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Skeletons & Scandals

The Kilted Ancestors Theme for May 2022 was ‘Skeletons & Scandals’.


My Great Great Grandmothers Cousin David McBeath was born in Blackford, Perth on 14th August 1859 to Peter McBeath a Shoemaker & Jean Lockhart.


Like his father he would go on to train as an Apprentice Shoemaker before later training as a Mason, a job that would see him move around Scotland for work.


On the 22nd Jun 1883 he would marry a local girl named Jane Crerar at Blackford & during this time he would give his address as Old Kilpatrick.


The couple would go on to have 4 children all born in Duntocher, Dunbartonshire, Peter born in 1884, Ludvick born 1886, Ann born 1888 & David born 1890.


Just months after the birth of David their youngest son, David (the father) was removed to Murthly Asylum near Perth. Records state that David was suffering from Insanity a term for what we now know as Mental Illness. Almost a year later he was moved to Stirling District Asylum near Larbert. Two years later during the winter of 1893 David escaped from the asylum, some weeks later his body was found in Hamilton Quarry, Larbert, a post mortem concluded that death was due to drowning.


I think the story of David & Jane shows how hard life could be in Victorian Scotland.


Poor Family Image - Public Domain - Wikicommons

It must have been extremely difficult for Jane & the children to deal with their father’s illness & absence during his years in the Asylum.


Thankfully David did manage to put some money aside via a friendly society but upon his death Jane would have had lots to pay for & the money quickly dried up.


With no option but to send their oldest son Peter out to work as a message boy, she would also take in 3 lodgers to help cover the rent. With the other 3 children in School Jane was unable to work so made a claim for poor relief which was granted.


Thankfully many Poor Law Applications still sit in Archives today, although sadly many are not yet available online. It was with several of these that I was able to piece together a lot of David & Janes story & although some of the Asylum records do not exist information in relation to dates & places were actually contained within the Poor Law records. These records also included snippets of information such as their son Peters job, the fact that Jane took in lodgers, lists of addresses they had lived at & for how long & that David had contributed funds to the friendly society.


Mitchell Library, Glasgow - Public Domain - Wikicommons

I remember sitting in Glasgow City Archives many years ago checking census records on microfilm, whilst chatting to the lady beside me. On completion of my search, I informed her that I was headed downstairs to check the Poor Law Records, she looked appalled stating that ‘my family would not have claimed poor law’ I stood up stating ‘that’s a shame as the amount of information contained in the records could be phenomenal’ before turning & walking away. That situation always springs to mind when I get onto the topic of poor law….to be honest is poor law relief really that different from todays unemployment benefits? Everyone can fall on hard times!

 

Why not join in with some of the amazing events taking place in my Kilted Ancestors Facebook Group which will also be embracing Year of Stories during 2022!


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