Stories

William Hamilton McKay (1866 - 1940) & Jeanie Stewart Brown (1870 - 1964)

William Hamilton McKay was born on 2nd June, 1866 in Anderston at 38 Catherine Street, to the west of Glasgow city centre. He was the 8th of 9 children born to parents David McKay, who earned his living as Boilermaker, and Jane Flanagan, both born in Ireland and who had been married in Anacloan, Co. Down on 16th May, 1845. They moved to Glasgow very soon after their marriage and their first child John McKay was born there in around 1846.

Many of David and Jane's children died in infancy.

William Hamilton McKay's 1866 Birth RecordWilliam Hamilton McKay's 1866 Birth RecordScotland's People

Catherine Street tenement building 1908 (Address believed to be 32 Catherine Street.)Catherine Street tenement building 1908 (Address believed to be 32 Catherine Street.)Virtual Mitchell

The 1871 Census (3rd April) shows William, aged 4, living at a new address of 32 Catherine Street, Anderston, with his parents Boilermaker David (48) and Jane (44) McKay and sister Margaret, a 19-year-old Cotton Weaver.

Anderston or 'Anderson's town' began as a weavers' village in the 1720s, with cottages laid out along Main Street, (now Argyle St.) In the 19th century the weavers' cottages and gardens gave way to streets of tenements and it was one of these in which William was born and lived in Catherine Street. The photograph above, taken in 1908, shows a typical Catherine Street tenement.

On July 1872, David and Jane's 9th and last child, Mary Mckay was born at 46 Scotland Street in Tradeston. The family had moved south of the River Clyde. Sadly, just 21 months later on April 1974, young Mary died of Convulsions at 192 Scotland Street.

According to Electoral Register of the time, the family remained at Scotland Street until about 1879 when they moved to 17 Aitkenhead Road in Govanhill. Inevitably, this relocation would have been due to his father's need to secure appropriate and continuing employment.

Aitkenhead Road did not exist at the time of the 1875 Property Valuation and we can safely conclude that when the McKay family moved there in 1879, it would have been a recently completed building.

The most likely place of employment for Boilermaker David McKay at the time would have been the Glasgow Locomotive Company at Polmadie.

1892 Map showing the location of Aitkenhead Road and the Locomotive Works.1892 Map showing the location of Aitkenhead Road and the Locomotive Works.National Library of Scotland

At the time of the 1881 Census (4th April), Boilermaker David (60) and Jane (52) McKay were residing at the tenement building at 17 Aitkenhead Road. William, now aged 14, is shown to be employed as a Commission Agent's Office Boy. Also shown resident is a cousin of David or Jane McKay, William Hamilton, widower and retired Cotton Warper, aged 80 and born in Ireland. It has not been possible to determine if this relative was permanently resident or merely visiting but it is highly probable that young William would have been named after him.

According to the Voter's Roll, in around 1881/82 David had moved again to number 11 Aitkenhead Road and remained there until around 1887 when they moved to number 43 Aitkenhead Road.

1953 Map showing the location of the addresses where the McKays lived in the 1880s1953 Map showing the location of the addresses where the McKays lived in the 1880sOld-Maps.co.uk

The junction of Cathcart Road and Aikenhead RoadThe junction of Cathcart Road and Aikenhead Roadhttps://www.caingram.info/Scotland/Pic_htm/govanhill_then.htm

The photo shows the junction of Cathcart Road and Aikenhead Road. The close entrance to No. 11 Aikenhead Road can be seen between Provision Merchant and the Furniture and Bedding shop. Of course the photo was taken many years after the McKays lived there.

The McKay family was soon to move again.

Jane McKay, aged 62, died of heart disease on 22 October, 1889 at which time the family is recorded as residing at 34 Govanhill Street, Govanhill. William registered his mother's death. He incorrectly, whether deliberately or otherwise, stated his mother's parents to be Robert Beattie and Mary Wilson. We have elsewhere concluded that Jane's parents were in fact John Flanagan and Mary Beattie.

Jane Flanagan's troublesome Death RecordJane Flanagan's troublesome Death RecordScotland's People

Jeanie Stewart Brown was born in 66 William Street, Anderston, Glasgow. She was the 3rd of 5 children of Irish-born parents John Brown, employed as a Hammerman, and Margaret McKillop who had married in Glasgow on 31st December 1862. About 21 months earlier, at the time of the 1861 Census, John Brown, then a 28-year-old Blacksmith, had been residing with the McKay family at Catherine Street. Jeanie had been born on 5th May, 1870 and shortly afterwards the Brown family moved to Rutherglen where a further two daughters were born.

Jeanie Stewart Brown's 1870 Birth RecordJeanie Stewart Brown's 1870 Birth RecordScotland's People

At the time of the 1871 Census (3rd April), the Brown family were residing at 17 Cathcart Road in Rutherglen. John (40) was still employed as a Hammerman and his wife Margaret was 30. Their two children were Martha (3) and Jeanie, recorded as Jane (11 months). John and Margaret's first-born had been a boy who died very soon after birth.

At the time of the 1881 Census (4th April), the Brown family were now residing at 41 Cathcart Road in Rutherglen. John (47) was still employed as a Hammerman and his wife Margaret was recorded as 45. Their children were Martha (13), Jane (10), Maggie (8) and Elizabeth (4).

The Brown family suffered a tragedy in 1890 when on 6th April John Brown died at his home at 67 Farie Street in Rutherglen. The Cause of Death is not clearly written on the birth record, but is some form of Pneumonia. The story passed down the family is that he died as the result of a blow to the chest by a hammer.

John Brown's 1890 Death RecordJohn Brown's 1890 Death RecordScotland's People

Later that year the 24-year-old Commercial Clerk William Hamilton McKay married 20-year-old Jeanie Stewart Brown, at the time employed as a Powerloom Weaver, on 31st December, 1890. The marriage took place at 67 Farie Street, Rutherglen which was still the Brown family home at the time.

William Hamilton McKay and Jeanie Stewart Brown's 1890 Marriage RecordWilliam Hamilton McKay and Jeanie Stewart Brown's 1890 Marriage RecordScotland's People

William Hamilton McKay and Jeanie Stewart Brown on their wedding day.William Hamilton McKay and Jeanie Stewart Brown on their wedding day.Family Album

As was the custom of the day, as a mark of respect for her recently deceased father, Jeanie wore black on her wedding day.

William's residence at this time is given as 34 Govanhill Street, Govanhill.

William had intended to follow in his father's footsteps and become a boilermaker. His granddaugher, Margaret Murdoch, relates the tale that he had a beautiful handwriting style and his employers felt that his talents would be wasted on the shop floor and he was assigned to an office job. This redirected his career down different lines. His youngest granddaughter Dorothy McAulay recalled also that he was well-spoken and was an excellent speller. Clearly his parents had encouraged him in his education. Dorothy further recalls that he may have worked for a time in 'Dubses' - Dübs and Co. in Polmadie. We have elsewhere concluded that William's father, David McKay would have worked for Dubs & Co. and it is quite possible that William could have followed him.

After their marriage, William and Jeanie lived with his widowed father at 34 Govanhill Street in Govanhill, just a short walk from Dubs & Co's Glasgow Locomotove Works.

The 1891 Census has all three at the same address. Also residing at the same address was Mary McKay Wilson, stated to be the granddaughter of David McKay, aged 13 and a scholar, born in Renfrew, Renfrewshire. It is possibly the case that Mary would be the daughter of William's elder sister Margaret, although we have been unable to confirm this.

1892 Map showing Govanhill Street and the Glasgow Locomotive Works at 321 Aikenhead Road.1892 Map showing Govanhill Street and the Glasgow Locomotive Works at 321 Aikenhead Road.National Library of Scotland

The 1892 map shows the location of the Glasgow Locomotive Works and the nearby Govanhill Street. We believe that no. 34 was located at the south-west corner of the intersection with Batson Street.

On 16th April 1893, William and Jeanie's first child, John Brown McKay was born and was named after Jeanie's father.

In 1893, on 14th December, William's father, David McKay, died of 'Gangrene of Internal Left Cheek and Soft Palate of Right Side; Debility due to above; and Old Age.' He was recorded as 66 years old although he was probably nearer to 75. Again, William registered the death and incorrectly stated that his late mother's maiden name was Beattie and not Flanagan. William reported that his father's parents were John McKay and Margaret Donaldson. We have been unable to verify this from the records, although we have found a record of a David McKay born to parents John McKay and Margaret Donnelly in Dromore Parish in Co. Down on 10th October, 1818.

1893 Death Record of David McKay1893 Death Record of David McKayScotland's People

In 1894, following the death of his father, William moved with Jeanie and their baby son to 55 Chapel Street in Rutherglen. The move to Rutherglen was probably to let Jeanie be closer to her widowed mother Margaret Brown. It was there that they enjoyed the birth of two more children, Jeanie Beattie McKay on on 6th October, 1894, and a little later, David McKay on 20th March, 1900.

The Property Valuation Rolls for 1894 and 1895 show that the address 51 (upper storey) was shared by four dwellings, while the 4 lower storey addresses 53-59 were each single occupancy. Each of these dwellings had an annual rental of £7 10s. The rental value of the neighbouring addresses were considerably smaller. For example, 10 dwellings shared the 63 Chapel Street address and most had annual rentals of £3 15s. This strongly suggests that these dwellings would be little more than single apartment whereas the McKays at no. 55 are likely to have had more spacious accommodation.

1953 Map showing the location of 55 Chapel Street in Rutherglen1953 Map showing the location of 55 Chapel Street in RutherglenNational Library of Scotland

Photo showing the location of 55 Chapel Street.Photo showing the location of 55 Chapel Street.

Close up of above photo showing No. 55 as the second door on the left.Close up of above photo showing No. 55 as the second door on the left.

Chapel Street from belowChapel Street from below

Looking up Chapel Street towards Main Street with the McKays' terrace on the right.Looking up Chapel Street towards Main Street with the McKays' terrace on the right.

The 1901 Census shows that William H. Mckay was a 35-year-old Clerk in a Sewing Machine Factory and Jeanie was recorded as 30. Also resident were their children, John B. (7), Jeanie B. (6) and David (1).

Still resident with the McKays was Mary McKay Wilson, now 23 years old, described as an unmarried niece of William and now employed as a Cotton Weaver. Dorothy McAulay recalls the family story that Mary's parents had emigrated to Canada or the USA and had left Mary behind with her grandparents David and Jane McKay. Apparently, Mary had a serious problem with her eyesight and was refused immigration permission. However, eventually Mary was allowed to join her parents. When it came time for Mary Wilson to join her family, Jeanie and William took her to the ship in Glasgow. They stood on the dock until the ship was ready to sail. Mary sat with her back to them on the deck and would not look around at them. She knew she would never see them again and was upset at the thought as she had become very close to them.

William's occupation is recorded in the 1901 Census return as 'Clerk, Sewing Machine Factory.' In fact, the only sewing machine manufacturer in operation in Glasgow at that time that we can identify is Kimball & Morton Ltd. which was established in 1867 with a factory at 11 Bothwell Circus, Glasgow. The firm specialised in industrial sewing machines for sail, sack and tarpaulin work as well as producing a range of domestic sewing machines including the famous "Lion" sewing machine. The firm became incorporated (Limited) in 1887 and by 1895 the Company address was given as 11a Norfolk Street, Glasgow. This was located in the Gorbals and it would have been fairly straightforward for William to travel between Rutherglen and Gorbals, perhaps by horsedrawn omnibus, although by 1903 there was an electified tramcar route between Glasgow and Rutherglen.

On 12th November, 1905 Jeanie's mother Margaret Brown nee McKillop died at 63 Chapel Street.

Margaret McKillop's 1905 Death RecordMargaret McKillop's 1905 Death RecordScotland's People

Studio photo of McKay family c1910Studio photo of McKay family c1910Family Album

By 1908-09, the McKay family had moved to 30 Farmeloan Road in Rutherglen. At this time the tenements on Farmeloan Road would have been fairly recently completed.

Photo of 30 Farmeloan Road in RutherglenPhoto of 30 Farmeloan Road in RutherglenGoogle Maps

At the time of the 1911 Census (2nd April) the McKay family was still residing at 30 Farmeloan Road in Rutherglen. William was recorded as 44 and employed as a Clerk in the Engineering Industry. Jeanie was recorded as 40. Eldest son John was a 17-year-old Engineer's Patternmaker. Jeanie (16) was Laundry Worker and David (10) was at school.

David McKay joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on 30th April, 1918, having just turned 18.

At the turn of the 20th century, there were concerns at the Admiralty and in parliament that the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR) was insufficient to bolster the manning of the greatly-expanded fleet in the event of large-scale war. Despite the huge growth in the number of ships in the British merchant service since the RNR's foundation, many of the additional seamen were from the colonies or were not British subjects. The pool of potential RNR officers had shrunk since 1859 and experience in the Boer War showed that it would not be possible to call up a sufficient number of reservists without negatively impacting the work of the merchant and fishing fleets. In 1903 an Act of Parliament was passed enabling the Admiralty to raise a second reserve force - the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR). While the RNR consisted of professional civilian sailors, the RNVR was open to civilians with no prior sea experience. By the outbreak of the First World War there were six RNVR divisions in major ports around the UK.

David McKay in RNVR uniform c.1918

David was demobilised on 18th April, 1919 without having seen action, presumably much to his family's relief.

On 11th March, 1921 David McKay completed his term of engagement as an Apprentice Pattermaker with Harland & Wolff, Finnieston Works, Glasgow. David's time at Finnieston would have brought him within a very short distance of where his grandfather David had lived and worked and where his father William had been born.

It was from 30 Farmeloan Road that William and Jeanie's eldest son, Patternmaker John (always known as Jock), married Mary (May) Ashcroft in Edinburgh on 21st September, 1923. His brother Davie was his best man. May also gave her usual residence as 30 Farmeloan Road.

John Brown McKay and May AshcroftJohn Brown McKay and May AshcroftFamily Album

Next, William and Jeanie's younger son, Davie, was married from the same address. He married Sarah Kelly in Wardlawhill Church on 9th November, 1923. Sarah was the daughter of Thomas Kelly, Coal Miner and Mary Callaghan and had been born in Rutherglen on 20th November, 1904.

William Hamilton McKay died, aged 73, at 30 Farme Loan Road on 14th February 1940 of cardiovascular degeneration. His son, John, registered the death and declared that his father's parents were David McKay, Boilermaker and Jane Flanagan. He is buried with members of his family in Rutherglen Cemetery.

William Hamilton McKay's 1940 Death RecordWilliam Hamilton McKay's 1940 Death RecordScotland's People

Jeanie Beattie McKayJeanie Beattie McKayFamily Album

William and Jeanie McKay's only daughter, Jeanie Beattie McKay, age 52, married Rutherglen born Commercial Clerk Robert Lang Jackson (52) on 10th January, 1947 at 11 Crosshill Drive in Rutherglen. Jeanie's address at the time of her marriage was 30 Farmeloan Road, Rutherglen.

Jeanie Stewart McKay nee Brown would go on to live for a further 24 years after the death of her husband William and passed away on 7th December, 1964 at the age of 94. She died at 343 Main Street in Rutherglen, the home of her son David who registered the death. The Cause of Death was recorded as Coronary Thrombosis and Arterio Sclerosis.

Jeanie Stewart Brown's 1964 Death RecordJeanie Stewart Brown's 1964 Death RecordScotland's People

William H. and Jeanie McKay with granddaughter Jean McKay at 343 Main Street, Rutherglen c.1940

Jeanie McKay, her son David and 'Lass' at 343 Main Street, Rutherglen c. 1960Jeanie McKay, her son David and 'Lass' at 343 Main Street, Rutherglen c. 1960Family Album

Jeanie McKay and her great grandchildren David and Sally Abercrombie at 343 Main Street c. 1955Jeanie McKay and her great grandchildren David and Sally Abercrombie at 343 Main Street c. 1955Family Album

William Hamiltom McKay and Jeanie Stewart Brown's Headstone in Rutherglen CemeteryWilliam Hamiltom McKay and Jeanie Stewart Brown's Headstone in Rutherglen CemeteryFamily Album