The Will of James Findlay

 

Port Henry Harbour (via The Buchan Heritage Society)

James Findlay and his wife, Helen Buchan were living at 29 Port Henry Road in April of 1881 with 6 of their 8 children (Jane Ann & Agnes appear to be in service at this time). James was a boat builder and ship carpenter and they had been married for 20 years.

The Findlay family in 1881

Sadly, only a few years later,  both James and Helen were dead. Helen died of dropsy in 1885 and the following year James died of pernicious anaemia, leaving behind their young family.

Approximate age of James Findlay’s children at the time of his death:

  • James 23
  • Jane Ann 21
  • Agnes 20
  • Margaret 17
  • William 14
  • Arthur 10
  • John 8
  • Helen 6

(note: Another daughter named Helen (b.1870) died before 1880)

James’ estate was only valued as a total of £18 14s (equivalent to roughly £1500 in today’s money) but he also owned the house on Port Henry Rd* where the family lived.

Extract Inventory of James Findlay

 

On the surface, there wasn’t a lot of genealogical information in these documents (the only relative named was his son), yet it still managed to indicate the care he had for his family.

1886 Will of James Findlay (img 690)

 

…(First) My said Trustees and their foresaids shall as soon as convenient assign convey and deliver to my son James Findlay Junior Fisherman Port Henry Road Peterhead the whole of my moveable estate in consideration of which the said James Findlay Junior shall be bound to pay my debts and funeral expenses including sums due to my children for money lent to me (Second) My said Trustees and their foresaids shall allow the said James Findlay Junior to occupy free of rent with power of subletting my house in Port Henry Road on condition that the said James Findlay Junior shall (in the first place) maintain such of my children as are under the age of seventeen years until the said children or the survivors of them individually reach the age of seventeen years or give such assistance as said children require for their maintenance in addition to their own earnings Declaring that I wish my children to understand that my desire is that they shall as soon as possible do what they can to maintain themselves Declaring further that the said James Findlay Junior shall not be bound to maintain or assist in maintaining any of said children unless they are content to live in family with him in his house and (in the second place) provide a free lodging in said house for such of my daughters as are unmarried though above the age of seventeen during such time as said unmarried daughters have no other home open to them but [beyond] the simple shelter of his house the said James Findlay Junior shall not be bound to maintain or assist in maintaining any daughter beyond the age of seventeen.  This provision in favor of unmarried daughters shall cease to be binding when as hereinafter provided my house is conveyed to the said James Findlay Junior in absolute property or is sold Declaring that the said James Junior shall not be bound to perform any of the above conditions in favor of my children and unmarried daughters unless said children and unmarried daughters conduct themselves properly and to the satisfaction of my said Trustees and their foresaids (Third) When my youngest child then alive attains the age of seventeen years if the said James Junior is alive and has fulfilled the above conditions of maintaining my younger children and providing a lodging for my unmarried daughters my said Trustees or their foresaids shall convey my said house to the said James Findlay Junior as his absolute property…

Basically, James willed that his eldest son James Jr would inherit his estate and take ownership of the house, as long as he continued to provide for the younger children until they were 17 years of age and behaved themselves (but desired that they try to maintain themselves as soon as possible). He also hoped that James Jr would allow his unmarried sisters above the age of 17 to lodge rent free in the family home if needed, but wasn’t bound to support them outside this. James Jr appeared to have honoured his father’s wishes.

On the 1891 census, Arthur & John were recorded still with him on the 1891 census. Margaret was boarding with sister, Jane Ann in Almanythie Lane (2 streets over) and the youngest, Helen, was recorded with older sister Agnes in Port Henry Lane (a lane connecting Longate to the harbour – since demolished).  I have as yet been unable to locate William.

Arthur and John living with James Findlay Jr in Port Henry Road 1891
Helen living with sister Agnes in Port Henry Lane 1891
Margaret living with sister Jane Ann in 1891

 

Map of Peterhead c.1900 showing Port Henry Road & Almanythie Road

Interestingly one of the named executors refused the role.  John Suttar was a long established local merchant who “carried on an extensive trade with the fishing community” [Aberdeen People’s Journal 15 December 1906 p9] and John Gilchrist Mitchell was a fish curer whose son was the solicitor named in the will, Henry Benjamin Gilchrist. Both were clearly acquainted with James and may have even been close friends but as Suttar declined it’s unclear.

*house number seems to change but still refer to same address

Cairnglass

While trawling through the parish registers of St Combs, I came across a record for a Charles Gordon BUCHAN.  It was quite rare to come across a middle name in this family (as opposed to a tee name) and wondered if it was reference to the mother’s maiden name.

Baptism of Charles Gordon BUCHAN, 1785 – Lonmay parish registers

Alexander Buchan (Skipper) in Cairnglass had a son baptd named Charles Gordon. W[itnesses] John Strachan (*sley) & James Buchan.

It was the first time I’d come across ‘Cairnglass’ and found more about the place in the Ordnance Survey Books:

A superior farmsteading on the estate of Cairness. The property of Jas W Gordon Esqr.

I recall reading somewhere that tenant farmers sometimes named their children after land owners so it’s highly likely that Alexander Buchan of Cairnglass names his son in honour of the owner of his farm.  However, this seemed based on the valuation roll of 1869/70 – 85 years later – so proof would be needed that this property was in the Gordon family for some time.

A search for the Gordon name and Cairness brought up a page for Charles Gordon, 7th of Buthlaw and 1st of Cairness. He lived at the correct time and therefore lends credence to the idea Charles Gordon BUCHAN was named after him.  If anyone knows anything for or against this conclusion, I’d be very interested to hear about it.

Charles Gordon of Buthlaw, Lonmay and Cairness (1747–1797) by Henry Raeburn 1790 (c) The National Trust for Scotland, Fyvie Castle

 

Lunatic in the Family – Case Notes

I received my case notes from the archives yesterday which made for very interesting reading:

This is a case of senile insanity and patient is stated to have been more or less doted for twelve years. Her brother however is insane.
Medical certificates testify that for some time she has been very excitable, that she uses foul and obscene language and that she sometimes exposes her person. Further that she is sleepless, refuses food, and that she fancies people are going to kill her.
Not just any people though. One of the medical certificates state that she “suspects her friends and relatives are going to kill her. Fancies that they blame her for killing [her] daughter“. (I would like to find out which, if any, of her daughters died before her but I’m also aware that the daughter’s death could also have been imagined).
On her return to the asylum (after 6 months in the poorhouse wards), another doctor states that Agnes “Talks in an excited manner. Her memory is deficient. She fancies the other patients in the ward eat coals. She has delusions about her husband and family“.
Although poor Agnes’ case is quite tragic, I think its important to have sense of humour about these things and I find it amusing that she felt her fellow inmates ate coal, of all things. It seems I will never know exactly what her delusions were about her then deceased husband but these notes have given me a pretty good indication of her state of mind.

 

The case notes also give me a vague description of Agnes. She has a pale complexion, her hair is grey (not surprising for an 81 year old), and her figure is ‘stooping from age’.

Did she look like the fisherwoman in the photo on the left?

Among other information that I had already gleaned from other records, the sheriff petitions have given me 2 former addresses, the occupation of her son John, and the name of a brother who had also been declared insane.

 

Fortunately they give the name of this brother, Wilson BUCHAN who I was able to find christening, marriage and death records for. The death record mentions nothing of his insanity and as his wife is still alive, I assume he was being cared for at home. I have emailed the archivist to ask if she can offer any help finding out more.
One of my next steps in the previous post was to find out if any other family members lived at home in the 1881 census to care for Agnes. It looks as if that responsibility fell on her 48 year old daughter Jean (or Jane). I can only imagine that an already tough life as a Victorian fisherwoman was made tougher when she needed to care for her mentally ill mother.

Agnes, Arthur and Jane BUCHAN on the 1881 census.
Click to see larger image.