Sunday, 23 October 2016

My family closer to home - William Dobson

William Dobson was born in April 1944, only son of William Dobson senior and his wife Jean Lees, nee Dick. Sadly celebrating was put on hold as approximately 2 weeks later, Jeanie passed away, due to having TB, leaving William in the care of his father and grandparents.

He attended primary school at Auchinraith Primary, which was just along the road from where he stayed in the "Buggy Buildings" in Blantyre. Later on he attended Calder Street Secondary School where he was a promising young football player and joined a local football team, Victoria Amateurs. After leaving school he started work with a local steel works and enjoyed an active social life by going to the dancing and greyhound racing.

It was at the dancing in Glasgow that he met, who was to be his life partner, Jean Bayne and they were married in March 1965. Together they went on to have five children, bringing them all up in Blantyre until they began to get married themselves. After the marriage of their eldest child, Jean took ill with cancer, which she fought until she died in January 1991 aged 44. By this time, they had 3 grandchildren. Life went on for William and he returned to the workplace after Jeans death by getting a job working in the local car parks. William was there a number of years and home life spending as much time as he could with his grandchildren, which had been added to since his wifes passing. In 2007, William himself became ill with cancer, having been giving just 6 months to get things in order and spend time with his family. William passed away in March 2008 aged 63 and leaves a legacy of 12 grandchildren, some of whom still live in his home town of Blantyre. He is sadly missed

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Only Woman on our War Memorial - Blantyre


Sarah Kerr Struthers was born on 30 May 1892 in Braehead, Blantyre to James Struthers from Blantyre and Catherine McNicol from Inveraray, Argyll.  The first census taken after her birth was in 1901, which listed the family living in Futtashins, Blantyre with Sarah the eldest of 3 girls with 2 older brothers.  Her father was a Stone Mason and mother was a home keeper. Her eldest brother, James Junior was 14 years old and was a Pithead Labourer with Sarah and the rest of her siblings being at school, likely to be attending High Blantyre Primary, Hunthill Road.

By the time the 1911 census came round the family were living at 77 Craigmuir Road in Blantyre, with Sarah's father still working as a Stone Mason, her brother James now an engineer, Robert was a boot maker and Sarah was now working in domestic service.  Her sisters Barbara and Mary were still both at school, with their mother Catherine still keeping the family home.

Now it must have been sometime after this, Sarah joined the Merchant Navy and was serving on the SS Britannia at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.  
The S. S. Britannia was constructed around 1925 by Stephen and Sons Ltd, Glasgow, on the banks of the River Clyde and owned by the Anchor Line Ltd, Glasgow as a passenger ship with a speed of up to 15 knots. 

On the 13 March 1941, the Britannia sailed from Liverpool with 203 crew and 281 passengers on board under the command of Captain A. Collie heading for Bombay via Freetown and Durban.  The liner was part of an Atlantic convoy with an anti-submarine escort.  On the 25th March 1941, the convoy veered on to it usual course, leaving the Britannia go on its way to its first port of call, Freetown.

About 750 miles west of Freetown, Britannia could see another ship flying a Japanese flag, as, at this time, Japan were not involved in WW2.  On  closer inspection, the Cruiser  then flew a German flag, forcing the Britannia to flee the scene. The German Raider "Thor" bombarded the Britannia, forcing Britannia to return fire until its gun became unusable.  Passengers were fleeing or jumping overboard and the Captain then ordered the boats engines to be stopped and to let out the lifeboats to abandon ship. Passengers were throwing timber, chairs, anything they could get their hands on to act as a makeshift life raft to flee from the now burning ship before Kapitan Otto Kahler of the Thor ordered his crew to torpedo the Britannia below the water line and the ship sank quickly and without trace.  The Thor did  not even stop to pick up survivors.

Later the day, a Spanish steamer "Bachi picked up survivors that were in lifeboat 5, totalling around 50, with the Spanish ship "Cabo De Homos" picked up around 77 survivors.  The MV Raranga picked up around 67 and took them on to Sierra Leone with other ships picking up about 4 more.  In total 122 crew and 127 passengers from the Britannia perished, including Sarah Kerr Struthers from Blantyre.

Sarah Struthers is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on their memorial  at Tower Hill, London, along with others who lost their lives in the sea battles of World War 2 and she is the only woman commemorated on the High Blantyre War Memorial at the local cemetery where her parents lie at rest.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Cockburn Relatives Reunion

Cockburn Family Reunion

Edinburgh 2014

L-R - Craig Cockburn, Charmain Cockburn Magnussen, Mal Cockburn,
Bev Cockburn, Elizabeth Dobson Grieve, Mark Cockburn

In July of 2014, members from one family, with many links, came together in Edinburgh with one thing in common; their connection to the Cockburn family name. A few of us (see above photo) met up at the corner of Cockburn Street in Edinburgh, which was so named after several emminent Cockburn's from the City. As you can see, most of us were born with the illustrious surname, which originates in the Borders, however I am the only one in this small band that was not so blessed.  My connection comes through my great great grandmother Anne Cockburn, daughter of Andrew Cockburn and Jane Richardson, who married James Patterson, then through their second youngest child, George Patterson who was married to Alice Common. Afterwards it has been a straight female line for me and therefore my Cockburn blood is well diluted. :D

Meeting up with everyone was a revelation! Especially in hearing of their own family histories linked to the name and how they got to their own parts of the world.  Mal & Bev Cockburn and Charmain (Mal's sister) all come from Australia, with Mark from England, Craig from Edinburgh and myself from Lanarkshire.  After this initial meeting we met up with another member of our group, Bruce Cockburn, for lunch in the Amber Restaurant near the Castle. Much was talked about our various links in the family history as well as other topics such as the DNA that connects the various branches and other branches that the family are closely connected to (Thanks Bruce!). A good time was had by all and afterwards we all paid a visit to Greyfriars kirkyard, to see the bench which we all donated to remember another illustrious ancestor, James Cockburn (1648-1700), who was a noted Gold/Silversmith of his time and a treasurer of the original Bank of Scotland at its inception in 1695.  James is buried within the churchyard, however several decades after his death, re modelling work was done to the church and James's grave, along with a couple of other of Edinburgh's notable citizens were caught between the old wall of the church and the new one and therefore their graves are completely blocked off from view.  We placed the bench just in front of the wall where his grave is likely to be and as a group we all went there to view it.

We all had an enjoyable time there, chatting about our shared heritage and posed for several photos before we all went our separate ways again, which saddened me.  However, this was the culmination of a dream to meet more of my Cockburn relatives, both distant and direct, and hopefully we will all get a meeting at another time, in another place.

L-R - Bruce Cockburn, Elizabeth Dobson Grieve, Mark Cockburn
Craig Cockburn, Charmain Cockburn Magnussen, Mal Cockburn at Greyfriars

Monday, 3 February 2014

Family Commemoration To Our Lost Generation

Andrew Cockburn - Private with the Gordon Highlanders 2nd Battalion; Service Number S/10351. Born on 31 July 1888 Kelso Roxburghshire Scotland, died 25 September 1915 France/Belgium. Is remembered at the Loos Memorial in Belgium.
Loos Memorial Cemetery (Andrew Cockburn)
Robert Winter Patterson - Private with the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) 10th Battalion; Service Number S/16086. Born 20 July 1880 Kelso Roxburghshire Scotland, died 9 May 1917 at Salonika, Greece as part of a British Expeditionary Force.  Is remembered on the Doiran Memorial on the shores of Lake Doiran, Greece.  Son of James Patterson and his wife Ann Cockburn.  Husband of Elizabeth Niven.
Doiran Memorial, Greece (Robert W Patterson)
Nicholas Allan - Private with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers 2nd Battalion; Service Number 7558.  Born 25 June 1869 Thornwood Northumberland, Died 20 April 1915 Belgium. Nicholas is buried at Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery.  He resided in Leith, Edinburgh and was the son of William Allan and his wife Helen Cockburn.  He was the husband of Susan Campbell.
Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery (Nicholas Allan)
George Alexander Cockburn - Acting Sergeant Kings Own Scottish Borderers 1/4th Battalion.  Service Number 6666. Born 8 March 1894 Galashiels Selkirkshire Scotland, died 12 July 1915 Gallipoli (Dardanelles).  He is remembered at the Helles Memorial Panels 84-92 or 220-222. He was the son of Alexander Cockburn and his wife Jane Chalmers.
Helles Memorial (George Alexander Cockburn)

Thomas Biggar - Sergeant with the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) 12th Battalion; Service Number 40126.  Born 10 September 1896 Kelso Roxburghshire Scotland, died 16 July 1918 Caestre, France. Thomas is buried at Le Peuplier Military Cemetery and was the son of Robert Biggar and Jane Patterson.  Thomas also received the Military Medal for Bravery.
Le Peuplier Military Cemetery (Thomas Biggar)
James Cockburn - Private with the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) 11th Battalion.  Service Number 1283. James was born 3 Oct 1882 Shotts, Lanarkshire Scotland, died 26 July 1918.  He is buried at Le Peuplier Military Cemetery. Son of Alexander Cockburn and Helen Sweeney.
Le Peuplier Military Cemetery (James Cockburn)
Andrew Hepburn Cockburn - Private with the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) 2nd Battalion. Service Number 2984. Andrew was born 9 Dec 1894 in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, died 13 November 1916. He is buried at Serre Road Cemetery No1. Son of Alexander Cockburn and Helen Sweeney.
Serre Road Cemetery No1 (Andrew Hepburn Cockburn)
William Purse - Guardsman Scots Guards. Service Number 8751.  Born 5 April 1896 Blantyre, Lanarkshire Scotland, died 18 December 1914. William is buried at Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. Son of John Purse and the late Catherine Reid. Step-son of Mary Jane Dobson, second wife of his father John.
Cabaret Rouge Cemetery (William Purse)
David Adams - Private with the Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) 9th Battalion.  Service Number 44387. Born around 1899 in Uddingston, Lanarkshire Scotland, died 1 August 1918.  Remembered at the Soissons Memorial in France and is also listed on the marker of his parents grave in Lanarkshire Scotland.  Son of John Adams and Janet Wilson.
Soissons Memorial (David Adams)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Blantyre - A Lost Generation


On compiling my family tree, I became interested in members of my family who had perished serving our country during the first World War.  The more branches that I went into, the more I found and it saddened me that so many families never had the chance to grieve properly for their loved ones due to the lack of a body.  Yes, they would grieve in their own way, as families did in those days and life would go on, but there would also have been something empty inside them, wondering where their sons, husbands, boyfriends, fathers, bodies really were and if they would ever be found.  I call this the forgotten generation and as in so many other towns and cities across the United Kingdom, respect and commemoration is commemorated on Armistice Day, 11th November, or the nearest Sunday to this date, to those who fell, defending our liberty.
In this page, I plan to commemorate the Centenary since the outbreak of hositilites in Europe in 1914, to the lost generation of boys who gave their lives from my home town of Blantyre, Lanarkshire and whose names are listed on the War Memorial in the grounds of the cemetery in High Blantyre.  Upon collating information for my research, I discovered that only 3 young men from Blantyre, or who had lived in the town, were actually buried here.  This would probably be down to the fact they were injured in the fighting and taken to the War Hospital before being shipped home, where they died of their injuries.  In this blog, I would like to give a mention to some of these brave men and to those who are commemorated on grave markers belonging to their family here.  I have found the Commonwealth War Grave Commission web site a really useful tool in finding out some information about those mentioned on our local war memorial and, to me, it makes them all seem more human.  I hope you will all join with me in commemorating those gone before us and remember their sacrifice with the respect and humility they deserve.  May they all now rest in peace.
The War Memorial at High Blantyre Cemetery

PRIVATE JIM WATSON - Service number 18467 Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) 15th Battalion who died at home from his wounds on 9 December 1918 aged 25 years.  His parents were living in Bellshill at the time of his death but previously lived in Blantyre and Jim was born in Cambuslang.

CORPORAL JAMES BOYD - Service number 202141 Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) 15th Battalion who died at home of his wounds on 7 August 1918 aged 22 years.  His family lived in Waterloo Rows, Blantyre.


PRIVATE JOHN MONTAGUE - Service number 12440 Gordon Highlanders 1st Battalion died at home of his wounds on 15 April 1918.  No other information is known.

The above named soldiers are all named on the war memorial and also are the only graves from the first war that are buried in High Blantyre.  I have now chosen several other young men whose names are also mentioned on the memorial but also have been commemorated on a grave marker belonging to family within the cemetery.

LIEUTENANT 2ND CLASS JOHN HORNE SMITH - Killed in France on 22 July 1918 aged 26 years.  Was with the Cameronians (Scots Rifles) regiment.  Information was not found on the CWGC web site.  The information given was listed on the marker for his parents last resting place.

 PRIVATE JAMES DUNSMUIR - Service number 19255 Royal Scots Fusiliers 2nd Battalion was killed in action on 25 September 1915 and is remembered at the Loos Memorial on panels 46-49.  This information was printed on the CWGC web site and with grateful thanks.

PRIVATE JAMES DAVIDSON - Service Number 52379 Royal Scots Fusiliers 1st Battalion, killed in France on 2 September 1918 aged 21 years.  He is remembered on the War Memorial at the Vis-En-Artois British Cemetery in France.


This list is again printed In memory of the brave men who gave their lives and liberty for our freedom and on this centenary year, may we never forget their sacrifice.  May they all rest in peace.
Alexander Adair, Robert Adair, John Aird, Hugh Allan, James Armstrong, Ebeneezer Auld
Henry Barett, Joseph Barr, Robert Barry, William Beetham, Thomas Bennett, George Black, William Black, James Boyd, James Boyd, John Boyd, John C Boyd, Alexander Boyle, Henry Boyle, Hugh Boyle, James Boyle, James Boyle, John Boyle, James Brown, Robert Brown, Thomas Brown, James Browning, David Bryson, Alexander Burns.
Joseph Cables, Frank Cairney, John W Campbell, Robert Campbell, Wellwood Campbell, William Campbell, Thomas Carr, Daniel Casey, John Cavanagh, Frank Christian, Henry Clark, Robert Clark, Thomas Clark, John Cochrane, Thomas Colligan, William Colligan, Alexander Colquhoun, Charles Cook, Thomas Cooper, James Connell, Robert Cossar, John Craig, Alexander Crawford, William Creer, James Crookston, Robert Crosbie, James Cullen, Andrew Currie, Walter Currie.
Michael Daley, James Davidson, James Davidson, Thomas Davidson, William Davidson, William Davidson, William J Davidson, Robert Devine, Edward Devlin, Francis Devlin, Hugh Devlin, James Devlin, Robert Devon, Dugald Dewar, William Dickson, John Docherty, Thomas Donnachie, Arthur Douglas, George Douglas, Neil Douglas, Patrick J Douglas, John Dowdell, Alexander Downie, John Duff, Hugh Duffy, Robert Duncan, Robert Duncan, Robert Dunn, David Dunsmuir, James Dunsmuir.
John Farrell, Thomas Farry, Robert Feeley, John Ford, Edward Frame, Robert Frew.
Peter Gallacher, Thomas Galloway, Thomas Gardiner, Archibald Gibb, Adam Gibson, George Gibson, Hugh Gibson, Thomas Gibson, Alexander Gillespie, Charles Gillon, Alfred Goodman, James Gormley, Samuel Gourlay, Jeremiah Graham, Nisbet Graham, Robert Graham, William Graham, Thomas Granger, Cunningham Gray, William Gray, William Greer.
William Hailes, Peter Halkett, James Hamilton, John Hamilton, Duncan Harper, Frank Hart, Alexander Hastie, Robert Hayburn, Thomas Heffron, John Henderson, William Henderson, Rodger Higgins, James Hill, Samuel Hunter.
John Irvine
Alfred Jackson, Robert Jackson, Alexander Jones, Arthur Jones.
Joseph Kane, Daniel Kelly, Frank Kelly, Michael Kelly, Michael Kelly, William Kelly, David Kernohan, Peter Kerr, Peter Kerr, Thomas King, Andrew Kirkland.
William Laird, Robert Lawson, Walter Lawson, William Lawson, Charles Lee, Michael Lina, John Lindsay, John Little, David Logan, Alexander Loudon, Charles Lynch.
John Mackie, James Madden, John Mailey, Andrew Mair, Jacob Marshall, James Marshall, John D Marshall, Edward Messenger, William Middleton, Henry Mills, Robert Mitchell, Andrew Moffat, James C Moir, William Moore, Norman Morrison, James Muir, James Muir, Robert Muirhead, William Muirhead, Charles Mulholland, Thomas Mulrine, John Mulvanney, David Murdoch, John Murdoch, Thomas Murdoch, James Murphy, Hugh Murphy, Tobias Murphy.
James McAnulty, Donald McCall, William McCall, Edward McCann, James McCombe, Stewart McCliments, Hugh McCormack, Peter McCulloch, James McDonald, Edward McDougall, James McGeachie, John McGhie, Henry McGill, John McGill, James McGovern, John McGuinness, John McIlwain, Robert McInally, Angus McIntyre, Michael McKee, James McLean, Kenneth McLeod, Robert McLeland, John McLinden, Alex McMillan, Rodger McPhail, Edward McQuade, Peter McQuade.
William Neilson, James Nelson, Robert Nicholas, Robert Nimmo.
John O'Brien, Owen O'Neil, George Orr, Lionel Orr.
John Paterson, John Paterson, Walter Paton, William Pettigrew, John Pollock, Gavin Potter, Thomas Potter.
Francis Quinn
Henry Reid, Henry Reid, Matthew Reid, James Rennie, Alexander Richardson, James Ritchie, Malcolm Ritchie, Thomas Ritchie, William Robb, James Robertson, James Robertson, Peter Robertson, Peter Rooney, John Ross, Charles Rundly, Edward Rundly, Hugh Russell, William Ryans.
Norman Scott, William Scott, William Scott, James Semple, Laurie Sharp, Robert Shaw, Robert D Shaw, James Shearer, Thomas Shearer, John Sim, Andrew Simington, William Simpson, Thomas Slaven, James Small, John Smith, John W Smith, William Smith, Hugh Sneddon, James Sneddon, George Sommerville, James Spiers, George J Stephen, Alexander Steven, John Steven, John Steven, David A Stewart, James Stokes, Neil Stokes, William Strang, William Struthers.
James Taggart, Michael Taggart, Daniel Taylor, Dougald Tennant, John Tennant, Charles Tonner, Patrick Torley, James Thomson, Charles Thorburn, Thomas Thorburn, James Twaddle.
Alexander Urquhart.
James Walker, Michael Ward, Hugh Waugh, James Wells, John White, Robert Wilson, Thomas J Wilson.
John Young.




Saturday, 9 February 2013

Blairs Castle - Home of the Earls of Atholl


Blairs Castle stands in its own grounds near to the village of Blair Atholl in Perthshire Scotland.  It is the ancestral home of the Clan Murray and historically was the seat their chief, the Duke of Atholl, though the current Duke lives in South Africa.
Blair Castle is said to have been started in 1269 by John I Comyn, Lord of Badenoch (died c. 1275), a northern neighbour of David I Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl (died 1270), who started building on the Earl's land while he was away on crusade.  Upon his return, the Earl complained about the interloper to King Alexander III, won back his land and incorporated the tower that had been built into his own castle.  David II Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl (died 1326), forfeited the titles and estates after rebelling against Robert the Bruce in 1322. The earldom was granted to a number of individuals until 1457 when James II granted it to his half-brother John Stewart (1440–1512).  John Murray, son of the second Earl of Tullibardine was created Earl of Atholl in 1629, and the title has since remained in the Murray family.
The oldest part of the castle is the six-storey Cummings or Comyn's Tower, which may retain some 13th-century fabric, though it was largely built in the 15th century. The extensions which now form the central part of the castle were first added in the 16th century. The apartments to the south were added in the mid-18th century to designs by architects John Douglas and James Winter. The south-east range, incorporating the clock tower, was rebuilt by Archibald Elliot after a fire in 1814. Finally, the castle arrived at its present form in the 1870s, when David Bryce remodelled the whole building in a Scots Baronial style, and added the ballroom.
The castle also provides the garrison for the Atholl Highlanders, the private army of the Duke of Atholl, noted as the only legal private army in Europe.
The castle is a category A listed building, and the grounds are included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, the national listing of significant gardens. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

James Cockburn - the family Goldsmith


In this blog I am going to write a short story about my 8x great grandfather, James Cockburn born in July 1648 in Edinburgh to John Cockburn, Tailor and his spouse Sara Inglis.  John was the second son of Sir William Cockburn of Langton Estate and his wife Lady Helen Elphinstone, daughter of Alexander the 4th Lord Elphinstone and his wife the Honourable Janet Livingstone.  John's elder brother William inherited the Baronetcy in 1628 upon the death of his father.

John chose a different path when it came to his profession, settling on being a Master Tailor, living in the Canongate area of Edinburgh, which was the hub of business at the time in 17th century Edinburgh.  On 22 February 1644 he married Sara Inglis, daughter of Thomas Inglis and Margaret Dalziel. Of the couple's 8 children, James was the 3rd eldest and eldest of the sons.

For his profession, James chose to be a goldsmith/silversmith and on the 15th July 1661 he was apprenticed at age 13 years to David Boige, a Master Goldsmith based in Edinburgh.  Under David's tutelage, he underwent an 8-year apprenticeship and on the 17th July 1669 he was admitted as a Freeman of Edinburgh, after making (for his essay) a silver bowl with a cover, and a plain gold ring.  This was made in the shop of James Symontoun and the essay masters were Edward Cleghorne and John Cockburne.  However just before this event, he became a Burgess of Edinburgh by right of his late father who passed in 1658 and who also was a tailor, Burgess and Guildbrother.

In 1670, James went on to marry the first of his three wives, marrying Catherine Balconquell in Tranent, East Lothian.  They went on to have 6 children, however it is believed that only two of them survived infancy.  Catherine died around 1677 and one year later, James married Magdalen Scott, and they produced 13 children with a few of them dying in infancy.  Whilst enjoying their married life, James's professional life went on from strength to strength.

In 1686 until 1688 James became the Dean of the Company of Goldsmiths and during this time he made a pair of silver tankards, of which their is only one from this century left in Scotland.  This was purchased from a sale and saved for the nation and is now on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The only surviving tankard made by James Cockburn in 1675
that is on display at the Museum of Scotland

In 1687, James was made a Deputy-Master of the Mint in Edinburgh and in 1695 he deposited around £20,000 Scots in the newly set up Bank of Scotland in Edinburgh.  Having done this, he was made Treasurer of the Bank as well as a Director.  In 1696, James went on to purchase the estate of James Cockburn, first Baronet of Cockburn, who was a distant cousin.  The first Baronet of Cockburn had accrued a lot of debts after lending financial assistance to Archibald Cockburn of Langton.

Despite having amassed a small fortune by 17th century standards, James was about to suffer a setback in his personal life as in 1698, his wife Magdalen died.  She was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard alongside his other children who had passed before.  James set about immersing himself in his work and Directorship of the Bank and in April 1700 he met and married Margaret Bruce, a sister of his apprentice, Robert Bruce, who himself, became a Master Goldsmith.  They were only married a few months when James took ill and died in November 1700 at home in Edinburgh's Canongate area.  He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard on 6 November 1700 alongside his wife Magdalen and his children.

I have since visited Greyfriars Kirkyard and unfortunately I could not find his last resting place as it is now likely to be unmarked.  I am liaising with other family members of the extended Cockburn family  to raise funds to have a bench placed within the Kirkyard grounds to commemorate James's life and work.  I hope that this will take place some time next year.

I recently found photographs of other works that James was involved in during his career such as the re-engraving of the Strathmore salver, a silver spoon made for a M. Bannin as well as a Monteith.  I also discovered a photograph of a piece of silverwork, known as a silver caster that was made by his once apprentice, Robert Bruce.

Strathmore Salver, originally made by Alexander Scott and re-engraved by James Cockburn
Silver Spoon made by James Cockburn
A Monteith, made by James Cockburn
Silver Caster, Made By Robert Bruce, protege of James Cockburn