Wordless Wednesday: faces to names

The Ramsay sisters - and brother with their partners.

The Ramsay sisters – and brother, with their partners.

Marriage doesn’t necessarily introduce new names into the family; my mum and her siblings with their partners.

Back row left-right: James, William, Ron, David, David. Front row left-right: Sandra, Catherine, Elizabeth, Mary, Elizabeth. Missing from photo, Margaret and Erl.



On growing old together

When, last week, I posted a photo of my great grandparents at their 55th wedding anniversary, both Pacific Paratrooper and theamateurcamera commented on the longevity of their marriage.

Fifty five years married; my great grandparents, Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black.

Fifty fifth wedding anniversary; my great grandparents, Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black.

This reminded me that Alexander Cruden and Catherine Black were actually married for 62 years – until my great grandad died in 1970.

These great grandparents are particularly special to me; mainly perhaps because I knew them and have very fond memories of their presence in my life. When I was little and living in Kirkcaldy, they lived near by. My mother was especially close to her grandad, so I think we spent quite a lot of time with them. My memories are very much a child’s; the smell of the peppermints that great grandad kept a bag of tucked down the side of his chair; the slight buzz of his hearing aid, and the tortoiseshell Alice band my great grandmother wore to keep her wispy white hair off her face.

My baby brother and I with our Mum, grandmother and great grandparents

My baby brother and I with our Mum, grandmother and great grandparents

My great grandparents were married on the 27 March, 1908 in Kirkcaldy, Fife. He was seventeen, she was eighteen. Six weeks later, they became parents when my grandmother was born. Two years later they had another child – my great uncle Stewart. Three more children were to follow – all boys – but not until my great grandfather had returned wounded from serving in WWI. Indeed my great grandmother bore her last child George, within months of her only daughter (my grandmother) giving birth for the first time, to my uncle David Ramsay.

Catherine Black and Alexander Cruden with children Stewart and Margaret. Circa 1912.

Catherine Black and Alexander Cruden with children Stewart and Margaret. Circa 1912.

My mum recently gave me several photos of my grandmother and her brother Stewart. These are studio portraits showing the two young children in a variety of costumes. I don’t know much about the cost of photography in those days, but it seems to me that the family must have been quite comfortably off.

My grandmother, Margaret Cruden and her brother Stewart. Studio portrait probably from around 1914.

My grandmother, Margaret Cruden and her brother Stewart. Studio portrait from around 1915 perhaps?

When they married, my great grandfather was a coal miner. Three years later, in the 1911 census, his occupation is shown as carter.

Later in his life he was the publican of the Fife Arms Hotel in Milton of Balgonie, Fife, and the family also owned a dairy, a chip shop and perhaps also an icecream business – although this is something I have to investigate a bit more as my mother’s story about the icecream shop has always sounded a bit mysterious!

I know that my great grandfather served in the British Army in WWI – and that he was wounded, probably in France, and had his lower leg amputated. My mother thinks that he was a Gordon Highlander, but I cannot find any record of his military service. I know that over 50 percent of the personnel records of WWI British servicemen were lost in the Blitz, and can only assume his records were amongst them.

I do know that as a result of his injury, he spent time in Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors. My mother remembers visiting him there in the 1940’s when she was a child, so I assume he continued to go for some sort of respite care.

Patients at Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors, probably in the 1920's.

Patients at Edenhall Hospital for Limbless Soldiers and Sailors, probably in the 1920’s. Alexander Cruden is in the front row, third from the left.

Some records from Edenhall Hospital have been transferred to the Lothian Health Services Archive, but unfortunately, not records relating to the period of time my great grandad would have been there, so that is a dead end also.

It’s frustrating not to know more about my great grandfather’s military service. While he was only one of millions of men worldwide who served and suffered, the impact of his injury must have continued throughout his life. I remember his prosthetic limb – my great grandmother used to hide it when he annoyed her, while he would turn off his hearing aid and ignore whatever she was saying.

Of course it was not only my great grandfather who bore the impact of service. My great grandmother was left with two small children to raise alone, not knowing when – or if – her husband would return.

As a child I found my great gran a bit intimidating, but she was also an amazing woman. Her own mother apparently died when Catherine was a child, although I’ve not been able to find a record of this.

Alexander Cruden and Katherine (nee Black); my great grandparents with my at my christening.

Alexander and Catherine at my christening.

My mum talks about her gran travelling daily from home to work in the chip shop as pillion passenger on a friend’s motorbike, and of being unafraid to deal on the black market during the war to make sure family and friends were provided for.

She sounds like an astute businesswoman and someone who fiercely protected and looked after her family – raising a grandson when the boy’s parent’s marriage broke down, and looking after my mother and her siblings at times as well.

On the face of it, my great grandparents’ marriage sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. Pregnant teenagers – parents before the ink was dry on the marriage license, separated for several years by war, a permanently disabled husband, five children spread over 11 years, the stress of another war in which three of their sons were in military service … any one of these would be considered sufficient for divorce these days. But instead they stuck together for sixty two years – eventually dying within months of each other.

su and tony

I know times were different then – divorce was expensive and difficult to obtain. But I’d like to think that Alec and Cath were happy; that their sixty two years were about more than endurance.

I like to think that not just for their sakes, but because it gives me hope for my own 27 year relationship with the Big T.

Casting stones

So when they continued asking him, he lifted himself up, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone … — John 8:7. King James 2000 Bible (©2003)

Abbotshall Parish Church, Kirkcaldy. Photo: http://www.presbyteryofkirkcaldy.org.uk/

I’ve been browsing a Fife Family History Society publication (No. 21); Abbotshall Kirk Session Minutes 1793-1812* looking for anything that might help me find out more about my 3x great grandfather David Forbes.

I know that he was christened in Abbotshall Church on the 4th October 1807, so presumably his family lived in the parish.

The Minutes provide a record of the Kirk Session’s activities. The Session ‘comprised the minister and elders of the parish, and it was concerned with (in addition to the business of the parish) the morals of the parishioners.’ (source: Find my Scottish Ancestors blog http://findmyscottishancestors.blogspot.co.nz)

I had no particular reason to believe that David’s parents  – John Forbes and Susan Foulis (or Fowlis, or Fowls) – might have been hauled in front of the Kirk Session, but I have so few sources of potential information about them, it seemed worth trawling through the publication – just in case.

Well I didn’t find my ancestors, and for their sakes I’m glad. The Minutes make for depressing reading. It seems that apart from electing new school-masters, pretty much all the Session did was pass judgement on parishioners’ lives and give them a bollocking for their transgressions. These seem mainly to have involved adultery, bearing illegitimate children and running off to Edinburgh to get married.

Here are a few examples from the record:

31 July 1798, Benjamine Adams, Sailor on HM gunboat Rattle. Irregular marriage to Jean Mitchel. Clandestinely married 26 February 1798 in Edinburgh.

17 October 1805, John Moise, Mason, “(young man)”, child begot. The mother is named as Agnes Balflower.  The notes say “Child begot Feb 1805 – he denied guilt.” On the 4th November 1810, there is another entry for John Moise which says Restoration “Church privileges restored after upwards five years.” Presumably he’d continued to deny paternity.

31 March 1811 and 21 April 1811, John Chalmers and Ann Clark begot a child in adultery. She confessed she had brought forth child at the March session, and then in April she appeared and was rebuked for fornication.

7 June 1812, William Ferguson, Resident of Kilire. Sin of fornication with Ann Brodie. The Minutes say “she appeared – rebuked – to appear again next Sunday.” Interestingly, in November 1807, the same William Ferguson had been elected by the Session as Schoolmaster.

I wasn’t familiar with the terms irregular or clandestine marriages, but found the following at The Gen Guide: 

In Scotland a marriage was considered ‘regular’ after the reading of banns and if the marriage ceremony was conducted by a minister of the established Church of Scotland. The 1834 Marriage (Scotland) Act extended ‘regular’ marriages by permitting dissenting clergy to conduct marriage ceremonies. If these requirements were not adhered to the marriage was deemed ‘clandestine’ and illegal but crucially could be valid in the eyes of the state. Under Scots Law a marriage was considered valid (but not legal) under certain conditions as follows:

§  Both parties declared themselves married in the presence of witnesses.

§  Marriage ceremony followed by sexual intercourse.

§  Simply living together with the status of man and wife – by habit and repute.

According to FamilySearch, at around the time these Minutes were being recorded, the population of Abbotshall was about 2100 (although growing, to over 4000 by 1831). For the 19 year period  covered by the minutes I counted 59 cases of irregular marriage (43 clandestine), 35 cases of fornication and/or adultery and 14 illigitimate children born or baptised in the Parish.

That’s starting to read like a day-time soap, and I can’t help wondering if the Minister and Elders of the Kirk were themselves without sin – or just deft at not being caught.!

My family history hasn’t been enriched by the Abbotshall Kirk Session Minutes; but for you Adams, Bruntons, Fergusons, Galloways, Greigs, Hendersons, Hepburns, Kilgours, Padges – and especially Steedmans – with a Kirkcaldy connection, I’d recommend you take a look.

* Fife Family History Society Publication No. 21. Abbotshall Kirk Session Minutes 1793-1812 indexed by Ewen K Collins and Kirkcaldy Old Church Burials 1855-1972 compiled by Stuart Farrell.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

My parents' wedding: left to right my paternal grandfather David Leslie; my maternal grandmother, Margaret Cruden; Dad's brother David; my dad, Ron Leslie; my mu, Elizabeth Ramsay; my mum's sister, Sandra Ramsay.

My parents’ wedding: left to right my paternal grandfather David Leslie; my maternal grandmother, Margaret Ramsay (nee Cruden); my dad’s brother David Leslie; my dad Ron Leslie; my mum Elizabeth Ramsay; my mum’s sister, Sandra Ramsay.

I’ve chosen this photo for the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge because it’s the only photo I have of my parents at their wedding; a day that changed their lives forever.

My mum and dad are of a generation that did not live together before – or instead of – marriage. They met, got engaged, saved for a wedding and for the things they’d need for a home together while both were living at home with their parents.

Hours after this photo was taken, they spent their first night together. I think my mum said they had their honeymoon in Stirling, but I realise I don’t actually know. For me, growing up in a much more permissive generation, this bit of information has never been important.

My parents were married for 27 years. They raised three kids and grieved for a fourth who was stillborn. They emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand and spent most of their married life away from the support – and perhaps interference – of their families.

Mum and Dad divorced in 1984, and my dad’s been married to his second wife for almost as long as he was to my mum.

When I was growing up, I can remember a white album of photos of my parents’ wedding; each page separated by crisp film-like paper. I don’t remember all the photos, but I know there was definitely one of my mum with her father and another of my parents cutting their wedding cake. The album has gone; my mum said she took the photos out and threw the book away during one of her house moves.

While I am grateful to have this photo; it also makes me sad. My parents – who are the “star attraction” of the day – are farthest away from the camera. My dad looks happy in a slightly punch-drunk kind of way, but my mother’s expression is unreadable. My grandfather, David Leslie, in the immediate foreground seems to share my mum’s expression, and in fact the only people who look like they are having fun are my mum’s mother, Margaret Ramsay (nee Cruden) and my dad’s brother (also called David Leslie). My aunt Sandra, at the far end of the table looks like she’s realised she’s missing out on something.

The only other photo that seems to have survived of that wedding is this one:

My parents' wedding: left to right, my maternal grandfather, David Ramsay; my great aunt, Elizabeth Forbes and my great grandparents, Katherine and Alexander Cruden.

My parents’ wedding: left to right, my maternal grandfather, David Ramsay; my great aunt, Elizabeth Ford (nee Elder) and my great grandparents, Katherine and Alexander Cruden.

My grandad Ramsay, on the left, looks happy – although you can’t really see his face. He had five daughters and my mum was the fourth he’d walked down the aisle. Next to him is my great aunt Bessie. She was my paternal grandmother’s younger sister, and, being a widow, seemed to accompany my similarly widowed grandfather David Leslie to family events. Closest to the camera, and looking like they were enjoying themselves are my great grandparents – my mum’s mother’s parents. Alexander and Katherine (nee Black) – whom I’ve written about before – were married for sixty two years, until my great grandad’s death. Knowing that my ancestors all seemed to have large families, and also tended to stay in the same area all their lives, I can’t imagine how many weddings my great grandparents had been to by the time Mum got married. Perhaps, more than anyone else, they’d got the hang of it!

before I leave christenings

My christening; four generations of strong women. My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and - as it turns out - me.

My christening and four generations of strong women. My mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and – as it turns out – me.

While I’ve been on the subject of babies, christenings and naming ceremonies, I found these photos and wanted to include them. The photo above shows Katherine Black, Margaret Cruden and Elizabeth Ramsay – the maternal line that led to me (the cute one all wrapped up in white).

Looking back, it seems to me that the lives of these three women were not dissimilar, but very different to mine. My great-grandmother and grandmother both married at 18; my mother at 19. Katherine (great-grandmother) and Margaret (grandmother) were pregnant at the time of their marriages;  my mum had to wait four years for a child, and then my older brother was stillborn. Katherine raised five children, Margaret six, my mum three. Weirdly, both my great grandmother and grandmother had husbands with prosthetic legs. My great grandfather was wounded in WWI; my grandfather suffered from diabetes and lost both legs to gangrene.

I don’t know how much formal education my great grandmother or grandmother had, but I know my mum had to leave school at 15 because her father thought any more education would be wasted on a girl who “was only going to get married”, and besides, the family needed her wages. Until she married she was a weaver in Nairn’s linoleum factory in Kirkcaldy. On Katherine’s marriage certificate it says she was a housekeeper. My grandmother’s occupation on marriage was listed as shop assistant.

Although I also left school young (major rebellion at 16), I studied at night school to get University Entrance and have ended up with two post-graduate degrees. I have one child, born when I was 36 and have never married his father – though we’ve lived together for almost 22 years.

I look more and more like my maternal ancestors as I get older and feel a greater kinship with them then ever before, so perhaps the fact that my life has been so different to theirs says a little bit about the gains feminism has made –  at least for my generation.

Alexander Cruden and Katherine (nee Black); my great grandparents with my at my christening.

Alexander Cruden and Katherine (nee Black); my great grandparents with me at my christening.

Basically, I just love this one. I love the fact that I look so adoringly at the old woman holding me and that my great grandfather looks so lovingly at me. Admittedly, great gran looks a bit underwhelmed; but I guess by the time I came along, she was probably totally over babies . Who can blame her?


Not a kiss … but another celebration of marriage

David Ramsay and Margaret Cruden celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

My maternal grandparents celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in 1951.

The last couple of “kiss” photos I posted got me thinking about the couples in my family, and actually how few photographs I have. None of my parents (without the kids) and only this one of my maternal grandparents.

David Skinner Ramsay and Margaret Simpson Bissett Cruden  were married in on 21 December 1926. Grandad was 25, Gran was 18. He was a coalminer, she a shop assistant. Both lived in Dysart, Fife, Scotland. They raised six children and remained married for 47 years, until my grandad’s death in 1973.

When my grandmother was widowed, she started travelling – to New Zealand to visit us, then Australia to see her brother and his family. She went to Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) to visit her only son, and back to Australia. In the last 15 or so years of her life she mainly stayed in Europe, but still managed to clock up an impressive number of miles for a woman who had never left the UK until she was in her mid 60s.

My gran died in 2006 – a week short of her 98th birthday. By that stage she had 17 grandchildren, 26(ish) great grandchildren, and a couple of great, great grandchildren.

She’s the grandparent I knew best and the only one I spent time with when I was an adult. Thinking back on all the hours we spent drinking tea and scoffing coffee meringues (her favourite), I wonder why I never asked her all the questions I now have about her life – her childhood, marriage, parents. Back then I just wasn’t that “into” family.

Now, a mother myself, I’m determined that my son will know more about his ancestry than I do about mine, and in particular the stories of lives and loves and death that make the past alive for us.