Stories

Thomas Kirkwood Wilson (1854 - 1904) & Elizabeth Dickson (1860 - 1942)

Thomas Kirkwood Wilson was born on 5th March, 1854 in Bo'ness, West Lothian, Scotland as the sixth child of Sailor James Wilson and Ellen Dunlop who had married in Bo'ness on 12th March, 1838.

Thomas Kirkwood Wilson's Birth RecordThomas Kirkwood Wilson's Birth RecordScotland's People

BORROWSTOUNNESS, a sea-port town, burgh of barony, and parish, in the county of Linlithgow, 3 miles (N.) from Linlithgow; containing, with the villages of Borrowstoun and Newton, 2347 inhabitants, of whom 1790 are in the town.

The town is situated in the north-eastern extremity of the parish, on the south shore of the Frith of Forth, and consists principally of narrow streets, of houses of ancient and irregular appearance. It was formerly one of the most thriving towns on the eastern coast, and, prior to 1780, ranked as the third sea-port in Scotland; and though the opening of the Forth and Clyde canal, and the establishment of the port of Grangemouth, have contributed much to diminish its commerce, it is still far from being inconsiderable. The female population were once employed in tambour-work to a very large extent, and many females are yet engaged in that pursuit; a pottery was established in 1784, and has, since that time, been greatly increased; there is an extensive foundry, and some chemical-works are also carried on, upon a large scale. A distillery is in full operation, paying weekly to government more than £300, for duties; there are several large malting establishments; and at the east end of the town, and on the links, are a rope-walk and extensive wood-yards, connected with which is a saw-mill worked by steam, of which the engine is also employed in the preparation of bone-dust, for manure. The chief trade of the port is in grain, for which the merchants have extensive granaries, capable of warehousing 15,000 quarters; a considerable trade is also carried on in the exportation of salt, coal, iron-stone, and earthenware; the imports are timber, iron, flax, grain, bark, and madder.

Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)

Thomas had seven siblings, namely: John, James Dunlop, Robert, Elizabeth Chalmers, George, Alexander, and Helen Chalmers.

The origin of Thomas's middle name of Kirkwood is unclear. There does not appear to be any family connection to the Kirkwood name and it is more likely to be in honour of a friend or neighbour. In fact there was a Kirkwood Close on North Street in Bo'ness very close to where the Wilson family lived.

At the time of the 1861 Census (8th April), Scholar Thomas (7) was living with his parents and family on North Street, Bo'ness. His father James (41) was working as a Seaman and his mother Helen was 40 years old. Elder siblings were John, a 20-year-old Potter, while James (19), Robert (16) and George (11) were Iron Dressers. An Iron Dresser, aka Fettler, was a general term covering all foundry workers engaged in removing adherant sand from castings and chipping off any irregularities. (We have some doubts regarding the proposition that 11-year-old George was employed as an Iron Dresser.) Thomas's sister Elizabeth, now 14, was residing nearby on North Street with a neighbour, 50-year-old Ladies Nurse, Mary Glen. Alexander had died at Bo'ness in 1860. It is likely that John Wilson would have worked at the Pottery on Main Street, Bo'ness, owned by John Marshall and Company.

John Marshall Pottery Ad 1867John Marshall Pottery Ad 1867

Further, it is likely that the Wilson brothers worked at the nearby Kinneil Iron Works, a short 3/4 mile walk from North Street in the town of Bo'ness.

Kinneil Iron Works: This is an extensive work having four large blast furnaces and two large engines, 60 horse power each, for forcing air into them. There is a foundry, a wright's shop, a firebrick works, and a steam saw of 8 horse power, all in good repair. There are about 1000 men employed at the mines and iron works. When the furnaces are in good working order, they produce about 500 tons of saleable pig iron a week. The mineral field here contains two valuable seams of ironstone, one of parrot coal and several seams of common coal; the latter has been worked out many years ago, although the present owners have incurred great expenses to discover the seams of coal to the west, and dips of old coal workings, none have yet been found which can be worked for profit.

Therefore the coals for the use of the works are all brought from other districts: Fife, Clackmannan and the Slamannan collieries.

Ordnance Survey Name Book 1856

At the time of the 1871 Census (3rd April). Thomas was now employed as a Blacksmith's Apprentice and was residing with his family at Dark Close in Bo'ness.

Thomas's mother Ellen Wilson née Dunlop died aged 58 on 10th December, 1877 at Dark Close in Bo'ness.

On 22nd November, 1878, 24-year-old Blacksmith Thomas Kirkwood Wilson, having migrated the 12 miles west from Bo'ness and now residing at High Station, Falkirk, married 19-year-old Camelon-born Elizabeth Dickson at the Rosebank Buildings, Camelon, Falkirk which was the residence of Elizabeth's parents Linlithgow-born Archibald Dickson, employed as a Carter at the Rosebank Distillery in Camelon, and Muiravonside-born Elizabeth Anderson.

Rosebank Buildings, Camelon in the 1970sRosebank Buildings, Camelon in the 1970sFalkirk Community Trust

Witnesses to the marriage were Elizabeth's half-brother David Anderson, and her younger sister, Janet Dickson. The ceremony was conducted by the Minister of Camelon, the Rev. John Scott.

The Rev. John Scott c.1890

Thomas and Elizabeth's first child, Elizabeth Anderson Wilson, named after her maternal grandmother, was born on 11th September, 1879 in Blinkbonny House, Falkirk. Thomas registered his daughter's birth and gave his occupation as Smith (Journeyman).

At the time of the 1881 Census (4th April), Thomas and Elizabeth were residing with their daughter at North British Railway Company Houses. The 27-year-old Thomas was employed as a Blacksmith.

1897 Map showing High Station, Falkirk.1897 Map showing High Station, Falkirk.National Library of Scotland

Railway Company Houses, High Station, Falkirk in 1965Railway Company Houses, High Station, Falkirk in 1965

James Wilson, named after his paternal grandfather, was born on 9th July, 1881 at the Railway Company Buildings, Falkirk High Station. Archibald Dickson Wilson, named after his maternal grandfather was born on 22nd March, 1883, also at the Railway Company Buildings, Falkirk High Station.

Third son, Thomas Kirkwood Wilson, named according to the convention of the time after his father, was born on 26th March, 1885 in Camelon. Helen Dunlop Wilson, named after her paternal grandmother, was born on 3rd April, 1887 in Camelon.

Camelon, quoad sacra par. and vil., Falkirk par., E. Stirlingshire -- par., pop. 2795; vil., pop. 2014; P.O., T.O. C., which stands on site of Roman town, now forms part of town of Falkirk; it has iron foundries and nail factories.

John Bartholomew, Gazetteer of the British Isles (1887)

At the time of the 1891 Census (5th April) , the Wilson family was residing at Main Street in Camelon.

Main Street Camelon c1896Main Street Camelon c1896Falkirk Community Trust

Thomas (37) was pursuing his trade as a Blacksmith and his wife Elizabeth was 31 years old. Also resident were Elizabeth (11), James (9), Archie (8), Thomas (6), all Scholars, and the 4-year-old Ellen.

Thomas's father, James Wilson, Master Mariner, died on 26th June, 1892, aged 75, at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh. The Cause of Death was Carcinoma of the Stomach.

David Anderson Wilson, named after his mother's grandfather was born in Camelon on 6th October, 1892.

The Valuation Records show that the Wilson residence in 1895 was at Cemetery Road in Camelon.

1896 Map showing location of Cemetery Road in Camelon.1896 Map showing location of Cemetery Road in Camelon.National Library of Scotland

Janet Dickson Wilson was born on 5th April, 1895 in Camelon and Martha Arthur Wilson was born on 21st December, 1899 in Camelon at Cemetery Road.

At the time of the 1901 Census (31st March) Thomas (47), still employed as a Blacksmith, and Elizabeth (41) were residing at 34 Cemetery Road in Camelon. James (19) was a Gratefitter, Archie (18) was an Iron Moulder and Thomas was a Grocer's Assistant. Nellie (13), David (8) and Jenny (5) were Scholars while 1-year-old Martha was At Home. The whereabouts of eldest child Elizabeth, who would have been 21, is unknown.

Thomas and Elizabeth Wilson's ninth and last child, Alexander Dickson Wilson was born on 1st August, 1902 in Camelon.

Blacksmith Thomas Kirkwood Wilson died aged 49 on 26th February, 1904 at Dorrator Road in Camelon. The Cause of Death was recorded as Parenchymatous Nephritis which is chronic inflamation of the kidney. His son James reported the death and incorrectly gave his father's age at the time of his death as 47.

Between the 1901 Census and Thomas's death in 1904, Cemetery Road had been renamed as Dorrator Road.

Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 14 October 1903Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 14 October 1903British Newspaper Archive

1950 Map showing the location of 90 Dorrator Road (top centre).1950 Map showing the location of 90 Dorrator Road (top centre).National Library of Scotland

Typical dwellings on Dorrator Road. (1970s)Typical dwellings on Dorrator Road. (1970s)Falkirk Community Trust

The Valuation Records reveal that in 1905 the widowed Elizabeth Wilson was residing at 90 Dorrator Road in Camelon.

On 19th September 1906, at Edinburgh, 23-year-old Archibald Dickson Wilson enlisted into the 1st Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. The Battalion would remain in the UK until the outbreak of World War I.

At the time of the 1911 Census (2nd April) Elizabeth Wilson (51) was still residing at 90 Dorrator Road with 5 of her children: James (29), a Rangefitter, David (18) a Moulder, Jenny (15), a Domestic Servant, Martha (11) and Alexander (8), both Scholars.

At this time 28-year-old Soldier Archibald Dickson Wilson was residing at Oudenarde Barracks, Aldershot, Hampshire. He was a Private with the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders.

Oudenarde Barracks, AldershotOudenarde Barracks, Aldershothttp://www.sopse.org.uk/

1911 Map showing Oudenarde Barracks in Aldershot1911 Map showing Oudenarde Barracks in AldershotOld Maps

Neither Thomas Kirkwood Wilson, who would have been 26, nor Helen Dunlop Wilson, who would have been 23, have been located at the time of the 1911 Census.

30-year-old Range Fitter James Wilson residing at 90 Dorrator Road married 26-year-old Domestic Servant Agnes Bow at her family home of Baintree Terrace in Camelon.

Thomas and Elizabeth's third son, Thomas Kirkwood Wilson, died on 25th April, 1916 at Stirlingshire District Lunatic Asylum in Larbert. His brother James registered the death and reported that his brother's usual residence at the time of his death was 90 Dorrator Road and that he had been employed as a Grocer.

The Cause of Death was recorded as General Paralysis of the Insane (GPI) which is a severe neuropsychiatric disorder, classified as an organic mental disorder and caused by the chronic meningoencephalitis that leads to cerebral atrophy in late-stage syphilis.

General paresis (or paralysis) of the insane (GPI) was crippling and terminal. It ended in loss of control over mind and body, often accompanied by grandiose delusions of wealth and power and, finally, paralytic death.

The Lancet (2018)

Following the outbreak of WWI, Archibald Dickson Wilson and the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders were posted with the British Expeditionary Force to France on 13th August, 1914. He was wounded on three separate occasions during his participation in the war. On 25th September 1915 he received a Gun Shot Wound (GSW) to his right shoulder and was sent back to the UK for 3 months of treatment and recuperation.

We should note that GSW covered both injury by bullet and by shrapnel.

Archie sustained his other injuries during the Battle of the Somme in northern France in the attacks on High Wood where his battalion participated in the action to overrun a strategically important German defensive position.

On 23rd July, 1916 Archie received a GSW to his right leg, although this time the injury was not deemed serious enough to warrant repatriation.

Finally, on 3rd September, 1916 he suffered a GSW to his right upper arm and a week later was sent home and never returned to the war.

The French name for the wood was Bois des Foureaux (now Bois des Fourcaux) but to the British infantry, it was known as High Wood.

The wood crowned a ridge which was about 100 feet high which overlooked the ground around for a considerable distance. Any attack on the wood could be seen easily from the ridge which ran through the north end of the wood.

military.wikia.org

The action that turned out to be Archie's last participation in World War One is described....

On 3 September, a 1st Brigade battalion of the 1st Division, attacked in High Wood as part of the fighting for Guillemont, making another attempt to use the flame-throwers and Livens Projectors. A mine with 3,000 pounds of explosives was sprung under the strong point at the east corner of the wood thirty seconds before the infantry advance, which was then overrun by an infantry company and consolidated by an engineer field company. The pipe pushers blew back and a mortar bomb dropped short and set off the oil drums prematurely, causing much confusion among the attackers. Bombers worked towards the western flank but a counter-attack by Bavarian Infantry Regiment 5 from the Switch Line at 3:00 p.m., forced the British back to their start line. At 6:00 p.m. a fresh battalion advanced to the middle of the wood and reached their objective on the right flank but were checked in the left. An attack on the south-west face of the wood also reached the objective and two companies of the 15th Division got into the west corner of the wood and repulsed a German counter-attack with Lewis-gun fire. Another counter-attack was defeated at 8:00 p.m. but the British then withdrew, except for one company which retired at 4:00 a.m.

military.wikia.org

Although the attack on 3rd September in which Archie participated was unsuccessful on that day, it may have been some comfort to him that High Wood was eventually taken from the Germans on 15th September, 1916.

In February 1917 Archie had an operation to transpose both his damaged ulnar and median nerves, usually performed to relieve pain, and then in August of the same year he had shrapnel removed from his right internal aspect elbow.

Notes on Archie's Army Pension Record.Notes on Archie's Army Pension Record.Ancestry.com

For Archie the injury was a calamitous and life-changing event. Although not counted amongst those killed in action, it is likely that he indeed became a casualty of war.

Just 3 months after his discharge, on 2nd February, 1918 (Supposed), Archibald Dickson Wilson died by drowning in the Union Canal Basin, at Lock 16 although his body was not discovered until the 24th February.

Southern Reporter - Thursday 28 February 1918Southern Reporter - Thursday 28 February 1918The British Newspaper Archive.

Following a post mortem dissection, Archie's death was registered on the information provided by the Procurator Fiscal. The Cause of Death was recorded as Asphyxiation by Drowning. His occupation was recorded as Corporal, 1st Cameron Highlanders and his address was 90 Dorrator Road.

We can only speculate over the circumstances that led to Archie's drowning. An unfortunate accident is certainly a possibility, However, the prospect of constant pain and the uncertainty of his future with a permanent disability could have affected his state of mind.

An appropriately bleak photo looking across the Union Canal Basin at Lock 16 (c1904).An appropriately bleak photo looking across the Union Canal Basin at Lock 16 (c1904).Falkirk Community Trust

Meanwhile Elizabeth's father Archibald Dickson had died of Senility at Rosebank Buildings, Camelon on 22nd November, 1916.

Soon after this, Elizabeth's mother Elizabeth Anderson died of Intestinal Obstruction on 19th July, 1917 at Plean in Stirlingshire.

Following the death of her husband Thomas in 1904, Elizabeth Wilson née Dickson remained at 90 Dorrator Road until at least 1930. By 1935, she had moved to 50 Redbrae Terrace, still in Camelon and remained there until she died of a Cerebral Haemhorrage at that address aged 82 on 21st September 1942. Her son Alexander D. Wilson, as yet unmarried, reported her death.

Redbrae Terrace shortly before demolition.Redbrae Terrace shortly before demolition.Falkirk Community Trust

26-year-old Clerkess Janet Dickson Wilson married 30-year-old Engineer William Davidson Sharp residing at The Hedges on 30th March, 1921 at the Wilson family home of 90 Dorrator Road. Witnesses on the occasion were Janet's sister Martha A. Wilson and William's brother Alexander M. Sharp. The Sharp family worked in their family engineering and machine making business William Sharp & Sons situated on Union Road in Camelon.

On 28th June, 1928 Ironmoulder David Anderson Wilson (35), residing at 90 Dorrator Road, married 34-year-old Tailoress Maggie Roughead in Stenhouse Parish Church, Stenhousemuir. Witnesses on that day were David's brother, Alexander D. Wilson and Margaret Oswald, probably Maggie's cousin.

Alexander Dickson Wilson, then aged 47, married 34-year-old Margaret Fairbairn Yule on 8th September, 1949 in Falkirk.

Grate Fitter James Wilson died aged 72 on 31st January, 1954 at 13 Wall Street in Camelon. The cause of death was Coronary Thrombosis. The death was reported by his son T. Wilson of 9 Kirkconnel Drive in Rutherglen.

Janet Dickson Sharp née Wilson died on 29th January, 1964 at 15 Watling Drive in Camelon. The Cause of Death was Cerebral Haemorrhage, Cerebral Thrombosis and Cerebral Arteriosclerosis. Her death was reported by her son, R.B.Sharp of 25 Credon Gardens, Burnside, Rutherglen.

Iron Foundry Foreman David Anderson Wilson died on 4th August, 1968 at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. The Cause of Death was Cerebral Embolism and Myocardial Infarction. His death was reported by his son Thomas Wilson who gave his father's usual address at the time of his death as 7 Baird Street in Camelon.

Martha Arthur Wilson, whose usual residence was 7 Simpson Street in Camelon, died on 15th June, 1970 of Bronchopneumonia and Senile Dementia at Bellsdyke Hospital, the same establishment where, as Stirlingshire District Lunatic Asylum, her brother Thomas Kirkwood Wilson had passed away in 1916. The Mental Health (Scotland) Act of 1960 saw the subject of mental health becoming less of a taboo subject and the SDLA was re-classed as a hospital and the name changed to Bellsdyke Hospital. Martha's death was reported by her sister-in-law Margaret Wilson, the wife of Alexander Dickson Wilson.

Alexander Dickson Wilson died in 1971 in Falkirk aged 68.

The fates of Elizabeth Anderson Wilson and Helen Dunlop Wilson remain unknown.