Page 12 William Douglas the blacksmith

Charles Douglas the carpenter and Jean Galloway‘s second son was William Douglas. He was born in 1841 so was under 10 when his father died and the family divided. William was living with his mother at Norton Place in Alva in 1851 according to the census. William lived with his grocer mother and Charles and Elizabeth at Fowlis Wester according to the 1861 census. He was a blacksmith journeyman. From the 1871 census we know William was already married. It is likely that he learned his trade from his maternal uncles John and Robert Galloway, and indeed his grandmother Elizabeth Galloway, as she was described as a blacksmith on a census. William and Catherine were living at South Drummie, Fowlis Wester at the time.

William Douglas became a blacksmith, like his elder brother Charles, having been raised to the job by his Galloway uncles at New Fowlis. He must have held some land, too, for farming as the Dundee Courier of 22nd August 1890 reported that he “began harvesting operations by cutting down a field of oats, but the crop was a very light one. This is the first in the district.” 

William Douglas the blacksmith lived at Fowlis Wester (on the Abercairney estate) from 1877 through to 1898 for a “house and acres.” though in 1877 it is described as a “house, office and garden”. He was paying £14-10-0 per year in rent and was a tenant of Charles Drummond-Murray. From 1884  it is listed as a house and garden and land. From 1886 the rent and description are the same but it is listed as New Fowlis. In 1898 rent was£16-0-0, £8 for the house, £8 for land.

It is unclear whether William and his wife were living in the same house as his mother Jane Galloway, who died at New Fowlis in 1895.  Mother Jane was described as a grocer. It was a good location for both businesses situated on the new Crieff-Perth road. William may have rented other property, too: for two years a William Douglas was a tenant of Mrs Lyon Campbell of Williamston (close to his predecssors’ homes at Lethendy) in a house at Williamston in Madderty parish (£4-0-0 per year in rent). Then in 1898 a William Douglas was subtenant of Viscount Strathallan at a house at West Main in Blackford parish, paying £3-10-0 per year.
The National Directory of 1903 lists him as blacksmith at New Fowlis.

In 1905 he occupied “house, garden and land” on the estate of Abercairney. According to the Directory of Scotland 1907 he was still smithing at New Fowlis but  was described as retired on the 1915 valuation, still living on the Abercairney estate but paying £5-10-0 for the cottage at Middle Drummy. William and his brother were perhaps among the first generation to benefit from the new Liberal Government’s sweeping social agenda which included  limited pension rights. Retirement was set at 70 years of age (for William that would mean 1911) and there was a means test; those earning over £31-10 were not eligible. The Act meant those eligible were able to retire without relying entirely on family or parochial support.

William was apparently not paying any rent in Fowlis Wester from 1920 and may have been living with one of his sons. Wills are available online at ScotlandsPeople only up to 1925. William died in 1924. I have found no will online and cannot recall seeing his name in the index books at the National Archives of Scotland in the past: I noted down anyone of possible connection to our family in my early visits to the NAS. I did not know of the Angus or Forfar links of William’s descendants at that stage, of course.

The houses currently at New Fowlis  are replacements, a local resident told me. I have no photo of William, unfortunately, though I have one of his grave.

William must have been held in high regard, in view of the presentation made upon his retirement. This was reported in the local newspaper at the time. Perhaps he took after his uncle John Galloway. 

The Perthshire Advertiser on 20th September 1909 carried notice of his intention to sell the smithy plant and stock on the 30th. An inventory of the stock was given:

“2 round bellows, 1 long bellows, 4 anvils, 4 vices, a verticle drill, turning lathe screws, plates, dies, tops, keys, hammers, tongs, bousters, drills, bores of all sizes, new and old iron etc.” William was also selling household furniture including a grandfather clock. It would be very interesting to see what this looked like.

Death notice for William Douglas: 

William had married Catherine Nicholson (who came from Caithness). The couple married in Pulteneytown, Wick in January 1871. This was the area she came from and a long way from home for William.

The John O’Groats Journal of 12th January 1871 reported on their marriage at the house of Mr Alex Couper at Williamson Street, Pulteneytown. Catherine was described as the second daughter of the late Mr James Nicholson, farmer, of Barrock.

They had one son, Charles John Nicholson Douglas. They also had a daughter, Janet Alexander (sic), known as Jessie. Jessie entered Fowlis Wester school* on 1st Feb 1878 and left it on 12th Feb 1884. The school register does not record her as achieving any standards in her time at school. On the 1901 census Jessie was a visitor at the home of a couple called Murray in Wick, Caithness (043/00 008/00 049). No job is recorded for her. They were in their 50s. The man was a fish curer from Aberdeenshire whilst his wife was from Dunnet. Perhaps they were relatives of her mother? Nonetheless she became a nurse in Edinburgh before dying tragically young in 1909 and is buried with her parents in the churchyard at Fowlis Wester. Young Charles entered school on 5th May 1879. His leaving date is not recorded in the record book on the page I have seen. Like his sister there are no distinctions or standards shown.


An account of Jessie’s life, and her death, appeared in the John O’Groats Journal in February 1909. From this we learn that Jessie lived for some years with her aunt and uncle Murray at Stuartfield in Wick. This is borne out by two census records, with the first describing her as their niece but the other as a visitor.

She was described in the article as “having a bright and cheerful nature” and that she worked for 3 years at Inverness Asylum. I presume she was living at Inverness rather than travelling from Wick daily. After training fully there she went to Edinburgh Infirmary and had almost completed her training as a nurse when Jessie fell ill with a chill which developed into pleurisy. Jessie had been at Edinburgh for 3 years and had only one month left to complete her course.

After treatment at Woodburn Sanitorium she was sent home to her parents and died at their house, ie at New Fowlis. The article goes on to relate that she was a member of the Wick United Free Church where she was a collector and Sabbath School teacher.

One thing that strikes me is that it is an unusually detailed account of a young life. Clearly she was a remarkable woman but I also wondered if she was known personally to the writer of the article.

Another thing that occurs to me is that Jessie seems to have spent much of her life away from her parents. On every one of the three censuses on which she featured, Jessie was living with or visiting the Murrays in Wick. She was named after this aunt.

RightMove is a property agency or property website in Scotland and from it I have obtained the picture below of Stuartfield, which is at 9 Francis St in Wick.

I have found one other reference to her in newspapers. The Perthshire Advertiser of 7th March 1904 gave a lengthy account of the Craigie Ambulance Class Annual Social (sic), held at Craigie Hall. Jessie was one of 9 ladies and 12 gentlemen to receive a certificate of training.

The houses currently at New Fowlis  are replacements, a local resident told me. I have no photo of William, unfortunately, though I have one of his grave.

Further below is a photograph of William, Catherine and Jessie’s grave at Fowlis Wester.

William Douglas and Catherine Nicholson’s son, Charles

Charles John Nicholson Douglas was born in 1874. On the 1891 census he was living with his parents but by 1901 he was a railway clerk in Blairgowrie with a wife and two sons. On September 12th 1901 Charles was mentioned in the Dundee Evening Post:

​”Railway Promotion- Mr Charles Douglas, who has for the past 3 1/2 years been booking clerk at Blairgowrie Railway Station, has been promoted to be stationmaster at Kinfauns, in place of Mr McLaren, who has been appointed head relief man at Perth.”

Charles was the victim of a crime at work, as reported in a newspaper:

Charles began a career as a railway clerk (although he became a farmer later), moving to Blairgowrie to work at the railway station by 1898 when his first son (also Charles John Nicholson Douglas) was born. His first wife was Margaret Robertson, who died at a young age of breast cancer. In 1904 he and his family were living at the Station House at Kinfauns in Perthshire when the third child was born; the station house is a little way out of the small village.  However the next year they lived at Inchture Station House and that is where two more children were born (VR 113/51/61). At some stage Charles became a farmer at Labothie in Inverarity in Angus.

This was actually reported in the newspaper:

Charles died at Kirkbuddo, Inverarity in Co Angus in 1945 (SR 292/00). The Confirmations and Inventories contains his will in the index. On 5th January 1946 three executors  were noted, including James Robert Crawford Douglas (gardener of Mill Hill Lodge, Inchture). The will had been drawn up on 10th February 1945. The value of the estate was £4501-18-6. James Douglas was born at Inchture Station House, Inchture Parish, Perthshire in 1910 (SR 359/00 0004).  Father Charles was decribed as station agent on the birth certificate. A James Robert C Douglas married in Co Angus in 1933. I presume this is the same person.

School record for Charles, from Ancestry:

The Grandsons of William Douglas and Catherine NIcholson

Charles had six sons in all, William, Charles, Alexander, James, Bruce and Stewart. I have not presented them below in order of age.

1. Alexander used the name Alistair (with various spellings) throughout his life, causing considerable delay to my ability to extend the tree. As with the Gloags and Fergusons, I will let the family tree serve for information on this branch until such time as I make contact with a member and hopefully glean biographical data and photos. I think he may have died at Oathlaw in Angus in 1967 but am not sure. The funny thing is, I kept coming across him in records whilst conducting research whilst unaware of any connection to where his family lived and after a while decided I was writing it down just in case I needed it later. This may have been an instinct but it could also be to ensure I didn’t go chasing wild geese. As it happened these geese were “my” geese after all! Perhaps a descendant would put me right on when and where he died.

2. I have not found information on the eldest son, William, who was born in 1898 and died in 1959. I know that he lived at Upper Pitforthie in Kincardineshire in 1923.

3,4. I present information further below on Bruce Galloway Douglas and Stewart Morrison Douglas, linked to newspaper items.

5. James Robert Crawford Douglas was born at Inchture Railway Station in 1910. He became a gardener and may have married in 1933.

6. Charles John Nicholson Douglas married  Susan Baillie on 23rd August 1923.  He was a farm servant when he and wife Susan Beattie travelled on the SS Montclare to Quebec, according to Ancestry. They sailed 3rd class on 31st August from Liverpool. This was a week after their wedding at Kinneff of Catterline, Kincardineshire. He described his race as “Scotch.” Charles was Presbyterian. He said he was going to join his uncle, William James Robertson at Sandy Lake in Canada permanently. This must be the uncle of his mother as she was a Robertson.

7. Murray Baillie Douglas, born at Kinfauns Station House in December 1901. He moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, to farm and sponsored his brother Charles, according to Donna Douglas. Perhaps this was the second venture as William Robertson sponsored the first emigration. Murray married a woman named Ella but they had no children.

Charlie (CJN Douglas), Susan, Dorothy, Cyril and Edwin (from Donna Douglas)

Family Tree of William Douglas:

John Nicholson

You will have noticed the middle names “John Nicholson” inside 3 Charles Douglases. Donna Douglas in Ontario, who is descended from William Douglas the blacksmith has been in touch to tell the interesting story of how this came about.

In September 1856  a Russian brig, the Ahti, was wrecked in a violent gale. Five local men put out in a small boat, saving two of the crew. A Donald Thompson is said to have been awarded by a Silver Medal by the RNLI for this (Caithness CWS History). There is some confusion about the exact date of the event. The website describes the events in more detail. It took half an hour to sail to the wreck and one and a half hours to return against the ebbing tide. This site says all five local men were awarded a medal and money by the Board of Trade. Account below from the Evening Telegraph.

John NIcholson was presumably related to Catherine but how has not been established yet.

Picture below of Inchture school in Perthshire and (below left) a medal awarded to her grandfather Charles John Nicholson, from Donna Douglas.

Again from Donna Douglas, a picture of Charles John Nicholson Douglas with the other boys and girls at Inchture School. Charles is front row second right.

Gravestone of William Douglas, Catherine Douglas nee Nicholson and daughter Jessie at Fowlis Wester Unmarked but adjacent (I’m not sure which side) is Jane Galloway’s grave, William’s mother. William’s gravestone is an elaborate and doubtless expensive one but it is difficult to take a good photograph of it.

Memento of SS Montrose (from Donna Douglas)

Below is the medal John Nicholson was awarded (thanks to Donna Douglas for this)

Below is a gold medal presented to Charles John Nicholson Douglas at Inchture School by Lord Kinnaird in 1913.

Cyril Douglas (from Donna Douglas)

Below: Murray Baillie Douglas and his wife Ella. Murray was the youngest child of Charles John Nicholson Douglas and Susan Beattie.

Below: James Robert Crawford Douglas, from Donna Douglas

The houses currently at New Fowlis  are replacements, a local resident told me. I have no photo of William, unfortunately, though I have one of his grave.

Jessie’s school record, from Ancestry:

Generation VIII: Family of William Douglas and Catherine Nicholson

1. Janet Alexander Douglas (Jessie), 1871-1909

2. Charles John Nicholson Douglas, 1874-1945

William Douglas’s Other Child

Before he married William had had a relationship with a Margaret Buchan, a domestic servant. Margaret subsequently married a cousin named Peter Buchan. William’s relationship led to the birth of a daughter called Margaret (born in March1866 in Castleton: SR 357/00) who died in Lesmahagow in 1940 (SR 649/01). This Margaret married a gardener named John MacLean in Dundee. They were living at Broughty Ferry between 1891 and 1895 when three children were born.

They had 5 children in all, one of whom was born at Kinfauns in 1906. This is interesting given that two years later William had a grandson from his legitimate son born at the same small location. Were they aware of each other? Was everything out in the open and might William have been providing assistance to his illegitimate daughter, was there awkwardness when relatives met or were William’s legitimate descendants unaware of the connection?

Kenneth and Dennis Douglas

This should be in the section to the left but I want to fill the gap here a bit. These brothers remained in Scotland when parents and siblings returned to Canada. They lived in the Aberdeen area for the rest of their lives. Kenneth was a van driver and despatch driver. Dennis was a motor mechanic.

Both married and had children.

Dr Crippen. I’ve already told elsewhere how Charles John Nicholson Douglas travelled to Canada in 1923 with his new bride Susan Beattie. They sailed on the SS Montrose. Donna Douglas reminds me that the same ship several years earlier had Dr Crippen and his “nephew” share a cabin. Telegrams to and from the ship led to his arrest and the unmasking of the nephew as a female friend. Crippen was on the run, possibly in panic, following the disappearance of his wife.

He was returned to England and charged with her murder when a body was found in the cellar of their house. Crippen was convicted of his wife’s murder and hanged at Pentonville in 1910. Picture below from Wikipedia.

Charles John Nicholson Douglas and Susan Beattie

Charles and wife Susan Beattie travelled on the SS Montclare to Quebec, according to Ancestry. They sailed 3rd class on 31st August from Liverpool. This was a week after their wedding at Kinneff of Catterline, Kincardineshire. He described his race as “Scotch.” Charles was Presbyterian. He said he was going to join his uncle, William James Robertson at Sandy Lake in Canada permanently. This must be the uncle of his mother as her maiden name was Robertson.

He had paid his own passage and could read. It was compulsory to have $25 so he must have had this. Charles’s nearest relative was given as brother William at Upper Pitforthie, Drumlithie, which was given as his home address. None of his family were mentally or physically defective or had TB. Passage had been booked at Stonehaven. Wife Susan’s answers on the form were similar and makes clear that William Robertson was Charles’s uncle. Robert Beattie of Cotbank, Barras, Stonehaven was her nearest relative, her father (Canada Ocean Arrivals Form 30A, 1919-1924).

The family seem to have engaged in transatlantic crossings. In 1932 CharlesSusan and children Kenneth (8), Edwin (6), Dennis (4) and Dorothy (2) arrived in Greenock from St John or Halifax, Nova Scotia on the SS Montrose. This was on 12th March. They intended to stay in Scotland for at least a year (Ancestry, UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960).  

When the year was up the family remained in Scotland but after the war some of the family moved across the Atlantic in the late 1940s. Kenneth, Edwin and Dennis served in the armed services during the war and did not return to Canada. Donna Douglas in Ontario has kindly provided photos of this branch of the family.

Charles John Nicholson Douglas in what I think is Home Guard uniform in WW2 (from Donna Douglas). After the war he returned to Canada. Charles died in Aberdeenshire, Scotland on a trip home for a family wedding.

In 1948 CharlesSusan and children Edwin (22), Dorothy (18) and Cyril (11) were in the United Kingdom, having stayed at 7 Kings Road, Dundee. They were due to travel from Southampton to New York on the SS Marine Falcon. Charles described himself as a farmer. Susan was a housewife, the first two children also worked on a farm (presumably their father’s). According to their travel form the country of last permanent residence was Scotland and they were en route to live in Canada permanently. The departure date was 13th July.  Edwin was an engineer, Dorothy an accountant, Cyril a student (Ancestry, UK Outward Passenger Lists 1890-1960). They arrived in New York on July 22nd (Ancestry, New York Passenger Lists 1820-1957).

Dennis served in Palestine after WW2.  The picture below  (from Donna Douglas) shows Kenneth who was in Tripoli, Libya, in 1946.

Their daughter Dorothy Margaret married Howard Ross and was living on Prince Edward Island in 1998. They in turn had two daughters. From Donna Douglas I have learned that Dorothy served with the Air Force as did her husband and indeed later their daughter Shirley.

Second son Edwin Murray Douglas married Cecile Marie Savard at Shell River, Saskatchewan in April 1961 and died at Port Alberni in 2005. He was born at Pathlow, Saskatchewan in 1925. Cecile was born at Shell River, Saskatchewan on November 10th 1936. I have been to both PEI and Port Alberni. If only I had known there were relatives there! Second son Cyril Connon Douglas married in Lanark Ontario in 1958.

Ancestry has Canadian voter lists for various years from 1962 to 1974 at 1519 Morton St, Port Alberni. As Cecile, an office worker, is at the same address we can be confident that this is the same man. He was a city worker in 1962.  There was a labourer named Edwin Douglas at 607 11th Avenue North in 1958. Phone numbers show that he lived from 1995 to 2002 at 3785 Morton Street, Port Alberni.

Above: Edwin Douglas (from Donna Douglas)

Generation IX: William Douglas’s other grandchildren

Margaret Buchan or Douglas had five children with Peter Buchan.

1. Mary Buchan, born 1891

2. Alexander Buchan, born 1894

3. John Buchan, born 1895

4. Fanny Buchan, born 1901

5. Roderick Buchan, born 1906

Donna Douglas in Canada has supplied a picture of memorabilia from the SS Montrose and some information about it.

Thanks, Donna!

She has also reminded me that the Montrose was the same ship that Dr Crippen sailed to America upon. Crippen, famously, was the first man arrested after a telegraph wire communication.

Crippen was famous for murdering his wife in England and fleeing with his young girlfriend (disguised as a nephew). The story took a bizarre twist a few years ago with the revelation that the bones tested from his cellar did not match the DNA of her relatives.

One possibility is that this was still Crippen’s wife but that her birth family were not as expected.

The above document tells us the regiment and service number for William Douglas the blacksmith’s grandson Charles John Nicholson in WW1. His 1900 birth meant that he was not called up until the war’s closing stages- but the last year was a dangerous and bloody one with a massive German offensive in March 1918 nearly bringing them victory and then a huge Allied counter-attack which brought the war to an end with Germany poised to be invaded. Unfortunately I have had no success on Ancestry tracing his medals on service further. Below is the equivalent letter for WW2 when he served in the Home Guard. My thanks to Donna Douglas for both these. I gather that the Kincardineshire Volunteers was an old Territorial unit subsumed within the Gordon Highlanders before WW1. As with my grandfather’s regiment it is very hard to find out the details of a soldiers’ service unless we know exactly which battalion they were in and I have not managed this yet. If anyone out there can enighten me perhaps I will be able to dig up a bit more about Charles’s service.

Dennis Douglas in Palestine in 1947 (from Donna Douglas)

A tragic case

The only biographical story I have for another member of William the blacksmith’s family is for Margaret Robertson Mowat Douglas, the eldest daughter of Alexander/Alistair Douglas. Margaret married George Ramsay in 1950 and they had a son named Douglas George Ramsay in Alyth the next year (328/0A 0112). My research failed to find this son earlier as I had mistakenly thought Margaret married in 1960, not 1950. She died after Christmas 1960, of  “multiple injuries,  railway impact” hit by a train at the railway station at Ardler. She was 32 years of age, according to the death notice in the Perthshire Courier and Advertiser of 31st December 1960, and had been married to George Ramsay for only a short time. Her funeral service was at Church St, Dundee, and then Margaret was cremated at Dundee Crematorium. Her parents were living at 4 Waterston Road, Careston by Brechin at this time. I read through the newspaper for the next  month to see if the inquest was reported but it was not.

Generation IX: Family of Charles John Nicholson Douglas and Margaret Baillie Robertson

1. William Douglas, 1898-1959

2. Charles John Nicholson Douglas, 1900- 1976

3. Alexander “Alistair” Robertson Douglas, 1904-

4. James Robert Crawford Douglas, 1910-

5. Bruce Galloway Douglas, 1911- 1950

6. Stewart Morrison Douglas, 1913- 1983

7. Murray Baillie Douglas, born 1901

Sometimes local newspapers provide snippets of interest to genealogists. Find My Past has a very good selection of searchable newspapers, for a price. The Scottish selection appears to be limited but it is has still given a lot on this branch of the family. I found 6 items about Bruce Douglas, usually in the Dundee Courier. Please do not think that I delight in gossip or am being judgemental by giving information which may portray people in a negative light. However, these newspaper accounts may provide useful information for distant relatives. I do not believe that one event should define a person’s entire life.

Above, Bruce when young (Donna Douglas)

On 2nd September 1933 Bruce Galloway Douglas appeared in the sheriff’s court at Forfar for driving without insurance. He was fined. Bruce was described as an assistant farmer.

​On 20th November his name featured again, in a happier capacity, as he was best man at brother James’s wedding to Violet Reid. The account tells us that the bride “wore a charming gown of white satin, fashioned with flared skirt…” There is more detail but I am not going to type it all up. If anyone wants to know more detail, read below:

​In April 1934 poor Bruce was in the Dundee Courier again, injured as a result of his car hitting a telegraph pole. He sustained “scratches on the face and other minor injuries.” Nonetheless, Bruce required an ambulance to take him to Montrose Royal Infirmary where he was treated by a Dr Hoile. The accident happened after midnight.

​Another local paper in September reported that he was a witness at the wedding of Gregson Anthony Hall and Marjorie Gardyne Nicoll Stephen at Dundee. Presumably she was a relative. 

​His brother Stewart also was mentioned in local newspapers, and again in connection with cars. The Dundee Courier of 5th September 1932 reported that he had been injured when his motorcycle overturned at the junction of the Brechin Road and Taylor Street in Forfar. It is interesting to read that 19 year old Stewart was an assistant fireman. 

​The Dundee Evening Telegraph reported him as being fined by the sheriff for a minor motoring offence. He was now described as an assistant farmer. 

Generation X: grandchildren of Charles John Nicholson Douglas and Margaret Baillie Robertson

Alexander Alistair Douglas married Margaret Mowat and had 7 children. These were MargaretCharlesWilliamJamesIsabel and Mary.

Stewart Morrison Douglas married Daisy Nicoll and they had a daughter.

Charles John Nicholson married Susan Beattie and they had children KennethEdwinDennisDorothy Margaret and Cyril.

I do have information on Generation XI family members living in the North East of Scotland and would love to hear from them.

Smithy House at New Fowlis, from an estate agency. Their website says the house was built in 1875 so William and his family, including mother Jean and his brother Charles, would certainly have been familiar with it even if they didn’t live there.

Below, Charles John Nicholson Douglas (1900-1976) and his father Charles John Nicholson Douglas (1874-1945) (from Donna Douglas)

Below is the emigration form of Murray Baillie Douglas when he moved to Canada in June 1922. His exit paper also can be found at Ancestry.

Grave at Kirkbuddo, Angus, of Charles Douglas, his wife Margaret Robertson, her father James Robertson and also their son William Douglas (from Colin Douglas):

Buffalo Bill

The picture above shows Buffalo Billl but that below shows G Hargraves who worked on the Douglas family farm. This picture was taken at Bliss Ranch, Crutwell, Saskatchewan. Hargraves rode with Buffalo Bill (information from Donna Douglas). Buffalo Bill Cody was a scout, Pony Express rider, bison hunter and showman. The image from Wikipedia shows him with the famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull.

Sources and Further Reading:
Confirmations and Inventories, 1924, 1926
Directory of Scotland, 1907, p1190
Slater’s Royal National Commercial Directory of Scotland, 1903