showing location of KnowetopNational Library of Scotland

Gamekeeping has a long history in Britain with the first gamekeepers protecting deer in medieval royal hunting forests. They were employed by wealthy landowners in the 18th and 19th centuries and were classed as domestic outdoor servants, usually living in a cottage provided for them. Anyone wanting to be a gamekeeper needed to have a deep knowledge of wildlife and the ways of the countryside. There were four main duties: hand-rearing game pheasants; training and breaking in dogs; guarding game against poachers and trapping vermin.

At the time of the 1861 Census (8th April), John and Isabella Weir and their family were residing at Netherhouse in Lesmahagow. John is 33 years old and employed as a Gamekeeper and Isabella is 31. Their two eldest daughters, Marion (11) and Janet (7) were Scholars, Christina was 4 and Ann was 1 year old.

At this time, John's mother Janet was working as an Agricultural Labourer at Land End in the Parish of Cambuslang in Lanarkshire. Her daughters Janet (26) and Barbara (16) are also Agricultural Labourers while William (20) worked as a Ploughman. It has been suggested that 'Land End' was in fact 'Loanend', described in Scotland's Places as

"An old Farm building occupied by servants employed by the lessee of Flemington. The property of His Grace "The Duke of Hamilton."

1859 Map showing Loanend at Flemington in Cambuslang Parish, Lanarkshire1859 Map showing Loanend at Flemington in Cambuslang Parish, LanarkshireNational Library of Scotland

When John and Isabella's next son was born, he was also named James Weir, again after his paternal grandfather, but also in honour of his late brother, which was another custom of the day and which perhaps rests uneasily with us now. James was born on 6th March, 1862 at Netherhouse of Ellenbank in Lesmahagow and John was still earning his living as a Gamekeeper. Twins were then born to John and Isabella at Netherhouse. David Brown Weir, named after his maternal grandfather, was born on 7th February, 1864, and John Weir, named after his father, was born on 8th February, 1864. Sadly both twins died later that same year.

Isabella Weir, named after her mother, was born on 26th June, 1865, at Carfin, Holytown in Bothwell Parish, Lanarkshire, but died soon after. Carfin was about 15 miles north of Netherhouse and is explained by the fact that when John registered his new daughter's birth, he gave his occupation as Police Constable.

On 25th July, 1867, John's mother, Janet Weir, died, aged 62, at the County Buildings in Wishaw. John registered the death and again gave his occupation as Police Constable.

Another daughter was born on 7th January, 1868. She too was named Isabella Weir and was born at the County Buildings, Wishaw, Parish of Cambusnethan. John, still employed as a Police Constable, registered the birth.

The County and Burgh Buildings in Wishaw were described in Lanarkshire OS Name Books, 1858-1861 / Lanarkshire volume 08 as:

"A new stone building now in the course of erection for County and Burgh Police purposes"

On Tuesday 13th October 1857, seventy five of the Commissioners of Supply for the County of Lanark, under the chairmanship of Lord Belhaven, had met in the County Hall, Hamilton, at a General Meeting specially convened to implement the provisions of the Police (Scotland) Act 1857, which required the setting up of the Police Forces.

The County and Burgh Buildings in Wishaw Main Street were constructed to accommodate the local division of the newly formed Lanarkshire Constabulary. A section of the new buildings was a Police Barracks where police officers lived with their families. This explains why John's mother, Janet, had died there and his daughter Isabella had been born there.

Wishaw Police Barracks in County and Burgh BuildingsWishaw Police Barracks in County and Burgh Buildings

At the 1871 Census (3rd April), we find the Weir family in the village of Stane in the Parish of Cambusnethan. John, now 44, was still a Police Constable, and the family resided in accommodation at the Police Station. Isabella was now 40 years old. Unmarried daughters Marion Allan Weir (21) and Janet Pollock Weir (17), were present, as was Annie Weir (11) and 9-year-old Scholar, James. Completing the family were Isabella (3) and the 2-month-old grandaughter of John and Isabella, Isabella Hamilton whose mother Marion Weir was to marry Stonehouse-born Wool Weaver Robert Hamilton on 17th April, 1871.

Map of Stane, Cambusnethan c.1897Map of Stane, Cambusnethan c.1897National Library of Scotland

Modern aerial view of Stane showing original Police Station at dead centreModern aerial view of Stane showing original Police Station at dead centreGoogle Maps

Formerly Stane Police Station (still standing)Formerly Stane Police Station (still standing)

At the same 1871 Census, the 14-year-old Christina Weir is found employed as a Domestic Servant at the home of Ambrose G Hyslop, Station Master (Railway), a few miles away in Overtown.

On 28th July, 1873, 20-year-old Domestic Servant Janet Pollock Weir residing at Stane, married 24-year-old Iron Dresser James Brown of Dykehead at Stane. Witnesses to the marriage were John Hepburn and Janet's younger sister Christina Weir. John Weir was still employed as a Police Constable.

Around this time Christina Weir met John Baxter, a Grocery Warehouseman born in Chryston, Parish of Cadder, Lanarkshire, on 26th June 1851. John was the son of David Baxter, Limestone Pitheadman, and Agnes Moir.

Christina, aged 22, and John, aged 27, married on 28th November 1878, at Allanton, Parish of Cambusnethan. John's usual residence at the time of the marriage was 22 Garscadden Street, Glasgow, while Christina declared her usual residence as Allanton which appears to have been the new residence of John and Isabella Weir and their family. John's occupation at the time of his daughter's marriage was stated as Molecatcher (Contractor). John and Christina Baxter would go on to live and raise their family in Glasgow.

We cannot know what prompted John to change his occupation from Police Constable to Molecatcher. However, he would surely have had experience of trapping moles during his time as a Gamekeeper. Early molecatchers set out snares for the moles, taking care to remove human scent from the loops. Over time, traps used to catch and kill moles became more advanced and complicated, incorporating weighted wood or cast iron, and eventually sprung steel. Molecatchers travelled from farm to farm. The molecatcher's customers would provide food and lodging, as well as a fee for every mole caught. The molecatcher could also earn money by selling the moleskins to fur dealers.

Allanton was the name of an estate in Cambusnethan and it is likely that John Weir would have been employed on the estate.

Frances Groome in his Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (1882-4) described Allanton Estate as follows:

Allanton, a mansion and estate in Cambusnethan parish, Lanarkshire, 2 miles NE of Newmains station. Having passed to his ancestors from Arbroath Abbey, it is a seat of Sir H. J. Seton-Steuart, seventeenth in descent from Alexander Stewart, fourth Lord High Steward of Scotland: third Baronet since 1814: and owner of 2673 acres, of £4076 (£2197 minerals) annual value, in the shire. The original castellated building, said to have been visited by Cromwell in 1650, was greatly enlarged by Gillespie Graham in the latter half of last century. A fine large park, with a picturesque lake, surrounds it: and the estate is rich in coal and ironstone.

1896 Map showing the hamlet of Crosshill on the edge of the Allanton Estate.1896 Map showing the hamlet of Crosshill on the edge of the Allanton Estate.National Library of Scotland

At the time of the 1881 Census (3rd April), the Weir family was residing at Crosshill, just to the east of the Allanton Estate, and was comprised of John, then aged 54, employed as a Gardener's Servant; Isabella, aged 49; Annie, a 21-year-old unmarried Pupil Teacher and the 13-year-old Scholar, Isabella.

Isabella Weir's father, David Brown, died on 13th August 1883 at Middleholm, Lesmahagow, and was buried in Lesmahagow Churchyard. Her mother, Marion Brown nee Allan, died on 3rd June, 1887 also at Middleholm.

On 4th September, 1889, John and Isabella's youngest daughter, Isabella Weir, then aged 21 and a Baker's Shopwoman residing at the home of her sister, Christina Baxter, at 612 Rutherglen Road, Hutchesontown, Glasgow, married 28-year-old Police Constable, Hugh Davidson of 27 Soho Street, Glasgow.

At the 1891 Census (5th April), John (63) and Isabella (61) were living alone, still at Crosshill, Cambusnethan. John's occupation was given as Labourer.

On 27th July, 1900, Isabella Davidson, aged 32, now widowed and residing at 33 James Street, Mile End, Glasgow, married 32-year-old widowed Police Constable, Alexander Bennett of 35 Claythorn Street, Glasgow.

At the 1901 Census (31st March), John, now 74, and Isabella, 68, were still residing at Crosshill, Cambusnethan. John stated his occupation as Pit Labourer. Clearly, he had switched from agriculture to mining. However, it is a sobering thought that he was still working at such an age. Also resident is 11-year-old scholar, Isabella Davidson, grandaughter of John and Isabella. Clearly, the child's parents were Isabella and the late Hugh Davidson. Four boarders, all working in the mining industry, are are also shown resident with the Weirs.

John Weir died, aged 78, on 15th February, 1904 at the home of his daughter, Christina Baxter, at 95 South Portland Street, Glasgow, although his usual address was declared as Allanton by Shotts. The cause of death was Cystitis, from which he had been suffering for 6 months, Uraemia and Exhaustion. The death was registered by his son-in-law, John Baxter. Surprisingly, his occupation was given as Coal Miner. This is the first indication that we have had that John ever worked underground, although we do know that he worked in the mining industry.

The address at which John Weir died was 95 South Portland Street in Glasgow's Gorbals. It was the residence of his daughter Christina and her husband John Baxter. John worked in the grocery trade for all of his working life, but was also the Church Officer of the Gorbals United Free Church. In 1898 a new church building was constructed at 95 South Portland Street. The building included apartments where John Baxter lived with his family and it was here that John Weir died in 1904.

Gorbals United Free Church at 95 South Portland StreetGorbals United Free Church at 95 South Portland Street

Isabella Weir nee Brown died soon after, aged 76, on 25th October, 1904, also at her daughter's home at 95 South Portland Street, Gorbals, Glasgow. The cause of death was given as Angina Pectoris and Syncope. The death was registered by her son-in-law, Alexander Bennett.

Gorbals United Free ChurchGorbals United Free Church