Author Archives: Sandra McHugh

Aren’t Birthday Parties Fun?

By Sandra McHugh

Aren’t birthday parties fun? I was thinking this recently when we celebrated my daughter’s 30th birthday at the Auberge Saint-Gabriel in Montreal. I was also thinking how a birthdate is such an important indicator in genealogy research.

A birthdate and a place of birth places a family member in a period of time and in a location that can tell us a lot about the social context in which the person lived. Buildings and their uses can also tell us a lot about a place.

The Auberge Saint-Gabriel in Montreal is one of the oldest buildings in the city.  It was built by Etienne Truteau, a French soldier in 1688. 1 In 1754, it was the first inn in North America to be issued a liquor license. 2 Over the centuries it has had many vocations, including the Beauchemin printing press operation founded in 1860 and that printed the newspaper Le Patriote.3

And who doesn’t love a good ghost? It is said that the Auberge Saint-Gabriel is haunted by a little girl who lost her life when a fire raged through the ground floor, trapping her and her grandfather upstairs while her grandfather was teaching her to play the piano.4

Today, the Auberge Saint Gabriel is a trendy restaurant and reception centre right in the middle of Old Montreal. If you go inside, you can see that the owners continue to maintain the building as much as they can in the style that it was built. You can appreciate the thick brick walls, stained glass windows, and the many antiques that grace its rooms. If you like, you can go down to the basement to visit the place where there was a fur trading post. Today, this fur trading post is a speakeasy, called The Velvet.5

I am quite confident that almost all of my ancestors who lived in Montreal would have at least walked by or had business in or around the Auberge Saint Gabriel.  And who knows? Maybe our descendants would be pleased to know that we dropped off our car at the door of the Auberge Saint Gabriel for a fun-filled night at the speakeasy.

What buildings are important to your family’s history?

  1. L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel web site. <http://aubergesaint-gabriel.com/historique/>, accessed June 12, 2017.
  2. Wikipedia article on Auberge Saint-Gabriel. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auberge_Le_Saint-Gabriel>, accessed June 12, 2017.
  3. Wikipedia article on Auberge Saint-Gabriel, accessed June 12, 2017.
  4. Benoit Franquebalme, “Garou : Propriétaire d’une auberge hantée !”, France Dimanche, January 1, 2016, <http://www.francedimanche.fr/infos-people/musique/garou-proprietaire-dune-auberge-hantee/>, accessed June 12, 2017.
  5. L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel web site, accessed June 12, 2017.

 

The Dovecotes of Tinos

By Sandra McHugh

I have lucked out. My husband comes from the island of Tinos, Greece and we go there every year. I am always struck with the breathtaking beauty of the island. Some villages nestle in the valleys and others perch on the hillsides. The hills are terraced with stone walls and sheep, goats, and cows graze in the fields. Tinos may resemble other islands in the Cyclades, but what is unique to Tinos is the number of dovecotes scattered across the landscape. If you were to visit Tinos, you would be astonished at how many of them there are. While the exact number of them is not known, it is believed that there are over 1,000. This is quite impressive for an island that is 195 square kilometers. 1

They are truly beautiful as you can see in these photographs below.  This dovecote used to belong to my husband’s grandfather.

Antonios' dovecote

IMG_7044

Dovecotes are not just decoration. During the 1900s, dovecotes significantly contributed to the family finances. They were kept in the family and passed on from generation to generation. My husband inherited a dovecote from his father, who had inherited it from his uncle. While very few people eat dove today, my husband remembers his grandmother serving dove, more specifically in soups made with the meat and carcass of the doves. Most importantly, the family also used the dove droppings as manure. The droppings were well known as high quality fertilizer.

Here Is a picture of my husband’s dovecote, nestled in the valley.

IMG_4251

It was the Venetians who originally introduced breeding of doves to the island of Tinos when they conquered the island in 1204. They ruled the island for five centuries until 1715. During Venetian rule, dove breeding was only practised by the noble, or ruling classes. The noble families had ‘le droit des colombiers’ or the right to possess doves. These were concessions bestowed by the Doge of Venice.  In 1715, the Turks ruled the island, but did not inhabit it. The island was returned to Greece in 1821. 2

Most of the dovecotes were built during the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, dove meat was not limited to local consumption. It was considered a delicacy and exported as far as Smyrna and Constantinople.

When the Venetians ceased to rule Tinos, concessions to practice dove breeding were no longer necessary. The inhabitants started to build their own dovecotes. They were built in areas conducive to breeding, such as rural areas near cultivated fields and where a water supply was available. 4 They were built on slopes that took into consideration the wind and would allow the doves to fly easily in and out of the dovecotes. The doves nest in the square holes built in a single or double row. Small stone slabs that protrude provide perches for the doves. 5

Here is a picture of some doves nesting and some eggs.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_57UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_54

Dovecotes are made out of slate clay and are whitewashed. They are two stories high. The doves live on the second floor and the first floor is used for storing tools and agricultural equipment. They are elaborately decorated with geometric patterns and non-geometric patterns such as cypress trees. It is believed that these patterns attract the doves. 6

Here is a close up picture of my husband’s dovecote. These doves are fed and their only predators are snakes. There are about 30 doves living in this dovecote at any one time. We know approximately how many doves are living here by counting them in a picture.  There is great pleasure in continuing to breed doves, a practice that has lasted centuries.

DSC06981[1]

IMG_2679

1 https://tinos360.gr/paradosi_eng.html

2 Author not identified, PDF document entitled Dovecotes of Tinos in Archnet.org

3 https://tinos360.gr/paradosi_eng.html

4 http://www.greeka.com/cyclades/tinos/tinos-other/tinos-dovecotes.htm

5 https://tinos360.gr/paradosi_eng.html

6 http://www.greeka.com/cyclades/tinos/tinos-other/tinos-dovecotes.htm

 

The Cipher

By Sandra McHugh

When I say that my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, worked as a cipher, Bletchley Park, MI5, and Russian spies immediately come to mind. He was neither a Russian spy nor did he work as a cipher during the war. His employer was the Bank of Montreal and it was his first job when he came to Canada in 1912.

The decision to immigrate to Canada was not easy for Thomas. He was in his mid-30s and already had seven children, between the ages of one and fifteen. For over 40 years, the jute manufacturers of Dundee, Scotland had been providing employment for his parents, aunts, uncles, siblings, wife, and for him. However, by the early 1900s, he was facing a precarious future for his children.

By the early 1900s, Dundee had suffered a serious decline in the textile industry and more significantly, the jute industry.  Jute was imported from India, however, the mill owners realized that it would significantly lower the cost of production to open mills in India to prepare the jute and import the finished product to Scotland. Once mills were established in India, the jute production in the mills in Dundee decreased substantially.1

So when Thomas arrived in Canada, a little ahead of his wife and his children, he was eager and prepared to do any job so that he could. The Bank of Montreal had its headquarters in Montreal, Quebec. In the early 1900s, the bank had significant dealings with Great Britain and there were correspondence and banking instructions back and forth between Canada and Great Britain daily. These instructions were mainly sent by telegraph overnight. There were two reasons for this. Some of these instructions were confidential and it was preferred that they remain so. Overnight instructions reduced the number of people who would have access to them. Another reason was the time difference between Montreal and the United Kingdom. The banks in London and Edinburgh were open for business while Montreal was still asleep.

Even in those days, the banks were concerned about security, privacy, and confidentiality. The banking instructions and transactions were submitted by telegraph and were encrypted. It was the job of the cipher clerk to decipher them so that the bank staff could then ensure that the instructions were carried out as required.

To be a cipher clerk, one had to be reliable, meticulous, and honest, and ensure the confidentiality of the bank’s business. The cipher clerk used a cipher handbook to decipher the information. Also, the cipher clerk worked overnight, so it was a difficult job for a man with a family.

So while my grandfather, the cipher, did not work in espionage, I still think that his first job in Canada was rather interesting.2

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dundee

2 As related by my father, Edward McHugh

John Hunter, the Sapper

By Sandra McHugh

As we all know, genealogical research is never-ending.  Facts need to be checked and re-checked.  Leads must be followed. New research beckons. Research on-line can also quickly add up to quite a lot of money.  So whenever a site offers free access, I try to take advantage of it as much as possible.

Last year, I found out that my great-grandfather, John Hunter, enlisted in World War I In November 1914 when he was in his late forties. I was actually looking for him as potentially serving in the Boer War because I could not find him in the 1901 census of Scotland. So it was quite a surprise to learn that he had enlisted in World War I.  I also learned that he was honourably discharged in March 1915 as he was then unfit for service. It would appear that he was injured.1 This year, when Find My Past offered free access to military records during the Remembrance Day weekend, another surprise was in store.  John Hunter reappeared in the military records in 1917. He had another service number, but it was cross-referenced to his old number.

This is a long introduction to explain why I find my great-grandfather’s service record so interesting.  It is because he was a Sapper. He came from a long line of miners in Scotland that can be traced back to the 1600s.  In World War I, he was part of the Royal Engineers. Their military history is long and honourable. Royal Engineers can claim over 900 years of service to the Crown, dating back to the era of William the Conqueror.2 As a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, his duties would have included “bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences and general construction, as well as road and airfield construction and repair.”3 In civilian life, he was a coal miner, so it is a safe assumption that he was a tunneller. “Royal Engineer tunnelling companies were specialist units of the Corps of Royal Engineers within the British Army, formed to dig attacking tunnels under enemy lines during the First World War.”4 Mining and tunnelling were so important to the British offensive positions that they enlisted experienced coal miners, even those who would not normally have been recruited.  “The desperate need for skilled men saw notices requesting volunteer tunnellers posted in collieries, mineral mines and quarries across … Scotland.”5 This policy explains why John Hunter, working in a coal mine in Scotland, and already in his late forties, would have volunteered.

When John Hunter returned to active service in 1917, he was part of the newly formed 326th Quarrying Company.6 As part of this Quarrying Company, he would have received his training at Buxton and then sent to France, to work in the quarries around Marquise, near Calais.7

 

Sources:

1 John Hunter: Enlistment, Medal Card, Attestation for Short Service, Dependents, Territorial Force for Pension

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Engineers

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sapper

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tunnelling_companies_of_the_Royal_Engineers#Request_and_proposal

5 Idem.

6 John Hunter: British Army Service Records 1914-1920 Transcription

7 http://mountsorrelarchive.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Mountsorrel-Quarrymen-and-Qu arry-Companies-RE.pdf

 

The Beautiful Montreal Metro System

By Sandra McHugh

Genealogy is much more than filling in names and dates on a family tree.  It is also about the social history and context in which our ancestors lived.  It is about technological, economic, and social advances and how they affected our ancestors and changed their lives. This is why I love local historical societies and what they bring to local and personal histories.

The Montreal metro system changed everything about Montreal.  It improved the public transportation system and allowed people to go back and forth from work comfortably and quickly.  It also enhanced neighbourhoods and created synergies between different areas of Montreal.

The metro system was inaugurated on October 14, 1966 during the tenure of Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau.1 Montreal City council voted to build the metro system in 1961, and a year later, in 1962, Montreal’s bid for the world fair was granted and therefore the push was on to have the system completed in time for Expo 67.2 Expo 67, a celebration of Canada’s centennial, was held from April 1967 to October 1967.3

Montreal’s metro system is renowned for its architecture and public art.  Each station is unique.  Today, more than fifty stations are decorated with over one hundred works of art. Some of the more noteworthy pieces of art include the stained glass window at the Champs de Mars Station by Quebec artist Marcelle Ferron and the Guimard entrance to the Square Victoria Station. This is the only authentic Guimard entrance outside of Paris, although there are other subway systems around the world that have reproductions of Guimard entrances. 4

Guimard entrance

Guimard entrance to Square Victoria Station

In celebration of Montreal metro’s system and its fifty years, Heritage Montreal is offering architectural walking tours of the Montreal metro system that include information on how the metro stations transformed the surrounding neighbourhoods.  These tours are open to all for a modest fee and will run every weekend until September 25.  Heritage Montreal is a non-profit organization that “promotes and protects the architectural, historic, natural and cultural heritage of Greater Montreal.”5 You can find information on these walking tours here:

http://www.heritagemontreal.org/en/activite/architectours/

In 2017, Montreal will be celebrating its 375th anniversary.  Over the centuries, the building of bridges, roads, the railroad, trams, and bus and metro systems have shaped and transformed the economic, social, and cultural aspects of Montreal.  The Montreal metro system is a beautiful and integral part of Montreal’s heritage.  Let’s appreciate it.

 

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Metro

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_Line_(Montreal_Metro)

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expo_67

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Metro

5 http://www.heritagemontreal.org/en/about-us/our-mission/

 

The Cook at the McGill University Faculty Club

by Sandra McHugh

I particularly like the series Downton Abbey.  It portrays the upstairs and downstairs of the upper classes during the beginning of the twentieth century. I like to imagine what it would have been like to work as part of the domestic staff.  In 1922, my grandmother, Grace Graham Hunter, worked as a domestic, probably a cook, in Edinburgh for Dr. W. Kelman MacDonald, an osteopath.1 She was young and unmarried and looking for adventure.

Her experience as a cook in one of the homes of the upper class of Edinburgh surely stood her in good stead when she became head cook at the McGill University Faculty Club in Montreal.  When my grandmother was looking for adventure, Canada badly needed domestic workers.  The Canadian government favoured immigrants from Great Britain to ensure the predominance of British values.  The British Parliament passed the Empire Settlement Act, which entitled my grandmother to free third-class passage from Scotland to Canada.2

Given that the need for domestic workers was acute, government hostels, partially financed by both the Canadian government and the provinces, welcomed these immigrants to the major urban centres of Canada and referred them to Employment Services of Canada who then found them employment.3

The McGill University Faculty Club was established in 1923. I assume that my grandmother was one of the first employees as this is the year she met my grandfather and she used to tell me stories of letting him come in the back door to eat a dessert or two.

My grandmother also used to tell me many stories of the people who were members of the Faculty Club and their guests and of the pressure of preparing the food just right. I used to wonder about the famous people who dined there, who they shared their meals with, and what they discussed.

The Faculty Club was originally located on University Street.  It was only in 1935 that it was moved to its current location in the Baumgarten House on McTavish Street, the former resident of Sir Arthur Currie. 4 It was only when it moved that the Faculty Club allowed women members.  Notably, Maude Abbott became the first woman member of the Faculty Club.  She was a remarkable Montreal citizen.  She started practising medicine in 1894.  In 1910, McGill University awarded her an honorary degree and a lectureship in the Department of Pathology.5 In 1924, she founded the Federation of Medical Women of Canada. 6 Somehow, it seems fitting that such an extraordinary woman should be the first woman member of the McGill University Faculty Club.

 

1 This is derived from my grandmother’s address on the passenger list of the S.S. Montclare that sailed from Greenock, Scotland to Saint-John, New Brunswick on February 16, 1922.  Her address was listed as 41 Drumshegh Gardens, Edinburgh.  Dr. W. Kelman MacDonald, Osteopath, is listed as the owner linked to architectural drawings of work that was done in 1922. As my grandmother’s job was a domestic, I assume that she worked for Dr. MacDonald.

2Immigration Form 30-A of Grace Graham Hunter.

3 Crawford, Ruth, 1924, “Canada’s Program for Assimilation”, The Rotarian, May 1924, p. 16

4https://www.mcgill.ca/facultyclub/history

5https://www.mcgill.ca/about/history/features/mcgill-women

6https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maude_Abbott

 

The Gospel Singer

By Sandra McHugh

There are two popular theories or myths about why Scottish and Irish names are either Mc or Mac.  One myth claims that Mc is Irish and Mac is Scottish.  Another theory maintains that Mc is Roman Catholic and Mac is Protestant.  The latter theory is the important one that concerns the story of my great uncle, Edward McHugh or MacHugh, the Gospel Singer.  Edward’s name was McHugh but when he began his singing career, he changed his name to MacHugh so that no one could possibly suspect that he was Roman Catholic, or so family legend claims.

His musical career started at the age of 26 when he left Canada to move to the U.S. to study music in Manhattan in New York City in 1919.1 He had moved to Canada from Scotland with his mother and his two brothers when he was just 19.  But Edward was restless and he did not want to stay in Canada and he definitely did not want to continue working as a manual labourer for the Canadian National Railway.

It took a little while for Edward’s career to take off, but in 1927, Edward was invited to sing ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ on Boston radio station WEEI.2  The next day the station received 2,300 letters praising his baritone voice. His fame grew rapidly and, by the 1940s, Edward McHugh was a regular on NBC radio.3 By that time he wrote his name as Edward MacHugh, and his nickname was the Gospel Singer.  He continued to be popular and in 1954, Billboard Magazine carried an article saying that MacHugh’s show was named as the “2nd Best of All Non-network Religious Series.”4

The first time that Edward’s name shows up as MacHugh is in the 1930 U.S. census, when he was on tour in Massachusetts.5

All of the hymns and gospel songs that he sang were Anglican, Church of Scotland, Methodist or other evangelical hymns.  In 1938, he published a compilation of gospel hymns and poems. These hymns and poems were Protestant, but Edward was a Roman Catholic.  Many family members believed that Edward changed his name so that no one would know that he was Roman Catholic and some thought that he did not want anyone to think that he was Irish.

Perhaps Edward made the right decision, even though the other members of his family were insulted that he had changed his name.  He must have been an astute marketer.

An advertisement in Billboard Magazine, June 7, 1947 states that ‘Edward MacHugh, Your Gospel Singer, … who is said to have the most perfect diction of any singer without sacrificing warmth” is offering 15-minute radio programs and other promotional material such as newspaper mats, glossy prints, press releases, etc. 6

As the introduction to his compilation says, “The Gospel Singer prefers to live a simple, happy life …”

This is not exactly true as he lived in a large two storey house on eight acres of property in Connecticut.  Even today, this would be considered an estate. Certainly Edward had carefully created an image of himself.

If you would like to hear Edward sing, here are two of his recordings:

1 http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/mchugh_edward.htm

2 idem

3 idem

4 idem

5 idem

6 The Billboard Magazine, June 7, 1947, p. 11

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day

Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  We all love to be Irish for a day on March 17.  In my case, I treasure my Irish roots.  Today, I will raise a pint of Guinness and toast my ancestors.

Although my grandparents were Scottish, my great-great-grandparents, John McHugh and Mary Garret, were Irish.  They were both born around 1820 in Ireland.  They would have been young adults when the Great Famine, also known as the Great Hunger and the Irish Potato Famine happened between 1845 and 1852, when potato blight ravaged potato crops throughout Europe.  Ireland was significantly affected and, as a result, one million Irish immigrated to other countries. We commonly hear about the Irish that moved to North America and Australia but a significant number of them immigrated to Scotland.1 John and Mary McHugh were among those who decided to go to Scotland.

At the beginning of the 19th century, it was already common for Irish agricultural workers to move to Scotland temporarily to work during the harvesting season.  By the 1840s, the number of these workers had increased from a few thousand per year to 25,000.  By 1851, the Irish-born population in Scotland had risen to 7.2% of the total population.2

The economic difficulties in Ireland, combined with the industrialization of Scotland that included the expansion of coal and iron ore mining, and the building of shipyards and railways, as well as the significant expansion of the textile industry in Scotland, made Scotland an attractive destination for the Irish.3

The Irish were ideally qualified to work in Scotland’s textile industry as many of them already had knowledge and experience in the textile and jute industry.  Linen and yarn production was already established in Ireland.4The economic conditions in the 1840s in both Ireland and Scotland provided John and Mary McHugh with the impetus to move to Scotland to work in the textile factories in Dundee. Not only John, but Mary also, would have been assured of a regular wage, as many of the textile workers were women. 5

While Scotland would have been a choice destination for John and Mary, it would have been a difficult adjustment.  Sadly, this is because of their religion.  They left communities in which everyone was Roman Catholic to go and live in Protestant Scotland. The Irish Roman Catholics did not have an easy time of it in Scotland. “Anti-Catholic Scots were active in the Scottish Reformation Society and sometimes caused riots.”6 These anti-Catholic sentiments probably encouraged the Irish Catholics to remain in their distinct communities and delayed their integration into Scottish communities.

The following quote illustrates that the Irish were victims of discrimination.

“As late as 1923, the Church of Scotland could still publish a pamphlet entitled ‘The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality’. The Irish were seen as drunken, idle, uncivilised and undermining the moral fibre of Scottish society. They were also seen as carriers of disease. Typhus, for example, was known as ‘Irish fever’.”8

Unlike the above quote, we know the Irish to be hard working, disciplined and adaptable.  I am proud to have Irish roots.

So, despite what would have been great adversity, John and Mary settled in Scotland, lived in a Roman Catholic community and had children and grandchildren who worked in the textile industry. The generations of McHughs working in the textile industry in Dundee came to an end when their grandson, my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, could no longer find regular work in the textile industry in Dundee and decided in 1912 to move to Canada.

A toast to the Irish!  I wish you all a very happy St. Patrick’s Day.

 

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)

2 http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/Irish-immigration-to-Scotland.html

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Industrial_Revolution_in_Scotland

4 http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/Irish-immigration-to-Scotland.html

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dundee

6 http://www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/Irish-immigration-to-Scotland.html

7 Idem.

8http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/higherscottishhistory/migrationandempire/experienceofimmigrants/irish.asp

Hogmanay

By Sandra McHugh

The Scots call the New Year’s Eve celebration Hogmanay.1 Hogmanay is part of my family’s history.

My grandfather, Thomas McHugh, came to Canada from Scotland with his family in 1912.  The family maintained the Scottish traditions and they celebrated Hogmanay.  My father, Edward McHugh, was usually the “first-footer.” This means that he was the first one to step across the threshold after midnight, bearing gifts.  Traditionally, to ensure good luck, the first-footer is a tall and dark haired male.  Fair haired first-footers were not welcome, as it is believed that fair-haired first-footers were associated with the Viking invasions.2 My father brought gifts of coal and a herring, but some of the other traditional gifts include shortbread, a black bun, and whiskey to toast the new year.3

There are a few theories about the origin of the word Hogmanay.  The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was Hoggonott. The Flemish words hoog min dag mean great love day. Some believe that the origin of the word Hogmanay can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon Haleg monath or Holy Month or the Gaelic words for new morning, oge maidne. Many believe that the source is French, homme est né for man is born. In France, the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged, was called aguillaneuf and in Normandy, this was called hoguignetes.4

Hogmanay is an important celebration in Scotland.  It is believed that this festival was first brought to Scotland by the Vikings for whom the passing of the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, was an event to be celebrated.5 The importance of Hogmanay took on an even greater significance because Christmas was banned in Scotland for about 400 years.  A 1640 Act of the Parliament of Scotland abolished the “Yule vacation and observation thereof in time coming.”6 This Act of Parliament reflected the changing attitudes towards the Christmas Feast Days during the Reformation. Christmas Day only became a public holiday in 1958 and Boxing Day in 1974 .7

The partying and hospitality that goes on at Hogmanay is a way of wishing family, friends, and strangers a Guid New Year.  The old is swept out, sometimes literally by giving the home a good cleaning, and by clearing up any debts before the bells ring at midnight.8

I wish you all a very Guid New Year.

Sources

1 http://www.scotland.org/features/hogmanay-top-facts

2 Idem

3 Idem

4 http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow12.htm

5 Idem

6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_in_Scotland

7 Idem

8 Idem

The Wyndies of Arbroath

My grandmother, Elspeth Mill Boggie Orrock was born in 1875 at 32 East Mill Wynd in Arbroath, Scotland.  She was born in the “Wyndies” of Arbroath, specifically built by the spinning mills and factories to house the handloom weavers that flocked to Arbroath from the surrounding rural parishes. “By 1875, there were 134 spinning mills and factories, factories operating 1,400 power looms and producing 450,000 yards of cloth annually.”1 Flax, jute and sail cloth were woven in these mills. Almost 5,000 people were employed in the textile industry in Arbroath at that time and about a third of them were women. 2 Sure enough, between 1851 and 1911, all of the censuses list members of my family as mill workers, jute weavers, flax dressers and doffers, and yarn bleachers.

Marcol, a member of The Shoppie, a forum for life in Arbroath, posted this picture of the Wyndies on June 8, 2014.3

Marcol Wyndies

The work days in the mills would have been long, starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 7:30 p.m., with a half hour break for breakfast and a half hour break for dinner.  They worked six days a week and Sunday was their day of rest. The mills were kept clean and were well ventilated.  In addition, it was not unusual for the owner of the mill to provide free evening school for children working in the mills.4

By the early 1900s, Arbroath and neighbouring Dundee had suffered a serious decline in the textile industry and more significantly, the jute industry.  Jute was imported from India, however, the mill owners realized that it would significantly lower the cost of production to open mills in India to prepare the jute and import the finished product to Scotland.5 Once mills were established in India, the production of the mills in Arbroath and Dundee declined significantly.

The growth of the textile industry in Arbroath in the 1800s provided an impetus for my grandmother’s family to move into the city so that they could find steady work in the mills and provide for their family.  The decline of steady work in the textile industry in the early 1900s was the reason why my grandmother, with her husband, who had always worked in the mills, and their seven children, decided to move to Canada in 1912.

 1 http://archive.angus.gov.uk/history/features/2004-08-oldarbroath.htm

2 http://www.scottish-places.info/towns/townhistory385.html

3 http://www.theshoppie.com/arbroath/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4108&whichpage=4

4 Factories Inquiry Commission submitted to Parliament, 1833, pages 21 to 23

5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Dundee

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