Ninian Boyle (1833-1877) & Mary Morrison (1843 - post 1911)

Ninian Boyle was born on 12th January, 1833 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland as the second child of Bute-born Seaman Thomas Boyle and Greenock-born Euphemia McNeill. He had five siblings, namely: Daniel, Euphemia, Thomas, Thomas, and Robert.

GREENOCK, a sea-port, burgh, and market-town, in the Lower ward of the county of Renfrew, 17 miles (W. N. W.) from Renfrew, 22 (W. N. W.) from Glasgow, and 65 (W.) from Edinburgh; comprising the parishes of East, Middle, and West Greenock, and containing 36,936 inhabitants.

The town is beautifully situated on the south shore of the Frith of Clyde, which is here four and a half miles broad; and extends for almost a mile along the margin of the united bays of Greenock and Crawfurdsdyke. The buildings occupy a narrow site of level land, bounded on the south by a ridge of hills which rises abruptly to an elevation of nearly 600 feet immediately above the town, commanding a richly-diversified view of the Frith and the coast of Dumbarton, on the north, and much variety of interesting scenery on the east and west. The place is for the most part very irregularly built, consisting, in the older portion, of various narrow and ill-formed streets, and in that of more modern date, of several spacious and handsome streets, with numerous pleasant villas, especially towards the west, in which direction chiefly the houses are increasing. It is paved, lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water from the vicinity, passed through filters previously to its being distributed through the town, the necessary works having been constructed by a company incorporated by act of parliament, in 1825, chiefly for providing water-power for giving motion to the machinery of mills and factories.

Manufactures of almost every kind are carried on here to a very considerable extent; and there are numerous large establishments for refining sugar, breweries, distilleries, tanneries, foundries, and forges. The manufacture of woollen cloth and yarn is pursued in two factories, in one of which 25,000 stones of wool are annually consumed in the production of tartans, twilled cloths, and yarn; and the other, of recent establishment, is still more extensive. A very large cotton factory has lately been opened, of which the machinery is propelled by the Shaw's water: the building, which is of stone, is 263 feet in length, sixty feet in breadth, and three stories in height. In those parts where the process carried on is most in danger of fire, the building is fire-proof; and in case of need, the pipes by which it is heated with steam can be rendered available as a fireengine. The water-wheel that drives the machinery is seventy feet in diameter, and wholly of iron, weighing about 180 tons. The number of people employed is generally 400, of whom the greater number are females. There are eleven large establishments for the refining of sugar, affording occupation to 350 persons; one of these is wholly engaged in refining for exportation, and the aggregate quantity is about 14,000 tons annually. Three breweries employ about forty-five persons, and do business to the amount of 30,000 per annum; and there is a distillery producing whisky annually to the amount of 50,000, and paying duties to the excise of 21,000. Connected with the distillery is a dairy of fifty cows. The manufacture of sail-cloth gives employment to nearly 300 persons.

The trade of the port, which, after it had recovered from the depression it suffered during the American war, had greatly increased, has recently sustained some diminution from the deepening of the Clyde and the introduction of steam towing-boats, by which ships that previously landed their cargoes here are now enabled to reach Glasgow. The exports are chiefly linen, woollen, and silk manufactures, cotton-yarn, hardware, earthenware, glass, refined sugar, iron and machinery, copper, and lead. The imports are, cotton-wool, sugar, molasses, coffee, cocoa, pepper, tobacco, corn, wine, oil, spirits, timber, deals, mahogany, dye-woods, brimstone, and numerous other goods. The quantity of cotton-yarn exported in a recent year was valued at more than 1,000,000; and the quantity of cotton-wool imported was 11,597,653 lb. The number of vessels that entered inwards during 1843 was, 206 from British ports, of the aggregate burthen of 60,269 tons; and six from foreign ports, of the aggregate burthen of 2583 tons. The number that cleared outwards in 1838 was, 235 British vessels, of 63,582 tons; and nine foreign vessels, of 3411 tons. In the coasting trade, during the same year, 911 vessels entered inwards, of the burthen of 99,430 tons; and 1222 cleared outwards, of 128,017 tons' burthen. The amount of duty paid at the customhouse in 1843 was 347,869: the number of vessels registered as belonging to the port is 451, of 86,942 tons' aggregate burthen; and the number of seamen is 3365.

Ship-building is carried on to a great extent, for which purpose there are seven dockyards belonging to different companies, affording employment to 1200 men, with dry-docks, and three patent-slips for repairing vessels, one of which is capable of receiving ships of 400 tons. The number of vessels annually launched averages about twenty, of the aggregate burthen of from 6000 to 7000 tons. Boat-building is also carried on, by companies confined to that object, who employ about forty workmen, and launch annually about 800 tons of all descriptions. The improvement of the harbour has greatly tended to increase the trade of the port as well as its revenue, which amounted in a recent year to as large a sum as 12,079.

Extracted from The Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

At the time of the 1841 Census (7th June), the 8-year-old Ninian (although recorded as 6) was residing with his mother Euphemia Boyle (35) and two siblings Euphemia (4) and Thomas (2) at West Quay Lane in the parish of St. Thomas on Greenock.

1896 Map showing location of West Quay Lane in Greenock.1896 Map showing location of West Quay Lane in Greenock.National Library of Scotland

Ninian's father Thomas was not present on Census night and his location is unknown. He is likely to have been at sea. He would however pass away sometime after the birth of Ninian's youngest brother Robert Boyle who was born in Greenock on 26th April, 1842.

On 10th May, 1850, Ninian's widowed mother Euphemia (48) married widower Melville Abercrombie Dodd (42) in Greenock.

At the time of the 1851 Census (31st March), Euphemia Dodd was residing at 3 Tobago Street in Greenock with two of her sons, Thomas (12) and Robert (9), both of whom had adopted the surname Dodd. Also resident was Thomas H. Dodd (29) who was Euphemia's brother-in-law and employed as a Ship Steward. Euphemia was recorded as a Tidewaiter's Wife. A Tidewaiter was a customs officer who checked the goods being carried when a ship landed in order to secure payment of customs duty.

Ninian was not present on the 1851 Census night and we can assume that the 18-year-old was at sea.

In fact, Ninian Boyle was travelling far and wide. He had become a Sailmaker and in 1857 he found himself in Sydney, Australia. He had 'deserted' from the mercantile brig "D'Israeli" and found himself wanted by the law.

New South Wales Police Gazette, 1857New South Wales Police Gazette,

Desertion from Mercantile Service was not uncommon but was nevertheless considered a serious offence, punishable by up to 6 months imprisonment. It amounted to a breach of contract. Shortage of crew could cause delays and be expensive for owners and masters. A very common reason for desertion was absconding to join another vessel with better pay.

The merchant ship "D'Israeli" (Official Number 18966) from which Ninian deserted was a 225 ton 'brig' built in Milford Haven in Wales in 1850.

Brig, two-masted sailing ship with square rigging on both masts. Brigs were used for both naval and mercantile purposes. As merchant vessels, they plied mostly coastal trading routes, but oceanic voyages were not uncommon; some brigs were even used for whaling and sealing. Naval brigs carried a battery of 10 to 20 guns on a single deck. In the great European navies of the 18th and 19th centuries, they served as couriers for battle fleets and as training vessels for cadets.

Because square rigging required a large crew, merchant brigs became uneconomical, and in the 19th century they began to give way to such fore-and-aft rigged vessels as the schooner and bark.

It is not known how Ninian's desertion escapade ended. He has not been located in the 1861 UK Census and would likely have been abroad or at sea. However, he did make it back to Greenock by one means or another.

On 30th January, 1863, when he was 30, Sailmaker Ninian Boyle, residing at Bearhope Street married Mary Morrison (22), of Duncan Street, daughter of Carpenter John Morrison and Agnes Niven. The marriage took place at 29 Charles Street in Greenock.

Ninian and Mary's first child Agnes Niven Boyle, named after her maternal grandmother, was born on 23rd August, 1863 at 5 Duncan Street in Greenock. Mary Boyle registered her daughter's birth.

Second child Ninian Boyle was born on 10th June, 1865 also at 5 Duncan Street in Greenock. The birth was registered by the child's father.

On 22nd March, 1867, 21-month-old Ninian died at 37 Holmscroft Street in Greenock. The Cause of Death was Bronchitis from which he had been suffering for 2 weeks. An aunt registered the death.

John Morrison Boyle, named after his maternal grandfather, was born on 16th May, 1867 at 27 Holmscroft Street in Greenock. Once again, Mary Boyle registered her new son's birth.

Thomas Boyle was born on 26th April, 1869 at 26 Holmscroft Street in Greenock. His birth was registered by his father, Ninian Boyle, Journeyman Sailmaker.

Assuming that the addresses were recorded accurately at the times of these vital events, the Boyle family appeared to be moving around various dwelling houses on Holmscroft Street.

Once again, Ninian Boyle cannot be located at the time of the 1871 Census (3rd April), presumably because he was again at sea. However, his family was residing at 37 Holmscroft Street in Greenock. His wife Mary was 27 years old. Agnes (7), John (3) and Thomas (1) were residing with her, as was her 62-year-old widowed father Ship Carpenter John Morrison.

The 1875 Valuation Rolls show Ninian Boyle as the Tenant of a property at 4 Nelson Street in Greenock.

On 15th January, 1877, 13-year-old Agnes Niven Boyle died at 6 Nelson Street in Greenock. The Cause of Death was Tubercular Peritonitis from which she had been suffering for 6 months. Her Aunt Jessie Morrison reported Agnes's death.

Further misfortune was to befall the Boyle family when on 10th September, 1877, 44-year-old Ninian Boyle died in Chartham, Kent, England at the East Kent County Lunatic Asylum. The Cause of Death was Enteritis - 14 days and Disease of Lungs. The location of his place of death suggests that he was in a disturbed state of mind. The Death Informant was Thomas Barton, Clerk & Steward (Resident), East Kent County Lunatic Asylum. Ninian's occupation at the time of his death was Sailmaker.

Nennan or Ninian Boyle, sailmaker, Greenock, died at Canterbury on 10th Sept. 1877.

Greenock Advertiser

On 28th January, 1879, the widowed Mary Boyle née Morrison, now 35, and residing at 34 Ann Street in Greenock, married 38-year-old Stornoway-born Hugh McKenzie at Ardgowan Street in Greenock.

At the time of the 1881 Census (4th April), Mary and Hugh McKenzie were residing at 13 Abbott Road in Poplar, London, England. Hugh was employed as a Ship's Fireman. Abbott Road was located in Poplar Borough very near the East India Dock on the River Thames.

1914 Map showing location of Abbott Road and Portree Street dwellings.1914 Map showing location of Abbott Road and Portree Street dwellings.National Library of Scotland

At this time, Mary's two surviving sons, John (14) and Thomas (12) were residing as Scholars in Greenock Industrial School, 13 Captain Street in Greenock.

The Greenock Ragged and Industrial School was administered by the Greenock Ragged School Association:

It is the object of the Association to reclaim the neglected and destitute children of Greenock by affording them the benefit of a good common and Christian education, and training them to the habits of regular industry so as to enable them to earn an honest livelihood and fit them for the duties of life. The plan upon which the school is conducted is as follows: The children receive an allowance of food for their daily support; are instructed in reading, writing and arithmetic; trained to industry by employing them daily in such work as is suited to their years; and taught the truths of the Gospel, making the children receive suitable religious teaching.

Greenock Ragged School Association

There is a suggestion here that Mary and her new husband went off and left Mary's two sons by her late first husband Ninian Boyle in the 'care' of the Greenock Ragged School Association. There is nevertheless evidence that the boys were not simply abandoned for good although we will likely never know the circumstances that led to the family being separated. The location of the Ragged School is shown on a 1912 Greenock street map. The Greenock Ragged and Industrial School had been opened in 1858 and ironically Holmscroft Street had been laid out adjacent to it.

1914 Map showing location of Greenock Ragged School at the junction of Captain Street and Holmscroft Road.1914 Map showing location of Greenock Ragged School at the junction of Captain Street and Holmscroft Road.National Library of Scotland

In June 1884, 17-year-old John Morrison Boyle died at 2 Portree Street in Poplar, London, very close to where his mother Mary and his stepfather Hugh were residing at the time of the 1881 Census. It is likely that they had since moved to Portree Street. Sad though this circumstance was, it confirms that Mary kept in touch with her son John.

At the time of the 1891 Census (5th April) , Mary McKenzie was residing at 149 Manisty Street in Poplar, about half a mile closer to the Thames from Abbott Road where she had been residing with her husband Hugh ten years earlier. Mary gave her occupation as Seamstress. Although she gave her marital status as Married, her husband was not present on census night.

Towards the end of that same year, 1891, Hugh McKenzie died in Poplar, London.

Last surviving child of Ninian Boyle and Mary Morrison, Ship's Fendermaker Thomas Boyle (26) married Pawnbroker's Assistant Margaret O'Rourke (24) on 4th July, 1895 in St Mungo's Chapel, St. Rollox, Glasgow.

At the time of the 1901 Census (31st March), the widowed Mary McKenzie was still residing at 149 Manisty Street in Poplar.

Following the death on 25th November, 1900 of his first wife Margaret O'Rourke, Thomas Boyle married Print Machine Feeder Maggie Foreman Murray on 4th July, 1901 in 45 St James's Road, Glasgow.

Thomas Boyle, last surviving child of Ninian Boyle and Mary Morrison, died aged 41 on 29th May, 1910 at Barnhill Poorhouse in Glasgow. Just before his death Thomas had applied for Poor Relief and stated his mother's London address in his application. This confirms that Thomas and his mother had kept in touch following her move to London.

At the time of the 1911 Census (2nd April) Mary McKenzie (58) was residing at 128 The Avenue, Highams Park, Chingford, Essex. The 8 roomed dwelling appeared to be a residence for elderly women in the care of two female Salvation Army Officers.

No futher reference to Mary Morrison or Boyle or McKenzie has been found in the records and details of her ultimate fate are unknown. Mary had been in the most unenviable position of having experienced the passing of two husbands and all four of her children.