Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Family Reading in Scotland over two centuries... (Part 2)

II. Some Book-Owners of Biggar

FLETT CATHERINE  [aged] 50 m. DICKSON JAMES ROBERTSON [aged] 51   Fruit Grower      1927  (Ref.) 685/6 12 Newington (Edinburgh) United Free Church   (Witnesses: JRD's parents)  

As noted in Part 1, James Robertson Dickson (JRD) brought a number of interesting volumes to the marital home in Elgin. In addition to, probably, some of the items found without designated owners, a number of the names in inscriptions and bookplates can be convincingly attributed to his family and forebears.

The mix is not dissimilar to that found in the Flett family 'library', indicating comparable status, education and aspiration at the time they converged, although JRD's more prosperous ancestors had evidently begun acquiring and preserving their books rather earlier, four or five generations back.

The oldest had been claimed in no uncertain terms by one James Smith, whose relationship to JRD probably came through JRD's maternal grandfather. That there was such a relationship is indicated by the fact of the books being in JRD's possession, and by the repeated mention of Biggar, his birth-place.
(James Smith is a name not easy to trace with absolute certainty but there is a strong possibility that he was JRD's great-great-grandfather.)

i.  The Trial and Triumph of Faith - An Exposition of the History of Christ's Dispossessing of the Daughter of the Woman of Canaan.
"James Smith his book at Biggar. September 20th 1759" - also in caps, with rhyme etc.
"James Smith his hand at Biggar."
"Shusama [Susanna] Fairman"

Susanna's childlike writing suggests she was younger than James, and just learning to write - maybe a cousin (relationship not traced) or visitor. 
Her comparatively unusual name makes it likely that she was:

Susanna Pairman b.16-12-1776 Kilbucho (nr. Biggar). Father Adam Pairman (Mothers’ names were not recorded for births there at the time) (OPR – Old Parish Records on Scotland’s People)

"James Smith his book/ God give him grace on it to look..."

The right-hand page has two dates:
August 15th and September 20th 1759
The right-hand page has "Marion Smith" at the top
as well as James yet again

ii. Gospel Sonnets, or Spiritual Songs, by Ralph Erskine
"James Smith in Biggar his book. September 2 1760"
"Marion Smith her book"

"Marion Smith her book"

And James, September 2nd 1760

Marion Smith could perhaps have been James's mother, or older sister, and have owned the book before he got at it; he comes across as having been younger, as well as more full of himself.

(Both James and Marion are frequently-occurring names on JRD's family tree).

JRD's mother's maiden name was Robertson, and many of the books have this surname written in:

Set: Adam Ferguson, The History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic. Edinburgh, Bell and Bradfute, 1799. Vols 1,2,3,5 of five.
"Robertson" (on most.) First name/initial/s not given

Diamond New Testament. Edinburgh, Blair and Tyndall, 1841.
(Plate:) "Robert Robertson, Biggar".
Not traced exactly, possibly a great-uncle of JRD.

Boswell, Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. [1785] Temple Classics. London, Charles Dilly. Reproduction of title page to 3rd edition, 1786.
"M. J. Robertson"
Thackeray, Roundabout Papers... London, Smith Elder & Co., 1887.
"M. J. Robertson"
This could be JRD's maternal grandmother or his mother's sister, each named Margaret (see below).

His mother's given names were Marion Brown (after her maternal grandmother). One book which was certainly hers is:

W. C. Webber, Wild Scenes in the Forest and Prairies... Edinburgh and NY, T Nelson 1857.
Plate: "Marion Robertson. Highest Geography Class Map Drawing. Parish School Biggar, August 1858." 
At first sight it looked as though she might also have been 'Dux' of the (primary/elementary) school, but that word is pre-printed and partly written over. 
As well as being a notable achievement, her prize is an interesting choice for presentation to an 11-year-old schoolgirl at that time.

Marion's family background may have helped her to benefit from her schooling.
In 1851 we find her already a "Scholar", aged 4, living with her maternal grandmother (maiden surname Brown), parents, and younger brother.

It is likely that the Smith connection comes via her father James Robertson, born in Biggar 28-2-1810 to parents John Robertson and Margaret Smith, who could be a daughter of James Smith as in the oldest books. There is indeed a Margaret Smith born in Biggar 31-8-1784 to James Smith and Hanna Sibbald - the only one of that name with an OPR (Old Parish Registers - Church of Scotland) birth record during the right sort of time in Biggar.

First name(s)           Last name           Relationship      Marital status    Sex         Age        Birth year            Occupation                Birth place
Marion Tait         Head     Widow  Female 58           1793       Proprietor Of Houses & Grosser Mercht  (Grocer Merchant)  Carmichael, Lanarkshire, Scotland    
James   Robertson           Son-In-Law         Married                Male      41           1810       Builder & Stone Agent Employs 4 Men      Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland     
Margaret             Robertson           Wife      Married                Female 38           1813       *Wife Librarian Institude 1791 History & 956 Vol             Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland     
Marion Robertson           Daughter             -              Female 4              1847       Scholar Biggar
John      Robertson           -              -              Male      2              1849       -              Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland

*The "Librarian..." note under 'Occupation' for her mother is a puzzle. It doesn't seem to be a mistranscription but may have been garbled by the census enumerator. The hint of a bookish connection is intriguing at least; we may even infer some kind of assertion of individuality other than as "wife".

Ten years later, the father is 'head' of the household and employs 6 men.
Marion and her brother are Scholars, and there is a younger sister, apparently not yet going to school but being educated.(Sometimes older siblings would convey their learning back to the younger ones).
Margaret             Robertson           Daughter             -              Female 6              1855       Scholar At Home              Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland 
Marion Tait         Wife  [mother-in-law]    -              Female 68           1793       Grocer 
Grandma Marion is still living with the family but evidently independent.

In 1871 Marion and (young) Margaret are living at home with their now widowed father and grandmother, and counted simply as Unmarried. It was in 1873 that Marion married Robert Marshall Dickson.

RMD's parents: James Alexander Dickson, Farmer; Eliza Dickson M[aiden] S[urname] Marshall (deceased). Witness: Robert Dickson

Robert (RMD)  appears in the preceding censuses with a birthplace in the USA; the transcription notes that he became British by naturalisation. It may not be too far-fetched to speculate that Marion's prize book could have predisposed her in his favour.

Margaret Robertson was living with her sister and brother-in-law in 1881 and 1901; in the latter year
maintaining her individual status as "Living On Own Means".  In 1881 her middle initial is given as 'T', easily confused with 'J' but could stand for Tait. The birth record does not give a middle initial.

So, albeit impressionistically, we can discern a sequence of strong,intelligent,independent-minded women on the maternal side of JRD's family. By all accounts Catherine Flett would not have been out of place in this tradition.

By 1881 RMD has become a "Draper employing 2 boys" and JRD is a Scholar aged 5. The household includes as well as a younger brother, parents and aunt, an 'Annuitant' aged 75 and a 16-year-old general servant.

The surname Dickson itself appears on most of the rest of the books, or can be linked to them:

One where the link was not immediately obvious is:
G. M. Bell, Life of Richard Cameron. 1843. Edinburgh, Oliver & Boyd. (Lives of Covenanter Martyrs series)
"The Scottish Martyr, or The Life of The Reverend Richard Cameron, comprising An Illustration of the Principles for which He Contended and Died, and the Political Character of the Days in which He Died” - The National Library of Scotland has another by the same author about a different "martyr", in its Specialist collection, published Glasgow 1837.
"Margaret Elder, 17-9-1851"
This birth record looks right:
ELDER MARGARET m. DICKSON JAMES ALEXANDER 1856 685/7 23 Heriot and Warriston – Possibly she was the second wife of JRD's paternal grandfather James Alexander Dickson. A James A Dickson (b.1811) and his wife Margaret (b.1816) were living in West Linton in 1871 (Census).
A possible scenario might be that Eliza Marshall, RMD's mother, died in the USA, and James Alexander returned to his home area and remarried.

RMD may have crossed the Atlantic likewise on the death of his mother:

1861 Robert  Dickson    Lodger  Unmarried   Male     19  1842       Draper's Assistant           -
Birth place other as transcribed                UNITED STATED NATURALIZED BRITISH SUBJECT
House name      South Side Of Town Of Biggar

1871 Robert M  Dickson     Lodger  Unmarried  Male     29  1842       Shopman Draper              -
Birth place other as transcribed U S AMERICA NATURALIZED BRITISH SUBJECT    
House   name                North Side          Street   -              Parish    Biggar

The Confession of Faith... Catechisms... of the Church of Scotland. 1793.  
"George Dickson, Edinburgh, May 3 1798"

Probably the father of the Janet Isabella Dickson who owned:
Memoir of the Rev. Robert M. McCheyne... Dundee, William Middleton, 1846.
"Janet Isabella Dickson, Medwyn Bank"
Janet Isabella Dickson b.3-2-1829, West Linton; Parents. George Dickson, Janet G Gibson.

She turns up in the 1871 census as Housekeeper to her brother Robert Dickson ("Retired Spirit Dealer"; possibly the Witness at JRD's parents' wedding)  in Edinburgh, and in Valuation Rolls 1885, 1895 as a tenant/occupier in Edinburgh.

Not precisely attributed is a Set of Everyman editions. 1909
a. Herman Melville, Omoo        
b. Francis Parkman, The Conspiracy of Pontiac and the Indian War, vol.2           
c. W. H. Prescott, The Conquest of Mexico, vol.1            
d. W. H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru        
e. Henry Hunt Milman, History of the Jews. Vol. 1        
Probably owned by the family as a general resource.

William Hazlitt, Characters from Shakespeare's Plays. (1817) The Temple Classics.
Robert 'to Mother. Happy New Year 1-1-06'
From JRD's brother Robert Marshall Dickson (Junior) to his mother Marion.
It may be worth noting the gift was for New Year rather than Christmas, consistent with traditional Scottish Presbyterian reluctance to celebrate the latter.

Rev. C. A. Johns, Flowers of the Field. London, Routledge, 1919. 96 coloured illustrations by E. N. Gwatkin. (Spine unstuck.)
"To Mrs. R. M. Dickson from Mrs. Mitchell, Langless."
Gift to JRD's mother. Her initials were MBD but married women were customarily addressed by their husbands' names or initials at this time.

Not forgetting JRD himself:

1891 Robert M  Dickson Head     Married  Male      49           1842       -    Draper & Clothier            

Marion B  Dickson Wife      Married    Female 44     1847       Lanarkshire, Scotland     Drapers Wife    
James R  Dickson Son        Unmarried          Male      15           1876       Lanarkshire, Scotland     Scholar
George H  Dickson Son        Unmarried          Male      13           1878       Lanarkshire, Scotland     Scholar
Robert M   Dickson Son        -    Male      6              1885       Lanarkshire, Scotland     Scholar
Jessie    McMorran  Servant Unmarried   Female 13  1878  Lanarkshire, Scotland     Kitchen Maid Domestic Servt

1901 James R Dickson Boarder   Single    Male      25   1876 Biggar      Law Clerk

(with: family of  John Gordon Head (of Household)  Married   Male      40     1861 Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland  Farmer)

Family tradition has it that JRD did become a lawyer but later changed direction to set up as a market gardener ("Fruit grower" on his marriage record).

Walter Brett, Rock Plants. London, Newnes, pbk. (mid 20th century)
"J. R. Dickson"

Lord Lytton, Last Days of Pompeii. Knowledge Library. Nelson, 1903.
"J. R. Dickson"

Charles Kingsley, Westward Ho! Nelson 1904.
"J. R. Dickson"

Halliday Sutherland, In My Path.(1936) 8th edition. (Dustjacket). 1947. London, Geoffrey Bles.
"To Uncle Jimmy with love from Marion and Stan. Get well soon."
This Marion is most likely a daughter of one of JRD's brothers, George H or Robert M.
C. A. Johns, British Birds in their Haunts. London, SPCK, 1888.
"To James R Dickson from his father. January 1 1893."
My Morning Counsellor... OUP 1900.
"To James R. Dickson from his affect. father R. M. Dickson"

My Evening Counsellor... For Edification... and Comfort. (Companion volume to the preceding).
"To B. M. D. from R. M. D. 1/12/07"
"To Catherine from R. M. Dickson 6-8-27"
Presented to Kate in the year of her marriage to JRD either by her father-in-law or brother-in-law.
Previously presented to (possibly) JRD's sister-in-law (who may have died in the interim) by the same one or other. This conjecture is suggested by:

Thackeray, Henry Esmond. Illustrated by A. A. Dixon. Collins.
"Bessie M. Nelson 1907"
"George Braid 25-9-09 -/m"

A reasonable hypothesis seems to be that Bessie M Nelson became "B.M.D." as RMD Junior's wife, although the marriage record has not been found.

In the 1811 Census a possible-looking (at first sight, for some reason, but on reflection perhaps not that likely) couple and their baby were visitors in another household:
Mary     Murply Head     Single    Female 37           1874       West Hartlepool Durham              Householder General Dealer               
Catherine            Murply Sister     Single    Female 34           1877       West Hartlepool Durham              Charwoman      
Robert  Dickson Visitor   Married     Male      28           1883       West Hartlepool Durham              Labourer To Rivetters               
Elizabeth Dickson Visitor   Married     Female 30    1881       West Hartlepool Durham              -             
Alexander Dickson Visitor   -              Male      0              1911       West Hartlepool Durham

And/or Bessie M may have been in the 1891 Census as: the daughter of a "Forth Bridge Labourer" in Queensferry:
Elizabeth M Nelson  Daughter    -   Female 12           1879       Midlothian, Scotland      Scholar

George Braid, who claimed another of the books as well as the above, is an unidentified connection:
Complete Shakspeare [sic]. The "Victoria" edition. 1897
"George Braid 25/9/09 D/R"
The name is not uncommon but has not so far been found in conjunction with other surnames here.

(Many of the recurrent surnames turn up linked to each other, apart from the most relevant instances noted above, for example:  Margaret Pairman Robertson born in Biggar 1864. Parents Matthew Robertson and Christina Pairman married in Biggar 1859 - no direct relationship to others here found so far. Large extended families were the norm, and marriages of cousins not uncommon).

Further biographical (and bibliographical) detail may be added here from time to time.